This book turned up in my mailbox a few weeks ago, a surprise gift from the publisher It was a nice surprise an intensely personal spiritual memoir, authentic, ironic and redemptive, written in a conversational style that occasionally turns into poetry.I have heard the violent story of 9 11 so many times, but never have I paid attention to the quieter story of how a group of students at NYU, led by the author, built up their Islamic student ministry from a tiny student club to a full fledged chaplaincy That alone is a great achievement, and a story that deserves to be told But it s the lesser story here.The heart of this book is the author s search for his own faith, how he learned to talk to God, and how a suicide attempt was prevented by a simple act of kindness He succeeds, I think, in connecting to the dreams and the doubts experienced by every believer unless they are lying Thank you for this beautiful book. One of my favorite things about How to be a Muslim, was the authors honesty He was very open about his life and the struggles he faced while he was a young kid in high school to a college student in NYC We all spend great portions of our lives trying to find ourselves so it was interesting to read about how the author navigated through life to find himself I m a huge fan of memoirs and How to be a Muslim is certainly one worth reading. A Young Muslim Leader S Memoir Of His Struggles To Forge An American Muslim IdentityHaroon Moghul Was First Thrust Into The Spotlight After , As An Undergraduate Leader At New York University S Islamic Center Suddenly, He Was Making Appearances Everywhere On TV, Talking To Interfaith Audiences, Combating Islamophobia In Print He Was Becoming A Prominent Voice For American Muslims Privately, Moghul Had A Complicated Relationship With Islam In High School He Was Barely A Believer And Entirely Convinced He Was Going To Hell He Sometimes Drank He Didn T Pray Regularly All He Wanted Was A GirlfriendBut As Haroon Discovered, It Wasn T So Easy To Leave Religion Behind To Be True To Himself, He Needed To Forge A Unique American Muslim Identity That Reflected His Own Beliefs And Personality How To Be A Muslim Is The Story Of A Young Man Coping With The Crushing Pressure Of A World That Shuns And Fears Muslims, Struggling With His Faith And Searching For Intellectual Forebears, And Suffering The Onset Of Bipolar Disorder This Is The Story Of The Second Generation Immigrant, Of What It S Like To Lose Yourself Between Cultures, And How To Pick Up The Pieces The trials and tribulations of Haroon Moghul are certainly an interesting tale to be read not only by Muslims but by anyone wanting to understand about Muslims in general Certainly, being a minority is hard enough and add to the current Islamophobia surrounding the world it is indeed challenging for the writer to convince non Muslims and even himself of the sanctity of the religion. I ve always been fascinated by religion, but this book has shown me that my knowledge of Islam, though greater than most Americans , is sorely lacking Moghul does an excellent job of informing his readers of the true Islam, the religion of love, not the fundamentalist version that leads to suicide bombers and membership in al Qaeda It s also a coming of age memoir, one in which we journey with Haroon as he grows from a teenager who wants to fit in with his peers in white America to a man who realizes he cannot deny either Mohammed or his God, and tries to come to terms with the fact that he deserves the salvation that his religion offers As a result, there is a lot of pages where we live in Haroon s head with him The issue with this is simply that it becomes quite clear throughout that Moghul was a philosophy major, and he tends to throw in various philosophers and their themes mid sentence without much of an explanation He also tends to use rare and difficult words, ones even I ve never heard of and I have a fairly decent grasp of the English language I began to feel as though I was back in my freshman year of college, taking a class called Religion Ethics, taught by a professor who delighted in being as obtuse as possible and in failing as many students as he could For me, this memoir would have been much effective had Moghul dispensed a little bit with trying to impress his readers with how smart he is He truly doesn t have to impress us with which words he uses or the philosophies he references it s clear how smart he is just by his writing I do appreciate his use of quotes from the Qur an, as well as discussions from various Muslim scholars on what these verses mean But some of the discussions on philosophy and being were so muddled by such unusual words that I felt lost And stupid.I wish every American would read a book like this, to realize that Muslims are not to be feared, that they re part of the Judeo Christian tradition, that their religion does indeed recognize both Moses and Jesus as prophets, that they re our brothers than we tend to think This book demystifies Islam to some degree, and makes it accessible for even an agnostic like me. I will admit that this book was a struggle to finish, and I was disappointed with it in the end I wanted to learn about what being a Muslim in modern day America is like, some insight into Islam as a religion, and perhaps the reality vs expectations of a Muslim growing up in the United States I read the book after hearing an interview with the author, who came across well and piqued my interest I do think that I learned from this book, and it met my basic expectations in that regard What made reading a challenge was a lack of consistent theme and development of ideas and experiences the author had physical and mental and many romantic challenges growing up some just alluded to, which left me hanging and into adulthood, quite independent of his religion, and these seemed to get in the way somehow In better hands those challenges could have enhanced, rather than detracted from, the narrative His experiences after 9 11, when he was a student at NYU and was thrust into the limelight were interesting, as were his extensive travels and sometimes excruciating explorations of his mind and soul But, his epiphanies toward the end Talk to God, Haroon from his Imam seemed to lead to confusion the last chapter discusses, under four numbered headings, how to smooth out the highs and lows of being bipolar and then all is wrapped up neatly with a paragraph on how he has progressed through time ad space as a Muslim Only, I just don t get this whole journey Isn t that basically what we all do in our journeys through life substituting Christian or Jew or skeptic perhaps I would give this author a try again, but hope for a compelling read. I met the author when he gave a talk on his book at the Miami Book Fair I came to the talk with a goal A writer of fiction myself, I had just sold my first story with a Muslim character However, I d yet to attempt a Muslim POV character, because I did not know enough to pull off the interiority required I enjoyed Moghul s banter at the talk with several audience members, revealing shared experiences of growing up Muslim I decided to purchase the book and enjoyed a brief conversation with the author when I had him sign it In reading it, I was indeed offered further insight into the experiences that formed Moghul as an American Muslim I especially appreciated the insights coming both from his study of philosophy and his study of Islam The author acquainted me with Muslim scholars of which I was not previously aware and pulled it together into a coherent worldview.The book was also a story of a man growing up bipolar, a serious mental illness These parts were poignant and definitely gave insight into his character.The one limitation is that he grew up rich, as did everyone he mentioned knowing in the book Certainly with his experiences heading up the NYU Islamic Center he encountered Muslims of varying social classes So why did he only speak of those who are rich like his family I don t know It also ends on an uncertain note It would seem from reading this that personal issues and dealing with mental illness had overwhelmed the political activist on peace issues and largely silenced him But listening to the author speak told me this wasn t true at all He has morphed into an activist for Muslim Jewish dialog, a venture of increasing importance, given the fusing of many strands of bigotry in alt right America Was the abrupt ending meant to allow for a sequel I couldn t tell.Regardless, even if not a smooth narrative and whose life ever is this book contains sufficient insights to be well worth reading. Islam is a religion, yes, but Islam is also a cultural identity, a heritage, an ethnic marker, a civilization, and sometimes these things than faith To be Muslim is to be the stunted descendant of giants, to live in the ruin of your own civilization When we re not taught about boundaries, about the value and dignity of our bodies, we re rendered vulnerable to anyone who preys on our ignorance. Haroon Moghul rose to national prominence in the wake of 9 11, as an undergrad leader at NYU s Islamic Center His memoirs promise a look at what it s like to be an American born Muslim, pulled between personal faith and public identity Sadly, this book doesn t quite deliver Partly this is because the book is marketed around Moghul s prominence as what he terms a professional Muslim , and yet steadfastly refuses to get into any kind of detail about his career beyond the fact that he s mostly made miserable by it and that he s dropped out of grad school twice because of that But mostly it s because as the book progresses, it becomes ever an exercise in navel gazing, religious guilt, and tortured MFA style writing Moghul undeniably had a tough time in his twenties marital breakdown, mental illness, heart problems but reading How to Be a Muslim feels less like discovering the insights that Moghul gained because of this than it does being asked to play the part of the therapist I was increasingly uncomfortable with that, even before I reached the part where he talks about something that happened while separated from his now ex wife He and another woman whom he describes as coy and scandalous watch a movie about Hitler as some kind of weird foreplay, before she declares that she wants to bite his cheek and they have sex Who knew there could be a version of we were on a break even jarring than Ross Geller s A disappointment. A great memoir by an author I know well It is in a sense of coming of age story for someone caught in the position of being stuck between two identities, and very sincerely struggling to believe in something that they feel they cannot deny The writing was often very funny, but above all it is a heartfelt and sincere account of one persons own struggles in the modern world Light, easy and thoughtful reading that is highly recommended to people of all backgrounds.
Haroon Moghul is the author of The Order of Light and My First Police State His memoir, How to be Muslim , is due in 2016 He s a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, formerly a Fellow at the New America Foundation and the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, and a member of the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative at New York s Metropolitan Museum of Art.Haroon
- 256 pages
- How to Be a Muslim
- Haroon Moghul
- 10 April 2019 Haroon Moghul