Being Muslim: A Groundwork Guide (Review)

Book cover for "Being Muslim".Title: Being Muslim: A Groundwork Guide

Author: Haroon Siddiqui

Publication Year: 2008

Pages: 144

Genre: Non-Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Borrowed from the school I worked at this past year.

From the cover:

Islam, always a charged topic in the West, has become more so since 9/11. It draws strong reactions from both defenders and critics. The two sides rarely talk, and when they try, they don’t listen to each other very well.

There has been a flood of books about Islam. There are books by Muslims for fellow believers, denying the problems that do exist or claiming to fix them by battling for the “soul” of Islam. There are anti-Islamic tracts galore. There are books with breathless titles meant to scare us about terrorism. There are political tomes for political insiders, diplomats and academics.

This book is a cross-cultural attempt to bridge many of these different worlds. Based on the author’s travels in Muslim lands and his interviews with experts there and in the West, the book summarizes the impact of terrorism on Muslims; explains how Islam is interwoven into the daily lives of ordinary Muslims, regardless of where they live; dissects Western discourse, especially the media’s, on Islam and Muslims; and tackles all the controversial topics, from terrorism to the treatment of women. It ends with the hope that, despite the current misunderstandings, there are reasons to expect a future of mutual understanding.

When one of my co-workers brought in a stack of “Groundwork Guide” books for teachers to use next year, and it included this book, I was so excited! I immediately grabbed it from him to read and then proceeded to spend a few weeks going through it.

Doing that, I came to a few conclusions:

  1. This is not really a YA-level book.
  2. This is definitely not a book written at a level where the students at my school would be able to read and understand it independently.
  3. Despite being called a “Groundwork Guide”, this book definitely went into some fairly intricate bits. Sometimes with background information, sometimes without much at all.
  4. Other times, it only covered the absolute bare minimum of a topic, when it could easily have given more details that would have been useful to the reader.

Having said that, it was still an interesting read. I learned a lot – particularly about historical Western discourse about Islam and Muslims. A lot of other things were very much a review for me, but I was really glad to have them laid out in this book. I particularly liked the way that it was laid out, with lots of sections broken down into subtitled pieces.

For the most part, the content in Being Muslim was clear and concise, though definitely not at a YA reading level. To be used in a classroom, even in a fairly academic school, it would probably need some scaffolding and lots of teacher guidance. It would absolutely need to be chunked, as opposed to being assigned as an entire book (or even, possibly, as whole chapters).

For an adult reader, though, I think it might be a good choice for some basic knowledge about Islam, Muslims, and the interaction between “them” and “the West”. (As if these were two completely separate monolithic groups.) You could likely choose it as somewhere to start, or – even better – read it as a follow-up to another Islam 101-style book.


This book is a part of the Ramadan Reading event happening here this month.

You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.

4 thoughts on “Being Muslim: A Groundwork Guide (Review)”

  1. I am so happy you’re doing the Ramadan Reading again this year, especially since my Middle East challenge just ended!

    This book sounds like it might frustrate me as I read about Middle East–Western relations. I hate that we need a “them” to become an “us”.

    1. I’m excited to be doing it again, too! And sad that your challenge has ended. 🙁

      I dislike the “us” vs. “them” as well. It was kind of hit and miss in this book – sometimes it was really heavy-handed, and sometimes not. But still too much for my liking.

  2. Sounds like an interesting book, too bad it’s not quite what the teachers thought it would be – a resource for the teens in the school to learn more.

  3. I read this book hoping to get information for a school project. However, I was extremely disappointed and surprised by what I read. I felt like the author was yelling verbal abuse at me on every page and degrading many cultures and countries while putting the Muslim faith on a pedestal. This is a very biased, badly written book, and a waste of paper.

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