Sunday, May 27, 2007

I AM MUSLIM by Dina Zaman

SOMETIMES a book appears on the shelves of local bookshelves that won't garner a second glance but there are a selected few that draw one's attention.
I Am Muslim is one of those that tends to capture a visitor browsing through the New Arrivals. I suppose it is the title that is catchy. Everything that has the word "Muslim" or "Islam" on it has the ability to arouse a non-Muslim's curiosity.
Honestly, I have no expectations whatsoever when I started reading it. I knew it must have some message within the pages.
As it turned out, it was written by a woman who has some interesting ideas of what it was like to be a modern Muslim woman living in a fast changing world. The most interesting aspect of this book is the writer's courage in tackling subjects that are avoided by most Muslims.
I reckon these are the subjects that are discussed freely in the confines of one's home but in I Am Muslim, Dina dives headlong into the "sensitive" subjects. Some of these are Sex, lifestyles, beliefs in ghosts and other things.
To most non-Muslims, these would be non-issues but in Malaysia somehow it is not politically correct or socially polite for Muslims, especially Muslim women, to dwell at length on these subjects.
I don't think they are taboo but they are just not talked about in a public forum, and a book is considered a "public forum". The notion at present is that this book is more popular among non-Muslims.
Many non-Muslims are curious about the thinking of modern Muslim women. Some of us are of the opinion that what is portrayed daily in TV news programmes as well as in newspapers and magazines are not reflective of the actual situation.
It is good that someone like Dina comes along and clears the air. Of course, it would be erroneous to think that she represents the majority of Muslim women. But it is also informative to know that there are certainly others who share her sentiments.
What then is the message in this book? I suppose if you were to ask me to say it in one sentence, I would say: "A good Muslim woman who calls a spade a spade."
Almost 99 per cent of us are not saints so regardless of our religious beliefs, we do have faults. But the bottom line is we all want to be good people, and if we are parents we want our children to be good people when they grow up. Perhaps even better than us.
So it is not uncommon that generally Muslims are like the rest of us. They too have children. They too have good qualities, faults and fears like the rest of mankind.
I Am Muslim sheds light on corners that are not often discussed freely with non-Muslim. The bonus point about this book is its honesty and its desire to show the world that Muslim women are not the stereotype as being perceived via the printed lines of newspapers or even shots from CNN.
It is refreshing to find out that behind every Muslim face, man or woman, is a person much like you and I. We do not have to be suspicious of each other or hold on to those prejudices that are stumbling blocks to good relationships.
The time has come for the courageous ones to step forward and speak up. Dina is one of these people. She should be applauded for her efforts.
It is a good read. It is not a mind-blowing treatise on an obscure subject that is foreign to all of us. Those who wish to understand their Muslim sisters a little more should spend some time reading this book.
It may alter your perception of Muslim women in general. Dina may not be the typical Muslim woman but I certainly don't think she's represents the minority.

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