In Journey to the End of Islam, Michael Muhammad Knight -- whose
work has led to him being hailed as both the Jack Kerouac and
Hunter S. Thompson of American Islam -- wanders through Muslim
countries, navigating between conflicting visions of his religion.
Visiting holy sites in Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, and Ethiopia, Knight
engages both the puritanical Islam promoted by Saudi globalization
and the heretical strands of popular folk Islam: shrines, magic,
music, and drugs. The conflict of "global" and "local" Islam speaks
to Knight's own experience approaching the Islamic world as a
uniquely American Muslim with his own sources: the modern
mythologies of the Nation of Islam and Five Percenters, as well as
the arguments of Progressive Muslim thinkers for feminism and
reform. Knight's travels conclude at Islam's spiritual center, the
holy city of Mecca, where he performs the hajj required of every
Muslim. During the rites of pilgrimage, he watches as all
variations of Islam converge in one place, under the supervision of
Saudi Arabia's religious police. What results is a struggle to
separate the spiritual from the political, Knight searching for a
personal relationship to Islam in the context of how it's defined
by the external world.
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