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Letters to a Young Muslim    by Omar Saif Ghobash order for
Letters to a Young Muslim
by Omar Saif Ghobash
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2018 (2017)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A father writes to his young son about his faith and his hopes for the young man's faith. These are beautiful letters, which can be understood in many different ways.

For the son and other young Muslims, it is the story of how the author, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Russia, came to understand his faith. His father died when he was six, the victim of a terrorist attack. Ever since, he has been processing this event, trying to piece together who his father was, and in turn who he is. This is probably the basis for his inquiring mind, especially concerning his religion. He came to understand that it was important to think for oneself about one's religion. Already, this is something profoundly different from what we normally understand of Muslims.

For all Muslims, these letters are a call to prayerfully understand the Koran and their religion in today's world. The author gently takes apart the historical time when the Koran came to be and shows that today a faith-filled person can and must think further than a return to the old ways, which the fundamentalists espouse. There is much to chew on here; many topics are raised, perhaps most especially the issue of violence and whether it is necessary. Other topics include freedom, role models, the role of women, and sexuality in the modern world.

To a non-Muslim like myself, the letters are an introduction to an Islam that is much different from the screaming headlines we so often see. We learn something of the history of the Muslim faith, and how it has grown to what it is today. The author has done a splendid job, despite there being some repetition in the letters. It is wonderful to read that his best hope for his fellow Muslims is that they use their abilities to 'think and decide what is right and what is wrong, what is Islamic and what is peripheral to the faith.' This is most reassuring.

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