No, just no on so many levels.
While the premise is fascinating, and I do believe that a “sit-down” like this is inherently necessary if we are to find some semblance of peace and understanding between all of these nations and religions as a whole, I just could not get past Dekker’s writing, and unnecessary prattling about himself. The point of the book, which he stated himself, was to go talk to these folks and bring their answers, their personal interpretation of the “You should treat your neighbor as yourself,” theological teaching to the public. But instead, what we get is rambling upon rambling of his own subjective experience of being in the Middle-East, which is nothing but lots of complaining. He’s very afraid and really doesn’t even want to be there. Dekker likes to remind us of this fact in every chapter. I get it dude, you’re fucking terrified of being in a war-zone. Who wouldn’t be? What I don’t understand is that if you are so fucking against this to begin with, then why do it, why let yourself get swept away? Just so you can write a book where all you do is complain about it? Complaining that these people are forcing you into this situation is irrelevant because you had the option to say NO and stick with it. Somewhere along the way, Mr. Dekker sir, you have lost your original literary destination, if you even had one to begin with.
I also feel like I need to say this: I come from an Islamic background and I found many things that Dekker says, mostly just how he words them (whether intentional or just uneducated on his part) to be quite offensive on varying levels. I will say that these statements were made more in the beginning and less so as he continued on with his travels.
If he had labeled the book as a subjective narrative on his travels to the Middle-East and how it made him feel, personally, I would have been more open to reading it. But he didn’t. It wasn’t even much of a terrible experience. For the first half of his trip, he is given hospitality by some of the richest people in that area, which can be equated to a lavish millionaire’s vacation.
I gave this two starts instead of the one that is slapping the inside of my brain is because there was one element of the non-fiction piece that I actually did find fascinating: the transcripts of the conversations that he did have with certain people. I found it absolutely enthralling that people from differing statuses and societal situations had almost the exact same assumptions for Americans across the board. If made me contemplate if this is a Middle-Eastern thinking, or if this is just how people feel about us Americans everywhere? I was also consumed by their answers to the question of “How do you feel about ‘You should treat your neighbor as yourself'” concept, which did not render similar answers.
I just wish these conversations had slightly more depth to them, maybe if the questions asked pertained more to them as influential individuals in their position. I understand Dekker was trying to show us the person, not the mask of political figure to whom he was speaking with. Yet with an opportunity like this, why not push a little and find out shit that the people really want to know? I felt that the way Dekker worked his way up to his original question was…not impressive, and clouded by his fear of being there to begin with.
I could probably bitch about this book for a while, but it’s pointless. I picked this up and read it because a friend insisted that I check it out. This was definitely one of the worst books that I have read in a very long time. Two keffiyehs out of five.