Sara Abou Bakr, et al: Hello, It’s a Muslim Calling
The so-called ‘clash of civilisations’ asserts a world divided
into opposing entities as vague and simplistic as ‘East and West’. Coined by
the late American political scientist Samuel Huntington, the paradigm
reinforces a crusader mentality and denies the complex realities in which we
live. In plain; the theory is outdated.
Hello, It’s a Muslim Calling, published in 2011, compiles works by five Egyptian Muslims
who attempt to dispel the Huntingtonian worldview. But in targeting a ‘western’
audience, the book readily assumes a separate East and West, where the ‘westerner’
is consequently out of touch with the ‘other’.
Journalist Sara Abou Bakr introduces the collection with a call
to dialogue between “Muslims and the West.” But are the two mutually exclusive?
In it she describes her preconceptions before a visit to the US and her
surprise when met with mid-western hospitality and “a Jew with relatives in
Israel.” She goes on to quibble about the mindless equivalence of Muslims and
terrorists in western media. Her points are valid, but in the grand scheme of
things, they’re less than novel.
The first-chapter of “The Winner Writes It All” by Shady
AbdelSalam confirms any doubts about the book’s purchase. The stock market trader
and amateur historian presents a cursory history of Muslim and Egyptian
contributions to humanity. In 63 pages AbdelSalam recounts the rise and fall of
the Pharaonic period to the many ‘firsts’ of Islam’s Golden Age.
Mentioning the Spanish Inquisition, he makes a brash and
baseless conjecture that could only leave a reader speechless: “And if the
Muslims wouldn’t have deteriorated in Spain, and if they were rulers who
supervised the discovery of America, I wonder if 50 million Red Indians […]
would have evaporated in forgotten history!”
Sarah Ayman’s “Speak to Be Seen” redeems the book in the second
chapter, in which she writes a frank and personal account on the veil. Although
the subject has been broached ad nauseam, Ayman’s prose is honest, and her
But as things were starting to look up, rights activist May
Kosba makes a troublesome statement in the third chapter: “Disrespect is indeed
deeply rooted in Western, and particularly American, culture.” However the
context of the quote doesn’t justify its essential claim. Generally, Kosba’s
contempt for the current world order translates through a well-cited,
postcolonial reading. In “Age Sex Location” she tackles western imperialism and
its political and economic consequences in the ‘Muslim world’. Her
point-by-point arguments against the planting of the state of Israel are
The final chapter “The Triangle” by Thoraia Abou Bakr diverts
from the essay and reveals a cross-section of the Egyptian middle-class family
in the form of a modern tragedy. The play casts the reader into a symbolic love
triangle between contemporary Egypt, its dying culture and the influence of
western governments. The characters are strong, but the dialogue and plot are
saccharine and forced.
With a quirky title Hello, It’s A Muslim Calling sounds
like a curious read. But what is learned is already known. “It is not written
by political experts,” as the jacket fittingly forewarns. Instead, it is a
repository of middle-class scruples.
Today, thanks to social media, everyone (and his grandmother)
is a writer. Blogs are virtual pamphlets, and Tweets are soap box appeals. The
tired, yet impassioned rants in Hello, It’s a Muslim Calling would be
best kept online, where blogs are free to access and comment on; therein lies