Clearly, some of our founding fathers were very comfortable extending religious freedom to include Islam. They should have been. Islam didn’t just show up in America one day like an excited tourist. America imported it when we brought slaves over from Africa, an estimated 20 percent of whom were Muslim. This is not to suggest our colonial founders urged Islam’s spread. No one who follows a particular religion wants the competition to flourish. Tolerance is not the same as encouragement. Still, there was an inclusive spirit afoot in this bold, young country that would, in principle, make a Muslim feel safe and welcomed. It’s safe to say America’s relationship with Islam has been headed downhill ever since ... Letters to a Young Muslim follows the literary tradition of a family elder passing down insights to a younger generation, specifically in this case, his two teenage sons, as well as other young Muslim women and men ... intelligence and focus illuminate his words. The compassion and humility his faith gives him is an inspiration to readers whether they are young followers of Islam looking for answers or curious non-Muslim readers looking to better understand the religion. Ghobash is not an apologist for Islam because there is no need. He argues that reason and religion can coexist because we are meant to use our intelligence to reject manipulative and myopic interpretations of the scriptures. In essence, he is suggesting a compromise between blind faith and nibbling on the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil ... In the end, Ghobash encourages the reader to accept a modern, enlightened path that embraces diversity, not just within Islam but among all religions...It is this sort of wisdom that creates hope for a world in which people are smart enough to work together toward a common good rather than claw at one another while slowly sinking in quicksand.
Ghobash vividly unpacks the effects that the intense negative media imagery associated with Islam can have on a young Muslim ... In his book, Ghobash is pushing for personal accountability. In his letters, he repeats a theme that is reassuring, if opposite to my experience of the way Islam is taught: There is no one correct interpretation and there never will be, so it’s OK to be uncertain about your beliefs. He presents Islam as an open-ended journey that can lead you down any path of your making ... an invaluable start to a crucial conversation the global Muslim community needs to have about the violent fringes within our faith ... This is not another exhausting cri de coeur about why Muslims deserve sympathy. It’s something more personal and intimate than that: a collection of letters from a father trying to empower his son to challenge an aggressive Islamist movement while simultaneously navigating oversimplified narratives surrounding his religion ... an incredible guide for anyone hoping to understand the nuanced relationship between extremists and the other 99.9 percent of peaceful Muslims around the world.
...gentle in tone and filled with warmth ... [it's] a noble undertaking, but the book proves deeply problematic, in large part because the author attempts to have things both ways...So as to complicate attempts by sanctimonious coreligionists to brand his and other liberal Muslims’ version of Islam as false, and to avoid facilely dismissing Islamic extremism as unrelated to the faith from which it originates, Ghobash insists that a one-and-only 'True Islam' doesn’t exist. Yet just a few pages later, he slams extremists for their 'distortion of Islam' ... Beyond its lack of consistency and overall timidity — no questioning of the Quran’s supposed inerrancy or the Prophet Muhammad’s more controversial actions — 'Letters to a Young Muslim' often proves exasperatingly vague. Ghobash also has a tendency to generalize ... In Ghobash’s view, then, Islam is manifold. And it behooves every believer to ponder carefully which of its features to hold aloft and propagate, and which to categorize as superseded by time and circumstance.