“The Islamist” by Ed Husain

Subject: Religion
Pages: 5
Words: 1422
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD

Book Review

Ed Husain is an Islamic fundamentalist who has the vigor to tell his story about Islamism. He was born and brought up by his parents in England. They were calm and moderate observers of Islamic faith.1 In his book, The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left, the author emphatically sheds light on the different groups of Muslims. Additionally, the book chronicles Ed’s transformation from a moderate to a more fundamental Islamist. Needless to say, the book is written in a straightforward style making it easier for the reader to analyze and understand. Moreover, it is written in a narrative format thus explains the events as they emerge in the predominant Islamic society. The reason why this author developed a keen interest of telling his story about Islamism is due to the fact that as a teacher, his students kept asking him questions related to Islamic religion and politics. Therefore, in his book, he discusses his accomplishments as an Islamist radical and his eventual disenchantment from other Islamic fundamentalists.

It is imperative to note that the author was a radical organizer of an organization known by the name Hizb-ut-Tahrir.2 This organization sought to establish an Islamic state. Having participated in the organization for long, this gave him a firm ground to answer questions that provoked his memories. Finally, he perceived the non-Muslims as inferior and less worthy. At the age of 16 years, he appeared to be very sensitive on the dynamics of culture and thus became persuasive to the Muslim ladies to put on their Hijabs.3 In his writing, the author is also concerned by the fact that Hizb activities are not spiritually adhered to as recommended. Later on, he began to doubt his own belief system on Islam. Indeed, this occurred when he witnessed a fellow Muslim murdering his colleague. He also analyzed and doubted the status of women in society. Absolutely, he got determined to quit fundamentalism though he remained committed to his religion. From my own experience, the book is very essential as it sheds light on controversial issues affecting the Islam society today. For instance, Muslims are perceived as chauvinistic and radical as compared to other religions.4 Moreover, there have been critics that fundamentalism has aided in fueling attacks in Iraq and other parts of the world. Of great importance is that the book tends to take hold of people’s perception toward Islamic fundamentalism.

According to Ed Husain, Islamism is more of a political dogma than a religion.5 For him, majority of the devoted Islamic radicals used Islamism to spread political influence. From my own experience, I tend to agree with the author’s opinion as this has been witnessed in the 21st century. Evidently, with the eruption of Islam, this has been perceives as a form of social movement within the political landscape. In Most of the Islamic countries, the religion has been applied as a discursive platform of various political events. Such events include formation of Islamic political associations and unions, that are meant to implement the Islamic Shari a laws and their jurisprudence. Ed Husain also analyzes some works made by Gulam Sarwar, one of the initial Islamic radicals.6 Through the analysis, he confirms his perspective about Islamism. From the author’s perspective, it is evident that Islam is composed of both religion and politics. In this case, the two concepts are intertwined and act as the major tool in which Islam is all about. To emphasize on this, the book confirms that Islam teaches people how to fast, pray and perform rituals. Similarly, it is the same way that it teaches people how to contest for governance, elections, treaty-making, leadership and commerce.7

Apparently, the author is very observant since he notes the interests of his fellow radical Islamists. He asserts that their major interest is on power and to some extent; they achieve this by intimidating their counterparts.8 Needless to say, they focus more on thuggery, demagoguery and violence rather than enhancing their faith.9 The author notes that, his fellow fundamentalists were keen to establish a state rather than fast, pray or even recite the holy Koran. Additionally, he states how the radicals have succeeded in recruiting British Muslims from the third and second generation into the organization. Ironically, one expects the older adults such as parents and grandparents to be at the fore front in the recruitment process. Indeed, they were threatened to stand up as representatives. In fact, the young Muslims have taken advantage to join bureaucratic, public institutions that are both radical and uncompromising. The author refers such recruits by the name Wahabbist Islamist.10

It is imperative to note that the book portrays how genuine believers in Islamism fled themselves from such radicals. Most importantly, the author progressively learns about his faith and thus he discovers its complexity. Meanwhile, a lot of information is revealed to him about his faith more than what he was taught by his radical fundamentalists and teachers. Consequently, he discerns about the Muslim mysticism termed to as Sufism.11 Subsequent events of bombing and attacks that were supported by his fellow radicals shocked him more. According to the author’s comments, radicals supported Jihad that was meant to fight all the non-Muslims and convert them to Islam.12 At some point, this war trickled to the occurrence of the World War I. Eventually; this turns him back from fanaticism and chauvinism. Shifting the focus from the book, there has been a huge controversy over whether Islamism is inherently chauvinistic and violent. This sparked an argument among the conservative groups. Nevertheless, Ed Husain provides an answer and a defense for this argument. Probably, this could be the reason why he is making his way out of fundamentalism. In a more insightful manner, the author uses several theories such as communism, socialism and Marxism to describe the Islamic radical nature.

The book is essential in classroom teaching since it will enable learners to understand the concept of fundamentalism. This will help the learners to understand the negative impact and as well guide them to become moderate believers. In this case, religion should be held privately and that learners should not let it to influence their outlook and political perspectives. In addition to this, the learners will get to know that religious extremist exist and that it can be problematic to the society. In this case, learners will be discouraged from such practice and this will eventually enhance brotherhood in classrooms. Most important is that, the book is very challenging and thus extremely important for learners. This implies that, learners are challenged not to blindly engage themselves in religious separatism and hatred. As it has been experienced there before, majority of Muslim extremists are inherently violent specifically when it comes to religious issues. In this case, they will be able to socialize and interact as brothers.

Besides this, this book is very frightening specifically when one approaches toward the end of the plot. However, Ed Husain emerges quite tactful in recounting the events as they unfold in the plot. He passionately sheds limelight on the cracks in Islamism. He is able to express his ideas precisely and clearly hence the reader will b able to get a clear understanding of the issues affecting the Islamic societies. Such include racism, exploitation and transmuting Islam into politics and disillusionment among young radicals.13 He demonstrates his unique ability to impulsively express emotions. He figuratively expresses his certainty to absolute conversion to fundamentalism, later express his doubt and finally he reject his beliefs. It is definite that, by doing this the author addresses the recent events in Muslim countries and UK. Therefore, it provide the reader with a concise focus of the future if Islam over the world. Irrespective of the ground breaking work, He lacks adequate knowledge about the sacred and theological laws as it has been explained in the plot. He seems to question so many believes and teachings yet he held to them before he detached from fundamentalism.14

To recap it all, Ed Husain work is extremely informative as he expresses his personal encounter as a young fundamentalist. Besides, he sheds light on the real impacts of violent radicalism that eventually transfigured his mind. His work is worth crediting due to the clearly developed thought that has deeply been inclined to the issues affecting the Islamic society. In his book, one gets a glimpse of the ways in which people get entrenched into extremism and how they can detach and change the society.


Husain, Ed. The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I saw inside, and why I Left. New York: Penguin Books Inc., 2009.


  1. Husain, Ed. The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I saw inside, and why I Left. New York: Penguin Books Inc., 2009. p. 1
  2. Ibid p. 13
  3. Ibid p.12
  4.  Ibid p.23
  5. Ibid p.26
  6. Ibid p.33
  7. Ibid p 29
  8. Ibid p.42
  9. Ibid p.61
  10. Ibid p.87
  11. Ibid p. 64
  12. Ibid p. 99
  13. Ibid p. 112
  14. Ibid p. 205