My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The book is truly written in memoir fashion, taking the reader from the author's young years in Pakistan to his teenage years in America (primarily Alabama) and some of his young adult travels involving college and work, including a trip back to Pakistan. Initially, it was difficult (for me) to get into the book as each chapter was somewhat of a short disjointed snippet, each relaying a seemingly random experience. It tends to come together as it approaches the middle and end, where those quick snippets into the author's mind assists in understanding the impact of later events. Thus, after a slow start, it picks up and becomes an informative read to an individual's experience with Islam.
There were a couple things I found noteworthy while reading it. First, while Eteraz didn't start this way, for awhile he become a conservative or fundamentalist practitioner of Islam. I think too often, at least in representations in the media and simply in general conversation, we tend to associate fundamentalist Islam with terrorism (I understand many who associate any Islam with terrorism, but that's a whole other issue). What's interesting is that while he was practicing his religion in this fashion, observing strictly the ideas regarding diet, dress, roles for men and women, etc., the September 11 attacks happened; and the author was abhorred by it. Its good to remember that conservative/fundamentalist Islam is not much different (in certain ways) then conservative or fundamentalist Christianity. They provide for strict adherence to (even in a literal sense) to their respective scripture, tend to call for "traditional" roles regarding men and women, and have similar views on various "social" issues, homosexuality for example. Thus, when an individual, who happens to be practicing a fundamentalist version of Christianity, murders a doctor who performs abortion, or commits any act of violence, we shouldn't thrust that act onto the religion. We tend to avoid using the language of terrorist when the perpetrator is Christian, and reserve it for use in cases where the persons happens to be Islam. Throughout reading the book, I found it a useful reminder that a person that commits such atrocity should be defined first by that act, not by their happenstance chosen religion. This is tending to become a larger digression than I intended, but with certain current debates (i.e., the Islamic Center near Ground Zero), it has been in my consciousness while reading this book.
Second, was the similar reaction from people in the author's background and many of today's Christians towards science. I do not personally understand the fear or apprehension (not sure of the right word) that certain religious tradition has towards the scientific discovery and explanation of our natural world. I would suppose that is has something to deal with in the past that religion has venture to explain the going ons and occurrences in nature, and now science, in many cases, has presented conflicting conclusions; and people refuse to leave their authority of their religion, as they would be unsure of what that would mean, for them, and the religion. But that's purely my speculation; I just wanted to note that I find the similar reaction to those issues among Islam and Christianity to point to similar religions tradition, history, and development than one might realize at first glance.
In any event, after kind of a slow beginning for me, the book read very well, and is thought-provoking and provides an opportunity for reflection considering the ever increasing contact between differing religions and differing religious people.