Post 9/11 the most dreadful dreadful works of fiction have been churned out en masse to feed the paranoia that Islam, the Quran, Muslims, Arabs specifically and people of colour in general are a threat to modern civilisation and Craig Thompson's "Habibi" is no exception.
It’s a crass, sacrilegious and pathetic attempt at a graphic novel that lacks any real depth or purpose.
Thompson admits that it is a "conscious mash-up between the sacred holy books and the trashy comic books" and hopes that by taking responsibility for his deliberate orientalism, he will fool the reader into thinking that the book addresses serious issues in a satirical sense. Far from a love story, his sleazy book is filled with the hatred, disrespect and intolerance which has become acceptable only when Islam is the target.
In sadistic voyeurism, Thompson portrays his lead character, Dodola, as a victim of sexual abuse throughout the "fairytale". In a blunt attempt at feminism, he repeats the mistakes of "liberal" westerners who believe that the sexualisation and eroticization of women's bodies is the only way that women can be empowered. 90% of the graphic novel is a display of Dodola's nudity - whether she is being raped, selling her body, bathing, indulging in orgies, or giving birth. Thompson defends this by claiming that the exoticisation, eroticisation and stereotypes are deliberate tactics he has used to make readers examine the male guilt.
In contradiction to his claimed goal of addressing the post 9/11 guilt of America's Islamophobic reaction, he reinforces Islamophobia in the most obtrusive manner, by beginning his story with the classic notion that Middle Eastern society is patriarchal and fathers would gladly sell their nine year old daughters as child brides. This is a raw stab at the notion that the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) married his youngest wife, Ayesha, when she was nine.
How unimaginative to "create" a place named "Wanatolia" - I suppose all it took for Thompson was to discover the letter "W" and append it artificially to Anatolia, the Turkish region.
The descriptions of the fictitious setting make me think that Thompson was high on LSD while watching Disney's Aladdin when he masterminded this muddled vortex of modern and ancient worlds, with scenes of camel caravans juxtaposed with high-rise buildings and oil rigs, displaying arabised signs for Pepsi, Coca Cola and Burger king.
It is in a city street, not unlike 5th avenue, New York that Dodola observes fashionable "white" women sporting short skirts, killer heels and designer bags. This must be what liberation is all about because it prompts her to shed her hijab in a desperate attempt to mirror their lifestyles and in symbolic rejection of backwardness and control. The casting off of the hijab, as most neo-orientalists believe, equates to empowerment and the embracing of the western notion of freedom, while rejecting patriarchy. This follows Thomson's depiction of Muslim women covered up in public while engaging in harem orgies behind palace walls - a place he claims is meant to represent George Bush's White House and all of the developed world oblivious to the real poverty that surrounds them.
Thompson has created nothing more than pornography garnished with calligraphy resulting in even more of the sensationalist bullshit that passes for literature and art these days.
His more sophisticated use of the ‘successful’ recipe of the Danish cartoon saga to incite anger and hatred is a mis-education to those who know little about the religion.
Without much Islamic knowledge, Thompson claims to have spent years trying to learn about Islam just to be able to pen this novel. He has seemingly spent time practicing calligraphy in Arabic script to incorporate into the book. This has not been to learn the language but simply to stylize the novel with ornate curves and geometric shapes - because, as it would appear in his mind, this is all Arabic is worth - meaningless apart from it's aesthetic design. He picks from orientalist art and garbled calligraphy to illustrate passages of the Holy Quran in a bid to combine religion with art.
Coming from a strong evangelical background, he not only denigrates Quranic anecdotes but also biblical verses and ahadith, claiming that the use of these texts is meant to demonstrate that they are not at odds with one another. He achieves quite the opposite as he continues to vilify Islam and Muslims in the novel's graphic sequence of the savagery of the Arabs.
He takes it a step further by not only insulting the prophetic stories from both the Bible and the Quran, but has the audacity to insult Muslims and Islam in far more daring way, by carelessly placing the quranic verses as decorative imagery to his pornographic scenes, claiming this to be a necessary part of his storyline. This manipulation of the purity of Allah’s revelation is pure blasphemy and is far worse in my view than the insults to the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) when drawn as a cartoon.
Thompson appears to have thought that by veiling the depiction of the Prophet as early Islamic artists had done, he would avoid controversy and feign respect. He has however, gone beyond insulting the Prophet by insulting the word of Allah.
I am shocked that there were no protests and I am embarrassed by the Muslims and apologists who have reviewed the book positively or with very limited criticism.
I have nothing but disgust for this book.