Jul 17, 2017
Disclaimer: Topics of sexuality, religion, and spoilers for the book is mentioned in this blog post.
A revelatory novel about being queer and Muslim, set in war-torn Iraq in 2003. Ramy is a young gay Iraqi struggling to find a balance between his sexuality, religion, and culture. Ammar is a sheikh whose guidance Ramy seeks, and whose tolerance is tested by his belief in the teachings of the Qur’an. Full of quiet moments of beauty and raw depictions of violence, God in Pink poignantly captures the anguish and the fortitude of Islamic life in Iraq.
With a lot of things going on nowadays in Iraq and surrounding countries, I find myself becoming a little more interested in the lives of a typical Muslim. I understand that being queer and Muslim isn’t exactly “typical” but it was a topic I’m drawn to being queer and somewhat religious myself. Namir takes a very different take on this scenario than from what I expected. This little novel takes on the perspectives of Ramy, a gay man wanting to find a way through being gay in Muslim society, and Sheikh Ammar is a preacher who does not not to even entertain the idea of homosexuality.
Although in his mid-twenties, Ramy seems to me like a young teenager. He is full of passion, extremely rash, idealistic, but also a little hesitant to fully break free. He falls for men somewhat fast and extremely hard. Although he longs for freedom, he sees around him in the closeted gay community full of hypocrisy and tragedy. His family keeps pushing for marriage not just because it’s expected but because on some level, they know Ramy is gay and they want to either help him keep it a secret or to convince themselves that he’s actually straight and not gay. While his whirlwind and bloody romances are expected, what’s not so expected is the supernatural twist Namir puts to this tale.
Sheikh Ammar begins to have hallucinations of a pink cherub, Angel Gabriel, and a woman donned in a Burqa, Abaddon. They act as opposite sides of his conscious. Angel Gabriel is gay and encourages Ammar to accept Ramy in all of his glorious gayness whereas Abaddon points out the Islamic teachings that say otherwise. This supernatural twist was something that seemed almost left field for me. I did not expect it. I can’t say for sure if I like it or not. I feel like I wouldn’t be missing out on much if Ammar’s storyline was cut out completely. I do like the turn Namir takes with Ammar however. In the end, Ammar turns to cross dressing and pretty much renounces his religion completely.
Overall, it seemed a bit of a rollercoaster going from one storyline to another. The moments when they intersected were disappointing. Both main characters had their moments of ridiculousness for me. What disappointed me the most was how little of Ramy’s life after marriage panned out. I’m not disappointed that the marriage happened because it is realistic, I could totally see it happening. But Namir got me invested in Jameela and I felt a twinge of sympathy for her marrying a man who could not love her as fully as a man who was interested in women was.
Somehow though, I liked it. It was quirky and a little fun. It wasn’t as serious as I thought it would be but I think adding the tinge of dreamy-like aspects made it a more enjoyable read.