Graphic Novel ‘Habibi’ Confronts the Taboos of Middle Eastern Society

By webadmin on 08:29 am May 16, 2012
Category Archive

Thomas Andrikus

This graphic
novel is replete with references to the Qur’an, hadiths, and Rumi’s poetry that
one would be forgiven for thinking that it was penned by a Muslim.

However, “Habibi”, which is targeted
more towards a mature audience in the West, can serve as an excellent
introduction to what life of contemporary Islamic populace.

Why? For one, the messages are universal.

The story revolves on an epic love story which
follows a couple from their shared childhood of struggle together in the lower
stratum of a fictitious Middle Eastern country called Wannatolia (which I
suspect is modeled on today’s United Arab Emirates). In Wannatolia, the
citizens have mostly forgotten the true path of Islam (or any other faith, for
that matter) and submitted themselves to lecherous ways of life, filled with
greed, corruption, and deception.

However, the two protagonists of the story
always try their best to stay true to the path of Islam. Being poor, they are
neither literate, nor do they own a copy of the Qur’an. Even the people of
Wannatolia seem to have little (if not nonexistent) interest at all to their
glorious Islamic past. But Habibi and Dodola keep reminiscing on the stories of
the prophets (e.g. Adam, Abraham, Noah, inter alia) so that they could
differentiate what is right and wrong in the injustices of today’s corrupt

Perhaps to make some stories more familiar to
Western audience, the reminiscences are sometimes paralleled to Judeo-Christian
stories too, such as when there is a difference between Abraham’s intent to
sacrifice his son (was it Isaac or was it Ishmael? This book includes both).

The conclusion, which ultimately results in a
poignant ending, is granted to leave the audience deeply inspired. It leaves
non-Muslims in the post-9/11 world with a better understanding of the soul of
Islam which is steeped in tradition, compassion, and peace: A far cry from the
supposedly “violent” jihadist ideology that the Western mass media
display on a daily basis these days.

Perhaps by understanding Islam better, we Westerners
can have more better relations with the Muslim world. Because in case we don’t
realize it, we have more in common with them than we think: We strive and
struggle on the same path of suffering for the cultivation of peace too.

As an outsider to the belief himself, Craig
Thompson could not have conveyed it better: Kudos for such a magnificent work.

(Click here to view images where graphic novelist and author of ‘Habibi,’ Craig Thompson, charts its creations from first thoughts to finished pages)

Andrikus is a student in Northern Kentucky University. His blog is at