My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Catholic, Kurd, and ex-Muslim:
a book review of Out of Islam: “free at last”
By Daniel Ali (Tate Publishing, 2007, 162 pages)
Daniel Ali’s book Out of Islam, “Free at Last” is one of many conversion narratives of Christian ex-Muslims. His stands out, though, for a number of reasons. The first is that he is a Kurd from Iraq, and conversion narratives from Kurds are not common. Second, he is a Roman Catholic, though a decidedly evangelistic one. It is not common to find a book by an ex-Muslim Christian that has a section explaining what precisely Catholics believe about papal infallibility (pp 84, 85) for instance.
Most of his book consists of apologetics, though this lengthy section is sandwiched between his early life and marriage, and then his migration to the USA with his American wife and his later conversion to Christianity and his evangelistic activities. Many of the points he makes are common to other books by ex-Muslim Christians. He mentions the problematic event of the Satanic Verses (46) and calls the raids of Muhammad ‘no less than terrorist attacks’ (56, 57), and concludes that the Prophet of Islam was ‘…a frail and bitter human being’ (68). He also has problems with the Qur’an, and argues against the concept of i’jaaz or the inimitability of the Qur’an saying that ‘Pre-Islamic poetry is by far more eloquent than the Qur’an’ (64). He also mentions how as a child he found it difficult to comprehend that he could not pray to Allah in Kurdish, but had to pray in Arabic (20).
In relation to his apologetics, he covers a lot of the normal points (tahriif, the Cross, the divinity of Christ) but also visits a few unexplored places, like an investigation of original sin and the Garden account in the Qur’an where Adam sinned because ‘he forgot’, which Ali finds absurd. A strong point is his discussion of Al Razi’s theory about the Islamic theory that Jesus was not crucified, but someone who looked like him was, which is based on Qur’an 4:157. From time to time he does speak too generally and makes the occasional historical error, like when he writes that Mecca was populated by Jews and Christians (43), when in fact Mecca was mostly peopled by pagans at the time and had no permanent Christian residents to our knowledge.
One of the main purposes of this book is to stir up Christians in the West to engage in both evangelizing Muslims and advocating for human rights in the Muslims world. Some readers might accuse him of exaggeration when he writes in a somewhat conspiratorial tone that ‘All Islamic organizations in the West have a hidden agenda, and they ALL share the same dream: to Islamicize the Western societies in every aspect of life’ (42) and that ‘One Jihad that women are expected to join is to have many Muslim children’ (59). But this reality is not to be met by xenophobia or hate according to Ali, but by love and evangelism. Even if Muslims are sometimes the Christian’s enemy, ‘In Christianity, the believer is exhorted to PRAY FOR THE ENEMIES, not to behead them on TV and the Internet with a sword’ (65).
He believes there is a double standard as Muslims demand more rights in the West while denying rights to non-Muslims and women in the Muslim world, writing that ‘All persons of faith must support the freedom of conscience, and require Muslims to adhere to the Islamic tenet that there is no compulsion in religion’ (72). In seeking to work for human rights and the transformation of Islamic societies it appears he is engaged in the same sort of liberation-oriented praxis which one can find in the texts of other Christians from a Muslim background .
Like almost all ex-Muslim Christians he centers his rhetoric and advice on the love of God displayed in Jesus Christ: ‘It truly is a revelation of extreme and extravagant LOVE that we read in the Bible. We do not find this extravagant love anywhere else but in God the Father, expressly revealed in God, the Son, Who willingly went in our place, enduring the shame and punishment for our sins on our behalf’ (31).
Personally, I would have liked some more narrative and information about how he has interacted with his family since his conversion. Some will find his concern about Muslim immigration to be a bit exaggerated. His frequent use of CAPS can also be distracting. People interested in ex-Muslim studies, religious conversion, apologetics, and the Kurdish culture will find this book to be of interest.