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I have tried reading several well-recommended books on Islam over the years, wishing to grasp just exactly what it’s all about. Is it inherently good or evil? Is it unusually susceptible to influences, internal or external? Each time I have gotten bogged down in lists of complicated names, battles, and dynasties extant centuries ago. Here, at last is an exception.

Ghobash, writing in the format of letters to a young teenager (one of his sons), has simplified the details of history, but delves deeply into the conditions of today, many of which have their origins in the distant, desert past. It is my impression that he pulls no punches, especially in showing how easy it is for a young Muslim (especially a male) to be pulled into violence and extremism. The author went through the process of Arab/Muslim socialization and education himself, with a good stint in Western schools as well. As a United Arab Emirates ambassador, he has had plenty of opportunity to see Islam from inside and out, and has thought deeply about what he writes. I won’t try to go into any specifics of his suggestions for moving Islam into modern times without losing its core values, but can only recommend: Get this book and read it. As an added bonus, it is formatted and, at 244 pages, sized for an easy grasp — physical and attention-wise.