1 out of 4 stars
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Despite what its title might suggest, Irfan Saeed’s Neo-Stalinism is more preoccupied with religion than communism. The book decries the evils and ignorance of religion, especially Islam, and urges the world to disregard petty differences and unite for the common good. Neo-Stalinism is the author’s form of intellectual warfare against all kinds of oppression.
The author is from Pakistan, a country where blasphemy is a crime. He published his inflammatory book in England, finally able to express himself and speak truth to power. There are twenty chapters in the book, and they're divided into two parts. The first part gives an overview of Saeed’s philosophical perspective, while the second part focuses on critiques of Islam in particular.
To start with the positives, I admire the author’s courage for expressing his viewpoints in opposition to his country and family. He’s also a very well-read person, discussing thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, and others. There are many interesting ideas in the book, but their presentation is lacking.
The writing is often confused and disorganized. Poor phrasing coupled with frequent grammatical errors makes for undecipherable passages such as “Consciousness and understanding have their causes in the facts, those which have their roots in their surroundings and are interconnected with each other, at the same time they are always widespread and multi-directional.”
There are many times when the book spends too long elaborating a single point, but there are also times when we skip from topic to topic without rhyme or reason. For example, chapter eleven should be about Islam, but the author suddenly discusses Hinduism at one point. These interruptions and digressions break the flow of the text.
While the book is generally thorough when addressing religion, often citing scripture to back its claims, the same can’t be said about its treatment of communism. The author only ever addresses casual arguments against the governments of Stalin, Mao, and others, failing to convince a reader who doesn’t already agree. It would’ve been better to have a book completely dedicated to religion and another to politics so that each topic could get the proper attention.
Though it has potential as a work of religious critique, Neo-Stalinism lacks the tools to effectively convey its ideas. In its current state, I can’t rate the book higher than 1 out of 4 stars. This is an exhausting read that confuses more than it enlightens.
The book features harsh language, profanities, and mature topics like rape, so I don’t recommend it to younger audiences or religious readers who might be offended. People questioning their faiths, especially if they’re Muslims, might find something of value in this book.
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