The opening week of 2017 saw the publication of a remarkable book, Letters to a Young Muslim, written by Omar Saif Ghobash, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia. Letters is a series of reflections about Islam explicitly addressed to the author’s teenage son but also, implicitly, to the entire Muslim Ummah, or worldwide community.
The book doubtlessly will stick in the craws of Americans who persist in believing, contrary to both evidence and common sense, that Islam is a monolithic cult of hatred and violence. It will also infuriate ISIS thugs besotted by their violence-soaked vision of a resurrected caliphate.
But those who deplore the hijacking of religion by willfully ignorant and dangerously self-righteous fanatics will find Ghobash’s book a drink of cool water. In it, he struggles to rescue the essence of Islam from the distortions of it promulgated by Islamists by cogently identifying and firmly calling out the less-than-holy motives and confusions that prompt their jihads.
About halfway through my reading of Letters, it struck me that some of Ghobash’s explanations of how zealots have distorted Islam uncomfortably parallel the motives and means by which American Christianity has been hijacked by our own jihadists. I’m quite certain that Ghobash’s intention isn’t to lecture American Christians on our faith, although God knows we could use a good talking to. Nonetheless, those of us concerned about American Christianity’s malformation by zealots who mistake obduracy for purity, judgmentalism for righteousness, and political partisanship for faith can learn from Letters.