cover image A Sinner in Mecca: A Gay Muslim’s Hajj of Defiance

A Sinner in Mecca: A Gay Muslim’s Hajj of Defiance

Parvez Sharma. BenBella, $16.95 trade paper (330p) ISBN 978-1-944648-37-4

Sharma, a documentary filmmaker and Indian-born gay American Muslim, recounts his experience performing the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca incumbent on every Muslim. The book ranges widely through the little-explored world of queer Muslims, including subjects such as Sharma himself, a lesbian friend accompanying him on the Hajj, and a gay South African imam he interviews. Sharma’s writing reflects his own curiosity and desire to expand readers’ horizons, yet this expansiveness is both a strength and a weakness: he switches frequently between topics and times, and the narrative can become scattered and hard to follow as Sharma also tries to tackle the influence of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, the distinction between Shi’a and Sunni Islam, his relationship with his family (especially his mother), his experiences with anti-Muslim discrimination in post-9/11 America, and his creative biography and former films. Ultimately, the work is fascinating but flawed, with many of its important topics tackled haphazardly; more reflective insight into Sharma’s own faith journey, for example, might have tied the narrative together more closely. (Aug.)