Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Honest Impressions of Islam in the Biographical Order They Occured

1. Aladdin and genies. Enchanting.
2. "I Dream of Jeannie," the TV show. Dumb but arousing,
3. An adult at one of my parent's cocktail parties in 1970 or 71 using the term 'Black Muslim' about the   boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay. Worrisome somehow.
4. Coming across the name 'Malcolm X' in a newspaper or magazine. Frightening and puzzling.
5. Befriending Asif Agha, a brilliant student from Pakistan, at Princeton. The first human spirit and intellect I ever knew that I would call 'beautiful' in the richest sense of the word. Enlightening.
6. Visiting the Alhambra with a girlfriend in 1984. I had a peculiar and novel aesthetic experience midway through the guided tour: I sensed, very powerfully, that I was in the presence of ideal forms that I lacked the maturity and the depth of spirit to perceive properly. Haunting, frustrating, and humbling.
7. 9/11. Disorienting and terrifying.
8. Various post 9/11 readings, serious conversations and semi-organized attempts to educate myself on the topic of Islam. I come to understand the religion as a rather peculiar mixture of a cult of personality and a trippy eccentric version of late monotheism. I come to view the societies, by and large, as backward and medieval and peculiarly susceptible to oligarchical subjugation. Interesting, depressing.
9. Ongoing cable news coverage of Middle-eastern affairs. Distancing.
10. Sudden onset of revolutionary fervor in Egypt, Libya, etc. Inspiring.
11. I learn that a very chic English woman of rather high social standing who I knew at Oxford University has converted to Islam and has become publicly active, particularly in the arts and education spheres, in promoting her faith. Challenging.
12. General awareness of Sufism as a kind of psychedelic, mystical, all-involving practice that I feel spiritually attracted to despite my ignorance of its tenets, history, and so on. Intriguing.

Tentative Conclusion: Islam, let's talk. In person. Though you do scare me a little sometimes. I also suspect that you, at your best, are my superior in certain ways.


  1. I didn't convert: I just married one and have become quite involved in a Mosque :-)

  2. One post, one major factual error. Thank you for correcting me, Allegra.

  3. FYI: All of this coming from a Mormon convert who then drifted away into Episcopalian-scented free thinking & amateur cosmic quantum pondering

  4. Personally, I had my suspicions about Morocco Mole, given his fez. All I'm saying is that I can't find his birth certificate online.

  5. Everyone should visit Cordoba and Granada. No one who hasn't should say much publicly about Islam.

  6. > amateur cosmic quantum pondering
    Drift back out of it, please. It's worse than plain bull because it pretends it's science.

  7. I really enjoyed this piece, read it yesterday and found myself thinking about i t this morn. Its rare to see such an honest evaluation of contact with islam. I especially like the end and agree that at it's best it is superior to a lot of us in many ways

  8. this post is very superficial, sorry to say. first, read the history of the religion, then ask how much of terrible beliefs--as in all religions--is still cited as valid, relied upon, taught today. Then ask how women in this or any religion are treated. Then ask what exists within the same core religion that publicly counter those beliefs understood by non-believers as not valid or not truly representing that religion. Then try not using what is nearly a powerpoint presntation for a very large and important topic

  9. you might want to have a look at these sites for more context, especially regarding muslim women. they both have facebook groups by the same names: