I can’t be a spokesman for anything other than my own concerns. I have to be free to wrestle with my own preoccupations, and if I’m bringing any political awareness to that process, that mitigates my freedom.
I see the American experience as being defined by the immigrant paradigm of rupture and renewal: rupture with the old world, the old ways, and renewal of the self in a bright but difficult New World.
Religion has been an important part of my understanding, my inquiry into what it means to be human.
I feel like that religions generally ask the biggest questions. They may not always have the best answers, but they’re the zone of human activity that regularly asks the biggest questions.
I consider myself to have been formed by a lot of the locutions and aesthetics and principles of the Muslim way of life, and those are an important part of my childhood and my identity.
I feel like one of the things that is central to American life is the religious experience, and I think that the experience of being Muslim in America is as valid and as important a perspective on the religious experience of America as evangelical Christianity or Judaism – whatever it may be.
I’m a storyteller. I feel like the issue of discourse is an important one because there’s a lot of political and ideological discourse that goes around, and we relate to that on an intellectual level.
Sooner or later we’ve all got to confront the reality that we have got to come to understand who we are and what we’re doing, and the extent to which we are guided or manipulated by forces that are beyond our control.
I don’t feel that as an artist my job is to offer PR propaganda, whether for the good or for the bad.
In my early 30s, I started to realise I was avoiding something on a personal level, but also as a writer. I was in denial about who I was, and was trying to be someone who I was not.
I started to understand that for me, art was no longer about self-expression but about creative engagement with the world. I started to respond in an excited way to making work inside an industry and not feeling the constraints of audience expectation as some kind of thing that I should avoid.