Muslims Meet Punk

The film, directed by Eyad Zahra, is based on a novel by Michael Muhammad Knight about a fictitious Muslim punk scene in the United States. The tale is told through the eyes of Yusef (Bobby Naderi), a preposterously naïve engineering student in Buffalo, whose family is from Pakistan. Yusef moves off campus into a squalid house full of fellow Muslims with some decidedly untraditional ideas about the faith. There are prayers during the day and wild parties at night.

Clumsy Anti-Terror Investigation: Hilal Sezgin’s Novel about Muslims in Germany

1 October 2010

The new novel by Hilal Sezgin begins with a fictional terrorist attack on Germany – an attack that is not only deeply unsettling for the nation, but also for the book’s heroine. In a humorous and light-hearted tone, the German-Turkish writer and columnist tells of coexistence in a nervous society that suspects every devout Muslim of being a potential terrorist.

It is something one hardly dares to imagine: Islamic terrorists carry out an attack during the New Year period. They managed to poison the contents of numerous bottles of sparkling wine before they hit the supermarket shelves. Nine people die as a result of the poison, and countless more have to receive medical treatment. The entire country is plunged into a state of anxiety and fears that other foodstuffs may have been poisoned. Fortunately, this story is not real, but an invention by the writer and journalist Hilal Sezgin, an idea for a clever and entertaining novel on Germany’s relationship with Islam and the Muslim members of its society (“Mihriban pfeift auf Gott. Ein deutsch-türkischer Schelmenroman.” [Mihriban does not care about God. A German-Turkish picaresque novel]).

Ben Kader, a Nebulous and Painful Identity

22 August 2010
The Editions de l’Aire will soon be publishing a French translation of Zurich author Daniel Groetsch’s novel Ben Kader. The novel shifts between Algiers in 1957 and Zurich in 2001, and explores the contrasts between father and son, adopted and assumed identities, Eastern and Western cultures, Islam and Christianity.
Ben Kader himself is believed to be Arab during the Algerian War of Independence; however, he is in reality descended from an immigrant Armenian family. His son in today’s Zurich is derided by a travel agent as “not a real Swiss… he didn’t really feel like he had the same culture as us, he was lacking something like an identity.” A book that juxtaposes two characters and two worlds with one question: who am I?

Hanif Kureishi’s story of Islamist temptation, “The Black Album”, adapted for stage

The British writer Hanif Kureishi decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rushdie affair by adapting for the stage his 1995 second novel “The Black Album”. The novel is set in 1988/89 and the Rushdie affair and radicalization of young Muslims are its central themes.

The Black Album charts the cultural and political development of impressionable Asian teenager Shahid, who moves from suburbia to college in London and is subsequently torn between two disparate lifestyles and loyalties – the Western liberalism of his lecturer Deedee, with whom he has a relationship, and the fundamentalism of his new Muslim friends led by the charismatic Riaz.

In the course of the story, the Islamist group burn a copy of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses”, of which Shahid is appalled.

The play is being discussed in the context of whether or not Rushdie’s critics have succeeded. British lecturer and broadcaster Kenan Malik claims that the critics have lost the battle – as Rushdie is still being published –, but won the war, because it has become much more widespread not to offend another religion. The Black Album is on tour throughout the country, showing at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Oct 20 to 24 and Liverpool Playhouse from October 27 to 31, among other places.

Author Sebastian Faulks risks Muslim fury by describing the Koran as the ‘depressing rantings of a schizophrenic’

Best-selling novelist Sebastian Faulks has risked incurring the wrath of Muslims by dismissing the Koran as just ‘the depressive rantings of a schizophrenic’ with ‘no ethical dimension’. Faulks, who turned to the Koran while researching his latest novel, said: ‘It’s a depressing book. It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It’s very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing.’

After stirring strong emotions among the Muslim population in Britain, Sebastian Faulks has moved quickly in an attempt to avert criticism over his comments. He went on to offer “a simple but unqualified apology to my Muslim friends and readers for anything that has come out sounding crude or intolerant. Happily, there is more to the book than that.”

Theatre Review: Hanif Kureishi’s play “The Black Album” at Cottesloe Theatre, London

Hanif Kureishi has turned his own vibrant 1995 novel into a play. The result is a busy, hectic affair that raises all kinds of issues about religious and political faith, fatwas and censorship and the purpose of art. But, as so often with adaptations, you get the bones without the thickness of texture that was part of the original’s charm.

The Black Album, for all its allusions to Prince, is actually a very literary book: there’s more than a hint of Balzac’s Lost Illusions in its story of Shahid, a young Sevenoaks Asian who, in 1989, is exposed to the temptations of London. The play follows the novel in showing Shahid torn between conflicting values.

As a student he is eagerly adopted by a fundamentalist Muslim brotherhood led by the charismatic Riaz. But he also embarks on a passionate affair with a lecturer, Deedee Osgood, who in her devotion to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll embodies the seductions of liberalism.

Matters come to a head with the campaign against The Satanic Verses where Shahid is forced into deciding where his allegiance lies. The play throws up a whole heap of ideas: Muslim orthodoxy confronts Marxist-Leninist ideology and there is even a debate about postmodernist teaching versus canonical criticism.

The Black Album, a co-production between the National Theatre and Tara Arts
Cottesloe, London SE1 9PX, until 7 October 2009
Website here

Extremist found guilty of firebomb plot against publisher of ‘The Jewel of Medina’

Abbas Taj, 30, a mini-cab driver, was found guilty of conspiracy to firebomb the home of Martin Rynja, the publisher of The Jewel Of Medina. He was to be the getaway driver, but was stopped in his car and arrested by armed police near Angel Tube station in the early hours in September last year, just after he and two other men had set fire to the premises. The other two have been convicted last month.

The novel is about the Prophet Mohammed and the life of his child bride, Aisha, and has stirred quite some controversy. Its publication was cancelled by one major publisher in the United States over fears that it could offend Muslims. In Serbia the book was withdrawn after protests from local Islamic leaders but was subsequently returned to bookshelves. Speaking last October, Mr Rynja said that the novel was not offensive and added that he felt its publication was part of a liberal democracy.

The case is one of many examples where liberalism and pluralism clash with the extremist opinion of a few who employ vigilante justice to enforce objectives.

Mohammed novel: The Jewel of Medina, has UK launch postponed

The launch of controversial novel The Jewel of Medina about the Prophet Mohammed has been postponed: American writer Sherry Jones has also delayed a three-day publicity tour of the UK for her book scheduled for next week. The novel focuses on Mohammed’s relationship with his child bride Aisha but has been dismissed by one academic as “softcore pornography”. The Jewel of Medina was due to be released by Gibson Square Publishers this month but two weeks ago the home of Martin Rynja, who works for the publishing house, was targeted in a suspected petrol bomb attack. Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas, was quoted in the US media as saying the Jewel of Medina took “sacred history” and turned it into “softcore pornography”. A spokesman for Gibson Square Publishers said today: “We respect Sherry Jones’s decision. In her view the best thing to do is to postpone her visit and the publishing of the novel in Britain. “It is not an easy call for any author, particularly in the case of a debut novel that attracts so much attention from the British media. “We appreciate that she will continue to make time available to any interested British groups to dispel misinformation about The Jewel of Medina.” The statement added: “We hope that they will get in touch with us to receive further information about her hopes for her novel to foster greater understanding of Islam for Western readers.

See full-text articles:

Telegraph

Guardian

Mohammad wife novel ‘Jewel of Medina’ released early in U.S.

A book about the prophet Muhammad’s child bride, Aisha, was rushed to US booksellers nine days ahead of shchedule, after the office of the book’s British publisher was attacked. Beaufort Books picked up “the Jewel of Medina” after it was dropped by Random House, after it was deemed controversial and could incite violence. The fictional novel by Sherry Jones traces the life of Aisha from her engagement to the prophet until the prophet’s death. The book has received criticism for its disrespectful misrepresentation of history, and has also been welcomed by some erring on the side of literary freedom.

See full-text articles:

Reuters

BBC

Los Angeles Times

Controversy Over Novel About Muhammad’s Bride Continues

U.S. publishing company Random House will not publish a planned novel by Sherry Jones, called “The Jewel of Medina,” that was expected to hit stores on August 12th. The Islamically-themed novel explores Aisha, the child bride of the prophet Muhammad, who overcame a number of obstacles to reach her potential as a revered woman and leader in Islam. Random House said that it has been advised that the fictional novel, might be offensive to some Muslims, and “could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” “The Jewel of Medina” traces the life of Aisha, who is often cited to have been Muhammad’s favorite wife, and is believed to have been engaged to the prophet from the age of six. Muslim writer and feminist Asra Nomani published a column in the Wall Street Journal, saying that she was “saddened” by the book’s scrapping, saying that the move is “a window into how quickly fear stunts intelligent discourse about the Muslim world.” Others, including Denise Spellberg, a professor from the University of Texas in Austin, said that the book was “ugly,” “stupid,” and was “soft core pornography.” The decision to indefinitely delay the novel’s release was made in consideration for the safety of the author, employees of the publisher, booksellers, and others involved in the distribution or sale of the novel.

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Chronicle of Higher Education

Washington Post

The Guardian

United Press International

BBC

The Telegraph