Intriguing memoir by an American Muslim of Indian descent who discovered a calling to interfaith work.
Patel, a founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, traces the personal journey that led to the group’s formation and introduces readers to its philosophy. He describes his early years in suburban Chicago, “trying to fit in as a brown kid in a white world.” In college, the author explains, he came to view America as a source of oppression and violence and took up the banner of radicalism with a vengeance. A variety of experiences and the influence of friends and mentors taught him to exchange rage for caring, and his life took off in a constructive direction from there. Patel points out various moments when, had he fallen in with religious or political extremists, everything could have gone wrong. Instead, the YMCA, the Catholic Worker movement and other organizations occupied his energies. Figures as diverse as Eric Rudolph and Osama bin Laden started out as troubled youth like himself, Patel notes, but were taken in by mentors who taught hate and violence. The lesson? Reach out to young people with a positive message before others reach them with a violent one. From that simple realization and a deep interest in religious pluralism, Patel joined with others to start the Interfaith Youth Core, which provides opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to interact and learn from each other. The author’s message is compelling and overwhelmingly affirmative. His memoir is at times overloaded with detail, but it’s an entertaining page-turner that juxtaposes youthful mistakes with remarkable moments of insight.
Offers a worthwhile look into the burgeoning interfaith youth movement.