The War on Islam by Enver Masud. Pub: Madrasah Books, an imprint of The Wisdom Fund, P O Box 2723, Arlington VA 22202, USA, second edition 2001. Pp: 225. Pbk: $17.50.
By S. R. Esmail
I recently bought this book in South Africa, and was fortunate enough to hear Enver Masud speak during a visit to promote it and raise funds for the Wisdom Fund that he founded and runs. As a regular Crescent reader, I think I am not uninformed about the world, but I was not familiar with this writer and organization. Both, alhumdulillah, were a revelation, and are evidence of the excellent work that many Muslim individuals and small groups are doing, often unknown by most people in the Ummah, at a time when many of our larger groups and better-known ‘leaders’ are confused and misleading Muslims.
Enver Masud is an engineering management consultant based in the US who is originally from India. Some years ago, he set out, entirely on his own initiative, to try to provide ordinary Americans with better information about Islam compared to the skewed picture they get from the American media and other sources. To this end, he wrote a short, 600-word introduction to Islam called ‘The Truth about Islam’ and began getting it published as a paid advertisement in various American newspapers, magazines, billboards and other places. He then established the Wisdom Fund to raise funds to expand this work, and it appears to be having an excellent impact, with teachers and other professionals coming to him for more information about Islam.
The text of this introduction is published at the end of this book, and does indeed provide an excellent starting point for introducing non-Muslims to Islam. It is beautifully written in simple, clear English, in a voice and tone that are suitably dignified for the subject matter. The text begins with a brief historical account of the origins of Islam, but the main part, designed to give a sense of Islam’s moral principles and ethos to non-Muslims, consists of a list of 22 examples of the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). Those selected include "the first thing created by God was the intellect," "one learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshippers," "heaven lies at the feet of mothers," "actions will be judged according to intentions," and "women are the twin-halves of men." (The full text can be seen on the Internet, www.twf.org.)
Up to this point, the main distinguishing feature of Masud’s work is that he has taken up a task that many Muslims have attempted, but done it far better than most achieve. Where most work of this kind is unfortunately amateurishly and shoddily done, and so has little impact, Masud has succeeded, on his own, in creating an effective da’wah tool and using it effectively. One reason for this is that, by his own account, he has not allowed himself to be distracted into trying to get involved in a huge number of good works; instead he has largely focused on the one task of publishing this simple text as broadly as possible. Everything else he does is designed to facilitate and promote this core objective.
Unlike many Muslims engaged in da’wah, however, Masud is not an apologist, by which I mean one who distorts Islam to suit the western mindset, or panders to western views of the world in order to attract westerners to Islam. In his preface to the second edition of this book, The War on Islam, issued after September 11, Masud seeks to answer the question asked in much of America: "why do they hate us?" His answer is that Americans aren’t hated as individuals, but that much of what America does in the world in the name of democracy and freedom is hated, with good reason:
America wasn’t attacked just because "they hate us." Only a few among major news media dared to tell the truth. The World Trade Centre and the Pentagon symbolised what many in the world view, not always correctly, as a major source of their deprivation and misery.
That Americans were surprised is evidence of the failure of major news media to communicate to Americans the reality of the world in which we live. Years of biased reporting and half-truths have left Americans poorly informed of the enemies we have created.
This book consists of a collection of Masud’s writings over the last decade in the newspaper The Eastern Times, which Masud hopes will explain to Americans why their country and much of what it does and stands for is hated in the world. These are short pieces on particular issues of the time that highlight the double standards and hypocrisy of the US government and the American media alike. These are issues that are so routine for Muslims that we notice them at the time and then forget about them; this book is a reminder of much that we have had to go through in the decade since the end of the second Gulf War (ie America’s ‘liberation’ of Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion). It is easy to imagine, however, the impact they can have on uninformed American readers coming to these issues for the first time, totally unfamiliar with any view of the world bar that conveyed by CNN and the New York Times.
All in al, there are almost one hundred articles — many of them little more than a couple of hundred words — on a range of topics, from America’s strategy against Iraq in 1991, the anti-Muslim campaign that followed the Oklahoma bombing in 1994, the imprisonment of Shaikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the Dayton peace accords, the West’s fear of Islam, the bombing of Libya, the crash of TWA800, the US’s ongoing campaign against Iraq, and many more, leading to relatively recent events such as the blaming of the pilot for the crash of EgyptAir flight 990 in 1999, the political verdict at the end of the Lockerbie trial and the response to the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues (2001).
The articles are contemporaneous — they were written at the time the events in question were taking place – and each on its own shows an impressive critical response to the weight of media coverage against which they must have been set. Taken together, however, they add up to a remarkable record of America’s role in the world, and leave little doubt that there is indeed a ‘war against Islam’ underway.
One thing that is particularly impressive about the articles is Masud’s obvious depth of knowledge about the US and its policies in the world, and the way he is able to bring in impressive and telling statistics and background information to support his arguments and his case. This is the difference between empty words and substantive argument, and is particularly important in addressing non-Muslims who do not share the assumptions and background information that many Muslims now take for granted.
The result is a book that is interesting and useful for non-Muslims and Muslims alike, not least in the easy access it provides to key information about episodes in our recent history, and references for more information on them. Most Muslims understand the worldview it expresses; what this book provides is the information required to explain this worldview to non-Muslims.
[S. R. Esmail is a Crescent reader in Johannesburg, South Africa.]