“From the Lowest to the Highest…in the Name of Peace…”
“Dreams of a Refugee: From Middle East to Mount Everest”
Edited: Robert Mullan
Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuuum
Dreams of a Refugee: From Middle East to Mount Everest is an inspiring autobiography of a Jordanian British mountaineer Mostafa Salameh. Born to Palestinian refugees, the book is his journey from the Amman New Camp, Jordan to becoming the first Muslim to climb the Seven Summits, including Mount Everest and the North and the South Pole.Mostafa Salameh’s climbs are unique, in the preface (and at several occasions in the book) he strongly asserts that climbing is not a personal passion, he climbs for a cause; in the hope of a better world.
Salameh’spersonal and political concernsintersect, his global explorations intersect with his spiritual explorations and are acts of political activism. Hislife adventures and spiritual explorations takes us through the history of some of the most challenging issues of world politics; the Israel Palestine conflict, the Western involvement in Middle East and the uprisings in the Arab world. More importantly, the book makes a case againstIslamophobiaand campaigns for anti-radicalization and progressive Islam.Thus, Dreams of a Refugee is not merely a self help- motivational/positive thinking book, neither is it a tragic story of refugees and their painful struggle in the unjust world; it is a story of finding ones true self, apurpose, to dream and liveto bring a change for the better.It breaks several stereotypes of understanding a refugee as a passive, helpless victim of domestic or international policies. Salameh’s extraordinary story of faith and perseverance illustrates the idea that refugees (like citizens) possess the capacity to take charge of situations and positively contribute to the society. They need not be treated as a breed apart that need to be acclimatized with the nationals of the region. The book illustrates the positive values that refugees instill into the society inspite of being victims of injustice and living at the margins, borders and peripheries; a value much needed to be understood for just international politics.
The book is divided into ten chapters. Each chapter contains detailed footnotes, citations and relevant quotationsof eminent philosophers,psychologists, social scientists, mountaineers, politicians and mystics. Written in simple, yet effective narrative, the story conveys Salameh’s determination to make a difference inspite of several challenges. The book begins with a description of his childhood, his negotiations with poverty, unemployment, discrimination and his acquaintance with Palestinian struggle for independence.Deprived of rights to higher education and employment in Kuwait, he travels to Jordan where he receives training in hospitality and tourism management and it remains his profession for many years hence. A chance meeting takes him to London where he is fascinated by experience of freedom of speech and develops an interest in music, books, philosophy and religion. From London to Edinburgh to India his life was inspired by range of philosophies of Khalil Gibran, Rumi, Aldous Huxley, Nietzsche, Paul Coehlo, James Redfield, Rumi, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Sufism (to name a few). Simultaneously, he also indulged in clubbing and intoxicants.
The turning point of his life was a dream; a vision of offering prayers at the highest point of earth. In an Abrahamic spirit, he plunges into a mission to make it to the Everest. He also aspired to make it Everest to hoist the Jordanian flag which would open the minds of West to progressive Islam. It was also meant to inspire the future generation of the Arab world to a world beyond conflict and strife and spread the message of peaceful Islam. From his first attempt at climbing the Edinburgh’s legendry Arthur’s seat, the book details his struggle of learning the skills of mountaineering, failures and the challenge of raising finance for his explorations. With help and encouragement from King Abdullah of Jordan, and sheer commitment and determination he successfully manages climbs in Nepal, Tibet and North Americaand manages to receive funding for the climb to Everest. Describing the perils and dangers that the climb poses, the author powerfully conveys a philosophical message that mountaineering teaches; one of overcoming the fear of death by exercising courage and faith in the Almighty. After two unsuccessful attempts, he starts his successful journey with determination to contribute to the Tibetan cause, the Palestinian struggle and hoisting the Jordanian flag on Everest on Jordanian Independence Day to celebrate values of peace, freedom and independence.
After the climb to Everest, Salameh dedicated his life to climbing for raising funds for social causes, spreading the message of peace through Islam and inspiring youngsters to discover themselves by following their dreams against all challenges. Thus, he undertakes the challenge of climbing the Seven Summits and the North Pole to spread awareness of the plight of the Palestinianian refugees, injustice of Israel’s occupation and for a peaceful Islamic state and a more just world. His efforts continue in the form of climbs he organizes to raise funds for children of Gaza, climbs with people suffering from disabilities and one planned for 2017 with Palestinian refugees.
The book has a lengthy discussion on peaceful Islam that attempts to deflate several stereotypes related to notions of jihad, Sharia laws, the Shia Sunni conflict and the teachings of Prophet Mohammed. The book also makes a case against violence and radicalization of Islam by analyzing the religious extremism, futility of conflict in the Arab world and the role of the West in inflicting brutality and cruelty (leading to the birth of institutions such as Isis).It is equally critical of the selfish politics of the Islamic world that refuses to intervene to help its fellow members and the gains that conflicts and revolutions bring to the arms industry. The book takes a bold stance in redefining jihad, for Salameh it is the struggle undertaken by climbing mountains- to raise funds for people who are victims of unjust politics, to make a statement against injustice, defend ones own faith, beliefs and prevent radicalization that destroys the youth by instilling in them a sense of self confidence and respect. The book ends with Salameh’s hope that the strife in Middle East ceases and that it unites to once again become the most significant site of interaction between the East and West. He hopes that his expedition to the South Pole, Elbrus and Everest with a group of Jordanian women will spread the message of peace and freedom.