Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Review: My Name Used To Be Muhammad

My Named Used To Be Muhammad is the true story of a man who converted from Islam to Christianity. What struck my interest and made me want to read this book was the Christian sect he converted to is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which I'm a member of. Also, this is the first book I've came across written about someone converting from Islam to Christianity. I do own a book that's the opposite, about women who've converted from Christianity to Islam, though I haven't read it yet.

The book starts off in Tito's (formerly Muhammad) homeland of Nigeria. Tito was raised in a very strict and devout Muslim community, where his father was a church elder and respected member and businessman in the community. His father pressured him since he was a child, as young as five-years-old, to become a member of the Muslim clergy. His father's dream took him to an Islamic school in Syria, that became a sort of nightmare for Tito, but gave him his first exposure to both Christianity and fundamentalist Islam. After he was kicked out of the school, he returned to Nigeria much to the dismay of his father and was later sent off to an Islamic University in Cairo, Egypt. This is where the story of Tito's conversion really begins.

Despite Islams strict rules against alcohol, Tito gets involved in Cairo's club scene. He found himself drinking heavily and partying almost daily, all while studying to become a religious leader. One day he catches up with a friend that he used to party with, but hadn't seen in a while. He learns that this friend is no longer drinking or smoking cigarettes. At first, Tito is confused and in disbelief. He then learns that his friend has joined a Christian church by the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Like Islam, LDS doesn't approve of drinking alcohol, but they also disapprove of cigarettes which Islam doesn't have any regulation against. Tito's friend invites him to come to a church service with him, from then on Tito is hooked.

At the same time, Tito is writing his thesis paper to receive his PH.D in Islamic Studies from one of the top Islamic Universities in the world. During his research for his paper he begins questioning Islam. He has learned through a series of events in his past to never outwardly question Islam and the teachings of it's prophet so he begins to keep his own notes on the subject. Reading banned books that question the Prophet Muhammad, one subject that seems to be a turning point in his loss of faith seems to be that the Prophet took a Christian wife. He says, "The realization that the prophet of Islam had taken a Christian servant as a polygamous wife didn't sit well with me. I could not come to grips with the idea that a prophet with so many wives needed yet another wife, especially a beautiful young Christian, added to his harem."

Ooookayyy. Tito still resides in Africa and being that he was in prison for 15 years he has had a fairly sheltered life. So maybe he hasn't been exposed to the fact that Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith WAS ALSO A POLYGAMOUS. Can someone get this guy the internet? And newsflash, Joseph Smith had more wives than Muhammad who weighs in at somewhere between 11 to 13 wives. Joseph Smith allegedly had 27 wives, plus Emma. Some reports are much higher than that though and that number is nothing in comparison to LDS's second prophet Brigham Young who had upwards of 50-something wives, according to most sources. Muhammad now seems like a pretty chaste and humble guy in comparison.  

I'm not trying to sound ignorant or blasphemous- maybe Tito does have the internet- but also maybe the polygamous past of The Church has just conveniently never came up in conversation during his conversion process or subsequent church conversations. I just sort of feel like someone like his editor or co-author could have just sort of mentioned that to him when he wrote/they read that part. I feel like maybe the guy was a little misled. I'm not sure how the church is conducted in Ghana or Egypt, but here in the US the missionaries and I had a jolly good time talking about church history and while they seemed a bit shy and embarrassed about polygamy they had a great message about how prophets are people who make mistakes, too.

Anyhow, so Tito is thrown in jail after he accidentally turns in the notebook with his notes questioning the prophet instead of the notebook with his official Islam-approved thesis paper. This sort of shocked me because I had kind of thought Egypt was a more open-minded place than that. However, I guess there's still a lot of religious tension even though Egypt does have a decent-sized Christian population (about 5-20% of it's people). The biggest problem seemed to be not that he was a Christian, rather a Christian convert. His life gets pretty scary and out-of-control after that. 

The time Tito spends in prison was horrifying to read about. His story was also incredibly inspiring. It makes me so happy to both live in a country where I can worship how and who I want without persecution and be a member of a Church that believes in and supports religious freedom. In the Mormon Church, the 11th Article of Faith states, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." 

My Name Used To Be Muhammad was a supremely inspirational memoir. However, at times I did find myself frustrated and annoyed with the author and not to mention depressed. I'm giving this book 3 out of 5 stars

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