Non-fiction books often test my patience, they can be remarkably dry, monotonous and feature topics that are of little or no interest to the common reader. Before I actually sat down to read Journey Into Europe, I was skeptical and found myself avoiding the 500 page book that to me sounded and looked rather bland. Three pages in however, I was pulled into Ahmed’s world. The author’s command over the history, politics and sociology about the region and his keen interest in modern sensibilities that questioned Islam as immigrants spread through Europe kept me embroiled in the book till I realized that not all non-fiction is boring.
Ahmed’s work as an ambassador and as the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University in Washington D.C. have helped give this book the much needed solid groundwork that it required to feel authentic. Much of the book comprises of the similarities between western philosophy and Islamic theology to try to bridge the gap that has developed since the 9/11 attacks and the negative portrayal of Muslims in the media circuit in the West. Ahmed’s visit to an underground car parking in Athens that acted as a mosque for the few hundred Muslims who live there reignited his passion to work and create a work of literature that could better understand the plight of Muslims in modern Europe. He was disheartened to see the hopeless condition of the refugees who had managed with great and difficult feats to find a new life in Europe and wanted to understand and explain to those who would listen how acknowledging the predicament that Muslims were in could be beneficial to all the parties involved.
Journey Into Europe is a brilliant book, due to its inclusion of references from popular culture and Ahmed’s incorporation of humor when the subject becomes a little too testing. The author uses case studies and focuses on individual cases as well as the masses to better relay to the reader how challenging life as an outsider can be even in countries that boast of humanity and democracy. He also tries his best to be inclusive as women, converts and otherwise, play a huge role in the book. It makes sense since 75 percent of all converts in the European continent are women. Ahmed’s unbiased political and sociological ideals make for a book that is both interesting and revealing, providing the reader especially of western origins the opportunity to learn about Islam and create his own opinion of it – rather than listening to preconceived notions that initiated this mess in the first place.
A brilliant book that serves its purpose in a way that the reader feels inclined to learn more about political and social theories without being overwhelmed at the mass of knowledge being thrown his way.
Author: AKBAR AHMED
Price: Rs. 1295/-
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Available at: OUP Bookstores