Imran Ahmad, author of “The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West,” spoke at Ocean County Library’s Bishop Building in Toms River Tuesday, April 17.
Reading portions from his book then sharing his experiences publishing and promoting the book, more than 20 people enjoyed his presentation and found it as engaging as his book.
Imran told how he always enjoyed writing but shied away from it to enter the sciences and please his parents. A chemistry major in college, employed in the business sector in England and the U.S., he found he wanted to write a “rehumanizing book” that would remind people of their commonality and not the things that divided people.
Once he started he kept at it for five days until it was complete. The writing, he found, was the easy part. Publishing, however, was a bit more difficult.
“It’s not miserable enough,” said one publishing house. “No terrorism angle…too much discussion about religion.”
“There was no interest in ordinariness,” Ahmad said.
Initially Ahmad self-published the book. Then found an agent and publisher and slowly developed a following, including Anne Widdecombe, a Member of Parliament and very conservative Christian. While he feared that she would pan the book, she surprised him by describing it later in “The Guardian” as, “my favourite book of the year.”
The book covers Ahmad’s first 25 years, and with raw honesty he shares how he developed as a person. Reading his book, one realizes his experiences are common to most people: the need for acceptance, the pursuit of the ideal material treasure that would make his life complete, the need to know who he is, both as a person and before his God.
It then skips forward and we see how the young man, not very secure in himself or his religion, finds a comfort in maturity where he finally accepts his uniqueness and at the same time his commonality with all people.
And tying it all together is love.
“The greatest threat to our collective future is the “lazy tribalism” we so easily fall into, the need to belong and the need for someone else to fear and hate – the “other” who defines our group by our difference from them,” he wrote.
Quoting from the first 13 verses of the 13th chapter of the New Testament book First Corinthians, he wrote, “I never, ever imagined that I would quote reverently from the writings of St. Paul in any book of mine. Muslims aren’t really comfortable with Paul because he is the architect of the theological rift between Islam and Christianity.
“And yet, these words of Paul are so right and so powerful. Without love – what are we, what have we? Throughout the world, absolute certainty, righteousness, and outrage have completely displaced love and compassion. So, although we all know that we are right, where are we without love?”
Lesson learned: We all have the truth, but no one of us holds the corner on truth.
Toms River was Ahmad’s second stop on a 50-city tour promoting his book. For more information about his tour you can check his Web site www.perfect-gent.com . Photos from the Ocean County Library event can be found at the library’s Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceancountylibrary/sets/72157629481315690/ .