9/11: The day that changed our world

Published on The Express Tribune Blog

Original Link

“The real hell of life is that everyone has his reasons.”   – Jean Renoir

Like many others, I remember September 11, 2001 quite vividly -the day the world changed.

It was an ordinary day like any other while we were blissfully unaware of what was about to happen. Flipping through the channels in the evening, I saw a woman crying on CNN in a way that made me pause and concentrate. Then I watched the unbelievable, seemingly unreal, video footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Back then, I did not know much about the United States of America (except for what I heard from my relatives living there) and I understood nothing about the political significance of such an event. I just knew that an extremely shocking incident had taken place and innocent people had been killed. It was hard to believe that any human being could do such a thing on purpose.

The tragic event, amongst other things, sparked a lot of debate. In the last 9 years, there have been many debates on the subject: Who was responsible? Why did this happen? What does this mean for the future of the world? Is the War on Terror justified?

9/11 has become the subject of books, articles, talk shows, interviews, films, blog posts.

I remember initially engaging in numerous debates on international websites, defending Islam, telling people that true Muslims are not terrorists and all Muslims are not fundamentalists. I remember arguing with some people in Karachi who failed to recognize the inhumanity behind the act. But during these debates and while researching on the subject, I realized that religion was simply being used for political ends. Given the way events have unfolded since then, and the increase in terrorist activities, I wonder why many people still fail to see this.

The terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks had a political agenda and with the US response to the attacks, they succeeded.  The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other incidents of terrorism in the rest of the world, carried out in the name of Islam, not only hurt innocent non-Muslims but also innocent Muslims, who have continued to suffer.

The entire issue is political. It has really nothing to do with any religion. But there seems to be no end to the exploitation of the issue; evoking religious sentiments for political purposes. For instance, nowadays there is an intense debate going on regarding the building of a mosque at Ground Zero. While I may not agree with everything in the article, I completely agree with author and blogger Peter Clothier when he says:

“It became an issue only once it was recognized for its political potential — when those who stood to gain politically from its exploitation seized upon it and inflated it beyond all reason.”

Meanwhile, a pastor in Florida plans to memorialize the Sept. 11 attacks with a bonfire of Korans. This has really nothing to do with Christianity. These are neither the first nor the last problems to arise after 9/11. Terrorists and extremists have their own selfish interests (political and economic gains) at heart. They do not belong to any religion or community.

People in general, be they Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Americans or Pakistanis need to realize that. Otherwise they will continue to debate over smaller issues, make fun of each other’s religion and fail to put an end to the real problem, that is, terrorism.

A good addiction

As a musician in the US

Published in Slogan (August 2010)

Todd Shea, an American musician running a health facility in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, talks about his life, music and disaster relief, in conversation with Ayesha Hoda.

Todd Shea is not only casual; he is ultra-casual. He converses in a friendly and frank manner, sipping a glass of lemonade and using a few words of Urdu, which he has learnt during the last almost five years in Pakistan. Clad in a simple t-shirt and jeans, he wants people to see him the way he is high up in the mountains with the children of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

Last year, Adam B. Ellick did a video story for The New York Times on this “Improbable American”, which shows Todd enthusiastically singing “Dil Dil Pakistan” in his strong American accent for a highly impressed Pakistani audience.

Living near the Line of Control, his health facility, Comprehensive Disaster Relief Services (CDRS), provides high quality health services to people in remote and quake-affected areas.

Todd was recently in Karachi for his first major fundraiser in Pakistan – a simple evening, like the man himself, where his songs entertained the audience and his talk enlightened them about ongoing activities in Kashmir.

Preparing for a disaster

Childhood troubles led 12-year old Todd towards cocaine addiction. But at the age of nineteen, Todd decided to distance himself from the crowd of drug addicts and serve his country. He joined the US Marina Corps, surviving there for about six weeks before he was inevitably sent for drug rehabilitation. During his teenager years, music was always a companion and it saved his life.

Post-rehab days, Todd put his life together and played rock and folk music for the next 15 years, in a group and as a solo artist, travelling across the United States. Side by side, he also helped disillusioned teenagers who had drug problems. His songs are mostly inspired by life’s various tragedies and injustices. But he wants to give a positive message and inspire young people in particular.

On 12th September 2001, Todd was to play at CBGB, one of New York City’s popular nightclubs, where bands like the Rolling Stones have also performed.

Then 9/11 happened. Todd was staying in a hotel situated only a few miles away from Ground Zero and he volunteered to help. For five days or more, he made logistical arrangements, ‘making supplies of small things available to whoever required them’. And he realised that he was actually good at this: “I am good at disaster relief perhaps because my life has been a disaster,” he rationalises.

Perhaps God was preparing him for the future because more opportunities came for Todd to fulfill his new commitment to help people. With his 9/11 experience, he was welcomed by Global Crossroads, a group teaching English in developing nations, which moved towards disaster relief when the tsunami hit the Indian Ocean.

Thus, Todd travelled to Sri Lanka where he helped at orphanages and at a medical unit, and also rescued animals. This was followed by rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

With the children of Kashmir

And then the mountains moved

Todd had just returned from his work of helping displaced residents in the aftermath of Katrina, when another catastrophe struck. An inner voice compelled him to leave home and fly to Pakistan where a major earthquake had been witnessed in Kashmir and northern areas. Todd helped with the immediate relief efforts and saw that a lot of work needed to be done here so he cancelled all his gigs and shows. He was no medical doctor or disaster relief expert, but he was the one who stayed on and established CDRS.

Since 2006, this health unit has assisted the government with its budget for medicines and extra supplies, repairing ambulances etc. It serves a population of 200,000 and assists 12 government facilities. The unit is more like a shack but Todd believes in having a good team of doctors rather than spending on huge structures that serve no purpose.

Todd also does not spend on his security and feels quite at home in Pakistan, admiring various aspects of Pakistani culture and society. He lives simply because he wants his donors to realise that their funds are being spent on providing healthcare facilities. Individual donors, mostly Pakistan-Americans, have been giving various amounts for running this project.

Todd has also initiated a community-based sustainable healthcare project where people of the local community contribute small amounts to help with their healthcare. This will ensure that the community gets the services it needs, even when Todd is not around.

CDRS has also extended support during other trying times in the country. Immediate cash was given to the Marriott blast victims in Islamabad; medical camps have been organised on coastal Sindh; and 3 months last year were spent helping tackle the Swat crisis.

Media-driven myths

In his early years, Todd could never have imagined living in Pakistan. Highlighting how important a role media plays in shaping perceptions, he says, “I find that US media only tells 2 percent truth about Pakistan most of the time. They only tell the bad side. This leads to skewed perceptions and opinions. In NYC, there are couple of neighbourhoods in the Bronx where you hear of murders, shooting, drug problems etc. every other day. If you took only that news and said that’s what America is all about, that would be a really wrong reflection because it’s happening in only one part of the City. That’s what they are doing to Pakistan just because there are a couple of bad people in the neighbourhood who are demonising the whole country.”

Todd feels he has earned more goodwill for America in Pakistan than the billions of dollars that have been poured in as aid for the country.

“Why would Pakistanis trust America? I love the US but whatever Americans have done so far for Pakistan, they haven’t done it right. It isn’t enough. And the common American can help put things right.

“Even if they cannot come down here and work, they can always write about it; use their social networking skills to spread information about people who are working in social development; raise funds. People back there can dedicate a few hours each work to make a difference by collecting money for donation, writing stories on various issues or NGOs, etc.“

A musical bridge for peace

Life has been much more fulfilling for Todd while running CDRS, but music has still remained a part of his life. Todd’s entry in the Pakistani music industry happened when a friend invited to him to play at a new year’s party. There, a person from MTV Pakistan approached him and asked him to play on a show. Todd thus appeared on MTV, once with Ali Safina and Anoushey, and another time with Dino.

“Then I was on some radio shows and I got a lot of emails from young people in Pakistan,” says Todd. “They loved my music and the work I was doing. Then it occurred to me that I could write an album of songs and sing it with some Pakistani musicians. It would be a cultural bridge of peace; a battle against wrong perceptions.”

Todd got together with some people in California. He talked to the members of American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. One of them had read the book ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, on humanitarian work in Pakistan. He was very inspired and eager to do something. So they decided to do it in a big way. Todd contacted a lot of musicians in Pakistan. Members of Guns ‘N Roses, Atif Aslam, Rohail Hayat, Shehzad Roy, Areeb Azheir, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and his son Rustam Fateh Ali khan, Strings, Noori and Salman from Junoon have come together and they are not only going to make a music album but will also film the interaction between Pakistani and American musicians while they work together and visit different places such as shrines etc.

“I hope this project can bring people closer together and erase misconceptions,” Todd says. “If it touches the hearts of Americans, may be they will realise the truth about Pakistanis; they may become more willing to give money to projects in Pakistan that are helping children and other underprivileged people.

“I believe that the only thing that can change this world is love; not bombs or weapons. We also want Americans to understand that a handful of people, with their own agendas, are spreading wrong information about Islam and Muslims. This project may turn out to be highly popular or it may fall flat on its face. But it’s definitely worth a try.”

‘…a unique perspective on the events that transpired after 9/11’ – H.M. Naqvi

Published in Slogan (July 2010)

A conversation with H.M. Naqvi at Roadside Cafe in Karachi - Image © Slogan

H.M. Naqvi is a keen observer and a master with words. A graduate from Georgetown and the creative writing programme at Boston University, his novel, Home Boy, is based on the life of Pakistani immigrants in post-9/11 New York. Currently based in Karachi, Husain shares his experiences and thoughts with Ayesha Hoda on creative writing, literature and his first novel.


How was the experience of writing this novel?

While writing Home Boy, I learnt to develop a routine, a rigorous routine that required working for three sessions a day, the last stretching to six in the morning. I learnt to take it day by day. Otherwise the project would not have progressed. I learnt to manage my head, to contend with doubt and contend with failure.

Why the title Home Boy?

Home Boy can be translated into Urdu as ‘langotia yaar’ and this novel is about three home boys. In the west, it has a different resonance. It is slang and since it is an immigrant’s novel, one of the things that immigrants have to contend with is mastering the language and slang. There is confusion on the part of the narrator regarding what home boy means. That confusion defines the story.

Then there is another, much more interesting reason for the name Home Boy, which can only be learnt by reading the last line of the book.

The book has received a wonderful response. How does it feel? Did you expect so much popularity?

The wonderful response was, well, very pleasing. I had inhabited my head, inhabited my novel for such a long time that it was good to meet others who were privy to what I was privy to: a pressing story populated by animate characters that remain with you after you’ve put the book down.

I didn’t expect popularity. My objective was to complete the book (it took four years) and I was trying to make a living out of writing. I liked to think it was a good story, an important story but I like to think many things.

How was the response different across various audiences?

I think different audiences process the book in different ways. I expected that certain readers would not appreciate the project and am surprised that all audiences – be it Pakistani, Indian or American – have responded very well to the book. It has received very good press. Major papers like The New York Times have given good reviews and local bookstores are having a hard time keeping the book on the shelf; copies are being sold out quickly.

What are the best comments you have received so far?

I met Zulfiqar Ghose at Karachi Literature Festival. He is one of the first few Pakistani writers in the English language. I was delighted by his appreciation as he is a literary predecessor.

At the Jaipur Literary Festival, Urdu writer Shamsur Rehman Farooqi told me that he had picked up a copy of my book and really liked it. This again was very unexpected and flattering because his work and aesthetic sensibilities are very different from mine.  

You have been teaching creative writing at Boston University and writing stories. Tell us something about the art of storytelling and what it means to you.

We all tell stories. We tell stories everyday. When we talk to others, for instance – friends, family, acquaintances – at the end of the day somebody inevitably asks: What did you do today? We tell stories about ourselves, some truthful, some false, because our identities are contingent on this mode. Writing a story, however, is a qualitatively different exercise. There is form; there are technicalities. Something needs to happen to somebody.

In teaching creative writing, I have made my students cognizant of the form, of certain technicalities. I have taught them how to read differently. I have taught them how to critique. I have taught them how to edit themselves. But there are things that can’t be taught, things that one has to feel viscerally. There are things that you can only have developed in the womb.

What are your views on South Asian literature in general and the works of Pakistani writers in particular?

South Asian literature has become a vast genre, spanning decades, if not a century and continents. South Asian writing now emanates from Canada, Australia, even Norway. There are some great writers; there are mediocre ones.

The explosion of Pakistani literature in English is an exciting development. Although writers like Mumtaz Shah Nawaz, Zulifkar Ghose, Adam Zameenzad, Bapsi Sidhwa, and the peerless Sara Suleri have been at it for decades, there is frenetic momentum now. And though many have achieved prominence, many remain under the radar. There’s Azhar Abidi, Imad Rehman. And the great Urdu writer Abdullah Hussain recently published an excellent novel entitled Émigré Journeys.

In a way, implicitly or explicitly, we are all in conversation with each other.

Any comments on fiction based on 9/11?

I think every great historic event leads to a body of literature, like World War I and II, Partition and the Holocaust. 9/11 is one such tragedy which will continue to produce a body of work. Home Boy is not the first or the last work on this but it is a unique perspective on the events that transpired after 9/11.

And the World Changed

And the World Changed – Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women

Book Review published in SouthAsia (June 2007)

And the world has changed! Not only in Sabyn Javeri-Jillani’s post-partition Karachi or in Humera Afridi’s post 9/11 New York City, but also for creative writing by Pakistani women.

There is no vast Pakistani English literature by women, to comment on. Republished in Pakistan in 2006, after its launch by Women Unlimited (New Delhi) in 2005, this anthology exhibits the kind of work that Pakistani women are doing in South Asian literature.

Nonconformity and an unconventional style seem to be the current trend. Though there is still a long way to go in terms of meeting the literary standards of world classics, the stories of this collection do represent myriad perspectives on a number of issues, especially those concerning women.

There is no single theme that the book follows. You cannot label it as ‘feminist’ prose, despite the fact that all texts are by women.

Twenty-four women, belonging to different literary backgrounds, have contributed. These include known names such as Fahmida Riaz (a political and human rights activist), Bapsi Sidhwa (whose novels revolve around the Zoroastrian community in Pakistan) and Kamila Shamsie (of Salt and Saffron fame). Some of the stories are excerpts from novels.

One is bound to notice a few similarities between the authors. All of them have lived in Pakistan as well as in the west, or still do. They write about the Pakistani people and multiculturalism is sometimes an underlying theme:

“Santa Maria, the Black Madonna, Holy Mother of Christ, Jesus, Jesus, Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Hussain, Ya Hussain…” (Bloody Monday by Fawzia Afzal Khan.

Stories focus on problems as serious as rape of the mentally challenged (The Daughters of Aai by Fahmida Riaz), forced marriages (The Optimist by Bina Shah) or on lighter subjects such as the initial experiences of city life ( Look, But With Love by Uzma Aslam Khan) and The Arsonist (an excerpt from Bapsi Sidhwa’s The Crow Eaters). They provide us with a taste of present-day reality and capture the ethos of our society – such as Shahrukh Husain’s Rubies for a Dog, which comments on gender discrimination:

“Isn’t it ironic that I have to dress like a man in order to discover my potential?”

Meeting your future in-laws in a pair of jeans can be calamitous even if you are living in the west, “under the sway of western fashion and, by extension, its moral values” (A Pair of Jeans by Qaisra Shahraz).

Even young and amateur writers show sensitivity towards some social issues (that are often ignored) and provide us with some very original stories, such as Clay Fissures by Nayyara Rahman:

“It was 1953 and patriotism was still a young, strong spirit in Pakistan. People were proud of being Pakistanis. They were proud of being Muslim. They were proud of their own brown skin, which reflected wheat – the lifeblood of Pakistan. And here was I: Pradeep Sehgal, the adopted albino son of a Hindu merchant and a Eurasian seamstress.”

Muneeza Shamsie (the editor and short story writer), has previously edited A Dragonfly in the Sun: An Anthology of Pakistani Writing in English and Leaving Home: A Collection of English Prose by Pakistani Writers. She also contributes to local newspapers and magazines. In this book, she has provided us with a brief but absorbing introduction on the history of creative writing by Pakistani women (or the lack of it). She has eulogized the efforts of those women who have contributed to this form of writing (despite the lack of monetary benefits and inspiring examples), acquainted us with each contributor and has also thrown light on the impact that political upheaval in the country has had on this medium of expression.

It is interesting to note the kind of diversity that exists in our writing as well as our society. We see a close affinity with contemporary writing by Indian women (Shobha De` etc.).

These writers also lead us to new avenues (sometimes ‘experimental’)and provide ideas that can form the basis of future work in fiction. Social critique still largely seems to be the ultimate aim of writing, as mentioned in the introduction: ‘the prescriptive dictum that their work must have an extra-literary purpose, namely to “serve society”.’

– By Ayesha Hoda

A Partial Tale

Published on September 14, 2008 in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn)

Reviewed by Ayesha Hoda

Original Link

With rising interest (post 9/11) in Islam and what is termed as ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, several books have been written on the religion and current events revolving around it.What is Islam in its revised edition of the book (first written in 1990), also falls into a similar category and addresses some relevant religious/political issues. However, its primary focus is on imparting knowledge about the religion’s beliefs, history, laws or Shariah, sects and so on.

‘An Introduction to the Muslim World’ would perhaps have been a more appropriate title for this book by Chris Horrie and Peter Chippindale. Horrie is an award-winning former staff reporter, editor and author or co-author of around 10 books. Chippindale has written Mink and Laptop of the Gods.

The book discusses in-depth the Muslim world and the shape it has taken in the present century, rather than explaining what Islam is, as one would expect. The front cover states that the tome is a comprehensive introduction to Islam. However, this is not the first book you would recommend to someone to introduce them to the religion. Understanding of the religion and its philosophy is largely missing from the book.

The concise and simple style of writing is a positive aspect which makes it easy to grasp the details. What is also praiseworthy is that the book has been written in an unemotional manner; it is more of a factual account of what happened in Islamic history and what the basic principles of the religion are. However, at several places there are factual errors. This is disappointing, especially since the book has been rewritten and mistakes could have been noted and corrected in the revised edition.

The chapters have been divided into four categories: Faith, Islamic history, Islamic sects and The Muslim world. The section on faith comprises of brief explanations of the pillars of Islam, articles of faith, Islamic law, the Islamic calendar, universality of the religion and the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The section on Islamic history provides an overview of the early Islamic Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and there is also a chapter on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism with discussions on The Wahabbi Revolt, The Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian Revolution and so on. A chapter called ‘A Clash of Civilisations?’ has been included in this section, which is basically a critical review of Samuel P. Huntington’s book The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. The authors’ personal viewpoint on the clash between Islam and the West is not really clear except that they think Huntington’s views are paranoid and extremist. A chronology of important events of Muslim history has been included and can be useful for quick reference.

The third section on Islamic sects discusses the various factions of the religion in some detail, right from the four schools of Sunni law to Mahdi’ist movements and the Black Muslim Movement in America. It recounts the differences between the Twelvers, the Seveners, the Assassins and other sub-groups within Shi’ite Islam. There is also a chapter on other Islamic groups such as the Sufis, the Ibadites, the Qadiriyah, etc. As a large number of people, including Muslims, are unaware of the various sub-sects that exist within Islam, the perusal of this section will prove to be enlightening.

The section on the Muslim world mentions some particulars of Muslim countries, their religious laws and brief political history. It does not mention countries with significant Muslim populations, where Islam is not the state religion (for instance India).The book is generally neutral. However, at some points, the authors seem to be rather biased and make statements without elaborating or providing substantial examples to validate their reasons for making them. For instance, they write:

‘The couple [the Prophet and his first wife Khadijah] had only one surviving child, a daughter called Fatima who in later life became a fanatical Muslim’. And referring to Islamabad, they call it the ‘new citadel of orthodoxy’.

Moreover, there are also several instances where the authors do not differentiate between what Islam actually teaches and what several Muslims might believe due to social, cultural, political and other influences. For example, they say that ‘Muslim women may take part in Hajj, subject to various restrictions. During it each must be accompanied by a male chaperon (mahram), who must be a man she is legally unable to marry – for example her father or brother’ and ‘Failure to carry out a fard obligation is both a sin and a crime punishable in Shariah courts.’

Topics such as Da’wah and Ijtehad are completely missing; they would have been relevant to current times. Overall, the book does not thoroughly cover all the aspects and may be read along with a number of other books on the subject in order to offer a better and more lucid perspective on Islamic history, culture and the faith itself.


What is Islam?
By Chris Horrie and Peter Chippindale
Virgin Books, UK
Available with Liberty Books, Karachi
ISBN 0-7535-1194-7
324pp. Rs695

Clash of Perspectives

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on September 16, 2007 – Original Link
Reviewed by Ayesha Hoda

IN this sample of Christian eschatology, Grant R. Jeffrey argues that we are witnessing the last days or the end times. Propagating Christian Zionism, he says that the present ‘war on terror’ is the beginning of the third world war, which will lead to the prophesised war of Gog and Magog, the rise of the Antichrist and then finally to Armageddon, when Jesus Christ will return to this world, establish peace and reconcile the Arab and Jewish brothers.

The author quotes from the Book of Genesis, the Book of Ezekiel, the Book of Revelation, the Quran and a few other sources, including non-religious ones. Relying on his inference from biblical prophecies, the author chooses to ignore the various schools of thought within the religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism and the numerous Christian eschatological differences that exist even within the same group or sect.

Very blatantly and emphatically Jeffrey states, ‘Extremist Islamists are determined to destroy our civilisation and our political and religious freedoms.’ Here the word civilisation refers to the western world so the issue becomes regional rather than religious. Jeffrey has ignored the Christian and Jewish minorities living among the Muslim populations.

He further says that the Quran as well as various Muslim commentaries condemn Jews and their faith. In most instances, he seems to have missed or ignored the wider meaning. For instance, the Quran does indeed say that the Jews rejected prophets of other races and even those of their own race but so did many other nations; the lesson being that such nations (and not only the Jews) were ignorant to God’s truth, having received only a fragment of it, which led them to erroneously claim exclusive knowledge of theological matters.

Moreover, even if this book is read objectively, without any inclination towards any faith, one is led to the conclusion that the need for ‘reference to the context’ seems to have been totally disregarded, leading to a rather flawed analysis which is not expected from a learned author and researcher.

He claims that ‘The prophet proclaimed his new faith of conquest and submission to Allah with the Quran in one hand and a sword in the other.’ Having taken this stance, we would think that he sees all Muslims as extremists and terrorists. But then he mentions ‘moderate Muslims’ and one wonders how Muslims can be moderate when the author just said that the religion they are following only teaches conversion by force and violence.

It is perhaps the author’s wavering opinion, from one chapter to another, more than his biased point of view, which weakens his arguments. Moreover, he chooses to discuss everything from the state of Israel to Osama bin Laden in great detail, while on the other hand falters from debating other historical events such as the Crusades — which were military conflicts in the name of Christianity and a discussion on which would prove that every religion has had its share of fundamentalists. The Nazi Holocaust also shows that Muslims have not been the only ones harbouring anti-Semitic feelings or discriminating against the Jews. Also, the role of Christian missionaries and the fact that they have been accused of forceful conversions in different places is completely ignored by the writer.

As he recounts the history of Jerusalem, the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the on-going Palestine issue and so on, Jeffrey seems to have difficulty categorising actions into those that are politically or economically-motivated and those carried out for the safeguard of religion. For instance, when discussing Israel, Jeffrey mentions that in 1921, 1929 and 1939, Britain changed its moves in favour of Arab refugees. So what religion were the British following? By failing to make any distinction the writer is in fact confusing readers.

It is also rather unfair to quote people like Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden and Khomeini, because they are by no means the only representatives of Muslims. If the only purpose is to point fingers at each other rather than resolve issues, one can easily find examples of similarly notorious figures in the West.

Jeffrey also ignores the differing views within his western audience: the Bush administration did not receive widespread support for its military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is still ambiguity with regard to the 9/11 terror attacks and it is a known fact that Bin Laden was previously a western ally and clearly, Muslims are not the only possessors of weapons of mass destruction.

Books such as this one can only be detrimental to the cause of inter-faith harmony. Instead of promoting peace between nations, it is disappointing to see a minister engage in Islam-bashing, preach intolerance and give historical justification for the clash of civilisations. It is also astonishing to see him blame Muslims for thinking of their religion as the best of faiths and asking people to join it, when he is unabashedly doing exactly that in order to popularise his own faith.

The only positive outcome of perusing this book is that it will induce readers to investigate further and learn the truth rather than accept Jeffrey’s distorted version of the clash of civilisations. His research and interpretations are, unfortunately, far from exhaustive.