Tuesday, June 25, 2013

American Dervish

This past weekend, I attended the groundbreaking for a new mosque to be built in a predominantly Christian community. In his opening remarks, the imam talked about his hope that the local community would see the mosque and its worshipers and know there is more to Islam than the media portrays.

Ayad Akhtar’s American Dervish is a perfect example of the complexity of the American Muslim identity. Hayat Shah and his parents socialize within a Pakistani expat community that ranges from the seemingly devout to the authentically devout to the secular. Hayat explores what religion means to him both spiritually and culturally and moves from memorizing the Quran to becoming a disbeliever.

Religion permeates American Dervish but its story is universal as Hayat faces the milestones of growing up: falling in love, seeing the imperfections of one’s parents, developing one’s own belief system. Akhtar is a poetic writer and raises many questions about religion, relationships, and identity.

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