THE BOOK REPORT: My Year Inside Radical Islam
A memoir of the writer’s conversion to Islam, his turn to a radical interpretation of the faith and his time working in a Saudi-funded fundamentalist charity; Daveed Gartenstein-Ross’ book promises to be illuminating, or at least compulsively readable. Alas, the book under-delivers in almost every aspect.
While one would expect the chronicle of such intense religious transformation(s) to illustrate the psychological aspects of the writer’s religious experience, Gartenstein-Ross is instead content to simply walk the reader through his thoughts and point out the rationale behind his decisions. As a result, his religious development appears to result from little more than trial and error. Indeed, he admits to his candidly methodical approach to religion by summarizing the reason for his eventual conversion to Christianity as simply having been “persuaded by the case for another faith.”
The book’s insights into radical Islam in this country are equally disappointing. Here, the problem lies not just in the writer’s inability to convey his experience, but in the limited nature of the experience itself. Indeed, his “Year inside Radical Islam” amounts to little more than doing administrative work at a fundamentalist Islamic Charity and being fustigated on a daily basis for his theological shortcomings.
—Luis Daniel Caridad