I have been attempting to read this book for quite a long time now. But somehow more important stuff always got in between…
Now I have finally managed to read it. I have long been interested in world religions, and in conversion (I have myself been a convert in my middle years, though not to Islam). And in recent years, I have increasingly become interested in non-fiction, especially biographies. Reasons enough!
I am a child of the 80‘s – I have witnessed the advent of music TV stations like MTV when I was a teen. Although I have never actually watched any shows with Kristiane, her name still rings a bell with me. I was interested in her book for two reasons – what would her portrait of Islam be like? And would she be able to make the transition from TV journalism to literary authorship?
All in all, my judgement is not negative – but not altogether positive either. I want to make it clear, though, that any negative judgement is NOT (!!) due to her conversion as such, nor to any negative attitudes towards Islam. I have the highest respect for what Kristiane Backer has achieved, but – the book „as such“, the book as a book, is still not what I expected.
The first chapters were mainly about her early years in the music business. This was quite interesting, but became boring after a while – it was mainly name-dropping.
Later chapters were better, when she talked about actual conversion and contact with Muslims. I could relate to many aspects she was talking about. When you convert to another religion, there are many problems to be faced. Your life changes profoundly, and this she has managed to convey plausibly enough. How to find a community. How to deal with friends and family. How to encounter misunderstandings, or outright hostility. How to find true guidance. How to implement religious practice into daily life. And so on.
She portrays Islam with a warm heart – and yet, I found her style was a little repetitive, bordering on the naive and uncritical.
She has been a TV journalist all her life, and this is more than clear. She writes as if she was a camera. When talking about voyages to Muslim countries, it is always about – the landscape, the friendliness, the accomodation, the temples / mosques, the meals, the sunshine, the heat, the mountains. She is describing much, much atmosphere, but adds relatively little reflection or criticism – for my taste.
Two examples. I was truly appalled about her lack of reflection when she came into contact with a member of the Bin Laden family. There were barely two paragraphs about this – then nothing. She was stranded in the U.S. for a time after 9/11. But then again, it was mainly about being delayed, about spending time with people in the U.S.
Second, I really could not understand her naivety concerning romantic relationships, her – to date fruitless – search for a Muslim husband. It was clear to me from the outset that every relationship she described was doomed to be a failure. She is a Western woman at heart, and this simply does not agree with Eastern mentality. Not in the long run.
I also thought that she was name-droppin again in later chapters, concerning Muslim technical terms. I tended to get quite confused about the many different terms for prayers, activities, religious cermemonies, which she mentions in their original language.
And I wonder if she realizes what a privileged life she has been leading so far. She describes holidays to Muslim countries galore – she travels around the world, a short trip with friend so and so here, a longer stay in country XY there… but who can normally do this?? Hosting a music festival in Bosnia, working here and there for a TV show…
She is relatively unclear about much background information. You have to extract many things from between the lines.
I am quite at a loss how to rate this book – but in the end, I will settle for 3 stars out of 5. I received quite a positive image about Islam. But I am still uncertain as to whether Kristiane Backer is a good author.