Book Review : The Moslems Are Coming
|June 19, 2012||Posted by Shehla Rashid under Book Review, Islam, Kashmir, Politics|
This book is not a novel. It is not a highly academic work with footnotes and extensive bibliography that would probe stereotypes about Muslims. It isn’t even all about Muslims, as you’d like to think, or, as the deliberately mischievous title makes you think. Satire and raw humour has been used liberally while discussing contentious issues like burqa and racism; in fact it requires immense courage to take satire to this level! Even if you miss a few lines, you might miss the point and misinterpret the whole chapter.
At first, Azad Essa comes across as an Islamophobic, Hijabophobic, Jew-lover but if you somehow manage not to put the book down after page number 4, you’re in for an exciting journey. The book is a collection of largely unrelated opinion pieces on everything that is wrong with our world- from Islamism to Islamophobia, from Jacob Zuma to the Nobel Peace Prize, from climate change to Kashmir, from sub-Saharan Africa to twitter activism, and so on. And, no, these opinion pieces are NOT rhetorical, apologetic, politically motivated or selectively critical. Azad Essa provokes you, challenges the exact mindsets that he thinks require introspection, questions many of our biased notions and stereotypes that merit reconsideration.
Azad Essa does not write with the self-righteous, self-important air of a virtuous intellectual but his words stem from having witnessed human suffering closely. He writes like a commoner and his swear words echo many of the frustrations that we are usually too powerless to articulate. Here’s a man who calls an
asshole an asshole no matter how powerful that asshole may be!
[youtube width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”Zd8yoiHljeo”]
This book is not for the weak-hearted, for those who are easily offended, for the politically correct. Azad Essa is politically very, very incorrect. He manages to articulate what most of us secretly know but are too wise to utter aloud, publicly. This book is not for hypocrites- it is fundamentally unapologetic.
It is not merely the story of how Muslims were stereotyped as terrorists, post 9/11. It is also not just an explanation of where Muslims went wrong and where they could have done better. It is a story of humans and humanity everywhere. It is a majestic travelogue of a deeply observant and objective journalist. From Osnabrück to Shilpa Shetty, everything finds a mention. He does not even spare the “make-believe bloggers in Edinburgh pretending to be gay girls in Damascus” (yes, he actually mentions that on P-133!). He sports a curious scorn for online activists. I can’t say I agree with him entirely on that. Thank God he has at least spared the #Kony2012 campaign (for which I too fell!) and has “earmarked it for the sequel”.
The book does not contain shocking revelations or previously unknown state secrets, does not scratch much beneath the surface nor does it boast of extensive or intensive academic research. It, however, raises issues that we usually choose to neglect. It touches upon serious issues with amazing hilariousness that manages to make you laugh even while the author is discussing something as sinister as death itself.
The voice of the book changes dramatically as the author talks about the humanitarian crisis in sub-Saharan Africa- these chapters have been written with deep concern, perhaps even embarrassment at the deep irony of the issues failing to rake up our collective conscience.
The author identifies culturally with the Indian ethos for want of a culturally rich heritage of his own to speak of. In fact, he happens to be of Gujarati descent. But, at the same time, he is deeply critical of the various traits that constitute Indian behavior, back home and abroad. For those with the ability to laugh at themselves and at others, and for those who are compassionate and truly liberal, this book is worth every penny spent on acquiring it and every minute spent reading it. Whether you’re looking for a fun read or something really serious and informative, this book is highly recommended.