Al-Britannia, My Country by James Fergusson

Review published on April 7, 2018.

As an avid consumer of current affairs, I am always interested to find a book that promises to give me a new perspective or an introduction to a different culture. This book promised to do both.
James Fergusson is an Edinburgh-based journalist who has written extensively for the mainstream press and is a regular radio and TV commentator on Africa and the Middle East. In this book he sets out to explore and examine Muslim Britain and impact of Muslim culture on British society. He travels to all the major communities – Bradford, Leicester, Birmingham, Luton – following different threads which together make up the complex tapestry of Muslim life. The chapters are arranged thematically, looking at both political and social issues. The author doesn’t shy away from the difficult subjects so there are chapters on terrorism, on the failure of the Prevent programme, on the clash with white extremism as well as on the positive work being done by Muslim women’s groups and on the success of Muslim politicians such as Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.

The author is clearly sympathetic to the position of Muslims in Britain today but he remains open minded throughout and is prepared to speak out when he just can’t reconcile his own views with those being expressed to him. He introduces the reader to a huge range of Muslim voices, from extremely conservative clerics, to women working for female empowerment, to academic white converts and angry youth workers. He lets them all speak for themselves without judgement. In order to more deeply understand the Muslim experience the author even observes Ramadan for the month.

For me, the book opened my eyes to the breadth of Muslim lives being lived in Britain. The media tends to portray a homogeneous Muslim community, when it is anything but; as disparate as any community, with poor and rich, educated and not, westernised and traditional, of East Asian origin, from Africa, British converts. The book educated me and also made me question, both my own and the author’s viewpoint. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about this subject which has such urgency today.

Rebecca Kershaw 4/2

Al-Britannia, My Country by James Fergusson
Corgi 9780552173131 pbk Mar 2018

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