The 4 Freedoms Library

It takes a nation to protect the nation

Orphan of Islam by Alexander Khan

A review by Kinana

I left the 7th century to read this book!  The title and jacket cover description sucked me in. 

This is an autobiography of the author’s first 15 years of life.  He was born, in 1975, in Lancashire of a Muslim father from Pakistan and a local, English, white, woman.  Therein contained the ingredients for a childhood of confusion, pain and abuse. 

The story is very well written, much like a Dickensian novel.  But it is not only true it rings true as in the details necessary for a good story are provided.  As a bonus, every chapter seems to contain a humorous quip that works and causes a smile or even a laugh-out-loud moment.  After one harrowing episode, beautifully described, he says to himself: ‘Why was it always me that seemed to get the shitty end of the stick?  Why had I ended up with the relatives from hell?’  How many young people who have had only a small portion of the difficulties that Mr Khan had to deal with have asked themselves the same questions?!

I admire authors who can accurately write from the point of view of a child at various ages.  In this case, from the time he is taken from his Mother at the age of three to the close of the story at the age of fifteen.  He does this very well.

When I said his was ‘childhood of confusion, pain and abuse’ I was not exaggerating.  And all that he wrote about flowed from the teachings and ‘atmospherics’ (h/t Hugh Fitzgerald) and a culture shaped by Islam.

The mosque (whether he was in Lancashire or Pakistan), and being a ‘good Muslim boy’ were the two constant threads in his story, but overshadowing it all was the longing for his Mother who was denied access or even true knowledge of him until 2010.  In every instance of cruelty and confusion that he wrote about I thought of a corresponding Islamic scripture either from the Qur'an or the ahadith.  To share just one, and perhaps the one most directly linking scripture and behaviour of those who were there to care and nurture him is from Abu-Dawud (002.0494):

‘The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Command a boy to pray when he reaches the age of seven years. When he becomes ten years old, then BEAT him for prayer.’

The author, even as a child, recognised the tragedy and ‘unfairness’ of the way the women around him were treated by the men, while at the same time being aware that some of the women who were there to care for him were nothing more than cruel bullies who cruelty was only checked by the men!

The subtitle of the story is ‘No one will listen.  No one will help.’

And this is largely true.  From my reading there was only one person who truly cared for him and was free to act.  There were a few women who appeared to really care for him as a boy and lad but actually turned out to be either deceivers or without any power to override the rulings of the men.  But then he met up with Abad, a fellow student at the Haqqina madrassa in Pakistan who was a few years older than the author.  Abad, at considerable risk to himself, helped the author escape from what can only be described as an institution of mind-numbing, brain-washing systematic abuse dedicated to the training of fighters for jihad.

I do not want to spoil what is really a good read and give away too many more details but I admit surprise that after all that the author went through he remains a Muslim. 

As a child, he did not see that all that he experienced and wrote so eloquently about was an indictment of Islam and the culture shaped and moulded by Islam, in both Muslim communities in the UK and in Pakistan.  Such a blindness can be expected as a child but even now, as an adult, he writes: ‘…I find prayer a great comfort even today, and while I don’t go to mosque as much as I did, Islam is still an important part of my life.’  All I can say is that the reason for this devotion is not reflected in this childhood story of his; in fact the contrary is conveyed.  Maybe he has another story to tell.  If so, I will read it.

Pub. Harper, 2012

ISBN 978-0-00-744478-6

Tags: Kinana

Views: 532

Replies to This Discussion

Maybe the brainwashing has done its job. Maybe some muslims can never excape the feeling that they will be killed if they leave islam. Maybe they blame the people not the religion. maybe some people just don't want to spend a life time having their religion steal every moment of their existance, which if they leave seems to be the way it goes for them.

Ones things for sure, once your IN, it takes a lot to get out. best to say a few prayers and get on with your life as quitely as possible and hope islam doesn't take to much of an intrest in you.

[Jessica is the wife of Alexander, the Author]

Dear Kinana,

Thank you for contacting us. We are ever so grateful for your review on 'Orphan of Islam'. We must say you've written a beautiful review.

Alexander Khan is writing the second part to his life story which should be published towards the end of 2013.

Thanks for your writing,

Jessica Khan


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Most Western societies are based on Secular Democracy, which itself is based on the concept that the open marketplace of ideas leads to the optimum government. Whilst that model has been very successful, it has defects. The 4 Freedoms address 4 of the principal vulnerabilities, and gives corrections to them. 

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These 4 freedoms are designed to close 4 vulnerabilities in Secular Democracy, by making them SP or Self-Protecting (see Hobbes's first law of nature). But Democracy also requires - in addition to the standard divisions of Executive, Legislature & Judiciary - a fourth body, Protector of the Open Society (POS), to monitor all its vulnerabilities (see also Popper). 
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