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My Isl@m

Based on his own story, popular Islamic blogger Amir Ahmad Nasr argues that the Internet will be for Islam what the printing press was for Christianity – a driving force for reform.

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My Isl@m:
How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind – and Doubt Freed My Soul,
by Amir Ahmad Nasr,
St. Martin's Press,
336 pages

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The heart and soul of Amir Ahmad Nasr’s My Isl@m? The Internet.

Typically considered by Western audiences a source of radicalization in Islamic circles – think terrorist forums, online calls to jihad, recipes for homemade explosives – the Internet takes a star turn here as liberator, as both a personal agent of awakening for Afro-Arab blogger Nasr, and an incubator of change in a Muslim world roiled by revolution. Nasr’s journey in “My Isl@m” is a testament to his prediction: that the Internet will be for Islam what the printing press was for Christianity – a driving force for reform.

Born in Khartoum, Sudan, and raised in Qatar and Malaysia, Nasr enjoys a relatively orthodox upbringing: praying five times a day, shunning the lewd programming of MTV, and in school, listening to his teachers rail against the infidel twin enemies, the USA and Israel. Bored by his IT classes in a sleepy Malaysian university town, Nasr stumbles upon the work of liberal Egyptian blogger “The Big Pharoah.”

“It was through him that I fell down the rabbit hole and landed in a virtual wonderland,” writes Nasr of the Arab blogosphere, a realm where nothing was taboo and the self-described “third culture kid” straddling multiple cultural identities finally felt he belonged.

Finding no other Sudanese bloggers, Nasr begins his own blog in 2006, “The Sudanese Thinker,” and joins a community of like-minded Arab bloggers plumbing the issues churning the Muslim world, from the Danish cartoon controversy and the Israel-Palestine conflict to Wahhabism, suicide bombings, and the US abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Known in his family as the child who “thinks too much,” Nasr rejoices in the intellectual freedom and the way the blogosphere unites Arabs and Muslims from disparate geographic regions and religious persuasions.

As he blogs and interacts with others in the Arab blogosphere however, Nasr begins to question the teachings of his orthodox upbringing, dissecting Islam as he knows it until his doubts about religion gradually grow into disbelief and Nasr divorces himself from “the suffocating, dark, stinking dungeons of subordinating dogmatism.”

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