Book Review: In new book, pastor challenges Islamophobia

By Rachel Magruder, Special Contributor…

The Search for Truth about Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction
Ben Daniel
Westminster John Knox Press, 2013
Paperback, 200 pages

Ever since I was a middle-school United Methodist missionary kid in Cameroon, I’ve been exposed to Islam. In my 13-year-old eyes, Muslims were a friendly group of people whom we trusted enough to sell us clean meat.

Over the past six years, however, I have fallen in love with the religion, leading me to Turkey during March and April of this year to pursue further studies in Islam. During these explorations, I have discovered that the way Muslims love God and search out a life that is pleasing to God can be a powerful lesson for American Christians.

Furthermore, I have learned that if we would base our perceptions of Islam on the Muslims we actually meet, then we would not allow Islamophobic attitudes and behaviors to fester in our society.

Ben Daniel, a Presbyterian pastor from California, recently set out to investigate the stereotypes of Islam that lead to fear-mongering and hate. In The Search for Truth about Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact From Fiction, Mr. Daniel ventures across the Atlantic for a genuine and sincere understanding of Islam, and provides a charming and heartwarming look at the religion that is now puzzling millions of Americans.

One of the things I appreciate most about the book is that Mr. Daniel not only tries to explain the basics of Islam in simple and lively language, but also attempts to deconstruct the phenomenon of Islamophobia.

Mr. Daniel divides his book into five parts, each answering the five biggest questions a typical American may have about Islam, including questions like “Who is Allah?” or “What is the Quran?” In doing this, he dismantles the stereotypical answers to these questions that have been formed by American media and exposes them as misinformed and biased. In particular, he criticizes some of the key architects of modern Islamophobia, including Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes and Pamela Geller, commenting that “they look at the text superficially and arrive at their own conclusions, and use historical anomalies, in some cases, to justify those conclusions.”

Mr. Daniel ventures to California, France and Spain in an effort to gain a fuller perspective on the Islamic faith. He records a number of various charming encounters with Muslims in which he illustrates Islam’s similarities with Christianity and visions of peace. As he meets various imams (Muslim religious leaders that often give short sermons at Friday prayer), professors and community activists, he searches to give his audience a clearer understanding of some of the words that have become distorted in American society, such as “jihad,” “intifada,” “fundamentalist” and “Allah.”

For those who are struggling to think positively about other religions, specifically Islam, this book is a great place to start. For those in this country who have pursued an interest in learning about Islam, this book is a great place to continue.

Mr. Daniel introduces his book as a chance for his audience to view the religion in an honest way, “that the search for truth presented in these pages will bring freedom to those in bondage to a fear of Islam.”

I couldn’t support and agree with his words any more, and I hope that his wish is fulfilled by the Christians who decide to pick up his book.

Ms. Magruder will be a senior this fall at Long Island University Global, and has spent the past two years studying abroad in six different countries across Latin America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in international studies, with a focus on religion and culture. Starting in September, she will be interning at an interfaith foundation that works with Muslims and Christians in Istanbul, Turkey.

Special Contributor to UMR

Special Contributor

This story was written by a special contributor to The United Methodist Reporter. You may send your article submissions to

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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