Two Books To Read By Michael Muhammad Knight
Soft Skull Press tweeted the availability of its Spring 2009 catalog (PDF link) and I went looking through it. I found out about two absolutely sensational novels they’re bringing out. These are must-reads!
The Taqwacores by Michael Muhammad Knight
The story here is primarily with the characters — Umar, the straight-edge Sunni; Rabeya, the burqa-clad riot grrl; Jehangir, the dope-smoking mohawked Sufi (who plays rooftop calls-to-prayer on his electric guitar) — and their collective articulation of a heresy-friendly, pluralist Islam. Full of punk references (real and invented) and enough Arabic phrases to fully deck out your skateboard, The Taqwacores is a great introduction to the cracks in the surface of mainstream Islam with a peculiarly American face.
This is a re-issue of a prior edition (different cover).
And there’s a sequel coming! Dig the name!
Osama Van Halen by Michael Muhammad Knight
Get a load of this description:
Amazing Ayyub, an Iranian Shi’ite skinhead, and Rabeya, a burqa-wearing punk, have kidnapped Matt Damon and are holding him hostage. They demand that Hollywood depict Muslims in a positive light — “just one movie where we’re not these two-dimensional al Qaeda stereotypes.” But Damon’s concerned they’re playing into that same terrorist paradigm, thereby furthering the neoconservative perception of Islam.
Meanwhile, Ayyub embarks on a mission to rid the taqwacore scene of a Muslim pop-punk band called Shah 79. Along the way, he makes himself invisible, escapes punk-eating zombies in a mosque off the desert highway, and runs into some psychobilly jinns. Things turn existential when Ayyub finds himself face-to-face with his creator — no, not Allah, but the author.
This riotous journey of enlightenment reads like a religious service for teenagers on Halloween. But it isn’t all raucous fun; written into his own novel, the author finds he is at the mercy of his creation.
And I love this excerpt:
AMAZING AYYUB THE IRANIAN SHIITE SKINHEAD couldn’t have weighed more than a buck-fifty but he had that wiry survival strength like an animal that was always hungry but still had to run and fight and keep its eyes open and never sleep. No fat on his body and no room on his skin for an inch without detail — poor Ayyub was all scars, veins, bones and KARBALA tattoo. No shirt and he drove his van like that same crazed animal, squeezing hard on the wheel, elbows locked, pulling insane but controlled swerves across lanes. He had his Sham 69 coming in loud from the one working speaker and he had those streets owned and riding in back he had Rabeya the punk niqabi sitting on a stolen amp and holding an AK-47 in the direction of a tied-up Matt Damon. Behind Damon hung a Saudi flag with red anarchy sign spray-painted on the kalimah. These were the taqwacores, taqwa-cores who passed the frontiers of all reasonable religion, serving Islam in exile, trying to realize the imams of their inner being while saying fuck all to the rest of it.
According to the wikipedia entry, this is a direct-publishing success story:
Knight originally self-published the novel [The Taqwacores] in a spiral-bound, xeroxed form and gave away copies for free.
I must read these two!
Inter/Re-View: Michael Muhammad Knight on Muslim Punk
Blue-Eyed Devil: An Interview with Michael Muhammad Knight
Hip-Hop linguistics interview with Michael Muhammad Knight
Michael Muhammad Knight wikipedia entry
Michael Muhammad Knight MySpace page
Michael Muhammad Knight Facebook page