Debut author Sein, a Muslim, accuses his fellow Muslims worldwide of corruption, intolerance and cruelty.
“Deeply shaken” by 9/11, Sein, a well-traveled engineer from Pakistan, takes a “critical look” at the Muslim psyche, and from his perspective, the view isn’t pretty. Among the problems in the Muslim world: brutality, corruption, human rights abuses, intolerance and a sense of victimhood. The book traces these supposed universal attributes of Muslims to two main sources: a high self-regard as “God’s pampered followers” and envy of Westerners, “better and smarter than us.” Giving ample evidence of corruption in Muslim countries, ranging from small bribes for cops and petty bureaucrats to rigged elections at government’s highest levels, Sein wonders why suicide bombers don’t target corrupt Muslim officials. Written as short essays in a kind of journal format dating back to 2005, most of Sein’s points develop either anecdotally, based on conversations with friends and acquaintances, or as commentary upon what’s by now become old news. In addition, the anecdotal evidence isn’t well-supported. For instance, the author attributes to “many an elderly person” his claim that Muslim freedom has declined since the end of British rule in Pakistan; off-the-cuff asides—“I don’t know how true this is”; “if I remember correctly”; and “I cannot say with certainty”—won’t inspire confidence. Though Sein shows courage in even attempting this healthy act of self-criticism, especially of a religion whose fundamentalist followers are notoriously intolerant, he paints with too broad a brush. And even if he limited his criticism to fundamentalist factions, it could easily apply to many other religious and nationalist zealots. In fact, he shows a stunning naïveté regarding the reasons for the United States’ foreign adventures, though he does at least concede its failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim nations—though he blames the victims by pinning the continuing turmoil on the invaded rather than the invaders. Like many such works, the book’s long on critique but short on solutions, offering only vague, mysterious nostrums, such as encouraging freedom and opportunity in Muslim countries “through silent and invisible means.”
A timely, important topic, but this weakly supported polemic fails to adequately explain the many pressing problems in Muslim countries or to offer any likely solutions.