America Matters Muslim Matters American Gods
Sunrise from Lincoln Memorial with Washington Monument

By Shireen Qudosi

American Gods is a marvellous work of fiction by award-winning British novelist Neil Gaiman, recently adapted as a TV series. A masterfully woven tale merging old religions with newly imagined ones, American Gods also invokes stunning themes of immigration and discovery.

Gaimon shapes new possibilities for us, drawing a door and then guiding readers (and sometimes quite literally his characters) through it. He shows us different ways to see the everyday, to think about everyday spaces with the same awe that we have for what’s conventionally sacred:

“In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or…well, you get the idea.”

“… in the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog, and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Gaiman is right. What is special and what we’re pulled to in a moment of transcendence can be found beyond mosque doors, beyond university steps, and beyond the wilds of nature.

I found that moment of awe standing at the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” The space carries so much weight, not only because of the iconic man and his iconic words, but also because of what is behind us and what lays before us as a nation.

As you stand where MLK stood, behind you rests a giant: the Lincoln Memorial.
As you look ahead at the crowd before you there is another guardian in the distance: the Washington Monument.

They are not the sole guardians of America’s freedom and values; you standing in the middle of these memorials, and all other citizens, are the custodians of the best that America offers now and its future potential. Between these memorials is a space that stitches purpose, patriotism, and time in one exquisite stretch. Because of it, it’s a space of immense power and emotion. For this Muslim American, it’s as sacred as Mecca.