3 out of 4 stars
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Baland Iqbal dares to make radical statements in Broken Wall. I laud his passion and courage in putting forth this ideology through his character Professor Wahidi: religion and nationalism are but artificial schools of thought and should not come in the way of economic progress.
The book contains three parallel stories that transpire in November 2016 in three locations. In Pakistan, we follow Idrees and his wife Bakhtawar and their 9-year-old son Usman. In Afghanistan, we read about Professor Wahidi. Sania and Daleep’s love story is set in Canada.
Idrees leads a mob in mauling and burning a Christian whom they have labeled as a blasphemer - he was claiming that his prophet was Jesus, not Muhammad. The violent episode is witnessed by Usman as he peeps behind a broken wall. The child is traumatized by the incident and starts having hysterical fits.
In Afghanistan, Professor Wahidi receives death threats for his revolutionary views. He writes books and articles that belittle the purpose of religion and nationalism; his work earns the ire of the Taliban.
Sweethearts Sania and Daleep are schoolmates in a Canadian university; she is an Ahmadi Muslim from Pakistan, and he is a Sikh Indian. Her parents violently object to the relationship.
The author, originally from Pakistan, is a doctor practicing Internal Medicine in Ontario. He also labels himself as a thinker and “he enjoys philosophical, political, social and psychological topics.” This book, his fourth, is not for an idle reader; one needs serious concentration to appreciate the themes expounded on.
I have no reason to doubt the realism of the Pakistan story. It is common knowledge that religious fanaticism has resulted in bloody and senseless killings and that the people who kill for their God are treated as heroes. How the brutality affects the children is a matter that the author brings to focus.
That love between people of different religious persuasions has to negotiate a lot of hurdles is also a curious topic. The discussions between Sania and Daleep are thought-provoking. Their final decision regarding their relationship is unexpected and refreshing. However, I find that their love affair is much too intellectual to be realistic; they are even able to avoid sexual relations while living together.
Professor Wahidi, in his fifties, is the wise voice in the book. His varied experiences of a failed interfaith love affair, several brushes with religious fanatics out to kill him, and his education in international relations and political science blend to make him a deep thinker. Although I do not agree with some of his views, principally his atheistic stance, I appreciate his opinions. His vision of international unity and equality is one I admire.
I recommend this book to mature adults who are interested in the role of religion in the Eastern world and those not turned off by atheism and violence.
The author uses poetic language and symbolism that conjure up fascinating pictures. It is only fitting that he uses many foreign words; a glossary lists most of them. While there are some awkward sentences (the author is not a native English speaker), a lot of editing issues and some foreign words that the reader has to look up, I find the book a worthwhile read. I give it 3 out of 4 stars; resolving the technical issues will make it a four-starrer. Like the author, I dream of a world where everyone will be free to choose whom to worship and whom to love. We who have the freedom to make those choices should celebrate and be grateful every day.
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