Yesterday I bawled like a baby. Sitting in my bed, I read the last chapter of "The Taqwacores" with tears running down my cheeks. In a rush to get the book finished before the trip (I want to fly envelopped in Asa Larsson's words), I spent a week with this jamaa, where Yusef Ali, Jehangir Tabari, Umar, Fariq, Amazing Ayyub, Rabeya, Fatima, Lynn and the rest of the posey. Welcoming Muzzamil, the liwaticore, Dee Dee Ali, Jehangir's role model, was smooth an easy. Along with Jehangir, you greeted every new character in a small 256 page extention with a hearty exclamation and a big hug.
An undefined period of time, shorter than a semester, full with winter, cold, crazy experiences, Buffalo weather and a mess of praying times ways of leading and observations about the current Imam. I'm not Muslim, but my heart swelled with the adhan, with the "Allah Akbar", and each of the times they observed the prayer. The questions, thoughts, matters, alien for a Lutheran like me, were brought close. Things that made sense, things that were plain strange, the junction between the punk world and the Muslim world, where a rather pasive Yusef Ali, like a tourist guide, takes you from one scene to the other offering from himself only the small, private details of his own unraveling from the preconcieved, allowing air to the doubts in his head and finding answers for his own. It's like the main lesson he pulls from his friends, mainly from Jehangir's words and behaving: "Answer your own questions".
Muslim or not, there's a lot you can pull from the book. I particularly loved the way Jehangir - in clear contraposition with Umar - fitted religion to his own believes. In the eyes of many, a joyous practicer of blasphemy, he prayed with an evident, burning love for Allah, casting aside the stiff conventions of religion. Prayed behind a woman, prayed behind a homosexual, shared the lead of the praying with his best friend. He fucked, drinked, skated and punked to the fullest. Followed his dream and pulled one hell of a taqwacore show and moved people.
A bunch of crazy kids doing crazy, Fasiq - whom I somehow always pictured like a sort of Jared Leto - soaked in the sweet curls of marihuana and escaped to the roof to smoke and read the Qu'ran, or do the adhan much like a muezzin perched at the top of a minaret. Hashishiyyun, was what he was called, a junkie, and yet, I can't stop but see the beauty in his smoke hazed attitude.
Rabeya, the burqa-covered girl simply delved and exploted before me. There's such a raw strenght, such a piercing bravery in her she could put anyone to shame. Cryptic as you always wondered what would se be really doing under her niqab, and probably I'm not the only one thinking that if I were in her place I would be mouthing al the time stuff like "Umar, go get fucked" and stuff like that.
I'm affected, I can't say I'm not. I finished the book and I'm still using Arabic expressions in my head, my tweets and my FB. The book is over and there's a broken record in my head going over and over Bilal's Boulder Bilal's Boulder Bilal's Boulder... I flew from cover to cover and I felt a life rush so fast, slashing before me like a punk on a skate. Currently I can't get over them. I can't. I'm so wrapped in them, so taken, as if a burqa had fallen upon me, dark and heavy, and I can't find my way out of it, can't seem to escape safely into my own "Occidentality", my Westernness, and through the grid of the niqab I see real life through them.
Yes, this is a cult book. Be warned, you my embrace it too hard.