Riveting, searing, brutally honest, and deeply-informed are some of the superlatives I can use in describing Jamil Farouk Khan’s memoir. I need to admit that it has been a while since a book cover lured me in to read. The cover of Khan’s latest offering exhibits full of his face and what looks like droplets of water. The artwork is inviting and that on its own will sway readers towards making the purchase.
However, it was the title of the book, Khamr- The Making of the WaterSlams, that in all honesty threw me off and left me a bit confused. Khamr and Waterslams are Islamic terms of which I am not a subject of. The scribe, however, make amends for that with a proper historical explanation of the two terms in the inside.
In this memoir, Khan takes the reader through his childhood upbringing in a dysfunctional Muslim middle-class family consisting of his alcoholic father, a mother trapped in a loveless marriage, and a rebellious sister. In a typical autobiographical set-up, Khan narrates his story from childhood right up until to the highly respected shadows of Stellenbosch University in his young adult life. However, it is in between that child and adulthood narrative that the book grips my attention firmly. The book touches on numerous themes that will come to shape the life of a man many have come to love and hate, depending on which side of social justice fence you are on.
Generational trauma, racism, addiction, identity, sexuality, queerness, prejudice, religion, whiteness, Colouredness, class, and religious heteronormative patriarchy are some of the themes that find expression in Jamil’s quest to becoming himself in a homophobic and anti-black society like ours. However, religious heteronormative patriarchy is one theme that truly resonated with me throughout the book. The scribe brutally and unashamedly tackles this constant phenomenon in the Islamic quarters through his own personal experience as a Muslim man or should I now say as being of Muslim descent.
The truth is, heteronormative patriarchy seems to find expression in all the religions, and I will even argue that it is even worse in my own religion, Christianity. It continues to promote misogyny, homophobia, and patriarchy in many Christian churches across the world. Khan’s dissection opens the window for everyone in their own “sacred religion” to also interrogate this phenomenon in the quest to attain social justice.
This is one memoir that will challenge a reader’s spiritual/religious intelligence and allegiance. If you are too consumed by your religious patriarchal templates and its conservative nature, then Khan’s assertions will most definitely upset you, cause discomfort or and even irritate you.
However, if you are willing to thoroughly understand why religion in its entirety continues to suffocate and one major source of depression and discrimination to many queer men and women, then this book will provide an educational window for you. It will provoke your thoughts to not just be a follower of religion but question its ability in promoting justice and equality to humanity. I like the fact that Khan motivates, encourages, and inspires each and everyone in the book to live their lives without succumbing to societal expectations, values, or normalities.
This is a memoir of the 21st century, with shorter chapters to keep the reader’s attention intact throughout. I must admit that this is a great addition to South Africa’s ever-growing literature. Khamr creates a lot of debates around a whole lot of issues that still suppress the majority of people in post-apartheid South Africa.