Book of the week : Pilgrim on a rocky road

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Desperately Seeking Paradise: journeys of a sceptical Muslim
By Ziauddin Sardar
Granta pound;16.99

It is a tragedy that despite the rich history of the written word in the Islamic tradition, there is so little literary expression from Muslims in the West - a community of incredible cultural and linguistic diversity and a repository of global experiences. It is this drought that makes Ziauddin Sardar's latest book special: for it not only gives an indication of the possibilities, but also shows the challenges involved.

Admittedly, Sardar is a prolific writer. As the title suggests, his book details a man's journey through life as a member of a faith group that has been through many upheavals and changes during his lifetime. Like most of Sardar's works, this is not a "Muslim book", because it seems obsessed - in its expressions, tone and choice of issues -with impressing an elitist metropolitan readership. It reminds me of an orientalist travelogue as it attempts to be intimate in both worlds.

The book provoked mixed emotions from me as a young(ish) second-generation British Muslim. The fly-on-the-wall narrative voice and intimate and personalised tone was captivating, but I was disturbed by the unnecessary and sometimes juvenile comments about his peers and, even more, by the lack of generosity of spirit. He seems to snigger as his "rationality" apparently conquers the "bearded Muslim men", whom he implies are backward by comparison.

Fareena Alam is editor of the British Muslim magazine Q-News nbsp;

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine

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