Salaam, Haroon Moghul!Posted: January 21, 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 Haroon Moghul!
An excerpt from Haroon’s story, “Prom, InshAllah”:
By my senior year, the battle of immigrant Geist versus female corporeality had been decided. Not only did I want to go to prom, I wanted a date to it. She turned out to be a sophomore named Carla, who first came to my attention one day late in March. My good friend Jeremy and I were walking the senior hallway after school when Carla stepped out of a classroom she shouldn’t have been in. She stopped and looked both ways. She waved hello to him—she didn’t know me—and walked ahead of us.
Even Jeremy, ever the embodiment of propriety (and piety), muttered an “Oh, my goodness” before he noticed my staring and suggested I stop. This I liked Jeremy for: he treated religion religiously. A man of God, but one who danced and dated, and so he threw me for a loop. When I admitted to Jeremy I was smitten by Carla’s Italian genes, her stonewashed jeans, and her striped green tank top, he swore to help me make the leap from fantasy to reality.
To read more, order Salaam, Love today!
Q&A with Haroon
Tell us about yourself
Right now I’m working on a memoir, the story of how I traveled from Islam to atheism and back to Islam, which came out of an essay not too different from the kind I wrote for Salaam, Love. The memoir’s called How to be Muslim and it should be out in a year. (Maybe Salaam, Love will lead somewhere similar?)
I want to describe how I see the world, how I try to live in it, and how Islam breathes into these. Existentially, experientially, aspirationally. I’m also writing some essays, trying to get back into poetry, and working on a novel which I can only describe as what happens when you marry the optimism of Bollywood—which comes down really to marrying—with the unwritten history of Muslim civilization and the urgency for Peter Jackson to portray something Ottoman on the silver screen before I leave the world.
Why were you drawn to this project?
I’m tired of writing policy and politics. That is just too narrow for me, and too narrow for who we are—just like economics crushes us down into inconsiderate and inaccurate boxes, so too our conception of the social contract assumes a humanity that nowhere exists. Too, there’s a lot more to me, and I think it’s been unfair, and even dishonest, to advertise myself—wittingly or not—as one kind of person. Muslims are three-dimensional, or at least two-dimensional. (Some folks are after all pretty boring.) Shouldn’t our literature be deeper? Where is our literature anyway? And why isn’t anyone funding our writers?
No self-interest here.
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Sharing it. I’m still afraid my father will kill me once he finds out. Then again, if I’m dead, my books will sell better.
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
We’re not robots. We’re not meant to be. No human being is an island. Very little in our lives is meant to be a solitary enterprise; there’s a reason we pray together after all—spirituality that lives alone dies alone (and more quickly). Sure, I did and do things that God doesn’t approve of. Who doesn’t? The deeper question is why we do them.
Otherwise we never change. Our literature has to examine the insecurities behind the reasons, the anxieties behind the errors, the worldviews behind the decisions—that’s what good religious literature does, and that’s what I think I’ve written. Something that a person, a real human being, who takes her religion seriously (and is taken seriously by her religion), would feel speaks to all of her.
Everyone told me I shouldn’t be alone with a woman. But why did I feel so alone except when I was with a woman? And how could I possibly be so out of touch with my identity, my masculinity, my sexuality, that the need for intimacy didn’t just strike me by surprise, but walked up behind me and sucker-punched me. (Apply this analogy to high school as best as you can; and yeah, there’s got to be a better way to say it.)
Anything else you want to share?
It’s funny how often—well, I shouldn’t say often, because that makes me sound terribly immature or terrible—I told a girl I liked her, and she was like, “you like girls”—the assumption that the striving Muslim man is simultaneously asexual is deeply emasculating… after all, what guy wants to be so circumcised, even when he believes it a moral good… and profoundly at odds with our tradition.
A time will come when you copy the guilts and shame of other peoples, which have far less place, if any at all, in your own tradition. Even if they hate the body, then you too would hate the body, until you hate yourselves. For the problem with the self is that it is located in a body. You can keep your abstracted, abstemious, endlessly boring afterlife. No such heaven for me, thank Allah, if even theoretically. Of course, a physical paradise demands a physical hellfire.
We created all things in pairs—and for pairs.