Letters to a Young Muslim
Omar Saif Gobash, 2017
In a series of short letters addressed to his son, Omar Saif Ghobash touches on many of the pressing issues the world faces today in the context of a Muslim individual. He draws from his own personal experiences, as well as general Arabian history to pose difficult but important questions about what it means to grow up, to forge your own beliefs and identity in the 21st Century. I found this work to be very insightful and valuable even as a non-Muslim. It puts into perspective the conflict between extremists and the rest of the Muslim community (a vast majority). Having been an expat teenager in Bahrain during the Arab Spring, I have witnessed the growing violence of the Shia-Sunni conflict first hand. Because I struggled to fully understand it at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the historical context of these fundamental differences in the book. Ghobash introduces the schools of thought that is rooted in the major sects of Islam in order to raise questions about how much sense it makes to dogmatically follow the teachings at face value today.
Individualism is a theme in many of the letters. Ghobash conveys the importance of a sense of personal responsibility, the questioning of presented information, and an open-minded pursuit of knowledge in multiple contexts. The fact that Ghobash himself is half-Arab, half-Russian, and was educated in the West (UCL and Oxford) certainly played a role in this stance. While he does discuss several sensitive topics such as gender equality and sexuality, he presents his ideas and questions in a thought-provoking and inoffensive way. He does not try to shove any idea down your throat, but rather encourages a non-violent debate of ideas, acceptance of individual differences, and a pragmatic moral compass that is iterable as we look to coexist amongst different peoples, cultures, and beliefs.
An important read that I would recommend to both my Muslim and non-Muslim friends.