The inspiring story of a peace advocate who was raised in the dogma of hate but chose a different path.
With the assistance of journalist Giles, Ebrahim conjures a child’s voice as he tells the story of his life thus far. The book opens with a shock: The author is 7 years old, living in New Jersey, and it’s the middle of the night. His mother is shaking him awake and telling him to pack his things; there’s been an accident, someone is hurt, and they must go to a hospital in Brooklyn. It turns out that his father, El-Sayyid Nosair, has assassinated Meir Kahane, leader of the Jewish Defense League, and is a protégé of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the fundamentalist “Blind Sheik.” Later, Ebrahim’s father was also convicted of helping plot the first World Trade Center bombing from prison. Throughout the book, the author is all youthful anxiety: confused, fearful, bullied, angry, self-loathing. Despite the clarity of the writing, these emotions are experienced through a glass darkly and are spooky to the point of chilling. Ebrahim explains how easy it is to implant bigotry in children: “Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Pi equals 3.14. All Jews are evil, and homosexuality is an abomination. Paris is the capital of France.” They sound like facts; a child can’t tell the difference, and they fear the “other.” As the author notes, bigotry is “such a maddeningly perfect circle.” Ebrahim could easily have trod that path, but his mother was a counterforce, somehow teaching her son empathy, and she stunned him with six simple words: “I’m so sick of hating people.”
Ebrahim turns Auden’s cautionary words on evil upside down with this brief but moving “portrait of a young man who was raised in the fires of fanaticism and embraced nonviolence instead.”