Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Be a Muslim: An American Story - by Haroon Moghul

Baltimore County Public Library's April 2018 #BWellRead Challenge category was to "a memoir/biography about a person who doesn't look like you". Of course, as my husband pointed out, this could mean anyone who is not my sister, but I took it in the spirit of the challenge and selected Moghul's story. A Pakistani Muslim who grew up in New England, Moghul was born with a myriad of health problems, which relegated him to being one of the "geeky" kids growing up. And where there are geeks there are libraries.

Early in the work Moghul describes the very well-educated family into which he was born - one that
appreciated, encouraged, and rewarded bookishness - which made life easier, since [he] was the kid who made a beeline for the library when the last bell rang.
It is a good thing he was so comfortable in the library as it is a place with which he would became quite familiar. As the only kid whose parents wouldn't sign his permission slip to take sex ed the  "doofy twelve-year-old" was dispatched to the school library while the rest of the kids in his class received their illicit lessons. He became so well-known in his library he described it as a place where "everyone fist-bumped him". As an adult he also made good use of a "well funded public library systen" while waiting for his bookish mother to give lessons on Islam to "housewives".

As an about-to-graduate student of New York University (shortly post 9/11) Moghul proposes that the University hire a Muslim chaplin (himself) to "a senior university official, a woman whose stunning workspace occupied the rarefied top floor of NYU's library". It is here that he learns that "there were levels of power and influence that [he] hadn't the slightest idea of." It has always seemed more than a bit ironic to me that University officials are so quick to recognize the value of library space only when they want to claim it for other-than-library needs.

I learned quite a bit about Islam from this work. I have enjoyed reading several religious memoirs of late. You can see my other posts here, here, here, and here.

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