Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: In the Land of Blue Burqas

By Kate McCord

In the Land of Blue Burqas by Kate McCord (not her real name) is a collection of vignettes tethered together by the real danger that Muslim women face in Afghanistan.  Kate is a single female missionary who worked for an NGO (non-governmental organization) in Afghanistan for five years, with the goal of helping Afghani women.

Afghanistan has been called “the most dangerous place to be born a woman.” Kate McCord decided to live in Afghanistan, visiting women in their homes and getting to know those who usually remained hidden behind their blue burqas.  She listened to their stories and lived among them. And in the midst of all of that, she found Kingdom responses to the beliefs Afghani Muslims hold to be true.

My attention was immediately caught as the book opened with a tense scene of Kate riding in a rickshaw with two Muslim mullahs, who attempt to convert her on the spot.  As she diplomatically but firmly declines to convert, her physical safety becomes at risk.  "You should become a Muslim.  It would be better for you in this life and the next."

Faith is foundational to the culture in Afghanistan, but I was surprised at how eager and willing the women were to talk.  Faith "motivates and defines virtually every aspect of Afghan life, so we talk about it, often."  But the greatest topic of conversation is different for men and women.  Kate writes:  "For men, the most interesting conversation is about government and war.  For women, the first most interesting conversation is marriage and family.  But the second great conversation is always about our faith and our practice."

There is so much rich material in this book.  I liked the way Kate was able to convey her Christian faith by connecting to beliefs held in common:  Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, the Honorable Prophet Jesus, etc.  In one chapter, she plans a party for the women, wanting to tell them that God loves them - for in Islam, "there are ninety-nine names for God, but none is 'love.'"

In the last chapter, Kate sums up the theme of this book as she writes:  "We foreign aid workers, doctors, and educators who move into their communities shatter the stereotypes many Afghans have been taught to believe.  We non-Muslims are supposed to be evil, and yet we cradle their dying children in our arms.  We make arrangements for their sick to get medical care.  We feed their widows and orphans.  We give blankets against the cold, and in hundreds of other ways we demonstrate a different way to live.  We tell a different story."

Last fall, Kate McCord did a six-part interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the Revive Our Hearts daily broadcast.  You can listen to or read transcripts of these interviews here: 
Kate writes in a simple, easy to follow, heartfelt style, giving great insight into a little-understood world.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in knowing more about Afghani women and the role fundamental Islamic beliefs play in their daily lives.

This book was provided by Moody Publishers through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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