A review of Land Without Laughter by Ahmad Kamal
There aren’t a whole lot of great American Muslim writers. There aren’t even that many good ones.
Malcolm X’s autobiography is a masterpiece – but at least half the credit goes to his kaffir ghostwriter, Alex Haley. Peter Lamborn Wilson and his alter ego Hakim Bey are both whacked-out geniuses…but I’m not sure how Muslim either of them really are. Hamid Algar has written and translated some terrific books, but he is neither a poet nor a storyteller.
The Wikipedia list of notable American Muslim writers is…well, pathetic. It includes eight people: Neocon-Zionist hack Stephen Schwartz, lamestream mediocrity Fareed Zakaria, and six somewhat less-obnoxious individuals, none of whom are literary geniuses, and not all of whom are even Muslims.
If these people are the competition, Michael Muhammad Knight deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature, and I deserve a Pulitzer as the Muslim H.L. Mencken.
But seriously, folks…based on what I’ve read so far, my vote for all-time greatest American Muslim writer goes to Ahmad Kamal, author of the classic jihadi adventure story Land Without Laughter.
Wait a minute – you say you’ve never heard of Ahmad Kamal? I hadn’t either, except maybe in passing, until my godless commie friend David Williams slipped me a copy of his book last week.
Land Without Laughter is the rip-roaring tale of a young American jihadi – a more worldly, 1930s version of John Walker Lindh – traveling through India, Nepal, Tibet and Kashmir to get to Xinjiang and join the Muslim uprising against the combined forces of godless communism – the Bolsheviks and their Chinese allies. And according to Ahmad Kamal himself, every word of it is true.
If that’s sometimes hard to believe, it could be because Kamal’s life is the stuff of fiction, if not legend. Born in 1914 on a Colorado Indian reservation of a Central Asian Muslim father and an American mother, Kamal left on his voyage of jihad and self-discovery at age 21, sailing from Los Angeles to Bombay before (according to his own account) crossing the Himalayas in winter to join the Xinjiang jihad.
What Xinjiang jihad, you ask? Kamal explains the 1930s Bolshevik/Chi-com occupation of Xinjiang (a.k.a. Tataristan):
“The year 1930 saw the beginning of the bloodiest rebellion ever to escape the press. A revolt that has to date snuffed out more than three quarters of a million lives and, by way of notice, earned perhaps five hundred words of highly inaccurate newsprint…
“The corrupt Sovietized Chinese rulers of Sinkiang (in 1930) imposed so vicious a tax system that the people could no longer bear up under it. Landowners were in some instances compelled to pay taxes for two hundred and forty-seven years in advance – to the year 2177. The edict was enforced with torture and imprisonment. Tatars could no longer, would no longer, stand by to see their life’s work go into Bolshevik money chests. In several instances the avaricious tax collectors took Tatar virgins when the peasant farmers had naught else to surrender. There was War! As of spontaneous combustion the whole of the lost dominion, almost three times the size of France, burst into flame. Muslim pitted himself against the Soviet-Chinese infidel.”
Kamal’s description covers only a small portion of the genocide against Central Asian Muslims conducted by the 20th-century Communists. According to the best estimates, tens of millions of Muslims were exterminated – a holocaust that dwarfs anything dreamed of by the Nazis. And Islam itself was nearly erased from the Turcic-dominated lands in what may have been the biggest act of cultural genocide in history.
Though Kamal is a wholehearted jihadi setting out to sacrifice himself (if Allah so wills) in a Muslim national liberation struggle, he writes with bemused detachment and an eye for the absurd, occasionally illuminated by restrained flashes of piety and ardor. He describes himself making “face” (or reputation) by way of brash, fearless behavior, sometimes in conditions where such actions might prove fatal. Whether he was really as utterly fearless as he describes himself is a matter to be decided between himself and Allah; but in the meantime, it makes for one hell of a good read.
Land Without Laughter’s long-ago-and-far away quality, its nonstop marvels and perils conjured up through slightly antiquated poetic diction, is reminiscent of Tolkien. Likewise its vision of a cosmic war between good and evil – though Tolkien’s manichean “you’re either with us or against us” vision of good guys vs. orcs is far more simplistic than Kamal’s sardonic recognition that as the evil of the Kali Yuga overruns the world, even the good guys aren’t all that good. The upside – from the point of view of a young Muslim Don Quixote – is that it isn’t all that hard to become one of the best among this sorry lot. The modern jihad offers plenty of opportunities for upward mobility.
Kamal’s long-term vision involved not just the liberation of Xinjiang, but of all of Muslim Asia, beginning with the huge swathes of territory dominated by the Turkic peoples. The re-establishment of a caliphate uniting these ancient lands would signify true liberation of peoples who see themselves first as members of the Muslim nation, the Ummah, and only secondly as members of lesser tribes.
Kamal’s vision of a re-united Ummah has only gained traction during recent decades. According to recent polls, two-thirds of people in the leading Muslim countries want to “unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.” And the obvious place to start is the vast Muslim heartland of Central Asia. According to Imran Hosein, the world’s most impressive Muslim commentator on current events, the renewal of Islam, and re-establishment of the Caliphate, will begin in Central Asia.
I hope that tens of thousands of young American Muslims will read Kamal’s book not only as an adventure story, but as an inspiration to join the struggle for the liberation of the Muslim nation and the restoration of the Caliphate…and do so intelligently, with eyes wide open, like Kamal did – avoiding the obscurantists, sectarians, takfiris, dupes, and false-flag-inciting infiltrators who have plagued some jihadi movements.
A review of Land Without Laughter by Ahmad Kamal