Friday, October 7, 2011

The Blood of Lambs

by Kamal Saleem (with Lynn Vincent)
Howard Books, 2009, 340 pages

Added October 17, 2010 - I've just had a review pointed out to me, in the Christian magazine Books and Culture, that questions the legitimacy of this autobiography. The review was written by a history professor at Calvin College, Doug Howard, and you can find the link to it here. I don't know quite what to think, but thought it was important to pass along this information.

This one knocked my socks off.

The author, Kamal Saleem was involved in terrorism from the time he was seven, recruited by the Muslim Brotherhood (the very same group that is so very often in the news right now) to smuggle arms into Israel. The Blood of the Lambs is the story of his past and his present. We learn about his upbringing and his early years as he is taught the trade of terrorism. Kamal grew up in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1960s, the son of a devout Muslim couple, and it was at his "mother's kitchen table, surrounded by the smells of herbed olive oils and pomegranates, that [he] first learned of jihad." She told her little boy that salvation was to be found through an external struggle - through fighting and killing Islam's enemies. She told her little boy: "even the most sinful man is able to redeem himself with one drop of an infidel's blood." With this sort of religious grounding, it was no wonder that Muslim Brotherhood found this young lad willing and eager to go on whatever mission they proposed to him.

In alternating sections we are taken to the more recent past, starting in 2007, with the author, now a grateful and humbled Christian, on a tour of the United States trying to alert his adopted country to the danger of radical Islam. 

This back and forth is a riveting way of telling his tale - it sets up the stark contrast between what radical Muslims are up to, and what the West is ready to believe. For example, in one section we follow Kamal as his group attacks a Christian stronghold in Beirut and blows up the top floor of a hotel to kill the soldiers positioned on it. Then in the next section, where we are taken thirty years into the future, the author shares one college paper's reaction to his speech: people can "easily dismiss... Kamal Saleem, for offering us nothing but that fear." 


Though the violence in this book is described with care and tact, there is quite a lot of such content. There is also some brief mention of sex, the most explicit being those describing Muslim attitudes towards women. So this is not a book for the pre-teen set, and should only be given with care to those under 14 or 15. However the size of the book, at 340 pages, is probably all that's need to dissuade those not yet mature enough for its contents.


My brother-in-law thought this book should be in every church library. He called it a difficult book, not because it was hard to read (it is a fast-paced, page-turner, thanks to its excellent co-author, Lynn Vincent) but because it offers insight into a horrible world. As he put it, "We don't know how blessed we are!" While we encourage our children to work hard at piano, or take up a sport, Kamal's parents encourage him to be a terrorist. While we live in countries where we have known nothing but peace in our lifetime, the Middle East is in the constant turmoil of wars, revolutions and terrorism. And while we worship the God who tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, many in the Middle East worship a god who tells them that they can earn their way to heaven by killing their infidel neighbor. 

So who would enjoy this book? Anyone who likes thrillers - there is a lot of action. And anyone who regularly reads Christian biographies will find this a beautiful story of God's amazing grace. And finally if you read to learn, and want to know more about the Middle East, or Islam, or terrorism, then this book is an education indeed. 

This is a book that really every adult should read. We must not be naive about these horrors, and we must pray for the people caught in them. May they find their way to the one true God!

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