Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Muslim Gonzo: Michael Muhammad Knight's Journey to Discover America's Punk Rock Islam

Department

School of Communications

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range

2010-2011

Abstract

Michael Muhammad Knight first arrived on the literary scene with a rude indie novel titled The Taqwacores. That book, which combined do-it-yourself punk rock iconoclasm with the spiritual yearnings of a young convert to Islam, provided the inspiration for a real-life musical movement. Knight later turned to non-fiction works, writing a series of books using a similar over-the-top approach to detail his quest to discover the true American Islam: a hunt that is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson's lifelong work chronicling the death of the American Dream. This paper examines the themes of sex, drugs, music, identity formation and liberation in Knight's work and their connections to the work of American rock 'n' roll-inspired Gonzo writers like Hunter S. Thompson. But, more importantly, it examines Knight and the subjects he writes about as they attempt to find a place both for Muslims in America and a place for Americans within Islam. As he wrote in Journey to the End of Islam, Knight attempted to negotiate this identity at a timewhen it was Islam's turn to be maybe the most un-American religion in our whole history. Which I found amusing, because I understood Islam in such a thoroughly American way that it all but cut meoff from the rest of the Muslim world. The tension between America and Islam is one of the defining tensions of this age, and Knight uses vivid description and critique to examine the personal dimensions of the Clash of Civilizations.

Conference Name

Literary Journalism: Theoria, Poiesis and Praxis

Conference Location

Brussels, Belgium



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