Stranger to History: A Sons Journey through Islamic Lands Hardcover – 19 Mar 2009
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'Taseer uses this intensely personal prism to spring a narrative that darts deftly between physical journey and childhood memoir. The paternal relationship he never had becomes the backbone of the book, which is all the better for it. Uncomfortable reading for Daddy, certainly, but gripping for the rest of us.' Literary Review
An hugely engaging investigation into what it means to be a young Muslim in the twenty-first centurySee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Although Taseer gives the impression that he seeks to explore Islam, the idea seems to have come to him on the basis of a tragic misunderstanding. He claims that he is muslim because he has been told (wrongly) that in the Indian subcontinent religion is patrilineal. Of course every "real" muslim knows that the most important thing taught by the very first muslim, Abraham, was the rejection of the idea of inherited religion and in its place the idea that the path of Islam is open to every human, regardless of parentage.
Even so, Taseer might yet have been a muslim, but the lie of such a claim is laid bare in the first few pages, when during his visit to the Sacred Mosque in the holy city of Mecca he fails to notice the only structure within it: the Kaaba - the single most loved and revered religious structure in the entire world. When he finally discovers it, he sees it as "nothing". It is solid, impenetrable and mute, he tells us; and its "utter poverty" expresses "cosmic contempt for the things of the world". This is not the experience of someone who is a muslim, and unfortunately other events and opinions in the book confirm that Taseer is not in any sense a muslim, other than by the fundamentally un-Islamic idea of inherited religion.Read more ›
I found the book fascinating, informative and very compelling reading. It hits just the right note between providing helpful background context and coherent factual description, but equally doesn't shy away from exploring personal opinion and feeling. The whole book is written very clearly and logically. Its structure follows Taseer's journey from the UK across much of the Middle East, in chronological order, interspersed with short narratives about the author's richly complex family history, memories of growing up and sense of religious and cultural identity. It's all very personal, which to my mind makes this quite a brave book.
One of its strengths is how it is able to prise out the emotive issues that make religion generally, and Islam specifically, such a loaded topic at times. Taseer has what seems like a remarkably accepting, non-judgmental approach - which doesn't mean to say that he agrees with everyone he meets, but does mean that he is able to bring a more empathetic, personal and understanding tone to topics that are often highly-charged and political.
Taseer seems acutely sensitive to the personal and emotional aspects of religion and politics. He is also able to tease out the differences between culture and religion, which often overlap to some extent.Read more ›
I was also left with a nagging sense that I couldn't trust Taseer's version of events. Early in the book he describes a `colourful Virgin train' taking him from London to Leeds; this is fine, except Virgin don't go anywhere near Leeds. A minor detail or a silly mistake, perhaps; but then you wonder where else he gets it wrong. We hear plenty about his sense of otherness as a Muslim - and yet no mention of the fact that he is engaged to the daughter of the Duke of Kent, who is 32nd in line to the British throne and the Queen's second cousin! Can you imagine a finer example of being an outsider than a Muslim marrying into the royal family?
The book works much better in his journeys through the Indian subcontinent and the way in which he details the schism between India and Pakistan.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I came to Stranger to History, Taseer's debut work after being thoroughly impressed by his piece on Sanskrit where he bemoaned the loss of a whole body of linguistic structure and... Read morePublished on 18 May 2014 by CultureDrinker
An interesting read, I found the sections on India and Pakistan the most compelling. However, I felt the narrative dragged a bit, here and there and I wanted to skip parts, though... Read morePublished on 9 Jan. 2013 by nasim marie jafry
The idea of the book is interesting. It is interesting to discover the religion of your father, which you really did not know. Read morePublished on 29 Dec. 2011 by aya
The son of a Sikh woman and a Pakistani man is going to travel through several countries to meet up with a father who became a distant figure. Read morePublished on 1 Dec. 2011 by Jose
Having lived in the Middle East this book brought back some memories - good and bad. Excellent description of living in the Islamic countries. Read morePublished on 1 Oct. 2011 by P. A. A. Acharya
I've tried this book a couple of times and have failed.
Sorry - but it was not what I was hoping for - and bears no comparison woth books like the Kite Runner etc. Read more
I enjoyed a Journey through Islamic Lands for the strength of the writer's voice and his vivid descriptions of locations in Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran. Read morePublished on 23 Dec. 2010 by Scriber_scouse
This is a rambling travelogue that is occasionally offensive, occasionally insightful and is merely interesting rather than insightful. Read morePublished on 23 Aug. 2009 by Yusuf Smiley Yearwood