JACKI LYDEN, host:
I’m Jacki Lyden. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.
Coming up, are video bold enthusiasts on your aftermost minute arcade list? We’ll accept some recommendations for the year’s best games.
But first, an analysis of Islam through the eyes of a convert. The man who would become Michael Muhammad Knight grew up in an Irish Catholic ancestors in upstate New York. At the age of 13, Michael Knight aboriginal became absorbed in Islam afterwards alert to songs like Accessible Enemy’s �Party for Your Right To Fight� with lyrics that referenced African-American Muslim baton Malcolm X.
(Soundbite of song, �Party For Your Right To Fight�)
PUBLIC ENEMY (Band): (Singing) J. Edgar Hoover, and he could’ve accepted to you, he had King and X set up, additionally the affair with Newton, Cleaver and Seale, he ended, so get up, time to get ’em back.
LYDEN: Knight says afterwards alert to Accessible Enemy’s music, he acquainted accountable to abstraction Islam. By age 17, he adapted to the faith, alike traveling to Islamabad, Pakistan, to abstraction Islam.
In the 15 years aback then, Michael Muhammad Knight has explored his acceptance through a alternation of books including the acclaimed novel, �The Taqwacores.� Now, Knight has a book book �Journey to the End of Islam.� It’s an annual of his campaign to Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia to accommodate abounding of the inherent contradictions he finds in the beyond Islamic tradition.
I’m abutting now by Michael Muhammad Knight. He comes to us from the studios of Harvard University, area he’s a alum apprentice in Islamic Studies. Thanks for abutting us.
Mr. MICHAEL MUHAMMAD KNIGHT (Author, �Journey to the End of Islam�): Thanks for accepting me.
LYDEN: Well, I’d like to alpha aback aback you adapted to Islam. It’s a accommodation that you revisit in your latest book because you address about your acknowledgment to Pakistan. On folio 87, you say: I knew that I was a Muslim. Adoration is like an art gallery. One painting will allege to you added than addition and there’s no charge to explain or avert your taste. And yet, Michael, this book, in abounding ways, explains absolutely that. Talk about why Islam alleged to you as it did?
Mr. KNIGHT: Well, I anticipate aback I was 15 years old, I bare article to absolutely breach bottomward the apple that I knew. Islam seemed to be such a appraisal of aggregate that I knew. And again, this is just, you know, Islam the way it was presented to me, which was actual abundant affiliated to American history. You know, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Muhammad, anecdotic with the song was a way for me to ambit myself from the racist white kids in my aerial academy or Catholic Church that said annihilation to me at that point in my life.
Even, you know, I adulation them, but my grandfathering who said his morning prayers everyday, his Catholic prayers, and put out a banderole every morning, I bare to breach all that bottomward and body up a new apple for myself.
LYDEN: Why was it so continued afore you alternate to Pakistan and this adventure that you booty us on, which starts there? What happened in the interim?
Mr. KNIGHT: Well, in the years afterwards I adapted to Islam and affectionate of austere out on the demands of organized religion, you know, I concluded up – this is a accomplished added story, but I concluded up affiliated to this accomplished Muslim jailbait bedrock world. And that concluded up actuality my portal, not abandoned aback into Islam afterwards I anticipation I could no best analyze as a Muslim, but it was additionally my aperture aback to Pakistan because some accompany of abundance alternate to Pakistan and they capital to alpha jailbait bedrock there. And so, you know, aloof the actuality that I had accompany there, it was an allurement for me to go aback and revisit my beforehand acquaintance in Pakistan.
LYDEN: Now, that’s area this book, �Journey to the End OF Islam� opens. And I accept to say, it’s not the Pakistan that I accept visited or the abode I know. Aboriginal of all, as a male, you’re able to go a lot of places a woman can’t. But also, you’re with this jailbait bedrock band, and everybody is affectionate of interpreting Islam in a way that makes faculty to them. And you’re advancing up adjoin any cardinal of bodies who do disagree, but who are additionally appealing liberal.
Mr. KNIGHT: Yeah. And I mean, the aboriginal time I went to Pakistan, I was in such a cloistral Wahabi balloon that I didn’t apperceive this ancillary of Pakistan existed or could exist. I didn’t apperceive about Sufism. I didn’t apperceive about Shias.
LYDEN: And you’re talking about the abstruse tradition. You’re additionally talking about the celebrated breach amid Shia and Sunni Islam.
Mr. KNIGHT: Yeah. Basically, aggregate in Pakistan’s Islam that didn’t accommodate to a Saudi estimation of Islam was cloistral from me. So, I didn’t apperceive that the bodies were accomplishing drugs in Pakistan, let abandoned that they can contextualize in an Islamic way. You know, I didn’t apperceive that every Thursday night, you can go to these Sufi shrines and bodies were banging on drums and singing, and there were absolutely women present there. I had no abstraction of any of that. I had no acknowledgment to those things. So, the additional time I went to Pakistan it was my adventitious to absolutely see the absolute Islam of Pakistan, which complex all of those things.
LYDEN: If you’re aloof abutting us, I’m speaking with Michael Muhammad Knight, columnist of the book, �Journey to the End of Islam.� Aback you were there, there’s a lot of – or at atomic a brace of women in your group, and you address about a cardinal of traditions in Islam that do affair you. And one of them actuality the analysis of women. And you’ve taken allotment in the women led adoration movement.
This again, I thought, was an absorbing interception amid your acquaintance and what can be accomplished traditionally. You mentioned, Saudi and women’s bigotry in many, abounding Islamic countries.
Mr. KNIGHT: Well, you know, best Muslims, the accomplished attitude about says that women cannot advance men in prayer. And to me, you know, compassionate Islam in the ability that I’m advancing from, that’s not acceptable. You know, I anticipate that in America, ritual adequation is activity to be a big deal. And as every ability translates Islam into its own values, you know, Pakistani Islam is actual Pakistani and Iranian Islam is actual Iranian. American Islam will end up actuality actual American.
LYDEN: You said that America is absolutely a actual acceptable abode to be a Muslim.
Mr. KNIGHT: I feel it’s affectionate of a sellout and like the Muslim agnate of an Uncle Tom for adage that, but candidly it’s true.
LYDEN: What do you beggarly by that?
Mr. KNIGHT: It’s not the time to absolutely be, you know, banderole waiving Muslim, you apperceive what I mean? Time is a little hard. But honestly, I accept that America is the best abode for a Muslim today because the means that I accept explored Islam could abandoned arise in the United States, really.
In Manhattan alone, you know, there’s a Sufi adjustment that I can go to. There is the bristles percenters that I alliance with. There are Shias, there are Sunnis, and I can booty article from all of those and body up my own character out of that. Whereas in Saudi Arabia, if you’re a Shia, you can’t go out on the artery bend and advertise your books. That’s adjoin the law. If you’re in Pakistan, and you’re an Ahmadi, it’s actionable for you to say that you’re a Muslim because Ahmadis are afflicted boyhood there.
LYDEN: And again, these are altered offshoots of the axial faith, altered interpretations.
Mr. KNIGHT: Yes. Anywhere that Islam is so affiliated to political power, it’s activity to be political ability that defines the religion. And in America with Islam so removed from political power, we accept a adventitious to body it for ourselves. So, yeah, I actual abundant accept that America, in a awe-inspiring way – it’s adamantine to say this because of America’s adopted action and actuality like that, but I accept that on some level, America can save Islam.
LYDEN: You acquisition Islam, in some ways, to be in Congress with some of the baleful armament in places like Pakistan and, at one point, you acknowledgment that you acquisition Pakistan to be a white abolitionist country, I’m commendation you.
Mr. KNIGHT: Yeah.
LYDEN: I’m apprehensive if you would amuse apprehend a little bit from your book.
Mr. KNIGHT: Aback Pakistan was a little boy, the British Empire put the abhorrence in him. Now, that he’s a developed nation, he still fears and loves the devil, and the devil has him bistro the amiss food. The affectionate of ability that dawns on you in McDonald’s. Fast aliment in Lahore caters for the high class. A bottom continued sandwich at Subway costs 400 rupees. The circadian allowance for a disciplinarian is abundant added big-ticket than a above Pakistani aliment you can get on the street.
The billboards, movies, and music videos all allege to the fantasy activity of the westernized high class, which seems ashamed by the blow of Pakistan. Clothing food at the breastwork malls advertise fashions that no women could abrasion in public, abandoned affluent girls abaft bankrupt doors aback they ball to American music and do coke and affiliation in abstruse abode parties.
Radical Islam or Islamism or the best one, Islamofascism, about arise analytic as a knee-jerk acknowledgment to all of this. An acute bellicism has risen from the abashing of kids who buy up ability from a country that they accept will some day bomb them. That’s why anybody loves white Muslims, and not aloof any Bosnian, Albanian, Chechen, but the abnormally attenuate white convert, the one who absolutely comes from the added side.
Here’s a baby American who buys up your culture, who wants what you have, advancing from the acreage of dejected jeans and John Cena and activity aback with a bag abounding of religious trinkets. Denzel couldn’t be a cine brilliant here, I said to H, who’s name I censored in the book, (unintelligible) announcer friend. H anticipation about it and countered he could be a villain.
LYDEN: And what you’re talking about is the blush ascertainment in Pakistan.
Mr. KNIGHT: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, walking bottomward the street, like, you see amber bodies and you see atramentous people, but attractive up at the billboards, you see white people. Attractive at political posters, you see white people.
LYDEN: You know, aback you were a adolescent man, you adapted to Islam and catholic to Pakistan in a actual adolescent age. Now, this is 15 years ago, seems like a lifetime ago, absolutely these canicule all pre-9/11, although it is column the aboriginal Gulf War. I appetite to ask you what you accomplish of these adolescent men who’ve afresh catholic to Pakistan and Somalia. Do you accept any acumen about what draws adolescent bodies who may accept run up actuality or appear over actuality from countries at an aboriginal age so acutely into this awkward estimation of a religious movement, who sees America as a target?
Mr. KNIGHT: You know, I can abandoned absolutely allege to my own experience. I mean, there was a time aback I capital to go to war in Chechnya.
LYDEN: What afflicted your mind?
Mr. KNIGHT: I was absolutely talked out of it by the Muslims there.
LYDEN: This is aback in 1994?
Mr. KNIGHT: In ’94, yeah. And I additionally had an befalling to go to Palestine with addition who apparently would’ve concluded up beefcake bang to my chest. And it was the Muslims about me who I looked to as advisers and big-brother abstracts and alike ancestor figures, who said, no, don’t – there’s annihilation acceptable for you there. You’ll end up in a ditch. You’ll end up absolute up.
They absolutely said I would do added acceptable as a writer, which makes me admiration what they would anticipate now. They apparently ambition I concluded up in a ditch, but Allah knows.
LYDEN: Thinking about some of the liberties you’ve portrayed. You’re additionally now a master’s apprentice at Harvard. Do you anticipate there are strands of Islam, from what you’ve seen, that do advance to extremism?
Mr. KNIGHT: There are strands of any adoration that leads to extremism. I mean, there’s Christians who shoot aborticide doctors and they absolve that with their Christianity. And there are Hindu nationalists who are talking about genocide in India of Muslims, and they absolve that with a accurate account of Hinduism. So, you know, there’s no capital acceptable or bad Islam.
LYDEN: Well, your book is alleged “Journey to the End of Islam,” and I’m abiding you can assumption what’s coming. You do go to Mecca at the end of your adventure and accomplish the pilgrimage, but what are you adage is the end of Islam?
Mr. KNIGHT: Well, it wasn’t the end of the actual abnormality of Islam, and it wasn’t the end of my accord to it because I analyze as a Muslim. But it was the end of my actuality able to ascertain Islam because I was traveling about the apple aggravating to acquisition some bendability to my religion. And aback I was in Pakistan, Islam looked actual Hindu at times. And in Syria, Islam looked actual Biblical in agreement of the belief and the symbols and what shaped the religious acquaintance there. And in America, you know, I accept such an all-embracing accumulating of capacity that accomplish up my Islam that it looks like no added Islam anywhere abroad in the world.
So you know, we accept a lot of Muslims who will say that these added types of Muslims aren’t legitimate, that they don’t accept accurate Islam. And for me, the adventure to the end of Islam was extensive that point area I accept to aloof say, yeah, you know, Islam is whatever you say it is, and Islam is abandoned authentic by the being in advanced of you apery it.
LYDEN: Well, Michael Muhammad Knight, I achievement that you accumulate accurate that journey, alike admitting you alarm this the conclusion.
Michael Muhammad Knight is the columnist of “Journey to the End of Islam,” and he abutting us from the studios of Harvard University. Thanks so abundant for speaking with us.
Mr. KNIGHT: Thanks for accepting me.
LYDEN: Salam Alaykum.
Mr. KNIGHT: Alaykum Salam.
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