Category Archives: Book Review

The Arab awakening, Islam and the new Middle East

Book Review:
The Arab awakening, Islam and the new Middle East
New York: Penguin, 2012. 273pp ISBN 978 1 846 14650 3
Reviewed by Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

The unexpected spectacle, astonishing for the world and a trigger for mass mobilization in Middle East, involved a street vendor setting himself alight in Tunisia. The defiance of Mohamed Bouazizi against state oppression is often labeled as the beginning of Arab uprising. However, The Arab awakening,Islam and the new Middle East urges readers to view the demonstrations in the Arab world objectively and by taking into account broader historical, political, social and economic contexts. Ramadan explores the appropriate term that should be
associated with mass protests in the Arab world, instead of blindly projecting them as ‘revolutions’ or ‘springs’, he calls it an ‘awakening’, with “cautious optimism”. The author connects the deep-rooted indicators of ‘social explosion’ like unemployment, illiteracy, lack of opportunities and despotism at a specific and general level in Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Tracing down the origins of these unprecedented mass mobilizations, The Arab Awakening, Islam and the New Middle East, finds a midway between the notions of ‘Western control and manipulation of Arab uprising’ and the ‘exaggerated optimism that if often linked with the change in Middle East’. According to the text, “cyber-dissidents” and digital activists were trained by foreign funded organizations (centers like Albert Einstein Institution and Freedom House), back in 2004, to promote non-violent protest through the use of social networks and digital technology. However, none of the Western powers could have
anticipated the reaction of Mohamed Bouazizi and the chain of reactions after his death. Resistance against dictatorial set ups scattered at an exponential rate. This propelled the Global North to give a patient hearing to the aspirations of the people.

The author links this ‘revolting attitude’ of the Arabs with Edward Said’s concept of ‘other’ by marking it as an end point of a “time worn” debate between “Secularism and Islam”, “Occidents and Orients” and “We and Others”. For Ramadan, “the other no longer remains the other” as it is striving for the same values179
(equality, dignity and freedom) that the West has always promised, but has failed to provide. To validate his hypothesis, the author refers to other events occurring in the wake of Arab uprising. Considering the death of Osama Bin Laden as a ‘media coup’ planned by the American president at an appropriate time he opines that this event itself indicated the extension of a friendly-hand from the West towards the Muslim. After eliminating a man known as the symbol of “anti-Western ideal” a new “political orientation” was established for Muslim-
majority countries. There was no reason for the West for not listening to the voices in Liberation Square (Tahrir Square) when they non-violently demanded for human dignity and an end to coercive measures employed by the dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Throughout the text, references are made that explicitly indicate dual-standards and moral relativism of the West for the sake of safeguarding economic and geo-political interests. While
the United States and other NATO countries accepted the aspirations of the people to some extent in Egypt and Tunisia, at the same time, it maintained close contacts with the military establishments of these countries. On the other hand, the mass movements in oil-rich petro-monarchies like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar were downplayed and manipulated by the international media. The liberty to use Internet when curtailed
for the Egyptian bloggers was countered by Google, which provided them with satellite codes. The same ‘Google’ denied access to those codes when asked for by Syrian bloggers. It is noteworthy, as Ramadan mentions that the role of Google has been completely in line with the policies of NATO countries
along with the United States during the mass protests in the Middle East.

The author considers the ‘Arab awakening’ as an eye opener for the Muslim countries and the rest of the world as well, to devise new socio-political models instead of adhering to the present and flawed ones. Restoration of “self-confidence” in the Global South is the key to engage developing and under developed countries in a constructive debate. For the author, such debates can serve well to provide blueprints of socio- political models based of ethical governance, that is no where to be seen in today’s global order. The Muslims are advised by the author to use their state of awakening in a positive direction for the welfare of human society. He refutes the argument that democracy and political Islam are dissimilar by claiming that180 Journal of Media Studies 26(2)
five essential components of democracy are in “fundamental conformity” with Islam; ‘rule of law’, ‘equality for all citizens’, ‘universal suffrage’, ‘accountability and separation of powers’ (executive, legislative and judiciary). Religion can play a decisive role for formulating the ethical norms of governance that are absent in majority of the countries of today even “the civilized Occidents”. The Arab world needs to turn this uprising to its advantage as it has suffered a lot at the hands of Western imperialism and colonialism. Ramadan aptly puts it at two instances “ours is the era of mass communication”, “ours is the era of passivity” and the need of the hour is to change for the good of humanity. Relying on the ideology that there are “no ideologies” will not turn the Arab awakening into the Arab revolution as the author points out the necessity to create ideologies from within, which are irrefutable for both the East and the West and derive ethical principles from religion.

The Arab Awakening, Islam and the New Middle East is a well- researched attempt to understand and operationalize the accelerating changes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The author generously offers readers to negate his views and proposes that the debate in his book is open for all.

Originally written for and published in the Journal of Media Studies (JMS)- research journal of the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab.

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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in Book Review


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Without Dreams by Shahbano Bilgrami – Book Review

Author: Shahbano Bilgrami 

Pages: 262

Reviewed by: Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 

This novel is a clear depiction of ethnic and social segregations among the people of South Asia. The story revolves around two boys, Haroon Rizwan, the son of a renowned businessman of Saathpari and their servant boy Abdul. Although belonging to a rich family, Haroon’s nights are sleepless and marked by dreadful nightmares. Domestic violence and the shouts of a drunk father highlighting his high-handedness over Tahira (Haroon’s mother) give a psychological jolt to their child. He tries to intercept his parents during small quarrels, but finds himself as helpless as a statue, like the servant boy Abdul, who has no volition in the things defining his life.

As years pass by, Haroon sometimes wonders that how come Abdul breathe in subjugation. The servant boy on the other hand has special association with Haroon’s mother and is often noticed by her. After so many years when Haroon comes back to Saathpari, he realizes that it was him who murdered his father. Abdul wanted to stop him that night, but was accused of killing Javaid Rizwan (Haroon’s father). At that point Haroon identifies that despite the differences in social strata and financial statuses, there was still something in common between the servant boy and him. It was a life marred by violence, struggle and helplessness.

However, Abdul thought that the only thing that differentiated between him and Haroon was that the latter had a history. From his first prodding to his teenage, everything was recorded in the form of photographs. On the other hand, Abdul had no clue about his existence.

Without Dreams is a a must read for readers of South Asia. It gives a strong message about child labour, psychological influence of domestic violence over children and how even the privileged segment of the society is burdened by social differences.

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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Book Review, Reviews


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Resurrecting Empire by Rashid Khalidi

Book: Resurrecting Empire Western Footprints and America‘s Perilous Path in Middle East

Reviewed by: Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Publishers: I.B Tauris

About the Author:

Rashid Ismail Khalidi  is an American historian of the Middle East, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Rashid Khalidi in his impressive account backed with substantial facts explores the perilous path taken by the Bush administration into Iraq. He aptly explains the misuse of rhetorical devices such as ‘democratization’ for legitimizing U.S footprints in the Middle East and Iraq, in particular. Khalidi argues that the Iraq war was fought without learning about the history and culture Arabs. This, at the first place made it an ignorant attempt. He unveils the chequered record of Middle East – U.S ties that worsened with the United States’ acceptance of Israel as a country, America’s retention of colonial bases in order to counter Russia and the incentive of self-determination on the condition of vested regional interests. Rashidi finds it interesting that how neocons surrounding Bush suddenly felt concerned about democracy in Iraq as they never expressed the slightest inclination towards the democratic cause in the region during the past years.

In a nutshell, Rashid Khalidi shares a persuasive set of arguments marking the ‘Iraq War’ of 2003 as the worst failure of the US foreign policy.

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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Book Review


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A Passage to Peace: Global Solutions from East and West

Reviewed by: Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Authors: Nur Yalman and Daisuka Ikeda 

Published by I.B.Tauris in 2009

Genre: Global Peace, Inter state relations

About the Authors
Nur Yalman 
is a Professor of Anthology and Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. His area of interest  includes the religion and politics of South Asian, Central Asian, Middle Eastern countries and other Muslim societies.
Daisuka Ikeda is the President of Soka Gakkai International (Buddhist organization). Ikeda received the United Nations Peace Award in 1993 and has been awarded with more than 240 academic degrees.

This book is a profound and coherent dialogue on interesting global themes. The conversation between Ikeda (Japanese) and Yulman (Turk) unveils the intricate similarities that resonate among Asia’s powerful states. It’s an enticing rhetoric by the learned men, highlighting the societal, religious, cultural and humanistic values, common between Japan and Turkey. During the discourse, they also develop a consensus on mutual understanding, empathy, global governance and dialogue as the gateway to peace.
The book is divided into contents that fall under 10 broad categories:

1) Cultural Resonances
* The spirit of global citizenship
Ikeda and Yulman acknowledge each others’ command on various subjects of religion and culture. They start the dialogue through ‘respect’ for difference in opinion.

*Istanbul– where East and West meet
The financial hub of Turkey (Istanbul) is a unique cultural fusion of Persian, Arabian, Mongol, Greek, Russian, Balkan and East- European. It is located at a place where East meets the West. Ikeda tells Yalman that out of the 54 countries that he has visited, Turkey has a great impression on him. Yalman also regards Istanbul as the most exotic city in the world, only Bangkok can be compared to it.

*Spiritual siblings
Ikeda relates religious proximity with the colours in Japanese and Turkish flags. Japan with a red sun and white background and Turkey with a white crescent and star on a red ground. Yulman focuses on understanding minorities and diversity.

* Floral Preferences
Blossoming cherry tree represents Japan. Roses are related with Turkish poetry. Dutch were introduced to Tulips by Turks in the 16th century.

*Lively tradition of popular literature
Important Turkish writers include Yasar Kemal and Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize winner). Hikmet was controversial as he was considered as communist. Reflections of Islamic mystics like Rumi, Yunus Emre and other poets can be seen in the works of Man’yoshu (Collection of ten thousand leaves) and the Kokin Wakashu (Collected Japanese Poems from Ancient and Modern Times).

*Women in Society
Yalman tells Ikeda that covering the head is not a characteristic feature of Islamic societies, only. ‘Veiling is a demonstration of the idea that, as special, even sacred people, women need to be protected.’ Ikeda believes in gender equality to the extent that female subjugation fades.

*In the Marketplace
Ikeda described the price variation as an odd feature of Islamic economy, while Yalman explains that universal pricing is a negative feature of globalization. Ikeda relates this with the Japanese term benkyo-suru (to study) that also means ‘to offer discount’.

*Festivals in Funerals
Turkey is more agile in celebrating religious festivities like Eid, celebration at the end of Hajj. Ikeda tells about Lotus Sutra introduced by Japanese priest and philosopher Nichiren.

*Buddhism is Peace promoter
Ikeda considers religion as a liberator for human soul that directs it towards self-realization. He explains how Soka Gakkai thwarts religious authoritarianism by propagating a revitalized religion that is beneficial for the people. Yalman adds that Buddhism doesn’t have any history of coercion or domination by force, except when it was used at the hands of national or ethnic powers.

2) Loyalty to all Humanity
*Cultivating enduring amity ( goal of the dialogue)

*Dramatic starting point
Yalman traces down relations between Japan and Turkey to 19th century

*Linguistic similarities
Grammatical similarities, the ability of Japanese to learn Turkish fast and vice versa. Hopscotch, marble, kites and tops are used for playing by Japanese and Turk children.

*Land of many proverbs
Turkish proverb  ‘Lies last only as long as liars’ money. Japanese proverb ‘Time reveals the lie’.

* Resisting Imperialism
Both, Turkey and Japan have resisted imperialism

* The common good
Lack of good leadership is felt in the East as well as in the West. Vision, action and global citizenry should evolve to work for common good of humanity.

3) Peace Within and Without 
*Ataturk’s Reforms
Turkey’s endeavour to join the European Union and its cooperation with Europeans since Ataturk became the first president of Turkey.

*Separation of Religion and Politics
Yalman describes Turkish parliamentary system as a better one that presents a strong case for separating religion from politics.

* Education
As a tool for knowing each other, eliminating prejudices and ignorance.

*Global partnership
Overcoming differences in order to engender humanism at a global level through constructive dialogue.

4) Mutual Understanding For a Better World

5) Intercultural Communion 
* Dialogue as the solution
*The peril of stereotypes 
* The challenge of globalization

6) Empathy and our shared Humanity

7) Reviving Asian Humanism

8) Global Governance

9) Dialogue: the Magna Carta of civilization

10) New Paths for education

Critical Analysis 
The book has been written with a simple language, which supports its’ theme of mutual understanding. For the reader, it is not hard to imagine Ikeda and Yalman conversing with each other. A glossary at the end of the book leads to better understanding of the key personalities/terms in Japan and Turkey that are mentioned in the conversation. It’s an exemplary model of ‘dialogue’ for intellectuals around the world to follow. No where in the dialogue a disagreement was found. A smooth exchange of ideas, perceptions and opinions was neatly knitted for the reader, impelling him/her to admit the ‘power of the dialogue’. As harmony between the East and the West is dependent upon such dialogues, which aim at resolving differences instead of inflaming conflicts. 

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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Book Review


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Magic Words of Inspiration by Mohammad Yunus

Magic Words of Inspiration
Reviewed by: Fakiha Hassan Rizvi 

Category: Self-help and Personal development

Language: English

Paperback:198 pages

Author: Mohammad Yunus

Published in 2010

About the Author

Mohammad Yunus is a writer cum editor who developed a passion for Psychology during his college life. He graduated from University of the Punjab in 1958 and joined ‘Pakistan Airlines‘ as a trainee engineer. Yunus was in a state of depression while studying at college. He was advised by his principal to read ‘Psychology books’. Soon, this boy started to take notes of voluminous books of Psychology and lengthy articles for overcoming his depression. He has done a great job by compiling those notes in the form of a book, entitled, ‘Magic Words of Inspiration’.

My encounter with the book

I came across this fine book while ransacking the ‘Developmental Psychology‘ section of the central library at my University. This was not what I had to study, but as I sifted through the pages of this book, I could feel the positive vibes fuming out of it! Devotedly, I spent 4 hours to carefully read and understand this book (forgetting my real work). The title itself was truly captivating, ‘Magic Words of Inspiration’. Each and every word of this book is magical. In this review, I’ll share some parts that touched my heart the most, while reading the book.


This book offers simple yet effective self-help guidelines for people belonging to all walks of life. Mohammad Yunus shares his thoughts on discrete topics that somehow shape our lives. The book argues that to achieve success we need to follow a clear strategy and adhere to some essential rules. As Yunus relates the concept of ’cause and effect’ with the steps to be taken for achieving goals. Each sentence of this book concisely conveys a phenomenon. This is a result of 10 years of study that the author has done to share invaluable suggestions that are backed by logical arguments. He discusses the following topics in an organized way:

  1. The Present
  2. Age and Time
  3. Thinking
  4. Decision – Initiative – Action
  5. Planning
  6. Success and Failure
  7. Do not get Victimized
  8. Career and Education
  9. Enthusiasm
  10. Enjoy Work
  11. Perseverance
  12. Faith and Prayer
  13. Self Confidence and Courage
  14. Fear and Worry
  15. Mood and Temper
  16. Healthy Attitude
  17. Character and Virtue
  18. Influencing People
  19. Personality
  20. Health
  21. Habits
  22. Happiness
  23. Mind
  24. Facts of Life
  25. Important Points
  26. Auto Suggestion

Mohammad Yunus frequently quotes poetic expressions and brief accounts of successful people. The persuasive style helps the reader to get motivated. By the time you reach the last page of the book, you can feel the change!

My favourite lines from ‘Magic Words of Inspiration’

MWI (2)

MWI (3)

MWI (4)

MWI (5)
MWI (6)
MWI (7)
MWI (8)

MWI (9)
MWI (10)
MWI (11)
MWI (12)

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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Book Review, Inspiration, Reviews


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Enjoy Your Life

Book Name: Enjoy Your Life

Compiled by: Dr. Muhammad ‘ Abd Al Rahman Al-Arifi

Translated by: Saleem Beg

Edited by: Nasim Chowdhry

Publisher: Darrussalam

Reviewed by: Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

Muslims should come up with answers like this in response to anti-Islam films! – Fakiha

About Dr. Arifi

Dr. Al-‘Arifi is a well known scholar & lecturer from Saudia Arabia. He is from the famous Arab tribe known as Banu Khalid (Banu Makhzum) – it goes without mentioning that Banu Khalid are the descendents of the famous soldeir, Mujahid & Companion of the Prophet, Khalid bin Al-Walid – may Allah be pleased with him.
Dr. Al-‘Arifi was born in the year 1970. He graduated from Saudi universities where he acquired his PhD. The title of his PhD research thesis was “Ara’ Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya fi al-Sufiyya – Jam’ wa Dirasah” (The View of Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya on Sufism – a Compilation & Study).

In today’s fast paced world, there comes a point when we need to communicate with ourselves. We ask questions that are too complex to be shared. The chase takes us through fissures and canopies of the world. Man strives to hunt for for all the ways that can engender contentment and make his existence a source of peace for himself. I picked up this book without taking into account my religious leanings. Yes! Let me be honest. The title ‘Enjoy Your Life’ enticed my soul, grabbed my attention within seconds and from that day there I don’t miss reading it!

What is it about?

It’s a well-researched account that provides empirical and rational substitutes to self-development and the art interaction. This factor alone outweighs it from other books penned down by authors like Carnegie. The author’s main objective is to inculcate the best possible skills of interpersonal communication that are directly related with our peace of mind. A balance between worldly happiness without a compromise on your moral standards. The journey that will guard you against the harm that you are likely to inflict upon yourselves, Enjoy Your Life is by far the best narration (I have read) of ‘how to be socially acceptable’. 100 simple lessons with their utility and underlying philosophy. That’s it! Download and read:

Some of my personal favourite quotations from the book are as follows:

A hero is one who goes beyond his ability to improve his skills, until he becomes able to improve, and perhaps even alter the skills of others.

With gentleness and interpersonal skills we can achieve our objectives

Our ability to capture people’s hearts and win their love brings us great happiness in life.

We deal with hearts not bodies.

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Book Review, Reviews


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