A contentious author and college speaker embarks on an international road trip to explore Islamic holy sites and modern mythologies.
Knight (Osama Van Halen, 2009, etc.) is an Irish-Catholic American, but he became spellbound by Islamic culture during his turbulent teenage years and converted soon after, mostly because “it was the religion of Malcolm X, a language of resistance against unjust power.” After a series of punk-rocker, Muslim-themed novels and a recent memoir, the author’s religious pilgrimage launched in Pakistan, where he met up with a camera crew and a few musician friends, attended concerts and revisited the Faisal Mosque. At the age of 17, the author had found the shrine spiritually transformative, but the mystique seemed to have vanished on this particular trip. Knight then traveled by train to Pakistan’s second-largest city, Lahore, which hosts countless shrines, sacred white horses, trinket vendors and various hashish manifestations, all of which he experienced and details with meticulous, didactic precision. The author took a taxi around Damascus, Syria’s capital city, visiting many fascinating mausoleums, and “Bob Marley’s Zion,” Ethiopia, where hyena feedings were commonplace. Knight’s return home to Brooklyn, and his patient fiancée, Sadaf, is less a study in culture shock than a chronicle of his attempt to produce his film footage into an epic homage, as well as a portrait of his dedication to researching Muslim religious culture. The narrative is overstuffed with Islamic history, rituals and intricate facts about his destinations—written in prose riddled with Islamic vernacular—but Knight offers plenty of levelheaded rationale, like his take on the paradox of white Muslims: “It’s a hard truth for American Muslims of all colors inspired by Malcolm’s journey to Mecca, where he became convinced that Islam was the magical answer to racism.”
An occasionally scattershot but unique religious journey.