Review: Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love

cvr_face-to-face-with-jesus-a-former-muslims-extraordinary-journey-to-heaven-and-encounter-with-the-god-of-love-by-samaa-habib

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love by Samaa Habib, Bodie Thoene

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from the GoodReads Giveaways Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: ”For many believers, particularly in the West, persecution is a foreign concept and experience–limited to unpleasant exchanges in the office or over social media. However, for many other believers, from Indonesia to Africa, in North Korea and throughout the Middle East, persecution is common. They suffer in many different ways, from social and economic exclusion to torture, rape, imprisonment and martyrdom for their belief in Jesus”(13).–Mike Bickle, Director, International House of Prayer

Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love,” existed as the story of a young, Egyptian female and her conversion from Islam to Christianity. The author, Samaa Habib, received an invitation, from one of her friends, to attend a Christian Orthodox Church service. She was fortunate to have parents who, despite being Muslim and deeply religious, were also open-minded about learning, seeing how others practiced their faith(s), etc. While there, she learned that the God of Christianity valued and loved females equally as much as males. This surprised her; because in Islam, females were worth half or less than that of their male counterparts.

Face to Face with Jesus” covered the wide-spread progression from Samaa’s Egyptian family living under a communist government, to displeasure of it and people’s desire to convert to generalized Sharia Law, and ultimately to being ruled by the cleric-mandated Sharia law. As things changed, her worth to her family also became devalued. Nonie Darwish, also a native of Egypt and whose father worked in the field of military intelligence under Gamal Abdel Nasser, noticed these extreme changes as well and shared them in her book, titled “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.”

In Samaa Habib’s case, it was the first time that she witnessed how religion became a divisive weapon: to “tear personal lives apart and divide and destroy nations” (51). She also saw “cruelty for the sake of cruelty ” (52). “In Muslim countries, women without male chaperones are targets of assault” (109), and she witnessed some of the terrible acts. One could easily understand how this girl’s new-found faith (in Christianity) made her feel protected and helped her to fight back against some fellow Egyptians who became her attackers.

At first, I thought that the “International House of Prayer” was unfairly targeting Egypt’s female population, using “free self-defense classes” as a way to gain recruits and converts from Islam to Christianity; however, the reality was that they did provide an undeniably valuable and life-saving service and skillset to the populace, which also saved the lives of this girl and her friends on multiple occasions. Not everyone would convert to Christianity, but they would convert from intended victims of sexual assault and other crimes to their own personal heroes.

SPOILER ALERT
As the chapters progressed, especially in the “Epilogue,” the soft-sell for Christianity became a hard-pushing one, and I found myself skimming the last parts. The hard-sell became distracting from the author’s amazing life story and the good deeds of her church. It seemed that the sole purpose of the book was to be a religious conversion piece, which varied greatly from what its synopsis conveyed to me; as such, this well-written book and amazing story lost some of its integrity, causing a reduced star rating.

Review: Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism

cvr_unveiled-threat-a-personal-experience-of-funamentalist-islam-and-the-roots-of-terrorism-by-janet-tavakoliUnveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Funamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism by Janet Tavakoli

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Author (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: Do not allow the small size of this book fool you into believing that it is not big on content. This is the first piece I have read by Janet Tavakoli, MBA, who utilized this work as a delivery vehicle to share her experiences when she found herself suddenly trapped in the middle of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. In one day she went from being an Iranian man’s, American-born, wife to becoming his property under that nation’s newest laws. “Unveiled Threat: A Personal Experience of Fundamentalist Islam and the Roots of Terrorism” delved into the author’s experiences, connected religious institutions to terrorism, and expounded upon the issues that developed due to the creation of a politically-correct world that began producing a global, fundamentalist, terrorist threat to the United States of America (USA).

Unveiled Threat” began with a focus on Iran and touched on tangentially-related topics in other countries due to their effect on the USA. Prevailing themes included the following:
1. “Poor men want to be rich” (1)
2. Political hypocrisy.
3. Hypocritical use of chador.
4. “Stalkers for Islam” (43)
5. Honor killings.
6. Female genital mutilation (FGM).
7. Islamic rule.
8. Muslim apologetics.
9. Sex abuse scandals.
10. Freedom of artistic expression and speech.

Ms. Tavakoli gave one example that specifically dealt with Muslim outrage pertaining to freedom of artistic expression/speech; I felt that it lacked sufficient context, causing me to be in disagreement with her. The story’s lack of details pertained to the year 2006, when a Pakistani cleric issued a death fatwa on a cartoonist who drew satirical images of Mohammad. I did not find their context to be fatwa-worthy nor good cause for riots. The situation created by the editors appeared repulsive and malicious. I associated this example with the Charlie Hebdo incident, though it was not clearly defined in the book.

The incident involved artistic representations of tied-up Muslims being raped by dogs (as had reportedly occurred to incarcerated people of the same faith). Dogs were utilized because due to their consideration as being the most disliked, lowly creatures in Islam. Other highly-inappropriate, disgusting, and insensitive illustrations went to print. I could not begin to imagine the uproar that would take place in a Westernized nation if, in the same context, there was a contest to draw a likenesses of God, Jesus Christ, or any other holy icon, in order for them to be printed amongst cartoons of children being raped by religious or other authority figures. In this situation, described as artistic expression and/or freedom of speech, moral and philosophical boundaries melted.

Unveiled Threat made for a compelling read that, at its core, focused on personal boundaries being legally melted by changing societal norms. This book contained elements of stories shared by Nonie Darwish, in her book titled, “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.” Plus, Ayaan Hirsi Ali stressed similar warnings in the three pieces I have read of hers: 1.) Nomad–From from Islam to America: a Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations; 2.) Infidel; and, 3.) The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam.

Tavakoli’s book made me hold my breath quite a bit. At times I felt my eyes racing from one sentence to the next because of the energy that the author’s writing style created. The reading enjoyment factor caused the book to easily earn five stars; but, what I thought were minor historical discrepancies did cause me to reduce the work’s overall rating by that of one star. These minute differences in no way diminished the author’s experiences nor intensity of the situations covered in the piece. The most important factual fabric of this book maintained its integrity.

Review: The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

cvr_the-caged-virgin-an-emancipation-proclamation-for-women-and-islam-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliThe Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

RELATED MOVIE(S): Submission: Part I (2004) (TV Short) (No Trailer Available)

REVIEW: The moment I started reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, “ The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam,” I realized that I missed her style of writing, having previously read “Nomad–From from Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations” and “Infidel.” The beginning of her book reflected an assertive manner without being offensive, a consistent characteristic offered in all three texts. This approach compelled the me to want to walk in-step with the author while she described her journey and goals. These items included, but were not limited to, the following:

Description of her credentials;
Definition of Muslim absolutism;
Contrasting of Islamic fundamentalist ideology to the Western paradigm;
Depiction of gender-based abuse of women;
Caution to countries to be watchful of fundamentalism;
Summarizing legal, regulatory, and operational barriers to reform;
Advising how martyrdom became established;
Utilization of sociocultural visual models;
Referring to examples by germane experts;
Creation of a valuable list to escape domestic abuse; and,
Elaboration of her film.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali performed her goals without making the reader of previous books feel as though the author was simply doing an inexpensive re-write. The examples, visuals and references the writer provided were solid and easy to understand. A case in point was that I did not remember learning about the sociocultural triangular models prior to reading this book, and I found myself wanting to learn more about them. It caused me to add such books to my reading list.

However, with the author’s goals accomplished and the reader wanting to learn more, one must wonder why this book earned only three stars in lieu of four or five of them? I found the “Part One,” scene-by-scene description of the author’s film, “Submission” to be redundant and unnecessary. It treated the reader as though he/she could not have understood what was already communicated (repeatedly) throughout the book. Progression through the chapter enabled me to graphically envision her scenes, which served as her goal; but it was as if I could not walk out of the movie theater. I was already too invested in (most of the way through) the book. This chapter came across as an over-the-top plug of self-promotion. If she wanted to promote her film, she could have increased the cost of her book and included a CD/DVD of the scene in a pocket/insert.

I had hoped that the chapters that followed the film scenes would enable the author to redeem herself. Unfortunately, such a thing did not occur. It did not destroy Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s message; it simply reduced how I valued this book. The author’s message is conveyed much better in her other books “Nomad” and “Infidel.” I highly recommend those texts.

Review: Infidel

“There are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.”― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

cvr_infidel-by-ayaan-hirsi-aliInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Ayaan Hirsi Ali did it again–she easily pulled a five-star rating out of me for a second time. I had inadvertently read “Nomad” before “Infidel” because I did not have knowledge of this book as being her first one.

Once I started reading, “Infidel,” I was hoping that she would not simply re-state everything I had already read in the other text. She did not. In fact, while the author’s voice was consistent in both pieces of literature, the reader was educated with a series of micro-histories that could not be disregarded, neither in the character development of this fine woman nor in the culmination of Muslim Fundamentalist religious ferver on a worldwide scale.

Ayaan wanted to “…be judged on the validity of (her) arguments, not as a victim.” This stance seemed to exist as a delicately crafted undercurrent of her stories while she continued to educate the reader about her life and that of so many innocent people around the world. When she asserted that “My combat was legitimate,” it was Hirsi Ali’s way of wrapping up all of the facts into a neat package and making it clear to the reader that he/she was in survival mode with the author as well.

The only difficulty I face in writing this review is that anything submitted cannot do this author’s fine work the justice that it deserves. I find myself in awe of her life experience and how she has chosen to manifest them into an incredibly educated, passionate and compassionate existence.

In closing, I cannot wait to get my hands on her next book, “The Caged Virgin,” and continue along the path of this educational journey and heightened sense of awareness that she has created.

Review: Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror

cvr_now-they-call-me-infidel-why-i-renounced-jihad-for-america-israel-and-the-war-on-terrorNow They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror, by Nonie Darwish

MY RATING: 4/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: The beginning of this review yields to a much favorable position as it progresses. “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror” ends much better than it starts, and it is the first book for which I considered punctuation, paragraph transitions, and chapter allocations to be a signification part of a review. It is not enjoyable to have to do a drill-down on how a book is edited, but it is the poor editing of this book that originally lowered my rating of the text. Had it not been for the subject matter combined with both the intent and voice of the author, this book would have received a one-star rating and placed on my “discards” shelf. It is with the aforementioned in mind that I wish to touch on the most blatant things that have been considered in my review.

Mis-use (or lack thereof in some cases) of punctuation made this book a challenging read…so difficult, in fact, that I opted to see which company published it. The publisher was Penguin Books, and one would expect a higher caliber editing job from such a well-established entity. Several sentences had to be re-read, and I imagined punctuation in other parts of them in order to understand what the author wished to convey. It was amazing how significantly a comma changed the meaning of a sentence! Flow of ideas from one paragraph to another consistently lacked cohesion, making it choppy and challenging to follow a storyline. Ideas that clearly belonged in separate chapters created pause for the reader because I didn’t always understand their placement within the context of a specific part of Nonie Darwish’s story.

It was Ms. Darwish’s voice and intent that pushed me to read further. The disjointed details of early parts of the book finally came together enough to understand her over-arching theme: radical Islam is born overseas and is becoming homegrown in the USA; these people are very determined and will do anything to destroy anyone/anything that they consider to be of infidel nature. The author’s history, as well as that of her native Egypt, were detailed so that the reader could understand and appreciate Darwish’s political, humanitarian, and moral positions. She emphasized how thankful she was to have become an American and that her sentiment was an atypical one. People she once knew as moderate Muslims had become radicals once they arrived in America. The author explained that it was not unusual to find professional students (ie: a student of 12 years without a degree) that had become leaders of Muslim Student Associations and were backed by Saudi oil money to stay on college campuses; and, they were (are) using the universities as conversion centers for jihadism.

The author expressed a deep amount of respect for people of other nationalities, cultures, and faiths and made it clear that radical Islam demonstrates no tolerance nor respect for anything outside of itself and very little variation within its religion. The reading of “Now They Call Me Infidel” definitely required persistence. What pushed the rating of this book up to a 4-star one was the fact that the author made me want to learn more about the topics she addressed. If you put down this book because you found it unreadable, I ask that you consider making another attempt at reading it; once you are well into the text, everything eventually makes sense. It offers a solid education that cannot be ignored.

Review: Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations

cvr_nomad-from-islam-to-america-a-personal-journey-through-the-clash-of-civilizations Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW:Nomad” exists as one of the best books I have ever read. Ayaan Hirsi Ali presented herself as an incredible, multi-faceted, dynamic human being, and her book did not waste a single word in its effort to directly and thoughtfully convey her Somali clan culture, Muslim history, and personal growth that paved the way to an atheistic position.

She clearly defined how the Muslim religion manifested itself in numerous familial generations and those around her. This belief system was stagnant, fanatical, illogical, sexist, and radical; this perspective did not change in the hearts and minds of her loved ones as they moved to different countries and modernity infringed upon the clan. Hirsi Ali did a phenomenal job of demarcating when the Muslim “Call to Prayer” migrated from a poetic one to a song that sounded like a call to arms.

This woman had every right to be angry and bitter; yet, if anything, she demonstrated an endless capacity for compassion toward just about everyone. She clearly understood the clash of cultures dynamic and thoroughly explained why it was important to motivate people to enjoy their heritage but thoroughly integrate into their new country(ies).

Ayaan Hirsi (Magan) Ali seemed to want her book to serve as a wake-up call to the reader(s). It could not, nor should not, be ignored. “Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations” proved to be an excellent, educational read!

Review: A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State

cvr_a-road-unforeseen_women-fight-the-islamic-stateA Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State, by Meredith Tax

MY RATING: 5/5 Stars

FTC NOTICE: Free Review Copy from Library Thing Early Reviewers Program (in exchange for an honest review)

REVIEW: “The year 1989 is notable for a great worldwide upsurge of fundamentalism” (25). “A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, details an internationally-political and economically-driven set of events, that have culminated in a religious, cultural, gender-based situation allowing for the formation of “the patriarchal belt” (24). Activities increased for the following reasons, according to the author: “removal of Soviet state control, causing of nationalist and religious identity movements; and, globalization with its capitalist forms of organization and notions of individual liberty–wrongly defined as Western–penetrated to the most remote areas, bringing their values and media to threaten traditional male elites, who reacted violently” (25). Factors that contributed since that time involved “destabilization of the region, seductions of Western media and the freedom offered by the Internet, and success of the global woman’s movement. Its legal achievements peaked at UN conferences in the early nineties, setting off alarm bells and traditionalist enclaves from the Vatican to Saudi Arabia” (25-26).

The alarm bells rang decades after a seemingly infinite series of events sparked when the Sykes-Picot Treaty and other pacts carved up Kurdistan amongst the winning, dominant world powers. This book detailed Kurdistan’s history and the United States’ rush to fill a gap as soon as the Cold War ended…selectively continuing to fight communism by aligning with Turkey, utilizing Israel as America’s proxy and conveniently finding the PKK/Kurds as being equal to the same communists previously fought, while ignoring differentiating aspects.

Meredith Tax adeptly presented, and compelling supported, her positions in what I viewed as the following themes:
*Revolutionary Strategies: ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
*Ethnic Identity and Genocide
*Tribalism and Sultanism
*Totalitarian Theocracy
*Globalization
*Oil Politics
*UN Sanctions: Challenges and Manipulations
*Systemic Violence and Homicides Against Women
*Hyperbolic Focus on Female Virginity
*Conflict Zone Governments: Big Government vs Local Councils vs Small Communes
*Jihadist Heavenly Rewards Program: A Sliding Scale
*Manipulation of Western Audiences
*Democratization of Iraq: A New Radical-Islamic, Anti-Female State
*Recruitment Efforts and Profiling

The reader must wonder if the aforementioned themes developed because the Kurds lived in an area resting on oil. “Iraqi Kurdistan has huge oil and gas reserves, as many as 55 billion barrels of oil, a quarter of the reserves in the whole country. Thirty-nine different oil companies from nineteen countries moved in” (98). It looked like a power-grab, regardless of the multi-faceted costs to the tribes and overall states; and, without regard to its ripple effect worldwide.

A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State,” by Meredith Tax, revealed itself to be a surprisingly-thorough, well-organized and compelling read. It should be recognized as a primer on Kurdistan and Daesh, while highlighting the challenges and accomplishments of a unique group of females that continued to fight against an internationally-misunderstood conflict with escalating, global implications. The book’s “Glossary of Organizational Names” (13), map, and photos greatly contributed to ease of reading and understanding of its contents, easily garnering the compendium a five-star rating and a spot on my “Favorites” list.