Robin Wright writes: Hena Khan, the author of best-selling children’s books, thought Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday was going to be a turning point for American Muslims. “Ali spent his life trying to show the real Islam—battling Islamophobia even as he battled Parkinson’s disease. That’s what was highlighted after he died,” she told me this weekend. “It was nice to feel proud—and to see people saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ interpreted in a positive way.”
On Saturday, Khan was herself honored for the publication of “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” a groundbreaking new book that also tries to span the cultural chasm for a new generation. The Diyanet Center of America packed its auditorium with kids and their parents to hear Khan read from her book. In this latest spinoff, the mischievous simian learns from his friend Kareem about the sacred Muslim month of fasting, good deeds, contemplation, and evening feasts. Together, they help with a food drive for charity. George gets up to his usual antics, this time planning a good deed to donate all the shoes that Muslims leave outside a mosque when they go in to pray, only to be stopped in the nick of time. In the evening, George and Kareem break the fast together with pizza and chocolate-covered bananas. In honor of Ramadan, The Man in the Yellow Hat — the caregiver who brought Curious George to America seventy-five years ago — dons a yellow fez.
At the end of Khan’s reading, a teen-ager dressed as Curious George raced down the aisles, onto the stage, and fist-bumped Khan. The kids went wild. “It was a weekend of hope and feeling inspired,” Khan told me. “It was a time of reaffirmation,” especially during the first week of Ramadan.
On Sunday, Khan woke up and, as is her habit, checked the news on her cell phone before waking her family. It was consumed with the killings at Pulse, the gay night club in Orlando, Florida. “First it was twenty people, then fifty,” she told me. “I thought, Not another shooting! When is this going to stop? This is insanity.
“Then I saw the name,” Khan said, her voice choking back sobs. Omar Mateen, the lone gunman in the largest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11th attacks, in 2001, is an Afghan-American. Khan is Pakistani-American. Both are second-generation. Mateen, who was twenty-nine, was born in New York and later moved to Florida. Khan, who is forty-two, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and now lives with her husband and two children in the Maryland suburb of Rockville.
“It added a whole new layer of anguish,” she told me. “I bore this tragedy as much as any American, and then to see his name. You can’t even find the words. It’s unbelievable. And during Ramadan! As a Muslim, your heart sinks.” [Continue reading…]