G. Willow Wilson's memoir tells her tale from confused, Boston University graduate and nominal atheist, to naturalised Egyptian, Muslim convert, and wife. Now, I may not be Egyptian or American, I may not have lived in a foreign country, I am not a convert and I am not in a cross-cultural marriage. And yet everything Wilson discusses, whether directly or indirectly, rang true with me. Living in a post-9/11 world where the 'clash of civilisations' is rife in many corners of society, I can identify with the struggle to reconcile being a 'Westerner' and being a Muslim. Of course, prior to 9/11 those two were never even contemplated as mutually exclusive in my head, but in today's world they are touted as necessarily so. It is not a question of choosing between the two, but finding your path as an individual through which you can authentically express your faith in a society that is not always accepting of it.
At the heart of the book, in my opinion, are relationships. Wilson's relationship with Allah, with her fiancé, with her American friends and colleagues, with her parents, with her new family, and with Egypt. The nuances of these relationships - Willow's careful articulation of what a person will do for someone they care about - carry the story and give the reader hope. Ultimately, The Butterfly Mosque predicates that what is good and right will outlast the hatred, xenophobia and fundamentalism (religious and other) that have come to pervade our world. Regardless of war, politics, tragedy, and all forms of destructive human behaviour, beauty and truth will triumph, just like the 'Butterfly Mosque' itself.
The Butterfly Mosque by G. WIllow Wilson at Allen & Unwin
Photo by Ewen Bell at M.I.L.K. Photos