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Book review: Inspiring collection of bite-size biographies of Muslim personalities

30th Oct 2020
Book review: Inspiring collection of bite-size biographies of Muslim personalities

Amazing Muslims from around the world. By Burhana Islam. Pages 193. 2020 Penguin Random House UK. £16.99

This book seeks to inspire Muslim children that you can be the hero that every child wishes to be. Heroes can be brown, black, white and a variety of hues in between and this book seeks to highlight just that. It is an inspiring collection of bite-size biographies of past and present Muslim personalities.

Among the people that are featured are Nadiya Hussain — the baker, Sir Mo Farah — the athlete, Malala Yousoufzai — the activist and Mahershala Ali — the actor.

The personalities featured, male and female offer a cross-section of backgrounds and professions. Some are familiar to us such as Dame Zaha Hadid the famous architect, and some who were new to me such as Dr Hawa Abdi, a doctor in Somalia who has lived through the war and continues to serve her country. This book often felt west-centric. Most of the names have found their voice and their fame in the western hemisphere.

The few that weren’t, such as Muhammad Al-Idrisi — the famous cartographer and Sayyida Al Hurra — the pirate queen, were all names from a few centuries ago. The time-lapse not only makes their history a little less known but also less relatable. Are there no modern-day Muslim heroes in countries outside the western hemisphere that could serve as heroes for our children?

I was particularly touched by the author’s note at the beginning where she says, ‘If at any point you feel lonely or left out, or completely lost — if you ever think that the world works against you and that you don’t belong anywhere — spread open these pages and find yourself in here.’

She goes on to say that Muslims have a history of powerful leaders, great thinkers and skilled warriors. In a time when anything that they ever see associated with Islam and Muslims is negative and terror-related, this book allows us to be part of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Another feature that I loved was how they highlighted the illustrators of this book. All from Muslim backgrounds with a little biography about them at the back of the book coupled with their pictures. These small touches allow my children (and I reckon their friends too.) a chance to see themselves in the book.

The book’s format followed ‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 1 and 2’ both of which my daughters have thoroughly enjoyed. Not only are the bios bite-size, but they also feature personalities that they may not have heard about. This increases their breadth of knowledge and experience. And maybe, just maybe, allows them to dream of flying or creating or standing up for what they believe is right.

Although I found this book west-centric, it paves the way for so many more stories to be told, in turn ensuring that our voices, our contributions and our experiences are not hidden behind newspaper headlines that seek to obliterate our humanity.

Aasiya I Versi

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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