Monday, September 03, 2012

Books read in September 2012

1. Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening by Maajid Nawaz

I have never before read such polarised reviewing as this book has engendered on Amazon. Perhaps the author should be renamed Marmite Nawaz because reviewers seem to love or hate his book. He does come across as arrogant at times but he is a man of considerable achievements, first for an Islamist cause, Hizb al-Tahrir, then after his radical rejection of Islam, for the Quiliam Foundation and Khudi Pakistan. His work for HT lead to years of imprisonment in Egypt as a member of a banned organisation. His descriptions of interrogation and torture in Egyptian jails are horrific. But his years in jail led him away from Islamism as he learned that there has never been a unified Caliphate with one system of Islamic law. Via the campaign of Amnesty International on his behalf, he came to understand that human rights must be extended to all and one's opponents should not be demonised. He came to espouse a liberal, pluralist view of Islam which now infuriates his former HT friends and even family, so much so that he faces security risks. I am sure he is correct to assert that Islamism has spawned the English Defence League. Extremism begets extremism. His version of Islam is not that of a clash of civilisations. It would be a religion of peace. But in the diverse world of a many faceted religion, will such eirenic thinking triumph. One hopes so, but the reviews here do not make one optimistic.

2. The Lucifer Network by Geoffrey Archer

After an interesting start in Africa, this book did not really grip me the way a good thriller should. Comparisons may be odious but this Archer falls far behind the other one in my judgement. 

3. Purple Hibiscus  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I found the author's description of life in Nigeria more convincing and true to life than the family at the centre of the novel. Papa seemed to be too zealously Roman Catholic and at the same time too violent. Perhaps there are such men. On the other hand a Nigeria of political discontent, rebellious students, petrol shortage and power cuts is all too realistic. One serious omission is any glossary of Igbo words and phrases. The author uses a lot which remain untranslated.

4. The Blood-Dimmed Tide (John Madden Mystery Trilogy 2) by Rennie Airth

The author captures the 1932 setting in Home Counties England quite well. It is another world with very different attitudes and makes an interesting setting for this story of a serial killer. I found it an average tale, not exactly a gripping page turner but a reasonable leisure read. 

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