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A Battle for the Soul of Islam
by Andrew E. Harrod
The American medical doctor-turned-political activist Zuhdi Jasser has recently published A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot's Fight to Save his Faith. This autobiographical account describes how a first-generation Syrian-American living and loving the American Dream felt called after September 11, 2001, to contend with aggressive and authoritarian elements seeking primacy among his Muslim co-religionists worldwide. Jasser offers a sympathetic tale of a Muslim seeking acceptance among his co-religionists of his dual devotion to faith and freedom. Jasser discusses that a rational understanding of religion allows the possibility of strengthening peace and prosperity for all in the face of often nihilistic Muslim groups demanding submission to specifically sectarian sharia norms. While freedom's friends should welcome Muslims like Jasser as valued allies in their fight against militant jihad, the extent of Jasser's future success remains as yet uncertain.
Jasser begins his narrative with his family background in his ancestral Syria. Jasser's grandfather, Zuhdi Al-Jasser, led a prominent vegetable oil company and was a strong public proponent of a free society in Syria following French colonial rule's end in 1946. Analogous to his grandson, Al-Jasser as a "devout Muslim" combined with his faith an admiration of the West's freedom. This admiration rubbed off on his son, Mohamed Kais Jasser, Zuhdi's father, who completed his bachelors' degree at London University in the early 1960s before studying medicine in Syria. Intermittent repression from successive "thugs of the month" dictators, though, ultimately made life in Syria intolerable for Al-Jasser with his regular newspaper columns. Beginning in 1963, he and his family began a migration via Beirut, Lebanon, to the United States.
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