Salaam, Ahmed Akbar!Posted: January 10, 2014
Our new book, Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy, will be released on February 4th. In the lead up to the release, meet our 22 contributors.
Today, meet Ahmed Akbar!
An excerpt from Ahmed’s story, “A Pair of Photos”:
In my teenage and college years, I tried dating. I did my best to impart Islamic ethics onto my relationships, but still, I felt guilty. I debated whether dating was inherently wrong and if it was my only option. I felt terrible about having to lie to my parents. Despite their history, they didn’t have the language to speak about young love. When I finally told Ammi, the conversation was stilted and difficult. My mother teased me. Despite her insistence to the contrary, she told my father about what I had said. He acted like he never heard anything from her.
I knew that when it came time to marry, I would talk to Ammi, who would explain everything to Abu. With her gone, I do not know how this process works.
To read more, order Salaam, Love today!
Q&A with Ahmed
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Michigan to two Pakistani immigrants. I have two very intense and inspiring sisters, who unfortunately don’t get much of a shout-out in my essay. My family in general is fantastic and I could spend hours talking about them. I dig comic books, music, and video games.I am also a graduate student in Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School, the creator of Rad Brown Dads, and a former High School English teacher. This essay is the first thing I’ve published. Although my essay doesn’t quite address this, I am interested in issues of race, class, social justice and the like, as well as South Asian and American Muslim arts and cultures.
Why were you drawn to this project?
Mostly, there was a story about my parents that had been brewing inside me for the past few years that I needed to write in order to process some things. I already had a few pages written in various documents on my computer, and when I saw the call for the new Love, Inshallah, I figured it would give me the push to sew those threads together into a full story. I also wanted to capture something that the children of Muslim immigrants often forget – that our parents too experienced love and that their love can inspire us in our American context. That’s kind of what Rad Brown Dads is kind of about too. And honestly, writing the story was a first step towards starting that blog. Like I say in my story, I spent so much time thinking about the beautiful, radical person my mother was, I forgot to see the ways in which my father has also deeply inspired the person I am.
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Funnily enough, talking about myself. I am pretty capable of doing that in conversations, but writing a ‘story’ about myself felt really strange at points. Originally, I had barely even wanted to include myself in my story, but considering the theme of the anthology, I was encouraged to write a slightly more robust section about myself. When my dad read the story though, he said it got much stronger when I started talking about ‘my’ experiences, as opposed to ‘his’ experiences. I laughed at that, because I thought it was the exact opposite.
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
Well, I hope the story’s not too dreary, and that something positive can be taken from it. I’m not sure if there’s one particular thing though; the story is basically about me trying to figure out my parents so I may figure out myself. I guess I hope people come away from the story with greater respect for the complexity of the life-worlds our parents inhabited before they had us. They weren’t always Auntie and Uncle, you know? They were sexy, smart and committed!
Anything else you want to share?
I am totally about to be an unemployed graduate student in about five months, so if anyone’s looking at handing out writing or community activism jobs, I am completely available and will do a fabulous job.