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    Ali Eteraz’s ‘Children of Dust’

    by Shariq
    6th November, 2009 at 8:51 am    

    I’ve followed Ali Eteraz’s writing closely since he started what I think was his first wordpress blog. I remember commenting on one of his first posts, which didn’t have anything to do with politics or religion, but was an assertion of Pete Sampras’ superiority over Roger Federer (naturally I disagreed). The thing which characterised Ali’s work was the sheer energy with which he was tackling issues. He was debating Islamic conservatives, challenging right-wing writers who were scared of or bigoted towards Islam, while at the same time trying to build a broad-based coalition for Islamic Reform.

    As a result, while I was desperately trying to hold on to the few readers I had on my old website, Ali managed to build up a huge readership in a remarkably short period of time. In many ways, my blogging output declined when I realised that Ali was already expressing most of what I wanted to say. Therefore, I was disappointed when eteraz.org suddenly disappeared. There was still content on the US presidential elections and his series on Islam for Comment is Free, but the constant desire to write, challenge and engage seemed to have disappeared.

    ‘Children of Dust’ gives the back story of Eteraz. From growing up in a dusty village in a remote region of Punjab, to crisscrossing America through high school, college and work, while trying to come to grips with Islam. The tagline for the book says, ‘A Memoir of Pakistan’ which I suspect was the work of some marketing person. Pakistan definitely plays a crucial role in Ali’s journey and his life allows us to see some of the ways in which it has changed over the years. However fundamentally, this book is about a personal journey. What inspired Ali to become so passionate about his religion, the ways in which this manifested itself, the contradictions it caused in his personal life, why he burned out and how he found salvation (i think).

    Technically I don’t think that this book is the back of Eteraz’s writing. One of the thinks which I’ve enjoyed about his work is his range - he’s written everything from metaphysical reflective pieces, argumentative polemics and more formal legal and philosophical pieces. On the other hand, at times, this book seems like its being gritted out - but, on reflection I think it had to be this way. Given the sensitive nature of the subject matter and the fact that he’s engaged in the difficult process of reflecting on his life, it would be unrealistic to expect glittering prose, although we do see glimpses of it. This is not to say that the story isn’t gripping, as there is always underlying tension in it and with Ali’s changing avatars, the book does have a very literary feel.

    In the prologue, Ali mentions that this book is about his journey and in brackets, ‘some parts of it are about the girls he met along the way’. However, what is probably the most significant relationship in the book is the one he has with a friend living in the Middle East, when he travels to Kuwait in search of continuing the reformation.

    I’m slightly biased towards this book in that I was familiar with Ali’s work before hand. However, I’d recommend it for not only people who are interested in Pakistan or Islamic issues, but for anyone looking for a compelling personal story. This is because ultimately, this memoir isn’t about religion but about a fascinating quest for self-fulfillment.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Current affairs,Islamists,Pakistan,Religion,United States

    9 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Ali Eteraz's 'Children of Dust' http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6445

    2. eteraz

      A review of Children of Dust by popular British blog @pickledpolitics http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6445

    1. Rumbold — on 6th November, 2009 at 11:54 am  

      It sounds like a really interesting book. Thanks for this review Shariq.

    2. sarah — on 6th November, 2009 at 12:18 pm  

      Very well written post.

    3. Raven — on 6th November, 2009 at 1:30 pm  

      Agreed, it does sound fascinating (nice write-up btw), and one to add to the groaning reading list (as if another were needed…).

      The publication of his story sounds like a welcome one at this time, adding to the plurality of Muslim experiences, especially given the voices which are often given more prominence.

    4. Irving Karchmar — on 7th November, 2009 at 1:21 am  

      I agree, it is a wonderful book, though I found it much more literary and well written, the product of a keen intelligence at odds with the faith a religion demands, and the sexual angst it can cause in a young man.

    5. 哈里玛巴尔古墓 — on 8th November, 2009 at 11:55 am  

      Thanks佛陀他和热潮欧美们大体欧尼咯偶看佛如挖人的痛殴热爱定- 按用途和ingthat恩vokeslifein他和ispart偶发他和我人来到isinteresting。

    6. arub — on 15th December, 2009 at 1:27 pm  

      Really?! Our book club chose to read Children of Dust and we unanimously felt that it fell rather short of our expectations. It is not a book to educate or even enlighten anyone about Pakistan or Islam, it was pretentious and reeked of arrogance. What makes Ali Eteraz an expert? I personally felt that the author wrote this book in a desperate attempt to be relevant.

    7. Ameen S Dad — on 23rd January, 2010 at 10:23 pm  

      I am impressed with Arub’s comments and it seems that some one has real insight about literature and knows the motivation of some authors to fabricate such books. Actually, theopenwar.com describes the whole story and legitimacy of authors like Ali Eteraz and his supporters.

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