I’m always late.
I planned to update this blog with my review of Al Jazeera journalist and desktop ‘terrorist’ Azad Essa’s incisive book “The Moslems are Coming” for the blog tour but then life got caught in the process of moving from one place to the other where I, finally, have my own room and a bookshelf with no space or tolerance for Ayn Rand and Co. So stuff’s smooth for now.
Like his name, Azad (Urdu for ‘free’) is unapologetically azad with his views on the world and the ruckus that makes it go awry, if not round. At first, while reading, I almost blurted out, “Hold up, y’all. Is this guy one of those self-hating Muslim types who inadvertently ends up on the Islamophobic train to Racist-and-Xenophobic-ville while making short stops at towns of generalization and hyperbole?” But I was wrong – and I’m glad I was wrong. The Moslems are Coming isn’t just about Muslims; it’s a collection of published and unpublished posts from his blog and elsewhere that transcends borders, continents, cultures and even ideologies. And he does it with biting wit and insight. There are political histories that Essa has sharp opinions on and those opinions aren’t offered with TLC. Expect a jocular passive aggressive tone with post scripts here and there.
It’s uncomfortable in a good way. Forgive me for the clichéd expression but Essa holds up the mirror for everyone including himself. And while the reflection isn’t exactly the best one and the angle isn’t the most precise, it is undoubtedly honest and uninhibited – two traits that are rare. There were moments when I found myself thinking, “Gee, Azad. I kinda disagree here, man…” but I think that’s what The Moslems are Coming is about: To see the world with an introspective lens that doesn’t get blurry with instant indignation. There’s for great food for thought in here and it isn’t layered with sugar.
From the racial profiling and absurd paranoia harmless Muslims are subjected to, active racism, shameless classism to varying degrees of state-endorsed, community-encouraged hypocrisy, sexism, South African politics, the West’s peculiar disdain for Muslim women garb and the equally rash obsession with ‘liberating’ them, plus his bitter take on the duplicity present in the global community of Muslims, there’s a whirlwind of thought in here. There’s a strong stance on the western double standards of the phenomenon of the Noble Prize (and a good piece on the drone-pumping Nobel Laureate Barack Obama), there’s a heartbreaking collection of reports of disappeared and disappearing Kashmiris under the state of India and how the Indian civil society, like Mirza Waheed has tirelessly said, remains silent on state-led human rights violations, there’s a weird yet comical section on the ‘rise’ of brown-black marriages in India and so, so much more. Azad’s narration of the political events developed during the World Cup in South Africa is worth reading. For someone like myself who isn’t exactly knowledgeable about SA politics, The Moslems are Coming offered an interesting look at national affairs.
In the section on the burqa ban in France, I almost got angry at Azad for initially sounding like he was about to pass another personal law on ripping that covering off of Muslim women but this is the deal with his book: You have to patiently see where he’s leading you to. And usually it’s a good place. See, home boy doesn’t like the covering: “’I don’t like the burqa. Europe doesn’t like the burqa. But so what? […] Yes, there are women forced into wearing the burqa and the hijab. […] At the same time there are those who voluntarily and wholeheartedly accept it as a religious obligation. How can a government or an individual, from a judgmental distance, distinguish between those on whom the burqa is being forced and those wearing it freely?”
There’s nuanced criticism on almost everything – even your favorite leaders (no spoilers, that’s the fun part) and ideas you thought that were perfect when you were a gullible kid. It’s almost like he wants you to grow up and break those chains that stop you from calling a spade a spade.
That’s the azaadi offered by Azad. (I’ll stop being cheesy with your name now.)
Go read the book.