Book Review: What Would a Muslim Say?

what would a muslim sayI was provided with a free copy of What a Muslim Would Say in exchange for an honest review.

Let me begin by verifying that I am not a Muslim. However, since writing a novel (Forbidden, by F. Stone) wherein the setting is the Middle East and most of the characters are Muslim, I have studied the religion of Islam, though I don’t consider myself an authority on the subject.

One of the best sources of information was from a book by Sumbul Ali-Karamali, The Muslim Next Door; and a book by Mustafa Akyol who wrote Islam Without Extremes. I also read The Fault Lines of the Middle East: The history of the religious and political issues affecting the region, by Charles River Editors.

Understanding Islam is both difficult and enlightening. Ahmed Lofty Rashed has been inspired to present answers to challenging and controversial subjects with respect to Muslims’ beliefs and culture by inviting the public to send questions to him via email. He responds to each question providing answers in simple language and refers to passages in the Koran. His answers are articulate, honest, non-judgemental, and comprehensive. What a Muslim Would Say is a compilation of this email communication.

Ahmed Lofty Rashed’s intent is to encourage understanding of Islam’s fundamental goal – to promote peace. The difficulty in understanding Islam is due to, in part, criminals who promote themselves as Muslim even while committing terrorism and atrocities which are in contradiction to the teachings of the Koran. The challenge is compounded by the media and political agenda to sway public opinion in a direction that promotes profit and votes – not peace.

Ahmed Lofty Rashed covers many subjects that were initiated by people’s email inquiries. Included are:

Faith, sex, and marriage

Muslim response to criticism

Jihad and freedom in the modern world

The Quran and how it informs a Muslim’s faith

Islamic worship, prayer, charity and pilgrimage

Salvation and tolerance in Islam

Muslim culture and modernity

Understanding Islamic law

Etiquettes of visiting a mosque

Gods’ grace and free will

How can Islam be called a religion of peace?

Can Muslims and Christians ever live in harmony?

Even though some of the email messages to Ahmed Lofty Rashed were written in a hostile tone, his response remained respectful and non-judgemental. Several messages continued on, response followed by more responses, until the inquiry was fully addressed.

Anyone who is seeking clarification about the truth of Islam is encouraged to read books from many sources, including What Would a Muslim Say. Many Muslims I have met over the years are most welcoming in their mosque, and so delighted to talk about Islam and their culture. I look forward to another book from Ahmed Lofty Rashed who plans to write a follow-up book.


Executive Actions by Gary Grossman Book Review

Executive Actions

by Gary Grossman

on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017

F. Stone’s Review

I received a free copy of Executive Actions in exchange for an honest review.

This is one of the best mystery novels I’ve read. Any reader who craves intense political intrigue, international drama, and detailed plotting of the American election system will be swept away with Executive Actions. Gary Grossman obviously has in-depth knowledge of the numerous levels of the American government and layers of national security agencies. Not being an American, I felt overwhelmed in trying to keep pace with the story’s complexity related to the American structure. However, as the novel has the ‘x-ray’ feature, I could retrieve information easily and quickly.

The characters were interesting and diverse. In fact, it gave me a fair amount of trepidation to be pushed into the mind of some really nasty dudes. They were the most lethal and cold blooded characters I’ve come across in a while. I was grateful for the characters of Roarke and Kessler who nicely heated up the pages with their playful flirting …. etc. Even though those two added some fun to the story, they also were key to solving the mystery via their guts, resourcefulness, and higher than common intelligence.

Executive Actions has been perfectly edited. However, I would have preferred less detail. The back story of Libya and other scenes slowed down the plot. What kind of weapon, the details about the aircraft was not important to me. Other readers may disagree. The upside of including a lot of specific information of scenes and action meant that I was never confused about what was happening.

The best part I enjoyed about Executive Actions was trying to sort out the Arab connection with the American election. Given the current controversy regarding President Trump’s possible liaison with Russia, the story is timely and makes me wonder how much nasty stuff goes on we never know about – perhaps thankfully.

The downside of Executive Action for me was that the plot moved along too slow. I skipped over paragraphs or didn’t pay close attention to other scenes. Details such as how the technician aged the image of a person was irrelevant. I know that can be done, but I don’t care how it’s done. The one other beef I had was the inclusion of a lay reporter on the final mission. It didn’t feel realistic.

Executive Actions is a great mystery story. On that basis, I give it five stars.


Executive Actions

In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke gets an assignment that turns his world upside down. His investigation uncovers a plot so monstrous it can change the course of America’s future and world politics. Roarke discovers that presidency is about to fall into the hands of a hostile foreign power. The power play is so well-conceived that even the U.S. Constitution itself is a tool designed to guarantee the plot’s success. With the election clock ticking, Roarke and Boston attorney Katie Kessler race at breakneck speed to prevent the unthinkable. But they also know that it will take a miracle to stop the takeover from happening.

Praise for the Executive Series:

“Executive Actions is the best political thriller I have read in a long, long time. Right up there with the very best of David Baldacci. [A] masterpiece of suspense; powerfully written and filled with wildly imaginative twists. Get ready to lose yourself in a hell of a story.”
Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author

“Break out the flashlight, and prepare to stay up all night … Once you start reading Executive Actions you won’t be able to put it down.”
Bruce Feirstein, James Bond screenwriter, and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

“Executive Command mixes terrorists, politics, drug gangs and technology in nonstop action! Gary Grossman creates a … horribly plausible plot to attack the United States. So real it’s scary!”
Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Plan, Cold Choices, Red Dragon Rising

“Moving at break-neck speed, Executive Command is nothing short of sensational … Executive Command is not just a great book, it’s a riveting experience.”
W.G. Griffiths, award-winning, bestselling author of Methuselah’s Pillar, Malchus

“Executive Command ramps up the excitement … A truly bravura performance from a master of the political thriller!”
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, New York Times bestselling co-author of Lincoln’s Last Days, Uncommon Valor

“Intricate, taut, and completely mesmerizing. Grossman expertly blends together globe-spanning locations, well-researched technology, finely crafted narrative, and intriguing characters to create a virtuoso tale. Highly recommended.”
Dale Brown, New York Times bestselling author

“Executive Treason is more chilling than science fiction … You’ll never listen to talk radio again without a shiver going down your spine.”
Gary Goldman, Executive Producer, Minority Report; Screenwriter, Navy SEALs & Total Recall

Book Details:

Genre: Political Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Diversion Books
Publication Date: January 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 556
ISBN: 1626811059 (ISBN13: 9781626811058)
Series: Executive #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

by Gary Grossman

Washington, D.C. Sunday 22 June

“Topic one. Theodore Wilson Lodge. Presidential material?” bellowed the host at the top of his Sunday morning television show. He directed his question to the political pundit to his left. “Victor Monihan, syndicated columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is Teddy ready, yes or no?”

“Yes,” Monihan shot back. You had to speak up quickly on the lively program. There was no air between questions and answers. “If the cameras could vote, he’d be a shoo-in.”

“But they don’t. So again, will it be Mr. Lodge goes to Washington?” quizzed the host of the revamped McLaughlin Group. The reference to the Frank Capra movie was lost on most of the audience. Even AMC and Turner Classics weren’t running very many black and white movies anymore.

“Absolutely.” Monihan didn’t take a breath between thoughts. The host hated dead air. Pause and you’re dead. Someone else will jump in. “He’s totally informed, he’s had great committee assignments and he can do the job. Congressman Lodge comes off as a highly capable leader. Trustworthy. The all-American boy grown up. And he positively looks like a president should look … presidential.”

“So a tan and a good build gets you to the White House?” the host argued.

“It means I don’t have to worry about him taking my job.” The overweight columnist laughed, which made his belly spread his shirt to a point just shy of popping the buttons. The joke was good, but he lost his platform with it.

“Roger Deutsch, freelance writer for Vanity Fair, right now Lodge is trailing Governor Lamden. Can Teddy make it up?”

“No. With only two days before the New York primary, there’s no way Lodge can do it. He doesn’t have the votes. And there’s not enough time to get them. Henry Lamden will be addressing the Democratic Party at the August convention in Denver. But even when he gets the nomination, he’ll have a hard time against Taylor.”

The discussion expanded to include the other members of the panel. They talked about Montana Governor Henry Lamden’s qualities. About President Morgan Taylor’s rigid persona. About the voters’ appetite. And back again to the possibilities. “Is there any way Lodge can do what fellow Vermont favorite son Calvin Coolidge did: go all the way to the White House?” the venerable host rhetorically asked. The panel knew this was not the time to reply. Turning to the camera the host said, “Not according to my watch.”

This was the throw to the video package from the campaign trail.

Teddy Lodge smiled as he sat on the edge of his hotel bed to get closer to the TV set. He was half-packed. The rest would wait until the videotape report concluded. Lodge pressed the volume louder on his remote.

“It’s on,” he called to his wife, Jenny.

“Be right out,” she answered from the bathroom. Lodge tightened the knot on the hand-painted tie he’d been given the day before. The gift, from a home crafter in Albany, would go into his collection and eventually into his Presidential Library. But first he’d wear it for the cameras. She’d see it and tell everyone she knew. More votes.

Mrs. Lodge leaned over her husband and hugged him as he watched himself on TV. “You look great, sweetheart.” He agreed. The footage was perfect: Lodge in the thick of an adoring Manhattan crowd, the wind playing with his wavy brown hair, his Armani suit jacket draped over his arm. He came off relaxed and in charge; less like a politician than an everyday guy. An everyday guy who saw himself as President of the United States. And at 6’2” he stood above most of the crowd.

Lodge knew the unusual statistical edge his height provided. Historically, the taller of the two major presidential candidates almost always wins the election. And he was considerably taller than President Morgan Taylor.

The host obviously wasn’t a supporter. But the coverage counted. He hit the bullet points of Lodge’s career.

“Teddy’s been fast-tracking since college. He graduated Yale Law School and has a graduate degree in Physics at Stanford. The man speaks three languages. He worked on various government contracts until he decided to return to his country home in Burlington, Vermont, and run for State Assembly. Two years later, so long Burlington, hello Washington. Mr. Lodge went to Capitol Hill as a young, energetic first-term congressman. He distinguished himself in international politics and now serves as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He’s as close to a rocket scientist as they come in Washington. He heads the House Committee on Energy and understands the complexities of the issues. But is he going to the White House?” the moderator asked in his feature videotape. “New Yorkers will decide Tuesday.”

And with that set up came the obligatory sound bite. It couldn’t have been better if Teddy Lodge had picked it himself. It was declarative and persuasive. The producer of the video package must have been in his camp.

“Tomorrow the world will be different. More dangerous. More hateful. Different times need different leaders. Make no mistake, there are no more safe harbors or promised lands. Unless … unless we make better choices today than yesterday. Better friends tomorrow than today.”

As he watched, Lodge remembered the clincher was yet to come. Things like that just didn’t get cut. He was right.

“So come with me and discover a new America. Come with me and discover a new world.”

Thunderous applause followed; applause from the audience at a Madison Square Garden rally.

Eighteen seconds total screen time. Unbelievable on McLaughlin. But Lodge was not an easy edit. He’d learned to break the sound bite barrier by constantly modulating his voice for impact, issuing phrases in related couplets and triplets, and punching them with an almost religious zeal.

Like everything else in his life, he worked hard at communicating effectively. He punctuated every word with a moderately-affected New England accent. Whether or not they agreed with his politics, columnists called him the best orator in years. Increasing numbers of them bestowed almost Kennedy like reverence. And through the camera lens, baby boomers saw an old friend while younger voters found a new voice.

The video story ended and the host brought the debate back to his panel. “Peter Weisel, Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Tribune, What sayest thou? Can Teddy un-lodge Lamden?”

“Unlikely.” Weisel, a young, black reporter, was the outspoken liberal of the panel and a realist. “But he’ll help the ticket. He’s a strong Number Two. A junior pairing with Governor Lamden can work. The flip side of Kennedy-Johnson. Let the Democrats make him VP. Besides, his good looks won’t go away in four or eight years. TV will still like him.”

Theodore Wilson Lodge, 46 years old and strikingly handsome, definitely could pull in the camera lens. He had the same effect on women and they held far more votes in America than men. The fact was not lost on the show’s only female contributor of the week. “Debra Redding of The Boston Globe, is Lodge your man?”

Without missing a beat she volunteered, “There are only two problems that I see. One, I’m married. The other – so is he.”

What a wonderful way to start the morning, the congressman said to himself.


Excerpt from Executive Actions by Gary Grossman. Copyright © 2017 by Gary Grossman. Reproduced with permission from Gary Grossman. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Gary Grossman

Gary Grossman is a multiple Emmy Award-winning network television producer, a print and television journalist, and novelist. He has produced more than 10,000 television shows for 40 broadcast and cable networks including primetime specials, reality and competition series, and live event telecasts.

Grossman has worked for NBC, written for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald American, and the New York Times. He is the author of four bestselling international award-winning thrillers available in print, eBooks, and Audible editions: EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, EXECUTIVE TREASON, EXECUTIVE COMMAND and OLD EARTH. (Diversion Books, NYC) and two acclaimed non-fiction books covering pop culture and television history – SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL and SATURDAY MORNING TV.

Grossman taught journalism, film and television at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC and has guest lectured at colleges and universities around the United States. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Emerson College in Boston and he serves on the Boston University Metropolitan College Advisory Board. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association and The Military Writers Society of America.

Catch Up With Gary Grossman On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!


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Mustafa Akyol: Faith Versus Tradition in Islam

M AkyolJournalist Mustafa Akyol talks about the way that some local cultural practices (such as the seclusion of women) have become linked, in the popular mind, to the articles of faith of Islam. Has the world’s general idea of the Islamic faith focused too much on tradition, and not enough on core beliefs?


FORBIDDEN: Romance in the Laundry Room

1-mosqueForbidden is packed full of suspense and really bad dudes. Every few chapters, I lighten the mood just a tad. It’s my practice to slip in a scene where the reader can relax. It makes those next ‘run for your life’ scenes so much more tantalizing. But even in the moments when the characters are not in harms way, they need to remain in a high degree of emotional tension. I had fun with Captain Sharif. Being a devout, albeit moderate, Muslim, he is not used to being around an impetuous woman. Eliza MacKay, in spite of being his quasi prisoner, pushes his strict morale code to the breaking point. This excerpt is one such example.

If you’re not familiar with my WIP, Forbidden is a suspense/thriller. The setting is the Middle East in year 2047. The two main characters, police captain Sharif and Habitat survivor Eliza, are trapped in a cover-up. He must keep her out of sight, which means, to his horror, she is to remain in his apartment (located within the police station).

Romance in the Laundry Room

1-iStock_000020518389_Large-001After the end of his shift and morning prayer, Sharif went to bed. After three hours of restless sleep, he lay awake listening to Miss MacKay’s efforts to clean the spotless apartment. Apparently, the windows needed washing today. He could hear the squeak, squeak as she scrubbed. Then she moved on to washing something else and he tried to identify the object of her ministrations. He gave up on the guessing game and with getting back to sleep.

He got up and put on his civvies – a pair of khaki cotton pants, black golf shirt, and sandals. He tore off his bedding, dumped his soiled clothes into the pile, and then went into the bathroom for the towels.

While busy picking out the fresh linen in his hall closet, he ignored Eliza’s trotting around the apartment, doing whatever. Not important, he thought. Just ignore the mouse. He snickered to himself at the sudden analogy of the woman to a mouse – hard to capture and just as hard to ignore its brazen invasion of personal space. And she loved cheese. He turned to discover his pile of laundry had disappeared. He glanced back toward Eliza to see that his sheets were disappearing with her through the doorway.

He raced after her. “Miss MacKay, what do you think you’re doing?” he barked at her as she trotted down the stairs. “You must not; I mean I don’t want you to ….”

She paused on the stairs. “Never mind, captain. I’m quite familiar with washing men’s clothes.” She continued to the exit door.

He followed her to the building equipped with laundry facilities, a vehicle wash bay and utility tub. She sorted through the whites and colored items, including her own laundry.

He stood with his mouth wide open. “Are you intending to wash your clothes with mine?” He tore his gaze away from a black lace bra among his dark clothing. First, the invasion of his privacy, now a woman handling his underwear. In a matter of six days, his life had shifted out of his control. Nothing in the Koran had prepared him for such an impetuous woman.

She glanced at him and smiled. “Relax, captain. Is it not true that Allah, the Most Generous, blesses those who respect the environment? I’m just trying to use less water and electricity.” She stuffed the light colored clothing and sheets into the mouth of the washing machine.

Sharif retreated to his office without another word. His mind hovered over the laundry room. A woman was pawing through his underwear. He Googled the local airlines for the schedule of departing flights. He eagerly flipped through the websites and noted a few possibilities. There was a nonstop flight out of the country to England at noon. However, by then she would have his underwear washed, dried, folded and laid out on his bed. In any case, mayor Aamir had instructed the airport security and immigration staff to arrest her if she showed up at the airport. A cold sweat erupted on his forehead.

An hour later, he returned to the laundry room. She glanced up at him as she pushed an armful of wet clothes into the dryer.

“I’m going to pick up some supplies. Is there anything you need?” he asked.

“Just milk, two percent please. Brown bread, free-range chicken eggs, cheese, not goat cheese, maybe some veggies. Fruit would be nice. Oh, and coffee.” She slammed the dryer door shut and turned to him. “Can I pay for my share of the groceries, captain?”

Sharif winced at the bruising of his pride. “Of course not. What are you doing this afternoon?”

“Follow me, please.” She led him to the police operation’s storage room. When she flipped on the lights, he stood speechless. The room for the police uniforms appeared spotless, the shelves labeled and all the items folded and placed in the shelving unit according to category and size. In the adjacent room, the flashlights, handcuffs, flak jackets, and helmets were arranged on shelves for easy identification and retrieval.

“Sergeant Omar and his squad helped me with the writing on the labels. All I need to do now is to organize the weapons room.” She wore a mischievous grin.

He put on his best scowl. “You’re on a first name basis with my sergeant?”

She shrugged. “My next project is to clean the vehicles. There’s an inch of dust on most of them.”

“You sure you want to do all that? I don’t expect you to work hard. Just keep yourself occupied to help pass the time.”

“I like to keep busy, captain. Have a nice afternoon.”

He watched as she headed to the area of parked vehicles. She swiped her fingers into the grime of an old white van, Sharif’s personal vehicle. He drove it on trips home, once every six or eight weeks. Grit had dulled the paint. He walked up and kicked the new tires. They provided enough safety for travel through the hazardous mountain pass.

He watched her peer through the coating of dust on the back window. If she opened the back door, she’d discover the big teddy bear his daughter Farah used as a pillow for long trips. She walked on to inspect the cab. The windshield had a long crack along its length. Captain Sharif turned to leave.

He took a couple of steps and hesitated. On impulse he turned back. A shaft of light caught the halo of dust swirling above her head. Though she kept her long hair tucked under the police cap, loose strands had escaped. She had smudges of grime on her black uniform and on her nose.

“Miss MacKay, how long would it take you to clean up?”

She swung around, wide-eyed. “Clean up?”

He hesitated to answer. He shuffled his feet a bit and shrugged his shoulders. “Shower, change your clothes. It would be easier if you selected your food at the market.”

She took a few steps toward him. Her delight shone in her eyes and a smile escaped on her lips. She pointed in the direction beyond the compound walls. “Out there?”

He cleared his throat. “That’s where the market is. How long?” he asked again, his voice tinged with impatience. This was nothing more than expediency, he told himself. The last thing he wanted was for her to think he was giving her special treatment. I’m going to regret this. I regret it already.

Romance Novel With a Twist

1-mosqueForbidden – a crime suspense and romance novel with a twist.

What is so special about romance being part of a crime suspense novel? Not much, unless the main male character is a devout Muslim.

Captain Khan
Police Captain, Hashim Sharif

When the first few chapters of Forbidden were written, I had no intention of adding romance to the plot. After all, how would two culturally opposing characters, one with super strict rules about romance, get close enough to see beyond their moral code. Hashim Sharif, a devout Muslim, albeit not an Islamist, first views his prisoner, Eliza MacKay, with distrust and frustration over her bizarre behavior. When he discovers she suffers from PTSD, his intent is to distance himself further from the woman.

With one innocent act, the seed of an unshakable bond takes root. But while they dodge killers and corrupt superiors, Eliza and Hashim discover the union of their soul.

Beta readers have reported the romance is believable, even in the short period of time these two head strong characters are together. No easy task considering my muse had no intention of getting sidetracked from hitmen and Sharif’s primary moral dilemma. Keeping his feelings for Eliza secret tests all his resolve to remain true to his faith. His real torture is to follow his superiors criminal demands. To become as evil as the vermin he hunts as a police officer goes against every fiber of his being.

He must chose.

Obedience to Allah’s law of protecting the innocent; or risk Allah’s wrath for the sake of his family.

These two characters could be interesting without the romance. With the struggles to hide their feelings, they become fascinating and unforgettable.