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on 21 December 2007
For those of us with long memories,this sort of confessional autobiography is reminiscent of Cold War-era accounts such as those by Arthur Koestler and other disillusioned ex-Marxists.Ideologues who reject their previous faith very rarely have a good word to say for it,and Ed Hussein dosen't disappoint in his account of Islamist politics.
For me,the best part of the book was the story of his life before Islamism,a coming of age story set in East London.I was fascinated by the similarities and differences between his and my family.
The next segment,his introduction,activism and eventual break with radical Islamism,is interesting,but tells little about Hussein's motivations.It's as though he turned into a robot,only around to advance his political agenda and with little personal growth.
That comes in the next part,his break with Islamism and his attempts to reintergrate with religious Islam.He is aware enough to realise that while he conciously wanted to break with his past,previous patterns of thought and behaviour aren't as easy to shake off as you may think.
The final part,Hussein's living and working in Syria and Saudi Arabia,the latter being the dream of wannabe Islamists,are fascinating.His depiction of Saudi racism,sexism,bigotry and ignorance goes beyond a recital of facts,and points out that any Islamist government anywhere would,in his opinion,be much the same as the Saudi dictatorship.
Ed Hussein is far from the only disillusioned ex-Islamist who eventually became repelled by his pet project.So,I predict many more books like this in the not too distant future.
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on 13 September 2010
The objective is very noble but after a point, the book gets quite repetitive and meanders around. I even felt that the author was simply making up experiences just to fill in the pages. It would have been an easy read if the length had been halved.
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on 26 September 2007
As my only source of information about Islam was the news media, I was keen to hear the voice of someone who had direct experience of Islam. I did not know quite what to expect so I approached the book with an open mind trying desperately to put aside the influence of the news media. However, I must say that my journey through the book and the outcome was of no surprise.

First, Husain's book is well structured and his story is told with great clarity. Right from the outset one gets a sense of the direction Husain's life was going to take. In primary school, he was immersed in the multiculturalism of Sir William Burrough primary school and guided by the liberal hand of his head teacher Ms Susie Powlesland. Incidenly, from this period onwards there would turn out to be many hands willing to guide Husain.

It seemed to me that Husain's text had to address a number of questions. One, the path his radicalism took, two the different approaches to the Muslim faith, for example the differences between him and his parents. Husain's narrative outlines, develops and addresses these two issues very well. However, a third issue: how radical Islam attracts and retain young people was more problematic but nonetheless interesting.

One of the surprises of reading this book was the way in which Husain was initially drawn into radical Islam. The initial method was through a close friend, Falik, rather than the stereotype many of us hold of the proselytizing radical standing outside Mosques trying to convert moderates into radical Islam. If this is the means many who become radical take then we all have a huge task in trying to curtail the radicalization of young Muslims.

But as one reads on it soon becomes clear that the mere capturing of individuals such as Husain was only a very minor part of the grand scheme of the various groups that he was to Join. The grand scheme appears quite simply to be the Islamization of the whole world. The initial steps to achieve this scheme that those various groups took were to target, on campuses; Christians, Jews, Hindus, Seeks, non-believers and even moderate Muslims. Their methods were to: agitate, incite, organize events, create pseudo global links and prey on the soft minds of liberals whom Husain and Hibt ut - Tahrir saw as having: "an innate inability to understand the Islamists Psyche."

Husain's text indicates that he was a confused young man because there is irony and contradiction in his position and understanding. At the peak of his membership of the Young Muslim Organization (YMO), it was rather ironic and to some extent contradictory that Husain should have thought that one of Muslim activist groups, JIMAS, was literalist in its stance. At the same time it seems to me that the YMO was itself literalist. For example, in respect of the values and concepts that opposes literalism, concepts such as: "tolerance, respect, compromise, and pluralism" Husain tells us that they had no meaning for the YMO.

One message that came across clearly to me was how important it is for so called liberals to shed their liberalism in the face of radicalism, from whatever source it might might come, and stand up to it. I take a strong stance for the following reason. In one passage Husain outlines his experience of negotiations with Tower Hamlet college management for a large room for Friday prayers. This is how Husain describes the outcome of negatiations: "Exultant at how easily we had cowed the sensitive, liberal establishment of the college we grew from strength to strength." Such appeasement of radical groups must not be allowed.

An outstanding issue that is revealed by husain is that he outlines the experiences of fairly intelligent young people. Although one must be careful here of the use of the word intelligent because in this context, where many contradictions prevail, it has the ring of an oxymoron. Arguably, despite Husain's flirtation with the idea that he and the various groups displayed intellectual acumen, it could be said that there was a lack of rigour, honesty and integrity among him and the various groups. Their lack of intellectual ability was further shown by the fact that they had simply succumbed to what is known as accepting truth by authority.

A major problem with Husain's book is that he spends little time analyzing and explaining why he became an Islamic fundamentalist and why young Muslims might be attracted to it. Instead, the book is broadly a description of things that happended. A little more analysis would have enabled the reader to understand in more depth the appeal of this kind of radicalism.

Nonetheless, Husain manages to point out that there are a number of groups and individuals competing for hearts and minds, if I could use this hackneyed phrase. In this broadly descriptive text, what Husain is good at is to show and make clear how these various groups and individuals connected to the notion of radical Islam and influenced his experience of it.

It was inevitable that Husain's long drawn out departure from radical Islam would lead to a kind of redemtion. On his departure, Husain's road to Demascus is filled with humility and pathos. But is was not a simple straight forward pathos because with a sense of anger I had to ask what took you so long to depart.

Whatever I think about radical Islam, whatever the strengths and weaknesses of Husain's book it certainly opened my eyes to some of the finer points of radical Islam I would not have seen through the news media. On this basis it is well worth investing the time to read the book.
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on 15 September 2011
Having just finished reading this book today I felt that it had affected me sufficiently to make me want to write a review. As a non-muslim myself I found the book very interesting and enlightening, particularly its explanation of how the various different factions operate within the British Muslim community and elsewhere. To those reviewers who criticise Ed Husain for having an overly simplistic viewpoint, I feel this is a little unfair, as the book is about his personal journey, and never purports to be an encyclopedic review of Islamic history. It is useful for giving a broad overview and the names of interesting individuals to read more about. I am also concurrently reading Karen Armstrong 'The History of God' which is a far more academic book, so this provided me with a lighter counterbalance. On the other hand, I must admit that while I empathised with him through his journey, his rather dry writing style did not really develop a clear picture of him as an individual, which made the book less engaging than it could have been.

My own beliefs are that all religions are ultimately worshipping the same god in different names and guises, and that love, compassion, understanding and acceptance of others are the most important values in life, so the way the author talks of the prophet, sufism and the joyful mystical forms of Islam rang true to me. Even if some may see this as idealistic, for me realising that so much of the world's Islamic population shares these beliefs warmed my heart.
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This book should represent essential reading for every thinking person in today’s Britain. It recounts in some detail how the Muslim son of parents steeped in traditional moderate Islam and from what might be regarded a middle class background became easily radicalized. Radicalized, in fact, to such an extent that he regarded calls for the killing of non-believers in this country and abroad as a natural extension of his growth in, as he saw it, a return to the fundamental Islamic values either left behind or ignored by his parents and other ‘normal’ Muslim families like them.

Along the way the reader is introduced to Islam in all of its manifestations be it political, ideological or spiritual and, as such, it acts as an excellent primer for those who would like to go on and learn more. More importantly though, the problem of radicalization and Muslim fundamentalism and how traditionally tolerant, democratic societies such as those of Europe, including the U.K., approach the resulting issues is also discussed. It ends by looking at the time he spent in Syria and Saudi Arabia. By so doing it provides a summary of the rise of the pernicious and pervasive Wahhabi influence in the latter and the establishment of the despotic House of Saud and its rigid reinforcement of medieval mores, one example of which is the appallingly repressive conditions under which women are forced to exist. In fact, the book should represent an urgent wake-up call to all tolerant, kindly, somewhat apathetic Brits whatever their cultural, ethnic or religious origins.
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on 18 May 2010
Wow, is all I can say. I finished this book last night and was overwhelmed by how much I had learnt.

The reason I chose this book was that I wanted to know more about Islamic Extremism, and boy did I get what I wanted. The book from start to finish tells you the utmost about not only being an Islamist in 20th Century Britain, but about Islam itself.

Through Ed's journey, we learn about how he went from knowing little on Islam, to how he has become extremely knowledgeable about the entire religion. We learn how his views on Islam became so political that he grew to support Islamic jihad, and that his desire to learn more about political Islam became a significant part of his life. So significant, that he spent most of his waking hours publicising his views through leaflets, setting up groups and demonstrations. We learn how he switched from group to group, even becoming a member of the Hizb. He also spent hours pondering and reading books by authors such as Qutb and spent long periods of time debating ideas with friends and teachers. All this was to the disappointment of his family who, as more typically moderate muslims, thought Ed was straying from what Islam is really about.

Soon though, he begins to question being an Islamist after someone he knew stabbed a boy from his college. Was jihad and violence, attempting to bring forth the Islamic state to the west, really what he believed in?

Luckily though, he had met Faye (his future wife) who started to keep him grounded. He managed to avoid various groups as he left for University and worked hard to achieve his degree and a good job. As the episodes of 7/11 and London's Underground Bombings were carried out however, he soon realised that his Islamist views had not changed. Thanks to meeting a Sufi muslim, he began to realise that in fact he wanted to know God more and learn His word. He began learning Arabic with Faye and becoming closer spiritually to God.

Within a few years, Faye and him had married and decided to visit Damascus in Syria. There they met an American woman, who changed Ed's views on the west for good. He became less anti-west and more accepting of people. They then flew to Saudi Arabia where to their horror, they found that Islam was not as well there as they would have liked.

I would well recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Islam, specifically political Islam and Islamists. It is a highly eye opening book that will question your perceptions of Islam forever, but one that still leaves you pondering afterwards.
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on 14 August 2010
The Islamist is a very well written and intriguing book. It explains how a young teenage boy brought up in a good, well-educated, moslem family in Britain became drawn in to fundamentalism and then as he became disillusioned how difficult it was for him to escape. In particular he shows how well-meaning but ill-informed liberals have in fact made life much easier for Saudi funded fundamentalists than for ordinary thoroughly decent moslems. Brits who celebrate everyone's values except their own clearly aren't doing anyone any favours.
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on 27 October 2014
These are difficult times and my view of the actions of a minority dangerous in their thoughts and actions prompted me to purchase this book. I needed to understand how intelligent men and women were drawn to a radical form of religion and whether my view and feelings were appropriate.
Well I now understand through the words and explanations of Ed Husain that young men (many well educated) are being radicalised their emotions fuelled by very the clever use manipulation, skewed interpretation of a holy book the Koran and mixing it with the complexities of world politics to create a cult that is more deadly than anything I have heard of in the last 50 years.
There were parts of the book that really made me feel very warm and spiritual - expressed so well by Ed Husain he showed that Islam as a religion was truly a beautiful faith with references to holy devout men speaking of peace and love that is rejected by the radicals as blasphemous. He recognised the danger of the Islamists and the people who were now being accepted as representatives of Islam in the world media.
A fantastic book, it is the first book I have read this year that I could not put down! I now understand and see the practices of the Islamists - I am better informed.
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on 21 July 2007
Ed Husain has given us a well written account of a British Asian Muslim, born in 1975, growing up in the east end of London who has experienced different manifestations of Islam. His family background was of a non-political Islam, his honorary Grandpa, a mystical Muslim leader.As a teenager, Mohammed as he was then known, rebelled and became involved with the very political Young Muslim Organisation at the East London Mosque. This lead to a break with his parents. He was very active in student Muslim affairs organising his fellow Muslim students to his Islamist cause. He joined the secretive Hizb ut-Tarhir then under the leadership of Omar Bakri. He describes their cell group structure, disregard for British law and the ethos that the Islamic end justifies deceptive means. The aim is the restoration of the caliphate and one Muslim peole, not nation states. Violent revolution will achieve this. But the violence of Hizb and their lack of Islamic spirituality led the author to leave these radicals and pursue a very un-Islamic career in a major bank. Now married, he was to leave the materialism of a banking career and return to his religion but this time in its Sufi form of mysticism which he encountered on honeymoon in Turkey and in the testimony of an American convert to Islam. After 9/11 Husain was shocked by the extent of Muslim support for the terrorists and for the oppressive regime of Saddam in Iraq. He went to Syria to study Arabic and found employment there and then in Saudi Arabia with the British Council. His critique of Saudi Wahabbism and the nature of Islam in Saudi Arabia are very revealing and devastating. His view is that Islam in Britain is adversely influenced by Islamism and Wahabbism, neither of which are compatible with democracy. He thinks Hizb should be banned in Britain as it is in most Islamic countries. Husain's mystical Sufi Islam seems at home with pluralism and a secular state. It says Islam has no monolithic approach to life. It is a welcome message but one which I fears carries little weight among most serious followers of Islam. Husain's is an eirenic book. But I think his approach to Islam is that of the modern, secularised Briton. Religion is reduced to the private sphere and does not affect all of life. This is a very valuable and informative book and a gripping read It would be improved by an index and also a glossary of Muslim terminology.
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on 17 December 2008
I picked the book up on Friday and had finished it by Monday and loved it. I knew very little about Islam and why people became fanatic and so reading this book was a fabulous insight into the world of fanatics.

From the start we can see how the author was alone in school and the only people who would talk to him were the people who bring him into the radical side. The book then gets very in deph into the Islamist world and why they believe what they do. Once the author leaves that world we see how he realises that all the things he had believed were all lies and the people who preached to them were telling them lies.

What is also worrying about this book is that a book about radical islam that the author read as a child was still on sell in mosques after 9/11 and 7/7. Also when he goes to the middle east to learn arabic he finds so many people against the west and a lot of them wanted to move to Britain to attack Britain.

However even though they were many people that were radical and against the west there were plenty of muslems that loved the country and hated the radical side. I loved this book and enjoyed learning more about Islam. Fantastic read and worth buying.
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