UAE diplomat launches book for young Muslims

The book serves as a clear-eyed inspiration for the next generation of Muslims to understand how to be faithful

16:53 February 17, 2017

Dubai: The UAE Ambassador to Russia, Omar Saif Ghobash, has launched his internationally acclaimed book ‘Letters to a Young Muslim’ in the country.

The book, released at The Third Line gallery in Dubai on February 9, draws on his own life experiences to address issues that concerned him when he was 16, and offers guidance to his sons, as they search for answers in a world plagued by extremism and mistrust of the ‘other’.

Ghobash was born in the UAE in 1971, the year the country was founded, to an Arab father and Russian mother. He studied law at Oxford and mathematics at the University of London, but has had a keen interest in art and literature. He is one of the founders of The Third Line gallery in Dubai, and cofounded the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in collaboration with the Man Booker Prize in London. He also sponsors the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. He has been serving as the UAE Ambassador to Russia since 2008.

Ghobash lost his father in a violent attack in 1977, when he was just six. That traumatic experience made him aware of the extreme violence that surrounded him. His book is the result of his personal exploration in the years following the loss of his father, through the years he has spent representing his country, and into the present when he contemplates his role as a father to his two young sons.

In a series of personal letters to his sons, Ghobash offers a philosophical approach to pressing matters regarding faith and religion in the modern world. With the training of an experienced diplomat, and the personal responsibility of a father, he urges his sons and readers to be critical and to ask the key question: ‘How moderate Muslims can unite to find a voice that is true to Islam while actively and productively engaging in the modern world.’

The letters serve as a clear-eyed inspiration for the next generation of Muslims to understand how to be faithful to their religion and still navigate through the complexities of today’s world. They also reveal an intimate glimpse into a world many are unfamiliar with, providing an understanding of the everyday struggles Muslims face around the globe.

“I felt that my sons’ generation is exposed to many ideas that are powerful, simple and quite tempting. So, rather than focusing on the anger and frustration caused by the political and economic situation in the Arab and Muslim world, I have tried to put forward an approach to life that is constructive. I wrote this book to provide a framework for young people to be able to respect authority — be they parents, teachers, the government or religious scholars — but to also be aware that adults can be manipulative, and to have confidence in themselves and their own gut instinct.

“I want to say to young Arabs and all young Muslims that they should have confidence in their instincts, and believe that one can build a healthy and good life even in the worst of political and economic circumstances,” Ghobash says.

— Jyoti Kalsi is a writer based in Dubai.