By Rashid Mughal

A born-in-the-USA Pakistani girl, Asma Gull Hasan, talks about her faith and how it’s in tune with American values.

Asma Gull Hasan is a sparkling young ambassador of her faith. Her simplicity is disarming and her sentiments tug at the reader’s heart-strings. Using an odyssey of personal anecdotes, she brings home the essence of Islam and its bond with Christianity and Judaism to Americans, Europeans and others who may or may not be Muslim.

Many Americans, she says, believe stereotypes such as “All Muslims are terrorists.” Others believe Muslims silently approved of 9/11 and are against the War on Terror, that Muslims pray to a different God than Christians and Jews, and that Islam oppresses women.

In distinguishing fact from myth, Asma Hasan, a lawyer and practising Muslim, maintains the core values of American society are strikingly similar to the message of the Koran, which makes her proud to be one of seven million Americans who are part of the billion-strong community of Muslims around the world.

Part memoir, part guide, Why I Am A Muslim, published by HarperCollins Thorsons/Element ($32.95) in Canada, presents Islam as it is seldom seen on the evening news. Asma Hasan refutes the terrorist image of Muslims perpetuated by Osama bin Laden, Al Jazeera and other fear-mongers; instead, she puts a fresh face on Islam in hopes that non-Muslims will see it as a religion of peace and know that Muslims are peace-loving people.

Born to Pakistani immigrants in Chicago, this 29-year-old all-American feminist cowgirl who grew up in Colorado is out to dispel the darkness of ignorance surrounding the Muslim way of life amid hostile press, media and government propaganda about America’s own holy war on terrorism since 9/11.

Asma Hasan is a Muslim, she says, because “I can’t imagine being anything else.” To her, “Islam is a simple religion” and her book dwells on how Islam gives her a direct relationship with God and how the simple message of the Koran leads to the rich Sufi tradition of finding God within oneself. “Sufism is not a specific sect or branch of Islam but actually cuts through all the various schools and sects,” she says.

Since no one is perfect, Islam allows and expects one to make mistakes, and teaches one to struggle toward perfection through a process called jihad, which is “a challenge from God to improve oneself constantly.” What’s more, she goes on, her religion stands for diversity. Muslims believe in God and the revelation given to Abraham and Moses and Jesus… “we make no difference between one and another of them, and we bow to God (in Islam).”

It is interesting how Asma Hasan calls Islam “a woman’s religion” that is against coercive proselytizing and defends women’s rights, including the right to marry or divorce a man, and how cultural practices sometimes do not reflect the true essence of Islam. Not one to deny her Americanness, she believes that being a Muslim makes her a better American and being American makes her a better Muslim. Her simplicity is disarming, to say the least.

Asma Hasan writes in an easy, breezy style. A graduate of New York University’s School of Law with a deep-rooted love of literature, music and the wisdom of Rumi and Hafiz, her stint as a columnist for The Denver Post and Pakistan Link, with op-eds published in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle,, and The Dallas Morning News, among others, has no doubt prepared her to speak her truth softly and succinctly in stark contradistinction to loud-mouthed diatribes such as Irshad Manji’s The Trouble With Islam. The positive tone and exuberant message of Why I Am A Muslim has a winning edge to it. Her pen is mightier than a sword as it cuts through all the theological and political trappings.

You should read it.

Rashid Mughal is a Toronto-based editor and writer.