There are few books I thoroughly enjoy that I would also deem to be mandatory reading but this is one of them.
Comedian Sami Shah is a former Muslim who let’s rip on the Islam faith, calling out what’s great and not-so-great about the religion he was born into. He doesn’t hold back and is unapologetic for expressing his understanding and views on extremism, misogyny, cultural pressures and hypocrisy. Nor does he hold back shaming the ignorance of bigots who can’t comprehend that there are numerous Islamic denominations, just as there are in the Christendom, and that Muslims are the primary target of extremists, not racist Aussies.
It sounds like a tough, confronting listen, and for many, it may be. It will confirm some beliefs we hold and dispel others. But Shah is not just an educator. He’s an award-winning Australian stand-up comedian who hailed from Pakistan until migrating Down Under. He has a way with words that entertains as much as educates. The Islamic Republic of Australia is a fun, funny lesson about one of the most misunderstood and ostracised religions of our day.
His schooling delves into the similarities between the stories of the Quran and Holy Bible. He gets a female perspective on the burqa and other headwear, while also expressing his own opinion on the matter. He openly names which denomination and which countries are behind the terrorism that hits our headlines. He talks about why he left the faith, and the wide range of responses, from praise to death threats, that he’s received from Muslims about his comedy routines.
The Islamic Republic of Australia began as a 5-part series for Radio National’s Ear Shots program before evolving into Shah’s exceptionally good book. Regardless of whether you fear Muslims, welcome them, or don’t give its followers a second thought, this is absolutely mandatory to open your mind to the truths and fallacies that bombard us from all sides.
Shah reads the unabridged audiobook himself and his acclaimed stage experience shines through. He’s articulate, passionate, forthright and droll. It’s rare for me to find a non-fiction title hard to put down but I plowed through The Islamic Republic of Australia in just over a day. It’s his combination of wow-factor and laugh-out-loud moments that make this exposé a winner.
Do yourself a favour.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 10
Cover photo credit: abc.net.au