Saturday, July 4, 2009

Michael Muhammad Knight

Michael Muhammad Knight (born 1977) is an American novelist, writer, and journalist. His writings are popular among American Muslim youth.[citation needed]provocateur. Of Irish descent and raised in the Roman Catholic religion, Knight's first exposure to Islam came when he was 13 when he discovered Malcolm X through the lyrics of the hip-hop band, Public Enemy. After reading Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X at 15, Knight's study of Islam intensified and he converted to Islam. At 17 he traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan, to study Islam at Faisal Mosque. He came close to making the decision to abandon this course of study to participate in the guerilla war against Russian rule in Chechnya.[1] Within the American Muslim community, he has created a reputation as an ostentatious cultural



[edit] Books

[edit] The Taqwacores

After disillusionment with orthodox Islam, Knight wrote two books, Where Mullahs Fear to Tread and The Furious Cock, which he printed as xeroxed zines. In winter 2002 he wrote The Taqwacores, which told the story of a fictitious group of Muslim punk-rockers living in Buffalo, New York. Characters included a Straight edge Sunni Muslim, drunken mohawk-wearing Sufi punk, burqa-wearing riot grrl and Shi'a skinhead.

Knight originally self-published the novel in a spiral-bound, xeroxed form and gave away copies for free. The book was later picked up for distribution by Alternative Tentacles, the punk record label founded by Jello Biafra. An encounter with Peter Lamborn Wilson led to The Taqwacores being published by Autonomedia in 2004.

The Taqwacores was intended as Knight's farewell to Islam,[2] but encouragement from readers caused Knight to reconsider his relationship to the faith. The novel has since inspired the start of an actual taqwacore scene, including bands such as the Kominas, Vote Hezbollah, and Secret Trial Five. Carl Ernst, specialist in Islamic studies at UNC, called The Taqwacores a "Catcher in the Rye for young Muslims."[3] The novel has been taught in courses at Vassar, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, Trinity College, Canisius College, and Indiana University.

The Taqwacores' burqa-wearing riot grrl, Rabeya, and her dialogue from the novel has been adapted in the Rapture Project, an ongoing puppet show regarding religion in American culture and politics. Rabeya, who in one passage of The Taqwacores gives a Friday sermon and leads the mixed gender group in prayer, also influenced author Asra Nomani to organize a mixed gender prayer held March 18, 2005, in New York and led by Qur'an scholar Dr. Amina Wadud in support of women as imams.[4] Knight worked security at the Wadud prayer.[5]

[edit] Blue-Eyed Devil

Knight's MuslimWakeUp travel writing led him to write Blue-Eyed Devil: an American Muslim Road Odyssey, in which he traveled over 20,000 miles by Greyhound bus in 60 days, searching for a true American Islam. Andrei CodrescuOn the Road...pertinent and suspenseful, a mystery rendered in brilliant detail and gorgeous depth...a masterpiece."[6] In the book Knight attempts to uncover the true identity of W. D. Fard, the mysterious founder of the Nation of Islam, who was believed by that movement to be Allah in person. hailed the work as "today's

Blue-Eyed Devil also contains narratives of Knight's encounters with various figures of North American Islam, such as Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani, and the Hasan family, founders of Muslims for Bush. Knight describes his experience as an original member of the Progressive Muslim Union's board of directors and his disillusionment with the Progressive Islam movement. In Blue-Eyed Devil, he claims that PMU considered an alliance with Manji, which he witnessed while having dinner with Manji and PMU founder Ahmed Nassef.

Knight left PMU in 2005 [7] While maintaining a blog at ProgressiveIslam.Org, he continued to reject the term "Progressive Muslim." Knight was nonetheless included on a list of "Top 10 Pro-Regressive Idiots of 2005."[8]

[edit] The Five Percenters

Knight's fascination with Fard led him to research the Five Percenters, aka Nation of Gods and Earths, a movement that broke from the Nation of Islam in 1964. After spending time with the movement's white elder, Azreal, Knight was given the name Azreal Wisdom; in the Five Percenters' system of Supreme Mathematics, it means Azreal 2.

Knight wrote the first ethnography of the movement, The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-hop and the Gods of New York (Oneworld Publications). An excerpt from the book appears in the 90-page booklet included with The 5% Album[9] by Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian, which also features members of Wu-Tang Clan such as the RZA and GZA.

[edit] Osama Van Halen

Knight's forthcoming novel, Osama Van Halen, features The Taqwacores'Matt Damon hostage and demand that Hollywood depict Muslims in a more positive light, while Damon argues that they're "playing into that same terrorist paradigm and furthering a neo-conservative perception of Islam." Also in the novel, Amazing Ayyub embarks on a mission to rid taqwacore of a Muslim pop-punk band, Shah 79. Amazing Ayyub's adventures include encounters with zombies, psychobilly jinns and Knight himself, who appears as a character in the story.[10] At the end of the novel, Knight is decapitated by Rabeya. Laury Silvers of Skidmore College, who read the manuscript, wrote at Amazing Ayyub and Rabeya, who take

Don't miss the self-disgust. I have read the whole novel. It is extraordinary. The best he has done yet. It is no mistake that his only woman character who was ever fully portrayed and whom he never saw because of her burqa cuts his head off in the end. The story, the novel, is about the writer coming to terms...He uncovers some pretty terrible layers of himself, the characters he has created, the character of himself that sometimes does his dirty work. He knows exactly what it is and he is saying it. [11]

[edit] Impossible Man, Or, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Rise of Islam

Knight's memoir, released March 2009 by Soft Skull Press, tells the story of Knight's "bizarre and traumatic boyhood and his conversion to Islam during a turbulent adolescence."[citation needed]

From the book's catalog description:

Impossible Man follows a boy’s struggle in coming to terms with his father—a paranoid schizophrenic and white supremacist who had threatened to decapitate Michael when he was a baby—and his father’s place in his own identity. It is also the story of a teenager’s troubled path to maturity and the influences that steady him along the way. Knight’s encounter with Malcolm X’s autobiography transforms him from a disturbed teenager engaged in correspondence with Charles Manson to a zealous Muslim convert who travels to Pakistan and studies in a madrassa. Later disillusioned by radical religion, he again faces the crisis of self-definition. For all its extremes, Impossible Man describes a universal journey: a wounded boy in search of a working model of manhood, going to outrageous lengths to find it.

[edit] Controversy

Knight is criticized for his participation in woman-led prayer, provocative articles, disrespectful attitude toward leaders of the American Muslim community, open admission of past apostasy (chronicled in his essay "Forget what is and is not Islam" in Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out), heretical attitudes, embrace of the Nation of Islam and Nation of Gods and Earths and often rebellious treatment of the Prophet Muhammad.

Knight developed a reputation for his Muslim WakeUp! articles, particularly accounts of the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention, in which he wrote of giving a "stink palm" to famous imam Siraj Wahhaj and Cat Stevens and engaging in a romantic encounter with a young Muslim woman.

At the 2005 convention of the Islamic Society of North America, Knight and the Kominas fraudulently obtained media passes and sneaked into the press conference of Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. They were taken outside and questioned by a State Department agent, but allowed back in by ISNA officials. It was later learned that the ISNA staff was concerned over Knight's jacket bearing the Alternative Tentacles logo.[12]

[edit] Legal Issues

[edit] Ibrahim Hooper

In a 2003 Muslim WakeUp! article, Knight claimed to have introduced himself to a member of the United Nation of Islam as "Ibrahim Hooper," the name of the Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Hooper threatened legal action if the act was repeated. In a later article on his trip to Elijah Muhammad's grave, Knight wrote that he had introduced himself as Ibrahim Hooper at the cemetery's office. Hooper again threatened legal recourses. Knight responded by publicly challenging Hooper to a wrestling match.[13]

On June 25, 2006, Knight staged his match against Ibrahim Hooper at a punk show in Lexington, Massachusetts, at the home of the Kominas' singer Basim Usmani. The role of Ibrahim Hooper was played by Grifin Tibbetts, bassist for grindcore band Animal Rampage. Hooper came to the ring waving the flag of Saudi Arabia. Knight wore a white shalwar kameez and curled-toe wrestling boots made famous by pro wrestlers such as the Iron Sheik. The referee was announced as Hamza Yusuf, a reference to Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf.

During the match, Knight was knocked from the ring onto a Beer pong table, hit with folding chairs, slammed onto thumbtacks and attacked by a woman in a patch-covered burqa wielding a dildo wrapped in barbed wire. At one point Knight himself became tangled in barbed wire. Hooper also stapled the Saudi flag to Knight's arm and used it to choke him. Knight eventually defeated Hooper with a move known in wrestling as the "camel clutch." After the match, Knight wrapped his bloody head in the Saudi flag and embraced his opponent. Knight later reemerged to join Animal Rampage in a performance of its song "Kill Rasputin."

[edit] Asma Gull Hasan

In October 2007, Republican author and commentator Asma Gull Hasan filed a defamation suit against Knight and the Kominas, claiming that Blue-Eyed DevilThe Denver Post. "And she can't do that, so she has to resort to this."[14] In November 2008, the suit was dismissed. [15] falsely portrayed her as "wealthy, self-absorbed, insensitive and acutely uninformed" and that Knight had influenced the Kominas to write a song depicting her performance of a sex act. "You can't defeat writers by censoring or punishing them, you only defeat writers by outwriting them," Knight stated in a response to

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