In 2007, a then-33-year-old Londoner whose Bengali Muslim father was born in undivided India and came to the United Kingdom in 1961, published The Islamist, a memoir subtitled ‘Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left’, which his publisher pitched as “the first time an ex-member (had) openly discusse(d) life within radical Islamic organisations”. Ed Husain, born Mohamed Mahbub Husain, has now published The House of Islam: A Global History, which a review in The Guardian last week described as “a powerful corrective to the widespread perception, fostered by jihadis and Islamophobes alike, that it’s (Islam) a belief system for misanthropes”.
Indeed, this exploration comes at a time when the nature of intra-Muslim relations, as well as relations between Muslims and adherents of other faiths, are changing with dizzying speed, and demand a constant and informed recalibration of our understanding of seemingly irreconcilable worldviews, and the ways in which they speak to each other. As The Guardian review pointed out, the defeat of the Islamic State in the Middle East has not led to a meaningful dialogue between cultures, and renewed tensions in Gaza, President Donald Trump’s upending of the Iran nuclear accord and his anti-Muslim travel policies, and the bloody Shia-Sunni tussle in multiple regional theatres have pushed the possibility of a detente in the forseeable future farther away.
In the book, as in his writings over the past several years, Husain has pinned the major share of the blame for the rise of the IS and the problems of radical Islam elsewhere on the Saudi-sponsored export of Wahhabism across the globe. The House of Islam stresses all that is fair and compassionate in the faith, and underlines, essentially, that if this house is on fire today, the only remedy lies, in fact, in throwing out all those who lit it.