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{Read Book} Û The Butterfly Mosque · The extraordinary story of a young North American s conversion to Islam and her ensuing romance with an Egyptian man, The Butterfly Mosque is a stunning articulation of a Westerner embracing the Muslim world After graduating from university, Willow Wilson, a young American and newly converted Muslim impulsively accepts a teaching position in Cairo There, she meets Omar, a passionate young nationalist with a degree in astrophysics Omar introduces Willow to the bustling city, and through him she discovers a young, moderate nationalist movement, a movement that both wants to divest itself of western influence and regain cultural pride When the two find themselves unexpectedly in love, despite their deep cultural differences, they decide that they will try to forge a third culture, a new landscape that will embrace some of each of their cultures, and give their fledgling romance some hope of survival Wilson weaves this engaging personal story with deep insights into faith in a fractured world, and gives westerners rare insight into an important young reform movement Butterfly Mosque is an inspiring account of an unlikely cross cultural love, and the moving story of two young people working within the boundaries of contemporary religion and culture to forge a life together against the odds I m always suspicious when someone calls a book indispensable No book cannot be lived without People do it all the time But to the extent that books can be indispensable, The Butterfly Mosque is indispensable Especially to Americans and other Westerners Especially now, when fair and decent people of all and no faiths have a moral imperative to do everything possible to head off the epic clash of civilizations that so many people on both sides of the divide seem determined to push us all I m always suspicious when someone calls a book indispensable No book cannot be lived without People do it all the time But to the extent that books can be indispensable, The Butterfly Mosque is indispensable Especially to Americans and other Westerners Especially now, when fair and decent people of all and no faiths have a moral imperative to do everything possible to head off the epic clash of civilizations that so many people on both sides of the divide seem determined to push us all into We have to find ways to understand each other better The Butterfly Mosque is a good place to start.G Willow Wilson, whose urban fantasy novel Alif, the Unseen is perhaps the best book of that genre I have ever read, writes her own story here, and it is, well, indispensable After growing up in a thoroughly secular, atheist home and graduating from Boston University, Wilson found herself unable to accept the non religion of her parents, setting her on a spiritual quest that eventually led to her pronouncing the shahadah before God and nobody else and becoming a Muslim, immediately after which she moves to Egypt to teach English and study her new religion from the inside.This part of the book is wonderful, I thought, because it shows is how a very intellectual young person, who is also a complete religious free agent, approaches the free market of religious ideas Without any cultural predisposition towards Christianity, she evaluates its claims on the same ground as those of Buddhism, Judiasm, Islam, and other major religions Framed this way, she finds the Christian God too small for the God she envisions Ideas like the Virgin Birth, and the embodiment of God as Christ, when viewed without any cultural predisposition towards them, do place God much closer to human beings than Islam does And the idea of original sin seems fundamentally unfair It is not at all obvious to me that somebody looking without any cultural or religious preconceptions would choose this view of God over others.And I understand both the intellectual power of the Islamic view of God and the tremendous rhetorical power, and beauty, of the Quran I have experienced both in my own studies though I began from a starting place that never allowed me the kind of unfiltered religious choice that Wilson had The way that she describes her initial attraction to Islam, as an abstract philosophy and set of beliefs is very attractive More to the point, though, it makes it clear that her first conversion was to a set of ideas a set of ideas with real beauty and power and poetry that Americans have almost no understanding of And we should.The second conversion in the story is muchdifficult, because it involves real people and real cultures, both of which always mess up what is best in religious ideas Wilson goes to Egypt and keeps her conversion secret, never attending Friday prayers, never going to mosques, and never acting on her faith publicly until she meets and falls in love with Omar, a liberal Egyptian and a Sufi Muslim who speaks English fluently and acts as her guide when she first arrives In time and this is much of the story they become engaged, and then married, and she finds herself absorbed into the fabric of an Egyptian extended family and spaces where very few Westerners are ever allowed.In the process of telling the story, Wilson is very careful not to horribalize or romanticize her new culture It is, like all human cultures, a complicated affair Andthan anything else, it is different in fundamental ways from American culture Some of the differences are religious, but many of them are not There are different values and priorities that are troubling, comforting, oppressive, liberating, difficult, and beautiful all at once Just like her home culture Just like everyone s.But one thing that comes through very clearly throughout the narrative is that Islamic fundamentalism is muchof a threat to the kind of Islam she converted to and to the Islam practiced by hundreds of millions of people in the world than it is to anybody in the West She rightly calls out Western journalists for not covering the many, many Muslim clerics who have issued fatwahs against terrorism, and the difficult work the moderate opposition does to hold back the tide of Islamic extremism 243 Rampant Islamophobia and outrageous caricatures in the West play directly into the hands of the extremists by helping to convince Muslims to side with them against direct attacks on their shared culture We are doing everything that we can do to lose the war of ideas.And then we have G Willow Wilson a talented writer, journalist, and novelist who has converted to Islam and seen elements of Muslim and Arabic culture that very few Westerners ever will and who can describe that culture to us in terms that we can understand, using prose that is both exquisite and clear She can talk about the differences between both cultures without criticizing either fully aware of both the beauty and poetry of both worlds That is the sort of thing that we should all consider a genuine service.And it is the sort of thing that we should all be listening to which is what I mean by indispensable Despite what the subtitle of this book might suggest, this isn t a frothy little white girl has epiphany away from home piece Instead it s a wonderful, complicated, thoughtful exploration of Islam, politics, family, and belonging Wilson became interested in Islam while in college in the United States, finding that it provided the best explanation for things she already felt and believed but for which she had no name During a year spent in Egypt to teach English, she personally and formally Despite what the subtitle of this book might suggest, this isn t a frothy little white girl has epiphany away from home piece Instead it s a wonderful, complicated, thoughtful exploration of Islam, politics, family, and belonging Wilson became interested in Islam while in college in the United States, finding that it provided the best explanation for things she already felt and believed but for which she had no name During a year spent in Egypt to teach English, she personally and formally converted the two are quite different things, the former being an act of faith, the second an act directed by the Egyptian bureaucracy and she met, and fell in love with, a Muslim man whom she married an act that again occurredthan once according to the dictates of faith, culture, and state Wilson is adept at describing what she finds fulfilling about Islam, and particularly good at unpacking the meaning of prayer and ritual as means of submitting to something greater than the self She s also an astute witness to her own liminal existence, an American Muslim in an Arab place, joined by religion to those around her, set apart by the danger she represents to others because of the Egyptian police force s interest in her life, and by American military and diplomatic policies in the Middle East the latter of which are not really diplomatic in any meaningful sense of the word She tries to write about her experiences and publish them in the US feels beholden to try and explain her corner of the Arab world, her family, her neighbors, and her adopted culture to Americans who seem hostile to learning about concepts they would rather demonize, but finds her efforts frustrated not only by people in political and religious opposition to her, but American Muslims too One of the most compelling parts of the book is the unfolding tale of how Wilson and her family and friends end up under surveillance and even detained by the FBI because of her adopted faith and country As Wilson so deftly and ably describes, the actions that many people in the United States decry in other areas of the world are exactly the same actions they adopt out of fear of some Other they will not try to understand Wilson offers no easy answers her life is a daily tightrope walk between the culture of her birth and the culture of her adopted homeland, with Islam as a place of safety, support, and refuge, but also a place of contradiction and confusion A truly excellent, thought provoking book If you re a Christian and still think all Muslims are secretly terrorists and the true Islam promotes terrorism, this is probably a book you should read As an American convert to Islam, she has some good perspective and insights.Again as with Jehan Sadat , raised an atheist Sadat being Muslim of course , I don t think she has a good grasp of Christianity when she talks about it She contrasts Islam with Calvinism and Catholicsm and lists a bunch of things I as a Christian don t believe in eit If you re a Christian and still think all Muslims are secretly terrorists and the true Islam promotes terrorism, this is probably a book you should read As an American convert to Islam, she has some good perspective and insights.Again as with Jehan Sadat , raised an atheist Sadat being Muslim of course , I don t think she has a good grasp of Christianity when she talks about it She contrasts Islam with Calvinism and Catholicsm and lists a bunch of things I as a Christian don t believe in either hierarchy, original sin, etc.All in all, a great read I was disappointed when it ended just before her return to America for an extended period after a year orin Egypt with her conversion, marriage, near assimilation all happening in that time Maybe it s not been long enough since the events occurred, but I was wanting to know how her experience in America was after her living in Egypt and trying so hard to fit in there What stuck out to her Did she prefer one place after all or was she torn Did Americans seem coarse and overbearing Did she easily slip back into a Muslim version of her American self or stayArab as she had become So many things Maybe there will be another book Growing up in a Christian home, I have read many Christian conversion stories in my lifetime This was refreshing on many levels, but I think the part that was most compelling was reading how G Willow was drawn to converting to Islam after being raised an atheist At the same time she is converting to a new culture, since she moved to Egypt after college and ended up marrying an Egyptian That is a lot of change in a short time, and her insights into the culture of Egyptian Muslims, the intrica Growing up in a Christian home, I have read many Christian conversion stories in my lifetime This was refreshing on many levels, but I think the part that was most compelling was reading how G Willow was drawn to converting to Islam after being raised an atheist At the same time she is converting to a new culture, since she moved to Egypt after college and ended up marrying an Egyptian That is a lot of change in a short time, and her insights into the culture of Egyptian Muslims, the intricate differences between types of Muslim practice including a section about the veil that I think everyone should read , and how she fits inside of these things as a modern, western raised, academic woman these are all well worth reading.I was lucky because I read this as part of the first ever ACRL community read She was also one of the keynote speakers at the conference, and attended our book club meeting where we discussed the book even further While I know some were disappointed this book ended with her marriage, she made it clear that it was incredibly hard to write at such length about herself and has no plans to ever do it again In her speech she also talked about GamerGate and writing people of difference, and how important it is Read this, but also read Alif the Unseen and Ms Marvel, Vol 1 No Normal