Book Review
Paul and Me,  A Journey to and from the Damascus Road from Islam to Christ

Paul and Me, A Journey to and from the Damascus Road from Islam to Christ

by Karim Shamsi-Basha and others
242 pages

Syria is in the news right now, and this book has come out at just the right time; it arrived at the publishers on September 9. From the title you can see it is an autobiography of a Muslim who converted to Christianity. He was converted on his road from Damascus, and so he can identify with the apostle Paul who was converted on his road to Damascus. Chapters by Karim about himself alternate with chapters by others about Paul.

I was first surprised by the sentence, "Christians make up 15-20% of the Syrian population and live side by side with Muslims." (p. 48). That many! What do we hear about them on the news?

Karim was born in 1965 in Damascus and came to America in 1984, shortly after his graduation from high school. He got a degree in engineering but hated everything about it. On a whim, upon graduation he applied for a job as a newspaper photographer, which he won by competition. In this he was very successful, having a two-page spread of one of his auto race accident photos published in Sports Illustrated in 1997 when he was 32.

"I also will never understand the government in Syria and the systematic brainwashing they intended with young folks. We had to recite sayings every morning that praise the government ... The government in Syria was a dictatorship hinting on socialism with a high degree of exploitation. ... You had to bribe and cheat to get ... gas, water, electricity and food." (p. 62) "The radical Muslims made Islam look bad and killed a bunch of innocent people every couple of years. I was of the moderate Muslim variety that condemned such actions." (p. 67) In America at the University the teacher would pass the test out in class, then leave the room! If they did that in Syria, many would cheat. ... Why are you compelled to do the right thing when it is not forced upon you?" (p. 68-69).

In 1992, when he was around 27, he suffered a major brain aneurysm. It emptied most of his memory. He wondered if he would ever speak English again. But he did recover, and his neurosurgeon told him, "I have seen very few people recover as you did. You have to find out why you survived." "Those words ... haunted me for a long time." (p. 21)

He became a professed Christian and was baptized by a Methodist minister in 1996, after having talked to a well-known PCA minister whom he rejected as being "narrow-minded." But he called this only his "near-conversion". He still had serious questions and sought answers in the Bible, where he was particularly troubled by the recurring Old Testament phrase, "The Chosen People."

There is so much more!