I was in Waterstones recently, and a book caught my eye. I had never read any of Ed Husain's work before, but the friend I was with recommended it. She said his work had opened her own eyes. I started reading and was immediately drawn into his stories of travelling across Britain - through England, Ireland and Wales - to see first-hand how Muslims are treated within each community. Even more fascinating were his accounts of relations between local Muslims and non-Muslims, which is an issue that both worries and fascinates me greatly. In times of increasing Islamophobia and racism, this issue has never been greater.
Without going into too much detail, I wanted to share some themes and points that really resonated with me. First is the promotion of a tolerant, loving Islam by Ed Husain. He encounters individuals who encourage literalist and extreme interpretations of women's roles and religious requirements numerous times within the book. For example, mosques that do not allow females altogether, as they claim it is 'fitna'. This is despite the fact that it is known through hadiths that women were allowed to pray in the same mosques as men at the time of the Prophet (PBUH). Ed's theological knowledge and linguistic abilities really helped to bring different dimensions and views to light in this book.
For anyone with an interest in policy, this book would be very interesting. As I study social policy, I was really interested in the theme of social cohesion that was a large focus throughout the book. Aside from religion, this book highlights the decline of the Industrial North that may have an important role in relation to the local Muslim community.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in religion, policy and social cohesion. It has really opened my eyes and deepened my understanding of Islam.
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