MTV to Mecca: How Islam changed My Life. Kristiane Baker. Arcadia Books. 2012. pp462. PB £9.99.
Just by glancing at the title you can immediately see the extreme contrast in Kristiane Baker’s life; the book certainly does not disappoint. Kristiane takes you on a journey; one moment she is partying with the likes of Mick Jagger and Bob Geldof the next moment she is praying in front of the Ka’bah.
Kristiane had everything any girl could possibly want; a job with the popular music channel MTV which opened many doors for her; one moment she was running with the Olympic Torch, the next standing on stage in front of 70,000 at a Prince concert. Her life was one of extremes; although she was at the pinnacle of her career she was no longer satisfied with the life she was living, she felt empty inside like a big component of herself was missing. So suddenly when Imran Khan, the famous cricketer, asked her if she wanted to accompany him on a trip to his native Pakistan she immediately accepted; little did she know this trip would change her life forever.
While trekking through the Himalayas and travelling through Pakistan she was in awe of the people around her and their lifestyle. She writes, ‘I had never experienced such love for a religion as I did with the Muslims I met in Pakistan.’ On her trip she was inspired by the love and dedication people had towards their religion. When she left Pakistan she immediately immersed herself in Islamic Literature desperate to learn about the religion that so many she met loved.
After the trip when she returned to her glamorous MTV life she began seeing everything around her with a critical eye from the shows she was presenting, to what she wore, to the friends she kept. Kristiane began to ‘ditch her mini skirts’ her ‘hemlines became longer’ and her ‘tops less revealing.’
Her trip to Pakistan changed her as a person, she no longer was content with her frivolous lifestyle; her trip only ignited her desire to gain more knowledge about Islam. In 1995 Kristiane took a leap of faith and conviction and said the ‘shahadah’ officially marking her conversion.
Kristiane saw past the hateful headlines and discovered what the true essence of Islam was; she encapsulates its beauty throughout the book, whether it is through architecture, philosophy or the people. In the book as she discovers many new and alien aspects of Islam, she questions them and then goes in search for the answer, through her discoveries she clears up many misconceptions regarding the religion. The reader accompanies her on her journey to the unknown and together they learn lots especially about Sufism.
For Muslims, it is refreshing to read someone else coming to Islam and interpretations of the religion; it is also uplifting to witness a European woman welcoming Islam into her heart. For non-Muslims, the book does not only serve as an educational platform but also an insight into some of the faith’s philosophies and how they fit into modern society. In an age of misconceptions concerning Islam, Kristiane has made her mission to portray Islam in a positive light, she is a great advocate and role model as she is constantly engaging in inter-faith dialogue trying to make the religion accessible to all.
I imagine there is a little bit of Kristiane in all of us, a need to find something that makes sense of the world and gives purpose to our lives. But unlike most she was courageous enough to search for and find it.