Journey to the End of Islam

Michael Muhammad Knight, Author . Soft Skull $16.95 (378p) ISBN 978-1-59376-246-9

Born Irish Catholic in upstate New York, Knight converted to Islam as a teenager and wrote an influential underground novel, The Taqwacores , about young Muslim-Americans struggling to integrate their religious beliefs with an affinity for beer and the Sex Pistols. His latest, a stream of consciousness chronicle of his pilgrimage to holy sites in Pakistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, resembles nothing so much as the archetypal American road novel complete with a harrowing episode of cannabis-induced psychosis, a breezy tone (“I spent two months in Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, doing the madrassa thing and considering jihad in Chechnya”) and indifference to whether the reader can follow his references (if you aren’t acquainted with Muslim history and terminology, you would be well-advised to stay within close reach of Wikipedia). He probes and prods the boundaries of his faith with unabashed emotion and honesty, even questioning, near the end of his journey, whether he really understands anything about Islam. But the book is most engaging when he turns his gaze outward to make pithy observations on the intersection of religion and global capitalist culture (he describes Saudi Arabia as the “Wal-Mart of Islam”). (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/12/2009
Release date: 11/01/2009
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