Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora: Secularism, Religion, Representations [1 ed.] 9780415659307

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Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora: Secularism, Religion, Representations [1 ed.]

Table of contents :
Notes on contributors
Introduction: contexts and texts • Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert
Part I: Surveying the field: comparative approaches
1 The making of a Muslim • Tabish Khair
2 Representations of young Muslims in contemporary British South Asian fiction • Anshuman A. Mondal
3 Before and beyond the nation: South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction • Lindsey Moore
Part II: Syncretism, Muslim cosmopolitanism, and secularism
4 Restoring the narration: South Asian Anglophone literature and Al-Andalus • Muneeza Shamsie
5 Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction: Muslim culture and minority identities in Shashi Deshpande’s Small Remedies • Caroline Herbert
6 ‘A Shrine of Words’: the politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali’s The Country Without a Post Office • Rachel Farebrother
7 Hamlet in paradise: the politics of procrastination in Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator • Peter Morey
Part III: Currents within South Asian Islam
8 Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman: Ed Husain’s The Islamist • E. Rashid
9 Enchanted realms, sceptical perspectives: Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction • Madeline Clements
10 Tahmima Anam’s The Good Muslim: Bangladeshi Islam, secularism, and the Tablighi Jamaat • Claire Chambers
Part IV: Representations, stereotypes, Islamophobia
11 Saving Pakistan from brown men: Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan’s last best hope for democracy • Cara Cilano
12 Queer South Asian Muslims: the ethnic closet and its secular limits • Shamira A. Meghani
13 After 9/11: Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows • Aroosa Kanwal

Citation preview

Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora

Literary, cinematic, and media representations of the disputed category of the ‘South Asian Muslim’ have undergone substantial change in the last few decades and particularly since the events of September 11, 2001. Here we find the first book-length critical analysis of these representations of Muslims from South Asia and its diaspora in literature, the media, culture, and cinema. Contributors contextualize these depictions against the burgeoning post-9/11 artistic interest in Islam, and also against cultural responses to earlier crises on the subcontinent, such as Partition (1947), the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and secession of Bangladesh, the 1992 Ayodhya riots, the 2002 Gujarat genocide, and the Kashmir conflict. Offering a comparative approach, the book explores connections between artists’ generic experimentalism and their interpretations of life as Muslims in South Asia and its diaspora, exploring literary and popular fiction, memoir, poetry, news media, and film. The collection highlights the diversity of representations of Muslims and the range of approaches to questions of Muslim religious and cultural identity, as well as secular discourse. Essays by leading scholars in the field highlight the significant role that literature, film, and other cultural products such as music can play in opening up space for complex reflections on Muslim identities and cultures, and how such imaginative cultural forms can enable us to rethink secularism and religion. Surveying a broad range of up-to-date writing and cultural production, this concise and pioneering critical analysis of representations of South Asian Muslims will be of interest to students and academics of a variety of subjects, including Asian Studies, Literary Studies, Media Studies, Women’s Studies, Contemporary Politics, Migration History, Film Studies, and Cultural Studies. Claire Chambers is a Lecturer in Global Literature at the University of York, UK. She researches modern literature from South Asia, the Arab world, and their diasporas. Claire is the author of British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers and the forthcoming Representations of Muslims in Britain. Caroline Herbert is a Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. Her research centres on contemporary South Asian literature and film, with a specific interest in narratives of urban modernity, secularism, and economic liberalization in India. She is editor of ‘Postcolonial Cities: South Asia’, a special issue of Moving Worlds (2013).

Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series

1 Pakistan Social and cultural transformations in a Muslim nation Mohammad A. Qadeer

8 Regionalism in South Asia Negotiating cooperation, institutional structures Kishore C. Dash

2 Labor, Democratization and Development in India and Pakistan Christopher Candland

9 Federalism, Nationalism and Development India and the Punjab economy Pritam Singh

3 China–India Relations Contemporary dynamics Amardeep Athwal 4 Madrasas in South Asia Teaching terror? Jamal Malik 5 Labor, Globalization and the State Workers, women and migrants confront neoliberalism Edited by Debdas Banerjee and Michael Goldfield

10 Human Development and Social Power Perspectives from South Asia Ananya Mukherjee Reed 11 The South Asian Diaspora Transnational networks and changing identities Edited by Rajesh Rai and Peter Reeves 12 Pakistan–Japan Relations Continuity and change in economic relations and security interests Ahmad Rashid Malik

6 Indian Literature and Popular Cinema Recasting classics Edited by Heidi R.M. Pauwels

13 Himalayan Frontiers of India Historical, geo-political and strategic perspectives K. Warikoo

7 Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh A complex web Ali Riaz

14 India’s Open-Economy Policy Globalism, rivalry, continuity Jalal Alamgir

15 The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka Terrorism, ethnicity, political economy Asoka Bandarage

23 Economic and Human Development in Contemporary India Cronyism and fragility Debdas Banerjee

16 India’s Energy Security Edited by Ligia Noronha and Anant Sudarshan

24 Culture and the Environment in the Himalaya Arjun Guneratne

17 Globalization and the Middle Classes in India The social and cultural impact of neoliberal reforms Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase and Timothy J. Scrase

25 The Rise of Ethnic Politics in Nepal Democracy in the margins Susan I. Hangen

18 Water Policy Processes in India Discourses of power and resistance Vandana Asthana 19 Minority Governments in India The puzzle of elusive majorities Csaba Nikolenyi 20 The Maoist Insurgency in Nepal Revolution in the twenty-first century Edited by Mahendra Lawoti and Anup K. Pahari 21 Global Capital and Peripheral Labour The history and political economy of plantation workers in India K. Ravi Raman 22 Maoism in India Reincarnation of ultra-left wing extremism in the twenty-first century Bidyut Chakrabarty and Rajat Kujur

26 The Multiplex in India A cultural economy of urban leisure Adrian Athique and Douglas Hill 27 Tsunami Recovery in Sri Lanka Ethnic and regional dimensions Dennis B. McGilvray and Michele R. Gamburd 28 Development, Democracy and the State Critiquing the Kerala model of development K. Ravi Raman 29 Mohajir Militancy in Pakistan Violence and transformation in the Karachi conflict Nichola Khan 30 Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia Bina D’Costa 31 The State in India after Liberalization Interdisciplinary perspectives Edited by Akhil Gupta and K. Sivaramakrishnan

32 National Identities in Pakistan The 1971 war in contemporary Pakistani fiction Cara Cilano

41 Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Escaping India Aparna Pande

33 Political Islam and Governance in Bangladesh Edited by Ali Riaz and C. Christine Fair

42 Development-induced Displacement, Rehabilitation and Resettlement in India Current issues and challenges Edited by Sakarama Somayaji and Smrithi Talwar

34 Bengali Cinema ‘An other nation’ Sharmistha Gooptu 35 NGOs in India The challenges of women’s empowerment and accountability Patrick Kilby 36 The Labour Movement in the Global South Trade unions in Sri Lanka S. Janaka Biyanwila 37 Building Bangalore Architecture and urban transformation in India’s Silicon Valley John C. Stallmeyer 38 Conflict and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka Caught in the peace trap? Edited by Jonathan Goodhand, Jonathan Spencer and Benedict Korf 39 Microcredit and Women’s Empowerment A case study of Bangladesh Amunui Faraizi, Jim McAllister and Taskinur Rahman 40 South Asia in the New World Order The role of regional cooperation Shahid Javed Burki

43 The Politics of Belonging in India Becoming Adivasi Edited by Daniel J. Rycroft and Sangeeta Dasgupta 44 Re-Orientalism and South Asian Identity Politics The oriental Other within Edited by Lisa Lau and Ana Cristina Mendes 45 Islamic Revival in Nepal Religion and a new nation Megan Adamson Sijapati 46 Education and Inequality in India A classroom view Manabi Majumdar and Jos Mooij 47 The Culturalization of Caste in India Identity and inequality in a multicultural age Balmurli Natrajan 48 Corporate Social Responsibility in India Bidyut Chakrabarty 49 Pakistan’s Stability Paradox Domestic, regional and international dimensions Edited by Ashutosh Misra and Michael E. Clarke

50 Transforming Urban Water Supplies in India The role of reform and partnerships in globalization Govind Gopakumar 51 South Asian Security Twenty-first century discourse Sagarika Dutt and Alok Bansal 52 Non-discrimination and Equality in India Contesting boundaries of social justice Vidhu Verma 53 Being Middle-class in India A way of life Henrike Donner 54 Kashmir’s Right to Secede A critical examination of contemporary theories of secession Matthew J. Webb 55 Bollywood Travels Culture, diaspora and border crossings in popular Hindi cinema Rajinder Dudrah 56 Nation, Territory, and Globalization in Pakistan Traversing the margins Chad Haines 57 The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan The Baloch, Sindhi and Mohajir ethnic movements Farhan Hanif Siddiqi 58 Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict Identities and mobilization after 1990 Edited by Mahendra Lawoti and Susan Hangen

59 Islam and Higher Education Concepts, challenges and opportunities Marodsilton Muborakshoeva 60 Religious Freedom in India Sovereignty and (anti) conversion Goldie Osuri 61 Everyday Ethnicity in Sri Lanka Up-country Tamil identity politics Daniel Bass 62 Ritual and Recovery in Post- Conflict Sri Lanka Eloquent bodies Jane Derges 63 Bollywood and Globalisation The global power of popular Hindi cinema Edited by David J. Schaefer and Kavita Karan 64 Regional Economic Integration in South Asia Trapped in conflict? Amita Batra 65 Architecture and Nationalism in Sri Lanka The trouser under the cloth Anoma Pieris 66 Civil Society and Democratization in India Institutions, ideologies and interests Sarbeswar Sahoo 67 Contemporary Pakistani Fiction in English Idea, nation, state Cara N. Cilano

68 Transitional Justice in South Asia A study of Afghanistan and Nepal Tazreena Sajjad 69 Displacement and Resettlement in India The human cost of development Hari Mohan Mathur 70 Water, Democracy and Neoliberalism in India The power to reform Vicky Walters 71 Capitalist Development in India’s Informal Economy Elisabetta Basile 72 Nation, Constitutionalism and Buddhism in Sri Lanka Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne 73 Counterinsurgency, Democracy, and the Politics of Identity in India From warfare to welfare? Mona Bhan 74 Enterprise Culture in Neoliberal India Studies in youth, class, work and media Edited by Nandini Gooptu 75 The Politics of Economic Restructuring in India Economic governance and state spatial rescaling Loraine Kennedy 76 The Other in South Asian Religion, Literature and Film Perspectives on Otherism and Otherness Edited by Diana Dimitrova

77 Being Bengali At home and in the world Edited by Mridula Nath Chakraborty 78 The Political Economy of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka Nikolaos Biziouras 79 Indian Arranged Marriages A social psychological perspective Tulika Jaiswal 80 Writing the City in British Asian Diasporas Edited by Seán McLoughlin, William Gould, Ananya Jahanara Kabir and Emma Tomalin 81 Post-9/11 Espionage Fiction in the US and Pakistan Spies and ‘terrorists’ Cara Cilano 82 Left Radicalism in India Bidyut Chakrabarty 83 “Nation-State” and Minority Rights in India Comparative perspectives on Muslim and Sikh identities Tanweer Fazal 84 Pakistan’s Nuclear Policy A minimum credible deterrence Zafar Khan 85 Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora Secularism, religion, representations Edited by Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert

Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the Diaspora Secularism, religion, representations

Edited by Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert

First published 2015 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2015 Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert The right of the editors to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Imagining Muslims in South Asia and the diaspora : secularism, religion, representations / edited by Claire Chambers, Caroline Herbert. pages cm. – (Routledge contemporary South Asia series ; 85) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. South Asian literature–20th century–History and criticism. 2. South Asian literature–21st century–History and criticism. 3. Muslims in literature. 4. Muslims–South Asia. I. Chambers, Claire, 1975– editor of compilation. II. Herbert, Caroline editor of compilation. PK5416.I43 2014 891.4–dc23 2014002912 ISBN: 978-0-415-65930-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-76438-2 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Wearset Ltd, Boldon, Tyne and Wear

Chapters 6 and 7 include quotations from The Country Without a Post Office by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 1997 by Agha Shahid Ali. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Chapter 4 includes quotations from Rooms Are Never Finished by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2002 by Agha Shahid Ali. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Chapter 4 includes quotations from Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2003 by Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

For Susan Watkins

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Acknowledgements Notes on contributors Introduction: contexts and texts

xiii xiv 1



Surveying the field: comparative approaches 1 The making of a Muslim

15 17


2 Representations of young Muslims in contemporary British South Asian fiction



3 Before and beyond the nation: South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction




Syncretism, Muslim cosmopolitanism, and secularism 4 Restoring the narration: South Asian Anglophone literature and Al-Andalus

57 59


5 Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction: Muslim culture and minority identities in Shashi Deshpande’s Small Remedies CAROLINe HeRBeRT


xii Contents 6 ‘A Shrine of Words’: the politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali’s The Country Without a Post Office



7 Hamlet in paradise: the politics of procrastination in Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator




Currents within South Asian Islam 8 Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman: Ed Husain’s The Islamist

113 115


9 Enchanted realms, sceptical perspectives: Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction



10 Tahmima Anam’s The Good Muslim: Bangladeshi Islam, secularism, and the Tablighi Jamaat




Representations, stereotypes, Islamophobia


11 Saving Pakistan from brown men: Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan’s last best hope for democracy



12 Queer South Asian Muslims: the ethnic closet and its secular limits



13 After 9/11: Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows



References Index

198 213


We are very grateful to our colleagues and former colleagues at the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University (especially Ruth Robbins, Emily Marshall, Andrew Lawson, and Sue Chaplin). Above all, Susan Watkins has been an inspiration, a wonderful comrade, and a mentor to us both, and it is to her that this book is dedicated. Claire Chambers also wishes to thank her new co-workers at the University of York for their warm welcome and research support, with special mentions to David Attwell, derek Attridge, Alice Hall, elizabeth Tyler, and Ziad elmarsafy. The collection was originally inspired by three panels on ‘Muslims of South Asia and Diaspora’, which Claire organized at the British Association of South Asian Studies (BASAS) at the University of Southampton in 2011. She therefore thanks the conference organizers, Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, Ian Talbot, and particularly Stephanie Jones. Thanks, too, to Jillian Morrison from Routledge for attending the BASAS conference and showing interest in the panels, which inspired us to cast our net more widely for topics and contributors to include in this book. Indeed, the whole team at Routledge have made bringing this book into a print a very smooth process, so alongside Jillian we would also like to thank Dorothea Schaefter and Rebecca Lawrence. Particularly warm thanks go to our outstanding copy-editor, Elizabeth Welsh, who made this book as typographically accurate as possible (any mistakes are, of course, our own). An earlier version of Chapter 1, ‘The making of a Muslim’, first appeared in Tabish Khair’s collection of essays, Muslim Modernities (Vitasta, 2010). However, this excellent essay is little known outside of India and has been substantially revised for this book. Thanks are due to Vitasta, for originally publishing the essay, and to Tabish, for reworking it to include discussion of the Arab Spring, among other topics. Integral to the book’s creation are the 11 other authors whose work is included here. We want to express our gratitude to them for their scholarship, diligence, impressive respect for deadlines, and good humour. Finally, to our families, which to paraphrase Kahlil Gibran are the bows from which our book as an intellectual arrow has been sent forth. Claire salutes Rob, Joash, and Derry and apologizes for having her mind on other things during the writing of this book (and always). Derry said recently, ‘We’re going to write a book about you, Mummy, called The Woman Who Never Listens’, so we look forward to this sequel! Caroline thanks Mike for encouraging words, intellectual conversations, and a steady supply of tea.


Claire Chambers is a Lecturer in Global Literature at the University of York, where she teaches contemporary writing in English from South Asia, the Arab world, and their diasporas. She is the author of British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Palgrave, 2011) and is currently finishing a monograph entitled Representations of Muslims in Britain. Both texts in this two-book series are published by Palgrave Macmillan and supported by funding from the British Academy and Arts and Humanities Research Council. She has also published widely in such journals as Postcolonial Text and Contemporary Women’s Writing, she is Co-editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, and she writes a regular column for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Cara Cilano’s primary teaching and research area at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, is postcolonial literature, with a special emphasis on South Asia. She is the author of National Identities in Pakistan: The 1971 War in Contemporary Pakistani Literature (Routledge, 2011) and Contemporary Pakistani Fiction in English: Idea, Nation, State (Routledge, 2013), and she is editor of From Solidarity to Schisms: 9/11 in Fiction and Film from Outside the US (Rodopi, 2009). She is also well published in such journals as ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature and The Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies. Madeline Clements has a BA in english from the University of Oxford and an MA in National and International Literatures in English from London University’s Institute of English Studies, where she studied with PakistaniBritish writer and scholar Aamer Hussein. Her AHRC-funded doctoral thesis, Orienting Muslims: Mapping Global Spheres of Affiliation and Affinity in Contemporary South Asian Fiction, was supervised by Peter Morey at the University of East London. During her PhD studies, Madeline was awarded a Residency at the National College of Arts, Lahore; her experiences there have provided directions for further research. Her articles and reviews have appeared in various publications, including Dawn, Sohbet, Wasafiri, and the TLS. Rachel Farebrother is a Lecturer in American Studies at Swansea University. Her research and teaching interests include the New Negro Renaissance,

Contributors xv postcolonial literature, and modernist magazines. Her book The Collage Aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance was published by Ashgate in 2009. Caroline Herbert is a Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures at Leeds Metropolitan University, where she teaches contemporary postcolonial literature, British Literature, and South Asian literature and film. Her current research focuses on discourses of secularism, Hindu nationalism, and globalization, particularly as they impact on city spaces. She is editor of ‘Postcolonial Cities: South Asia’, a special issue of Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings (2013), and is completing a monograph examining literary and visual representations of Bombay/Mumbai for Liverpool University Press. Her work has been published in such edited collections and journals as Textual Practice, the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, and the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Aroosa Kanwal is a Lecturer in English Literature at International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She teaches Pakistani Literature in English, literature of South Asian diaspora, literary theory, modern drama, literary criticism, and modern poetry. She received her PhD from Lancaster University, UK. Her current research interests include diasporic writings, politics of representation, and questions of migration, borders, identity, and resistance in postcolonial literatures, in particular of South Asia. Tabish Khair, novelist, poet, and critic, was born and mostly educated in the small town of Bihar, India. His latest study is The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness (Palgrave, 2009), and his new novel is titled How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position (HarperCollins and Corsair, 2013). Khair teaches at Aarhus University, Denmark. Shamira A. Meghani is currently at the University of Leeds and works with postcolonial and queer theory, writing on sexual and gender dissidence in literary and film texts. She has also taught at the University of Sussex and the Open University. Her teaching has included postcolonial histories and cultures, theories and cultures of sexuality and gender, along with English literature, particularly writing from South Asia and Africa. Her current projects focus on legal discourses in postcolonial sexual cultures, social and textual figures of deception, and cultures of digital activism. Lindsey Moore is a Lecturer in English at Lancaster University, where she teaches postcolonial and contemporary literature. She is the author of Arab, Muslim, Woman: Voice and Vision in Postcolonial Literature and Film (Routledge, 2008) and co-editor of Islamism and Cultural Expression in the Arab World (Routledge, forthcoming 2014), as well as having produced many articles and chapters on Arab, South Asian, and diaspora literature. Anshuman Mondal is a Reader in English at Brunel University and the author of Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt (Routledge, 2003), Amitav Ghosh (Manchester University Press, 2007),

xvi Contributors and Young British Muslim Voices (Greenwood, 2008), an account of his journey across the UK talking to young Muslims. He has also published on such topics as Gandhi, gender politics in Indian nationalism, modern Arabic narrative genres, and faith and secularism. His journalism, for such publications as The Guardian and Prospect, is widely known. He is currently writing a book on The Satanic Verses and its legacies: After Rushdie: Freedom of Speech and the Politics of Controversy. Peter Morey is Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies in the School of Arts and Digital Industries at the University of East London. He specializes in colonial and postcolonial literature, culture, and theory, with particular reference to South Asian writing. He is co-author of Framing Muslims: Stereotype and Representation after 9/11 (Harvard University Press, 2011); co-editor of a special issue of the journal Interventions (vol. 12, no. 2; 2010); and joint editor of a collection of essays entitled Culture, Identity and Diaspora in Muslim Writing (Routledge, 2012). His previous monographs include Fictions of India: Narrative and Power (Edinburgh University Press, 2000), Rohinton Mistry (Manchester University Press, 2004), and Alternative Indias: Writing, Nation and Communalism (Rodopi, 2006). He is currently RCUK Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellow heading the Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue project and is working on a monograph entitled Islamophobia and the Novel. E. Rashid is an independent researcher, whose interests include contemporary religion, liberalism, and British postcolonial literature. Muneeza Shamsie has served as the regional chair (Eurasia) of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2010 and 2011 and as a jury member of the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. She is the Pakistan bibliographer for The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, editor of three pioneering anthologies of Pakistani English Literature, and guest editor of The Journal of Postcolonial Writing (vol. 47, no. 2) (Pakistan issue). Her memoir essays have appeared in 50 Shades of Feminism and Moving Worlds (vol. 13, no. 2), among other publications. She is writing a critical work, Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of a Pakistani English Literature, and is Managing Editor of The Oxford Companion to the Literatures of Pakistan (forthcoming). She lives in Pakistan and contributes to the following newspapers and magazines: Dawn, Herald, and Newsline.

Introduction Contexts and texts Claire Chambers and Caroline Herbert

In May 2013, a small group of far-right English Defence League (EDL) supporters protested outside York Mosque using the name of Drummer Lee Rigby, who had recently been murdered in Woolwich by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale—themselves claiming to act in the name of Islam. Unexpectedly, the mosque members welcomed the demonstrators with tea and biscuits, provisions with quintessentially British and South Asian cultural valences, and engaged them in conversation and a game of football. The Sun described this as an ‘extraordinary truce’ (Bennett 2013: n.p.), while The Guardian called it an attempt to ‘open a dialogue’ (Czernik 2013: n.p.). This incident indicates that ‘tolerance’—a concept that is usually interpreted as a ‘host’ community allowing minorities to coexist and maintain some degree of social difference—is, in fact, a two-way process. Indeed, minorities have to demonstrate self-restraint in the face of religious prejudice and racism to a far greater extent than the supposed hosts are required to exercise tolerance. Another example of Muslim broad-mindedness came when Mo Ansar, a social and political commentator who campaigned to ban the EDL, spent 18 months with the group’s then leader Tommy Robinson for a BBC One documentary (Ansar 2013; McGlynn 2013). Soon afterwards, Ansar wrote: ‘the Islamic tradition is that you do not try to crush those who wish to oppress you, you try to educate them. You pray for them. You enlighten them’ (2013: n.p. 4). Following his encounter with Ansar, Tommy Robinson joined up with the Quilliam Foundation think tank and announced that he was leaving the EDL, though his motivations for doing so have been suggested to be part of a cynical attempt to move into the political mainstream (see, for example, Singh 2013; Ansar 2013: n.p. 16). The impromptu tea party and Mo Ansar’s tolerance of Tommy Robinson demonstrate that many Muslims, far from cultivating a ‘victim mentality’— a charge often levelled at them—in fact deploy reason, humour, and agency in combatting hatred. While these episodes demonstrated the active commitment to peaceful coexistence and intercultural tolerance of a minority Muslim community in Britain in the face of hostile rhetoric, another incident that took place during the completion of this Introduction further brought into view efforts to oppose Islamophobic violence, as Swedish women (and some men) donned hijabs and used the


C. Chambers and C. Herbert

hashtag #hijabuppropet (hijab outcry) on Twitter (N.A. 2013: n.p.). They did so to express their solidarity with an unnamed pregnant woman who had been attacked in a suburb of Stockholm, ostensibly for her ‘visibly Muslim’ headwear.1 If it is ever tempting to stereotype all European host communities as inhospitable and an undifferentiated ‘West’ as being uniformly Islamophobic, this particular story destabilizes common perceptions of the West as somehow monolithic, just as the tea party episode unsettles received ideas of a unidirectional flow of tolerance from ‘host’ to ‘guest’. Alternatives to such binary stereotyping of Muslims and the apparently secular West are conceived by the essays compiled in this volume as being found in an in-between space, incorporating not only religion’s diversity and spiritual attractions, but also the existence of syncreticism, and of the complexity and attractions of secular thought. As such, when Hamid Dabashi writes, ‘[t]he Muslim is a metaphor of menace, banality, and terror everywhere’ (2011: n.p.), we find his words useful in exploring and exploding the stereotypes that circulate about Muslims. The essays collected in this volume—which itself is the first book-length critical evaluation of representations of Muslims from South Asia and its diaspora— indicate that these stereotypes particularly cohere around three characteristics with which Islam and Muslims are often associated: violence; backwardness or irrationality; and oppressive politics around gender and sexuality. Taken together, the essays add to a sense that the reified figure and cultural category of the Muslim has increasingly been stereotyped and demonized during the last few decades. In the 1990s, Rana Kabbani controversially argued that ‘[i]f Bosnian Muslims have become the new Palestinians, all Muslims have become the new Jews of the world’ (quoted in Malik 1999: 20). Her point is, to some extent, borne out by Sander L. Gilman’s argument in Multiculturalism and the Jews that beneath a veneer of European secularism lie the centuries-old prejudices held by the Christian towards Jews and Muslims in unreconstructed or sublimated forms (2006: 1−22). Aamir Mufti has similarly suggested that the violent minoritization of Muslims in post-Partition India be read as a colonial variation of Europe’s post-Enlightenment Jewish question (2007: 1−34). As he notes, the crisis of Muslim identity ‘continues to be one of the central dramas of political and cultural life’ in the subcontinent (2007: 2), troubling universalizing formulations of Indian secular citizenship. Globally, anti-Muslim rhetoric has, of course, been exacerbated by September 11, 2001, and the ensuing ‘War on Terror’, the Madrid bombings of 2004, the July 7 bombings in London in 2005, the discovery and summary execution of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011, and the Woolwich attack in 2013. In this context, Muslims have frequently been positioned as threats to the secular, democratic nation-state. Alternatively figured as suspicious subjects with supranational loyalties, Muslims have been called upon to ‘prove’ their citizenship and commitment to the secular nation-state. In both the subcontinent and the diaspora, the South Asian Muslim is thus doubly (even triply) stigmatized by Islamophobia (see Petersen and Rutherford 1986) and xenophobia towards nations such as Pakistan as abetters of terrorism (and, in the case of women, by patriarchal discourse).

Introduction: contexts and texts 3 As co-editors, our location in relation to the topics and materials requires reflection. Islam is not bounded by ‘race’, ethnicity, or region. However, because neither one of us is South Asian nor (visibly, at least) Muslim, we escape the racist and Islamophobic abuse that is an everyday lived reality for many Islamicate subjects in the Western diaspora. We have, therefore, to be particularly mindful of the centuries of deliberate and inadvertent misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims by the West. In relation to this, we recall Edward W. Said’s Orient­ alism, in which he writes: ‘whereas it is no longer possible to write learned (or even popular) disquisitions on either “the Negro mind” or “the Jewish personality,” it is perfectly possible to engage in such research as “the Islamic mind,” or “the Arab character” ’ ([1978] 2003: 262). Such pathologizing attempts were seen recently in responses to the deposal of elected leader Mohamed Morsi, with David Brooks arguing that Egypt appears ‘to lack even the basic mental ingredients’ for democracy (2013: n.p.). Additionally, as citizens in the West, we are frequently called upon by the nation-state, as well as by politicians, cultural commentators (such as Brooks), and the popular media, to read and misread visibly Muslim citizens and cultures. Following Tariq Modood—who argues for an understanding of citizenship as ‘a work in progress and as partly constituted [. . .] by contestatory multilogues’ that refuse ‘an uncritical acceptance of an existing conception of citizenship, of “the rules of the game” ’ (2010: 161)—this collection seeks to participate in urgent critical debates about multiculturalism, secularism, and citizenship, while also examining the ways in which Muslim identities and cultures have been imagined within those debates. Therefore, the emphasis in this book, as our title Imagining Muslims suggests, is on the fluid, ever-changing movement of the imagination and on the multiple and contingent cultural subjectivities and practices signalled by the word ‘Muslim’, rather than on the futile, coercive, and damaging attempts to fix a position on ‘the Islamic mind’. The essays by Cara Cilano, Claire Chambers, and others demonstrate that some Muslims (Benazir Bhutto and Pakistanis more broadly and the Tablighi Jamaat in Bangladesh in Cilano’s and Chambers’s respective work) are being imagined in reductive ways by ‘the West’ and by some non-Muslims and non-practising Muslims in South Asia. However, the book cumulatively demonstrates that Muslims themselves are doing much inventive and politically incisive imagining. Said famously uses Karl Marx’s epigram, ‘They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented’, as a point of departure for Orientalism ([1978] 2003: x). The essays collected here show that, as well as the myriad of representations coming from the ‘outside’, South Asian Muslims have agency, as well as mere instrumentality, in their literary and popular cultural representations. This collection therefore seeks to participate and intervene in the critical debates surrounding representations of Muslims and representations by Muslims, many of which have gathered pace and urgency since 9/11 and 7/7. In Covering Islam ([1981] 1997), Said deepens his focus on perceptions of Islam and its followers in the context of the Cold War and the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis. Just as in Orientalism Said had argued that ‘the Orient is not an inert fact


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of nature. It is not merely there’ ([1978] 2003: 4), Covering Islam’s argument is that Islam is not merely there, but is freighted with fictional and ideological accretions. More recently, in Framing Muslims (2011) Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin have persuasively argued that Muslims are usually discussed as though they constitute a recognizable, monolithic community, but that popular Western post-9/11 representations are part creative writing, part dogma, and seldom solely descriptive or evaluative. As with Said’s paired volumes, Morey and Yaqin’s follow-up (co-edited with Rehana Ahmed), Culture, Diaspora and Mod­ ernity in Muslim Writing (2012), narrows the depth of field, in this case to literary representations (all bar one of the texts discussed being by authors from Muslim backgrounds). These books and others in the field examine the damaging effects of some journalists’ and writers’ misreadings of Muslims and the ballast their emphasis on issues such as veiling, fatwas, and violent jihad gives to the construction of often misleading and one-dimensional images of Muslims. In Imagining Muslims, contributors including Cara Cilano, Aroosa Kanwal, and Shamira Meghani continue this discussion of media stereotypes and consider their intersection with the politics of gender, race, and sexuality. Furthermore, we pick up the thread of critical work on ‘Muslim writing’ from Malak ([2004] 2005), Chambers (2011b), Alghamdi (2011), Nash (2012), and Ahmed, Morey, and Yaqin (2012), but weave it into analysis of writing about and by specifically South Asian Muslims. These are the imaginings of authors with detailed and nuanced understandings of Muslim identities and cultures, who in many cases seek to ‘write back’ to media distortions. The collection contextualizes these depictions against the burgeoning post-9/11 artistic interest in Islam, but also against cultural responses to earlier crises on the subcontinent, including the 1947 Partition; the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and secession of Bangladesh; the 1992 Ayodhya riots and 2002 Gujarat genocide in India; and the ongoing tensions in Kashmir. It offers a comparative, interdisciplinary approach, broadening out current interest in ‘new Pakistani literature’ and substantial ongoing attention to cultural representations of Indian Muslim identities into study of South Asian Muslims in other contexts, including Kashmir, Bangladesh, and the diaspora. Many of the essays collected here take up the frequent positioning of Muslim identities and cultures in relation to discourses of secularism, multiculturalism, and the nation-state. As Tariq Modood has suggested, Muslim identity politics are often positioned at the centre of anxieties about multiculturalism and its ‘crisis’ in Europe (2010: 164). On the Indian subcontinent, Muslim identities have similarly been made pivotal to debates about, and challenges to, statesponsored secularism. Discussions of the relationship between Muslim identities and discourses of multiculturalism and secularism have frequently been sparked by the tinderbox of literature, as demonstrated by the high-profile examples of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Sherry Jones’s The Jewel of Medina, and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. The essays in this volume suggest that less notorious fiction, poetry, theatre, and cultural representations are also crucial in both creating and countering these stereotypes. In our unstable, restlessly changing

Introduction: contexts and texts 5 post-Cold War, post-9/11, post-Arab Spring political order, cultural representations play a central role in the process of imagining the changed landscape of the twenty-first century. Such representations play a significant part in the reification of Muslim identities and cultures, but, as many of the essays collected here suggest, literature and film can also enable us to challenge and think beyond stereotyped images that circulate and dominate in the public domain. Furthermore, as Priya Kumar and many others point out, cultural representations can enable us to rethink discourses of secularism and religious coexistence, opening up possibilities that push beyond limited formulations of tolerance (2008: xv). Holding in view the importance of literary and cultural productions to the rethinking of religious stereotyping, exclusionary nationalisms, and secularism, this collection examines representations of Muslims of South Asia and the diaspora since Partition, but especially since the late 1980s, and includes discussion of film, print and online media, and literary texts. Discourses of multiculturalism and their imbrication in debates about secularism are important to our focus, and the essays are attuned to the ways in which these debates vary according to geographical and historical context. In Britain, for example, the debate is polarized between those commentators like Tariq Modood (2005) and Bhikhu Parekh ([2000] 2006), who applaud multiculturalism—whether state-sponsored or otherwise—as providing a space for people of all faiths and none, and those like Kenan Malik (2010) and David Goodhart (2013), who view it as having failed, because it apparently encourages ghettoization and tolerance of the intolerant. In India, Nehruvian and constitutional secularism—as ways of conceptualizing and legislating India’s multicultural identity—have been important in maintaining national cohesion in the aftermath of Partition, protecting minority rights and offering freedom of practice in the multi-religious polity of independent India (this is often regarded as a point of contradistinction to Pakistan) (see Srivastava 2008: 39; Needham and Sunder Rajan 2007a: 8). However, such state-sponsored secularism has been subject to increasing scrutiny and debate. While scholars such as Gyan Prakash (2007) and Gyanendra Pandey (2007) have emphasized the need to reformulate secularism and its frequent reliance on categories of ‘minority’ and ‘majority’ identity, antisecularist commentators, such as Ashis Nandy—although vehemently opposed to the communalization of Indian identity—criticize secularism as a Western import, inappropriate to the Indian context because distanced from its vernacular, and religious, cultural practices and modes of tolerance and conviviality (see Nandy 1998; 2007). There are certainly problems as well as possibilities in the different multicultural programmes, and in this new century it remains to be seen whether they, or secular-liberalism more broadly, can negotiate the needs and differences of nonmajority ethnic and religious citizens. At the same time, we are alert to potentially cynical strategic articulations of the supposed ‘failure’ of multiculturalism. For, as Paul Gilroy suggests, the ‘noisy announcement of its demise’ may also be ‘an act of wishful thinking’ on the part of those politically opposed to attempts to pluralize Britain and who seek to counter the ‘sense that multiculture


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can and should be orchestrated by government in the public interest’ (Gilroy 2004: 1). Similarly, discourses of multiculturalism and secularism have at times been appropriated to further majoritarian claims. In India, for example, secularism has been appropriated by the Hindu Right in its efforts to re-imagine the nation as a homogeneous, sacred, Hindu space. Against what it terms the ‘pseudo-secularism’ of the state and Congress—which it reads as ‘a euphemism for the policy of Muslim appeasement’ (Jana Sangh Manifesto, quoted in Corbridge and Harriss 2000: 185)—the Hindu Right cynically promotes what it calls a ‘positive secularism’ that recognizes formal equality and interprets ‘democracy’ as majority, and therefore Hindu, rule (Needham and Sunder Rajan 2007a: 16−17). As Akeel Bilgrami points out, ‘not all issues about secularism are engagements in multiculturalism’ (2007: 317). Nevertheless, this discussion of multiculturalism is a constituent part of the exploration of secularism, with both discourses concerned with the relationship between minority cultures and communities and the nation-state. In relation to a more populist wellspring of ideas about secularism, as Craig Calhoun et al. explain, in recent years and perhaps most notably since 9/11, ‘a host of political activists—some with avowedly religious agendas and others with stridently anti-religious programs—have appeared on the global scene, challenging established understandings of how the terms “secularism” and “religion” function in public life’ (2011: 3). An example of the public, and relatively high profile, debating of ‘secularism’ is demonstrated by an article in the UK’s Independent newspaper published on 1 May 2012, titled ‘No Secularism Please, We’re British’. Here, Peter Popham asserts that ‘Britain is in the thick of an acrimonious, debate about secularism and religion’, citing debates amongst well-known public figures, such as Richard Dawkins, A. C. Grayling, George Carey, Jonathan Sacks, John Gray, and politicians such as David Cameron and Baroness Warsi. As the article, alongside many others in similar media contexts, indicates, debates about ‘secularism’ are lively, high profile, and indicate a growing desire for complex understandings and explorations of these issues. As such examples from the press suggest, secularism is a term that is vital in debates about national identity and culture among both academic and more popular audiences in France, Britain, North America, and the Indian subcontinent, but which—like multiculturalism—has different meanings (and different histories) in these Euro-American and South Asian contexts. In the subcontinent, secularism was essential to the imagining of the postcolonial nations by its leaders and citizens alike. In the newly-formed Pakistan, for example, Muhammed Ali Jinnah articulated a secular vision of the nation in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947, telling his new citizens: ‘You may belong to any religion or caste or creed’. While he recognized religion would remain important as a personal matter, he envisaged a time when ‘Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims’ and all would instead be ‘citizens of the state’ (quoted in Needham and Sunder Rajan 2007a: 6). Jinnah’s vision could hardly have been further from the reality of what has

Introduction: contexts and texts 7 happened since then. Tragically, in Pakistan and to a somewhat lesser extent in Bangladesh, ‘secular’ has been transformed into almost a dirty word during the seven decades since independence. When the outspoken, secular governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated in 2011 for allegedly calling Pakistan’s corruption-ridden blasphemy legislation a ‘black law’, for instance, an anonymous Dawn journalist wrote: ‘Secularism has become a dangerous, deadly label in Pakistan’ (N.A. 2011: n.p.). While discussions about secularism in Europe and the United States have gained traction since 9/11, India has been a locus for lively debate about the crisis in Nehruvian and constitutional secularism since at least the 1980s, both in the context of the Shah Bano controversy2 and the subsequent passing of the Muslim Women’s Act, and with increased urgency in the aftermath of the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 and anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002. These debates have often pivoted on the residues of Enlightenment in the colonies and on the legacies of Partition and the creation of Pakistan for South Asian Muslim subjects (Mufti 2007; Kumar 2008; Needham and Sunder Rajan 2007b). Secularism takes on different meanings in the Indian context to the European, particularly in its manifestation as a state policy. In the West, secularism is broadly understood to indicate the separation of state and religion, with the latter figured as a private matter distinct from the national public and political spheres. Constitutional secularism in India works differently in its efforts to protect all religions and minority cultures and to enable the coexistence of different religions within a united polity. As William Gould has pointed out, there have coexisted ‘variable forms of secularism’ and a range of interpretations of the term (Gould 2004: 4−6). Broadly speaking, secularism in the Indian context does not refer to the absence of religion in the public or political spheres, but to the privileging of no one religion over another—that is, to the impartiality of the state towards, and the equal treatment of all, religions, cultures, and communities. In Nehru’s conceptualization of secularism as impartiality, the ‘state honors all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities’ and ‘does not allow itself to be attached to one faith or religion’ (Nehru, quoted in Kumar 2008: 23). With this statement in mind, Kumar explains that ‘the Indian variant of secularism has tended to proceed through practices of intervention, proximity, and/or recognition’ (2008: 25) in its efforts to protect all religions, particularly minority religious practices, and at the same time address social inequalities. The question of what constitutes ‘equal treatment’ has been a source of tension and a target particularly of the Hindu Right in their attempts both to challenge and appropriate secular discourse. The Hindu Right demands a secularism that functions through structures of formal equality that assume ‘that all those who are the same must be treated the same’; this understanding of equality works as ‘an unmodified majoritarianism’ (Cossman and Kapur 1999: 4). A secularism that works through a substantive equality, however, recognizes difference and the historical and social disadvantages that may limit certain groups’ access to equality (Cossman and Kapur 1996: 2622; see also Didur 2004: 547). Secularism in India has therefore been called upon to guarantee equal citizenship and to actively protect minority religious practices.


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Alternative—supplementary—legacies might also be identified, such as the dismantling of Empire, migration, multiculturalism, and a rise in radical Islamism, which have contributed to the relationship between secularism and religion in other contexts beyond South Asia. Since the Rushdie Affair, and accelerating since 9/11 and 7/7, urgent questions are being asked about how religious worldviews can be accommodated in supposedly secular Britain (despite the state’s intertwined relationship with the Church of England). As in Hindu nationalist discourse in India, ‘ “the Muslim” [. . .] becomes the arch outsider, the enemy of the nation’ (Kumar 2008: xiv) in much British right-wing and even liberal debate. Taking a longer view, the first encounters between Europe and the ‘Islamic world’ took place in the so-called Middle Ages, which was also the era of the Crusades and of concentrated cultural and scientific exchanges between Europeans and Arab Muslims. Later European culture was to inherit the often conflictual representations of Islam and Muslims created during this period, as Edward W. Said ([1978] 2002) has pioneeringly shown. Muneeza Shamsie’s essay in this volume examines how contemporary South Asian writers of Muslim heritage turn to the history of Andalusia to trace a suppressed narrative of a symbiotic Euro-Arab culture, in resistance to the more divisive rhetoric of the present. By offering a historical perspective on the intertwined histories of European and Muslim cultures and of ‘tolerance’ in Europe, Shamsie’s essay enhances current debate about Muslims (usually seen as postwar arrivals) and contextualizes present-day relations alongside the past. As these discussions suggest, secularist debate—in both Euro-American and South Asian contexts—is sometimes stymied by its emphasis on ‘tolerance’, a term that, as we have seen, has connotations of majority benevolence that can be summarily withdrawn. To make a broad distinction, secularism aims to keep beliefs and knowledge as discrete categories, while a prevalent ‘truism’ is that religion, particularly Islam, recognizes no such separation. Tolerance, in this light, is a limited or conditional hospitality extended to a group constructed or perceived as diverging from a majority ‘norm’. As Kumar notes, however, the uneven power dynamics and non-reciprocal nature of the politics of tolerance are ‘masked’, since the majority group assumes a universal and secular position, while the ‘minority groups are viewed as saturated by their religious and cultural practices’ (Kumar 2008: xviii; see also Prakash 2007: 187). The notion of ‘tolerance’ has, therefore, been important to critiques of secularism and its tendency to reproduce and rely upon majority-minority frameworks and essentialized identities, where ‘minority’ is frequently read as an overdetermined and distinct religious identification and, in the Indian context, as ‘Muslim’. These categories—of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’, ‘majority’ and ‘minority’—are themselves legacies of colonial systems of knowledge and power, indicating some of the problematic histories of secularism on the subcontinent and in Europe. Essays collected here, such as those by Muneeza Shamsie and Caroline Herbert, contribute to efforts to unsettle these apparently distinct identity formations by exploring the complex and intertwined histories of ‘Muslim’ and ‘nonMuslim’ cultures and communities in Europe and India and attending to the contexts within which such identities are produced and naturalized.

Introduction: contexts and texts 9 Recent engagements with secularism have pointed to the need to rethink the very structures of majority and minority upon which secularism relies and the majoritarian underpinnings of its languages of tolerance and claims to universalism. Gyan Prakash (2007), Gyanendra Pandey (2007), and Aamir Mufti (2007) have variously argued that secularism be interrogated and reformulated from the perspective of those minoritized by national cultures. Edward Said’s essay ‘Secular Criticism’ (1983) has provided a starting point for some of these discussions, as Herbert explores in her contribution to this collection. In his essay, Said describes the role of the ‘secular critic’ as one of scepticism towards the certainties of religion and nationalism as related belief systems (1983: 15−16). Said posits the experience of exile as enabling a critical consciousness that unsettles the ‘confidence, the majority sense’ that underpins nationalist claims to ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ (1983: 11). More recently, Mufti has drawn on Said’s work in order to argue for the reformulation of secularism as a strategy of opposition to majoritarian nationalism in the Indian context. Like Prakash, Pandey, Kumar, and others, Mufti is concerned that Nehruvian and constitutional secularism, in their articulations of citizenship and belonging, are themselves structured by majoritarian assumptions, where a ‘minority’ is tolerated and protected by a majority group. Understanding exile as a minority position, Mufti suggests that we radically rethink secularism from the perspective of those minoritized and marginalized in the production of national culture (Mufti 1998: 116−17; 2007: 12−14). Such proposals perhaps say too little about the potential limits and power dynamics involved in efforts to ‘inhabit’ the perspective of the minority (which itself needs to be recognized as a contingent and multifarious identity). Nevertheless, they do provide crucial starting points for decentring secular discourse and its universalist claims. A key concern of the collection, then, is to engage in what Mufti has termed ‘critical secularism’ (2007: 13). This duplex process is open not only to the oppositional possibilities and positionalities of literary criticism, but also to recognizing the multiple modes of secularism. Secularism is, as Anuradha Dingwaney Needham and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan point out, ‘a more comprehensive and diffuse package of ideas, ideals, politics, and strategies than its representation solely as religion’s other would lead us to expect’ (2007a: 3). Thus, as Calhoun et al. suggest: Secularism should be seen as a presence. It is something, and it is therefore in need of elaboration and understanding. Whether it is seen as an ideology, a worldview, a stance toward religion, a constitutional framework, or simply an aspect of some other project—of science or a particular philosophical system—secularism is, rather than merely the absence of religion, something we need to think through. (2011: 5 [emphasis in original]) Our concern is not to treat secularism as a singular or fixed discourse itself, nor to dismiss its diversity or importance. Rather, we join critics such as Kumar,


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Mufti, and Needham and Rajan in their efforts to rethink (rather than refuse or reject) secularism. Part of this ‘thinking through’ is to make space for the consideration of non-religious forms/sources of enchantment and their representation in a range of literary and visual texts. Timothy Fitzgerald argues in Discourse of Civility and Barbarity that ‘religion’, as we understand it today, is a post-Enlightenment construct often viewed as being something that ‘others’ possess, while ‘we’ in the West apparently have secular rationality (2009: 6). Similarly, Talal Asad (2003) asserts that anthropologists need to provide ‘thick descriptions’ of secularism just as they do for religion, so as to enable an exploration of its epistemological underpinnings. This book contributes to developing such ‘thick descriptions’ by examining a diversity of representations of/by Muslims in South Asia and the diaspora across a range of texts. It seeks to break down the unequal binary stereotypes surrounding religion and secularism; to challenge the ossification of religion as a single entity; and to highlight the diversity of quotidian religious practice as a possible space of enchantment, as well as touching on its more commonly discussed potential for conflict. In the Indian subcontinent, distinctions between Sunnis and Shia, Sufis, and more orthodox Muslims are not always clear-cut, although more rigid influences and funding from Saudi Arabia and Iran are increasingly calcifying such differences. Essays by several contributors including Khair, Herbert, and Chambers demonstrate that Hindus and Muslims cohabited peacefully for centuries in India and suggest that popular religion in the subcontinent is syncretic. Even after Partition, many Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims continue to pay devotion at each other’s holy sites, and interchange between Hinduism and Islam is apparent in such movements as bhakti and Sufism. However, even though the Islam of South Asia is syncretic, it is still very much Islam, and several essays also touch on the religion’s prescribed and proscribed practices and the fact that tawhid or the oneness of God is the crucial concept for most Muslims. The edited collection explores and expands Asad’s assertion that ‘a newly emergent concept of literature [is being brought] to the aid of religious sensibilities’ (2003: 9), by considering a range of textual and visual approaches to Muslim identities. While attuned to the importance of context and location, the volume is organized thematically, rather than by region. Following Nivedita Menon (2007), we eschew the limits of national borders, instead grouping essays according to topic and approach. In a discussion of secularism and the Indian state, Menon argues for an understanding of secularism as a contingent, ongoing process, rather than a fixed and already achieved state (2007: 138)—a formulation that resonates with Modood’s conceptualization of British ‘citizenship [. . .] as conversation and renegotiation’ (2010: 161). The process of what Menon calls ‘living with secularism’ is one that acknowledges secularism’s implication within state power and authoritarian discourses, while ‘reworking it in our everyday practices’ (2007: 138−9). But it is also to develop an understanding of secularism that thinks across the boundaries of the post-Partition nation-states and unsettles the fixity of those borders, in recognition of the shared histories of communities on the subcontinent and in the diaspora (2007: 139). While the

Introduction: contexts and texts 11 Partition of the subcontinent and the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland in 1947 effected a crisis in identity for Muslims in India (see Mufti 2007: 1−34), the secession of Bangladesh in 1971 discredited the myth of Islam as a unifying principle of nation. In this context, and in view of our interest in configurations of Muslim identities in the diaspora, we suggest that national borders themselves become implicated in the construction of Muslims as ambivalent citizens on the one hand or as enemies within or beyond the nation on the other. We therefore argue that thinking across the border, and rethinking the fixity of the border, is crucial to understanding the fraught position of Muslims in South Asia and the diaspora and to questioning the naturalized assumptions of citizenship, nationhood, and belonging that underlie stereotyping of Muslim subjects. Nevertheless, alongside essays such as Lindsey Moore’s and Muneeza Shamsie’s, which present a comparative discussion of works by Muslim writers in South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, within each thematic ‘Part’, individual chapters focus on specific locations, as well as offering comparative approaches to texts produced in contexts and conditions ‘outside’ South Asia and its diaspora. While the essays frequently have an internal focus on one region, read as a collective body of work they put forward this cross-regional, cross-border perspective. Meanwhile, the striking emphasis on Kashmir that emerges throughout the collection, in the chapters by Rachel Farebrother, Peter Morey, and Madeline Clements, suggests an important turn towards non-nations or putative nations beyond borders. Contributors explore connections between artists’ generic experimentalism and their interpretations of life as Muslims in South Asia and its diaspora. Literary genres studied include fiction, short stories, memoir, poetry, and theatre, and the essays have been organized in such a way as to allow for productive thinking across borders, genres, and disciplines. As its title suggests, ‘Part I: Surveying the Field; Comparative Approaches’ collects essays that review the current state of the field. The essays examine key contexts and issues in relation to the framing and (self-)fashioning of Muslim identities and cultures in a range of locations and explore the tensions between representations in the public domain and the voices of writers and citizens of Muslim heritage. Part I situates the volume’s concern with Muslims of South Asia and the Western diaspora within a global context, including discussion of Arab Muslim writers. It opens with Tabish Khair’s powerful reflections on six incidents from his life that combine public events with personal history, in order to explore Muslim identity fashioning. Next, Anshuman A. Mondal examines representations of young Muslims in contemporary British fiction, principally those produced by writers of South Asian and Muslim heritage writing in English, but also those from other Muslim backgrounds, as well as some by nonMuslim writers. Finally, in an essay that breaks new critical ground, Lindsey Moore adumbrates the many coordinates shared by South Asian Muslim and Arab Muslim women writers. The essays in ‘Part II: Syncretism, Muslim Cosmopolitanism and Secularism’ are primarily focused on literary explorations of experiences and histories of cultural intermingling in (and between) India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the


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Western diaspora. A crucial preoccupation is the question of artistic form, and the essays reflect on the importance of literary and narrative forms—particularly poetry and the novel—to our understandings of the syncretic pasts of South Asia and the entanglement of secular and religious histories and cultural formations. E. Rashid’s piece explores the search for a literary form to articulate ‘British Islam’. Examining Ed Husain’s The Islamist (2007), Rashid argues that the Bil­ dungsroman form of the memoir reflects the project of reforming British Islamism into structures of secular-liberalism. Muneeza Shamsie observes that contemporary Anglophone writers from South Asia have been inspired by the symbiotic Euro-Arab culture of Andalusia and wonders whether this revival of interest has to do with the South Asian Muslim experience of exile/migration in the West. As Herbert notes, artists, musicians, writers, and their work have been central to Anglophone Indian authors’ efforts to excavate the subcontinent’s past in response to the crisis in secularism. Focusing on Shashi Deshpande’s novel Small Remedies, Herbert considers the relationship between music, memory, and national identity and explores what imaginative resources the interaction between music and fiction might contribute to our understandings of the minoritization of Muslim subjectivities and of the shared histories of religious cultures on the subcontinent. In her chapter, Rachel Farebrother seeks to synthesize two schools of criticism on Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry, which emphasize his use of form and his context in the troubled region of Kashmir respectively, by focusing on repeated images of thresholds (doors, windows) and sacred architecture (minarets, shrines) in his The Country Without a Post Office. The essays included in ‘Part III: Currents within South Asian Islam’ are, broadly speaking, concerned with literary engagements with the politics of extremism that exists within, and beyond, the nation-state. The essays consider how recent novels and films produced since 9/11 have examined a prevailing preoccupation in political and public discourse with ‘Islamist terror’ and the ‘Islamist terrorist’. They explore how literature provides complex accounts of what Madeline Clements describes as configurations of Muslim affiliation and affinity, while also exploring the intra-Islamic debates that are staged within these texts, in relation to the different positions occupied by Muslim subjects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir. Peter Morey argues that Mirza Waheed’s 2011 novel, The Collaborator, is characterized by a politics of indecision or procrastination, akin to that of the protagonist of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which rejects both Indian and Pakistani arguments in the conflict over possession of Kashmir. Clements examines the implications of Rushdie’s maintenance of an irreverent and perhaps therefore necessarily secular stance for a post-9/11 fiction that attempts to map for a world market the subtleties and complexities of a range of national and international spaces of what she terms Muslim affiliation and affinity. Claire Chambers explores Tahmima Anam’s responses in The Good Muslim to the young Bangladeshi state’s gravitation towards the Islamic Right since the 1980s. This essay focuses in particular on Anam’s representations of the Tablighi Jamaat, or Society for the Propagation of Religion, a non-violent, apparently non-political, proselytizing Deobandi sect based on six foundational Islamic principles.

Introduction: contexts and texts 13 Finally, ‘Part IV: Representations, Stereotypes, Islamophobia’ centres upon the critique of the circulation of distorted images of ‘Muslim’ subjects in the public domain in the West, particularly in the UK and the US. Essays by Cara Cilano and Shamira Meghani examine the (often strategic) production of essentializing Muslim identities in the mainstream media, with particular attention to questions of gender and sexuality. Cilano examines ‘saviour’ and ‘victim’s’ discourse surrounding Pakistani women in relatively highbrow and liberal sections of the US media since 9/11. Through analysis of Benazir Bhutto’s writing and texts published in such media as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Asian Affairs, and the UN’s report on Bhutto’s assassination, she explores the Western construction of Pakistan’s unsave-ability to argue that US media sources have consistently deployed such discourses about Pakistan pre- and post-9/11, a line of discursive continuity that parallels the colonial desire to ‘save brown women from brown men’ (Spivak 1994: 92). Meghani contends that since the Rushdie Affair, South Asian Muslims in Britain have been represented in public discourse as anti-secular and thus non-assimilable into British culture. However, this notional anti-secularism is increasingly being negotiated around the idea of a Muslim antagonism towards what are nebulously held as ‘core Western values’ through a dialectical opposition between Muslims and the rights of homosexuals. Through readings of three post-9/11 texts, Meghani demonstrates that Muslim diasporic subjects are increasingly being identified as a threat to ‘indigenous’ gay and lesbian people, despite them making up a very small minority— and, statistically, a powerless one—in Britain and North America. In the collection’s last essay, Aroosa Kanwal explores representations of Islamophobia in Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie’s fiction. She argues that Shamsie’s more recent novels, Broken Verses (2005b) and Burnt Shadows (2009a), highlight widespread misrepresentation of Islam and South Asians. However, in these texts Shamsie suggests that General Zia-ul-Haq’s ruthless Islamization of Pakistan decades earlier also contributed to radicalized perceptions of South Asian Muslims across the globe. Kanwal argues that by linking local, regional, and global conflicts, as well as tying the past to the present, Shamsie connects political tensions in Pakistan and the subcontinent with an increased Islamophobia in the West. The collection as whole makes clear that literary, cinematic, and media representations of the disputed category of the ‘South Asian Muslim’ have undergone substantial change since the publication of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988 and the events of September 11, 2001. The collection’s trajectory highlights the diversity of representations of Muslims and the range of approaches to questions of Muslim religious and cultural identity, as well as secular discourse. The chapters unpick the oppositional binary within which religion and secularism are so often placed, and collectively they work to open up a space for more complex understandings of the relationship between the religious and the secular in the everyday. In the last decade, in Britain at least, a bifurcation has developed between a group of largely non-Muslim writers sensationalizing and reifying a monolithic image of South Asian Islam and more nuanced and sensitive accounts


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of the plurality of Islamic cultures and subjectivities. As the collection demonstrates, many Muslim—and non-Muslim—writers and artists, in South Asia and the diaspora, do explore the religious community with its share of problems, but with a gradated sense of a religious community’s multifaceted nature. The collected essays foreground the significant role that literature, film, and other cultural products such as music can play in opening up space for complex reflections on Muslim identities and cultures and how such imaginative cultural forms can enable us to rethink secularism and religion.

Notes 1 For discussion of this term ‘visibly Muslim’, see Tarlo (2010: 9−12). 2 The Shah Bano case of 1985 was a lawsuit centring on an ex-husband’s non-payment of alimony to a Muslim woman after their divorce. The controversy pivoted on the relationship between Muslim women’s rights, the secular nation-state, and religious personal law.

Part I

Surveying the field; comparative approaches

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The making of a Muslim Tabish Khair

Ziauddin Sardar (writing with Merryl Wyn Davies) notes in the introduction to The No-Nonsense Guide to Islam that [a]s Muslim writers, we constantly find ourselves caught in a pincer movement. Our Western friends associate Islam largely with violence and bigotry, despotism and suppression, obstinacy and chaos. Our Muslim friends, on the other hand, emphasize that the very term Islam means peace; they conceive of Islam as a religion that by its very essence is about peace and justice. (Sardar and Davies 2004: 8) This is not an uncommon experience among Muslim writers, as is also evident in the interviews in Claire Chambers’s British Muslim Fictions (2011b). In this essay, I will attempt to examine this, not by evaluating the evidence on both sides, but by looking at the avenues by which I—a boy aspiring to become, and then becoming, a writer—came to feel and be constituted as a ‘Muslim writer’. I will examine not just the salient elements of this perception on both (or many) sides, but also the ways in which I have encountered, unwittingly absorbed, and finally resisted those constitutive elements. Islam came to me in two ways. The first one was the Islam I was born into. It fell on my shoulders as lightly as a silken shawl embroidered by hand. I was hardly conscious of it, though the month of Ramadan was special, even when I did not keep a fast (which was often, though my parents fasted regularly),1 and there were festivals to look forward to. This Islam was filled with the smoke of incense sticks during Shab-é-Baraat; it wore white churidaar kurta—the sleeves carefully crinkled with the help of a special kind of stone—for both Hindu and Muslim festivals. There was no purdah in this Islam; my mother and my father’s sisters were mostly university graduates and one of them had an academic career. Both my grandmothers (who had no Western education)—even my mother’s mother, who spent her days praying and reading the Qur’an—had never worn purdah. This Islam did contain relatives who wore purdah—but once they took it off indoors, they spoke and thought like everyone else in the family. Moreover, many of these purdah-wearing distant relatives were working


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women—more so than some of my aunts, who were relatively affluent and chose not to work. I was hardly conscious of all this being Islam (or, for that matter, ‘not-Islam’). It was simply the way we lived. But it is the other kind of Islam that concerns me here, for this is the Islam of which I was made conscious by others. When did this Islam penetrate into my consciousness? My parents and my aunts narrate a story about a time when I was four or five years old. They had caught me arguing with an older boy, the son of one of the maidservants. According to them, I had been asking him in Urdu: ‘Don’t Hindus have one nose and two eyes like you and me? How can you say that they are different?’ This is Episode 1 in my story of the Islam that the world made me conscious of. We will return to it later. Let me put on record the other episodes first. Episode 2: I am older, probably 11 or 12. I am in the playground of our Roman Catholic missionary school in Gaya, sitting on the railings of the slide. I am too old to use the slide, but evidently not old enough to dissociate myself from it. Two of my class friends, boys who have studied with me for at least six years, come to me. They are arguing. One of them says, ‘Ask him, ask Tabish yourself ’. The other turns to me and puts the matter to test. He asks, ‘You are not Muslim, are you?’ Episode 3: I am in my late teens and travelling alone by train for some reason or other. A distant cousin has been requested to book a railway berth for me. When I get my ticket—or is it when I see the passenger list pasted at the station?—I realize that I have been listed as ‘T. Kher’. The cousin explains to me that it would be safer to travel under a Hindu name, as there is communal tension in many parts of north India and riots might break out between Muslims and Hindus. I remember feeling proud, ashamed, excited: proud of my ability to pass for a Hindu, ashamed of the need to do so, excited to be playing a kind of teen agent. Episode 4: I am in my twenties. I am still living in my small home town, but have started writing for the Times of India. The Delhi edition carries a long piece by me criticizing Rushdie’s lack of understanding of Muslim sentiments and beliefs, but defending his rights as an artist and a human being, a piece written without reading The Satanic Verses (a novel I could lay my hands on only much later, because of the ban imposed on its publication in India). Emboldened by the success of the piece, which provokes healthy debate in my circles, I collaborate with my best school friend, Gyanendra Nath (who was to die later in a road accident), to write a critique of the Mahabharata TV serial. This evokes more extreme reactions. A couple of our acquaintances—supporters of what was a small Hindu Rightist party in those days, the Bharata Janata Party (BJP)—get very angry with Gyanendra. To me, they only say: ‘Gyanendra is at least a Hindu; why don’t you write about your own mullah religion?’ Episode 5: I am stung by the challenge to write about my own ‘mullah religion’. I decide to take it up and write an article on Islam in India. It is published by the Times of India. The article is simple to my mind: highlighting the Islamic tradition of ijtihad, or independent reasoning, I ask why Indian

The making of a Muslim 19 Muslims—or, rather, Islamic scholars in India—do not reform aspects of religious practice in keeping with the spirit of Islam and changing times? I mention things I would like to see reformed—for example, it might be a good idea, I argue, to consider replacing the ritual sacrifice of animals during Eid with charity in the shape of cash. Nothing happens for a week. Then (I am told) the article is taken up for discussion on the radio and all hell breaks loose in my town. Only in my town though. The local mullahs start preaching against me, I get anonymous phone calls from people who threaten me with death and worse, my defence of Rushdie is suddenly recalled in the vivid colours of apostasy, a mob surrounds my father’s clinic demanding that I should be turned over to it to be ‘disciplined’. My father, a religious man and a respected doctor, does not want to call the police, because he is afraid the matter will turn into a Hindu-Muslim riot if (Hindu) policemen are involved in it. He goes out to speak to the leaders of the mob: he is alone, except for one of my uncles, the Urdu writer Kalam Haidri. The mob is on the verge of turning violent, but there is still some respect for my father. My father, a believing Muslim who knows his Qur’an and hadiths inside out and can speak the language of the crowd, argues with them for three or four hours. By the end, he has convinced them that I have not done anything ‘unIslamic’. They go away, some of them still muttering. Episode 6: I have just moved to Denmark. My first novel has been published in India. A (Danish) journalist requests to interview me. During the interview, I tell him about the mob. But I narrate the incident to highlight the local character of the threats (the result of small town conservatism and intrigues, rather than global Islamism), its transitory nature (after a few months I could enter even Muslim mohallas without feeling threatened), and, above all, the complexities brought forth by the fact of the mob’s discussion with my father. I insist on these points. Imagine my surprise when the article appears bearing the heading: ‘Indisk forfatter-talent betalte dyrt for at støtte Salman Rushdie’ (Budding Indian writer pays dearly for supporting Rushdie). Episode 7: I am in my early thirties and doing a PhD at Copenhagen University. At a highly cultured dinner, I am seated next to an erudite, refined Danish woman and an African Muslim scholar based in the UK. The wine is poured. ‘But do you drink wine?’ the woman asks the professor. When he replies in the affirmative, she bursts out: ‘You are the first normal Muslim I have met’. I look at the Muslim scholar; he looks back at me. I do not know if we should be grateful for, or resentful of, the ‘normality’ that has been bestowed on us, which, by its very definition, would be denied to my parents, who will not touch even a drop of wine. ***** What if the hands are powerless, these eyes Still see: O let the wine stand where it lies!

(Ghalib, my translation)


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Thus writes the great nineteenth-century Urdu poet and Indo-Persian writer, Asadullah Khan Ghalib. One can quote so much by and about writers, thinkers, travellers, mystics, and scholars from Muslim societies of the past (and the present) that contradict all definitions of Muslim ‘normality’, whether formulated by Islamists or non-Muslims, whether formulated in criticism or admiration. After all, the world’s most famous paean to wine, Rubaiyyat, was not only written by a Muslim, Omar Khayyam, but Khayyam was a qualified preacher and scholar of Islam. Again, ‘alcohol’ (al-kuhl) and ‘cider’ are both Arabic words (the latter of Hebrew etymology), perhaps borrowed by Europe during the early Crusades.2 And yet the definitions keep on being pushed into my flesh, pinning me to this worldview or that. It is these easy and obdurate definitions, these piercing definitions that worry me most of all. When I look back at my first episode narrated above, I am surprised by its lack of definitions. My parents were practising Muslims; they would not touch any kind of alcohol. They were also urban people, with a very middle-class, ‘Islamic’ suspicion of sages and saints, faqirs, and mysticism. So their openness to Hindus was not a direct gift of Sufism; unlike the Sufism-vogue in some circles today, my family was not into visiting Sufi shrines and so on.3 Their Islam was centred on the Qur’an, the ahadith, and family traditions. They were, moreover, not the kind of people who would think or talk too much of secularism or other such abstract ideas. And yet not only did I say what I said to the older boy, but all the elders around me heartily appreciated a child’s refusal to allow abstract definitions to divide living bodies. Having one nose and two ears was what counted. When I look back on that first memory and through the following years, what I sense most of all is a stiffening of definitions, the concrete enactment of abstract boundaries. It changed so soon to a choice being forced on me in a playground: are you Hindu or Muslim? And that forced choice itself excluded me from a large part of my cultural heritage: write about your own ‘mullah religion’, not about Hinduism, as the two BJP supporters put it. It ended with the Muslim mob surrounding my father’s clinic and the cultured woman in Copenhagen excluding practising Muslims (like my parents) from the bounds of ‘normality’. The hardening of definitions. The constricting of the space of definitions. It reminds me of another sher (couplet) by Ghalib, a sher that would sound like blasphemy to many Islamic fundamentalists. Here it is, in a somewhat free translation: For God’s sake leave the Kaaba’s veil alone; There too may lie hidden a god of stone.

(Ghalib, my translation)

But I do not wish to lament the end of multiplicity, like the Moor in Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995). Laments and tears are what we might sometimes owe the past, but I live in the present. I have a young son and two daughters, who, I hope, will grow up into the future. I seek not lamentation but

The making of a Muslim 21 understanding. Above all, I seek understanding that avoids the old definitions— the definitions that, once adopted, pin you to the board of the same answers as always. As such, for the rest of this chapter, I will not talk of what Muslims are or are not. Neither will I quote the Qur’an to highlight the multiplicity and past/potential progressiveness of Islam. I will not dwell, for example, on the fact that the rise of Islamic fundamentalism has much to do with the systematic persecution of Marxists and communists in Muslim countries, very often with the direct support of the West. I will not highlight the links bin Laden had with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the 1980s or point out how Israel, considered a democracy in the West, remains a living illustration of the success of rampant power and authoritarianism to most Muslims. I will not focus on the contradiction that while Muslim history teems with tens of thousands of differing exegeses of the Qur’an, the leaders of Islamic ‘fundamentalism’—people who claim authority on the basis of the Holy Book—have hardly written any works of exegesis. As Abdel Salam Sidahmed and Anoushiravan Ehteshami point out in Islamic Fundamentalism (1996), apart from al-Maududi (d. 1979) and Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), there is hardly any significant work by Islamists. I will not even try to defend the ‘spirit of Islam’ against the frequent charge of misogyny by placing the relevant hadiths and Qur’anic verses in historical context, a task performed admirably by Fatima Mernissi in Woman and Islam: An Historical and Theological Enquiry (1991). Neither will I examine the ahistorical idea of a ‘clash of civilizations’ as used in the media—at best, a case of the boy who cried wolf—or examine the extent of the menace that Islam is said to pose. The latter examination has been performed with much intellectual honesty by John L. Esposito in The Islamic Threat (1992). What I am interested in is a contemporary formulation that might enable us to understand the problems—and explore the possibilities—in a broader context, a context that does not get pegged down by hegemonic definitions of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, European, Arab, civilization, culture, and so on. For the problem of stiffening definitions stems from attempts at hegemony by various elites in both the West and in Muslim countries. Again and again, this attempt forces the mask of the past on the Islam I grew up with. Islamists evoke the ‘glorious past’ and urge a return to what they think were the Islamic values of yore. Critics in the West see aspects of Muslim societies—including fundamentalism—as throwbacks to the past or, if they are kind, its remnant. An editorial in one of Denmark’s leading newspapers, the left-ofcentre Politiken, for example, urged European Muslims to eschew tendencies from the ‘Middle Ages’. After the fall of the Taliban, TV hosts and commentators celebrated the deliverance of Afghanistan from the ‘Stone Age’. Even Muslim progressives or reformers, fighting Islamic fundamentalism with their backs against the barbed wall of Western hubris, spend much of their time proving that Islam’s past was progressive and revolutionary. This constant reference to the past as the decisive element in Muslim presents serves to further ossify the terms and definitions in question, for they are mostly


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retrieved as fossils that, at best, are supposed to help us understand the almost predetermined character of contemporary Islam. No doubt, the past has a role to play, but this role is not greater in Muslim societies than in non-Muslim ones per se. When Muslim societies, in spite of their obvious variety in the past and the present, start appearing to be suffering more from the nightmare of the past, then we have cause to examine the present of these societies. And that is what I intend to do in a very limited way through my focus on capitalism for the rest of this essay. ***** The structure of power in capitalist societies is based on capital: it depends on the control of abstract capital and not directly on the control of the human body. The human body is, of course, controlled finally, for all power over human beings ultimately needs to be inscribed on the body. But this control is exercised abstractly: for example, through wages or through the concept of ‘nationality’, which enables the capitalists of rich nations to exploit the labour of poor nations, while maintaining the unequal mobility ratio between capital and labour, both nationally and internationally. The growth of capital marks a significant break with the structure and logic of power in pre-capitalist societies. As Maurice Bloch pointed out in Marxism and Anthropology (1983), one ought to resist the tendency of turning pre-capitalist societies into paradises of equality. The absence of capitalism does not mean the absence of structures of power in pre-capitalist societies. It simply means that if power cannot be exercised abstractly through capital, it has to be exercised directly on the body of the agent.4 I could illustrate this point with reference to family, religion, legislative codes, and social structures of pre-capitalist peoples, but I will refrain due to lack of space and the redundancy of such an illustration. We can see a distorted recognition of this direct enactment of power on the body of the agent in pre-capitalist societies in the way in which dominant agents in capitalist societies look at their own marginalized members—‘women’ and ‘peasants’ in Europe in the nineteenth and even the twentieth century. European women have been depicted in much nineteenth- and some twentieth-century European literature as creatures of the body: not only is their sexuality a threat, but their speech is often relegated to the level of screams and other bodily noises. It is only under capitalism that we mark a reverse movement, when some ‘cultured women’ become increasingly refined and ethereal. Peasants, too, have not only been seen as earthy, but their acts of agency have also been portrayed as involving excessive physical violence. Even though one might argue that peasants were no more prone to violent agency than other sections of European society, it is remarkable that the dominant discourse in a capitalist society tends to segregate the marginalized on the basis of their bodily characteristics and tendencies. Is this merely the fear of the social other or does it also contain a warped recognition of the fact that the structures of power under capitalism are based on replacing labour with capital, replacing the human body with abstract

The making of a Muslim 23 ‘value’? The body has to be brought under these abstract structures of power in capitalist societies; previous structures of power have to be systematically undermined and opposed. This abstract logic of power, which capitalism does not really acknowledge, makes the capitalist bourgeoisie acutely conscious of the preceding logic of power—and, with it, also of the othered body. It is in this context that we have to return to Islam today, remembering well that the capitalist mode of production is un(der)developed in most Muslim countries. These countries (with the partial exception of a country like Malaysia, which has been held up as a ‘good Muslim’ example during the current Afghanistan war) also tend to have a very small bourgeoisie: the Muslim bourgeoisie in India might well exceed that of all Arab countries combined. This lack of developed capitalist modes of production has local, national, and global reasons, of which the most important might well be the nature of capitalism itself. As Samir Amin notes in Capitalism in the Age of Globalisation, favourable conditions, like the massive accumulation of capital permitted by conquest/colonization, as well as Europe’s ability to get rid of its surplus population in a crucial period, have not been available to the rest of the world. In the present, too, as Amin notes, ‘most of [the immense amount of floating capital in the world] seeks investment by roaming from one financial metropolis to another, only rarely paying a visit to Third World financial systems’ (Amin 1997: 26).5 The Arab countries, in spite of the oil wealth that is largely controlled by a few in collaboration with multinational corporations, are particularly lacking when it comes to developing capitalist modes of production. This lack is exceeded only by parts of Africa. Even today, though there has been change in economic terms in the ‘Arab world’—partly reflected in the political changes of the Arab Spring—it remains remarkable how much of the so-called ‘development’ in rich Arab nations is just a combination of regal pomp and international pleasuring—that is, a local political elite (usually non-democratic and regal) catering to international economic elites, instead of developing a viable and selfreliant bourgeois hegemony in terms of cultural and economic production. Take, for instance, the lavish and architecturally impressive tourist resorts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But it is not my thesis in this essay that the ‘reactionary’ tendencies in many Muslim societies today are the reflection of their pre-capitalist or quasi-capitalist status. Such a thesis would return us to the past as providing a simple and direct explanation of the present, and that is something I wish to avoid. Moreover, such an explanation would also obscure the ‘globalizing’ nature of capitalism today. Capitalism touches almost everyone in the world today, though, of course, it does not touch everyone in the same way or to the same extent. What I wish to highlight is the fact that Muslim countries—along with other ‘Second World’ and ‘Third World’ countries6—have undeveloped or underdeveloped modes of capitalist production. This—combined with the lack of historically favourable conditions for the development of European-style capitalism—leaves these countries with a small and insecure bourgeoisie, which does not have the success/wealth to incorporate or force the other classes to accept its hegemony.


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In these countries, as Amin argues, the local bourgeoisie has largely failed to achieve the building of a modern, self-reliant economy. This local/national bourgeoisie lacks the courage and the wealth to really compete with the international bourgeoisie in economic terms and is thus confined to only one half of its role as a national bourgeoisie: collaboration with the international bourgeoisie. However, in keeping with the nation-state based political structure of the postwar international community and its own self-definition, this local bourgeoisie can only exist as a national bourgeoisie if the nation-state continues to exist—and to exist simultaneously with it. For that, the national bourgeoisie needs both the resources that it can obtain from the international bourgeoisie—by trading, trafficking, or begging—and, above all, it needs to keep on differentiating itself symbolically from the international bourgeoisie. This differentiation can only be made in the symbolic sphere, because its inability to compete with the international bourgeoisie deprives the national bourgeoisie of both hegemony in the nation-state and a plausible appearance of material/economic differentiation. It is here that ‘Islam’ steps into the picture in many Muslim countries.7 This, however, is not just a Muslim characteristic. Hinduism is being used in similar ways in India, a usage altered slightly by the fact that India has a relatively large bourgeoisie. The game that has been played in most Muslim countries is a twoedged one. On the one hand, sections of the national bourgeoisie and the traditional elite seek and often obtain many of the benefits of capitalism. On the other hand, the people live under conditions of un(der)developed modes of capitalism. This quasi-capitalist state of economic activity to which most of the population is confined, due to the failures of the national bourgeoisie and the structure of (global) capitalism, necessitates a corresponding ‘quasi-capitalist’ symbolic world, which is largely achieved with the help of a reductive reading of Islam. For reasons of prestige (borrowed from the ‘past’) and availability, this ‘quasicapitalist’ symbolic world has to rely heavily on certain ‘pre-capitalist’ tendencies that appear most opposed to the capitalist symbolic world. Apart from the logic of its evocation, this also enables the elite to profit from its complicity in global capitalism, while keeping the people not only alienated from the partly democratic tendencies of capitalism (fetishized into ‘the West’), but also singularly unable to comprehend the real structures of their oppression. Instead of partly competing and partly collaborating with the global capitalist (as it would have if it had been a full and vigorous national bourgeoisie), the Muslim national elite simply collaborates with the global capitalist in material terms, while appearing to provide an alternative to the people in symbolic terms. This suits the elites and bourgeoisie concerned most of the time, for the fully abstract nature of capital today makes it more sensible for the global capitalist to keep away from territorial entanglement (which also helps us understand the kind of wars being waged by the US in recent years and perhaps predict the future in Afghanistan). Islamic fundamentalist parties are a spin-off from this game—a game that (it must be stressed) suits dominant business and political interests in the West. Even when they end up challenging the legitimacy of the government of a

The making of a Muslim 25 Muslim country, fundamentalist parties do not really upset the capitalist apple cart. Reacting to the abstract structures of power under capitalism, the leaders of these fundamentalist parties try to ‘restore’ what they consider Islamic, inevitably stressing the structures of power that impact directly on the body under preor quasi-capitalist conditions. (The Taliban was but the expression of this oppositional logic taken to its limit; Saudi Arabia continues to present its institutionalized face.) The valid attempt to resist the abstract structures of power under capitalism leads to not a (revolutionary) re-evocation of the body under changed conditions, but a defensive/conservative/reactionary attempt to preserve the body under old pre-capitalism-like structures of power. From a radical perspective, the main problem with this oppositional formulation is its inability to fight the real structures of power under global capitalism. It can only indulge in pointless violence, like the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York; violence that, if anything, enables capitalist leaders to consolidate their hold on power. When the Danish cartoon controversy broke out,8 what struck me most was the way it was used to silence moderate opinions on all sides, but particularly on the Muslim side. Media reports featured Islamists in various acts of physical violence, their bodies and faces contorted with protest. On the other side ranged the proponents of ‘free speech’ and other such worthy concepts, speaking fluent words, even at the risk of evading actual facts.9 It is an impression that has remained with me and which has grown in recent years.10 Media depictions of Muslims tend to focus on their acts of physical protest, legitimate or not, while the ‘other side’ comes across as using non-physical means, whether fluent words or bad cinema. It continues to surprise me why supposedly leading Western intellectuals (let alone Muslim spokespersons) do not look into this repetitive construction of the Muslim as a problematic, violent ‘body’. In this context again, the never-ending Rushdie Affair provides a regular reiteration of this divide between a physical body of ‘trouble’ and a non-material enunciation of ‘freedom’, both of them strongly ideological constructs that make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to work towards any kind of resolution by foreclosing the vast and variously nuanced spaces of the middle, where words are uttered by, and impact on, living bodies. What of the Arab Spring, then (which nevertheless still consolidated the bodily nature of Muslim protests, though this time largely positively)? Keeping in mind what has happened, it is easy to see the Arab Spring as fuelled by a number of factors, especially: • • •

national frustrations with the status quo; demands for some kind of socio-political equity (including democracy in some circles); and the rise of a section of the bourgeoisie that is deeply aware of international factors.

Of these, however, the third point is restricted to some urban spaces and involves a minority with a distinctive understanding of the larger national factors legitimating


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the Arab Spring. In contrast to this internationalized and intellectual section of the bourgeoisie, most Arab countries contain rural populations and petit bourgeois elements with different understandings of the first two points. Moreover, the larger national bourgeoisie, to the extent that it exists, and the ruling elites, are more fully aware of the existence of this difference of understandings than the small, internationalized bourgeoisie tends to be and, hence, are likely to use versions of Islamism or at least Islam to shape the larger consequences of the Arab Spring. One can already see it happening in the places where elections have been held: Islamic parties have won a substantial majority. So, once again, one can see the old equations, but in greatly shifting forms: the final consequence of these shifting forms will depend on both the ability of the Islamists and the non-Islamists in these countries and the larger world outside them to avoid the past mistake of defining Islam and Muslims in predetermined and narrow ways, something this paper tries to highlight. Here I should spell out the hitherto implicit fact that I am not indulging in the vulgar Marxist tendency of blaming exploitation simply on the ‘exploitative nature’ of an evil elite. The ruling bourgeoisie or the elite in Muslim (and Third World) countries is forced by the very logic of global capitalism— including capitalism’s imbrication and tensions with the nation-state—to seek to establish its hegemony over the other classes by means of the only thing it can press into service: the evocation of a past that, in its pre-capitalist tendencies, might serve as an (ineffective) critique of capitalism (or, more exactly, the capitalist West). Had the Muslim or Third World bourgeoisie been successful in capitalist terms (something precluded by the very mechanism of historical capitalism), this would not have been necessary to the same extent. And had revolutionary critiques—such as radical socialism or Marxism—been allowed to flourish in these countries, there might have been other alternatives to this recourse to an Islam defined by, and ‘refined’ into, its most bodyimpacted, pre-capitalist elements. The point to note, however, is that the ‘past’ that comes into being, due to the nexus of these interests and forces, has been created very much in the present. This is underlined by the technical and vocational education of many supporters of Islamic (and Hindu) fundamentalism, the highly political character of much of Islamic (and Hindu) fundamentalism, as well as the fact that Islamists are not really interested in writing exegeses of the Qur’an and Hindu fundamentalists tend to turn the Ramayana into a pulp serial, rather than study it in Sanskrit. Islamists and their critics in the West use terms of definition that play out this contrast between capitalist and pre-capitalist structures of power, which is often translated into: • •

the resistance of the body to abstract capital, if you are anti-capitalist or anti-West; and the freedom of the body from the tyranny of society/religion, which is the dominant view in the capitalist West.

The making of a Muslim 27 Here, it must be added that the intense Muslim suspicion of the West is not just due to the lack of self-criticism in the Muslim world, as some Western commentators claim. In fact, from at least the day in 1099 when Abu Sa’ad alHarawi burst into the diwan of al-Mustazhir Billah decrying Muslim decadence and weakness in the face of the advancing crusaders, Muslim communities have indulged in as much (reactionary or revolutionary) self-criticism as any other community. The Muslim suspicion of the West is due to a garbled realization by the average Muslim of the structures of power under capitalism, structures that touch him very differently from how they touch Western commentators or an Arab sheikh or even a humble white clerk in London. The ‘Muslim failure’ is not a consequence of that suspicion; it is due to his limited ability to see through the false choice being imposed upon him: the choice that fixes him permanently wriggling to the board of someone’s idea of the past. And the failure is not just his; it is mutual. While the capitalist West and many members of the bourgeoisie elsewhere often perceive the bodily structures of power that are made to dominate ‘traditional Islam’ with great repulsion, they also fail to address their own abstract structures of power. A minor proof of the latter is the fact that the debt of the ‘peripheral economies’ grew from US$900 billion in 1982 to US$1,500 trillion in the late 1990s, of which half was expended on interest. The failure, then, has not been simply that of Muslim societies or individuals. It is a mutual failure and a deeply ideological one. Most immediately, it is not due to the so-called ‘failure of socialism’, but due to the failure of socialist parties in the West to retain or revive the internationalist character of socialism in the wake of their pacts with national capitalism. Almost everywhere the problem of the present is being resolved with recourse to the past, simply because there is no real attempt at resolving the contradictions of capitalism that lie at the heart of the problem. Almost everywhere the terms of definition are turning dead and rigid, for they are mostly fossils from the past. To address the problem, one would need to shift the terms of discussion from the symbolic realm preferred by the various elites (even when in opposition to one another, as bin Laden was to the ruling family of Saudi Arabia or the US Government) and locate these terms in the dialectical realm of the actual activities of living bodies. One would need to read the past in the present and not vice versa. In short, one would need to examine capitalism more seriously than one is allowed to today, both in the West and in Muslim countries. That lack, finally, is what I can read in the episodes that I lined up at the beginning of this essay to press my case against Islam as it has been imposed upon me by Muslims and non-Muslims. Starting with a realization of the shared body, the material basis of our existence, all of the episodes narrated lead us further and further into the symbolic: though there remains the possibility of communication, as when my father spoke to the angry mob. The boy who saw no difference between the Hindu body and the Muslim body travels through the increasingly constricting definitions of abstract naming, until finally, in Copenhagen, his ‘normality’ is hung on the symbolic hook of his personal decision to drink wine. That boy still feels many things about being Muslim in India and in


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Denmark, but if you were to ask him, then he would tell you what he feels in terms that could be shared by many from his background, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or Christian. Surely we need to create more space for that boy to speak the language that would make sense to so many like him—not only in Muslim countries, but even more so in the globally dominant West, which is just as closed ideologically. In the lack of that space, that boy—like all of us—will be faced with one danger. And here I have to narrate one more episode from the story of that boy’s growing and changing awareness of his Muslim name. It is an episode I have had to force myself to narrate; I was embarrassed by it even when it was taking place; I tried to forget it for some time, instead of facing up to its causes and roots. Chronologically, it would fall between Episodes 5 and 6. I am working as a news reporter in Delhi. I have not left for Denmark yet, though I am considering a switch to academia. The Ram Janam Bhoomi/ Ayodhya movement is simmering on. There have been Hindu-Muslim riots in Delhi. I have started resenting the coverage of the paper I am working for, because I feel that it sometimes plays into the hands of communal elements in the BJP. I particularly resent the fact that Muslim reporters are sent to cover stories of police violence against Muslims. I feel it places them under the obligation of proving their secularism—thus inducing them to be soft on the police at times—while creating the impression of objective reporting. When my chief reporter asks me to cover one such report, I refuse rather shortly. The chief reporter has never given me any ground to suspect him of any communal feeling, but suddenly I see him as a Hindu trying to exploit my Muslim name. I have become fully conscious of this Muslim name. I have started seeing invisible differences. My definitions are hardening and so are my prejudices. I am shaken by my own reaction. I spend months thinking through all my values again, examining my past in the present. I spend years studying. I return to texts that I had been made to believe were dated—not least the actual writings of Karl Marx, as against the various interpretations of his followers or debunkers. The conclusions I reach are those I have stated, to the best of my ability, in this chapter. I have put them down for the sake of that boy who saw no difference between Hindus and Muslims. I wish him other terms of definition. I wish him the space to define himself. Finally, to provide children like him the space to define themselves will determine the success or failure of larger events, such as the Arab Spring, and not just in the Arab nations.

Notes 1 I kept my last occasional fast in secondary school and hence, today, will not be considered a ‘good’ Muslim by Islamists, despite the fact that I have been accused of being ‘too Muslim’ by Europeans and Americans at times, because of my reading of certain recent political events. 2 It is undeniable that from its early years, Islam frowned upon alcoholic drinks and/or drunkenness (there is some debate about the interpretations). But the kind of ossified,

The making of a Muslim 29 3 4


6 7

8 9


extreme binarism that has been constructed between Arab Muslims and Europe in this regard was probably consolidated during the Crusades. They shared an implicit suspicion of many Sufi devotional practices as both not Islamic and not modern. It is relevant to remember that pre-capitalist societies, especially under mercantile conditions, do have structures of power that do not impact directly on the body, though these are usually very limited. Similarly, areas of capitalist society that are not directly affected by capital—such as the family—might retain elements similar to precapitalist structures of power. This is a matter that does not concern me here, but it should be put on record. I wish to qualify the above perception by Amin. The Third World, too, contains financial metropolises, such as Dubai or Mumbai. It is a feature of the changes in capitalism that are often called ‘globalization’ that ‘floating capital’ moves from one financial metropolis to another, passing through the intervening spaces (Third or First World) at best as if it was a locomotive traversing a landscape and at worst like a flock of locusts. A kind of ‘world’ literature depicts, sometimes blindly and sometimes with irony, this network of relations between financial metropolises, which cut across and leave ‘half-narrated’ vast swathes of Third or First World spaces. That this affects Third World spaces more negatively has to do with the greater number (and weight) of financial metropolises in the First World, the greater ingrained state power of First World nations, and their histories of colonization and neo-imperialism, which (sometimes via social democratic ‘welfare’ compromises) enable them to buttress and ameliorate some of the negative effects in First World nation in-between spaces. I am aware of the problems of dividing up the world, especially post-globalization, into different worlds, but prefer this terminology to an easy and far more problematic reference to East and West. Its appeal to the ‘immigrant’ population from these countries is consolidated by the fact that religious identity, unlike national identity, exceeds national borders—hence, religion becomes doubly attractive to many immigrants in the West, who are caught outside or between national borders. The controversy in 2005 was when a largely regional Danish newspaper published editorial cartoons, some of them depicting Islam’s founding prophet, Mohammed, and at least one of them associating him with Islamist terror. For instance, the claim that the Danish newspaper was reacting to the reluctance of Danish illustrators to draw portraits of Mohammed for an informative book ignored, among other things, the fact that the newspaper commissioned not illustrations, but caricatures. Similarly, the fact that Denmark, which has an official church and antiimmigrant politics, also has a completely different take on many other religious/ethnic matters was seldom fully discussed. Again, the matter of cultural capital was hardly ever addressed. At the time of revising this essay, in September 2012, many years after it was written, we have a similar enactment around the Innocence of Muslims film incident: contorted physical protests on the ‘Muslim’ side, smooth words on the ‘liberal Western’ side, with a huge gap in between (which also leaves out the vast majority of Muslims).


Representations of young Muslims in contemporary British South Asian fiction Anshuman A. Mondal

This essay is an attempt to reconcile my work as a literary critic with the work I have undertaken in recent years on young Muslims in contemporary Britain, work which resulted in my book Young British Muslim Voices (2008). In the aftermath of the bombings in London on 7 July 2005, and in the context of the ‘War on Terror’, young British Muslims have found themselves under intense media and political scrutiny. And yet, despite concern that alienated young Muslims in Britain could be targeted by terrorist groups as future recruits, these same British Muslims are rarely given the opportunity to speak on issues that matter to them and are frequently spoken for; in this sense, young British Muslims remain largely without a voice. Coming out of this context, my book sought to allow young British Muslims to be presented in relation to a range of issues, encompassing (but not limited to) current geopolitical events. The interviews and discussions collected in the book present, contextualize, and analyse young British Muslim views on identity, Muslim societies, politics, the role of Islam, and family life. The following essay offers a cross-examination of the literary fiction of recent years by setting literary representations of young Muslims in Britain against the voices that I recorded in Young British Muslim Voices. In so doing, I hope to account for the ways in which these fictional representations have either failed or succeeded in articulating the diverse voices, attitudes, ideas, and ways of being in the world that I encountered while researching the book and speaking with young Muslims in Britain. But first, two qualifications about this essay and my book: the first is that Young British Muslim Voices was not interested in the ‘radical’ or ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘Islamist’ trends within contemporary British Islam, important though it is to acknowledge their presence. My working assumption was that such voices already received enough exposure in a media culture obsessed with sensationalist portraits of Muslims as fanatics and fundamentalists, and that such an overwhelming presence in the media has obscured other, more complex, nuanced, and interesting ways of being Muslim in Britain today. My task was to let such other ways of being Muslim breathe in the pages of a book that did not seek, in advance, to impose an agenda that I, as an author and researcher, brought to them; rather, I sought to record their perception of themselves.1 The second caveat is that, until very recently, it would have not made much sense to speak

Young Muslims in British South Asian fiction 31 about young Muslims in literary fiction, just as it has only become possible in the last two decades to speak of young British Muslims as a social category that is self-consciously aware—or has become aware—of itself as such. Prior to this, as numerous commentators have pointed out, race and ethnicity were the principal social categories that defined most young (as opposed to older) Muslims in late twentieth-century Britain (see, for example, Modood 2005; Chambers 2011b: 17). As in life, so, too, in literature. Fiction published in Britain prior to the Rushdie controversy saw young Muslims appear in its pages largely as Asians, for example, or Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Arabs, and so on, but very rarely as Muslims, if at all. One thinks, for instance, of the writings of Farrukh Dhondy and David Dabydeen, of Rukhsana Ahmad and the Asian Women Writers Collective, and the stories collected in Flaming Spirit.2 One thinks, too, of the two most prominent British writers of South Asian origin of the last three decades—Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi. It is, indeed, ironic that the novel that precipitated the shift in self-identification amongst British Asian youth from an ethnic, cultural, or racial identity towards a more self-consciously religious one is itself not very heavily populated by British Muslims at all. All of the main, contemporary Muslim characters in The Satanic Verses are either subcontinental or foreign—Gibreel Farishta, Ayesha, the exiled Imam, for example—or they do not see themselves as Muslims at all. Saladin Chamcha, though Muslim by background, is an Anglophile who mimics Englishness, and although much of the satiric force of the novel is aimed at his futile and comic attempts to disavow his Indian roots in favour of becoming merely a brown Englishman (hence his name, Chamcha being a reference to the colonial toady), his eventual reconciliation with his background is not with a religious heritage, but a secular one: his Bombay past, his Indian culture. On the other hand, in the Shandaar café, an East End restaurant, we find the proprietors, Muhammad Sufyan and his wife Hind, and their daughters, Mishal and Anahita: of these, the latter are completely secularized second-generation Asians with an interest in radical anti-racist politics, but no interest in religion, and of the former, we are told that Muhammad Sufyan is a hajji who could ‘quote effortlessly from Rig-Veda as well as Quran-Sharif, from the military accounts of Julius Caesar as well as the Revelations of St John the Divine’ (Rushdie 1988: 245). His ‘pluralistic openness of mind’ is, we are explicitly told, linked to his secularism and, as the novel progresses, we notice that of the many cultural reference points to which this learned and erudite character often turns, not one of them involves even the briefest of quotations from an Islamic source—something that I would suggest is rather unusual for a hajji. As for his wife, she becomes perhaps the only properly Muslim contemporary character in the entire novel, and yet she remains almost invisible and nearly voiceless, obscured by layers of caricature, her religiosity inspired as much by her personal disappointments and conflicts with her husband as by faith or even alienation from a godless society. Even after the fatwa, Rushdie’s fiction seems consciously to avoid contemporary Muslims in the West—until the recent Shalimar the Clown ([2005]


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2006) and the memoir Joseph Anton (2012), which revisits the fatwa years. East, West (1994), the collection of short stories published in the mid-1990s whilst the author remained in hiding, does contain the story ‘The Prophet’s Hair’, which addresses the dangers of religious fanaticism, but it is set in the Indian subcontinent. The final and highly moving story ‘The Courter’, which succinctly outlines Rushdie’s appraisal of the immigrant’s dilemma concerning identity, and which deals very forcibly with racism, does not once refer to religious identity as being a possible basis for the immigrant to fashion an identity that refuses to choose between their British present and their past elsewhere. Whilst Rushdie’s own fiction only belatedly and reluctantly acknowledges the shift that was, in large part, initiated by The Satanic Verses, the work of Hanif Kureishi dramatically demonstrates it. In his first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990b), the usual preoccupations with race, ethnicity, and racism are all apparent, but his next novel, The Black Album (1995), was perhaps the first literary work to register the profound transformations in identity amongst British Asian youth that had been set in motion by the Rushdie Affair (and we must remember that, at this time, British South Asians—whether from Pakistan or Bangladesh—constituted proportionally even more of the UK’s Muslim population than they do now). Set in the summer of 1988 and extending into the early months of 1989, up to and beyond the pronouncement of the fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, and published in 1995, The Black Album dramatizes the dilemma of a young Asian student in London called Shahid (the name is significant, meaning as it does ‘martyr’) who is drawn into a group of young, radical Islamists—or fundamentalists, as they were then called—but who is also attracted to more secular pursuits: literature, drinking, drugs, the rave scene, and pop/rock music. These secular attractions are embodied in the figure of a cultural studies lecturer at his college, Deedee Osgood, with whom he begins a sexual affair, even as he becomes more and more involved with the radical Islamists. The oscillation Shahid undergoes between the libidinal energy and self-fulfilment of secularliberal individualism and the collective and communal attractions of radical Islamism for a lonely, racially excluded British Asian youth constitutes the dramatic architecture of the novel. Within this framework, the various conflicts that confront Shahid (both within himself and between the forces that push and pull him hither and thither) allow Kureishi to set up and explore what he felt to be the different arguments at stake in the Rushdie Affair. For The Black Album is, above all, a novel of ideas and although this leads to its narrativization being quite crude and tendentious at times, it does nevertheless allow the text to be seen as a kind of lightning rod, which gathered around it all the swirling energies unleashed by the Rushdie Affair and conducted it into some kind of structure. This structure is comprised of Kureishi’s characterization of the problem as a fundamental and irreconcilable opposition between two contradictory forces: secular-liberal individualism on the one hand, and radical Islamism on the other. The novel is not, however, as crude as this brief description might make it seem. Kureishi was aware that there were secular factors ‘pushing’ Asian youth

Young Muslims in British South Asian fiction 33 towards Islam, which he accepts has some radical potential for confronting and combating racism, as well as offering cultural resources for young men and women excluded from both the cultures of their parents’ homelands and the country in which they now reside. That sense of social and cultural exclusion was certainly still a motif that I registered in my interviews almost 20 years later, which suggests that, in some fundamental ways, little has changed since (see Mondal 2008: 70−82). Early on in the novel, the reader witnesses the appeal that Riaz, the leader of the Islamists, has for a racially victimized and socially vulnerable group, as they queue up outside his room in the student accommodation, because the community hall where he usually held his ‘surgeries’ had been vandalized. Later, following up one of the stories of racial victimization introduced in this episode, the Islamists go to a council flat on a run-down estate in the East End, where the Bengali tenants are the only non-white family and thus are abused daily by racists and skinheads, who throw bricks through their windows and push dog shit through the letterbox. While their more cerebral leader, Riaz, lobbies the local Labour MP to have these Bengalis moved to an estate predominantly tenanted by other Bengali families, his group stand watch and guard the family using knives and weapons borrowed from the local halal butcher—this an echo of real-life self-defence campaigns familiar to anti-racist campaigners throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Whilst Kureishi is therefore not without sympathy for, and understanding of, the political appeal of Islamism in the context of a highly racist social context, its ideological appeal is somewhat more problematic for him. At the heart of this problem lies a wariness of the ideological appeal of religion itself—not necessarily Islamism, but Islam, too. For Islam only emerges through Islamism in The Black Album—apart from one or two highly significant but very marginal moments, to which I shall return in due course. To put it another way, the image of Islam—and, more pertinently, Muslims in general—is invariably filtered through the Islamist lens. Whilst The Black Album rightly contextualizes the emergence of Islamism within the wider identity politics that we nowadays call ‘multiculturalism’, it nevertheless then decontextualizes the role of Islam within that politics of identity by setting up an irreconcilable and implacable opposition between religious and secular identities. On the one hand, religion in general, and Islam in particular, is represented as totalitarian, dogmatic and inflexible, puritanical, rule-obsessed, and irrational—in a word, tyrannical—all neatly summed up by Shahid’s sister-in-law, Zulma, ‘[t]hey’ll slaughter us soon for thinking’ (Kureishi 1995: 189), and echoed throughout the novel by an opposition between belief and thought, religion and literature, piety and imagination. In a discussion about The Satanic Verses, Shahid and Riaz argue thus: ‘A free imagination,’ Shahid said, ‘ranges over many natures. A free imagination, looking into itself, illuminates others.’ ‘We are discussing here the free and unbridled imagination of men who live apart from the people,’ Riaz said. ‘And these corrupt, disrespectful


A.A. Mondal natures, wallowing in their own juices, must be caged as if they were dangerous carnivores. Do we want more wild lions and rapists stalking our streets?’ [. . .] ‘They [writers] make us think.’ ‘What is there to think?’ ‘Sorry?’ ‘Must we prefer this indulgence to the profound and satisfying comforts of religion?’ (1995: 183−4)

One the other hand, we find in the pages of the novel an opposing position in which secular-liberal individualism is expressive, pluralistic, unlimited, curious, uncertain, subversive, and liberatory. It is represented by Shahid’s lecturer and lover, Deedee Osgood—and it is significant that she is also an educator. ‘All limitations are prisons’, reads a quote pasted to the wall in Deedee’s office (1995: 3). In Shahid’s exploration of the underground rave music scene, drugs, drink, and sex, this trajectory of the novel is consciously at odds with the numerous references in the novel to Islamic strictures concerning restraint: ‘A man is more advanced, surely, if he conquers himself, rather than submits to every desire?’ asks Chad, one of the principal Islamist characters, who, ironically, is shown to be rather less than restrained in his desire to inflict violence on anyone who does not agree with him (1995: 129). Although Shahid wavers and oscillates between these two opposing positions, such ironies undermine the Islamists and leverage the moral weight of the novel towards the secular-liberal position. In the end, the reader is not surprised that Shahid chooses Deedee over Riaz, because the narrative sympathies of the novel clearly lie with her. But within the context of such an opposition, the text makes it impossible for Shahid’s choice to be anything other than a rejection not just of Riaz and the Islamists, but also of Islam as a whole. ‘I can’t be limited when there is everything to learn and discover’, reasons Shahid (1995: 272), and a little later he asks himself: How could anyone confine themselves to one system or creed? Why should they feel they had to? There was no fixed self; surely our several selves melted and mutated daily? There had to be innumerable ways of being in the world. (1995: 274) This affirmation of a postmodern secular-liberalism unwittingly exposes a contradiction that reveals it to be as supremacist, in its own way, as the religious exclusivism it disavows. For surely one of the ‘innumerable ways of being in the world’ is precisely that way of being that does confine itself to one system or creed. Is that not an equally valid way of being in the world? If not, then clearly there are not ‘innumerable’ ways of being in the world, and the liberal position

Young Muslims in British South Asian fiction 35 is therefore shown to be exclusive rather than endlessly open-ended, as it likes to imagine. This trope is remarkably prevalent in secular-liberal arguments to this day, in which ‘diversity’ is all very well, as long as it is the kind of diversity that secular-liberals approve of. Only certain, usually privatized, and individualized forms of religious identity tend to meet with such approbation. What I am suggesting is that the architecture of The Black Album echoes the dominant media discourse, in which Islamists become representative figures of an Islam that is implacably and irreconcilably opposed to ‘Western’ secularliberal culture. It is therefore complicit in foreclosing other ways of being Muslim, especially other ways of being British Muslim, such as those recorded in Young British Muslim Voices—to which I shall turn shortly. But here, I want to note that as the first literary representation of the British Muslim social environment after the Rushdie controversy, and therefore the first to register the shift in identity amongst British Muslim youth, Kureishi established a representational paradigm that has largely defined subsequent representations of young British Muslims in contemporary British literature. Kureishi himself consolidated this image of the Islamist as representative of British Muslim youth in his short story and subsequent screenplay My Son the Fanatic (1990a), and this motif has been taken up by many novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters since. It is there, for instance, in two highly popular novels about British multicultural life that were published at the turn of the century—Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000) and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003)—just as initial New Labour enthusiasm for British cultural and religious diversity began to fade in the wake of, first, the riots in Oldham and Bradford in the early summer of 2001 and, second, after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, on September 11 of the same year. Brick Lane pitches the protagonist, Nazneen, between her secular-but-dull (and rather self-important) husband, Chanu, and the young Muslim radical, Karim. Although the details change—in Brick Lane, Chanu’s secularism is rather the opposite of Deedee’s libertarianism, and Karim is more of a morally rounded and therefore realistic figure than Riaz—and although there is much to admire about the novel’s portrait, for instance, of the ways in which Bangladeshi women in the East End negotiate the divergent forms of patriarchy that surround them or its representation of Muslims who are ‘secular’ only in the sense that they are simply not very religious, the inevitable appearance of the Muslim radical as a major trope and structural point of organization for the novel places Brick Lane within the paradigm of representation initiated by The Black Album. The same is true of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, in which the militant Islamist group KEVIN (the Keepers of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation—suitably caricatured for comic effect) is really the only significant Islamic point of reference in a novel in which more than half of the main characters are of Muslim background. More recently, Richard Bean’s England People Very Nice (2009), which played to sell-out audiences at the National Theatre, follows Kureishi’s lead in two respects. First, he presents contemporary British Muslim youth as largely


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radicalized: of the four Muslim youths in the last Act of the play, three are Islamists. Second, as with Kureishi’s My Son the Fanatic, he presents a generational difference between the quiescent attitudes of the first generation of Bangladeshi migrants and the religious and political militancy of the youth. Unlike Kureishi, however, Bean’s play does acknowledge other traditions of Islam amongst this older generation—albeit in rather muted fashion—for whereas Kureishi’s elder generation are largely secularized or simply not very religious, Bean offers as a contrast to Wahhabi radicalism—the Sufi-inspired Islam of the Sylheti migrants who are taught to ‘love fellow man’. In terms of British Muslim youth, the lone voice of one of the main character’s daughters, Anika, who says to her radicalized sisters, ‘That might be your faith, but it ain’t mine’, is drowned out by the greater space and weight afforded to her siblings. This brief moment, in which the audience glimpses another way of being Muslim, is quickly engulfed by the ‘resistance rap’ of her sisters—and Anika is never heard from again.3 It is a moment not unlike a couple of episodes in The Black Album, in which an alternative to the structural oppositions set up by the text is revealed, only to be left unexplored through a failure of imagination as much as through ignorance. The first of these moments occurs when Shahid visits a mosque: Here race and class barriers had been suspended. There were businessmen in expensive suits, others in London Underground and Post Office uniforms; bowed old men in salwar kamiz fiddled with beads. Chic lads with ponytails, working in computers, exchanged business cards with young men in suits [. . .]. The atmosphere was uncompetitive, peaceful, meditative. (Kureishi 1995: 132) Who are these people—these other Muslims of whom we receive a bare glimpse before the narrative hurries on? Clearly, they are not the angry young radicals in Riaz’s group; they are both young and old, integrated. Ordinary, you might say, with lives to lead beyond the mosque; they are here glimpsed in their heterogeneity and variety. As Muslims, are they also totalitarian, dogmatic and inflexible, puritanical, rule-obsessed, and irrational? Or not? Kureishi does not make this clear. These other ways of being Muslim, so briefly signalled here, are not given the imaginative room for development within the overarching and overdetermining structure of the novel as a whole. The alternative ways of being Muslim hinted at here are left unexplored and thus remain marginal to the text’s main preoccupations. The second moment is in the awakening of one of the Islamists, a character called Hat (short for Farhat), who finally recognizes that the Islamist message is not one he believes in: ‘ “please forgive me,” said Hat from the street [to Shahid]. “Forgive all of us, and may there be mercy!” ’ And yet, this emphasis on an Islam of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is also left unexplored—a possibility awaiting elaboration. Unfortunately, this possibility has been left largely unspoken in British literary fiction until recently. The middle ground opened up by these two minor

Young Muslims in British South Asian fiction 37 episodes is precisely that which is occupied by the young Muslims in Young British Muslim Voices; and in occupying that middle ground, they actually enable us to see that the opposition itself is a false one. One of the main arguments in my book is that the way these young Muslims speak about themselves reveals to us that secularization and Islamization are not alternatives, but in fact two sides of the same coin, two dimensions of the same phenomenon. If I may quote at length from Young British Muslim Voices: The young Muslims to whom I spoke all narrated their personal histories in ways which emphasised a desire for self-empowerment. This motif is common to those who have turned self-consciously towards Islam and those who have followed the ‘secular’ approach. [. . .] Most people interpret [. . .] rebellious behaviours in terms of the clash between secular, individualist— British?—values and Islamic values, but if we look beyond that we can see that these rebellions encompass a more fundamental desire to assert one’s authority in the face of the disempowerment they feel within the parental home. (Mondal 2008: 22 [emphasis in original]) But what exactly is disempowering young people, such as the ones I spoke to? A repeated theme throughout my interviews was the sense that the veracity of Islam was covered up by their parents’ South Asian cultural accretions. Many of them reacted to their elders’ ‘culture’ by becoming more religious, using Islam as a ‘bulwark’, or a safe mode of rebellion that stops short of complete rejection of the first generation of migrants: These young Muslims do not feel that it is Islam that has disempowered them; instead, they believe it is their parents’ ‘culture’ and the restrictions it imposes on their individual and social development [. . .]. Precisely because Islam was the ground on which the elders established their patriarchal authority, younger Muslims have sought to challenge them on this ground [. . .]. It is a way of authorising their personal life choices because it is justified through Islam and not against it. (Mondal 2008: 26−7 [emphasis in original]) Thus, whilst Kureishi and Bean are not wrong in seeing a generational conflict between British Muslim youth and their elders, representing it as an opposition between a Sufi-inspired spiritualism on the one hand and Islamist radicalism on the other overlooks that ‘middle ground’ where young British Muslims are turning to Islam as a resource to articulate their ‘Britishness’, and in so doing are beginning to redefine what Islam means to them. Islam comes to validate a sense of personal and social freedom, of individuality and choice, of pluralism and tolerance—values they have absorbed and share with the multicultural, multi-faith society that surrounds them—and in order to do this they have returned to Islamic sources, such as the Qur’an and the ahadith, with critical eyes and an


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interpretative flexibility that has begun to divest itself of the literalism of both their parents and the Islamists. Such efforts are, at last, being recognized in literary fiction. The fluidity, variety, and complexity of this ‘middle way’ of being Muslim that I have described has resulted in more complex narratives of religious identity. Nadeem Aslam’s Maps for Lost Lovers (2004), for instance, whilst being very critical of the kinds of Muslim communities that live in northern England, nevertheless draws on this trope of a distinction between religion and culture identified by the young Muslims to whom I spoke and maps this onto the generational difference between elders and their offspring in precisely the same way. The ageing mother Kaukab’s highly conservative justification of extreme patriarchal practices using the authority of Islam is precisely the kind of merging of Islam and patriarchal Pakistani culture against which such young men and women are reacting. In Maps for Lost Lovers, Kaukab’s children are secularized, and thus Aslam does also fit within the paradigm set out by Kureishi and others; in other words, although his novel explores the negotiation of conflicting trends present within British Muslim communities in a more complex and sophisticated way, he nevertheless does not move to consider ‘the other side of the coin’, as I call it—that is, how a critique of Kaukab’s merging of Islam and Pakistani patriarchy might be conducted from within Islam itself by young British Muslims asserting their own values against their elders. The novel thus lies only partially outside the framework established by Kureishi. However, some other recent novels have, indeed, explored more fully the ‘middle ground’ and tried to articulate the many ways in which young Muslims can be Muslim in contemporary Britain. Of these, Leila Aboulela’s Minaret (2005) and Robin Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus (2008) are particularly rich examples, notable for being written by, and about, Muslim communities that are not South Asian. They thereby deconstruct the common motif that positions Sufi-inspired subcontinental traditions of tolerant Islam against the more inflexible and dogmatic traditions of the Arabs and Africans (most famously in Ed Husain’s The Islamist, published in 2007). Aboulela’s novel echoes The Black Album only insofar as she, too, understands that one of the key dynamics motivating young Muslims to turn to Islam is identity: the issue of ‘belonging’. But whereas Kureishi saw the issue in terms of a trade-off between community on the one hand, and individuality on the other, Aboulela patiently and quietly shows how it is possible to attain a greater sense of individuality through community—in this case, the Muslim community that congregates at the Regent’s Park Mosque—and thus dismantles the opposition that Kureishi sets up. Her protagonist, Najwa, was the daughter of the President of Sudan’s personal aide and as such had grown up as part of a highly secularized and Westernized elite. After the president’s downfall and the execution of her father, she and her family seek asylum in London, where she eventually loses both her mother (to cancer) and the rest of the family wealth (frittered away by her twin brother, who goes ‘off the rails’ and becomes a drug addict). Having come down in the world to the point at which she has hit rock-bottom (falling is a major metaphor in the novel), the community of devout women at

Young Muslims in British South Asian fiction 39 Regent’s Park Mosque offer her a slow and unsteady path back towards recovering her self-esteem. They offer her a new place in the world, which she gladly and humbly accepts. Like Chad in The Black Album, who defines himself as Muslim because he does not belong anywhere, Najwa and the younger brother of her employer, Tamer, both define themselves as ‘Muslim’ and nothing else, simply because they do not feel like they belong to any country or culture. ‘My mother is Egyptian’, says Tamer, I’ve lived everywhere except Sudan: in Oman, Cairo, here. My education is Western and that makes me feel that I am Western. My English is stronger than my Arabic. So I guess, no, I don’t feel very Sudanese though I would like to be. I guess being a Muslim is my identity. (Aboulela 2005: 110) However, the novel here subtly rewrites the terms of belonging put forward by Kureishi: it is not the lack of identity, but an excess of identities that makes them identify with Islam; being Muslim mediates and, in a sense, transcends all the disparate selves that lie within them. Islam here is part of a pluralism of which they are aware, but which they cannot fully grasp or comprehend. Being Muslim allows them to narrativize and make coherent this dispersal of their selfhood. The young Muslims in Young British Muslim Voices also spoke of their identities in pluralistic terms. Unlike Najwa or Tamer, who are diasporic and displaced, these were British-born men and women who felt a strong affinity to Britain and British culture, but also to their local and regional identities, as well as (to a lesser extent) the culture of their ‘elders’, in addition to Islam. Being Muslim was one aspect of their plurality of selves—a slightly different kind of pluralism, but one in which a constant negotiation of identities nevertheless continually takes place. As a result, they are far more open to difference and actively celebrate the multicultural, multi-faith society that Britain has become; most of them said they would prefer living in Britain than in a country that was totally Muslim. If Aboulela’s novel rewrites the terms of belonging established by Kureishi, then Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus almost completely inverts The Black Album, to which it self-consciously alludes through the central character, Sami, who, like Shahid, is rather partial to drink and drugs and is almost totally self-interested. If Shahid is trying to find himself, however, Sami is running away from himself, unable to face the failure that his life has become. He, too, must come to terms with fundamentalism, but the fundamentalism in question here is not Islamic but secular. In the course of the novel, Sami moves from being a highly dogmatic secularist and atheist towards a ‘trembling, contingent faith’ (Yassin-Kassab 2008: 348). In other words, the trajectory of the novel does not oscillate, as in The Black Album, between opposing extremes, but converges towards a middle ground that is uncertain and fragile. Around this centre congregate a large number of ‘extremes’, all of which claim some kind of absolute truth, some certainty about how life should be


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lived—from the secular fundamentalism of Sami’s pan-Arabist father on the one hand, to the militant Islamism of his brother-in-law on the other. All of these are present in the novel and explored, but the novel rejects these extremes in favour of the middle ground, which rejects all of them and instead seeks to grasp and engage with life in all of its contradictory complexity. ‘Nothing is simple’ is the motto of the novel, a refrain that appears throughout. This could also be the motto of Sami’s wife, Muntaha, whose spiritual journey towards Islam maps out the ground for the kind of contingent, uncertain faith that Sami eventually comes to accept. She is, self-consciously, a British Muslim and the descriptions of what being Muslim means to her largely echo those offered in Young British Muslim Voices. For her, jihad is the ‘struggle against the self [. . .] Imam Ali said the strongest man is he who fights against himself ’ (2008: 47), which she points out is completely at odds with the interpretation of jihad put forward by her militant Islamist brother. She wears the hijab as an active expression of her faith, and the episode in which Sami confronts her choice to do so neatly undercuts the logic of his dogmatic secularism, which, like contemporary French republicanism, sees the hijab as a symbol of patriarchal oppression or civilizational backwardness, but never simply as an expression of an individual act of faith: ‘Sami, it’s a headscarf. It’s material to cover my hair. That’s all.’ ‘It’s not the thing itself. It’s the principle.’ ‘Exactly. All it is is principle.’ [. . .] [Sami:] ‘Women shouldn’t have their dress code dictated to them.’ [Muntaha:] ‘Well, exactly, habibi. Please listen to yourself.’ (Yassin-Kassab 2008: 99−100) For Muntaha, faith is the settling of a sense of wonder [. . .]. That’s what she returns to. The Qur’an, and prayer, and the sense that god is next to her, closer than her jugular vein. She knows her sense may be wrong, but it feels right to her [. . .]. Maybe there are Muslims who believe because they’re afraid, or because they want what they don’t have, but not her. For her, belief is only the expression of wonder. (2008: 93) This passage resonates with some of the articulations of faith in Young British Muslim Voices, particularly that of Sameena from Leicester, who said to me that faith for her opened up ‘a whole new world I hadn’t even discovered, that I hadn’t even thought about’ (Mondal 2008: 33). In other words, a sense of wonder. Similarly, Sami, following his wife’s lead, understands that faith can lead to ‘a sense of openness and space [. . .] of radical unknowing’ (YassinKassab 2008: 347), bringing to mind Shaheen, possibly the most remarkable of

Young Muslims in British South Asian fiction 41 the many remarkable voices in Young British Muslim Voices, who said to me that faith for her is about the constant grappling with doubt: ‘I don’t know [. . .] I almost can’t grasp it fully, I can’t reject it fully’ (2008: 63). And in turn, there is Muntaha, her fictional echo: ‘Muntaha experiences God’s coming and goings. Because it goes too; it isn’t always there. Inside her, hot and cold alternate like the seasons’ (Yassin-Kassab 2008: 94). For both Muntaha and Shaheen, faith is, as Kureishi puts it, ‘an adventure in knowing’ (1995: 96), but unlike Shahid, who believes he has merely to ‘follow the prescriptions’ and ‘[u]nderstanding will surely follow’ (1995: 96), they know that it is a continual effort, a struggle, a jihad—and along with success comes failure. The Road from Damascus concurs with Shahid’s conclusion that there are ‘innumerable ways of being in the world’, but, unlike the liberal supremacism secreted in Kureishi’s understanding of pluralism, the novel offers a more precise appraisal that is at once both simpler (in its lack of contradiction) and more genuinely aware of the complexity of life: ‘There were paths other than the one his father had trodden. Other, but not necessarily mistaken [. . .] Other, valid paths’ (Yassin-Kassab 2008: 10−11). In novels like Minaret and The Road from Damascus, the literary imagination begins to catch up with reality, to see ways of being Muslim that are neither caricatures of fanaticism, nor the product of secularization. Instead, these are expressions of an everyday, ordinary kind of religious faith that hovers in between the absolute categories of ideology and thought and wrestles with life as it is: incomplete, uncertain, open-ended, and full of possibilities.

Notes 1 I am aware, of course, that these voices are not present in an unmediated form—my presence as author, editor, and interlocutor is inevitably to be reckoned with. 2 The Asian Women Writers Collective was formed in 1984. Flaming Spirit: Stories from the South Asian Women Writers Collective (1994), edited by Rukhsana Ahmad and Rahila Gupta, was their second anthology. 3 For a survey of the critical reception of England People Very Nice, particularly concerns over the representation of Muslims, see Voigts-Virchow (2011: 11−21).


Before and beyond the nation South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction Lindsey Moore

This chapter lays foundations for an analysis of South Asian and Middle Eastern Muslim women’s writing, a comparative field which, to date, remains largely unmapped.1 Here I explore affinities in fiction, set against decolonizing and postcolonial backdrops, from the South Asian subcontinent and the Maghreb or ‘Arab’ west.2 I focus on ways in which women writers from these regions, divided by at least 4,000 miles, reflect a shared cultural heritage and simultaneously project post-national communities. Thinking (sometimes avant la lettre) beyond the nation imaginatively reconfigures regional and trans-regional contexts and is one feature that marks writing as feminist. One of the bridging phenomena is Islam in its cultural, social, and spiritual dimensions. I discuss indictments, in fiction by women from each region, of (ab)uses of Islam by patriarchal regimes that structure private and public domains, but this is not the only story: women’s creative work also presents Islam as source of trans-local exchange. A comprehensive comparison of women’s writing from these two regional contexts is not possible here; instead, I refer to a sample of two pairs of texts. Attia Hosain’s Sunlight on a Broken Column ([1961] 1988) and Fatima Mernissi’s The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood (1994) are set on decolonizing cusps, in India and Morocco respectively. I examine ways in which these autobiographical fictions position female protagonists against a backdrop of decolonization and explore the influences upon, and affiliations of, these characters. I then discuss post-nationalist texts that (also) challenge cultural monomyths and neo-patriarchal formations, particularly state alliances with Islamism in the latter half of the twentieth century. Here I refer to Uzma Aslam Khan’s The Geometry of God (2010) and Assia Djebar’s So Vast the Prison (originally Vaste est la prison [1995] 2001), set respectively in postcolonial Pakistan and Algeria. ***** Islam represents a complement to national identification for an enormous and diverse world population. Indeed, Muslim geographies3 map less than seamlessly on to other geographies, even in the part of the world from which Islam emerged:

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 43 as the originating site of two other world religions, the ‘Middle East’ retains significant religious minorities.4 We should thus resist equating a ‘Muslim world’ with territory, even though vast populations from Morocco to Malaysia (and beyond) identify as Muslim. The subcontinent exemplifies this point. Muslims remain a huge minority vulnerable to right-wing Hindu machinations in India, whereas Islam is sometimes figured as the ontological determinant of Pakistan, particularly in attempts to veil ethnic and linguistic diversity and despite foundational secularist principles.5 Inter-regional connections have long historical roots.6 However, the two regions—the South Asian subcontinent and the Maghreb—are linguistically, ethnically, and culturally different from each other, as well as internally diverse. Language is a variant feature salient to the present discussion. Even in the Arab world, where there is officially a shared language—the Modern Standard variant of classical Arabic (MSA)—this varies in practice and coexists with other languages.7 Moreover, different colonial modes, encompassing French settlement (of varying lengths) in the Maghreb and British mercantile capitalism in India, have impacted upon postcolonial linguistic policies and creative writing practices. In what was northern India, Persian gave way to English as power shifted from the vestiges of the Mughal Empire to British colonial rule in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Although Urdu and Hindi would emerge as the national languages of Pakistan and India respectively, many postcolonial women writers, often from class backgrounds that enable English-medium education, have elected to write in English.8 By contrast, the comparatively brief presence of the British and their shallow penetration of indigenous infrastructures in the Arab East (including Egypt) facilitated the postcolonial transition to Arabic as the civic and literary language. However, in the formerly French Maghreb, cultural assimilation (the so-called mission civilisatrice) was official, if highly uneven, policy. In the postcolonial era, many Maghrebi writers continue to publish in French, sometimes as a mode of resistance to official Arabization programmes: Djebar is a case in point. ***** Attia Hosain (1913−1998) was born in Lucknow in the Kingdom of Oudh, now part of Uttar Pradesh, into a Muslim taluqdari (feudal landholding) family descended on both sides from Arabs (Shamsie 2004: n.p.).9 She was the first woman of her class to graduate from Lucknow University. Resident in the UK from 1947, she provided a relatively early example of a South Asian woman opting for English as her literary language; she was, moreover, as a relative of Jahanara Habibullah and Muneeza and Kamila Shamsie, the first in an internationally successful female literary line. Hosain was polyglot, learning Arabic, Persian, and Urdu at home and attending an English-medium college. Although she published exclusively in English, Anita Desai suggests that her ornate style echoes Urdu and Persian aesthetics (Desai [1961] 1988: x). Sunlight on a Broken Column, her debut work of fiction, is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows a Bildungsroman trajectory.10


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Although Hosain’s parents were politically connected and she cites Sarojini Naidu (a family friend) as an influence, she has said that: ‘I did not actively enter politics as I was (and may always have been?) tied and restricted in many ways by traditional bonds of duty to the family’ (quoted in Desai [1961] 1988: viii). Sunlight on a Broken Column, set between 1937 and 1952 in the context of a dying feudalism in decolonizing India,11 also privileges the private. This may, in part, be due to a non-indigenous horizon of expectation, given that the novel originally included an extensive amount of Indian political history. When the interest value of this was queried by her first (British) publisher, Hosain extensively edited down this history, but wondered in hindsight if she had ‘sieved out what was most important’ (quoted in Shamsie 2004: n.p.). The published novel is oriented towards the partial, personal emancipation of a young female protagonist, Laila, although this has an ironic homology in independence and Partition. Fatima Mernissi (1940−) was born in Fez, Morocco, to an upper-middle class family of Arab descent, also landholders. Hers was similarly the first generation of women in her family to receive a formal education, in schools founded by the independence movement and the French Protectorate; she then went to the Sorbonne in 1957. Mernissi is predominantly known for her books on Islamic feminism12 and writes in French, English, and Arabic: she produced versions of The Harem Within: Tales of a Moroccan Girlhood in all three languages. The author only breaks the ‘autobiographical pact’ in one version of the book, warning French readers that the book is fictional, albeit constructed on the basis of childhood memories (Gauch 2007: 37).13 The Harem Within, from its first lines, draws an analogy between the construction, so potential contestation, of private (domestic) and public (political) borders. It also contextualizes colonialism (in Morocco from 1912 to 1958) within a longue durée of cultural struggle predicated on religious difference: I was born in a harem in 1940 in Fez, a ninth-century Moroccan city some five thousand kilometers west of Mecca, and one thousand kilometers south of Madrid, one of the dangerous capitals of the Christians. The problems with the Christians start, said Father, as with women, when the hudud, or sacred frontier is not respected. I was born in the midst of chaos, since neither Christians nor women accepted the frontiers. (Mernissi 1994: 1) Orienting itself towards both Mecca and Europe, this opening conflates colonial rule and fitna, which Mernissi defines as social disruption often associated with women,14 through a simple cautionary tale told by a father to his daughter named Fatima (note my point above about Mernissi’s autobiographical ruse).15 The irony is that women’s bodies bear increased symbolic weight in a colonial context: this ‘sacred frontier’ crossed by colonists demarcates cultural integrity for Moroccan men. The Mernissi harem, located at the edge of the walled town or medina, constitutes a precarious imaginary frontier between the indigenous

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 45 population and the French in their ville nouvelle. As Fatima’s father says to his wife, in response to her protests against harem living: ‘We live in difficult times, the country is occupied by foreign armies, our culture is threatened. All we have left is these traditions’ (Mernissi 1994: 82). This mirrors the nationalist dilemma in the Indian context, partly resolved through a division of labour in which male public life selectively replicated Western norms, whilst domestic space became the repository of an ideal ‘Indian’ identity: ‘[t]he “new” Indian woman, guardian of traditional values, was made responsible for keeping this sphere uncontaminated and inviolate’ (Needham 1993: 98). Fatima’s maternal grandmother, Yasmina, looks forward in vain to the banning of polygamy—one of her definitions of what a harem represents—with independence (Mernissi 1994: 34−5).16 The adult narrator, looking back, emphasizes both the way in which gender ‘norms’ become internalized and their postcolonial continuity when she reflects that ‘looking for the frontier has become my life’s occupation. Anxiety eats at me whenever I cannot situate the geometric line organizing my powerlessness’ (Mernissi 1994: 3). In Sunlight on a Broken Column, Laila, a young adult and an orphan, has also been raised by her extended family. Her aunt, Abida, is a particular influence, champion, and source of affection. When Abida insists on the presence of Laila and her cousin at a discussion about their future marriages, the patriarch dismisses ‘the workings of the mind of a scholar of Persian poetry and Arabic theology infected with modern ideas’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 20). But whilst Abida encourages Laila’s education (in several languages), the older woman’s embrace of the ‘modern’ is selective. Resisting the incipient effects of political change on the home, Abida emphasizes that Laila ‘must love [her] own language and heritage’ and ‘must never forget the traditions of [her] family no matter to what outside influences [she] may be exposed’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 139, 38). For Laila, though, the accretions of Indian Muslim culture weigh heavily: [S]ince that time five hundred years ago when the first of [our ancestors] had fought his way across the northern mountains through the Khyber Pass to the refuge of green valleys many marches south, their ghosts had stood sentries over all action, speech and thought. (Hosain [1961] 1988: 39) Differing attitudes toward the past lead to a tragic rift when Laila marries a man of her choice. At the same time, and in order to relieve the family’s declining fortunes, Abida enters an arranged and loveless second marriage. Laila’s critical perspective seems relatively well established when we encounter her at the start of Sunlight on a Broken Column. By contrast, Mernissi’s choice of a prepubescent narrator in The Harem Within allows her to emphasize the process of assimilating competing epistemologies. In Mernissi’s text, female relatives are, with the exception of Fatima’s conservative paternal grandmother, committed to the Islamic tradition of ijtihad (independent reasoning). Yasmina defends women’s right to break minor rules, unless a fatwa (decree) is produced


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specifically to prohibit them, and ventriloquizes the author’s broadly deconstructive approach: ‘ “Words are like onions [. . .] The more skins you peel off, the more meanings you encounter” ’ (Mernissi 1994: 65). A master signifier, the ‘harem’ is presented in relation to historical processes of encoding and decoding space. To the family men, it signifies status, tradition, and the protection of women, including ‘troubled’ (divorced and widowed) ones (Mernissi 1994: 17). Its meaning becomes most ambiguous on the family farm, which has no physical frontiers and is home to a diverse group of co-wives, including a relatively autonomous Berber war heroine.17 From her female relatives in the city and the countryside, who strategically deploy Islamic precepts, Fatima learns that space is regulated by invisible qawa’id (rules) that restrict female autonomy, but also that hurriya (freedom) is attainable even within constraints (Mernissi 1994: 66−8). Hosain’s novel similarly reveals ‘a keen sense of the two ruling concepts of Indian (Muslim) behaviour—izzat/honour and sharam/dishonour’—and critically extends the meaning of these terms (Desai [1961] 1988: ix−x). Whilst under familial supervision, Laila is subject to spatial codes applicable to upperclass women: the urban mansion has high garden walls, the car is curtained, and, in the family village, a servant walks ahead to announce the presence of purdah women (Hosain [1961] 1988: 98). Although Laila goes to school, the family ‘observe[s] the Quranic injunction by limiting freedom within the bounds of modesty’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 132). But Laila is only ever ‘outwardly acquiescent’ and her personal ethos is oriented towards self-determination; she debunks an assumed relation between propriety and property (Hosain [1961] 1988: 123, 152). As is the case for Fatima in The Harem Within, Laila’s independence in Sunlight on a Broken Column is hard won. Reflecting her creator’s diagnosis of restrained freedom, Laila reflects, as 1947 approaches, that: After my grandfather’s death more windows had opened, a little wider perhaps, but the world still lay outside while I created my own round myself. Now I was drawn out, made to join in, and not stand aside as a spectator. Yet the private refuge remained in readiness for withdrawal. (Hosain [1961] 1988: 173) Ironically, the ‘conflicting values’ of Laila’s changing world encourage her tendency to retreat from the world, like her aunt, rather than participate in it (Hosain [1961] 1988: 201). The crisis of Laila’s generation is schematized through the inclusion, amongst her school friends, of a Muslim revivalist, an Anglo-Indian supporter of empire, and a Marxist. The relative extent to which nationalism should draw on European models or more ‘indigenous’ (particularly Muslim) frameworks is also debated at home. Laila’s circle is divided between those who champion Indian pluralism, which for the older generation means feudal continuity, and others impressed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. There are, moreover, intimations of rising Sunni-Shia tension (Hosain [1961] 1988: 55−7). One cousin condemns the festival of Muharram, whilst another reads the Shia narrative of

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 47 Hussain’s passion to the women of the house (Hosain [1961] 1988: 67−8). Laila’s leanings are secular; she nowhere professes faith or engages in religious practice. She also refuses to commit herself to a particular political agenda. After moving from the family home to live with her Westernized uncle and his wife, she rejects ‘the hollowness of [their practice of] progress and benevolence’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 138). But she also believes that ‘ “[f]reedom does not mean a choice between rulers” ’ and comments that ‘peace was an inward personal achievement’ in the context of nationalist uprisings and ‘their putrescent culmination, the violent orgasm of hate that followed independence’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 159, 282, 283). A key influence in Laila’s development and ethical reframing of honour is the suicide of a Muslim schoolmate who elopes with a Hindu and is abandoned under pressure from his family. Laila’s insistence that the girl committed no crime is in line with her responsiveness to other claims of justice in the face of gendered subordination, such as those of her servant, Nandi, and anticipates her own breaking of social taboos in pursuing a love match. It also implicitly rejects communalism. But when Laila aligns her dead peer with non-Asian literary ‘heroines’, this reflects an imaginative re-worlding that can also be viewed as a form of quietude: ‘I lived in two worlds, and I grew to resent the “real” world’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 133−4, 128). In this, she recognizes her class privilege, reflecting that ‘we with our Bach and Beethoven, our Shakespeare and Eliot, put “people” into inverted commas’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 258). Mernissi’s women affiliate differently, citing female role models from other parts of the decolonizing Arab and wider Muslim world, the full class spectrum, and both secular and religious perspectives. Heroes include religious figures, such as Khadija and Aisha, first and last wives of the Prophet, and the first (Islamic)-century Sufi mystic Rabia al Adawiyya from Basra. Fatima’s literate cousin, Chama, favours the Egyptian feminist, nationalist, and memoirist Huda Shaarawi, whereas the other women of the house prefer figures from popular culture, notably the Lebanese singer Ashmahan and female characters from Alf Layla wa Layla (The Arabian Nights or Thousand and One Nights), such as the cross-dressing Princess Budur and Sheherazade herself, with her ability to ‘string [words] artfully together’ (Mernissi 1994: 10). Mernissi’s harem women, who retell these women’s stories and put on plays about them, exemplify ways in which ‘[p]aralyzed by the frontier, women gave birth to whole landscapes and worlds’ through creative citational practices (Mernissi 1994: 224). They also have a predilection for romance, tending to align female emancipation with heteronormative desire. Hosain’s novel replicates this: the romance with Ameer causes Laila’s irrevocable break with traditional family values and the end of the novel implies a newly romantic affiliation between Laila and her cousin, Abid, a socially committed ahimsa nationalist. This recuperates the relatively radical implications of Laila’s alternative domestic arrangements, as a widow living with her ex-servant, Nandi, and Nandi’s illegitimate daughter. In fact, due to its restricted chronotope and the fact that the narrator is a child, Mernissi’s text more insistently emphasizes indigenous female bonding practices,


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which include the preparation of traditional beauty products and the collective (re)production of stories. Additionally, participation in clandestine exorcism ceremonies, homosocial spaces in which women’s desire achieves bodily as well as spiritual release, reflects female support for unofficial forms of Islamic practice.18 At the end of Sunlight on a Broken Column, Laila returns to the shell of her family home, now housing refugees from Pakistan and surrounded by ugly modern buildings, and reflects upon ‘the slow years that had evolved a way of life, the swift short years that had ended it’ (Hosain [1961] 1988: 273). This homecoming can be seen in relation to a series of alternating centrifugal and -petal movements that Laila makes over the course of the novel. Antoinette Burton argues that Hosain does not chart a path towards modern secular citizenship (2003: 16). However, given Laila’s new departure with Abid, I rather agree with Anuradha Dingwaney Needham that the novel offers ‘a (potentially) alternative account of [the] nation in the act of making itself ’ (Needham 1993: 99). Like Fatima in The Harem Within, Laila in Sunlight on a Broken Column is positioned as ‘an onlooker who watches, listens, absorbs, and remains open to competing claims’ (Needham 1993: 102). Laila’s multiply ‘minor’ location, as an educated woman from a religious minority and a politically redundant social class, militates against a monological definition of nation (Needham 1993: 107). Mernissi’s text, with its emphasis on movement towards the gendered threshold of adolescence, is less explicitly oriented towards the national paradigm. But while Islamic and folk traditions are privileged by the women of the house, this also reflects a structural problem in processes of modern, secular nation construction: women’s access to the public sphere (including via the radio) is deliberately limited by their male counterparts, who are preoccupied with the anti-colonial struggle. Impending national independence makes Fatima’s mother’s experience especially poignant: With all the news about the Egyptian feminists marching in the streets and becoming government ministers, the Turkish women being promoted to all kinds of official positions, and our own Princess Aisha urging women, in both Arabic and French, to take up modern ways, courtyard life had become more unbearable to her than ever. Mother cried out that her life was absurd—the world was changing, the walls and gates were not going to be here much longer, and yet, she was still a prisoner. (Mernissi 1994: 210−11) Mernissi diagnoses the often superficial troping of the ‘new woman’ in nationalist rhetoric. Fatima’s mother, herself upper-middle-class, is excluded from the privileges, and the contact with ‘modern’ (perhaps uncritically Western) ideas, enjoyed by the highest echelons of Moroccan society. Tradition not only resists but is (re)created in contexts of political change and is often the representational burden of women. While Fatima’s mother is more optimistic about her

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 49 daughter’s generation, the intermittent voice of an adult narrator and the author’s wider critique of backlashes against women’s postcolonial mobility reinforce that nation-building does not automatically produce emancipated gender relations. ***** Assia Djebar (1936−) was educated first in colonial Algeria, then France, and is the first Algerian to have been elected to the Académie Française. She describes herself as ‘a woman with a French education and an Algerian or Arabo-Berber, or even Muslim sensibility’ (Djebar 1999: 26 [my translation]). Born Fatima Zohra Imalayen, she chose her nom de plume, a (misspelt) name of Allah, on publication of her first novel in 1957 (Zimra 1999: 160). After her fourth novel, there was a hiatus, which she describes as ‘a period of profound self-questioning’ and an attempt at reconnecting with her maternal roots (quoted in Hillauer 2005: 303). Djebar has subsequently produced historiographic and autobiographical metafiction, as well as films, focusing on Algerian, Arab, Amazigh (Berber), and Muslim women. She left Algeria during the civil war of the 1990s and divides her time between France and the US. In So Vast the Prison, the reader is presented with Djebar’s mother’s story for the first time.19 Bahia is a descendant of mountain Berbers: she moves from a village to the city of Cherchell as a child and ‘leav[es] the Berber language’ for an Arabic dialect inflected by a ‘Morisco’ history (Djebar 2001: 244, 231).20 Later, married to a schoolteacher and living amongst colonials, she picks up spoken French (Djebar 2001: 173, 261−2). While the author affiliates with a range of historical figures from Kahina, the Berber queen who resisted the Muslim Arab conquest of the seventh century, to Zoraidé in Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Bahia’s ‘exile’ is most closely linked to that of Tin Hanan, a fourthcentury Tuareg princess who fled the Tafilalt region (in what is now Morocco) for the Saharan desert. In 1925, her tomb was discovered in Abalessa, Algeria, with inscriptions in the ancient, indecipherable tifinagh script (Djebar 2001: 165). The narrator imagines that the text was passed by Tin Hanan to her female friends and evokes its echoes in contemporary women’s ideolects, embroidery, and music. She also recounts her mother’s transcription, in Arabic, of the noubas of ancient Andalusia,21 which French soldiers destroy as a supposed ‘message of some nationalist complicity’. And she suggests that the mystical poetry of Ibn ‘Arabi, of twelfth-century Andalusia, is ‘passed on’ by generations of Maghrebi women (Djebar 2001: 174, 175, 73). Djebar presents a palimpsestic, historically borderless Maghreb pluriel (see Khatibi 1983) partly produced by women, despite their historical marginalization by Arab and French colonizing cultures. The narrator ‘write[s] in the shadow of my mother’ to disinter an archive of traces (Djebar 2001: 177). The Geometry of God, the third novel by Pakistani novelist and journalist Uzma Aslam Khan (1969−), is more straightforwardly fictional. It nevertheless


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resonates to a surprising degree with So Vast the Prison. Each is partly set in the 1980s, a period of increased Islamization and attempted cultural homogenization in both Pakistan and Algeria. Djebar’s narrator exposes the languages of postcolonial ‘government power’: Arabic, formerly the language of resistance against the French, is linked to an official Islam that suppresses a Sufi marabout tradition and Berber culture (Djebar 2001: 41, 219). In Khan’s novel, the context is General Zia-ul-Haq’s co-optation of Islam and the US-funded, Pakistanisupported war against the Soviets in Afghanistan (1979−1989).22 Noman, one of the narrators of The Geometry of God, is compelled by his newly devout father to persecute Zahoor, a geologist, ‘lapsed’ Sufi, and grandfather of the other two narrators, Amal and Mehwish (Khan 2010: 8). The two texts deploy comparable metaphorical strategies for a revisionary, deep historiography. Whereas So Vast the Prison favours archaeological tropes, The Geometry of God privileges geological and evolutionary ones. The latter opens with Amal’s discovery of a piece of fossilized Pakicetus, a ‘transitional’ animal denoting Asia’s ancient separation from Africa.23 For Zahoor, the fossil makes a mockery of people’s claims about ‘a real Pakistan’, in which people ‘[p] ray five times a day’ and ‘[s]peak Urdu’ (Khan 2010: 5). As Amal recognizes, ‘[t]o a republic, forty [years] is infancy. And this is its horror, as it carves itself from ancient land, ancient water’ (Khan 2010: 45). The ‘bone that has become stone’ but that once belonged to a hybrid mammal, a becoming-whale, is linked with syncretic language—‘Urdu [comes] from Persian, Hindi and Arabic’—and with Zahoor’s name, which signifies becoming (Khan 2010: 3, 189, 13). This echoes Djebar’s privileging of a hybrid cultural legacy, including the traces of another language (neither French nor Algerian Arabic) that the narrator uses to ‘cross borders’ (Djebar 2001: 11, 16, Prologue to Part II). Both texts are also about ways of knowing and seeing. In The Geometry of God, Zahoor’s scientific intelligence (aql), Noman’s algebraic perspective, and Amal’s practical ability (aql amali) are contrasted with religious dogma (Khan 2010: 17, 24, 74, 4).24 The ‘Party of Creation’ posits a single, authoritative reading of the sacred texts and defines Zahoor’s work as blasphemous (Khan 2010: 8−9, 15).25 But Khan’s novel also resists secularism as a hegemonic, invisible norm. Its epigraph is from twelfth-century Andalusian polymath Ibn Rushd—‘I believe the soul is immortal but I cannot prove it’26—and its title evokes khayal, an abstract relation to God, and is echoed in ‘the geometry that binds’, an alternative family of unorthodox believers (Khan 2010: 263). Zahoor instructs Noman in the geometry of the divine, citing the architecture of the Great Mosque in Cordoba, and wonders ‘how an eye so penetrating [can] have grown so dim—all across the globe’ (Khan 2010: 269−70). Noman’s travels with his father reveal similar debates about Islam’s relation to modernity taking place across the Arab world (Khan 2010: 114−16). Zahoor’s initiation of the younger characters into an alternative way of seeing rebuts the truism that ‘[t]he young Pakistani is a cultural freak’ (Khan 2010: 83). He alerts them (and us) to a syncretic, inventive Islam, contrasted with what is portrayed as Zia’s politically advantageous Islamization that is also hypocritically worldly: concerns with

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 51 security lead to cynical arrangements with the ‘mooj’ (mujahideen) across the Afghanistan–Pakistan border. Once again, we see social, political, and religious anxieties cohere around the female body. In one narrative thread of So Vast the Prison, the narrator’s husband threatens to blind her upon discovering her (unconsummated) passion for another man (Djebar 2001: 97, 85). Even Zahoor, in The Geometry of God, has a critical blind spot: he agrees with his son-in-law that ‘because the war in Afghanistan spoiled our countryside by peppering it with bandits and guns, city women should stay home’ and stops taking Amal on his expeditions once she reaches adolescence (Khan 2010: 147). Publicly visible women are, indeed, vulnerable: Amal narrowly avoids assault as a child and Mehwish is later attacked in the school library. As an adult, Amal is constantly harassed: one of her lab colleagues quips that ‘she should know her natural place is at home’ (Khan 2010: 273). In both novels, vision, mobility, and desire are not only related to modes of gender surveillance; they are linked as ways in which female protagonists might resist. Amal enjoys a sexual awakening in her marriage, enabling her to describe zauq as a sensual way of knowing God (Khan 2010: 209).27 In another thread of So Vast the Prison that integrates Djebar’s filmic experience, the narrator mobilizes a veiled, fragmented vision: ‘this miniature gaze will henceforth be my camera’ (Djebar 2001: 180). A complementary inward gaze reveals ‘the essence, the structures, what takes flight beneath matter’, which the author associates with women’s history (Djebar 2001: 206, 217). She strategically reclaims fitna, as Mernissi defines it: ‘the female gaze [. . .] the feminine eye, when it moves around is now, it seems, feared by the men immobilized in the Moorish cafés of today’s medinas’ (Djebar 1999: 138). As Teresa de Lauretis puts it, women’s embodied experiences can be conceived as a ‘blind spot’ or ‘space-off [. . .] in the chinks and cracks of the power−knowledge apparati’ (de Lauretis 1987: 25). Khan’s blind character, Mehwish, is sensitive to what exceeds official signifying systems and in her alternative system of classifications, Amal ‘keeps hopping out’ of her assigned place (Khan 2010: 170). These authors confront another potential epistemic violence: as relatively privileged women writing for international audiences, they must negotiate ‘native informant’ positions in writing about ‘other’ women.28 Khan’s The Geometry of God does not feature a subaltern female character, unlike her previous Trespassing (2003). However, on a dig, Amal visits a village compound and acknowledges her unique privilege in being able to both ‘work beside men and enter the sacred zananah, the space consigned to women’ (Khan 2010: 357 [emphasis in original]). Inside, she is irritated by other women’s fixation on marriage and childbirth and wonders ‘there must be a girl like me? Wherever she is, she hides herself well. Perhaps in a well’, referring punningly to a hushedup village story that hints at transgressive female desire (Khan 2010: 359).29 Gayatri Spivak has spoken of Djebar’s more extensive self-staging as a ‘feminist-in-decolonization under the sign of a(n) (l)earned perspective’ (Spivak 1992: 771). In A Sister to Sheherazade (Ombre sultane in the original), a


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character with the same name as the narrator of So Vast the Prison—Isma— exposes a lower-class co-wife to violence when she encourages her to unveil: the husband, in a drunken rage at Hajila’s ‘naked’ walks, threatens to put out her eyes with a broken bottle. This not only suggests that women from a range of socio-economic backgrounds are vulnerable to misogynist violence; it also ambivalently locates Isma across the texts as both victim and perpetrator.30 The Isma of the earlier novel attempts to reconfigure rivalry as sorority, but an omniscient narrator ponders an alternative end to Sheherazade, ‘killed at the break of every day’, because her sister has fallen asleep (Djebar 1987: 143). The narrator—and, by implication, the author—thus takes up a risky ‘post in her [sister’s] shadow, in her voice, in her night’ (Djebar 1987: 143).31 Amal’s troubled relinquishing of responsibility as Mehwish’s ‘eyes’, as her sister reaches sexual maturity, identifies a similar problematic in The Geometry of God. ***** South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s writing published since the 1960s more widely foregrounds a set of repeated themes.32 There is an emphasis on coming-to-voice, despite cultural constraints often referenced to Islam, but more generally embedded in ‘traditions’ reinforced by contact with Western powers. Arabic, in particular, has been construed as a repository of patriarchal norms and the domain of (self-)censorship33 and can marginalize other national languages. Some women writers then opt for the (ex-)colonial language; another strategy is to privilege popular intertexts: Alf Layla wa Layla is repeatedly evoked as an initially oral composite work and because it involves a woman telling stories to stay alive.34 A politics of space and sartorial presentation is also evident: some writers link female emancipation with access to, and visibility in, the public domain, while others complicate this model, suggesting, for example, that public participation involves less obvious forms of ‘veiling’ the self. Women’s writing frequently tropes traditionally female spaces as alternative centres of power and sites of unofficial desire. The female body is, however, repeatedly negotiated as a social ‘problem’; women struggle to free themselves from familial and communal investments in female purity, hence regulated social and sexual relations. Access to education, literacy, employment, and self-definition (notably, by attaining some degree of creative and sexual agency) is often relativized, demonstrating an awareness of less materially privileged and/or mobile women. Overall, we see an emphasis on producing women as visible, audible, and textual presences, often reinforced through the choice of autobiographically inflected modes and more generally oriented towards counter-historical archiving. In Stories of Women: Gender and Narrative in the Postcolonial Nation (2005), Elleke Boehmer suggests that postcolonial women’s writing tends to deconstruct a woman/body/nation nexus favoured by nationalist discourses, whereby men are represented as nationalist agents and women signify as bearers and border-markers of culture and as mirrors of the state of the nation. Boehmer

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 53 nevertheless stresses the enduring appeal of a potentially liberating matrix for women in the face of both globalization and ‘fundamentalist’ religious agendas: ‘only the nation specifically invites the woman as citizen to enter modernity and public space’. With reference to the home as symbolic analogue of the nation, Boehmer suggests that private spaces are a site from which ethnocentrism and other monolithic politics may be questioned. By foregrounding women’s negotiation between public and private spaces, female writers refigure the nation in a more gender-inclusive manner (Boehmer 2005: 6, 10, 12). This gives a feminist inflection to Fredric Jameson’s (1986) identification of the ‘necessarily’ allegorical dimension of ‘Third World’ texts. Women’s writing does not use private, relational, or libidinal economies merely to demonstrate alternative modes of affiliation to the nation than those authorized by the state. It also reflects the constructed nature of the national paradigm and moments in which this reveals its ‘transformative instabilities’ (Boehmer 2005: 17). We recall Homi Bhabha’s invocation of the internally differentiated nation, ‘the barred nation It/Self’ split by ‘the heterogeneous histories of contending peoples, antagonistic authorities, and tense cultural locations’ (Bhabha 1990: 299 [emphasis in original]). When Burton suggests that women ‘use their memories of house and home as archival sources for the writing of histories that tr[y] to capture the rifts and fissures of modernity in late colonial India’ (Burton 2003: 7), the point equally applies to the Maghreb and to the Arab world more widely. In contexts coded ‘Muslim’, veiled female space, encompassing sartorial practices, has served as incitement to both colonial desire and nationalist resistance.35 An emphasis by women writers on domestic experience therefore does ‘double duty’, both in archiving cultural spaces that serve as sites of political contestation, particularly on historical cusps such as decolonization, and in re-historicizing the contested figure of ‘woman’ in (post)colonial modernity (Burton 2003: 15). This chapter provides examples of what Françoise Lionnet (1995) calls métissage, a synonym for syncretism that emphasizes (literal and metaphorical) weaving (tissage). Postcolonial women writers speak several different languages, including paradigmatic ones: they respond to discourses that are patriarchal and feminist, colonial and indigenous, global and local (Lionnet 1995: 4). As such, they are well positioned to articulate dynamic and agonistic narratives. Métissage emphasizes ‘border zones’ between local variations and a worldwide, interdependent system (Lionnet 1995: 16). Boehmer similarly flags up an ‘interactive, cross-border dynamic’, which engages the ‘scattered hegemonies’ of gender, ethnicity, and class (2005: 188, 205).36 This echoes Lionnet’s and Shu-Mei Shih’s call for attention to ‘lateral networks’ that are not necessarily mediated by a colonial or neo-imperial ‘center’ (Lionnet and Shih 2005: 1, 5). If they stress ‘spaces and practices acted upon by border-crossing agents’ (Lionnet and Shih 2005: 5), I have suggested that border-crossing tactics are also mobilized by women who do not move far (if at all) from ‘home’. The women discussed here privilege métissage by accessing the deep roots of trans-local culture, decentring monologic constructions of ‘the nation’, and weaving connections across space and time. A critical response must similarly cross historically constructed borders.


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Notes 1 There are partial exceptions to this claim: Grace (2004), for example, includes South Asian texts in a book predominantly focused on the representation of women from (and largely by) the Arab Muslim world; Erickson (1998) brings together writers from both contexts, but without an overarching emphasis on gender; see also cooke and Rustomji-Kerns (1994) on the specific representational context of war and work such as Mirze Santesso (2013) that focuses on migrant contexts. However, to my knowledge, there has not yet been a sustained investigation under the rubric of postcolonial women’s writing that focuses specifically on these two regions. Comparative projects more commonly bring together sub-Saharan African, Indian, and Caribbean writing, as in Boehmer (2005), Katrak (2006), and Lionnet (1995). 2 The Maghreb (or Maghrib), which encompasses Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mauritania, is the part of North Africa formerly colonized by France. The term, more common in French than in English, means ‘west’ in Arabic and is also the specific name of Morocco (al Maghrib). It is worth differentiating the region terminologically and analytically, because of its shared colonial heritage and because the region is not exclusively Arab: the nationalization of Arab ethnicity began with the early twentiethcentury break-up of the Ottoman Empire. Djebar is one author who challenges the official definition of Maghrebi contexts as Arab: see my analysis of So Vast the Prison. 3 Here I refer simply to populations identifying as Muslim, rather than to more conscious Ummah or Islamosphere affiliations resurgent (and also attractive to diaspora populations) since the late 1970s. Additionally though, as Mernissi’s and Khan’s novels (discussed shortly) remind us, identification with the Ummah is an historical, as well as contemporary, phenomenon. 4 Egypt, Syria, and the Levantine countries have substantial Christian minorities and a Jewish presence was formerly significant across the Middle East. The Middle East is, of course, a construction, conceived in the early twentieth century from a European vantage point. Its borders are debatable, as varying definitions of what falls under a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) framework attest. Aslan (2011) provocatively extends them to include Pakistan. 5 Partition, separatist movements in northwest and northeast India, and contemporary regionalist movements in Pakistan all denaturalize postcolonial nations. Moreover, the emergence of Bangladesh attests to the fragility of nation-state formation along religious lines, as a Muslim homeland was putatively the rationale for partition from India. Bangladesh itself is increasingly the site of competing secular and religious definitions of nation. 6 A recognizably Muslim world had emerged by the end of the tenth century ad and stretched from Andalusia to Iraq. This area had strong political and trade links and shared cultural practices, including the use of Arabic and the Islamic calendar and an awareness of belonging to the Ummah or community of believers. Additionally, by the end of the seventh century ad, the first Muslim advances into northwest India had been made. A kingdom was established in Sindh in 711 and Muslim traders settled along the Malabar Coast. There was a second period of expansion into India (and Africa) several hundred years later. The Delhi Sultanate (made up of successive Persian-speaking Turko-Afghan regimes) ruled north India from 1206. Between 1526 and 1858, the Mughal Empire, whose first leader (Babur) was Turkic and Persian-speaking and whose subsequent elites were variously Central Asian, Persian, Arab, locally born Muslims, and other Indians, unified north India and parts of the south. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, this was the most powerful empire the subcontinent had known, but by the beginning of the nineteenth, it was in an advanced state of terminal decline. See Hourani (1991: Ch. 5) and Metcalf and Metcalf (2006: Ch. 1). 7 In the Maghreb, vernacular Arabics are relatively strong variants of MSA, varieties of

South Asian and Maghrebi Muslim women’s fiction 55 8 9 10 11 12 13

14 15 16 17 18


20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Amazigh or Tamazigh (Berber) struggle for status as official languages, and the elite tend to speak French. See Shamsie (2008). Tharu and Lalita (1993) importantly gather and translate South Asian women’s writing in a number of languages. The taluqdar or zamindar class, established under the Mughals, did not exclusively comprise Muslim families. The protagonist of the novel is born nine years later than the author and their family circumstances are different. See Needham (1993: 100−1) on the crisis of the taluqdari class, whose privilege had become enmeshed with British colonial power. See, in particular, Mernissi (1991). The English version of the text was first published in Britain, then reissued as Dreams of Trespass (1995) in the United States. Mernissi wrote and revised the French version, Rêves de femmes: Une enfance au harem (1996), and collaborated on the Moroccan Arabic version, Nissa’ ‘ala Ajnihat al Hulm (1998). I give a longer reading of this text in Moore (2008: Ch. 4). Mernissi (2003) narrowly defines fitna in relation to women’s increased mobility in the postcolonial period. When I use the first name, I refer to the textual construction of this semiautobiographical protagonist, as opposed to Mernissi the author. Polygamy remains legal, although landmark 2004 revisions to the Mudawana (Moroccan Family Code) have made it much more difficult. I use ‘Berber’ rather than Amazigh in accordance with the authors’ usage. Women in Middle Eastern societies exercise a certain amount of non-hegemonic power through the idiom of the supernatural. This is particularly true in the Islamized Amazigh contexts of the Maghreb where saint worship predominates (Nelson 1974: 556). See also Evelyne Accad, Wounding Words: A Woman’s Journal in Tunisia (originally Blessures des mots: Journal de Tunisie, 1993). So Vast the Prison can be seen as the last instalment of an autobiographically inflected ‘Algerian Trilogy’, with Fantasia, an Algerian Cavalcade (L’Amour, la fantasia in the original) and A Sister to Scheherazade (Ombre sultane in the original); there are also intertextual connections between this trilogy and Djebar’s 1978 film La Nouba des femmes de Mont Chenoua. This refers to the ‘Moors’ (North African Muslims) expelled from Andalusia at the beginning of the seventeenth century. A nouba is a cycle of vocal and instrumental music, grounded in a compositional system that originated in Andalusia in the ninth century. The Geometry of God extends into the late 1990s and includes a brief reference to a new wave of Islamists described as ‘playboy’ (and ‘playgirl’) mullahs (Khan 2010: 373−5). This is sometimes referred to as Amalicetus in the novel, because Amal discovers it (Khan 2010: 31). The Geometry of God reminds us that ‘the magic zero’ was discovered by the eighthcentury Persian inventor of algebra, Muhammad Ibn Musa Al Khwarizmi. The novel refers to Sections 7 to 10 of the Blasphemy Law, which Zahoor links to British colonial ‘divide and rule’ policy (Khan 2010: 176−7, 234). Both Zahoor and Noman favour the eighth- to tenth-century Mu’tazali School of rationalist theology (Khan 2010: 185, passim). Noman’s attraction to geometry and algebra suggests that he favours khayal (Khan 2010: 74, passim). See Spivak (1992) and her work more widely. The novel engages questions of class privilege in other ways: for example, Zahoor is released from jail because Amal has a friend with military connections, and Amal’s

56 30

31 32 33 34 35 36

L. Moore husband, Omar, sees her English as an obstacle to jouissance (and so also zauq) and therefore teaches her the vocabulary of the body in Urdu and Punjabi. The women in the two texts are not necessarily the same character and ‘I, Isma, the narrator’, named late in So Vast the Prison (Djebar 2001: 234), cannot be assumed as the narrator throughout: Isma, meaning ‘name’, is a self-reflexive appellation and auto-fictional ruse. I expand on these aspects of Djebar’s work in Moore (2008: Ch. 2). See, for example, Moore (2008) and Shamsie (2008). See Faqir (1998). Censorship of women’s writing can occur even when work is published in a European language. See Gauch (2007). For seminal analysis of these issues, see Alloula (1986) and Fanon ([1959] 1994). The latter phrase comes from Grewal and Kaplan (1994).

Part II

Syncretism, Muslim cosmopolitanism, and secularism

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Restoring the narration South Asian Anglophone literature and Al-Andalus Muneeza Shamsie

The Western concept of Islam as a threat to Europe has a long history. As Islamic power spread throughout Europe during the eighth and ninth centuries, Christian authors with ‘scant interest in the learning, high culture, and frequent magnificence of the Muslims’ could only perceive Islam as a symbol of ‘terror, devastation, [and] the demonic, hordes of hated barbarians’ (Said [1978] 2003: 59). The Christian kingdoms of medieval Europe ‘regarded the Muslims as usurpers’ and ‘there was always a determination to drive them back across the Straits’ (Trevelyan 1984: 12). In the thirteenth century, only Granada survived as the last Muslim kingdom in Spain. Ruled by the brilliant Nasrid dynasty for the next 200 years, Granada represents the zenith of Andalusian civilization, a culture that is synonymous with the fabled Nasrid palace, the Alhambra (alkal’atal-hamra: the red fortress) (see Barthold 2009: 38). This chapter explores the legacy of this civilization in contemporary Anglophone literature by South Asian writers of Muslim heritage. Centuries after the Muslims were expelled from Spain in 1492 and their enormous contribution to modern European culture and learning was consigned to oblivion, Islam ‘lurked alongside Europe’ (Said [1978] 2003: 59). It was present in the form of the Ottoman Empire until the early twentieth century and posed danger enough in its death throes to inspire the anti-British Khilafat movement in colonial India. The Partition of India in 1947 and the early years of independence coincided with the Cold War. Britain and other Western powers perceived communism as the great enemy. To counteract its influence, they bolstered up totalitarian regimes and groups of religious extremists in Muslim countries. US support, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, for the Afghan mujahideen and Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq was but a continuation of this policy. By the end of the decade, the Soviet Union and communism in Europe had collapsed, but the highly politicized Islamist militants developed into the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other radical groups. Wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks on New York in 2001 and London in 2005 respectively, all contributed to ongoing rhetoric of confrontation in the West, the positioning of Muslims as the ‘Alien Other’ and their religion and civilization as being led by a blind, violent creed. Headlines in the Western media ‘seem unanimous in the picture they paint of Muslims: unenlightened


M. Shamsie

outsiders who, while they may live and work in the West, still have an allegiance to values different from those recognized in Europe and North America’ (Morey and Yaqin 2011: 1). This chapter explores how the English language poetry and fiction of contemporary South Asian writers of Muslim origin challenges the fractious rhetoric of the present. It considers how writers such as Tariq Ali, Agha Shahid Ali, Imtiaz Dharker, and Salman Rushdie do so by exploring Europe’s suppressed narrative: that of an influential, tolerant, symbiotic Euro-Arab culture that flourished in Spain and which the Arabs called al-Andalus. The cultural and artistic relationship between these two regions, Spain and South Asia, is well established. The Arabs conquered Spain and the lower Indus regions of India (Sindh) in the same year, 711 ad, and contemporary Sindhi scholars have traced links between the music and languages of Sindh and Spain. Later, Sindh’s Arab rulers were replaced by different Muslim conquerors from the north, who brought Persian and Turkic influences and expanded their rule into the Gangetic plain, Bengal, and the Deccan, culminating in the dazzling Mughal dynasty. The proximity of Sindh to neighbouring Muslim lands also made it a place of refuge for Sufi mystics, persecuted in their homelands for their unorthodox views. One consequence of these movements and conquests was the cross-pollination of literary, linguistic, and musical cultures. The bhakti poetry of India, for example, intermingled with the mystical Islamic poetry of the Sufis (Jalal 2001: 17). Meanwhile, in Andalusia, according to Maria Rosa Menocal, a new vernacular Hispano-Arab poetry known as the muwashahat, or ‘the language and poetry of the courts and the streets’ (2004: 30), developed and, in turn, influenced the development of the troubadour poetry of Provence (2004: 31−3). This was the earliest vernacular poetry of Europe and ‘influenced a whole branch of European literature’ (Menocal 2004: 71), but the concept of ‘courtly love’, which revolves around the lover’s quest for the ‘Beloved’ in the troubadour lyric, has resonances with the spiritual and romantic yearning that characterizes Islamic mystical poetry and which is also incorporated in the much-loved Urdu ghazal. This multiculturalism embodies the many influences that have forged English writing by South Asian Muslims. In these contemporary renditions, Andalusia becomes a mythical paradise. Its significance lies in its role as a symbol, not of erstwhile Muslim military and political prowess, but of ‘the co-mingling of religious cultures (Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Olympian) and all that was lost when the religions pulled violently apart from one another’ (Shamsie 2005a: n.p.). The Delhi-born, Kashmiri-American poet, Agha Shahid Ali, encapsulates the symbolism of that Euro-Arab culture and its loss in his translation of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem ‘One Day I Shall Sit on the Pavement’: [. . .] I was the words of the singers, the reconciliation of Athens and Persia, an East embracing a West embarked on one essence. Embrace me that I may be born again (Ali 2002: 84)

South Asian literature and Al-Andalus 61 The poem goes on to refer, in mournful tones, to a lost Andalusian intellectual heritage: ‘Nothing remains of me | but manuscripts of Averroes, The Collar of the Dove and translations’ (Ali 2002: 84).1 This poem belongs to the sequence of 11 poems titled Eleven Stars Over Andalusia by Darwish, which were adapted into English by Ali from the original Arabic—a task influenced by a rereading of Federico García Lorca, the avant-garde Spanish poet of Andalusian origin. Central to the poem, and to other works discussed in this essay, is the character of Boabdil (Abu Abd’alla), the last King of Granada, who looked at his lost kingdom for the last time, sighed, and wept. His mother taunted him with the oft-quoted statement: ‘You weep like a woman for what you failed to defend like a man’. Eleven Stars is replete with stunning images of Granada, its music and song, minarets and mirrors, the crown of victorious Castile, the banners of Columbus—and the tragic, defeated Boabdil. The leitmotif of a final farewell to Granada—a beloved, enchanted homeland, a paradise—runs through the whole sequence and becomes the dying, cancer-afflicted Ali’s farewell to this world; it also has a clear resonance with the devastated homelands of both the author and translator, Palestine and Kashmir respectively. In the fourth poem of the Eleven Stars sequence, ‘I am one of the kings of the end’, the dying poet’s voice merges with that of Boabdil to offer ‘the last gasp’ of a ‘golden history’ as he takes leave of his beloved landscape: [. . .] I do not look behind me, so I won’t remember I’ve passed over this land, there is no land in this land since time broke around me, shard by shard.

(Ali 2002: 83)

‘Eleven Stars’, the final poem of the sequence, is a ghazal, whose refrain that ‘Violins weep for gypsies going to Andalusia | Violins weep for Arabs leaving Andalusia’ (Ali 2002: 92) resonates with Lorca’s ‘Caseda: Weeping’. The ghazal is a poetic form that dates back to pre-Islamic Arabia and was once a part of the three-part Arabic qasida, but developed as a popular genre in its own right. As Agha Shahid Ali explains: ‘In its canonical Persian (Farsi) form, arrived at in the eleventh century, it [the ghazal] is composed of autonomous or semi-autonomous couplets that are united by a strict scheme of rhyme, refrain, and line length’ (quoted in Ali and Ahmad 2003: n.p.). This earlier form influenced the muchadmired, sophisticated, and intricate Urdu ghazal. While Ali often wrote canzones, sonnets, and other Western literary forms, to this oeuvre he added the ghazal written in English couplets. He made a major breakthrough with this form and ‘worked assiduously to establish a place in American literature’ for it (Ali and Ahmad 2003: n.p.), asking leading American poets to contribute to an anthology of ghazals.2 In a discussion of his sequence ‘In Search of Evanescence’, Ali reflected on writing about exile and death, language, memory, and loss. He said: Edward Said talks about a contrapuntal rhetoric, which means you read something with several things happening simultaneously. It’s not just the death of a


M. Shamsie friend, a simple elegy, but the death of tribes, the death of landscapes and the death of a language. All these things happen simultaneously to create a density [. . .]. And, of course, a universe dies with every person’s death. (quoted in Ansari and Pal 1998: n.p.)

Ali’s poetry often achieves this contrapuntal effect. For example, his ghazal ‘Arabic’ traverses centuries and cultures. He writes that ‘[w]hen Lorca died, they left the balcony open and saw | his qasidas braided, on the horizon, into knots of Arabic’ (Ali 2003: 24), and the poem culminates with a linguistic interplay on his own name, in a manner typical of the ghazal: ‘They ask me to tell them what Shahid means | Listen: It means “The Beloved” in Persian, “witness” in Arabic’ (Ali 2003: 25). The Arabic ghazal and the qasida were written in Andalusia, but, following the Fall of Granada, were banned alongside other Arab literary forms by the Spanish Inquisition. As Shadab Zeest Hashmi points out, ‘for four hundred years, there was no qasida in Europe until Lorca’s resuscitation of the form in his Divan El Tamarit’, which included ‘casedas’ and ‘gacelas’ (Hashmi 2012c: n.p.). These ‘were inspired by the qasidas and ghazals of the Arabic language poets of Al Andalus’ and, Hashmi notes, ‘[b]eing a Granadan himself, Lorca identified with Andalusi poets of the past’; in his qasidas, a ‘twentieth century European iteration resulted from a most interesting transmutation as Arabic had been banned’ (2012c: n.p.). The Lahore-born, Pakistani-American Hashmi is particularly interested in ‘discovering overlaps between cultures and how these links emerge when mediated by language and teased out through different art forms’ (Yusuf 2012: n.p.). She visited Spain after her discovery of the great poet Mohammed Iqbal’s Urdu classic ‘The Great Mosque at Cordoba’ (Masjid-iQurtuba).3 Iqbal ‘was transfixed by the “aura” of the mosque’, even though a ‘renaissance cathedral was built within the expansive structure’ in 1523 (Amjad and Haider 2013: 153, 156). Iqbal’s remarkable poem is, as Syed Nomanul Haq suggests, ‘a case of a poetic transmutation—transmutation into a metaphor of a physical structure with its architectural luxuriance, and, along with it, of a medieval city with its diversity, pluralism, and poise’ (2013: 3). Hashmi’s first collection, Baker of Tarifa, is set in Andalusia in a town ‘named after Tarif Bin Malik, the first Muslim to enter Spain’ (Hashmi 2010: 63). The collection develops the story of the Muslims in Spain, using the process of baking bread as its central metaphor. The first section, ‘Coals Left Over From Breakfast Will Be Enough’, includes the title poem. This describes the many ingredients needed to create the dough—almonds, pistachios, rosewater—and embodies the many elements that were so carefully blended to create Andalusia’s rich, dynamic, multicultural world. In the collection, Hashmi includes performance poems, such as ‘The Confectioners’ District in Sevilla: Bakers Chant’, which is written in columns for three voices. Other poems provide many different glimpses of life in Andalusia. Each poem is given a historical context by Hashmi’s informative ‘Notes’ at the end of the collection. Together, the poems and commentary reveal that the Arabs planted Europe’s first palm tree, introduced sugar cane and refined

South Asian literature and Al-Andalus 63 sugar, and brought ‘the first bowed stringed instrument [. . .] into the West’ (Hashmi 2010: 64). Hashmi also addresses the lives of Andalusi women in poems such as ‘A Scribe is Visited by a Jinni in a Sugarcane Field’, in which the scribe is female—probably unheard of throughout the rest of medieval Europe, but a wellknown occupation for Andalusi women. Hashmi—along with Imtiaz Dharker and Tariq Ali, whom I discuss shortly—highlights the fact that in Andalusia, Muslim women enjoyed considerable freedom and were not veiled. Baker of Tarifa also portrays the commingling of three religions in Andalusia through a sequence portraying the Muslim-born Yusuf, who is Yosef to his adopted Jewish parents and Joseph to his Christian pupil. Hashmi draws on the Abrahamic tradition, in which Yusuf/Yosef/Joseph ‘had been bestowed with the gift of interpreting dreams’ (2010: 65) and foretells the disaster to come in ‘Yusuf Sees the Ghost of the Last Queen of Andalus’, with its images of cannons, empty cradles, and a dispossessed queen. The poem sets the tone for the book’s next section, ‘My Heart Becomes a Kiln’, which tells of violence, destruction, and the Fall of Granada in 1492. These poems often revolve around historical events. ‘Window in the Tower of the Seventh Floor: Boabdil’s Lament’, for example, portrays the defeated Boabdil preparing to hand over the keys of his kingdom. In ‘Queen Isabella Enters the Alhambra’, Hashmi describes a victorious monarch preoccupied with the enormous task ahead: to erase Moorish culture from the city. Hashmi’s notes point to the paradox that Isabella ‘was dressed in Andalusi attire the day she took the keys of the Alhamra from Boabdil’ (2010: 68) and that there existed a ‘deep respect among the Christians for the Islamic culture they were publicly trying to negate’ (2010: 68). Baker of Tarifa’s last section, ‘Lambent’, is set in modern Spain and celebrates the living essence of Andalusia, and in ‘Etymology’ Hashmi describes the mutation of words from Spanish to Arabic to Urdu (2010: 55). The influence of Agha Shahid Ali emerges in Hashmi’s English ghazals included in Kohl and Chalk (2012a), but Hashmi is also engaged in reviving the qasida as a modern poetic form in English, which stands apart from the traditional Urdu panegyric (Hashmi 2012c: n.p.). Her New York Qasida is a sequence of five ten-line English poems that engage with Lorca’s ‘Poet in New York’ (Hashmi 2012b). In Lahore, the poet Athar Tahir is similarly interested in bringing the qasida into the contemporary moment by adapting the early Arabic form, and images of Andalusia are important to this project. His ‘Andalusian Qasida’, for example, ‘works like an internal travelogue that negotiates past and present’ (Barque 2012: 19). In ‘Cordoba’, a sense of timelessness, sanctity, and grace is disrupted by tourists and the discordant features of the cathedral: ‘A shaft driven through the heart | to assert reconquest | of this little paradise’ (Tahir 2012: 80). ‘Granada’ observes the landscape from the Sierra Nevada, as Boabdil once did, and considers history; ‘Lorca: The Poet of Absence’ culminates with Lorca’s 1935 assassination by fascists. The two diametrically opposed narratives of tolerance and violence are suggested by the very title of Imtiaz Dharker’s sequence Remember Andalus: Osama Bin Laden, written after the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings (Dharker 2007:


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63–81). For Tishani Doshi, Dharker’s poems are ‘essentially an offering of hope in the face of violence; not just the violence of men, who, she says, have a “rare genius for revenge”, but also from our societies, and ourselves’ (Doshi 2004: n.p.). As such, her mythical Andalus revolves around images of women, as well as images of the region’s landscapes and produce, such as the pomegranate. In ‘Alif, Anar’, for example, the multiple significances of the fruit are explored. ‘Anar’ is Urdu for pomegranate, and the fruit has mythological significance in both Islamic and Christian, as well as other, lores. It is also a fruit that is new to the poet living in Glasgow, a reminder of a distant world. Furthermore, its English name is derived from the Latin for ‘apple’, and some believe it to be the original ‘apple’ in the Garden of Eden. In Dharker’s multi-layered poems, the pomegranate embodies an inner, mythical, and mystical paradise; its seeds are jewels ‘more precious than garnets | more lustrous than rubies’ (Dharker 2007: 66). Dharker’s visually precise images of Andalusian landscapes re-imagine the lives of Andalusi women, while ‘Aixa at the Window’ portrays the doomed Boabdil’s mother gazing out of her fortress at the future, comprising a polyglot South Asian culture of bazaars and MTV. In 1931, the Bengal-born Shahid Suhrawardy delivered a series of lectures about multicultural influences in Andalusia’s architecture, arts, and crafts. He researched this further during his diplomatic posting in Spain for his posthumously published book, The Art of the Mussulmans of Spain (2005). Earlier in the nineteenth century, Syed Ameer Ali’s A Brief History of the Saracens (1899) devoted several chapters to the magnificence of Andalusia. These were part of an ongoing debate in English with the British Raj, challenging the ‘Orientalist’ notion that among Muslims, faith and reason cannot be reconciled. In 1992, Tariq Ali was ‘probably the first English language novelist to explore the theme of Muslim Spain’ (quoted in Chambers 2011b: 50). His Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree begins his Islam Quintet novels, set in ‘different periods of Islamic history to show times when learning and culture were synonymous with Islam— and appreciated as such by the most enlightened Christians’ (Shamsie 2005a: n.p.). Ali says: During the Gulf War, I was angered by the so-called expert on BBC television legitimizing the war by saying that the Arabs were a people without a political culture. My response, as someone who had never been interested in religion of any sort, was to research European Islam to explain how and why it was defeated. (quoted in Chambers 2011b: 50) Ali is a highly politicized writer, with a tendency to lapse into polemics in his novels. The son of active communists in Pakistan, he was ‘[b]rought up as an atheist’ (Chambers 2011b: 36) and was a Marxist student leader in his homeland and, later, in Europe. He is now a journalist, political commentator, film maker, playwright, and novelist. He co-authored a play with Howard Brenton, Iranian Nights, defending Rushdie against Khomeini’s fatwa (Ali and Brenton 1989).

South Asian literature and Al-Andalus 65 The publication of Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree coincided with the 500th anniversary of that pivotal year in world history, 1492, which not only witnessed Columbus’s ‘discovery’ of America, but earlier saw the unification of Spain and conquest of Granada by Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. The discovery was much celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic, but little cognizance was given to the fact that Columbus ‘sailed out into the “Ocean of Darkness” by grounding himself ironically in Arabic geographical knowledge available in Latin’ (Haq 2013: 3). Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree begins with the notorious burning of some 80,000 books from Granada’s 195 libraries by Queen Isabella’s powerful and trusted confessor, Archbishop Ximenes de Cisneros (Trevelyan 1984: 67). The Archbishop is determined to stamp out Moorish culture, and ‘[m]ore than anybody else in the Peninsula [. . .] Ximenes understands the power of ideas’ (Ali [1992] 1993: 5). The image of burning books has clear resonance with the incineration of copies of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses by Bradford Muslims in the 1980s, and also the similar fate of Don Quixote’s books in Cervantes’s great classic, a novel which Ali interprets as a witty, subtle, and subversive comment on Catholic policy in Spain (see Ali 2009). Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree’s exploration of home, identity, and belonging captures a sense of limbo present among the Moors. Ali’s use of the original Arab names for Spanish cities is a reminder of a lost civilization, and he also includes little known historical details about Spain’s Islamic past. For example, he contrasts the cruel, bigoted Ximenes with the cosmopolitan and humane Umar bin Abdallah, head of the Muslim Banu Hudayl clan, which has lived in Spain since the tenth century. While other Muslims migrate or convert, Abdallah insists on fighting for his rights. His teenage son, Zuhayr, is similarly resistant, asking: ‘Why should we go anywhere? This is our home’ (Ali [1992] 1993: 71). Zuhayr decides, heroically, to lead a doomed insurrection. In addition, Ali portrays Andalusian women as strong-willed and intelligent; Umar’s father and Umar’s Aunt Zahra are educated by the same teachers and scholars, and Zahra is also a poet. Through household gossip and lively stories told to Zuhayr’s younger brother, Yazid, about family forebears, Ali challenges Spanish/European narratives of racial and cultural purity, including the dividing line between Muslim and Christian, Moor and European. In Ali’s Quintet, each novel conveys illuminating insights into European and Muslim history and challenges widespread stereotypes of Islamic culture, as well as the rigid worldview of Islamic extremists. Ali explains: ‘Curiously the more I write about the history and culture of Islam, the more I find it a very cosmopolitan religion’ (quoted in Chambers 2011b: 41). A discussion of the Quintet is beyond the scope of this chapter, but the series includes two particularly rewarding novels, The Book of Saladin (1998) and A Sultan in Palermo (2005), set in the twelfth century and describing a wider Muslim world related to the culture of Andalusia. The Book of Saladin includes the fictitious memoir of Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi (Saladin) as dictated to Ibn Yakub, a Jewish scribe, and leads up to Saladin’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187 ad. Ali’s portrayal of a Middle East where Jews, Muslims, and Christians live amicably and do not identify with the


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European Crusaders provides a foil to the bitter conflicts over Israel in the Arab world today. Throughout the text, the brutal Europeans are regarded as ‘the Franj’ or Franks; not once are they tarred as ‘unbelievers’ or ‘infidels’. The Crusades were launched by Pope Urban II out of political, territorial, and economic ambitions, but their supposed rallying cry ‘Christianity versus Islam’ (whereby Muslims are viewed as heretics) has defined the popular Western imagination and is central to European literature and history and, indeed, to the European narrative of itself. Nevertheless, the Crusades brought Europeans into greater contact with the Arab/Muslim world. By 1200 ad, the major universities of England, France, and Italy were permeated with the revolutionary ideas of Andalusian-born philosophers, such as ‘Averroes, Avicenna, and Maimonides, and countless others who wrote on mathematics, medicine, philosophy and all the other new sciences’ (Menocal 2004: 57).4 This ferment was viewed by the Church and many Europeans with great misgiving (Menocal 2004: 54−8). The earliest examples of European literature, such as Dante’s Divine Comedy and Boccacio’s Decameron, were an attempt, with a clear awareness of Arabic texts, to assert an Eurocentric identity against the Arab onslaught (Menocal 2004: 115−42). Yet, in medieval times, the translation of philosophical and scientific Greek and Roman texts into Arabic preserved many writings that ‘would have otherwise have been lost’ to Europe (Trevelyan 1984: 12). Furthermore, the Arabs brought to these texts ‘Islam’s own intensive experience’ (Goldstein [1980] 1988: 102, quoted by Ghazanfar 2011: 3), including ‘philosophical battles between reason and revelation’ (Ghazanfar 2011: 3). These were then translated from Arabic into Latin. It became apparent that ‘those who knew Arabic possessed the keys to pagan and secular knowledge of the Greeks and the Aristotelians among the Muslims themselves, a whole body of science and philosophy that tantalized many’, with ideas considered a ‘menace to the primacy of the unadulterated Christian faith’ (Menocal 2004: 40). Ali engages with this literary and philosophical world in The Book of Saladin and A Sultan in Palermo. In the former, protagonists include the Jewish, Cordobaborn physician philosopher Maimonides in Cairo, while A Sultan in Palermo’s main protagonist is the renowned Morocco-born geographer al-Idrisi in Sicily. Both men enjoy great esteem at court and have access to stupendous libraries in Cairo and Palermo, respectively. In Palermo, al-Idrisi arrives home from a long sea voyage and names his great geographical work The Book of Roger. His royal patron is the Norman King Roger of Sicily. Although his dynasty defeated Sicily’s Muslim rulers, Roger speaks Arabic, respects his Arab subjects, and refuses to support the Crusades. But Roger is dying. He gives in to the demands of his Barons and Bishops to ensure the succession of his son. Their excesses drive the Muslims out of Sicily, foreshadowing Granada’s fate. Tensions in the once-peaceful island are exacerbated by Muslim ‘rebels with long beards belonging to sects that preached the virtues of purity and abstinence’ and ‘burnt books of learning, outlawed philosophical discourse, punished scholars and poets’ (Ali 2005: 70). The European Renaissance asserted a unique European, Graeco-Christian identity, which marginalized Euro-Arab influences. This coincided with the rise

South Asian literature and Al-Andalus 67 of Europe’s new nation-states, the advent of modernity, the discovery of the New World, and new trade routes opened up by Vasco da Gama. All this created a narrative that defined the European identity and fuelled the imperial dream. Today’s widespread notions of Christianity and Islam as opposing forces relate to early European concepts of statehood, wherein religion shaped monolithic national identities. These ideas of nationhood did not exist in India’s symbiotic Indo-Muslim culture, which reached its zenith under the Mughal dynasty. In the late eighteenth century, British power in India grew and led to the establishment of the British Raj between 1857 and 1947. India’s struggle for modernity and independence under colonial rule led to religion becoming a contentious issue in the fight for statehood. Ultimately, this led to the Partition of India in 1947 and the creation of a newly independent India and Pakistan, divided along religious lines. In their explorations of Partition and its legacies, South Asian writers of Muslim heritage have often turned to the history of Andalusia, building connections between the marginalization of minority communities in India and the expulsion of the Moors from Spain and the decline of multiculturalism in both spaces. Imtiaz Dharker’s many intertextual references include Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) with clear resonances signalled in the very title of her poem ‘The Last Sigh’ (2006). In this poem, Boabdil records: They will say I looked back from the Hill of Tears on a winter morning Only they will not see my breath, left like a mist on Paradise. I will know I left my breath behind. They will say I sighed.

(Dharker 2007: 81)

In The Moor’s Last Sigh, Rushdie focuses on the rise of Hindu extremism in Bombay and the marginalization of India’s Jewish and Christian communities, drawing parallels with the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. The political backdrop of the novel ranges from the repercussions of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in the 1970s to the communal riots following the demolition of the sixteenth-century Babri Masjid by right-wing Hindu extremists in 1992. As Maya Jaggi points out: ‘Through the vision of the fictional painter Aurora Da Gama, the Catholic Reconquista of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella becomes a metaphor of the destruction of modern India’s secular ideal’ (1995: 20). Rushdie says he wanted to explore ‘the growth of Hindu nationalist movements’ in India, which ‘threatens the democratic state’ and promotes notions of ‘writing secularism out of the constitution’ (quoted in Jaggi 1995: 20). The Moor’s Last Sigh was published six years after Rushdie went into hiding as a result of Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa. Perhaps unsurprisingly, misfortune, rejection, expulsion, exile, migration, and imprisonment run through the text. The narrator, Moraes ‘Moor’ Zogoiby, frames his tale with his incarceration in


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Spain by the artist Vasco Miranda, in an imitation Alhambra based on Aurora’s hybrid paintings, where the red Alhambra merges with India’s red Mughal architecture. This dreamscape, a veritable ‘Mooristan’ (Rushdie 1995: 226), underpins the narrative, embodying the sense of myth, the unreliability of memory. This extends to the cocooned multicultural world of the Indian elite into which Moor was born. Most of the novel consists of a flashback to India in which Rushdie gathers up European and South Asian history and texts and intertextual references abound. The imitation Alhambra that frames the novel is built in the village of Benengeli in the Alpujerras: its location and the name, Benengeli— which is also that of a narrator in Don Quixote—comprises one example of several intertextual references to Cervantes’ great classic, which Cantor says ‘serves as a literary precursor of his [Rushdie’s] work’ (Cantor 1997: 323). Moor’s identity as ‘a real Bombay mix’—a ‘jewholic-anonymous, a cathjew nut, a stewpot, a mongrel cur’ (Rushdie 1995: 104)—bears witness to the multicultural histories of the Indian subcontinent and Andalusia. Moor is the heir to a great fortune in Cochin’s spice trade, linking him to centuries-old transactions between Europe and South Asia. His Jewish father, the powerful businessman Abraham Zogoiby, is a descendant from Boabdil and his Jewish mistress. Moor’s Christian mother, Aurora, belongs to an illegitimate line descending from the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Throughout the novel, Rushdie introduces characters with names that echo fifteenth-century Spain, including Moor’s grandmother, Isabella Ximena da Gama, best known as Queen Isabella. The novel gradually expands upon Aurora’s work as a celebrated artist and goes on to detail, in taut prose, her ‘Moorish’ paintings, which began in 1957, the year Moor was born. Aurora re-imagines ‘the old Boabdil story’ by placing it in India, with Moor ‘playing a sort of Bombay remix of the last of the Nasrids’ (Rushdie 1995: 225). Aurora carries the symbolism of the Moor-as-Boabdil further by painting herself as Boabdil’s mother, ‘the old battleaxe Ayxa’ (1995: 227). In these brilliant, surrealist canvases, ‘Aurora Zogoiby was seeking to paint a golden age’ where ‘Jews, Christians, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains crowded into her paint-Boabdil’s fancy-dress balls’ (Rushdie 1995: 227). As Aamer Hussein suggests, the ‘guiding metaphor’ of the novel is ‘contained in Aurora’s paintings [. . .]: a vision of an India that mirrors the last years of Moorish Spain’ (Hussein 1995: 39) and mourns the loss of both spaces as sites of multicultural, multi-religious harmony. Shortly after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, Aamer Hussein, a critic and short story writer who describes himself as a Karachi-born Londoner, wrote his quiet, intricate, and subtle story ‘Nine Postcards from Sanlucar de Barrameda’. The 2007 version consists of nine short missives written by the London-based narrator Murad during a trip to Spain. He has come with a fellow Londoner, a travelling companion, to celebrate the birthday of a close friend, his Spanish ‘sister’, who is an artist. From her ‘eyrie’ he can see ‘tall palms, jasmine bushes, bright flowers’ (Hussein 2007: 10). The plants and the sunlight of Spain remind Murad of Karachi, a place he ‘once called home’, but the sea is not the same and the fact that ‘there is no frangipani here [. . .] makes it less Karachi’

South Asian literature and Al-Andalus 69 (2007: 11, 14). In this landscape of illusions, memory, and longing, Murad passes the Guadalquiver, hears the poetry of Lorca, and sees his ‘sister’ dance flamenco. He is asked, ‘Do you still feel Pakistani?’ ‘I do,’ he replies, ‘when I feel anything at all’ (2007: 13). Murad begins to realize that both Pakistan and the woman he loved are a distant memory and discovers that the present offers new relationships and new horizons. Recently, Hussein and the Cyprus-born writer Alev Adil adapted the story into a dialogue entitled ‘Nine Postcards, Nine Extracts’. Adil’s narrative, juxtaposed with Murad’s story, provides his travelling companion with a name—Refika. She reveals that they had originally planned a trip to Granada, ‘so that we might find the heart of who we were, this long lost European Muslim civilization [. . .] whose existence changed the clichés about unbridgeable civilization’ (Adil and Hussein 2013: 212). But they visit the Alcazar in Seville instead, and Refika confesses to being ‘confused which parts of the palace were Islamic, which the Catholic aftermath?’ She confesses that ‘[i]t didn’t seem to matter. I couldn’t imagine anyone living there. The gardens were the loveliest. Reversed perspectives with geometries’ (Adil and Hussein 2013: 212). The Alcazar Palace in Seville is still in use by the Spanish royal family, and though Refika’s comments reflect an interesting commingling of influences, she goes on to distance herself from this stone edifice, an emblem of power, unrelated to real life. Instead, Refika shifts her emphasis (and praise) to the spectacular gardens, which are filled with plants that live and breathe. Here, mortality and continuity are processes of nature and within the carefully cultivated garden, structured by Moorish and other influences, words such as ‘roots’, ‘cross-pollination’, and ‘hybridity’ are both literal and essential. Similarly, in the body of work discussed here, the focus on the intertwining of histories and cultures and the merging of Islamic and European influences, asserts but a normal, natural progression in the story of humankind. But these narratives also portray how this intertwined tale has been disrupted, distorted, and suppressed by an inaccurate, ahistorical rhetoric. Therefore, the excavation of Andalusia’s symbiotic past by these writers asserts a dream—a dream in which the possibilities of a future that is mirrored by the past moves beyond the politics of prejudice and confrontation to celebrate a melting pot of culture in mainstream European life, as well as in the Muslim world and South Asia.

Notes 1 Averroes is the Latinized name of Ibn Rushd, and The Collar of the Dove was written by Ibn Hazm. Both writers belonged to Al-Andalus. 2 Prior to Shahid Ali, poets such as Shahid Suhrawardy, Ahmed Ali, and Alamgir Hashmi had tried to capture in their English verse the essence and elegance of the Urdu ghazal. 3 Iqbal received special permission to go there in 1933, at a time when ‘Muslims and Jews were still banned from visiting Spain’ (see Amjad and Haider 2013: 153) 4 Avicenna and Maimonides are the Latinized names of Ibn Sina and Ibn Maymun, respectively.


Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction Muslim culture and minority identities in Shashi Deshpande’s Small Remedies Caroline Herbert

In his discussion of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Urdu lyric poetry, Aamir Mufti suggests that the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 represented a moment of crisis for the Muslim subject, who was ‘placed at the cusp of a fatal dilemma: [and] can signify either “a separate nation” or “an Indian minority” ’ (2007: 237 [emphasis in original]). This chapter examines the legacies of this ‘fatal dilemma’ in the context of India’s contemporary crisis in secularism, the rise of militant Hindu nationalism, and the ongoing minoritization of Muslim identity and culture. It explores how writers turn to music to think through these legacies. From Salman Rushdie’s painters, authors, and photographers, to Anita Desai’s poets and singers, to the performers of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (1993), artists and their creative work have been central to Anglophone Indian authors’ efforts to excavate the subcontinent’s past in resistance to the reduction of complex and intertwined cultures into the categories of ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘religious’, and ‘secular’. Focusing on Shashi Desphande’s Small Remedies (2000), this chapter considers the relationship between music, memory, and national identity and explores what imaginative resources music history, and the interaction between music and fiction, might offer to our understanding of the minoritization of Muslim subjectivities and of the shared histories of Muslim and Hindu cultures on the subcontinent. As Deshpande is concerned with the experiences of women across the twentieth century, a corollary of this discussion is the changing position of the woman and the Muslim as ‘respectable’ figures in the national imaginary. Small Remedies is a direct response to the destruction of the Babri Masjid, a sixteenth-century mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, by Hindu nationalist militants on 6 December 1992. The demolition was the climax to a nationwide campaign, itself often violently targeting Muslim communities and cultural sites, to remap and re-imagine India as a sacred homeland for Hindus. Devastating nationwide riots followed, affecting both Hindu and Muslim communities, but impacting Bombay’s Muslim population particularly severely, aided by the civic administration, police complicity, and Shiv Sena activism, and fuelled by rumours of Muslim violence. Hundreds were killed; more than 150,000 were forced to flee; and over 100,000 took refuge in temporary camps within the city (Hansen 2001: 122–3). In March 1993, a series of bombs were detonated across

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 71 Bombay, apparently planted in retaliation for the anti-Muslim violence (see Hansen 2001: 125). Small Remedies explicitly engages with these events. It is narrated by Madhu Saptarishi, a writer from Bombay, who is commissioned to prepare a biography of the Hindustani classical vocalist Savitribai Indorekar.1 Madhu accepts the commission in an effort to escape the trauma of the loss of her son, who was killed in the 1993 blasts. Hoping ‘to forget, to get away from memories’, Madhu leaves Bombay for Bhavanipur to interview Savitribai.2 Rather than offering refuge, Madhu’s research into the vocalist’s past involves the excavation of her own. As a child, Madhu lived next door to Savitribai in Neemgaon and was friends with her daughter, Munni, although Savitribai refuses to mention her daughter or, apparently, to recognize Madhu. Much of the novel is concerned with Madhu’s negotiation of the ‘silences, the pauses’ in Savitribai’s account of her career (28), particularly those relating to her Muslim lover and their daughter. Madhu’s contemplation of these silences also entails a critical reflection on her own past and her implication in a ‘collective amnesia’ (106) surrounding the experiences of Muslim subjects in India. Through Madhu’s work, Small Remedies challenges contemporary narratives of nation that seek to ‘forget’ the centrality of Muslim communities to national history and culture, in order to construct them as non-Indian. The novel suggests the urgency of contesting understandings of Indian culture that naturalize ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ as stable, separate, and separable identities, a set of identity formations upon which nationalist narratives—both inclusive and exclusive—tend to rely. Madhu’s position as a researcher and writer, and her negotiations of India’s cultural history, resonates with Edward Said’s analysis of the relationship between the critic and national culture in ‘Secular Criticism’ (1983). Said’s use of the term ‘secular’ is catachrestic, in that it signals a sceptical opposition to religion and nationalism as systems of belief that work to authorize sets of values and social relations. The role of the secular critic is to make visible the discriminations that structure systems of national culture and belonging, to destabilize the certainties of nationalist constructions of the nation as home, and to expose the ‘camouflaging’ of the exclusions involved in naturalizing national community and culture (Said 1983: 26). It is to critique the ‘quasi-religious authority of being comfortably at home among one’s people’ (16) and to problematize the ‘assurance, confidence, the majority sense, the entire matrix of meanings we associate with “home”, belonging and community’ (11). Moreover, the critic’s role is to show how national culture ‘often has to do with an aggressive sense of nation, home, community, and belonging’ that works by producing—often violently—exclusions and cultural disenfranchisement (12 [emphasis added]). As Mufti suggests, secular criticism works to show how ‘the experience of being at home can only be produced by rendering some other homeless’ (Mufti 1998: 107). For Said, the experience of exile makes such critical consciousness possible, because the exile is radically aware of an unsettling plurality of cultures and homes. Mufti extends Said’s work into the Indian context, in order to rethink secularism as strategy of opposition to majoritarian nationalism, a particularly urgent


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task in the face of the Bharata Janata Party’s cynical articulation of a ‘genuine secularism’ (as against what they term the ‘pseudo-secularism’ of the current state) that is structured by a supposed ‘tolerance’ of minorities by the majority (Hindu) nation (see BJP 1998: n.p.; see also Needham and Sunder Rajan 2007a: 16−17). While Said’s work would clearly challenge the attempts by Hindu nationalist organizations to naturalize India as a Hindu homeland—a challenge that has an important place in Deshpande’s novel—Mufti suggests that it also enables a critical engagement with secularism itself and its potential to reproduce majority-minority frameworks. For Mufti, Nehruvian and constitutional secularism are majoritarian discourses, in that they envisage a state that is tolerant of minority communities. At independence, secular nationalism—influenced by the categorizing structures of the colonial state—transformed India’s Muslim population into non-Indians and, in turn, a minority community within the nation-state (see, for example, Nehru [1946] 1989: 381−2), a move that continues to be exploited by Hindu nationalist rhetoric (Mufti 1998: 118). Building on Said’s figuring of the exilic experience as one of critical possibility, Mufti argues that the minority position becomes a crucial site from which to disrupt the universalist claims of the secular state (1998: 117). In this respect, critical secularism becomes a practice that, while firmly committed to secularism, seeks to rethink the apparent stability of cultural identities and universalist categories upon which it relies, in order to raise questions about the validity of distinctions made between ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’, ‘Indian’ and ‘Pakistani’ and to reveal the ‘dialectic of majority and minority’ out of which they arise (Mufti 2007: 29). Deshpande’s novel is concerned with the minoritization of Muslim subjectivities and cultures in postcolonial India and with the normalization of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ as fixed categories. Madhu’s research into musicians at the heart of Indian national culture necessitates a critical reflection on her own claims to ‘belonging’, and of her own position as a middle-class intellectual from a nonpractising Brahmin family, in the context of the rise of militant Hindu nationalism in 1990s India. In this respect, there is perhaps a self-conscious and self-reflexive intersection between Madhu’s position and her research and writing and Deshpande’s own, the author herself a middle-class woman from a Brahmin family. Madhu is increasingly aware of how her own identity—and that of national icons such as Savitribai—has been constituted by displacing other subjectivities. Through Madhu’s research, Deshpande challenges majoritarian narratives of nation, while emphasizing the importance of a self-reflexive (rather than nostalgic) engagement with India’s secular histories and her own relation to them. In an apt gesture towards musical form, Said argues that the condition of exile ‘gives rise to an awareness of simultaneous dimensions that [. . .] is contrapuntal’ (2000: 186). The interruptive relationship between Savitribai’s account of her life and Madhu’s memories of childhood produces a contrapuntal reading of India’s postcolonial history and of majoritarian narratives of nation, where both Savitribai and Madhu’s subject positions and positions as narrators are destabilized and decentred. While Madhu is not straightforwardly exilic, her narrative is

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 73 marked by a sense of estrangement, and Deshpande works to displace Madhu’s sense of ‘being-at-home’ in a number of ways. Although Madhu’s comfortable understanding of Bombay as home has been disrupted by communal violence, she would, as the letters from her husband suggest, be welcomed back. In Bhavanipur, she unexpectedly finds herself living with family relations; her host, Hari, is her first cousin once removed—a discovery that highlights the complexity of familial relationships. Unable to ‘make any connections through [her] mother’ (43), Madhu can only understand her relationship to Hari through her aunt, who, like her mother, had been ‘disowned by the family’ (45), ‘blanked out’ as if ‘they did not exist’ (46). Even as the revelation that Madhu and Hari are distant relations ‘converts [Madhu] from an outsider [. . .] into something else’ (42), it also ironically disrupts the assumed role filial bonds play in consolidating ideas of home. Despite these bonds, Madhu’s move to Bhavanipur is presented as a self-exile from the familiar spaces of Bombay. On arrival, Madhu is marked as a stranger; she is introduced to Savitribai as ‘the writer from Bombay’, an identity ‘so strange, it feels like a disguise’ (16 [emphasis in original]). This ‘strange’ identity also occludes Madhu’s former connection to the singer, a connection neither biographer nor subject acknowledge to each other. For Madhu, this ‘anonymity’ is initially empowering (58). ‘By making a stranger of me,’ she writes, ‘she’s unburdened us of our past’ and, apparently outside of history, Madhu feels ‘very welcome in her home’ (58). Madhu’s stay at Lata and Hari’s ‘strange’ house (21) is similarly framed by feelings of displacement. Madhu figures herself as a stranger, an ‘intrusive presence’ (11) restlessly wandering ‘the unknown territory’ (10) of a house characterized by contingency and a ‘constant flux’ that enables Lata and Hari ‘to live a nomadic existence within it’ (21). One function of secular criticism is to reflect on the relationship between filiation (familial or biological ties) and affiliation (bonds created through shared cultural or social values). Said is concerned that communities built through affiliative connections—while potentially challenging the privileging of ‘natural’, biological bonds—may actually ‘reinstate’ or ‘duplicate’ the ‘authority associated in the past with filiative order’ (Said 1983: 19). The secular critic’s task is to unsettle this ‘cooperation’ (Said 1983: 16). Deshpande’s text explores the complex interplay between filiative and affiliative communities, and Madhu’s sense of displacement produces a critical perspective on the production of familial and national community. It is in the nomadic house that Madhu researches the biography and excavates her own family history, which itself challenges the centrality of filiation and sameness to constructions of community and belonging. Her mother having died in her infancy, her father dies when Madhu is a teenager, a loss that ‘made [her] suddenly a stranger to [her] own life’, as though she ‘had been moved sideways, away from [her] place’ (41). Madhu is left to forge a new affiliative community that stretches beyond blood relations. Although Leela, with whom she lives, is her aunt, Madhu foregrounds the social rather than the biological bonds of her ad hoc family, which is characterized by cultural difference. Joining Leela’s ‘strange family’ (42)—Leela, a Hindu


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widow, has remarried Joe, a Catholic with two children called Tony and Paula— Madhu at first feels out of place and is bullied by Paula for being Hindu. In the face of this hostility, Madhu circumvents the family to forge her own relationships, until Tony ‘regularize[s] [their] relationship’ through a bhau-bij arti ceremony, symbolically turning himself and Madhu into siblings (103). This is not ‘a proper family’ (102), but comprises networks of affiliations between ‘persons from entirely different backgrounds, different languages, different ideas’ (100). Family relationships, in Madhu’s experience, are ‘forge[d]’ (102), ‘[s]imulate[d]’ (103), made ‘with a determination’ (203); they are not innate, but are selfconsciously performed. Presenting familial bonds as self-conscious acts that cross religious and linguistic boundaries, Madhu’s affiliative community performs a secular inclusivity that challenges notions of cultural purity. Madhu hopes to escape the traumatic politics of the present through her research into Hindustani music. However, like her memories of her own unconventional family, Madhu’s research involves a negotiation of the politics of difference and a recognition of the ‘worldliness’ of music (Said 1983: 4)—its relationship with national history and culture. Now in her eighties, the interest in Savitribai lies not only in a life spanning the twentieth century and a career coinciding with the decades surrounding independence, but also in a ‘controversial’ biography (19) that combines a rise to public national significance with personal scandal. As Nancy Batty observes, music is central to Deshpande’s engagement with national politics and culture (2010: 240). Elsewhere, Janaki Bhakle positions music in India ‘as part of and participant in a historical transformation’ that brings into view ‘questions about nationalism, secularism, and modern religiosity in the public sphere, and about gendered respectability and progressive histories’ (2005: 7). Madhu’s research explores these questions, engaging with the complex histories of musical culture and women’s changing position within the public sphere. Small Remedies therefore shares some of its concerns with Seth’s A Suitable Boy, which responds to the crisis in secularism in the 1990s by turning to the 1950s, to explore the implications of the relationship between music and national identity, particularly for women. As Rachel Farebrother notes in her discussion of Seth’s novel, music ‘assumed a symbolic role in the newly formed nation-state’ (Farebrother 2005: 43). The establishment of a Ministry of Cultural Affairs, the inauguration of national and state academies of art and music, the introduction of music departments in universities, and the organization of folk festivals all signalled the importance of the cultural arts to the imagining of the emergent nation (Massey and Massey 1993: 75−6). In the 1950s, the state-owned All-India Radio expanded its efforts at ‘cultural uplift’ by popularizing a national canon of classical music (Massey and Massey 1993: 76). Women were to play a significant part in this project. Until the mid-nineteenth century, courtesans comprised the majority of female Indian classical music singers (Post [1987] 1989: 97−103). In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, however, efforts were made to open up classical music to middle-class women and transform performance into a ‘respectable’ activity (Bhakle 2005: 4). This movement towards such ‘gendered respectability’ (Bhakle 2005: 7) was not

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 75 available to all women. Courtesans were gradually marginalized, as upper-caste Hindu women ‘dislodged an earlier generation of baijis’ (Bhakle 2005: 261). While Seth explores the marginalization of the courtesan, Deshpande tracks the emergence of the upper-caste Hindu woman as a ‘respectable’ performer, and the notion of ‘respectability’ is repeated throughout Small Remedies. Hailing from a wealthy, Brahmin family, Savitribai’s desire to perform meets with disapproval from her grandmother (28), though her mother encourages her to sing at a family gathering (27). As a woman, Savitribai could not attend the musical recitals at her father-in-law’s house (he eventually allows her to listen through an open door [217]). Similarly, it proves difficult for Savitribai to persuade the Guruji, Kashinath Buwa, to teach her, as he believes music to be an inappropriate career for a married woman. ‘[I]t became a curse,’ Savitribai claims, ‘being a Brahmin woman [. . . and] [b]elonging to a respectable family’ (130). Some of the shifting gendered respectability of professional performance is indicated by the different connotations of ‘bai’, as it is appended to Savitribai’s name. When Madhu’s father calls her ‘Savitribai’, ‘there was respect and admiration in his voice’; to others, her position as ‘the singer woman’ prompts a more ‘derogatory’ tone: ‘To Babu, she was “that bai”, by which he meant “that woman” ’, his tone and body language making his ‘rude contempt’ clear (29 [emphasis in original]). Deshpande connects these transformations in ‘gendered respectability’ with the changing position of the Muslim as a ‘respectable’ presence in the national imaginary and the gradual marginalization of Muslim artists from the national culture. Savitribai becomes a critically acclaimed singer of national and international significance, and as such her career offers an index of national culture, as Madhu recognizes: she is the last of the musicians of the great classical style, one of a handful of purists, the doyen of all Hindustani vocalists today, indeed of all musicians. She has made no concessions to change, to innovation, to the demands of contemporary audiences. Her repertoire has not gone beyond what was given to her by her Guruji. She is very clear that there is no need to go beyond it, no need either to improvise or to innovate. (165) Savitribai’s public persona is presented as part of an uninterrupted and unchanging musical tradition that extends in a unidirectional line from Guruji to her. She is given an almost universal and transcendent significance that appears to erase specific boundaries of language, regional culture, or tradition. One of Deshpande’s concerns is to probe the exclusions upon which such constructions of national continuity, cultural ‘purity’, and ‘tradition’ are built and to make visible how ‘all claims of a universal nature are particular claims’ (Mufti 1998: 112). Deshpande fragments Savitribai’s narrative with memories and histories that reveal the dangers of nostalgic narratives of the past that pose as universal, while relying upon a ‘collective amnesia’ about the subcontinent’s hybrid cultural histories.


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Savitribai’s narration of her rise to ‘respectability’ (167) is structured by the omission of her relationship with her Muslim tabla player, Ghulam Ahmed, and their daughter, Munni. Madhu notes that Savitribai constructs a clear division between the public and private; the fact that she left her husband to live, unmarried, with Ghulam and had a daughter with him ‘ha[s] no place in the story of her life as a musician’ (129). As Madhu reflects, this relationship ‘must have been not only unimaginable, but the height of criminality’ (220) and, in Neemgaon, a ‘conventional society [. . .] where each family had its place marked out for it according to religion, caste, money, family background’, Savitribai’s household would have been ‘radically, shockingly different’ (138). The disapproval that meets Savitribai’s pursuit of a career is compounded by her relationship with a Muslim. Rather than confront these controversial aspects of her life in her account, Savitribai reinvents herself as an appropriate national public figure by erasing her inter-religious relationship from public view: She clings fiercely [. . .] to her respectability, the respectability she claimed in her second birth as a singer, when [. . .] she reappeared in public view, wearing at that first public performance the mangalsutra of the married woman, instead of the pearls she had worn until then. A respectably married woman. Both Ghulam Saab, her lover, and Munni, her daughter, no longer part of her life. (167) Savitribai’s public arrival as a singer is marked by her ‘reinvent[ion] [of] herself ’, in Shirley Chew’s words, ‘as both eminent artist and respectable woman’ (2005: 76). More specifically, she reinvents herself as a respectable Brahmin Hindu woman by erasing the ‘criminality’ of her relationship to Ghulam. As Batty suggests, Ghulam stands as ‘the “good” Muslim whose presence must be disavowed by those who claim a “pure” Hindu identity’ (Batty 2010: 252). Savitribai’s failure to mention Ghulam and Munni—it is never clear whether her silence is a deliberate forgetting or the effect of a stroke—is a repetition of this earlier entrance into the public sphere. The exclusion of Ghulam suggests a writing out of Muslim cultures, and of shared Hindu-Muslim histories, from an increasingly Hinduized public sphere and national culture. This is not to suggest that Savitribai is herself a Hindu chauvinist; she refuses to sing bhajans and Madhu reflects that the singer only begins to wear her mangalsutra again after selling her pearls to fund her career (214). Nevertheless, Deshpande is concerned with the politics of omission as much as commission, and Savitribai’s silence about Ghulam and Munni appears reflective of an increasingly pronounced ‘collective amnesia’ about the historical interdependence of Hindu and Muslim cultures on the Indian subcontinent—particularly on the part of revisionist Hindu nationalist narratives—and of the shared cultural resources of the post-Partition nation-states, who have sought ‘to normalize modern South Asian existence in terms of the autonomy of national

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 77 cultures’ (Mufti 2007: 261). Situated in its historical moment, Savitribai’s effort to excise Muslim figures from her public life gains further significance, reflecting the ‘ “partitioning” of cultures’ (Mufti 2007: 244) that was both a cause and consequence of the creation of India and Pakistan. The novel eschews dates for much of its narrative, but does offer orienting events: the ‘present’ is 1994, one year after the Bombay bombings; Leela is imprisoned during the 1975 to 1976 Emergency. Despite Savitribai’s ‘confusion [. . .] about dates and facts’ (214), she probably began studying with Guruji in the late 1930s or early 1940s, given that her meeting with Guriji happened ‘[m]ore than fifty years’ ago (130). Along with the cherished photo of Nehru, this suggests that her ‘second birth as a singer’ coincides with the years just before or just after independence. Thus, through Savitribai’s ‘rebirth’ into respectability and her later narration of this— both marked by the absence of Ghulam—Deshpande connects the years leading up to Partition and the Ayodhya violence in the 1990s, positioning them as related moments when ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ cultures were figured as separate entities, and when Muslim identities were constructed as ‘other’ to Indian identity, to be excised from the national imaginary. Yet the novel’s focus on music histories demonstrates the impossibility, and the dangers, of the separating out of cultures upon which nationalist discourses and majority-minority identity politics depend. For Batty, Bai’s enigmatic silence about Ghulam signals a ‘deeper secret’ that Deshpande hints at without fully detailing: ‘the vital role that Muslim musicians have played in the history of Hindustani music, a debt that cannot be overtly acknowledged or celebrated in a heightened atmosphere of communal tension’ in the 1990s (Batty 2010: 253 [emphasis in original]). As both Batty and Chew point out, Deshpande gestures towards this long history of cultural interdependence through key details (Batty 2010: 256−7; Chew 2005: 79). Through Guruji, Savitribai is connected to the Gwalior gharana, an important centre of music (Chew 2005: 79) that associates her with a specific syncretic history stretching back to the thirteenth century (see Neuman [1980] 1990: 148–52; Sharma 2006: 43). The Rajas of Gwalior were generous patrons of musicians, and the gharana was founded by two Muslim brothers (Neuman [1980] 1990: 148). Gwalior is also associated with Mian Tansen. A musician and musicologist, Tansen was a ‘Brahmin Muslim’ who visited Hindu temples and paved the way for Muslim musicians to participate in, and contribute to, Hindu devotional music (see Chew 2005: 79, citing Massey and Massey 1993: 45–6, 50−3). That Tansen was also an important member of the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court in the sixteenth century (Neuman [1980] 1990: 36; Massey and Massey 1993: 50–3) appropriately links him, and by extension Savitribai, to the contemporary crisis over the Babri Masjid, the immediate context of Madhu’s research. Tansen is a reminder of the syncretic culture of Akbar’s court and the historical interdependence of Muslim and Hindu musical and devotional cultures on the subcontinent. This is a history that Hindutva militants sought to destroy with the Babri Masjid and that Deshpande insists on remembering and recuperating.


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Savitribai is a ‘composite figure’, possibly based on key figures in Hindustani music, such as Gangabai Hagal and Moghubai Kurdikar (Chew 2005: 74, fn. 9). Her biography may also evoke ‘one of Hindustani music’s most loved scandals’ (Bhakle 2005: 215)—a ‘scandal’ that highlights the historical links between South Asia’s religious cultures—the relationship between Tarabai Mane and Abdul Karim at the turn of the twentieth century, and their daughter Hirabai Barodekar’s career as one of Maharashtra’s leading singers (Bhakle 2005: 216). Abdul Karim was a Muslim musician at Baroda, at the Kirana gharana. Already married, he moved to Bombay with the young singer, Tarabai Mane, the Hindu daughter of a court official (Bhakle 2005: 226). The couple married and went on to have five surviving children, each of whom was given both a Hindu and a Muslim name (Bhakle 2005: 216). Tarabai left Abdul Karim in 1918 and, in Bhakle’s account, began to erase Karim’s presence from her children’s public lives, repositioning them as Hindu girls, using only their Hindu names (2005: 242). Karim never saw his children again (and nor, Bhakle suggests, did he want to); he remarried and died in 1937. In the 1930s, meanwhile, Hirabai—the couple’s second-eldest child—began recording Marathi bhajans (Bhakle 2005: 242–3). For Bhakle, if Tarabai’s life was marked by a scandal, Hirabai’s can be ‘characterized as a movement from scandal to respectability couched in middle-class, Marathi, upper-caste terms’ (2005: 243). Though her voice linked her to Abdul Karim, their relationship was never publicly acknowledged, and Bhakle suggests that this tension highlights some of the transformations of the musical public sphere in the early twentieth century revealing, on the one hand, the interconnected histories of Hindu and Muslim cultures and, on the other, some of the ways in which those cultures were being mapped as distinct. Thus, even as her musical career was ‘genealogically connected’ to her father and the tradition in which he trained, her ‘emergence as a successful performer required both gendered caste respectability and a total break with her musician Muslim father’ (2005: 252). The interplay between music history, gendered respectability, and the apparent suppression of a composite Hindu–Muslim heritage revealed here resonates with Savitribai’s narrative. Like Hirabai, Savitribai suppresses her personal and professional relationship with a Muslim man, in order to perform as an upper-caste, respectable Hindu woman. Madhu’s memories of Munni and Ghulam disrupt the continuity that Savitribai constructs between her singularly Hindu identity and her position within national culture, decentring her narrative power. But they also unsettle Madhu’s assumptions about the universality of her own experiences in postcolonial India. The suppression of inter-religious relations also marks Munni’s negotiation of her hybrid identity. Munni’s absence from Savitribai’s account, and Madhu’s negotiation of the singer’s ‘blanketing of Munni’s name’ (162), is key to Deshpande’s explorations of histories of secularism and minoritized identities. As the daughter of a Brahmin vocalist and her Muslim tabla player/lover, Munni embodies the intertwined histories of Muslim and Hindu cultures, unsettling ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ as distinct and separable identities in her very body. However, if Madhu finds her own culturally mixed, affiliative community

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 79 enabling, Munni rejects her family, and her fraught efforts to refashion her identity reveal the unequal experiences of India’s postcolonial secularism from different subject positions. Munni works hard to construct a biography that distances her from her Muslim heritage. She denies any relation to Ghulam and ignores him, evades his touch, and relates stories of abuse: she claims he kidnapped her; she ‘speaks of starvation, of being tied up and beaten’ (64); and insists that he ‘is her enemy’ (65). Refusing to recognize Ghulam as family, Munni repeatedly insists that her father is a Brahmin man, Sadashivrao, a wealthy and ‘very famous lawyer’ who lives in Pune (33). As Batty observes, Munni attempts to ‘disavow not just her mother, not just her mother’s lover and the man who claims to be her father, but her father’s religion’ and the names she has been given by her parents (2010: 247). These disavowals repeat widely circulating anti-Muslim rhetoric, figuring Ghulam as the aggressive, duplicitous Muslim male, the enemy within from whom Munni must be saved by a male Hindu hero or by the nation-state. Munni claims that Ghulam merely ‘pretends’ to be kind, leaving Madhu rereading his body as potentially hiding an ‘evil nature’ (65). Munni’s refusal of Ghulam is, then, a refusal to occupy the position of the demonized Muslim. Her specific claim to be the daughter of a Brahmin lawyer, meanwhile, contains an implicit appeal to the legal apparatus of the nation-state to confer citizenship status upon her, a citizenship coded as available to the singularly Hindu, but not to the Muslim or Muslim-Hindu, subject. Munni’s crisis of belonging and her fraught attempts to assert her legitimacy by suppressing her Muslim heritage pivot around the importance of names as signifiers of cultural identity and filiation. The urgency of these claims is made clear in a distressing episode during which a group of children attack Munni’s difference, seizing upon her Muslim heritage and positioning her as a public sign of the ‘criminality’ of her parents’ relationship. The children ‘interrogate’ Munni about her background: They pretend they don’t know her name. ‘I’m Meenakshi,’ she proclaims. ‘But I thought your name was Munni.’ ‘No, my name is Meenakshi.’ ‘Then why does everyone call you Munni?’ ‘I don’t know. My name is Meenakshi.’ She’s becoming stubborn now. I’ve seen this mood before, she won’t budge. They sense this, and go on to other questions. ‘If your name is Meenakshi, why does your father have a Muslim name?’ ‘My father doesn’t have a Muslim name. My father’s name is Sadashivrao.’ ‘No, it’s not. It’s Ghulam Ahmed.’ ‘My father is Sadashivrao, he’s in Pune.’ ‘If your father is there, why does your mother live here in Neemgaon?’ ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.’ (35)


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The children’s ‘interrogation’ resembles a hostile citizenship test at the border, and reflects the aggressive sense of community that Said suggests lies beneath constructions of national culture, whose confidence (and unmarked identity) is structured by the disenfranchisement of another. The children do not feel the need to assert their own cultural identities here, apparently sure of their belonging; Munni/Meenakshi, however, must justify her presence by positioning herself in relation to either a Hindu or a Muslim father. The connection of the children’s anti-Muslim hostility to the surveillance strategies of the nation-state becomes explicit in Madhu’s retelling of the incident. Prompted by her reading of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel about Stalinist Russia, The First Circle, Madhu associates the ‘horrifying interrogation of the diplomat Innokenty’ with the girls’ questioning: What’s your name? What’s your father’s name? Where is your father? Who’s the man who lives with your mother? And, like Innokenty’s questions to his interrogators, Munni’s answers, too, were ignored by her tormentors. Her replies—my father is in Pune, my father is a lawyer, my name is Meenaskhi—were brushed aside, as if they were of no consequence. Then there were the comments: Look, she’s wearing new clothes. That’s for Id isn’t it? Ayya, she’s stinking of meat. Did you eat biryani? (77 [emphasis in original]) Batty suggests that for the children, as for Munni, the scandal is not her parents’ unmarried status, ‘but that she is a meat-eating, Id-observing daughter of a Muslim and is therefore not one of them, not one of the predominantly Hindu community’ (2010: 249). While Batty’s is an important reading, acknowledging Munni’s efforts to distance herself from both her parents, it potentially misses the anxiety caused by Munni’s hybrid identity as both Hindu and Muslim. Batty rightly remarks that ‘Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja is a girl with too many names, too many fathers, too many identities’ (2010: 247), but I would emphasize this plurality as crucial to the text’s meaning. I agree that Munni seeks to hide her ‘Muslimness’, but it is the very indeterminacy of her identity, and her inability to articulate a clear and convincing affiliation to either the Muslim or Hindu community—to be either Munni or Meenakshi—that troubles both the children and Munni herself. Munni’s crisis dramatizes, with a difference, the ‘fatal dilemma’ that Mufti suggests affects Muslim subjects after Partition, where they can be seen either to constitute a discrete nation or an Indian minority. Munni’s dilemma is compounded by her hybrid identity, which makes this either/or signification impossible and which reminds us of the dangers of reiterating this majority/minority structure in our own readings of cultural texts and identities. The two versions of the childhood scene foreground the problematics of minoritized identities, as an

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 81 anti-Muslim rhetoric is brought to crisis by (because it cannot fix) Munni’s identity as both Muslim and Hindu and so refuses the complexity of that identity. As such, Munni’s body signifies an ‘excess that cannot be contained within the categorical structure of the nation-state’ (Mufti 2004: 272), unsettling the children’s demands that she identify herself and rendering it impossible for her to do so. In the face of aggressive and essentialist identity discourses, Munni is forced to choose between a minoritized, delegitimized identity within the local community or a legitimate majority identity beyond it—that is, she can either be the illegitimate daughter of a Muslim in Neemgaon or the legitimate daughter of a Hindu in Pune. She must be rendered homeless by a majoritarian discourse or render herself homeless, and she is forced to claim belonging to a community elsewhere, in order to resist minoritization here. For Munni, this choice is no choice at all. Her response is to erase her difference and assimilate into the majority community, ‘beating herself into shape with a savage determination’ to become Hindu (225). In a chance encounter decades later, Madhu meets a woman she is convinced is Munni, but who claims to be ‘Shailaja Joshi’. Having ‘yearned for the conventional life’ as a child (169), the woman Madhu meets has transformed herself into a ‘middle-class Bombay housewife’ (76), an ‘ordinary looking woman with an ordinary family life and a name so ordinary that it covers pages in the telephone directory’ (170). This ‘ordinariness’—framed as constituting a numerical majority—is coded as Hindu by the mangalsutra Shailaja wears, a detail that echoes Savitribai’s reinvention of herself earlier. Munni/Shailaja’s response to Madhu’s recognition combines Savitribai’s refusal of a shared history with Madhu with her own childhood assertions of her Hinduness: ‘You’re Munni,’ I said abruptly, startled into recognition. She looked at me, I could swear there was recognition there, before the face became blank and inscrutable. ‘My name is Shailaja—Shailaja Joshi.’ The name was uttered slowly, clearly, her hand going to her mangalsutra as she spoke. [. . .] A slight tremor in the hand seemed like a quiver of doubt. Am I Shailaja Joshi? Or Meenakshi Indorekar? Or Munni? (76) The ‘quiver of doubt’ indexes the anxieties caused by Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s excess of identities that cannot be contained by one name or one cultural marker. The ‘tremor’ perhaps foreshadows the ‘subterranean rumblings’ (299) that lead to the mob violence of 1992–1993, adding urgency to her desire to be recognized as Shailaja, not Munni. Notably, Madhu is positioned as an invasive, hostile figure, aligned with the childhood interrogators: when their eyes met, Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja ‘was taken aback, she hadn’t expected to be caught. So exactly did she look when she said to the girls, “My name is not Munni, my name is Meenakshi” ’ (77). Confronted by Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja, a figure who resists Madhu’s gaze and refuses reciprocal recognition, Madhu is prompted


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to reconsider the childhood taunting and recognize the cruelty and genocidal edge of their games. At the time, she ‘can’t understand why the questions make Munni so angry’ (35). She remembers the ‘dehumanized interrogators repeating their questions’ (77) and Munni’s ‘stubborn adherence to her own truth, her bravado concealing, I think of it now, her terror, her distress and her grief ’ (77). As a child, Munni seeks to escape the terror of minoritization by affiliating herself with a father elsewhere; as Shailaja, she chooses to erase her hybrid past altogether, to fit into essentialist and majoritarian narratives of nation. Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja is killed in the 1993 bomb blasts. The connection between her childhood experience of communal violence and the context of her death is reiterated by Madhu’s rereading of the children as ‘preparing themselves for the much more sophisticated, much more savage games of cruelty they will play as adults’ (36). Gyanendra Pandey argues that, in our analyses of communalism in India, we must analyse violence in both its ‘spectacular’ forms—the riot, the bomb, the pogrom—but also in its more disguised forms, in the ‘routine violence’ enacted in the daily production of ‘naturalized’ nations and communities, and majority and minority identities (Pandey 2006: 8). Quotidian behaviour, Pandey points out, enables the conditions for, and a tolerance of, collective violence (Pandey 2006: 12). Explicitly constructing a lineage between ‘quotidian’ childhood taunts and ‘spectacular’ communal riots, Madhu’s reflections on Munni’s transformation into Shailaja bring into view the routine violence of processes of minoritization that are so quotidian that children repeat and re-enact them. Through Munni’s narrative, which interrupts both Savitribai and Madhu’s narration of their lives, Desphande highlights the unequal experience of India’s postcolonial modernity from minority and majority positions. Munni’s experiences force Madhu to become self-consciously aware that her own sense of being comfortably at home, of not being subject to routine violence, is a privileged experience, one that is related to another’s sense of homelessness. Madhu figures the 1992 to 1993 violence as an exception that ‘ha[d] never happened before, not this way’ (299), claiming that ‘[f]or thirty years I’ve moved about in this city and never once known fear’ (299). Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s experiences reveal this freedom from fear as far from a universal one. Similarly, Madhu has repeatedly claimed affinity with Munni’s ‘outsider’ status (138) because of their unconventional backgrounds, but must now acknowledge Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s markedly different experiences of social marginalization. Moreover, Madhu must acknowledge her complicity in those experiences. During the childhood interrogations, Madhu wants to help Munni, but is prevented by her lack of experience and fear of reprisals. ‘I stand a little away’, she remembers, ‘making it clear that I’m not on the side of her tormentors’ (35). Munni, however, implicates Madhu, ‘for doing nothing, for saying nothing—as if it is I who am her enemy’ (35). Madhu enacts a retrospective critique that troubles the adequacy of her own responses to Munni’s abuse. Her failure to resist, actively, the essentializing of Indian identities compounds her friend’s dilemma; her silence is figured as bearing some responsibility for the terrifying minoritization of Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s hybrid identity.

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 83 Through Madhu’s retrospective critiques of her own (in)actions, Deshpande emphasizes the ethical importance of a self-reflexive engagement with unequal experiences of postcolonial modernity. Such an engagement would displace the universalizing assumptions of secular citizenship and acknowledge the uneven power dynamics involved in the production of national culture. Deshpande emphasizes this by foregrounding Madhu’s awareness of her own implication in the marginalization of Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja in the present, through her failure to ask Savitribai about her daughter. In turn, Madhu recognizes the need to draw attention to the particularity of her own subject position, declaring that she ‘cannot be the invisible narrator’, but must instead take ‘responsibility’ for her writing (and its gaps) (162) and engage with the silences in Savitribai’s story and with her own complicity in them. Although unable to access Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s motivations for her renaming, or for Savitribai’s omissions, Madhu nevertheless recognizes the need to attempt an ethical engagement with Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s narrative absence. Munni cannot be erased from the cultural history that Savitribai’s life tracks, but ‘remains [. . .] blocking [Madhu], refusing to let [her] go past her’ (116). Mufti claims that ‘[l]iberal secularism [. . .] repeatedly encounters the stumbling block of minority as both object of its projects and the sign of its own impossibility’ (2007: 260). Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja represents such a ‘stumbling block’; refusing incorporation into either ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ identity formations, majority or minority subject positions, and, indeed, refusing these very identity formations, Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja’s absent presence unsettles Madhu’s comfortable understanding of India’s inclusive secular past. The stubborn absent presence of Munni/Meenakshi/Shailaja demands that Madhu reflect on the marginalization of Muslim subjects, but also on the vulnerability of her own assumptions about universal secular citizenship and the limits of her own actions, in order to challenge fundamentalist constructions of national and individual identity. The form of the novel is crucial to the unsettling of Madhu’s and Savitribai’s narrative power—their vantage point on, and involvement in, the production of national culture. Deshpande fractures and fragments the narrative in her novel. The present is disrupted by the past; Madhu’s memories interrupt Savitribai’s account of her career, while Madhu herself rereads episodes and remembers longsuppressed incidents. Both Chew and Batty have read this formal play as indicative of Deshpande’s interest in the narration of trauma and repressed memories (Chew 2005: 72–3; Batty 2010: 233, 235–8), a reading I agree with. However, I suggest that Deshpande fractures the narrative to decentre, at the very level of form, the narratorial positions of both biographer and subject, drawing attention to—while displacing and dismantling—their part in the construction of national culture. The form itself, then, is pivotal to the contrapuntal reading of history and culture that Deshpande offers. In the final performance of the novel, Deshpande offers a decentred, tentative articulation of secularism from the minority position. Furthermore, through musical performance, Deshpande insists on the importance of Muslim cultures to Indian national culture, opening up a space to rethink Muslim culture in way that does not limit it to ‘function[ing] as the name of minority’ (Mufti 1998: 118). In the local


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temple, Savitribai’s student, Hasina, sings the punyatithi to mark the anniversary of the death of Bai’s Guru. Recently revealed as Ghulam’s granddaughter, Hasina is keen to ‘correct’ (273) her tutor’s narrative, emphasizing the importance of Ghulam to the singer’s career, while registering some of the costs of his marginalization. Hasina repositions Ghulam as ‘the support, the prop’ that made Savitribai’s career possible. It was Ghulam who ‘earned the money for their survival’, working as a teacher, an accompanist, collaborating with a professional drama troupe, and as music director for films (273)—a list that emphasizes the vital role played by Muslim artists across a wide spectrum of cultural production on the subcontinent. If Savitribai’s career, and by extension national culture, is revealed as inseparable from Muslim artistic endeavours, the cost of Ghulam’s exclusion is one of melancholic crisis. After their relationship ends, Ghulam gives up the tabla and becomes ‘a changed man’ (274). Ghulam ‘never ceased to mourn Munni’, and after Munni returns to Pune, he began drinking heavily (277). These details bring into view the devastating consequences of the separating out and marginalization of Muslim culture. Ghulam’s grief haunts Hasina’s very language, and ‘when she speaks of her grandfather’s feelings for Munni, her Marathi takes on a different tinge, it seems to echo the Urdu in which the old man spoke to Hasina’ (277). Marathi—the language at the heart of the Shiv Sena’s nativist, antiMuslim rewriting of Bombay, the specific context within which Deshpande writes and with which she engages—takes on the rhythms and ‘flamboyant colour’ of Urdu (277). Institutionalized as a national language in Pakistan, Urdu is a reminder of cultural histories that work across the borders of the postPartition nations. But the ‘echo’ is also a reminder of the devastating decline of Urdu literary culture in postcolonial India, a culture itself essential to Bombay’s rise to pre-eminence as a hub of literary and cinematic production. A single language strains, here, to encapsulate India’s complex histories; Urdu haunts Marathi to evoke the pain of Ghulam’s loss and the marginalization of Muslim cultures, while unsettling claims to the purity of Marathi as a distinct linguistic culture that has no relation to Muslim histories or subjectivities. At the performance, Hasina speaks of Savtribai and Ghulam, ‘bring[ing] their names together, publicly’ (317), insisting on the intertwined nature of Muslim and Hindu cultural histories in a temple where Muslims have sung for centuries. With its programme of musical forms from a variety of religious and nonreligious traditions—a Devi strota, raaga, the Malkauns, a bhajan, a tarana— the concert draws together an audience of mixed cultural and linguistic backgrounds from ‘all over India’ (286) in an almost utopian space of secularism. As Hasina sings an Akka Mahadevi vachana, a twelfth-century bhajan, Madhu reflects that ‘Hasina, a Muslim woman, sings this poem, composed centuries ago by a woman, a Hindu woman, whose entire life was a statement of her faith’ (319). The utopian possibilities of the performance are emphasized by the lyrics: ‘I saw a dream, I saw a dream’ (319), a vision of the future that draws the audience into the ‘conversation’ (318). The performance itself is radically resistant to the rewriting of Indian culture at work in the public domain. On the way to visit the temple for research purposes, Madhu is attacked, mistaken for

Music, secularism, and South Asian fiction 85 Hasina because of her salwar kameez. In some senses, the incident forces Madhu to experience communal violence from a minoritized perspective. It also reminds Madhu that her own experiences of secular citizenship are not universal, but are themselves particular and, indeed, that her own ability to claim an ‘outsider’ status (rather than have it imposed on her) is itself a product of her privileged position. The experience of anti-Muslim violence makes clear to Madhu the urgency with which she must write the article about the local secular history, an article that will lay the foundations for her biography of Savitribai. In this context, Hasina’s performance further reiterates the articulation of a utopian vision of a secular future that builds on the intertwined histories of Hindu and Muslim cultures, refusing their separation, while recognizing their different and distinct histories and discrepant experiences of postcolonial modernity. Aamir Mufti suggests that ‘no amount of talk of the plurality of “traditions” on Indian soil can erase the fact that these traditions have come to us in modernity differently located within the nation-space and, hence, differently and unequally authorized’ (1998: 116). As I have shown, Deshpande’s novel is acutely aware of the dangers of an uncritical and nostalgic celebration of India’s plural cultural pasts, and her novel stops short of offering a naïve and nostalgic syncretism as an oppositional strategy or of reinstating a universalizing secular vision. The performance is temporary, precarious, a ‘night of music that may never happen again’ (320), and the novel ends with the suggestion that there is ‘the possibility of retrieval’ of lost cultures, but not certainty (324 [emphasis added]). The performance, in which a Muslim subject is vital to an articulation of provisional secularism, offers a contingent starting point for a critical engagement with fundamentalist and secular histories of the nation. It is from this contingent starting point that Madhu returns to Bombay, her exile having brought her to the beginning of a process of remembering India’s cultural histories that also recognizes the inequalities of their production. This process of remembering and writing national cultural histories, Deshpande’s text suggests, must be one that is significantly concerned with the experiences and perspectives of the minoritized subject. It must be a process that makes visible the omissions of national culture, the marginalizations and exclusions upon which it is based. But it should also be a process marked by a self-conscious critical awareness, where the critic and intellectual acknowledges their own implication in those omissions and works to decentre their own perspective, in order to engage more ethically with the production of national culture in the past and present.

Notes 1 The novel is set in 1994, before the city was renamed Mumbai. I therefore use Bombay throughout. 2 See Deshpande (2000: 153). Subsequent references are to this edition of Small Remedies and will be cited parenthetically in the main text.


‘A shrine of words’ The politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali’s The Country Without a Post Office Rachel Farebrother

‘Words are nothing’, writes the Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali in ‘A Villanelle’, ‘just rumors—like roses—to embellish a slaughter’.1 With its jarring juxtaposition of brutality and beauty, this image encapsulates Ali’s preoccupation with the limitations of verbal expression in the face of violence. In his emphasis upon miscommunication and hearsay, Ali formulates what Susan Sontag has termed an ‘aesthetics of silence’ (1969: 3), relating the ‘negative echo of language’ to a metaphor of violence (Hassan 1971: 248). The value of creative expression itself is thrown into question: words are rendered fragile, perishable, shrinking to ‘nothing’, not least because they may strike an inappropriate note of ornamentation or ‘embellishment’ in a society ‘convulsed by bomb attacks, reprisals, crossfiring and curfew’ (Schofield 2000: 182). At the same time, it is difficult to miss the arresting clarity of Ali’s visual imagination, which vividly captures the shocking realities of ‘slaughter’, especially in the suggestive image of red roses that at once bloom and bleed. Such dynamic interplay between absence and expression, sound and the visual, the aesthetic and the political is characteristic of Ali’s 1997 poetry collection The Country Without a Post Office, a carefully choreographed sequence of technically demanding forms, such as villanelles, sestinas, canzones, and ghazals. Written from the perspective of a Kashmiri-American who yearns for his childhood home of Srinagar, the collection turns an unflinching critical gaze upon the escalation of political violence in Kashmir in the 1990s. The attention that Ali pays to the ‘choking of daily life’ in the Valley of Kashmir (Kabir 2009: 3) highlights a crisis that had received little attention in the West and shows that Srinagar had become a ‘city from where no news can come’ (24). Kashmir, of course, has a long history of colonization. As Ali explains in his prologue to the volume, ‘Kashmir has never been free’ since Mughal rule was established in 1586 (16). However, the desperate situation in the 1990s, when the activities of various separatist groups led to reprisals from the Indian Army, must be interpreted as a legacy of Partition. In 1947, Kashmir was ruled by Hari Singh, a Hindu maharajah, but the majority of his subjects were Muslim. After much hesitation, Singh decided that Kashmir should fall under the jurisdiction of the Indian Government, a decision that led, in 1947 to 1948, to the first of several wars between India and Pakistan over the issue. As a consequence of this war,

Politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali 87 Kashmir was partitioned: the United Nations Security Council organized a Line of Control (LoC), a disputed de facto border that divides the region into an area administered by Pakistan, which accounts for about one-third of the former princely state, and the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is controlled by India (Schofield 2000: xi). The conflict entered a new, more violent phase in the late 1980s, when the Indian Government interfered in the region with increasing ferocity, dismissing elected governors and imposing a state of emergency. Various guerrilla groups emerged, seeking either independence for Kashmir (azadi) or incorporation into Pakistan. The Indian Government’s response to the insurgency was brutal: murder, rape, abduction, curfew, and torture became part of everyday life. As Tariq Ali explains: ‘the aim was to break the will of the people’ (2002: 246); Kashmir became the world’s most militarized zone, institutions such as the postal service collapsed, the tourist industry floundered, and various groups of Kashmiris, including the small but influential Hindu minority, fled the Valley. Even as recently as February 2013, India’s closed trial and execution of Kashmiri Mohammad Afzal Guru for his alleged involvement in the attack on India’s parliament in 2001 led to a strict curfew being imposed on the Valley, in what Mirza Waheed calls an attempt to ‘put Kashmir under a military siege’ (2013: n.p.). As a Kashmiri-American Muslim who left the Indian subcontinent to pursue his education and subsequent career in America, Ali’s attempt to bear witness to atrocities occurring in Kashmir is shaped by a sense of distance from the conflict. Ali consistently draws attention to the frame through which he sees his homeland, with all of its limitations. To this end, he often signals his economically privileged, distanced position, describing a Kashmir glimpsed from taxis, imagined on long-haul flights, or reconstructed during a lavish wedding in Lahore. Elsewhere in the collection, his transnational perspective as a professor based in Amherst, Massachusetts, an exile who visits Kashmir every summer, is mediated through the nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson’s Orientalist ‘Vision of the World Cashmere’, a perspective that is firmly rooted in a specific place: ‘From Amherst to Cashmere’ (35 [emphasis in original]). More troubling is Ali’s lyrical reconstruction of a beautiful, touristic landscape in ‘I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight’, a surreal dream-world that ‘will[s] the distant mountains to glass’ (24), leaping across geographies to create an ‘imaginary homeland’ (Rushdie 1991: 9) that at once captures the poet’s fragile connection to the region and his close affinity with a haunting, and haunted, world of ‘shadow[s]’ and spectres (24). More generally, a tension between detachment and involvement animates Ali’s representation of Kashmir. On the one hand, The Country Without a Post Office is studded with striking, imagistic vignettes that represent a society reduced to ‘rubble’ (16): abandoned minarets, looted temples, ‘towns left in cinders’ (16), a boy scarred by a burning tyre (24), ‘a piece of earth | bleeding’ (29), and ‘unburied’ bodies (26). On the other hand, these carefully crafted poems approach trauma with formal control and detachment, as Ali explains in an interview with Christine Benvenuto: ‘when you’re dealing with painful


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subject matter [. . .] you need distancing devices. You can make that very choice to distance yourself a subject matter, a thematic and aesthetic issue’ (2002: 267). Ali’s preoccupation with images that transform dynamic landscapes into static yet fragile artefacts, such as ‘jeweled ice’ (24), ‘porcelain waves’ (23), ‘glass map[s]’ (45), ‘papier-mâché’ (48), a distinctively Kashmiri handicraft, and ‘glass’ mountains (24), encapsulates these tensions: the distanced observation of a museum visitor who might encounter beautiful, valuable objects in a display case combines with sharp descriptions of tangible objects that appeal to the senses. Much criticism on The Country Without a Post Office has maintained a separation of form from content, either attending to Ali’s formal virtuosity or examining the political motivations that underpin his bleak portrait of the violent conflict between India, Pakistan, and separatists in Kashmir since the 1980s.2 This essay seeks to synthesize these two critical trends by exploring the dynamic interplay between Ali’s sustained preoccupation with landscape, architecture, and geography and his formal choices, which often disrupt readers’ expectations of genre. More specifically, my analysis will focus upon a series of images that are repeated, with slight variation, throughout the collection: images of windows, minarets, shrines, roses, hands, and doors. Not only are these tropes entangled with broader questions about history, memory, religion, and culture, but they also serve as the vehicle for a searching exploration of the limitations and possibilities of poetic expression when faced with horrific violence. In Ali’s hands, the imaginative connection between the home and the world, which is so familiar to readers of South Asian literature, through the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Rushdie, and Anita Desai, takes a new form: he creates a ‘shrine | of words’ (50), forging a mode of poetic expression that is at once alive to the fragility of a society devastated by violence and imbued with a specifically Shia Muslim religious sensibility.3 In particular, Ali’s scrutiny of concealed, ‘buried’ meanings and histories in the landscape and Kashmiri architecture resonates with a preoccupation with hidden, esoteric meanings in Shia theology. Born in New Delhi in 1949, Ali grew up in a culturally cosmopolitan Shia household in Srinagar. As he explains in ‘The Rebel’s Silhouette’, his upbringing, which included a spell in a Catholic school, immersed him in diverse linguistic and cultural traditions: I was brought up a bilingual, bicultural (but never rootless) being. These loyalties, which have political, cultural and aesthetic implications, remain so entangled in me, so thoroughly mine, that they have led not to confusion, but to a strange, arresting clarity. (1995: 77) Any notion of cultural alienation is roundly rejected, with emphasis instead placed upon the formulation of a coherent yet hybrid cultural outlook that establishes connections across cultural and religious barriers. Such insistence upon syncretism, against the backdrop of prolonged conflict in Kashmir, is a thread

Politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali 89 running through Ali’s commentary on his poetry. In ‘A Darkly Defense of Dead White Males’, he situates his writing at a cultural crossroads, drawing attention to his emotional investment in multiple religious frameworks and traditions: ‘As a Kashmiri Muslim (an All-American Shiite, if you will) writing poetry in English’, he tells us, ‘I “own” three major world cultures (Hindu, Muslim, and Western) without effort’ (2008: 149). In short, he eschews the concepts of cultural appropriation and borrowing that have so often been invoked in discussions of postcolonial writing, describing a textured inner world enriched by diverse cultural traditions: ‘I have a natural and profound inwardness with [these traditions]; my use of them is not exotic’ (2008: 149). Given my focus on Ali’s religious sensibility, it is worth attending to the religious dimensions of his hybrid cultural outlook. In his obituary ‘The Ghat of the Only World’, Amitav Ghosh notes that Ali’s vision tended always towards the inclusive and ecumenical, an outlook that he credited to his upbringing. He spoke often of a time in his childhood when he had been seized by the desire to create a small Hindu temple in his room in Srinagar. (2002: 13) Ali’s commitment to a syncretic culture, a tightly woven ‘tapestry’ comparable to the refined synthesis of Hindu, Muslim, European, and Persian themes and techniques in Mughal miniatures, can be related to the cultural phenomenon of Kashmiriyat, which, at its simplest, ‘signals Kashmiri culture as a harmonious synthesis of spiritual beliefs drawn equally from Hindu, specifically Shaivite, and Muslim, specifically Sufi, mysticism’ (Kabir 2008: 141).4

Landscape and memory Without underestimating the political significance of his recourse to Hindu, Christian, and Muslim imagery in the midst of ethnic and religious conflict, it is worth pointing out that Ali’s intercultural allusions in The Country Without a Post Office do not simply endorse a nostalgic, consoling vision of cultural syncretism. Analysis of Ali’s representation of landscape indicates that he often uses techniques of juxtaposition and stylistic incongruity to generate a sense of rupture and dislocation. Fusion of diverse cultural traditions is eschewed in favour of an aesthetic of assemblage that never completely suppresses the heterogeneity of its elements. Ali’s purposeful juxtaposition of diverse cultural traditions is evident in his treatment of landscape. As Ananya Jahanara Kabir has demonstrated, it is difficult to overlook ‘the persistence of landscape in collective imaginings of Kashmir’ (2009: 17). As every reader of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children knows, the legendary beauty of Kashmir prompted the Mughals to celebrate it as a kind of paradise. Proclaiming Kashmir an ‘Elysium on earth’ (Kabir 2009: 56), the Mughal Emperor Jehangir penned a famous couplet, ‘If there is a paradise on


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earth | It is this, it is this, it is this’, a phrase that Ali incorporates into his poem ‘The Last Saffron’ with an eye to exploring the Miltonic idea of ‘paradise lost’ (29). In his memoirs, Jehangir surveyed the Valley’s lakes, waterfalls, irises, and jasmine, describing a landscape that carried the imprint of heavenly artistry, ‘a page that the painter of destiny had drawn with the pencil of creation’ (Ali 2002: 219). Moving on to the British colonial period, shikaras on Lake Dal, chinar trees, ruined temples, and the Zabarvan mountains became a kind of visual shorthand for Kashmir in a pastoral tradition of colonial photography that included such figures as Samuel Bourne, William Baker, and John Burke (Kabir 2009: 60−8). Depicting a Kashmir that was homogeneous and unchanging, these photographers emptied the landscape of people to create a romanticized vision of order, harmony, and beauty. Inevitably, such representations overlooked a history of colonial exploitation that remained at odds with exoticism and escapism. For the British, Kashmir, with its cool, Alpine climate, was inextricably linked to tourism and luxury. Not only did the British holiday in Srinagar in the nineteenth century, ‘staying in houseboats in order to avoid paying tax on landed accommodation’ (Chambers 2011a: n.p.); in the 1920s and 1930s, Kashmir became, like Egypt, a destination of choice for fashionable young Europeans (Panjabi 2009: 223−38). Much of Ali’s poetry employs the conventions of the pastoral: the collection is replete with images of solitary boatmen, temples and mosques reflected in lakes, mountains, ruined shrines, roses, saffron, and jewels. However, Ali invokes such motifs only to subvert them. Employing a poetics of dislocation, he recontextualizes familiar pastoral imagery, orchestrating violent disjunctions in order to unsettle readers’ assumptions. Consider, for example, ‘A Pastoral’, a poem that transposes Romantic tropes from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘To a Skylark’ and John Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ to Kashmir, taking the horned lark as a symbol for the poetic imagination. Significantly, the songbird does not actually sing during the poem. Even though it is mute, the lark serves as a guide in the poem: two exiled Kashmiris follow the bird’s instructions as they embark on a virtual, but profoundly disconcerting, tour of the ‘broken city’ of Srinagar (44). Disturbing representations of a city scarred by violence—a massacre on the steps of a mosque, a ramshackle graveyard, a wound hastily bound with a makeshift tourniquet—prompt Ali to indict the West for its indifference to Kashmiri suffering. One of the anonymous Kashmiri correspondents quoted in the poem, for example, writes to the exiled Kashmiris: ‘Is history deaf there, across the oceans?’ (45) Taken together with Ali’s sustained preoccupation with silence, these precarious voices, which have been recovered from letters found in an abandoned post office by chance, suggest that unfettered Romantic selfexpression is impossible in modern Kashmir. Given the precariousness of life, poetic expression is inevitably fragile and under pressure: ‘My words will echo thus | at sunset, by the ivy, but to what purpose?’, muses the poet (45). In a rather unsettling dislocation of grammatical conventions, the entire poem is written in the future tense: even as the bird speaks, its words remain part of a yet unarticulated future, as underlined by the repeated refrain: ‘the bird will say’

Politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali 91 (44−5). The implication is that time itself has been ruptured by trauma: past, present, and future have become dangerously entangled. Take, for example, Ali’s surreal, prophetic final stanza, in which past, present, and various futures collide in such a way as to disorientate the reader. In a gesture of defamiliarization that recalls Freud’s concept of the uncanny (1955: 218−52), the exiles’ imagined return to their homeland, in which they hope to fulfil their ancestors’ wishes to ‘inherit [...] | [...] that to which [they] belong’, is disrupted by an alternative, apparently inevitable, future where they return ‘to get news of [their] death after the world’s’ (45). A bewildering sense of the uncanny is accentuated by spatial symbolism that suggests that the future can be excavated in a manner analogous to the past: note, for instance, that Ali’s prophetic future is symbolized through an image of the past—a locked room ‘textiled by dust’ (45). In line with such poems as ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ and ‘A History of Paisley’, readers are encouraged to interpret landscapes and interiors actively, filling in the gaps, interpreting, and ‘follow[ing] the silence’ (44). Pastoral, a mode of representation that is often associated with a romanticization of colonial relations, is re-imagined as a highly political genre, with brutality, violence, and subjugation at its heart. In Ali’s hands, beautiful images are warped by the realities of violence in Kashmir. For one thing, the lark has little in common with Shelley’s soaring ‘blithe Spirit’ ([1820] 1983: 624) or Keats’s otherworldly nightingale, ‘pouring forth [its] soul abroad | In such an ecstasy!’ ([1819] 1983: 661) In Ali’s Kashmir, any flight of fancy or poetic transcendence is precluded by the bird’s—and, we might add, the poet’s—position as a reluctant witness to violent conflict. Watching a ‘mountain falcon’ ripping apart a magpie ‘in mid-air’, the lark (or poet) can do little more than utter a ‘plaintive cry’ of anguish (45). Moreover, a strong sense of dislocation is created, as we are confronted with pastoral images that have been wrenched out of shape by violence. At the heart of the poem lies Ali’s instruction to ‘[p]luck the blood’—a surreal, disturbing image, in which a benign urge to pick flowers is rendered horrifying by the representation of a blood-soaked landscape (45). Such a startling juxtaposition of beauty and brutality is sustained throughout the poem, as the narrator grasps for a poetic vocabulary to describe wounding of the body and the landscape: he speaks, for example, of ‘hands blossoming into fists’ and tourniquets that are used to ‘bind the open thorns, warm the ivy | into roses’ (44). Such portrayals of a mutilated body are, of course, suggestive of Christian ideas of suffering, partly because motifs of hands and thorns evoke the Crucifixion. Even so, any notion of redemption or healing is forestalled, since Ali’s frame of reference shifts abruptly from religion to a Yeatsian aesthetics of ‘terrible beauty’ (Yeats [1920] 1991: 120), an idea that is first introduced into the collection in ‘I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight’ (24). Allusion to W.B. Yeats’s wellknown poem ‘Easter 1916’, written in the aftermath of the brutal repression of a failed Irish nationalist insurrection, not only creates an association between ‘the Kashmir conflict [and] earlier anti-colonial struggles elsewhere’ (Chambers 2011a: n.p.), but is also suggestive of a poetic mode defined by paradox, in which sensuous beauty collides with terror and despair. For all its lyricism, the


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poem refuses an escape into a pastoral idyll—a genre that tended to smooth over the brutality of colonialism and its legacies. Taken as a whole, Ali’s ‘A Pastoral’ comes to embody the profound disorientation that Homi Bhabha has termed the ‘unhomely’, ‘the estranging sense of the relocation of the home and the world in an unhallowed place’ (1992: 141). In this context, it is significant that the poem as a whole is structured around a repeated spatial motif of opening a gate onto a garden. With each repetition of this idea, the promise of beauty—which is at once nourished by Islamic representations of the Gates of Paradise and a Western tradition of pastoral and antipastoral that encompasses such writers as John Milton, Charles Baudelaire, T.S. Eliot, and W.B. Yeats—is interrupted by representations of the body in pain. In a striking example of such dislocation, the poem opens with two exiles meeting at the Villa of Peace, their ‘hands blossoming into fists’, a description tinged with paradox, in which beauty collides with violence (44). Later, the expectation of prising open the ‘gate into the poplar groves’ to reveal a garden is brought to a halt by the discovery of an ad hoc cemetery where unidentified victims are buried in ‘hurried graves’ (44). It is hard to miss Ali’s preoccupation with the ways in which space is demarcated and segregated: the poem abounds with representations of thresholds, graveyards, gardens, groves, locked rooms, and gates, motifs that are suggestive of an engagement with Partition and its legacies. Significantly, this precise mapping of space is inextricably linked to Ali’s formal choices, especially his disjunctive collage technique. Ali’s complex patterning of intertextual allusions, which Jahan Ramazani has called ‘modernist bricolage’ (2006: 452), owes much to the influence of T.S. Eliot, who was the subject of Ali’s doctoral thesis, ‘T.S. Eliot as Editor’. In such poems as The Waste Land ([1922] 2002b), Eliot put into practice his theory of ‘impersonality’, piecing together a series of images and quotations from sources as diverse as the Upanishads, Shakespeare, and the music hall, without supplying any kind of interpretative template. Of particular relevance to ‘A Pastoral’ is Eliot’s recourse to spatial imagery to encapsulate the tension between fragmentation and integration. In Eliot’s famous coda to The Waste Land, for example, the idea of a consoling peace or ‘fragments [. . .] shored against my ruins’ ([1922] 2002b: 69) collides with a sense of collapse or fragmentation. The image of ‘London Bridge [. . .] falling down’ at once alludes to unity and fragmentation ([1922] 2002b: 69). In other words, even as the poem remains in fragments, it is haunted by a yearning for those parts to be put back together. Significantly, these diverging tendencies find expression in patterns of allusion that are closely related to the idea that poetry can cross spatial, temporal, and cultural boundaries. With this connection between allusion and geographical space in mind, it is worth pointing out that ‘A Pastoral’ is a sophisticated reworking of allusions to Osip Mandelstam, Zbigniew Herbert, and T.S. Eliot. In each case, Ali appears to be drawn to poetry that represents landscape not simply as ‘external terrain but [as an] interplay between human perceptions, ideological structures and the external terrain’ (Gidley 1995: 1 [emphasis in original]). With the opening line,

Politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali 93 ‘We shall meet again, in Srinagar’ (1997: 44), Ali establishes a correspondence between Osip Mandelstam’s elegiac poetry about St Petersburg and his own exile from a city ravaged by political violence. Bringing an international perspective to bear on Kashmir raises questions about the poet’s role during a political crisis, particularly because Mandelstam suffered exile and persecution in Stalin’s Russia, before dying in the Gulag in 1938. The juxtaposition of Mandelstam’s ‘city of stone’ (Mandelstam 1973: 23), which he described as a place of ‘desolation and glass’ (Mandelstam 1973: 21), with Ali’s epigraph from the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, ‘on the wall the dense ivy of executions’ (44 [emphasis in original]), extends this examination of poetic responses to violence. Writing of the impact of World War II upon Poland, Herbert’s vignette describes a disorientating moment when natural beauty is warped by violence. Finally, the poem as a whole should be interpreted as a revision of Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’ from Four Quartets, a philosophical meditation on time and memory. In the famous opening sentence that resonates with Ali’s poem, Eliot reveals his rejection of a linear concept of progress: ‘Time present and time past | Are both perhaps present in time future, | and time future contained in time past’ ([1935] 2002a: 177). For Eliot, the image of a ‘rose-garden’ ([1935] 2002a: 177), which at once invokes a (possibly fabricated) childhood memory of playing hide-and-seek and the notion of a prelapsarian innocence, serves as the starting point for contemplation on the possibilities and limitations of memory, especially its tendency to imbue particular moments with special significance or poignancy. Eliot’s poem is presented as a personal, even religious, quest for ‘the unheard music hidden in the shrubbery’ ([1935] 2002a: 178), a quest that takes its coordinates from the instructions of a bird, who, in conversational interjections such as ‘Quick, said the bird’ ([1935] 2002a: 177), is explicitly referenced in Ali’s poem. Eliot constructs a symbolic landscape to raise philosophical questions about the relationship between nature, memory, and selfhood, but these preoccupations, which rest securely in a personal, pastoral mode, take a new, discomfiting form when transposed to Kashmir. If Eliot’s bird shields readers from the truth with the phrase ‘human kind | Cannot bear very much reality’ ([1935] 2002a: 178), Ali’s lark comes to a very different conclusion: ‘Humankind can bear | everything. No need to stop the ear’ (44). In short, Ali establishes a correspondence with Eliot’s ‘rose-garden’ only to sever that connection: the pastoral, he demonstrates, is transfigured and distorted by violence in Kashmir.

Sacred spaces The complex patterning of intertextual references and visual imagery that is so characteristic of Ali’s poetic technique resonates with a preoccupation with the hidden, esoteric meanings of religious teaching in Shia faith and philosophy. According to Vali Nasr, Shia piety is characterized by the belief that ‘faith has an outer (zahir) manifestation and an inner (batin) meaning’, a conviction that has prompted particular ‘emphasis on interpretation and inner truth’ in Shia theology (Nasr 2006: 52). In this context, Ali’s insistence that readers delve


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beneath the surface to ‘read messages scratched on planets’ (48, 50) or divine the meaning of buried houses, ‘shadows’ (24), lost letters, and maps (50) should be interpreted not only as an impassioned call for attention to Kashmir’s devastation, but also as a poetic mode nourished by interest in the reflective, the esoteric, and layered, textured meanings within Shia Islam. If Ali’s portrayal of the Kashmiri landscape is a striking example of what Jahan Ramazani has called ‘modernist bricolage’, in which mention of diverse cultural and religious traditions acts as ‘a counterweight to [. . .] the religious and nationalist absolutisms that have ravaged Kashmir’ (2006: 452), his tightly woven hybrid forms also bear the hallmarks of a strain of Shia Islam that is inclusive, introspective, and personal. Nowhere is this commitment to religious syncretism better seen than in Ali’s careful mapping of holy sites across Kashmir, sites which are often sacred to both Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris. From the outset, The Country Without a Post Office focuses upon shrines, minarets, and rituals that are vulnerable in the face of prolonged violent conflict. In ‘I Dream I Am the Only Passenger on Flight 423 to Srinagar’, for instance, Ali’s elegy for the ghazal singer Begum Akhtar is intertwined with a moving account of the destruction of Chrar-e-Sharif, the shrine of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, in March 1995 (33−4). In a similar vein, ‘The Blesséd Word: A Prologue’ offers a wistful, elegiac description of a seasonal religious tradition practised by Kashmiri women in the village of Chandrahar, who gather chinar leaves for winter fuel, while singing ‘the songs of Habba Khatun, the peasant girl who became the queen’ (16). The survival of these ancient rituals, which serve both a practical and spiritual function, is under threat, but Ali records and celebrates unofficial religious practices that are rooted in the seasonal rhythms of local landscapes. If the poem is framed as a quest for an unuttered ‘blesséd word’ (17), it may well be these unnamed peasant women who pronounce the word ‘for the first time’, ‘as if scripturing the air’ (17). Bridging the divide between the oral and the written, the concept of ‘scripturing’ establishes connections between the landscape (with its distinctive scenery of lakes, chinar leaves, and mountains), poetic expression, and the sacred, connections that are sustained throughout the volume. The primacy of the sacred word in Islam is recalibrated to incorporate vernacular expression, a shift of emphasis that imbues Ali’s poetic representation of violence in Kashmir with spiritual urgency. Taking her cue from such images, Ananya Jahanara Kabir has argued that Ali turns away from ‘mosques and their associations of a public, regulated Islam of congregations and prayers’ in favour of the ‘shrines of Kashmiri Sufi saints, associated with more vernacular and individualistic forms of devotion’ (2008: 141). Yet I would argue that allusions to mosques and temples also transform associations with official institutions by way of elemental imagery that connects such sacred spaces with intimacy and personal faith. Far from being associated with religious institutions, temples and mosques are linked to human physicality in such a way as to underline the powerful, and sometimes destructive, hold of religion in the Kashmir Valley. In ‘Farewell’, sacred Hindu and Muslim sites are ‘stitched’ together in an elemental way: ‘In the lake the arms of temples and

Politics and poetics of space in Agha Shahid Ali 95 mosques are locked | in each other’s reflections’ (22). On one level, the entanglement of Hinduism and Islam reflects a syncretic culture, which, as in ‘The Blesséd Word’ and ‘I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight’, is inscribed in the landscape. At the same time, it is easy to divine Ali’s ambivalence towards such syncretism, because imagery of distorted reflections and binary concepts of identity comes in the midst of a haunting account of ‘desolation’ in a region where ‘[t]he defenceless [. . .] have no weapons’ (21). Although Ali’s symbolism is suggestive of human intimacy, the ‘arms’ of these public institutions are coiled in destructive symbiosis, ‘locked’ in a deathly embrace. By using the word ‘arms’, Ali not only recalls mention of ‘weapons’ earlier in the poem, but he also creates a thread of connection with references to this word throughout the collection, repetition that serves to quash any sense of optimism. If prolonged political conflict has left children injured so that they have ‘windows in their arms’ (22), an unsettling combination of violence and intimacy is intensified in an account of the destruction of Shah Hamdan, where men loot the sacred site, carrying ‘gods asleep like children in their arms’ (26), and a description of the end of Mughal rule leading Kashmir ‘into | another dynasty’s bloody arms’ (72). These associations between mosques, private faith, and the religious dynamics of poetry are taken further in the title poem, ‘The Country Without a Post Office’. The poet returns to Kashmir to find that public religious institutions have been sidelined, the muezzin is dead, and the minaret, which should be a beacon of light, according to its Arabic name manārah, ‘has been entombed’ and plunged into darkness (48). Much of the poem focuses on the mysterious, unnamed ‘keeper’ of the minaret, who climbs the steps every evening to light the clay lamps, sending ‘[c]alls to Prayer | to deaf worlds across continents’ (51). The testimony of the ‘keeper’, who wants to relate his story before his ‘voice [is] canceled’ (50), is intercut with the poet’s rumination upon the impact of the devastation of Kashmir upon his vocation as a writer. It soon becomes clear that official religion has been supplanted by a new spiritual imperative to record in poetry the haunting stories of Kashmiris whose lives have been devastated by continuing political conflict. In this context, the poet’s role is analogous to that of an Imam, who must decipher the hidden, esoteric meanings of a sacred text: undelivered letters from the lost and the dead become a ‘shrine | of words’, imbued with sacred meanings that must be felt (50), brought to ‘light’, and broadcast ‘across the oceans’ (51). Among the many motifs that are repeated throughout The Country Without a Post Office, images of hands are particularly prominent. Attention to such tropes underlines the value of an approach to Ali’s poetry that combines attention to the breadth of his intertextual allusions with an awareness of the religious sensibility that underpins his poetic rendering of Kashmir. This motif draws upon diverse registers, including images of the Crucifixion and Laurence Hope’s Orientalist, sentimentalized vision of Kashmir in ‘Kashmiri Song’: ‘Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar’ (40 [emphasis in original]). In Ali’s portrait of a region in ruins, ‘hands’ and ‘arms’ inflict untold damage, but they can also be used to console, touch, stroke, and caress. If ‘hands’ can be harnessed to wield ‘hideous’ power (16), ‘blossoming into fists’ (44), they also embody the sacred quality of


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intimacy, not least when the poet remembers holding hands with his grandmother in her garden, while she assures him that God is merciful and compassionate (36). Attention to such patterns of repetition and adaptation underlines the value of a critical approach to the collection that combines analysis of Ali’s formal choices with an awareness of the religious sensibility that guides his poetic rendering of Kashmir. Ultimately, Ali’s beautiful yet disturbing portrait of a society in crisis is shaped by a personal, introspective Shia vision, in which religion is at once destructive and regenerative. In this context, a consoling, nostalgic religious sensibility is roundly rejected; instead, The Country Without a Post Office should be interpreted as a haunting yet demanding shrine of words that commemorates life, faith, and suffering in the Valley of Kashmir in the 1990s.

Notes 1 See Ali (1997: 88). Subsequent references are to this edition of The Country Without a Post Office and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the text. 2 See Claire Chambers (2011a) and Jahan Ramazani (2006) for representative examples. 3 I am, of course, referring to Rabindranath Tagore’s landmark novel Ghare−Baire or The Home and the World ([1916] 2005). 4 See Claire Chambers (2008) for a discussion of Amitav Ghosh’s portrayal of Kashmir’s syncretic culture in The Shadow Lines ([1989] 1995). It is worth pointing out that Ghosh imbues cultural hybridity with utopian, consoling qualities that are largely absent from The Country Without a Post Office.


Hamlet in paradise The politics of procrastination in Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator Peter Morey

In his survey of postcolonial geopolitics at the start of the twenty-first century, The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Tariq Ali describes Kashmir as ‘the unfinished business of Partition’ ([2002] 2003: 233). The much-mythologized northwestern region of the subcontinent, controversially ceded to India after independence despite its Muslim majority population, has, throughout its history, been a place for the projection of fantasies and desires, both personal and political. It has also been the site of a seemingly intractable feud between the Indian state and its suspicious neighbour, Pakistan, with hostilities over the disputed Valley breaking out in 1948, 1965, and 1999. At the end of the first of these encounters, a 750 km Line of Control (LoC) was established between India and Pakistan. Ratified in the 1972 Simla Accord, this de facto border runs for 550 km through Kashmir, dividing Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir from ‘Azad Kashmir’, its Pakistani-run counterpart. By the 1980s, the uneasy peace was further troubled by Indian political meddling designed to quash separatist sentiment, including the suppression of political parties, dismissal of elected governments, and the imposition of states of emergency. The end of the decade saw the influx into Pakistani territory of Islamist militants fresh from their Western-backed triumphs against the Soviets in Afghanistan (Tariq Ali [2002] 2003: 246). When the Indian authorities were widely suspected of rigging the 1987 State Assembly elections, young Kashmiris decided to take direct action, with many of them disappearing across the LoC to paramilitary training camps that began to spring up in Azad Kashmir. There followed five or so years of increasingly vicious exchanges between separatist guerrillas taking advantage of the porous border to launch attacks on Indian garrisons and a reciprocal militarization of the Valley by the Indian authorities, whose use of curfews, arrests, extrajudicial killings, and the targeting of those suspected of being militants or their supporters increased local alienation. Amnesty International estimates that the insurgency claimed somewhere in excess of 17,000 lives between 1988 and 1995 (Schofield 2000: 183). This essay argues that Mirza Waheed’s 2011 novel, The Collaborator, is characterized by a politics of procrastination, rejecting the common positions of both Indian and Pakistani sides in the dispute over the province of Kashmir. This alternative politics plays out through the adolescent central character’s inability to come to terms with the disappearance of a group of his childhood friends,


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smuggled across the border to a militants’ training camp, and the break-up of the idyllic world of his childhood. The Bildungsroman is set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the insurgency spiked in ferocity, with cross-border incursions and reciprocal Indian Army crackdowns. Through a first-person narrative that revisits the past with the benefit of hindsight, the reader witnesses how the narrator—the unnamed son of a village headman on the Line of Control—slowly arrives at the understanding that things are not as they have appeared, with even those he has trusted revealed to be deceitful and morally ambiguous. The narrator’s own role as a collaborator leads to a mixture of self-loathing and bitter hatred towards the brutal occupying army. He nevertheless finds himself paralysed by an indecision that allows him neither to disappear over the border like his friends, nor to rebel and attack his bloodthirsty new mentor, the sadistic Captain Kadian, who usurps the paternal role of his increasingly ineffectual father. As a Kashmiri Gujjar, the narrator hails from a nomadic community that has always maintained an independent cultural identity. In view of the excesses of both sides, his indecision can be read through the lens offered by Deleuzian theory, as an instance of ‘becoming minor’: rejecting those positions that cement the nationalist and statist fervour on display around him. Deleuze famously theorized the destabilizing potential in the nomad: one who cannot be pinned down by dominant discourses, who keeps moving, pursuing ‘lines of flight’, and thereby ‘deterritorializing’, undermining, and rejecting given majoritarian positions (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 27). I will suggest that the procrastination of The Collaborator’s central protagonist in fact allows him to inhabit an ethical space on the margins of the conflict, from where the human cost of the struggle’s excesses can properly be appreciated. The novel’s power initially derives from the quiet building of tension in the first part, ‘Now and Then’. The naïve young narrator’s partial viewpoint is interspersed with a more experienced perspective, reflecting back on his earlier lack of awareness. Retrospection parenthesizes the narrated events, adding an air of doubt and unreliability, and the section is studded with disclaimers: ‘or so I thought then’, ‘when I think of it now’, and ‘[t]here was a lot I didn’t know in those days’.1 As it progresses, the novel charts a reluctant journey towards a greater understanding and maturity. The narrator’s growing consciousness of the complex political realities of his homeland is shaped by his friends’ disappearance and the subsequent military crackdown, when fellow villagers are interrogated and, in some cases, tortured and killed. Eventually, brutalized by the uncompromising violence of both sides, the villagers decide to evacuate the Valley, leaving the narrator in the invidious position of having to work in collusion with the Indian military as a sort of scavenger, retrieving weapons, identification tags, and personal possessions from the bodies of insurgents killed attempting to cross back from the other side of the LoC to fight the Indian troops stationed nearby. Throughout, it is the narrator’s diffident persona, coupled with his warmly lyrical voice, which carries the reader along. The shuttling temporal movement between youthful days of cricket and camaraderie with his companions and the mystified loneliness he feels as, one by one, they disappear familiarizes us with

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 99 this vacillating figure, who lacks the single-minded dedication to azadi (freedom or independence) secretly nurtured by his friends. As his perpetually postponed intention to act by joining them across the border tells us, we are in the presence of a sort of Hamlet of the Valley: knowing that decisive action is called for, but, at least until the very end, unable to commit to it. Even so, there appears to be something noble, perhaps even heroic, in his hesitation, as we witness the increasing carnage and misery wrought by ideologues on both sides. In comparison, the bookish narrator may be an idealist and a dreamer, but his concern for the suffering of his fellow human beings and the natural world finally make him more appealing than the book’s numerous committed combatants. The Collaborator’s narrative tone is also shot through with irony. Such irony is a survival technique amidst the horror of the deteriorating local situation, but it also emphasizes the extent to which the narrator is at odds with the patriotic, self-aggrandizing narratives of both sides. This is not simple relativism; it is clear that the most systematic and destructive violence is that wrought by the Indian military, under the direction of an authoritarian and Hindu-leaning State Governor (modelled on the real-life figure of Jagmohan Malhotra, whose two spells in office saw a ramping up of repressive measures and the militarization of the Valley; see Schofield 2000: 147−54; Ali [2002] 2003: 247−8). Yet even before the night-time raids, line-ups, and punishment beatings with which the army seeks to quell the insurgency, the narrator is already sceptical of the rhetoric of the village’s newly arrived rabble-rousing moulvi, whose sermons consist of political proselytizing on the subject of Indian atrocities against Muslim Kashmiris. New Islamist groups seeking to enforce strict Islamic injunctions against such Western delights as videos, music, and make-up are sharply dismissed as ‘God’s own guerrillas’ (90), and later—after witnessing the barbaric punishments the insurgents inflict on those suspected of collaborating with the state— the war-weary narrator cries for his beleaguered home: Come, come my Pakistani brothers, come inside, come right inside and then stay, don’t you dare leave this time, stay and let me sleep. And if you can’t, then just let it be, really, just drop it, forget it, wind up and go. Go, go, go find another place. Go back to fucking Afghanistan. (130) Indeed, part of the young narrator’s education is in trying to work through his own position in relation to the available discourses of patriotism, freedom, and heroism. The difficulties attached to this are compounded by youthful misreadings and misrecognitions. He experiences the upsurge of religious sentiment in the village as simple peer pressure to attend the mosque—completely overlooking the broader politicization of religion as part of the struggle.2 Later, when his friends start to abscond across the LoC, he imagines a heroic future for himself in which his superior learning will mean automatic promotion to a commanding role among the militants (143), and when this proves illusory he indulges in abortive fantasies of killing Captain Kadian (73). If these and other delusions are


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simply characteristic daydreams, there are darker mysteries, the clues to which he continues to miss. On a visit to the elderly village handyman, Shaban Khatana, in his mountain cabin, the narrator is entirely unaware that he is in the presence of one of the main local recruiting sergeants for the militant cause and babbles naively about his desperation to trace his departed best friend, Hussain. He cannot understand Hussain’s motives for crossing over into Azad Kashmir (57) and longs for his return and the resumption of their bond, one that carries, at points, a homoerotic charge. Worse is to follow, when, at the end of the first section, he discovers that it is Hussain’s own father who has given his son over to the insurgency and possibly, thereby, to martyrdom (157–63). In some respects, then, The Collaborator is a book about waiting for meaning. The ‘slow reveal’ technique, whereby we only learn the truth about characters and their relationships as the narrator stumbles from darkness into light, is effective in maintaining suspense, discharging little shocks that punctuate the story, causing us to share the narrator’s surprise and dawning awareness. Even so, illusions offer protection in the turmoil, both for the local community, who avoid mentioning the new army camp that has sprung up on their doorstep—‘as though by not looking, by not hearing about it, we could will it out of our life’ (212)—and for the narrator himself, who confesses to a ‘sense of self-willed, nervous detachment’ (215). When it comes to psychological states of strain like those on show in the book—where even the uncompromising Captain Kadian seeks solace in drink and maudlin thoughts of home—innocence forms a protective blanket that is finally snatched roughly away by cold political realities. In his account of the development of the European Bildungsroman in the nineteenth century, Franco Moretti describes the central role of the form in promoting socialization. However, this process is never smooth or without tension, since in our world socialization itself consists first of all in the interiorization of contradiction. The next step being not to ‘solve’ the contradiction, but rather to learn to live with it, and even transform it into a tool for survival. (Moretti 1987: 10 [emphasis in original]) This is precisely the challenge faced by the narrator in The Collaborator. He is coming to maturity in an environment where the closest bonds of family and friendship may be snapped at any moment by random acts of brutality or by deliberate deceptions and secrets that render the placing of trust an even more risky business than usual. Moretti invokes Sartre’s discussion of ‘bad faith’ in the first part of Being and Nothingness to suggest one way of living with contradiction, describing a person who does one thing while simultaneously offering the opposite image of herself through her words [. . .]. Bad faith, in other words, is a way of living with the clash, which the modern era has greatly intensified, between professed and actual values. (Moretti 1987: 89–90)

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 101 In Waheed’s novel, the eponymous narrator finds himself collaborating with the army of the occupation in its relentless quest to reassert state power, while secretly harbouring his own frustrated and abortive dreams of rebellion. The characteristic first-person voice of the Bildungsroman is one of the key features whereby The Collaborator differs from that other recent and celebrated novel of the Kashmiri conflict, Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown (Rushdie [2005] 2006). Both novels address the build-up of cross-border tensions in the last part of the twentieth century, note the incursion of radical Islamist ideology, include village communities that are destroyed or abandoned (in Rushdie, Pachigam, and in Waheed, Nowgam), address several different types of personal and political treachery, and indulge in various kinds of nostalgic yearning. However, Waheed’s hesitant first-person protagonist ensures an ambivalence that disavows—or at least calls into question—the panoptic sweep offered by Rushdie’s omniscient narration. In the same way, the deployment of pastoral nostalgia works to different ends in the two books. In The Collaborator, the links between the characters and the land are visceral; trees are maimed, mountains ‘killed’, the Valley scarred by continual military bombardment, and the dead who pile up in No Man’s Land are pulped into the terrain: ‘mixing limb with limb, branches and arms, grass and hair, sap and blood’ (129). Yet, here, this is not merely Rushdie-esque allegorical symbolism, in which characters grow to embody aspects of political attitudes. In place of the grand canvas of Shalimar—encompassing half a century and three continents—in Waheed’s novel, larger forces, such as national rivalries, make their entry into the book through small changes, like the desecration of the boy’s cricket pitch by army sappers or the heft of a found weapon. Such disturbances contribute to a creeping sense of unease that bursts into outright violence in the second half of the novel. For the narrator, the loss of the sacred space of childhood and community is almost as painful as the humiliation, mutilation, and murder he is forced to witness. It is this ground level, insider’s perspective of one small corner of the bitter struggle over Kashmir that makes the narrative so distinctive. Waheed eschews the great sweeping vistas of international history, distanced (and arguably distancing) irony and tendency towards satire that one finds in Rushdie, preferring instead the personal poignancies of a young man approaching adulthood only to see his world, and his worldview, collapse around him. Indeed, there is an early acknowledgement in The Collaborator that nostalgia is always a bedfellow of fear. Even as he recalls boyhood swims in a nearby stream, the narrator acknowledges wilfully ignoring the Pakistani and Indian look-out posts in the surrounding hills in an act of reclamation: They were far-off, distant, almost unreal [. . .]. And by the time we took off our clothes to splash about in the low and languid stream we had assumed full ownership of the place and didn’t care who was or wasn’t peering at us from some ugly check-post out there on the mountainside. (7)


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The idyllic youth he conjures is, from the outset, curbed and threatened by the forces of state power, its vistas inevitably selective and curtailed. While his young self may experience an urge to ‘stay safe inside the valley’ (7), the womblike space of family and home, while everything around him changes, the older ‘collaborator’ whose voice steers us through the opening pages has no hesitation in painting the body-strewn landscape of ‘this sad paradise on earth’ (19) where he plies his trade scavenging for loot. In her book Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir, Ananya Jahanara Kabir describes the historical aestheticization of Kashmir through the forms of the picturesque and the pastoral: a tradition that dates from Mughal times, but descends though the British colonial era with its new technology of photography, to Nehru’s romanticization of the region and beyond. In the visual images produced and widely circulated as postcards, souvenirs, and advertisements for tourists, the beauties of the Kashmiri landscape are always to the fore. By contrast, such representations have historically preferred to exclude the population themselves. Kabir shows how Kashmiri artists and writers have, in response, also placed the land at the centre of their own representations, but have reinserted human subjects into the picture, too. Invoking Foucault, Kabir claims that: Kashmiri and non-Kashmiri representations of the Valley are discursively braided together, and it is this entanglement that pushes the ‘language, countermemory and practice’ of Kashmiri resistance back to that same discourse of the valley as territory of desire [. . .] [while] the discursive elision of the body from the landscape is countered by Kashmiri insistence on the body in the landscape. (2009: 18, 20) This insight provides us with a way of understanding the persistence of nostalgia and the picturesque in The Collaborator, a novel that is otherwise keen to point out the degradation of the environment and communities that comes with systemic violence. Waheed’s Kashmir may retain traces of the pastoral idyll, but only in what turns out to be an extremely unreliable memory. What gain prominence instead are the realities of people and their fragile corporeal existence. There is an extraordinarily insistent emphasis on bodies in the novel. Metaphors gather like vultures around those dead insurgents who lie in the No Man’s Land patrolled by the collaborator. They are seen as crops, ‘a harvest of human remains’, sown by Indian Army snipers (13); Captain Kadian refers to them as ‘dead meat’ (3); while the narrator uses the bodies for target practice when he persuades the Captain to let him carry a gun. As he rummages among their remains, he becomes embrocated with the putrefaction: At night I go home smelling of rot, death, and I just can’t wash it off. Even after the hot bath and the scrubbing and the scratching it is always there, a dense, greasy thick stench that soaks deep into my skin, into my hair, into the creases of my palms, into everything. (259)

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 103 In such circumstances, the Valley as paradise is clearly a false construction, temporarily consolatory at best. It is set up only to be dismantled by the harsh intrusion of reality. In his memoir Curfewed Night, the journalist Basharat Peer makes similar rhetorical moves to that described by Kabir and played out in The Collaborator, when the opening pastoral memories of breaking icicles off the roof to blend homemade ice cream and the blooming of yellow mustard flowers in the spring give way to the barbed wire and bombs of the insurgency (Peer 2011: 3–14). Later, Srinagar is similarly called forth with an extended sensuous evocation of touristic prospects and folk customs that yields to an altogether harsher contemporary reality: In old pictures, Srinagar is elegant latticed houses, mosques, temples admiring each other from the banks of the river Jhelum; it is people strolling on the seven wooden bridges and wandering into old bazaars selling spices, lovingly embroidered with shawls and carpets, and samovars with intricate engravings [. . .]. But elegance is granted little space in an age of wars. Those wooden bridges have either collapsed or been torn down. Their skeletons remain in the shadow of new arcs of concrete. (Peer 2011: 107) The lush description of the past is killed by the flat prose of the present. The image of destroyed bridges calls to mind that other historical bridge pulverized by ethnic and nationalist conflict in the 1990s, the ancient bridge at Mostar in Bosnia, while, more immediately, it will recall for others the bridge where the massacre of over 100 civilian protestors was carried out by the Indian Army on one such crossing of the Jhelum in January 1990, the Gawakadal bridge (Schofield 2000: 148). The picturesque is exposed as a fantasy in Waheed’s novel, too, a false entry point to the real Kashmir. Yet it is juxtaposed with those other fantasies of the narrator, who dreams of crossing the border to join his friends and who conducts dialogues with the dead as he rifles through their pockets. Indeed, fantasy is not totally discounted nor rendered suspect in the novel; rather, it seems to be a valorized coping mechanism. Even as there are the convenient political fantasies of propaganda beloved of demagogues like the Jagmohan governor-figure, who appears in the novel at one point to harangue his bemused and coerced audience of villagers—and assembled international journalists and cameramen—with a rant constructing Kashmir as an integral part of Hindu India, so, too, there are those dreams that keep alive the possibilities of another space, another way to be. One such space can be located when the narrator and Hussain pay a visit to Azad Range Wah Wah in Chapter 6. Here, pastoral description takes on the quality of delirium in a passage textually distinct from the grim litany of aggression. Azad Range Wah Wah is a legendary, almost mystical figure: an itinerant, flute-playing minstrel shepherd of the mountains, who, legend has it, herds a flock of multicoloured goats.


P. Morey The most striking thing about him was his clothes. They were a thousand shades of green—bright, striking, dark, light—he seemed to be wearing every conceivable shade there ever was [. . .]. For a moment I thought maybe I was just seeing things, the forest somehow conjuring up this vision, but when I looked at my friend, shook my head, and then looked at Azad again, he was still there, in all his verdant glory. (84–5)

An unfettered spirit who allows his charges to roam free, Azad Range Wah Wah is the living link between humans and the land: the shepherd [. . .] just then began to perform a strange exercise, rubbing his hands together, whilst muttering something, and then rubbing his hands on the bark of the tree. The thousand green flags fluttering around his form gave him a blurred look, as if he were melting into the blue sky, into the air, the forest. (86) Azad begins to play his pipes and Hussain loses himself in their bewitching strains. Yet the narrator can never quite forget his own parental injunction to return home before nightfall: ‘How, when, was I going to be able to coax Hussain to get up and start for home with me? The afternoon was turning’ (87). In the end, he heads off down the mountain alone. The timidity of the narrator contrasts with Hussain’s loss of self-consciousness and, as subsequent events unfold, their respective responses to the enchantment of the moment seem to sum up the decisive differences in their personalities; Hussain can likewise lose himself in the independence struggle, while the narrator remains paralysed by indecision and family expectation. However, there may be a greater connection between the trajectories of the two friends than at first appears. Inasmuch as they are both engaged in kinds of flight—across the border into Azad Kashmir for Hussain and against the twin constraints of family and ideology for the narrator—the boys can be said to share a sense of that delirium of flight identified by Gilles Deleuze in his accounts of deterritorialization and ‘becoming minor’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 30). Deleuze’s work remains a problematic resource for postcolonial criticism. Most famously, his utility for anti-colonial politics was called into question in Gayatri Spivak’s seminal essay, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, in 1988. Here, Spivak attacks both Deleuze and Foucault for a Eurocentrism that fails to recognize the limiting conditions for speech within Western epistemology that play a part in silencing the subaltern (Spivak 1994: 66–75). Subsequently, other postcolonialists have criticized Deleuzian concepts such as nomadology and minoritarianism for a supposed Eurocentric primitivism where the Third World is a passive marginal space, its ‘radicalism’ abstracted from the actual material conditions of the colonized peoples that inhabit it (Kaplan 1996; Miller 1993; Noyes 2004; Wuthnow 2002). At the same time, other theorists have been attracted by the

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 105 flexibility of Deleuzian ideas and their concern for the operations of desire (Appadurai 1996; Young 1995). In fact, as Simone Bignall and Paul Patton have pointed out, Deleuze is concerned with many of the same issues of power and disempowerment as are found in postcolonial studies: Among other examples, we might point to [. . .] comments about the imperialism of normative Western forms of Oedipal subjectivity; movements of de/reterritorialization describing a conceptual politics of capture and relative liberation; the creation of hybrid and migratory forms of selfhood through relational processes of becoming; and of course nomads and their relation to the ‘war-machines’ that embody acts of resistance against the imperial ‘state-form’. (Bignall and Patton 2010: 3) If Deleuzian politics are problematic for postcolonialism in those instances where the more orthodox channels of power (colonial versus anti-colonial) apply, I would argue that his looser, yet more microscopic, analyses of power drives are actually quite useful in exploring the complex dynamics between the inhabitants of the LoC in The Collaborator. The situation described in the novel is unconventional in the sense that we have a postcolonial state, India, whose discursive construction both before and since 1947 has involved a particular affective investment of desire in the idea of Kashmir as a paradise within the nation-state at the same time as that national integrity has been challenged by Pakistani and secessionist interests, while its own heavy-handed policies in the region have contributed to despoiling that paradise. In short, the novel presents us with a colonial scenario, yet one played out at the fringes of the modern postcolonial nation-state on the LoC, which Kabir has described as ‘the occluded trace of the epistemic violence wreaked at the nationstate’s limits’ (Kabir 2009: 7). To begin with, the territorial integrity of the nation-state of India is violated by the almost free movement of insurgents to and fro across the LoC. Captain Kadian’s troops are stationed near the village expressly to prevent, and where possible shoot down, enemy fighters crossing into Indian territory. The captain explains to the narrator how the success of his mission depends as much on propaganda as on reality, and fake ‘encounters’ with civilians are presented to journalists as ferocious skirmishes with militants. He tells of how ‘random guys’ are rounded up, driven to the border, and shot, in order to meet the need for news of success in the fight against insurgents, because we had to make it to the papers over the weekend [. . .]. So we photograph the bodies quickly with a few AKs by their side and send them to those spineless Kashmiri Police-wallahs [. . .] who write a challan and inform the parents that their sons were crossing over from POK and were killed in an encounter with the BSF near Chongoora village. That’s it. End of story. (95)


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Writing of a similarly absurdist scenario in J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, Grant Hamilton describes how, when faced with comparable ‘deterritorialized movements’, the state in Coetzee’s novel ‘suffers a significant disruption to the gravity of its relationship with control’. Hamilton goes on to elaborate on his idea by arguing that in losing its affinity with the restrictive apparatus of control, the State striation of space is demonstrated to be a wholly temporary practice [. . .]. In this context, the State attempts to counter the surge of deterritorialisation by gradually assuming the stance of a war machine. (2010: 195)3 Also of significance is the fact that the narrator plies his trade for Captain Kadian in the narrow stretch of No Man’s Land between the two sides. Here, operating alone, the collaborator enjoys (or endures) a certain freedom, even as he is observable from the look-out posts of both India and Pakistan. He can wander about at will, hold discussions with the dead, speculate on his own mortality, and brew fantasies of a heroic future for himself: ‘what happens here is off the record, means nothing to anyone’ (98). Just as movements across the LoC constitute a blurring of boundaries and control, so this young man, on the margins of the nation-state, can come and go with a sanctioned freedom unknown by others whose intrusions are likely to end with a bullet. Even so, such a contest is predictable enough, and incursions can be countered in a scenario where one form of nationalist violence responds to another. However, what complicates matters in The Collaborator is the fact that, as a Gujjar, the narrator is already a member of a marginal community within Kashmir. The Gujjars of Kashmir are nomadic goatherds and shepherds, who undertake seasonal migrations between the mountainous pastures and plains of the Himalayas in search of good grazing for their livestock. In the novel, Nowgam is presented as a comparatively recent settlement that still retains many of the values and attitudes of the nomadic past. Many Gujjars were persuaded to embrace more sedentary lifestyles in the years after independence, culminating in them being gifted land by the regional government in the 1970s (29). The narrator describes the distrust in which the community is held by other Kashmiris, how they are treated as second-class citizens, and, in particular, how his own family is viewed with suspicion—something we later discover to be owing to his father’s having been in the pay of the Indian authorities (26).4 The narrator ventriloquizes his family’s initial hopes that the Gujjars’ migratory traditions and marginal status will inure them against the growing tensions, because ‘we didn’t have “an issue with India”, and because the valley people didn’t think of us as Kashmiris anyway. “It’s good they don’t trust us much, otherwise who knows some tanzeem [Islamist organization] might have already been here” ’ (26). Therefore, the narrator is triply marginalized: as a Kashmir-domiciled Muslim in aggressively Hindu India; as a member of the Gujjar minority in Kashmir; and as a hesitant and cerebral young man without the martial qualities now valued by his contemporaries.

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 107 Although in his work Deleuze uses the idea of the nomad metaphorically to denote those who escape established strictures (and structures) of power, the concept holds good for actual wanderers, too, especially in the LoC area. For the Gujjars, the intrusion of national power, stealing across the border’s wild terrain, is experienced as an affront. The narrator’s father complains: ‘We have always gone across the mountains; they are ours, you see, they are our land’ (66). The movements of the Gujjars—and of the narrator in the novel—emphasize the durability of geography over the artificial full stops of national history. In one sense, we could say that Kashmir suffers from too much history, from the various invaders and trade-offs that stamped the Moghul and British imperial eras, down to 1947 and its continuing aftermath. By contrast, [a]bsolute speed is the speed of nomads [. . .]. Nomads are always in the middle. The steppe grows from the middle, it is between the great forests and the great empires [. . .]. Nomads have neither past nor future, they have only becomings, [. . .]. Nomads have no history, they only have geography. (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 23) If this seems dangerously like one of those Deleuzian abstractions, we might ground it in the world of the novel by thinking about how the young narrator is himself engaged in various types of journeying and becoming: journeying between home, No Man’s Land, and the Captain’s cabin; becoming a man, a freedom fighter—always becoming, but never arrived. Through its quality of refreshing us with the shock of another’s duplicity, his initially naïve narrative also turns out to be a fiercely ethical indictment of all those forces that practice deceit and violence in the interests of reshaping the region for one or other nation-state. His journeying is also of the mind. Deleuze says: ‘To make thought a nomadic power is not necessarily to move, but it is to shake the model of state apparatus, the idol or image which weighs down thought, the monster squatting on it’ (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 24). To that extent, as a protean, conflicted subject, the narrator offers an instance of the ungovernable multiplicity that escapes the uniform allegiances demanded by the nation. Even as he stammers out the trite devotions required of him by Captain Kadian, he cherishes in his heart darker, more insubordinate sympathies that go beyond the binaries of army versus insurgents, becoming one of those coordinating conjunctions, the ‘ANDs’ that Deleuze says trouble the set terms of the binary (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 26). What is one more betrayal in a book full of them? The narrator mulls over the contradictions thrown up by his friends’ departure: While they had left to become brave cohorts of the fight for freedom, I ended up staying back to face the blame for their act and for ‘my betrayal in having known everything all along’ [. . .]. No one for a moment thought that I was the one betrayed here. (41)


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Later, he discovers that Hussain’s father has been instrumental in encouraging his son’s defection—while significantly rejecting the narrator, whom he sees as a ‘sissy’, mired in ‘silly ideas’, and lacking the valour required of a mujahid— bearing out the earlier, caustic observation that ‘[t]reachery is a word everyone should learn’ (15). Deleuze observes: ‘There is always betrayal in a line of flight [. . .]. We betray the fixed powers which try to hold us back, the established powers of the earth’, and betrayal (of a status quo) is seen as the initiating movement of all narrative (Deleuze and Parnet 2006: 30). In The Collaborator, the youthful narrator is poised between two differing lines of betrayal: he will betray his friends and the cause of azadi if he does not follow them across the LoC; he will betray the Indian nation and his importunate family if he does. Even so, although under no illusions about the extent of his collaboration, he nonetheless draws the line when Captain Kadian takes him to a neighbouring village with a view to persuading him to identify insurgents from a line-up of men and boys: ‘I may not be a very brave man but I’m not going to be a traitor, and that’s what I’ll be like—a gaddar, a turncoat—if I join him in some operation’ (271). By this stage in the novel, we are aware that, for the narrator, to be a traitor means to disavow core principles of fairness and human respect, not the jurisdiction of unyielding political monoliths. The reverse face of betrayal is heroism. Yet, in the novel, the two are held together, branded as one or the other according to who is doing the defining. It is not just that the actions of the boys in crossing into Azad Kashmir for military training are either heroic or treacherous, depending on perspective. It is also that both sides celebrate as heroic actions that are, in fact, brutal and destructive. While Captain Kadian’s expletive-laden bravado provides the clearest articulation, for both sides heroism comes to take the form of an out-of-control machismo; they raise the stakes with each instance of torture, mutilation, and murder, whether of insurgents or supposed informers. In this light, the narrator’s hesitation can be read as an example of heroic doubt. The cost of a lack of compromise is spelled out in an imagined speech by Rouf Qadri, one of the dead whose bodies the collaborator searches. Qadri describes how his corpse comes to be lying dead in the Valley: I told them we should not go in such a large group. But who listens to the young cadre? These commanders have a way of staying on course no matter what, and that’s what has done me in. Staying on course. (149) Speaking with ghosts, wishing to avenge the murder of an old way of life embodied by his father, the village headman, yet tormented by ambivalence and hesitation when decisive action is called for, the narrator in Waheed’s novel can be read as a postcolonial Hamlet, pondering the ethics and consequences of every deed. As his friends vanish, he laments: ‘nothing was ever completely clear in those days’ (115), and after fantasizing about becoming a freedom fighter, he feels guilty that he is betraying the faith of his parents:

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 109 But I managed to fend off these pangs, for sacrifices had to be made for a big cause—one had to be brave, draw up himmat, and take the plunge (not think too much, not think too much), as Hussain had done. (114) Opposing the slings and arrows of the Indian military is more appealing in dreams than in reality, however, and the native hue of his resolution is soon ‘sicklied o’er’ with the pale cast of ‘too many thoughts’ (128): I had started alternating between a fierce, self-willed resolve to go wherever Hussain and the others were no matter what, and giving it all up at once and tucking myself in Baba’s chadar or Ma’s chowki in our always-warm kitchen. (118) In comparison with the apparent single-mindedness of Hussain and the others, the narrator is forever double-minded, admitting to a certain comfort in procrastination. But the psychological pressure of balancing the two drives, coupled with the deteriorating situation on the ground and his daily travails among the dead, lead to an enormous strain. The narrator laments: Do I run away, flee with Ma and Baba, cross into Pakistan finally, or try to bury these poor boys—one by one, part by part, limb by limb [. . .] I seem to have become used to everything, as if it were normal, as if it were all inevitable, as if it were my destiny; and if it goes on like this I won’t even be able to tell whether I am mad or sane. What if I am already crazy. (259–60) Also like Hamlet, the narrator must contend with the emasculation—the symbolic death—of his father, the headman. Described as having the ‘confidence and command of a prosperous headman’ at first, Baba slowly loses control as events unfold and he is no longer able to protect the villagers. His story is one of slow decline and increasing uncertainty. Finally, after the atrocities inflicted by both the army and the militants, Baba ends up broken and defeated, listening as, one by one, the villagers state their intention to leave for safety: ‘He looked plaintively at the gathering as a despairing king might look at his subjects from his deathbed’ (243). Although their relationship has always been marked by a respectful distance consistent with the headman’s status, as time passes the old man becomes increasingly dependent on his son, not to exact vengeance, but to guide and support him as his power wanes. However, as we learn in those present-time scenes at the beginning of the novel, the narrator has, in turn, become embroiled in a paternalistic relationship of sorts with Captain Kadian, now the real power in the land. Kadian is a usurper, taking on a harsh but protective role in his dealings with the narrator. The narrator dissimulates fawning and flattery in his meetings with Kadian


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out of a need for self-preservation, but he accepts food from him, and the captain makes an unheralded visit to his home, where the shift in power becomes clear as he lords it over Baba. The narrator bridles, ‘I have been his “boy” long enough now’ (281). Yet upon discovering that the captain is soon to be transferred elsewhere, he undergoes moments of anxiety amounting to an almost existential crisis: ‘What will I do then, all by myself, without Kadian up there in his piss-smelling cabin?’ (152) The reader senses that his loss and disorientation at these points are not simply attributable to a concern that, unlike Claudius in Hamlet, Kadian will escape his revenge, but more as if the two of them are caught in some interminable dance of death in the torn and corpse-strewn Valley: ‘I won’t let you go, Captain, I won’t’ (268 [emphasis in original]). There are numerous references in the novel to characters who have ‘crossed over’, the term referring to traversing the LoC, but also taking on connotations of a journey to a possible afterlife (but more likely mere death). Like the dead, Hussain and his friends do not come back. We never know what has happened to them. And the dead do not speak, even if the narrator imagines that they might be coaxed to do so. The Collaborator is composed of the monologue (often internal) of an impressionable tyro trying to grow and come to terms with life, love, and loss. Yet despite the torrent of words, the book is also marked by a great silence—the silence of mothers. The narrator’s own mother speaks less and less and the horror unfolds and it is clear that, while the greatest grief for the missing boys is felt by their mothers, these same women shrink into speechlessness, words being inadequate to articulate their feelings. Then there are the milk beggars, the empty-breasted mothers who arrive unheralded in the village, having taken flight from army persecution elsewhere. They are first introduced by the murmur of maternal lamentation that accompanies them and when persuaded to speak they cannot give voice to what they have experienced: ‘They wouldn’t say anything—who they were, why they were crying, what they wanted. The words “we have children” made themselves heard a couple of times through the din of their wet sobbing’ (178). The bonds of family are irrevocably broken by the hostilities. Even Nature is mute, forced into unnatural silence. After an evening consorting with the bodies in No Man’s Land, the narrator picks his way home, wary of the silence all around him: It’s the trees. The stillness of the trees. They don’t rustle, their leaves don’t hiss and murmur and crackle, they just don’t make any sound [. . .] I suspect they will start rustling the moment I take my last step out of their line of vision. I wish I could know what they say after I have passed. Here’s the abandoned one, the left-out one, the one who must tell the story. (79−80 [emphasis in original]) At the end of his memoir of troubled Kashmir, Basharat Peer remarks: ‘Stories! There are no good stories in Kashmir. There are only difficult, ambiguous and

Politics of procrastination in The Collaborator 111 unresolved stories’ (2011: 158). The Collaborator’s story is of the transformation of its protagonist from naïve college boy to shaken, embittered, yet wiser adult. The novel ends on a note of positive action and with something like resolve—he makes a bonfire of the bodies left to fester in the Valley by Kadian’s men. These are what Baudelaire, in one of the novel’s epigraphs, calls ‘the storied dead’, and the narrator takes care to preserve the letters, papers, postcards, and lucky charms they carry on them to ensure their identities survive. Hamlet’s dying injunction would appear also to be that of Waheed’s collaborator, whose insubordinate act of humanity must place his own life in jeopardy, even as he ensures that others’ existences endure: ‘in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain | To tell my story’ (Hamlet, Act V, Scene 2, in Shakespeare [1603] 1996: 342–3). Ananya Jahanara Kabir has summarized some of the characteristics of Kashmiri literary and artistic texts, showing how they give voice to a world in which the subject’s aspirations for sovereignty—the fundamental meaning of aazadi—is forever thwarted by the purveyors of authority. This world is distilled by political indecision and lack of consolidated local resistance, the wanton exercise of violence by those for and against the State, and the petty and not so petty humiliations at the hands of armed men in uniforms. (Kabir 2009: 154) As this essay has demonstrated, all these characteristics are in evidence in Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator. The experience of following the young narrator’s voyage from innocence to experience also entails coming to terms with the forces of nationalist and insurgent aggrandizement and their warping effect on individuals and shattering impact on communities. In a scenario marked by a ritualized call-and-response of escalating violence, relationships break down, deceit becomes commonplace, and the life of things—home comforts, talismans, weapons—becomes more durable than that of human beings. As a figure from the margins, a Gujjar, and a nomad, the narrator is able to describe a line of flight that, by the end of the book, offers to break the cycle of paternal stifling and military coercion. Through his ethical procrastination, he rehearses the true cost of the struggle in Kashmir, alerting us to what must be sacrificed for a cause that has itself become tarnished. The loss of his friend, Hussain, therefore, stands for those other, greater losses articulated elsewhere by the poet Agha Shahid Ali: At a certain point I lost track of you. They make a desolation and call it peace. When you left even the stones were buried: The defenceless would have no weapons. (Ali 1997: 21 [emphasis in original]) All that is left is to record the loss and move on. The rest is silence.


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Notes 1 See Waheed (2011: 22, 58, 55). Subsequent references are to this edition of The Collaborator and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the text. 2 Sumantra Bose has described the tenacity of religious identity as a feature of political mobilization in Kashmir, offering a corrective to the widely disseminated view that Muslim religious politics represents a corruption of the non-communal principle of Kashmiriyat (Bose 1997: 86). 3 As an instance of the militarization of the region from the other side, Victoria Schofield says: ‘In February 1990, Indian intelligence had disclosed over 46 camps throughout Azad Kashmir, which they described as “safe houses” where militants were given weapons and explosives training’ (Schofield 2000: 155). 4 The Gujjars and their marginal status are also touched upon in Jamil Ahmad’s story ‘The Betrothal of Shah Zarina’ in his short story cycle The Wandering Falcon (Ahmad 2011: 150−67).

Part III

Currents within South Asian Islam

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Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman Ed Husain’s The Islamist E. Rashid

Ed Husain’s fêted memoir, The Islamist (2007), recalls one man’s journey into Hizb ut-Tahrir and out again. The memoir shot into the bestseller lists, sold over 50,000 copies in its first year, and was shortlisted for the George Orwell Prize for Best Political Writing in 2008 (Mondal 2012: 37). Yet The Islamist has been criticized by some commentators. As Sarah Glynn argues, ‘Husain has alienated many Muslims’ and [m]ore worryingly, inspired by his own experience, and his re-found spiritual Sufism, Husain sees a potentially dangerous causal link between Islamism of all kinds and extremist violence carried out in the name of Islam. [. . .] His conflation of critical ideas and political dissidence with their expression in violent political action encourages a dangerously authoritarian response. (2009: 189) By conflating all Muslim politics as Islamist, Husain silences democratic forms of Muslim politics in Britain and elsewhere, Arun Kundnani complains (2008: 53). Such objections are amplified by The Islamist’s political appropriation. Husain’s memoir prompted the establishment of a counter-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, in April 2008, with Husain working alongside fellow ex-Islamist Maajid Nawaz. The foundation was initially funded by private donors in the Gulf, but later received significant financial and administrative support from both the Home Office and the Foreign Office, as part of the Prevent Violent Extremism agenda.1 In this chapter, I want to ask further questions of Husain’s narrative form, which both inspires this reception and equally thwarts it. It is perhaps no coincidence that Husain’s memoir is structured as a Bildungsroman, which projects a reformed Islam by charting a path of rebellion, selfdetermination, and socialization. In exploring Husain’s coming-of-age trajectory, I will explore a hesitant, secularized, liberal Islam, at the very points where it is defined and promoted. These complexities point to the difficult project of reforming Islam within a shifting British landscape. *****


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When approaching the relationship between Islam and secular-liberalism in Britain, questions of diaspora and deterritorialization are unavoidable.2 Articulations of Islam in Britain are clearly influenced by the spread of economic and political liberalism, the deculturation of communities, economic migration, and mass communication (Roy 2004: 270). For Olivier Roy, contemporary Islam and Islamism have become ‘deterritorialized’ from the nation-state, which has led Muslims to seek ‘beyond or beneath politics, autonomous spaces and means of expression, feeding contradictory and burgeoning forms of religiosity, from a call for wider implementation of shariah to the revival of Sufism’ (2004: 3). Deterritorialization does not imply the decline of religion, but it has further prised Islam apart from state structures and thereby secularized it (Metcalf 1996: 7). Roy identifies a spectrum of secularized Islams that range from private faith to a totalizing, timeless code of conduct. For Western Muslims in particular, Roy argues, Islamic tradition is galvanized towards the primacy of personal conscience: ‘a quest for personal realisation and an individual reconstruction of attitudes towards religion’ (Roy 2004: 181). A selfexpressive religiosity (iman) supersedes the older structures and hierarchies of religion, and Islam settles in the peaks and troughs of the individual consciousness: ‘faith is a face-to-face encounter not between God and individuals, but between individuals and themselves’ (Roy 2004: 185). In an immensely suggestive paragraph, Roy writes that it is not only religion that is being reconstructed here: ‘it is the self itself, in some sort of permanent representation and staging of the self. Believers (and especially converts and born-again Muslims) act in such a way as to stage their own faith’ (2004: 267), resulting in an exhibitionism that ‘favours individualism, or more precisely it sacralises the experience of individualisation’ (2004: 268). Roy’s thesis of a secularized religiosity is perhaps too quick to dismiss the hues of place and cultural tradition that produce a panoply of Islams in Britain (see Mandaville 2007: 345; Ismail 2006: 173). Moreover, a Western Islamic ‘religiosity’ which is liberal and secularized—separated from the state, selfgoverning—ignores the active role of the state in shaping Islam. A clear example of this is the response to the London bombings of July 2005, as government funding shifted from the Muslim Council of Britain (MC), created in 1997, to the newly-formed Sufi Muslim Council of Britain (SMC), spearheaded by by Haras Rafiq in 2006 (Prince 2006: 4; Kundnani 2008: 54). This is not surprising: as notions of what it might mean to be a British ‘secularized Muslim’ (where Islam does not buttress state institutions) are frequently amalgamated with being a ‘liberal Muslim’ (individualistic, outside of traditional hierarchies), many have looked towards Sufism as an esoteric and perhaps apolitical version of Islam. Yet here we might think of Talal Asad’s commentary on liberalism, in his analysis of the Satanic Verses affair: The emphasis on schooling as a political function, essential to the transformation of difference into unity, invokes a basic liberal principle. Individuals have the inalienable right to choose, but they must first be

Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman 117 authoritatively constituted as subjects who will make the right moral and political choices. (Asad 1990: 244) In other words, encouraging an individualistic and less politicized Islam through public funds touches upon an old and inevitable paradox: that the selfgovernance promised by secular-liberalism is often moulded by an ounce (or more) of socialization. It is no coincidence that Husain’s memoir, which is mediated by these politics, is structured as a literary form expressive of this paradox: the Bildungsroman. Ed Husain’s The Islamist, published two years after 7/7, constructs a coming-of-age narrative of Muslim self-determination and socialization into Britishness and, as such, transforms private experience into an exemplary narrative of becoming. Along the way, political Islamisms are progressively discarded, for Islamist organizations ‘were all at one with the Wahhabis in creed’ (Husain 2007: 234). I suggest that Husain’s narrative form questions the notion that British Islam is secularized or liberalized with ease. I want to take the main elements of Husain’s Bildungsroman trajectory—rebellion, self-determination, and socialization—and argue that all three display a narrative uncertainty around secularized, liberal Islam. Husain’s initial rebellion into Islamism is contradicted by his disavowal of agency; his later self-determination is punctured by the anxiety of seduction; socialization is muddied by the nebulous nature of Britishness. The memoir begins with the recounting of an idyllic childhood. Husain, born in East London in 1974 and ethnically Bangladeshi, receives an idealistic upbringing in a tolerant Britain and is taught a Sufi South Asian Islam by his loving father and by a pir, Shaikh Abdal-Latif (whom he calls Grandpa). Grandpa teaches an oral and embodied mysticism sustained through centuries of companionship; Husain thus ‘experienced something of the Prophet’s love for his grandchildren, as taught me by my mother, in the way Grandpa treated me’.3 This experiential, charismatic faith is manifested in mawlid gatherings at the Brick Lane Mosque: ‘[t]heir humility and tears of joy were unbounded. I later learnt that the lovers of the Prophet expected, indeed often experienced, the Prophet’s spiritual presence in these gatherings’ (13). Sufi sentiment presents Husain’s juvenile Islam as an authentic affect, a sincere love for the Prophet which is a ‘living faith’ (20). This is reinforced when Husain cites a charismatic hadith: ‘God is as His servant perceives him to be. If a servant perceives God to be close, then God is so. If God is seen as remote, then God is so’ (15). Sufism, Husain explains, is ‘a mainstream, moderate Muslim ethos rooted not in Britain but in the eastern Muslim tradition of seeking guidance and religious advice from an elderly sage’ (15). If Sufism is presented in the opening pages as a rural, Eastern tradition, Husain rebels against this through his adolescent encounter with English translations of Muslim Brotherhood and Deobandi texts. From the 1950s onwards, Islamic movements, including Jamaat-e-Islami, Tablighi Jamaat (see Chapter


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10), the Deobandi School, and the Muslim Brotherhood, blossomed in British organizations, such as the United Kingdom Islamic Mission (UKIM), the Federation of Student Islamic Studies (FOSIS), the Muslim Student Society of the United Kingdom, the Muslim Youth Forum, the Muslim Youth League, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. This was partly a consequence of the increasing availability of translations and texts about Islam, such as Ghulam Sarwar’s Islam: Beliefs and Teachings (1980), the textbook of the Muslim Educational Trust and now one of the bestselling children’s books on Islam in the world. Sarwar’s textbook, Philip Lewis claims, ‘has been repeatedly revised and reprinted, and had sold more than 100,000 copies by 1992’ ([1994] 2002: 103). Whilst Lewis is sympathetic to Islam: Beliefs and Teachings, Husain treats it as a catalyst for Islamism. Sarwar’s book stresses the intertwining of religion and politics and applauds Muslim organizations such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for fighting for an Islamic state. Husain, inspired by this totalizing vision, is drawn to the Jamaat-e-Islami, who congregate at the East London Mosque: Inside the mosque the atmosphere was incomparably different from Brick Lane [Mosque]. There I was a young boy, in my father’s shadow; here the place was buzzing with young, trim-bearded, English-speaking activists. There were no sombre and elderly worshipful Muslims in these offices [. . .] rather a sense of organization and discipline; everybody seemed to know their place. (27) In contrast to a hierarchical, diasporic Sufism, Husain describes a deterritorialized British Islam, young and ‘disciplined’, democratic, and yet increasingly described in a militaristic lexicon. It is not a religion but a ‘code’ (31), manifesting the paradoxically conservative rebellion that Hanif Kureishi had identified in his 1995 novel, The Black Album. Husain decides to join the Young Muslims Organisation (YMO), who form part of the Jamaat-e-Islami. Importantly, Husain’s text-based Islam is concomitant with a democratic, urban British culture: now living in Tower Hamlets, he frequents the East London Mosque with a friend, where ‘we started to assert a new identity: we were young, Muslim, studious, and London born’ (23). Nevertheless, this is not a British Islam that sits happily with Husain’s earlier depiction of a diverse and ‘tolerant’ nation. Islamist activism is fraught with sectarian tensions: ‘The Brick Lane Mafia, Cannon Street Posse, and Bethnal Green Massive shrank to the stature of playground bullies when compared with the rising star of the YMO’ (32). Husain’s world at the age of 16 ‘was entirely Asian, fully Muslim. This was my Britain’ (35). The ambivalence of Britishness is thus immediately apparent: Husain writes his memoir as a protest against an un-British Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has not only flourished in Britain, but which exemplifies those very qualities that are later presented as the antithesis to Islamism: self-governance, democratic debate, newness. One thing is clear in the early chapters, however: Husain

Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman 119 chooses the East London Mosque and the YMO in conscious defiance of authority. ‘Strangely, I did not feel that God was on my side. I felt it was a fight between my father and me: I had to win’ (45). Islamism, for Husain, is an intellectual and ideological rebellion (a battle of ideas), rather than a localized political reaction to structures of racism or inequality. Rebellion is concomitant with the deterritorialization of South Asian Islamic tradition and its re-rooting or re-emergence in Britain; Husain encounters Islamism as an English textual ‘code’, rather than an inherited oral knowledge. The transformation of Islam into abstract ideas is illustrated when Husain describes his father’s theatrical aversion to the Jamaat-e-Islami. As Husain keeps Islamist textbooks in his bedroom, his father takes notable offence: ‘ “What is Gulam Azam doing in my house?” he shouted, before launching into a monologue about the Islamists, their shrewd manipulation of religion to suit their political needs, their hatred of traditional Muslims, and their disregard for Muslim saints’ (44). It seems there is a Manichean fight between Sufi traditionalism (a potential paradox itself ) and Islamism, and this continues throughout the memoir. Husain takes deterritorialization to great lengths in this memoir. The above exchange conceals the fact that most Bangladeshis of his father’s generation despise the Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami for its leaders’ collusion with the West Pakistani Army in opposing the liberation of Bangladesh during the Bangladesh Independence War of 1971 and for their alleged complicity in the mass killings of civilians (protests calling for the execution of Jamaat-e-Islami ‘war criminals’ have been escalating in Bangladesh recently; see Chapter 10). Gulam Azam, significantly, was the leader of the Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami before and after the 1971 war, and he opposed Bangladeshi independence. That Husain does not once mention this history epitomizes an elision of the historical and political particularity of Islamism in favour of presenting a clash of free-floating ideas—his father’s idea of Islam and Gulam Azam’s idea of Islam. In The Islamist, Islamism is mainly enshrined in the texts of Mawdudi (of the Indian Jamaat-e-Islami) and Syed Qutb (of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood). As Husain joins the YMO, his battles continue to be ideological, rather than material: ‘I was able to go on the offensive against the Wahhabis’, Husain recalls, through ‘arguing that they were British agents who plotted against the last caliphate, the Ottomans [. . .] I blasted the Wahhabis and, increasingly, Jamat-e-Islami for the lack of precision in their plans’ (90−1). The almost bathetic yoking of military metaphors to rhetorical conflict evokes the pamphlet war between Islamists and a right-wing activist group in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003): ‘On the estate there was war’, we are told, ‘the war was conducted by leaflet. They were crudely constructed, painted on the thickness of toilet tissue and smudged by over-eager hands. The type size of the headlines became an important battlefield’ (Ali 2003: 212). For Ali, pamphlet wars function as a comedic foil to her protagonist’s sentimental education. For Husain, in contrast, the battle of ‘Islamism’ and liberalism through debates, protests, and leaflets is formative. The deterritorialization of Islam into a text-based ideology expedites his trajectory of rebellion: ‘my commitment to ideological Islamism [was] so


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uncompromising, that my father had little choice but to give me an ultimatum: leave Mawdudi’s Islamism or leave my house’ (44). If Husain’s description of an undifferentiated, abstracted Islamism has been criticized by Kundani and Glynn, the transformation of Islamism into pure ideology proves vital to the crafting of rebellion and, consequently, to the wider Bildungsroman trajectory. In other words, Islamism is both documented and transfigured into a symbolic realm outside of the initial community/patriarchy authority that instigates the Bildungsroman structure: as Husain crosses the threshold from Grandpa’s rural Islam to urban Islamism, so, too, the rebellion towards authority is complete. Only through this movement can Husain claim later reconciliation with his father, who was ‘overjoyed that his long lost son had, at last, truly come home again’ (196). The Islamist promises documentary insight, but simultaneously transfigures Islamism into a symbolic rebellion against filial authority: ‘I no longer knew I had a family [. . .]. All subjects returned to what my father called my “going astray to the enemies of Islam” ’ (148). The representation of Islamism is rendered even more ambivalent when Husain describes it as a free-floating system that deprives its adherents of agency. Triumphal rebellion is frequently transformed into a coercive or even deterministic descent into Islamism. This equivocation is evident when Husain progresses to the cell networks of Hizb ut-Tahrir (an organization which originated in the Palestinian territories, rather than the Indian subcontinent, and whose British faction was led by the Syrian Omar Bakri Muhammad during the early 1990s, when Husain joined). Clearly, Hizb utTahrir is not a straightforward straitjacket: the Hizb do not shy away from blasphemy, Westernized lifestyles, gender mixing, debate, or free thought. Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘aspired to be the “intellectual leaders” of the Muslim nation’ (91), to profane against convention (98), through an ‘excessive rationalism’ that conflicted with ‘other Islamists and Wahhabis’ (99), through an ‘inbuilt culture of aggressive argumentation, dogged debate, and an inherent ability to cause offence that helped us thrive [. . .] pioneered by its young, articulate, Britisheducated followers’ (100). Nevertheless, paradoxically, Husain is at pains to demonstrate the absence of agency and therefore inevitability of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideology: I needed to know more about the economic, political, and social system of what we called the ‘Islamic state’. Yes, to establish the state was wajib [the Islamic term for ‘necessary’ or even ‘obligatory’] but there was more. [. . .] It was explained to me that once I had reached this ‘deep level of thought’, realizing the need for political Islam in the modern world, then it was also wajib for me to join the Hizb, to study further its ideas and concepts and to swear allegiance to it. We bent the principles of Muslim law to our own ends. For example, wajib, or religious duty, was traditionally applied to individual acts of worship such as prayer and fasting, not politics, yet inside the Hizb we believed that the pursuit of political power was also wajib. (92−3)

Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman 121 Here, what is obligatory is invented and submitted to, so that Husain’s motivation for joining Hizb ut-Tahrir is performed as an act of will, as well as effortlessly succumbed to as a moment of indoctrination. This is conveyed not only in the passage from first person singular to plural above (‘I needed to know more. . . . We bent the principles’), but also in the drift from the active to passive voice and back again (‘I needed. . . . It was explained to me . . . it was wajib for me. . . . We bent the principles . . . we believed’). Hizb ut-Tahrir is both subversive of traditional Islam—‘to obliterate those ideas that controlled people’s behaviour or influenced their psyche and then supplant them with the new ideas’—and unbending in its group cohesion: ‘no question should be asked unless it was relevant to our global aims’ (105, 97). The mentality of Hizb utTahrir is supreme self-fashioning, couched in the language of religious duty: a partly real, partly utopian solution to minority Muslim discontent. Husain’s subsequent ‘inner confusion’ signals ambivalence in the conceptualization of Islamism: it seems both a modernist/individualist interpretation of Islam and a fundamentalist ideology that sets itself in opposition to Western modernity (148). In truth, Islamism is no more than an umbrella term for a vast array of organizations that may contain both impulses. Clinton Bennett argues that the term can cover three distinct trends: traditionalism (for example, the Deobandis of India), neo-traditionalism (for example, Mawdudi’s Jamaat-e-Islami), and radical revisionism (for example, Islamic jihad) (Bennett 2005: 18−20). Hizb utTahrir in The Islamist proffers a dynamic refashioning of Islamic tradition, which complicates Husain’s trajectory of rebellion and liberal self-determination, because the ideology propagated by Hizb ut-Tahrir nurtures individualism, whilst also constituting the very antithesis of self-development. It is because of this equivocation between rebellion and subjugation that I hope to extend Anshuman A. Mondal’s excellent analysis of The Islamist. Mondal points to the memoir’s bifurcation between a reflective, pedagogical, ‘narrating self ’ and the Islamist ‘experiencing self ’. Although structured as radically different, and placed in potential tension with each other, Husain, in fact, confuses these voices, Mondal complains (Mondal 2012: 38). The conflation of Husain’s ‘narrating self ’ with his former Islamist conviction (of the power of Hizb ut-Tahrir) imbues the memoir with political urgency. Mondal suggests that Husain’s narrative equivocates ‘between the inside perspective of an experiencing self that truly did believe that Islamists were representative of the wider Muslim population, and the outside perspective of a narrating self that is aware that they were not’, with the result that both ‘selves’ agree on the hegemony and power of Hizb ut-Tahrir, despite widespread evidence to the contrary (Mondal 2012: 46).4 Thus, Mondal concludes, ‘The Islamist is at least complicit in, if not directly contributing to, the reinforcement of those stereotypes common in public discourse that similarly blur the distinction between some Muslims (i.e. Islamists, terrorists, extremists) and all Muslims’ (2012: 46). If Mondal’s exploration of Husain’s narrative voice uncovers conflation, I suggest that elsewhere Husain’s narrative is unsteady. Alongside an equivocal rebellion, Husain’s descriptions of Islamism vacillate between incomprehension,


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suspicion, and transparent explanation. The Islamist derives its raison-d’être from revealing the secrets of Hizb ut-Tahrir to a wide readership, yet Husain is keen to stress that Islamism is as bafflingly irrational to him as it is to the average reader. His cell-group leader, Farid, for example, ‘often spoke in cryptic terms, giving us the impression that there was something in the offing, somewhere in the world’ (5). Later, when he is thrown out of the East London Mosque by a former friend, Husain despondently asks: ‘What sort of human beings was the Hizb creating? [. . .] If Zachariah, a fellow Islamist, was prepared to fight us in a mosque, what were Islamists capable of doing when in power?’ (128). The militaristic and mechanistic lexicon describing Hizb ut-Tahrir renders it an impersonal system whose cause and consequence are fearfully unknown, ironically thwarting the memoir’s aim to explain and provide insight. But this refusal to rationalize (and therefore normalize) Islamism sits uneasily within the verbose descriptions, dialogues, and explorations of the roots of Husain’s erstwhile cause. Through these tensions, The Islamist not only refracts the problematic articulation of British Islam; it struggles to re-form Islam through a narrative trajectory of self-determination. The uneasy nature of ideological Islamism (as localized politics, symbolic rebellion, and a free-floating system) destabilizes the counterpoint of liberal freedom and perturbs a trajectory towards a British, secularized Sufism. Such unsettlement is compounded by a pervasive anxiety over seduction. Although embroiled in Islamism, Husain laments the veiling of female students at his college with jilbabs (long robes) and niqabs (face coverings), which he presumes demonstrates their seduction ‘under the influence’ of the strict literalism of Salafism (68). This veiling seems hypocritical and yet seductive: ‘Among the brothers, many wanted to marry those very sisters who had covered everything [. . .]. The craving to unclothe the excessively clothed was cruel’, he surmises (69). Whilst clothing might precipitate the exhibitionism of the Islamist self, here it erotically shrouds the ‘real’. Husain describes Omar Bakri, the then-leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, in similar terms: ‘I witnessed how easily he overran the arguments of his opponents [. . .]. It was mostly secondgeneration British Muslims and converts who were seduced’. The slick Bakri ‘silenced us impressionable Muslims of Britain’ (82). Tellingly, Husain’s preface to one of his chapters is a quotation from Mein Kampf: ‘The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses’ (111). The Hizb ut-Tahrir member is not only seduced by the propaganda of Islamism, he must propagate it in turn: thus, he is ‘injected’ with ideas (96); he must ‘carry the concept’ of Islamism to others through making ‘hundreds of contacts’ (95); and his role is to ‘impregnate the ummah with the Islamic state’ (107). Seduction through reading seems to be of particular concern to Husain. He encounters, accepts, and eventually repudiates Islamism through scrutinizing the core texts of Islamist ideologues (Mawdudi, Qutb, Nabhani). Hizb ut-Tahrir seems propelled by Taqi Nabhani’s texts, such as The Way to Revival and The

Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman 123 System of Islam, which are studied in the various cell groups that Husain attends. ‘Nabhani’s words certainly lit a fire under us’, he recalls (98), and soon The System—a draft constitution of the Islamic state—was ‘studied with more dedication than the Koran, convinced that we would see the 186 articles listed in its fifty pages implemented as state policy very shortly’ (132). Husain is convinced that Nabhani’s constitution is entirely original: ‘much of this was impressive, for we believed this was all Nabhani’s own research’ (133). But, as it turns out, Nabhani is not an original thinker at all; instead, he has secretly plagiarized his constitution from other sources and presented it as his own. Husain discovers the European intellectual influences in Nabhani’s writing: namely, Hegel, Marx, Rousseau, Gramsci (although Husain is undecided as to whether they are direct sources for Nabhani or if Nabhani is merely a product of Western knowledge disciplines at large): I was not, I had discovered, a believer in any distinct ‘Islamic’ political system. Nabhani’s ideas were not innovatory Muslim thinking but wholly derived from European political thought. In and of itself this was not a negative development. My objection was, and remains, the deception of Hizb ut-Tahrir in claiming that it was ‘pure in thought’, not influenced by kufr [. . .]. For it was those influences, Nabhani wrote, that had caused the gradual decline of the caliphate. (162−3) This marks the undoing of Islamism for Husain—it becomes at once full of other voices and an ‘empty, bankrupt ideology’ whose conceptual genealogy undermines its purist packaging (164). Husain is more upset by the fact that Nabhani’s constitution deceived him through a false purity than that it has no viable political programme. At university he also discovers that Nabhani had plagiarized from a thirteenth-century Muslim author, al-Mawaridi: ‘The claim to an “original Islamic political system” was a myth. Nabhani had simply adopted that text without mentioning his source’ (133). The absence of a footnote seems a pedantic quibble (given that Husain adheres to Hizb ut-Tahrir as a world-changing ideology). But without the footnote, Nabhani’s constitution becomes deceptively original, and it is this purity that seduced Husain. Lingering behind Husain’s complaint of plagiarism is a liberal anxiety over the violation of the self/property: Nabhani has transgressed intellectual property and, in so doing, has also seduced and sullied the reader. This anxiety about seduction and violation pervades Husain’s descriptions of Hizb ut-Tahrir: ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir successfully recast our imaginations’, he says after attending the study groups on Nabhani’s text, whilst ‘my inner consciousness of God had hit an all-time low’ (135, 146). The problem of seduction prevents Husain from asserting a clear opposition to Islamist ideology. Even after his discovery that Nabhani’s constitution is impure (and therefore less potent), the potential for self-determination is left in disarray. For whilst ‘brainwashing’ and ‘deception’ provide a convenient rationale for Husain’s Islamist past (it was not really me, it was the ideology that


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misled me), the event of seduction lingers in Husain’s post-Islamist mind. After he leaves Hizb ut-Tahrir, in search of his true self and the essence of Islam, he remains co-opted by the group in contradictory ways. Husain had described the importance for the Islamist body to ‘carry the concepts’ and impregnate the Ummah; once he departs from Hizb ut-Tahrir, he reverts to metaphors of rape: ‘I was “carrying their ideas”. “Carrying”—I felt like a woman pregnant with a violent partner’s child’ (155). When he joins a more moderate Islamic organization—the Islamic Society of Britain—he describes his double life: ‘In private I was a free thinker. Among Islamists I was a “brother” [. . .] I still had two faces, two personalities’ (171). A few pages later, as he joins a bank, Husain reverses this admission: ‘I was fooling myself as well as my loved ones. Really I was a sleeper Islamist’, but ‘I couldn’t be bothered to pursue the convictions still festering in my subconscious’ (183). The most disturbing description of lingering violation occurs after 9/11, when Husain instinctively celebrates the attack on America, before being rebuked by a traditionalist Muslim. ‘I remained silent for the rest of the evening’, Husain recalls, ‘pondering the enormity of my mental crime which had found external expression in my comments. I had endorsed mass murder’ (205). If The Islamist was taken as seriously by policy-makers as it appears, here indeed is a worrying focus on Islamist ‘thought crimes’. More importantly, what these quotations demonstrate is Husain’s inability to distinguish the violated from the restored, or the private from the public self, all of which remain Islamist. Husain rebels through Islamism, but he is also seduced; he turns away from a ‘bankrupt’ Islamism, but the seduction remains. Islamism is both powerful and empty, whilst the sensual Sufism of Grandpa is wholly disconnected from these adolescent politics. The remedy for his struggling conscience and subsequent loss of faith is ambivalently located in a secularized, liberal Sufism. Husain repositions the Prophet Mohammad outside of the Ummah: The Prophet Mohammed also experienced this loss of faith in the dominant norms of society and religion of his time. That was one reason he retreated to the mountains of Mecca. [. . .] Such a primordial state of Mohammedan spirituality, lost to most humans, was what drove me to rediscover the essence of Islam. [. . .] I wanted to feel the original language of the Koran. (185−7) This is an unmediated, charismatic Islam, whose prophet seems ethically detached from the concept of community itself. Husain listens avidly to the deterritorialized Sufism of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson and Sheikh Nuh Keller, two white American converts to Islam: ‘We were to turn inside and attempt to cleanse our hearts of feelings of anger [. . .] and other vices that distance us from the truth and put us in conflict with creation’ (189). He retreats to a mosque, away from the political wrangling of the world: this ‘was purely introspective; it was for me—for the good of my soul’ (184). Husain discovers the teachings of Cambridge scholar Abdal Hakim-Murad (Timothy Winter), who emphasizes a

Liberalizing Islam through the Bildungsroman 125 spiritual knowledge obtained through the traditional teachings of Islam without politicizing religion. He renounces Islamism and banking for an ‘anchor’ of esotericism, ‘rooted’ in traditional scholarship, ‘inside’, ‘unbroken’, the ‘truth’. Yet Husain’s relationship between Sufi individualism and the Ummah remains unsettled. He travels to Syria to teach Arabic, meeting ‘the best of traditional Muslims, Syrian Muslim scholars’, yet feels increasingly distant from the Syrian people: ‘I had more white non-Muslim friends in Syria than I ever had in Britain’ (225, 227). Similarly, when Husain attempts to locate the ‘real’ Muslims in Saudi Arabia, he becomes disillusioned: ‘All my talk of ummah seemed so juvenile now [. . .]. The racist reality of the Arab psyche would never accept black and white people as equal’ (241). That this complaint against racism is itself racist is an important slippage that goes beyond mere liberal intolerance of intolerance. Rejecting the ‘Arab psyche’, Husain is hard-pushed to locate the Muslim community to which he belongs. Instead, he turns to British liberalism, with its ‘broad values of plurality, fairness, and acceptance of the other’ (227). Britain is for change, as well as tolerance; Arab countries are stuck in the past: ‘This ossification of the past continues to haunt Muslim women around the globe. And Saudi Arabia is a prime example’ (246). If Husain’s rejection of ossification sounds suspiciously similar to Nabhani’s hybrid constitution, that is because it is. Oblivious to this, Husain locates the transcendent ‘essence’ of Islam in apparently apolitical American converts, whilst calling upon Britishness as a discrete set of values, thereby exemplifying his inability to resolve tensions between the diasporic, deterritorialized, and yet communal Muslim identity. Husain concludes the Bildungsroman trajectory with an uncertain socialization: he wants to marry the ‘essence’ of Islam with ‘progress’ and ‘social change’; conversely, he strives to fuse the timeless exceptionalism of British liberalism (‘plurality’, ‘fairness’, and so forth) with an emergent Islam. Yet Britishness is volatile, because it is, in turn, susceptible to seduction or violation by Islamism: ‘how easily we had cowed the sensitive, liberal establishment of the college, we grew from strength to strength’ (62). Britishness and Islam are caught between stasis and performance: ossified values may accommodate, and be reformed through, an encounter with the other; values might seem original, but can quickly become ‘empty, bankrupt ideologies’. Thus, if Britain upholds secular-liberalism, it also harbours Islamism: ‘My time outside Britain has perhaps instilled in me an urgency that is lacking in British Muslim circles’, Husain admits, ‘a reflection of the wider British willingness to turn a blind eye’ (279). In contrast, if Husain indicates a necessary lack of belonging to ‘British Muslim circles’, the terms ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’ are denied grammatical contiguity elsewhere. On returning to London, Husain remains conscious that Britishness and Muslimness are not identical; instead, they are ‘twin identities’, often politically at odds with one another (269). In another reversal, Husain concludes that ‘British Islam’ is nascent: ‘It remains to be seen whether it will be in harmony with the world in which it finds itself ’ (286). Where is British Islam to be located and how might it differ from British Islamism? More importantly, how might Husain prevent himself from being seduced again?


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If The Islamist is unable to reconcile these tensions through a trajectory of self-determination, the model of the Bildungsroman perpetuates such ambivalences. The Bildungsroman structure of The Islamist seems to require a simplified narrative of authority-rebellion-socialization, in the process transforming political complexities into symbolic structures and thereby equivocating on the nature of personal ‘insight’. Yet Husain’s narrative of self-determination can rest neither in the private sphere (permeable through seduction), nor in the heterogeneous Ummah. Moreover, the society that might protect Husain from further seduction is nowhere to be found, for this is a war against ‘ideas’ that might infiltrate any Muslim at any time. The Islamist accompanies the turn inwards with a performative concluding sentence: ‘The future of Islam is being shaped now’ (286). But Husain remains silent as to the majority of ‘real’ British Muslims. His memoir does too little and too much: amplifying Islamism, while remaining unable to articulate British Muslim reform consistently. Through these frictions, The Islamist does not offer a straightforward blueprint for political reform. Instead, it is concerned with the anxious relationship between political reform and narrative re-form. It is a memoir that holds in play the tensions and concordances between self-determination, an emergent British Islam(ism), and a nebulous social faith.

Notes 1 House of Commons, Communities and Local Government Committee (2010) Preventing Violent Extremism, Sixth Report of Session 2009 to 2010, 16 March, p. 174. 2 I use the term ‘deterritorialized’, following Olivier Roy, in its anthropological sense, to signify the uprooting of culture from formative locales. 3 See Husain (2007: 11). Subsequent references are to this edition of The Islamist and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the text. 4 Mondal has termed this the doubled ‘vanguardism’ of Husain’s writing (Mondal 2012: 44–46): he is at the forefront of Islamism, and now he is the pioneer of moderate Islam.


Enchanted realms, sceptical perspectives Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction Madeline Clements

Introduction This chapter explores the Islamic affiliations and affinities mapped by Rushdie’s post-9/11 fiction. Focusing on the transnational thriller Shalimar the Clown ([2005] 2006), it asks to what extent this novel offers a discursive, imaginative, or empathetic South Asian Muslim perspective on geopolitical events. Rushdie’s recent fictions, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence ([2008] 2009), have purported to provide international audiences with the reasons behind contemporary Islamic ‘terror’ and to excavate earlier histories of cosmopolitan Muslim civilization in India. They have featured a range of idiosyncratic affinities felt by Muslim protagonists for individuals from Islamic and other religious backgrounds, dramatized in scenes of harmonious multicultural coexistence and robust interfaith debate. In this sense, they continue partly to reflect the ‘mosaic of diverse cultural identifications’ experienced by Rushdie as a privileged, cosmopolitan intellectual and cultivated by the hybrid and migrant characters featured in his more diasporic fictions (Nasta 2002: 147). Yet I argue that the specifically Islamic networks or ‘affiliations’ that these novels also describe have many limitations. In these third-millennium fictions, the pursuit of orthodox Islam or ‘fundamental’ Muslim connections does not result in a healthy, heterogeneous, and ‘anti-essentialist’ realization of a multicultural self (Nasta 2002: 149). Rather, this pursuit invariably leads to an aggressive and monomaniacal erasure of any preceding allegiance or identity that may obscure an Islamist’s nihilistic understanding of ‘truth’.

Rushdie today: writer and pundit Salman Rushdie is today an established, if controversial, figure within English literary circles. Over the course of a career that spans almost 40 years, he has won fame and notoriety, not only for his many novels—most notably, Midnight’s Children (1981), which in 2008 was awarded the ‘Best of the Booker’, and the inflammatory The Satanic Verses (1988), which incurred the Valentine’s day fatwa in 1989—but also for his political and cultural punditry, colourful personal life, and seeming institutionalization. Whether volunteered or invited,


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Rushdie’s opinions and the actions he has undertaken in the glare of an increasingly global public spotlight never fail to cause a stir, particularly when they relate to ‘Muslim’ matters. His lampooning of Tony Blair’s knighting of the then Muslim Council of Britain’s Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie as ‘the acceptable face of “moderate” [. . .] Islam’ (Rushdie 2005b: 19) and ridicule of the then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’s ‘inane’ suggestions about the incorporation of shariah into UK law (Ross 2008: n.p.) are just two examples. During the last decade, Rushdie has perhaps modified the stance he initially took in support of the Bush and Blair governments’ responses to the World Trade Centre attacks and subsequent ‘War on Terror’ (Gurnah 2007: 7), evident in his New York Times columns (Rushdie [2002] 2003: 287−403). However, a brief sample of his newspaper interviews and comment would serve to confirm British academic Robert Spencer’s (2010: 260−1) opinion that the savage censure Rushdie provides of a fundamentalist Islam in such pieces remains unmatched by his critique of Western universalism and hegemony. When asked, for example, by Susannah Rustin to offer his opinion on the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols, Rushdie (2010: n.p.) refused to ‘defend’ the veil, instead claiming to be championing women’s rights. Apparently still seeking to promote a vision of female ‘freedom’ largely based around the notion that this equates to the unrestricted wearing of ‘short skirts’ (Rushdie [2002] 2003: 393), he then took the opportunity to accuse ‘women in the west who use [veiling] as a badge of identity’ of acting in ‘false consciousness’ (2010: n.p.). His negation of the possibility that such politically conscious women may be something other than misguided says more about the limits of Rushdie’s secular-liberal imagination than it does about their ignorance or disingenuousness. Speaking in relation to the controversial and extensively misreported proposals to build a Muslim Community Centre in Lower Manhattan, two blocks away from Ground Zero, Rushdie also commented: ‘I’m not a big fan of mosques, [or] mullahs [. . .] [But] of course people should have a place to be able to observe their religion’ (2010: n.p.). This statement seems more conciliatory. Yet its author’s primary interest seems not to endorse the centre users’ right to express their faith affiliations freely, but to ensure that the entire site can ‘go back just to being part of New York’, with Muslims departing quietly to pursue their faithrelated activities in a space nominally sanctioned by Western liberals, but barely visible to American eyes (Rushdie 2010: n.p.). It is consistent with his view that religion should be confined to the private sphere. The interview was ostensibly convened to discuss Rushdie’s new ‘novel for teenagers’, Luka and the Fire of Life, which Rustin (2010: n.p.) proposes is ‘hard not to see [. . .] as a rebranding exercise [. . .] a deliberate step [. . .] towards something lighter, slighter and much more personal’ than its topical precedents. His latest piece of fiction may appear apolitical, but it seems inevitable with a writer like Rushdie that the conversation that takes place around it will be easily sidetracked onto more controversial and political matters. This was confirmed by the recent publication of Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton (2012), at once an intimate, personal account of the fatwa

Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction 129 years and a highly political, even bellicose, attack on Rushdie’s attackers and those of his fellow writers whom he felt failed sufficiently to support him. Decades after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini pronounced his death sentence, then, it certainly seems that Rushdie remains committed to cultivating the role of ‘a political figure and very public writer’ in relation to Islam ([2002] 2003: 432). Indeed, his interest in exploring its subcontinental manifestations seems freshly renewed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and communal violence against Muslims in Gujarat sparked by perceived acts of Islamic terror in the months that followed them (Rushdie [2002] 2003: 401). Rushdie may criticize Western and, specifically, American news media for narrowing the parameters of what it is permissible to say in this period (2005a: n.p.). Yet he repeatedly adopts the mantle of pundit. Rushdie uses the ‘global’ opportunities afforded by his international status to emphasize the Indian Muslim aspect of his identity, as he attempts to legitimize his assertions about how minority Islamic communities should behave in relation to other faiths and cultures. In ‘November 2001: Not About Islam?’ ([2002] 2003: 394−7), Rushdie focuses on the spectre of hordes of Muslim men amassed on the ‘Pakistan−Afghan border, answering some mullah’s call to jihad’, in order to emphasize a connection between ‘terror’ and a ‘belief ’ in Islam. He proceeds to remind readers of the critical perspectives his 1983 novel Shame offered of Pakistani Muslims’ self-exonerating anti-Americanism and goes on to state: ‘I wanted then to ask a question which is no less important now: suppose we say [. . .] that we are to blame for our own failings?’ (Rushdie [2002] 2003: 396) The expatriate author’s use of the collective pronoun ‘we’ points to the kinship he would claim with the Muslims of South Asia. Rushdie foregrounds this affinity, even as he seeks from a Westernized perspective to censor the attitudes of people who hail from the subcontinent’s supposedly ‘blinkered monoculture’ ([2002] 2003: 430). It should be noted that critics like Spencer (2010: 262) have distinguished between Rushdie’s ‘literary’ and ‘political output’, arguing that his controversial early novel The Satanic Verses offers, by contrast, ‘an attack on a kind of Islam, not Islam per se’. Spencer cites Rushdie’s interest in ‘heterodox Islamic traditions’, such as Sufism, and the emphasis he places on ‘doubt, discussion, criticism and interpretation’ in the novel as evidence of his commitment to portraying an alternative and more humane Islam in opposition to aggressive Islamisms (2010: 262). Rushdie’s recent novels redirect the reader’s attentions towards Muslims in ‘native’ South Asian (as opposed to migrant, diasporic) contexts and seem to bear witness to a subtle, but arguably significant, shift in critical and literaryfictional focus. This is a shift back in time and geographical location to the civilized, multi-faith, and majority Muslim societies of pre-Partition and Mughal India, recreated from the figures of childhood memory and remnants of historical nostalgia. Yet it is overshadowed by Rushdie’s impressions of a closely related but ‘utterly alien’ Pakistan, visited as a reluctant adolescent ([2002] 2003: 430), and by this nation’s Central Asian and Middle Eastern Muslim brothers.


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Rushdie’s tendency to satirize, rather than attempt to represent religious ‘fundamentalisms’, particularly Islamic ones, in the realist mode can be traced to earlier works, such as Shame and The Satanic Verses. These entertaining fictions feature apparently devout Muslim characters—a dangerously obsessive local Maulana named Dawood, driven wild by his shoestring necklace of shame; Ayesha, a dainty, saintly, visionary girl on her deadly mission to Mecca—who appear deluded and disorientated in their relationships to the divine (Rushdie [1983] 1984: 43; Rushdie 1988: 219−26). However, it is their controversial ‘Muslim’ creator’s continuance and consolidation of these types in the global fictions he has produced since the launch of the ‘War on Terror’—and hence in relation to discourses dominated by popular misconceptions about an Islamic ‘axis of evil’, clash of civilizations, and meltdown of metropolitan multiculture—which is of greatest relevance to my discussion. Some critics have lamented Rushdie’s recent lack of deeper ‘political engagement’, pointing to the ‘migrant’ writer’s failure to continue to ‘rebuke’ and ‘challenge’ the fundamental (and unequal) values of the society that has sheltered him since the fatwa (Eagleton 2007: n.p.). In Terry Eagleton’s opinion, Rushdie has ‘moved from being a remorseless satirist of the West [in the 1980s] to cheering on its criminal adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan’ in the age of Bush and Blair; his literary output no longer retains the radical perspectives of ‘the left’ (2007: n.p.). While not overlooking the limitations of Rushdie’s recent punditry, other scholars have sought to refocus attention on the dissenting, sceptical perspectives provided in The Satanic Verses, which exposes both the apparent bigotry of the ‘character’ of Muhammed and the inequality of Britain under ‘Mrs. Torture’. Such critics argue that the anti-fundamentalist or atheistic position the novelist adopts in relation to any voice of political, cultural, or religious authority remains vital at a time when our world’s survival is threatened not only by the proponents of global jihad, but also by global capitalism (Spencer 2010: 251−63). Arthur Bradley and Andrew Tate (2010: 111), however, suggest that Rushdie’s most recent fictions, like those of other British men of letters, including Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, and Philip Pullman, ‘too often end up bearing witness to the sheer poverty of our public discourse on religion’. In their opinion, these writers are more likely to ‘dramatize [. . .] a return to some pre-rational religious dogmatism’ or ‘fetishiz[e] [. . .] liberal enlightenment values’ than ‘attempt to move beyond the Manichean clash of religious and secular fundamentalisms epitomised by 9/11’ and offer ‘more complex and variegated pictures of the multi-faith world’ (Bradley and Tate 2010: 109). Yet Bradley and Tate also emphasize that, in the current climate, the novel may provide an important means by which readers can sensitively and seriously engage with alternative, undogmatic modes of ‘religiously-inflected seeing and being’ (2010: 109). The creators of such ‘post-atheist’ literature, they argue, must write despite personal doubt, ‘as if [they] believed in the possibility of religious experience as something irreducible to the standard categories available to science and method’ (Bradley and Tate 2010: 85).

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Rushdie’s recent fiction: Shalimar the Clown Shalimar the Clown, which was published in the UK less than two months after the 7/7 bombings, was Rushdie’s first work of fiction since his pre-9/11 Fury ([2001] 2002). The earlier novel, set in New York, imagined America at the decadent height of a hubristic golden age, troubled by a malaise linked to a growing consciousness of the less privileged and exploited world’s oncoming wrath. Like Fury, Shalimar the Clown’s narrative spans continents—namely, the Indian subcontinent, Europe, and North America—but a single geographical space is located at its heart. In this case, the space is South Asian: the disputed Muslim majority state of Kashmir, whose fate Rushdie claims particularly interests him, because he is ‘more than half Kashmiri’, has ‘loved the place all my life’, and listened as ‘ordinary Kashmiris’ suffer ([2002] 2003: 305). It provides both the idyllic setting for the novel’s interfaith romance and, when love fails, becomes the site of Shalimar’s terroristic turn. Shalimar the Clown compresses and selectively embellishes over 50 years of Kashmiri political history, from the moments prior to the cessation of British rule to the ongoing conflicts of the twentieth century, focusing on the incursion of communalism into the idealized space of the predominantly Muslim Valley of Kashmir. When the subcontinent was partitioned and granted independence in 1947, the feudal Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, was undecided as to whether to join Congress-led India or the new Muslim nation of Pakistan. Eventually, he signed a treaty of accession with India, following an invasion of Pakistani Pashtuns. War broke out between the two nations and ended with a ceasefire overseen by the UN Security Council from 1948 to 1949, which recommended that a plebiscite should be held to decide the question of the state’s accession once hostilities had ceased. But troops were not evacuated, and Kashmir was partitioned for practical purposes between Pakistan, which administered ‘Azad’ Jammu and Kashmir and the Northern Areas, and India, which controlled the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the ‘prized valley’ (Schofield 2000: xiv). War broke out again in 1965, but the 1949 ceasefire line ‘remained as the de facto border’ (Schofield 2000: xiv). By 1989, a protest movement against the Indian administration among the Valley’s Muslim population had gathered momentum. According to Victoria Schofield, this was ‘both an armed struggle and a political rejection of [. . .] continuing allegiance to the Indian Union’ (2000: xv). But, as she also notes, it lacked ‘unanimity of objective’ and was resisted by the state’s Buddhist, Shia, Sikh, and Hindu inhabitants, while Pakistan’s government was ‘only too happy’ to support the movement ‘morally and diplomatically’ and unofficially to help with reviving ‘the spirit of the 1947 “jihad” ’ among the insurgents (Schofield 2000: 227). The conflict continues into this third millennium, when Pakistan’s involvement in fostering terrorism in the region and India’s draconian punishment of those it deems to be terrorists still attract relatively little international scrutiny. At the level of global politics, Rushdie may be understood to use his multiplylocated ‘world’ novel to explore the ties that connect the oppositional and


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archetypal figures of the powerful, covetous American and the embittered Kashmiri jihadi. Yet the link traced between their different worlds in Rushdie’s ostensible ‘fiction of intrigue’ (Siddiqi 2008: 1)1 appears, on examination, more personal and cultural than religious and political, based as it is on human bonds of love, sex, and ‘honour’. Shalimar the Clown’s drama revolves around the fallout from a love affair that flares up in the early 1960s between two Kashmiri teenagers, who are born in 1947. Raised in the idyllic multi-faith community of Pachigam, ‘Shalimar’, son of the village sarpanch, falls in love with Boonyi, the pandit’s daughter. Their romance is ignited at a time when sectarian differences in the disputed Valley are becoming exaggerated and communal violence is escalating. But when their sexual liaison is exposed, the villagers decide to support the Hindu-Muslim match in the spirit of Kashmiriyat or national, social, and cultural solidarity.2 Tensions increase in 1965 with the appearance of a foreign mullah, Bulbul Fakh, in neighbouring Shirmal; the locals shelter the firebrand preacher and build him a mosque. He denounces pluralist Pachigam as an enemy to the ‘true faith’. But things only truly fall apart when the US Ambassador, Max Ophuls, arrives. He seduces Boonyi, installs her in Delhi, and abandons her, first to gluttony and narcotics, and then to his envious wife’s clutches. She abducts the resulting child, ‘Kashmira’, and raises her in America as ‘India’. Broken-hearted, Boonyi returns home to await death; Shalimar, bent on revenge, trains as an Islamic terrorist. The Kashmiri tale central to Rushdie’s continent-spanning novel unfolds largely in flashback, framed by the story of Max’s assassination in Los Angeles in 1991. Max, now America’s counterterrorism chief, is knifed to death in the book’s opening pages by his Kashmiri driver, ‘Shalimar’, in an apparent act of Islamic terror. After this, the narrative leaps back to pre-Partition Kashmir to tell the story of Boonyi and Noman’s fatal love. It goes on to encompass Nazioccupied Strasbourg, Islamist training camps in Pakistan, and the California of the migrant elite. It ends in America with India/Kashmira’s Manichean struggle against her vengeful stepfather. The instances of Islamic connection featured in this complex narrative are largely split between a broadly spiritual and cultural affinity, on the one hand, and more radical religious and political affiliations, on the other.3 The affinitive connections seem mostly local and benign—a sympathy for a long-revered Sufi saint or favourite figure from Mughal literature. Affiliations appear more dangerous in their persuasion; they are typified by the commitments of the delinquent, deranged, or politically enraged to what Rushdie characterizes as an ‘unKashmiri and un-Indian’4 brand of hard-line Islam.5 The first of these senses of connection—affinity—is perhaps exemplified by the spontaneous flood of feelings of psychical or spiritual attraction that Shalimar’s father, Abdullah, experiences on entering the Mughal pleasure gardens, where his troupe will perform Muslim and Hindu epic dramas for the maharaja (71). Abdullah’s emotions are intensified partly as a result of a pre-existing sense of kinship with the gardens’ founder, the Emperor Jehangir, whom he deems superior to Kashmir’s current Hindu ruler, and partly as a result of his

Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction 133 imaginative and auto-suggestive abilities as an actor-manager (78−9). For Abdullah, the draw of the gardens is aesthetic and secular. He is entranced by the ‘water music’ that plays from its ‘liquid terraces’ and hypnotized by the horticulturalist monarch’s ‘love-song’ to the earth (78). Such feelings of affinity lead the gentle Muslim headman to fantasize about deposing Hari Singh and reinstating Jehangir in a bid to recapture his glorious past: ‘The present maharaja was no Mughal emperor, but Abdullah’s imagination could [. . .] change that [. . .] [he] closed his eyes and [. . .] felt himself being transformed into that dead king [. . .] and the languorous sensuality of power’ (78). But for Rushdie’s comic character, the impulse towards the Islamic potentate remains benign: readers are given no reason to anticipate that Abdullah’s indolent daydream will translate into insurgent action. Yet Rushdie hints that his protagonist’s nostalgic imperial connection may nevertheless pose a threat, not to global civilizations or international relations, but to local civilian ones, at a time when Kashmiris—made nervous by rumours that armies of ‘looting and raping’ kabailis have crossed the border from Pakistan—are beginning to wonder: ‘maybe we are too different after all’ (85−7). The negative implications of Abdullah’s wistful pursuit of his affinitive aspirations are registered by his level-headed wife, Firdaus, who interrupts her husband dreaming to return him to the demands of the narrative present: [S]he shouted [. . .]. ‘This garden has a big effect on small men. They start believing they are giants. [. . .] If you want to prepare to play a king [. . .] think about Zain-ul-abidin in the first play. Think about Lord Ram in the second’. (79) Firdaus may simply wish Abdullah to refocus on the night’s coming performance. But her words also seem to betray a fear that his fixation on this Muslim aspect of their syncretic Kashmiri heritage may contribute to tensions within the region’s multi-faith community, for which his company has striven to provide a balanced portrayal of Muslims and Hindus alike. In the fractious post-Partition climate that Shalimar the Clown describes, sentimental experiences of religiocultural affinity must be suppressed, in order to lessen the risk of causing cultural offence. Other benign-seeming Muslim connections charted by Shalimar the Clown include a spiritual affinity or feeling of ‘fondness’ for historic Sufi pirs and living seers. These range from the fourteenth-century saint Hazrat Bulbul Shah to Khwaja Abdul Hakim, a ‘doctor and Sufistic philosopher’ (82). The doctor momentarily appears in the narrative to preside over the lovers’ nativity in the Shalimar gardens. He fails to find a medical remedy from amongst his impressively heterogeneous skill set, which encompasses the practices of both the West and the East, to save Boonyi’s mother; she dies in childbirth. Yet the learned physician is able to offer the grieving Pyarelal Kaul some philosophical consolation, drawn from the teachings of Sufi mysticism, but entirely accessible to the


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Hindu pandit in the ‘blurred’ Kashmiri context (83). The Khwaja’s gentle dialogue on the bitterness of his wife’s untimely departure—‘the question of death [. . .] proposes itself, does it not [. . .]. The question of death is also the question of life, panditji’—lulls both parties into a sense of accord, like the Sufi hymns, which, with the Hindu bhajans, later soothe the jangling nerves of the guests at Shalimar and Boonyi’s carefully orchestrated multi-faith wedding (83−4, 113−14). He is a figure of ‘sectarian ambiguity’, whose practices may present ‘a compendium of everything of which Islamic puritans most disapprove’ (Dalrymple [2009] 2010: 114−15); yet the Khwaja also appears to represent, in Rushdie’s idyllic, pre-conflict Kashmir, ‘everything that was best about the valley [. . .] its tolerance, its merging faiths’, which made a nonsense of ‘austere monotheism’ (83). The Sufistic sensibilities that Shalimar the Clown dramatizes seem to resemble those of the author’s Kashmiri grandfather, also a doctor. Rushdie dedicates the novel to him, remembering him with respect and affection. Rushdie reportedly described his ancestor in an interview with Johann Hari as devout, rational, and enlightened; a ‘model of tolerance’ happy to engage in conversation, even disputation, when faced with his teasing grandson’s religious doubt. Hari (2006: n.p.) emphasizes the distinction Rushdie drew between this elder man’s ‘mild, mystical’ Kashmiri Islam, akin in Rushdie’s opinion to that practised today by India’s pluralist and ‘secular minded’ Muslims, and the ‘austere’ Arab brand of fundamental Arab Islam introduced to the Valley in the 1960s. In Hari’s crude terms, ‘Salman’s grandfather stands for [. . .] a radically different way of being Muslim to the Khomeinist and Bin Ladenite head-choppers’ (2006: n.p.). Rushdie depicts ‘Islamic’ affinities as largely peaceable (and apolitical) in character at the beginning of Shalimar the Clown.6 But it is the stricter affiliations of precisely such radically ‘other’ Muslims—Islamist insurgents and fundamentalist fanatics—that he strains to represent as his novel turns from Kashmiri romance to global jihadist thriller. In the narrative, the residents of Pachigam retain their ‘fond’ attitude towards—or affinity for—the centuries-old saints and scholars associated with Sufi mysticism, even as the foreign-leaning Islamic preachers who enter the Valley threaten to drive them into extinction (87, 115). Rushdie portrays the inquisitive native Kashmiri community’s openness toward such Sufistic figures as harmless in itself. Yet Shalimar the Clown illustrates the potential of such intense, instinctive emotions to lead the villagers into more sinister realms, particularly if exploited. The ‘iron mullah’, whom, it is rumoured, was miraculously born of abandoned Indian ‘war metals’ and poses on arrival as the reincarnation of the Bulbul Shah, ostensibly stays in Shirmal at its populace’s behest: ‘many ears’ are curious to hear his message (115−16). When articulated in his harsh, alien tones, the familiar azaan is transformed into a ‘call to arms’, a means of drawing enthralled, obedient, and opportunistic Kashmiris into pan-Islamic insurgent networks (123). It is to the sectarian cause of ‘resistance and revenge’, preached from the Maulana’s pulpit, that several of the Valley’s unsatisfied youths, Shalimar included, subsequently affiliate (115).

Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction 135 In his unyielding, metallic quality, the iron mullah resembles other militant religious ‘fanatics’ portrayed in Rushdie’s fiction, such as the hard-line Hindu nationalist Sammy Hazaré (aka the ‘Tin-man’), who appears in The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995: 301). However, Sammy, a Christian Maharashtrian convert, is to some extent humanized. We learn that he joins Fielding’s fundamentalist ‘crew’ for ‘regionalist rather than religious reasons’, yet has become ‘half-man, halfcan’ more on account of his obsession with bomb-making than of a radical political commitment (Rushdie 1995: 311−12). Rushdie uses the scrap-metal legend in his critical Kashmiri narrative to emphasize a causal link between aggressive Indian military intervention in the region and the rise of a radical new brand of Islamic preacher, which is born out of and fostered in opposition to it. The foreignness of Fakh’s ideology and bearing are repeatedly emphasized; the occupying Indian Army Colonel, Hammirdev Kachhwaha, for example, suspects him to be ‘a pro-Pak communalist’ (120). This patriotic Hindu deems the Muslim infiltrator a hypocrite ‘who dare[s] preach about [Indian] enemies within the state’, when, having sown the seeds of communal discord, he is the ‘incarnation of that foe’ (120). Yet the motivation and affiliation of the much-mocked but impassive mullah, mute in relation to his ‘seminary’ and ‘origins’, remain unknown, the faceless Fakh all the more disquieting as a result (117). Later, it is confirmed that the Maulana takes his cue and culture from hardline Islamic ‘fanatics’, whose ideological commitment to an aggressive form of the faith is motivated by the religiously rooted but political ‘desire to crush the infidel’ (262−5). His ‘seductive tongue’ gains potency from emotive allusions to the ‘immorality’ and ‘evil’ of godless, idolatrous ‘kafirs’ (125). This belligerent, moralistic, and ideological discourse clashes with the tolerant language deployed by Hindu and Muslim Kashmiri villagers, yet resonates with that popularly associated with an absolute, Saudi Arabian and Wahhabi-inflected Islam and its global jihadist proponents (116−25, 264). In addition to Shalimar, the novel is populated by youthful affiliates turned Islamic militants, including Anees, his depressive brother, the delinquent Gergoo boys, and Abdulrajak, a diminutive ‘Filipino revolutionary’, who befriends Shalimar at a training camp. All are associated with Fakh’s fearsome new interpretation of the faith, yet differ slightly in their affliliative motivations. Anees, who is abducted one night by the local liberation front commander and ‘asked if he would like to learn to make bombs’, is a morbid and melancholic character; he assents because he finds cheering the promise that this way ‘life was likely to be short’ (106). The Gegroos are more maliciously self-seeking, while the seemingly orderly Abdulrajak ‘shine[s] with some sort of crazy internal light’, fuelled by a religiopolitical fervour that borders on insanity (268). Rushdie’s lack of patience with ‘superstitious madmen’ seems particularly evident where the Filipino is concerned (Hari 2006). The more rational arguments Abdulrajak might articulate for joining radical Saudi- and Pakistanifunded organizations for national liberation are undermined by his broken Hindi; his dialogue amounts to unenlightening expressions of allegiance and action: ‘Man of God inspire. Man of war do’ (269). The ‘factual’ information the


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omniscient narrator supplies to contextualize Abdulrajak’s impassioned speech offers only a textbook-style explanation for the impoverished and persecuted Filipino’s route to radicalization: ‘The luminous little man [. . .] accepted U.S. arms and backing but loathed the United States because American soldiers had historically backed the settlement of Catholics [. . .]. Christians controlled the economy and the Muslims were kept poor’ (269). When Rushdie’s Southeast Asian Islamic revolutionary is permitted to speak, it is in stumbling syllables and for comic, if chilling, effect. The character cannot convey in any sophisticated fashion what sparks his fanatical zeal, nor what personal and political circumstances have driven him to make the absolute commitment to kill a hated American and so link his ‘story’ to Shalimar’s (269). Abdulrajak and the iron mullah’s self-alignment with a partial, pro-Muslim God may be understood as insanely devout and politically strategic (264−5). The ‘Islamic’ opinions of the brothers Gegroo, ‘a trio of disaffected layabout[s]’, are, however, simply cynical and self-serving (126). Their 1965 ‘turn’ to Fakh is precipitated purely by their anticipation of a father’s rightful wrath over their rape of his daughter; the hellfire preacher’s exclusively male mosque is the only Shirmali space that will grant them asylum (119). Similarly, their attempt, on returning to Shirmal in 1988, to impose ‘Islamic decencies’ promoted by their ‘holy’ employer, the ‘Lashkar-e-Pak’, is attributable to no higher cause than their desire to avenge themselves on the father of the girl they defiled and the compatriots whose principles they violated in the process (126−9, 286−7). Rushdie’s characterization of the misogynistic brothers seems partly consistent with his assertion that: For a vast number of ‘believing’ Muslim men, ‘Islam’ stands, in a [. . .] halfexamined way [. . .] for a cluster of customs, opinion and prejudices that include [. . .] the sequestration [. . .] of women, the sermons delivered by their mullah of choice, [and] a loathing of modern society. ([2002] 2003: 395) Yet it is also inconsistent. In the quoted column, ‘Not About Islam’, Rushdie firmly links the majority of Muslims males’ apparently illiberal and anti-modern behaviour to a superstitious commitment to some ‘mulch of “belief” ’ exploited by the political proponents of an Islamist ideology ([2002] 2003: 395). But in Shalimar the Clown, the Gegroos, thuggish although not stupid, cleverly exploit the insurgency for their own venal ends. Their aggressive and stereotypically ‘Islamist’ behaviour—torching the village’s television tent, terrifying unveiled women—is not so much ‘about Islam’ (285−7). Rather, it is about the dangerous egotism of three self-styled cowboys and their need to demonstrate publicly that no one can insult them and escape censure, thus perhaps adhering to a bloody code of ‘honour’, which, though popularly associated with Muslim culture, is not, as Tillion demonstrates, an ‘aberration specific to Islam’ ([1966] 2007: back cover). Like the Gegroos, Rushdie’s ‘terrorist’ central protagonist, Shalimar, burns with a desire to avenge his ‘honour’, which drives him toward political Islam

Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction 137 (258). Turned, comic-book fashion, toward the dark side by Boonyi’s betrayal, this suddenly sinister clown affiliates to the Kashmiri liberation front, and thence the ‘worldwide Islamist-jihadist’ movement, in order to exploit the Ummah’s military education, arsenal, and global networks for his own sadistic gain (264). As he informs a local militia leader: ‘I need to learn a new trade [. . .] I’ll kill anyone you want me to [. . .] but [. . .] I want the American ambassador at my mercy’ (252). Realigning himself with the separatists, the former beneficiary of Kashmiri pluralism describes Pakistan, whose weapons fuel the insurgency, as an ally; he talks of national ‘freedom’ gained through trust in a ‘common God’ and of a ‘higher allegiance’ (259). As an affiliate to the cause of global jihad, Shalimar submits his body to the rigours of training at an Inter-Services Intelligence-backed camp (264−8). Under the tutelage of the iron mullah, he surrenders his mind for reprogramming with an international religio-martial ‘ideology’, for which the ‘permitted’ textbooks are ‘training manuals’ and ‘the Holy Qur’an’ (265). Yet despite Shalimar’s protestations to the contrary, he remains driven not by a desire to turn into ‘some kind of fire-eater for God’, but by a jealous husband’s urge to destroy the man who stole his love (259). In this sense, his commitment differs from that of the devout and fanatical Islamists whom Rushdie portrays here and elsewhere as devotees of a ‘holy’ war, which they wage against Western, Jewish, and non-Islamist ‘infidels’ for solely sacred or political ends ([2002] 2003: 395). Rushdie’s portrayal of his eponymous protagonist’s ultimately disingenuous affiliation is not lacking in complexity. The absolutist Shalimar, turned from love to hate, is certainly attracted by radical Islam for its own sake. In the training camp, he half listens to the preacher’s uncompromising lessons about ‘God’s work’ and ‘truth’, the latter of which is presented to new recruits as a replacement parent, sibling, or life-partner: Everything they thought they knew about the nature of reality [. . .] was wrong, the iron mullah said. That was the first thing for the true warrior to understand.—Yes, Shalimar [. . .] thought, everything I thought I knew was a mistake [. . .]. There was no room for weakness, argument, or half-measures. [. . .] Only the truth can be your father now, but through the truth you will be the fathers of history.—Only the truth can be my father. (265−6 [emphasis in original]) Shalimar willingly accepts the iron mullah’s liturgy as a substitute for the Kashmiri lore about man’s governing nature (‘Only man, knowing good, can do evil’), laid open to him in youth by his pandit father-in-law (91−2). He hopes that by subscribing to the mullah’s more exacting dictates, he may sever his ties to his shameful past, yet also that the hard-line Islamic affiliation he cultivates may provide the means to fulfil a violent need for vengeance. So when Shalimar rises and tears off his garments, crying: ‘I cleanse myself of everything except the struggle [to expel ‘the infidel’]!’, he does so with a cheating heart and double tongue (267−8). He may ‘almost believe [. . .] [in] his own performance’,


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thinking that he is transformed ‘and could leave the past behind’, but Rushdie’s sceptical clown remains conscious of his inability, given his overriding ‘urge’ to pursue his vendetta, to commit himself disinterestedly to this new cause (268). Despite such attempts to furnish them with greater texture, Rushdie’s representations of the connections and motivations of Kashmir’s fictional Islamists are crude in comparison to, say, those pertaining to the strict Muslim reformists and insurgents described in Curfewed Night, Basharat Peer’s first-hand account of the Kashmiri conflict. Peer ascribes the attractiveness of a stricter form of Islam introduced in the late 1980s to educated individuals from amongst his village’s lower-middle classes not to locals’ awe and curiosity about ‘blood-andthunder preachers’ (2011: 115), but rather to their interest in its focus on social reform: They [the Salafist group] revolted against the way Islam had been practised over centuries in Kashmir [. . .]. They wanted to shear the local traditions [. . .] saving the peasants from the mumbo-jumbo and exploitation of the priestly class—the moulvis and the pirs, the Muslim Brahmans. (Peer 2011: 167) In Peer’s account, young men join the anti-Indian liberation movements partly out of boyish envy for the glamorous insurgent’s Pakistan-gifted Kalashnikov, ‘green military uniform’, and ‘badge [. . .] that said: JKLF!’ (2011: 23−4) and partly because they find themselves caught in the tide of ‘death, fear and anger’ that swept through the Valley as the conflict escalated, but not for the venal reasons Rushdie attributes to his bad-boy villains. As ‘wild men, fanatics and aliens’ (Rushdie 1995: 130), Shalimar the Clown’s fundamentalist affiliates ultimately reinforce, rather than expand, the range of the now-familiar type of the mad, ‘bad’, dangerous Muslim (Mamdani 2004: 15−18). In his earlier novel, The Moor’s Last Sigh, Rushdie characterized Hindu nationalists as being driven by ‘engines [. . .] stranger’ and fed by ‘darker’, more personal ‘fuel’ than that of ‘the nation, the god’ (1995: 312 [emphasis in original]). In his hands, the post-9/11 ‘world’ fiction becomes a vehicle largely for stripping the cold-blooded ‘Islamic’ assassin-antagonist not only of any real religious and ideological motivation, but also of any political one. Further, it becomes a means, instead of dressing the wronged, embittered, Muslim subject’s anti-American behaviour in the primitive garb of misogynistic ‘honour’ (258). The result is the deflection of responsibility for contemporary acts of religious extremism—in this instance, ‘Islamic’ terror—onto the aggrieved and aggressive Muslim male, whose rage may be concurrent with a turbulent era, but whose propensity for evil seems inherently his own. Responsibility is perhaps also partly deflected onto the patriarchal culture from which Shalimar hails, which permits the pursuit of his bid for vengeance. Robert Eaglestone (2010: 366−7) suggests that Shalimar the Clown lacks a ‘sense of the world of the Islamist’ and points to its author’s inability to ‘get to grips’ with ‘the Islamist “truth” ’ to which his protagonist ostensibly converts.

Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction 139 Indeed, Rushdie’s ‘sulfurous’ Maulana’s railing disquisition against the materialistic and self-interested ‘infidel’, which immediately precedes Shalimar’s dramatic ‘revision’ of his ‘screwed up’ ‘worldview’ and supposed avowal of hard-line Islamist principles, is comprised predominantly of nihilist platitudes (264−7). Fakh asserts: The infidel holds that [his] picture of the world [. . .] is [one] we must all recognize. We say that [it] means nothing to us [. . .]. The infidel speaks of universal truth. We know that the universe is an illusion [. . .]. The infidel believes the world is his. But we shall [. . .] cast him into darkness and live in Paradise. (267) Shalimar ‘scream[s] in assent’: ‘without the struggle I am nothing’ (268). Yet what the Mullah’s ‘struggle’ is—save a bloody-minded rejection of generic Western capitalist attitudes and values—remains, like the preacher’s identity, almost entirely obscure (268). The complexities not only of this particular type of radical and political Muslim affiliation (‘Islamism’), about which the West continues to be anxious, but also of other, more profound experiences of spiritual connection seem to be relegated in Rushdie’s elliptic world fiction to a space firmly ‘outside their [author’s] world-view’ (Eaglestone 2010: 367), equating, in the novelist’s own terms, to the realms of ‘spiritual fakery and mumbojumbo charlatanism’ (48). Despite the fact that it discriminates to some extent between different forms, expressions, and uses of the faith—Sufi vs. Salafi, religious vs. secular, private vs. political—Shalimar the Clown could be considered part of a wave of ‘New Atheist’ fiction, in which ‘Islam [and particularly Islamic extremism] comes to embody the irrationality, immorality and violence of religion in general’ (Bradley and Tate 2010: 5). It is interesting, then, that several of its characters attempt to disconnect themselves altogether from the influences of what Rushdie might term the God-like ‘shadow planets’ of (religious) ideology, tradition, and superstition (48). Such heavenly bodies, diabolical and divine, are exemplified in Shalimar the Clown by the Hindu ‘dragon planets’: Rahu, the ‘intensifier’, and Ketu, the ‘suppressor’ of human instincts (48). These spiritual entities, like other addictive secular gods (narcotics, stimulants), control man’s understanding of his morality and ability to think for himself, whether for good or for ill. Rushdie’s suspicion of them is well documented.7 In Shalimar the Clown, his Kashmiri characters, from the opium-addicted Boonyi, to the disaffected ‘Islamist’ Shalimar, try to break with these dangerous and seductive influences, in order to regain control of their destinies and realize their desires—the woman for her husband’s earthly love, the man for retribution following his wife’s infidelity. For Shalimar, the process of ‘letting go’ in order to achieve self-determination entails the severance of the contradictory vows that he makes to Ketu and Rahu: to let his adulterous wife live and to annihilate Boonyi and her American lover (226, 237). He must rescind the first in order to realize the second, but


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disassociate himself from both if he is to forge, on the basis of self-abnegation, the new Islamist ties he will later use to access the fundamentalist networks he exploits and then betrays (267−71). In the end, the selfish Shalimar jettisons the ‘holy’ cause for a secular satisfaction more sublime—a husband’s bloody, brutal revenge for his wife’s unfaithfulness, masked in the guise of jihadi terrorism. It is this individual motivation, not his lawyer’s captivating ‘Manchurian’ defence (that Shalimar’s ‘free will was subverted’ and he was ‘programmed to kill’ at Hamas-style ‘brainwashing centres’), which the Los Angeles court that sentences him recognizes (383−4). The realization of individual desires, and hence the attainment of selfhood, seems in Rushdie’s sceptical fiction to preclude the possibility of a pure or total commitment to any external governing authority. Bradley and Tate (2010: 99) refer to Rushdie as perhaps ‘the most intensely theological of contemporary British novelists’. The theme of ‘the quarrel [with and] over God’—of the individual’s desire to disaffiliate from a supernatural being and organized religion—is something Rushdie continues to pursue, alongside aesthetic and ‘enchanted’ experiences of South Asian spiritual affinity in The Enchantress of Florence ([2008] 2009: 440).

Areas left unmapped In an apparently secular age, world literary works by writers of Muslim background may describe deeply felt spiritual connections and attachments that have popularly been trivialized as superstitious or irrational, yet remain central to their characters’ sense of selfhood. By expressing in their fiction ‘Islamic subjectivities and cultural epistemologies’, which the reader may incorporate into their understanding of a ‘world of equal differences’ (Majid 2000: vii), these authors may contribute to a process of ‘demystifying and de-alienating Islam and Muslims’ (Malak [2004] 2005: 11). This is something that remains of central importance today, when the word ‘Islam’ and the mention of Muslims continues, in Kamila Shamsie’s words, ‘to exert a magnetic field [. . .] pulling in a host of words of which the most thickly clustered is “Terror” and, hard on its heels [. . .] Offence’ (2009b: 1). Rushdie attempts to explore a variety of types, both of Islam and of faith, in Shalimar the Clown. Yet the result is not only that Muslim stereotypes such as those propagated by writers like Martin Amis are reinforced, it is also that Rushdie largely leaves unmapped those more complex, nebulous, and potentially controversial spiritual convictions, political commitments, and historical-cultural connections that may underlie contemporary South Asian experiences8 of Islamic affiliation and affinity.

Notes 1 That is, fiction which ‘foregrounds a threat to the [Western hegemonic] social and political order’ (Siddiqi 2008: 1). 2 Kashmiriyat was always a fictional notion. As Victoria Schofield observes, Jammu and Kashmir

Salman Rushdie’s recent fiction 141 was [in Sir Owen Dixon’s words] ‘not really a unit geographically, demographically or economically’ but ‘an agglomeration of territories brought under the political power of One Maharaja.’ [. . .] As [. . .] Sumantra Bose, has recognised, the challenge was always to find a middle ground between ‘communal compartmentalism and the chimera of non-existent oneness’. (2000: xii−xiii) 3 I use the term ‘affinity’ to indicate more spontaneous instances of psychical or spiritual attraction to a particular community grouping, geographical area or imaginative realm and ‘affiliation’ to denote more active and selective modes of Islamic connection. 4 See Rushdie ([2005] 2006: 122). Subsequent references are to this edition of Shalimar the Clown and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the main text. 5 This seems in tune with the broadly binary reading of Islam in Kashmir expressed in Rushdie’s New York Times columns (see, for example, [2002] 2003: 306). Historians like Schofield agree ‘that what began as a more secular movement in the valley for greater political liberty became one with “Islamist” overtones arose directly from the changes occurring within Pakistani society and influences from Afghanistan’ (2000: xiii−xv). Yet she, and others (Rai 2011; Peer 2011), would illuminate the diversity of Kashmiri political and moral positions in relation to ‘Islamism’, which the novelist’s satirical reconstruction of post-Second World War history strategically obfuscates. 6 There is no room in Rushdie’s terroristic tale for a realistic portrayal of politically committed Kashmiris like those that Peer describes (2010: 81), whose retention of a link to Sufi religious tradition may lend gravitas to their leadership of contemporary resistance movements. 7 For example, in his lecture on human values, ‘Step Across This Line’, which begins by focusing on Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar’s epic The Conference of the Birds (Rushdie [2002] 2003: 407−10). The poem’s creatures expand the possibilities of what they can be by transgressing prescribed limits, eventually becoming their own gods. Rushdie sees this as a vital step toward ‘advanced civilisation’, founded on ‘individualisms [. . .] merged into a collectivity’ ([2002] 2003: 409). 8 Rushdie is perhaps more likely to occlude those South Asian Islamic affiliations that are Pakistani as opposed to Indian.

10 Tahmima Anam’s The Good Muslim Bangladeshi Islam, secularism, and the Tablighi Jamaat Claire Chambers What does it mean to be an ethical person, or a ‘good Muslim’, in violently changing times? While not claiming authority to answer this question myself, I examine here the way in which Bangladeshi diasporic writer Tahmima Anam tackles the subject in her work, particularly in the more recent of her two novels, The Good Muslim (2011). Anam suggests that the borders between religion and secularism are more porous than is often assumed and that each conceptual category contains its share of reason and illogic, moderation and extremism, ethical and unethical behaviour. As the novel’s title indicates, it also sets out to explore what it might mean to be a ‘good’ Muslim, and whether it is possible or politically desirable to make easy distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘moderate’ Muslims, as has been a frequent endeavour of much post-9/11 discourse. Anam’s debut novel, A Golden Age ([2007] 2008), is set in East Pakistan during the nine months of civil war in 1971, which resulted in East Pakistan seceding from the Pakistani state to become Bangladesh. Beginning in epistolary fashion—‘Dear Husband, | I lost our children today’ (Anam [2007] 2008: 3)—it describes the predicament of the Urdu-speaking widow, Rehana, who is trying to protect her teenage children and yet support her nation as the Pakistani Army invades Bengal and the Mukti Bahini, or Bangladeshi Liberation Army, mobilizes its young people to fight. The Good Muslim, the second novel in a planned Bengal Trilogy, largely unfolds during the 1980s, which Anam has described as a decade when ‘both the global and local contexts of mainstream religion were becoming increasingly central to the political conversation’ (quoted in Chambers 2011b: 160). Here, the narrative attention shifts from A Golden Age’s protagonist Rehana to her two children, now in their early thirties: her son, Sohail, and daughter, Maya. They respond very differently to the direction taken by the young Bangladeshi state under the autocratic rule of Hussain Muhammad Ershad (known throughout the text as ‘the Dictator’) and the growing influence of the Islamic Right. Sohail joins the Tablighi Jamaat, a proselytizing religious movement, while Maya remains loyal to the secular, Marxist-inflected nationalism that provided a sense of solidarity during the war years—an era of political idealism she wistfully recalls. By contrast, Sohail is haunted by his memories of the war, especially those that involve Piya, a female victim of the violence whom he loved but failed to

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help, and the reasons behind his desire for atonement are made clear through fragmentary flashbacks. Soon after peace comes, Sohail begins to ‘lean [. . .] towards God’, initially embracing pluralism, but then becoming increasingly intolerant.1 His otherworldliness develops into an indifference towards the suffering of his six-year-old son, Zaid, who is allowed to run wild, and his mother, Rehana, ill with endometrial cancer. He continues to be aware of affliction, but ‘decided he would no longer be in thrall to it. That he would embrace it. [. . .] There was a grand design, and it left no room for self-pity’ (82). His deeply religious wife, Silvi, for whom he felt such adoration in A Golden Age, encourages this spiritual zeal until her untimely death. However, the love story plays a smaller part here than it did in the previous book, and in many ways The Good Muslim is a novel of ideas. In addition to the exploration of religion and secularism that provide this essay’s central focus, the text portrays the war and its aftermath, ongoing debates surrounding the need (or otherwise) for Bangladesh to have a trial of war criminals (Razakars), trauma and memory, and the vulnerable position of women and children. The scientifically-minded Maya becomes a ‘lady doctor’, rather than following her early aspiration to train in surgery, since she wants to help women and counter patriarchal superstitions that surround pregnancy and childbirth. Maya experiences a complex sense of guilt when her nationalist sympathies compel her to perform abortions for women raped by Pakistani soldiers during the war. Although the revered Bangladeshi leader Sheikh Mujib hails these women as ‘heroines’, he desires the erasure of the ‘bastard children’ born from their wartime abuse (70, 243). Maya follows Mujib unquestioningly, without considering the women’s feelings, until they have either undergone their abortions or fled, not realizing the ethical ‘debt’ she is ‘rack[ing] up’ (51). She also indirectly causes the Rajshahi villager Nazia to be severely beaten by local menfolk, through encouraging her to break a taboo against pregnant women bathing in the communal pond. Maya’s courage and non-conformism, as well as her intransigence and disregard for custom, are therefore signalled from the text’s outset. The presence of real, historical figures in the novel, including Mujib himself, the nationalist and memoir writer Jahanara Imam (1929−1994), and war criminals like Ghulam Azam, indicates The Good Muslim’s generic proximity to what Mary Therese McCarthy terms the ‘discussion novel’ (1980: 24) and Linda Hutcheon calls ‘historiographic metafiction’ (1988: 105−23).2 In these intellectual or roman à thèse elements of her text, Anam reveals certain blind spots. For example, Mujib is only fleetingly criticized for the pressure he put on the rape victims to have abortions and, when he appears in the novel, he is seen through the family’s eyes as ‘Bangabandhu’, the Friend of Bengal, ‘warm [. . .], genial and [. . .] like any other person’ (144). This portrayal of Mujib allows for no mention of his increasingly autocratic rule as Bangladesh’s first president and second prime minister or of the way in which he set the stage for the Islamicization of Bangladesh under Ershad during the military rule post-1982. Lawrence Ziring suggests that ‘Mujib did not possess the attitude of a consensus leader. He did not enjoy the skills of a broker or the wisdom of a sage’ (1992: 79).


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Whereas in relation to historical figures the novel purports to imitate life, life came to reflect Anam’s art recently, when in February 2013 up to 500,000 protesters took to Shahbag Square, Dhaka, demanding the death penalty for Razakars such as Abdul Quader Mollah. Eventually, they were successful, and in December 2013 Quader became the first person to be executed for 1971 war crimes, as a direct result of the Shahbag movement, but with his party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, threatening retaliations, after which violence did ensue (Al Jazeera 2013: n.p.). Like the novel’s fictionalized version of Ghulam Azam, Mollah is a senior member of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami political party; in 1971 he collaborated with the West Pakistani occupiers and was responsible for terrible atrocities against Bengalis because he had hoped to keep the Ummah and the Pakistani Muslim state together. In a Guardian article published that same February, ‘Shahbag Protesters Versus the Butcher of Mirpur’, Anam rehearses many of the ideas she had already explored in The Good Muslim, forging an uneasy alliance between her longstanding opposition to the death penalty and her desire, along with those of the protesters and the fictionalized Maya and Jahanara Imam, to see Razakars punished for their war crimes (2013: 10). Another commentator, Samia Khatun, reported that in Shahbag ‘protestors raised a portrait of the Bengali activist, mother of a war martyr and figurehead of an earlier moment of emotional memorialisation, Jahanara Imam’, arguing that the late memoirist was once more becoming an icon, this time for ‘the renewed Bengali nationalism centred around Shahbag’ (Khatun 2013: n.p.). Imam’s record of the war, Ekkaturer Dinguli (translated as Of Blood and Fire [1986] 1989), told the story of Pakistani soldiers murdering her teenage son, and of her husband’s death due to a lack of access to medical care. It became a touchstone book for the entire conflict in the Bangladeshi popular imagination. Of Blood and Fire is an important intertext for A Golden Age in particular, with its trope of a strong mother beleaguered by war and the loss of family members. Anam’s second novel destabilizes the simplistic binaries that are often drawn between Islam/ism and secularism and between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslim. At the current historical moment, when Syria is torn by civil war, Egypt is violently split between supporters of Mohamed Morsi and those of his opponent, General al-Sisi, and Bangladesh is roiled by clashes between the secularist Shahbag protesters and the Jamaat-e-Islami, the following questions posed by US-Turkish critic Esra Santesso have resonance: what is at stake when a state committed to secular guarantees of individual rights decides it must limit the rights of Islamic fundamentalists who support the desecularization of civic life? Is it legitimate to silence one group so that another may speak freely? If so, are universal and democratic rights in permanent opposition to each other? (2012: 127) Although Santesso’s questions ensue during discussion of Orhan Pamuk’s Snow and relate to the very different context of Kemalist state secularism in Turkey,

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they also invite consideration in relation to Maya, who is significantly described as a ‘crusading doctor’ (55, 89), with her intolerance of difference and desire for her brother to be secular like her. When Maya briefly attends the annual world conference or Ijtema of Tablighi Jamaat members so that she can talk to her brother about her concern for his son, Zaid, she has a fantasy: He would see himself reflected through her eyes—see the absurdity of what he had become. He would see the ugliness of turning his family away, the cruelty of his own fathering. Cracks would appear in his belief, his faith would be shaken—not in the Almighty, she would not wish to take that away from him (or perhaps she did, but she was not willing to admit to it), but in whatever force had taken him from her and delivered up a stranger. (83) Maya longs to refract for him her brother’s apparent metamorphosis into a ludicrous, unattractive, and callous zealot. On seeing the colours of his conversion through the eyes of his steadfastly secular sister, she reasons, Sohail’s belief will shatter. However, in a parenthetical aside, which is the only section of this passage that cannot be unproblematically categorized as free indirect discourse, it is intimated that she cannot quite acknowledge that she longs for the destruction of his faith. She goes on to imagine saying to him, ‘A man is not born once, [. . .] a man can come into the world again [. . .] I accept, I forgive you, [. . .], let us return to it’ (83), suggesting that she is almost as much of a born-again secularist as the pilgrims at the Ijtema are born-again Muslims. In these instances, Maya demonstrates her own conversionist impulse and unwittingly displays her hostility to the unseen force (God?) who has turned her brother into a ‘stranger’. Yet strangers, as Sara Ahmed argues, ‘function to establish and define the boundaries of who “we” are in their very proximity, [. . .] [acting as] a mechanism for allowing us to face that which we have already designated as the beyond’ (2000: 3 [emphasis in original]). Maya needs Sohail and the ‘upstairs people’ (41) of his makeshift rooftop congregation in order to define herself as a woman of science and defender of the purity of her nostalgically constructed nation. The stairs form a boundary between the visionary Sohail gazing heavenwards and the grounded, materialist Maya down below, and this physical, domestic barrier is also emblematic of the two devastating partitions that Bangladesh has experienced over the course of its short history.3 Maya can only face what Ahmed calls ‘the beyond’ and the text terms a ‘force’ that has triggered the ‘tragedy of [Sohail’s] transformation’ (45) by consigning her brother to the weak and asymmetric position of otherness. She recalls ‘how fiercely she had needed him to be like her’ and how when Sohail moved away from nationalist politics to embrace spirituality, she viewed it as a deliberate slight, ‘as though he had done it to offend her’ (17). Nevertheless, the narrative gradually shows that Maya has suppressed her own spiritual impulses. As Aamer Hussein writes: ‘Maya, resolutely secular,


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begins to understand Sohail’s religious zeal and to reflect on the practicality of religion and a possible return to prayer: if she chose it now, it would be a hollow bargain, shallow and insubstantial’ (2011: 10). Although she ‘taught herself away from faith’, deliberately forgetting the surahs her mother had passed on to her (205), this is because and not despite the fact that she realizes ‘religion, its open fragrance and cloudless stretches of infinity, may [. . .] be [. . .] an essential human need, hers as much as his’ (126). She has seen many cruel acts performed in the name of religion, especially during the war, so the form of faith that attracts her is that practised by Bangladesh’s oppressed tribal peoples, who proclaim their faith through love-infused song and worship of Bon-Bibi (206). This goddess is explored at greater length in Amitav Ghosh’s novel of Bengal’s Sundarbans, The Hungry Tide, in which she is described as a syncretic ‘tigergoddess’ with roots in Arabian Islam, who is ‘the saviour of the weak and a mother of mercy to the poor’ (Ghosh 2005: 102−4). It is easy to see why the disruptive, socially progressive Bon-Bibi would appeal to leftist Maya. Still, she does not pursue her spiritual yearning, because she prefers to dismiss faith as ‘a consolation for simpler, lower minds’ (93). In a key scene, religion erupts into her worldview again when her mother, close to death, is apparently saved by Sohail and a circle of his male followers praying for Rehana and giving her Zamzam water to drink. Her rapid recovery after this intervention Maya ‘had no way of cataloguing’ (212). Indeed, the novel itself comes close to the fantastic mode here, in the sense that it ‘establishes [. . .] hesitation in protagonist and reader: they can neither come to terms with the unfamiliar events described, nor dismiss them as supernatural phenomena’ (Jackson 1981: 27). For Maya, as for many agnostic or atheist readers, ‘[t]he name that came to her—miracle—was not one she could believe’ (212), but the novel leaves a space for the possibility of supernatural occurrences alongside the workings of modern science. Moving to the more negative aspects of belief, in one of the novel’s most shocking scenes in which religious and secular extremism are conflated, Sohail burns books by Western writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Rainer Maria Rilke, which his younger self had valued highly (241−53). Yet his original decision was only to get rid of them. The conflagration comes about because Maya goads him by blaming Silvi for his sudden bibliophobia, reminding him of his former love, Piya, and threatening to return to him each book he packs away. The scene builds to a crescendo as Maya proclaims her pro-art, antipuritanism stance by singing Bengali songs like Tagore’s ‘Anondo Dhara’ and Nazrul’s ‘Bidrohi’, accompanying herself on the harmonium. This enrages Sohail, causing him to build a pyre for his books and to fling the much-loved volumes into the flames, while Maya intones a passion for her own shibboleths (‘Ghalib and dear, dear Shakespeare’ [83]), eyes closed. As Rehana tells her daughter: ‘You pushed him. [. . .] You turned deaf and you mocked him. [. . .] You led him here, calling him a mullah’ (252−3). Each sibling seeks to silence the other, and Maya appears here almost as much of a secular fundamentalist as Sohail does a religious fundamentalist.4 Burning books has shocking, ‘Hitlerstyle’ overtones (216), and readers are likely also to recall Islamists’ immolation

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of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, but Maya seems unaware that Islamic culture also suffered from having its books burned when Queen Isabella’s advisor, Archbishop Ximenes, destroyed the vast Moorish library in fifteenthcentury Spain (see Ali [1992] 1993). Anam does much to contest the simplistic ‘good Muslim/bad Muslim’ binary ironically figured in her title. This dominant kind of dualistic discourse surrounding Muslims is identified and discussed in Mahmood Mamdani’s influential book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim. He argues that after 9/11, George W. Bush quickly moved to draw a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims, in order to refute the idea that he was engaging in a ‘crusade’ against Islam. ‘But’, as Mamdani points out, ‘this could not hide the central message of such discourse: unless proved to be “good,” every Muslim was presumed to be “bad” ’ (2004: 15). Andrew Shryock extends Mamdani’s argument in his 2010 monograph Islamophobia/Islamophilia, arguing that much mainstream Western culture regards the ‘good Muslim’ as the authentic voice of Islam, while the ‘bad Muslim’ is interpreted as having transgressed religion’s fundamental principles: The ‘good Muslim’, as a stereotype, has common features: he tends to be a Sufi (ideally, one who reads Rumi); he is peaceful (and assures us that jihad is an inner, spiritual contest, not a struggle to ‘enjoin the good and forbid the wrong’ through force of arms); he treats women as equals, and is committed to choice in matters of hijab wearing (and never advocates the covering of a woman’s face); if he is a she, then she is highly educated, works outside the home, is her husband’s only wife, chose her husband freely, and wears hijab (if at all) only because she wants to. (2010: 10) Shryock’s tongue-in-cheek description indicates that Islamophilia, as well as its more obviously pernicious counterpart, Islamophobia, rests on stereotypes, in the former’s case constraining Muslims within liberal categories out of ‘wishful thinking and a politics of fear’ (2010: 10). It is dangerous to accept the good Muslim/bad Muslim divide, even when the person doing this emphasizes the ‘good’ side of pluralism and tolerance within Islam. Unless these stereotypes are dismantled altogether, they can easily be reversed, whereby the ‘bad Muslim’ is taken to be the ‘real’ voice of Islam and the ‘good Muslim’ becomes somehow inauthentic. I take this as a touchstone for The Good Muslim, because although Anam is sharply critical of abuses and accretions that attach to Islam and allows Maya to criticize it as ‘a religion that could be so easily turned to cruelty’ (158), she for the most part successfully moves the argument away from the binary good/bad Muslim perspectives that pervade recent cultural commentary. Perhaps inevitably, then, it is not easy to identify the novel’s ‘good Muslim’. Maya’s equation of Islam with bigotry and backwardness is shown to be almost as closed-minded as her brother’s dogmatism, but both these flawed characters also have flashes of compassion, self-doubt, and insight. The only time the term ‘good Muslim’ is explicitly referred to in the novel comes when the religious


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leader, the Huzoor, eulogizes the late Silvi in a sermon as ‘pious, [. . .] good [. . .] devoted to her faith’ (17). These adjectives are freighted with irony, not least because Silvi died needlessly from untreated jaundice and her son, Zaid, is neglected due to his parents’ preoccupation with their ‘good works’, to the extent that he is dressed in rags and not attending school. When she was alive, Maya saw Silvi solely as a firebrand and her Islam as dogmatic: she would preach to an all-female audience ‘about everything there was to know about being a Muslim. God, men, morality. Purdah and sex. [. . .] The raising of children. How to be one of the faithful’ (22). Note that this is actually a very selective, gendered list of precepts. Anam deliberately constructs the inventory as prescriptive and empty, rather than including ‘everything there was to know about being a Muslim’; it does not mention even one of Islam’s five pillars: pilgrimage, fasting, prayer, profession of faith, and charity. Yet towards the end of the novel, we learn that Silvi had a kinder side: she had often played Ludo with Zaid and promised to send him to school, which complicates Maya’s negative perception of her as the one who ‘started all of it’ (283). Notwithstanding this mitigating glimpse of the otherwise hard-line Silvi, perhaps the closest thing the novel has to an embodiment of Islam’s virtues is the mother, Rehana. Her variety of everyday lived Islam is flexible and syncretic, but rooted in the religion’s teaching. The Qur’anic verse she is most associated with (there are no less than seven references to it in A Golden Age ([2007] 2008: 82, 113, 136, 253) and The Good Muslim [118, 119, 200]) is Aytul Kursi or the Throne Verse (al-Qur’an 2:256; Ali 1987: 44−5). Aytul Kursi is the most famous verse in the Qur’an, said to guarantee entry to heaven if recited just before death, and it contains one of the Qur’an’s most celebrated and acceptive lines: ‘There is no compulsion in matter [sic] of faith’ (al-Qur’an 2:255; Ali 1987: 45). Believing Muslims are taught to memorize and recite this verse in times of danger, when protection is needed against evil, harm, or black magic. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the open-minded yet forbearing Rehana chooses to declaim this verse in order to ward off danger from herself and her loved ones and as part of her quotidian religious ritual. Remembering Shryock’s satire of the ‘good Muslim’ woman as a Rumi-reading Sufi, who is non-violent, ideally non-hijab wearing, educated, working outside the home, and in a love marriage, it is important to note that, across her novels, Anam eschews this lazy accumulation of tropes that stand for the liberal Muslim, instead creating a complex, idiosyncratic character. We learn most about Rehana in A Golden Age, the novel in which she takes centre stage. While she does enjoy Rumi, it is as a love poet rather than as a spiritual inspiration that she thinks of him (Anam [2007] 2008: 167). Her somewhat Sufistic version of Islam is never categorically defined as Sufi, and nor do we see her venerating saints or their shrines, as is common practice. Although probably an uncovered woman (we only know this because she becomes caught in a rainstorm and hurriedly tries to cover her head with her sari border [2007] 2008: 196), she is far from being non-violent, as she allows her house to be used as the ‘Dhaka headquarters of the guerrilla operations’ during the 1971 occupation ([2007] 2008: 102). Rehana is a member of the elite,

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Urdu-speaking class and is ‘an educated woman’ ([2007] 2008: 261), but all her industrious impulses are trained on the house which she shores up, first as a financial asset and later as a kind of fortress during the vicious conflict; she does not have a job beyond that of homemaker and mother. Finally, we are not only told that Rehana had an arranged marriage, but also that her husband may have based his decision to accept her family’s proposal on the flip of a coin ([2007] 2008: 6). Despite this inauspicious start and although ‘[s]he had married a man she had not expected to love’, she ends up ‘lov[ing] a man she had not expected to lose’ and, significantly, ‘lived a life of moderation’ with her husband, until his death leaves her a widow after just eight years of marriage ([2007] 2008: 7, 90). This reference to Rehana’s moderate ethos is important, because of Islam’s rejection of excess and emphasis on balance. The relevant Qur’anic verse is perhaps best translated by Muhammad Asad, who writes: And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that [with your lives] you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind, and that the Apostle might bear witness to it before you. (al-Qur’an 2:143; Asad 2004: n.p.) In other words, the Qur’an exhorts Muslims to avoid both permissiveness and asceticism. Although sex outside marriage and certain practices such as anal sex are clearly deemed haram, there are several ahadith that emphasize the importance of sexual pleasure in marriage, including one in which Mohammed equates sex without foreplay to animal behaviour (see Ali 2006: 7). Compared to the Pauline Christian tradition of abstinence, Islam is relatively free-thinking, because, as Asad argues, it posits that ‘man’s urges and desires relating to this “life of the flesh” are God-willed and, therefore, legitimate’ (2004: n.p.). In A Golden Age, then, Rehana’s love for the Major, whose wounded leg compels him to take refuge in her house, does not invalidate her from being the two novels’ most likely candidate for the title of ‘good Muslim’. Writing on Bangladeshi Islam in broad perspective, Gwilym Beckerlegge reminds us that ‘at a popular level the Hindu and Muslim facets of Bengali culture had certain features in common; local beliefs, a shared reverence for commonly recognised holy persons and festivals, folk songs, pastimes and local custom’ (1989: 5). Rehana worships in a similar way to the relaxed and inclusive Islam described here by Beckerlegge. For example, Rehana and Maya plant a tree brought back from rural Rajshahi by the daughter: Ammoo leaned over the hole Maya had dug and unwrapped the jute sackcloth, running her fingers along the delicate roots of the young tree. She whispered a prayer and, softly, blew the air out of her mouth and over the tree. Long may you bear fruit, she said. Maya helped her close the earth over its wound, and together they poured a few cupfuls of water on the mound. (60)


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In this sensual passage, Rehana’s prayer and blowing on the tree is in accordance with the Islamic practice of praying before undertaking any form of activity; before entering the house or exiting a car, even going into the bathroom or starting to have sex. The most common way of doing this is to say the prayer and then blow it over whatever needs protecting—your body, your child, your food as you are cooking it, a dead body when preparing it for burial, even a tree that you are planting and want to survive.5 However, Rehana’s gentle touch on the tree’s fragile roots and the pair’s nurturing of the ‘wounded’ ground suggests a spiritual connection to the earth that is almost animistic and might therefore be frowned upon by ultra-orthodox Islamists. Yet her prayer for the tree accords with the esteem for plants and the environment found in the Qur’an, as in the discussion of the olive tree, ‘neither of the East, nor of the West, | whose oil appears to light up | even though fire touches it not,—light upon light. | God guides to His light whom He will’ (al-­Qur’ān­24:35; Ali 1987: 301). Rehana’s faith, too, appears to be ‘neither of the East, nor of the West’; she tolerates her children’s phases as revolutionaries, when both Sohail and Maya had been dismissive of religion as ‘beneath them’ (93), and later she accepts Sohail’s recourse to Tablighi Jamaat solutions after his war trauma, even though they go against her own beliefs. In the quoted scene, her generous prayer for the tree’s fertility is ‘whispered’ and undogmatic. Not all Bangladeshi Islam is of this accommodating nature, though; there is another, more orthodox strand that seeks to purge religious practice of its ‘unIslamic’ elements and to Arabicize the nation. This kind of revivalist practice, of which the two biggest movements in Bangladesh are the Ahl-i-Hadith and the Tablighi Jamaat, ‘urge[s] Muslims to practise “self-correction”, and to forsake forever the innovations and accretions that had trickled into Bengal Islam’ (Banu 1992: 36). The movement to which Sohail belongs, the Tablighi Jamaat or Society for the Propagation of Religion (the novel translates it as ‘The Congregation of Islam’ 21 [emphasis in original]), is an apparently non-political but proselytizing Deobandi sect based on six foundational Islamic principles. It should not be confused with the statist Jamaat-e-Islami, to which many of the Razakar collaborators held allegiance, as Philip Lewis explains: ‘For Tablighi Jama’at the need of the hour is for personal renewal. For the activist member of Jama’at-i Islami the imperative is to capture political power for the righteous’ ([1994] 2002: 47). The former, a witnessing or dawa movement (dawa meaning ‘inviting to Islam’), is based on a strict interpretation of the religion and the need for non-practising Muslims to undergo personal renewal. As Jan A. Ali shows, what distinguishes the Tablighi Jamaat from other Islamic revival movements is ‘its methodology of preaching and missionary work, particularly the khurūj­ (preaching tour)’ (2012: Ch. 7). Accordingly, Sohail is frequently away, ‘travelling from one jamaat to another’ giving bayaan or sermons (78). The Tablighi Jamaat was established in the mid-1920s by an Indian Muslim, Muhammad Ilyas. From the late 1950s onwards, its message spread around the Islamicate world. Despite its avowed political quietism, in recent years and especially because Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were said to

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have worshipped at the (Tablighi) Markazi Mosque in Dewsbury before leading the 7/7 attacks in London, the movement has incurred scrutiny as a possible locus of terrorism (see Howenstein 2007: n.p.). However, Anam rightly does not link this revivalist Islamic group with terrorism; there is not a single usage of any variant of this word in the novel, and the Tablighi Jamaat is instead represented in precisely the way that it operates in Bangladesh, as a missionary movement. The movement has particular influence among inhabitants of, and migrants from, the Indian subcontinent and Maghrebi North Africa, but has a global purview (see Lewis [1994] 2002: 89−101; King 1997; and Cesari 2004: 93−4). It is, therefore, in carefully restrictive ways, a cosmopolitan group. At the beginning of the penultimate chapter of his Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah seems to laud an unnamed group: ‘[t]hey believe in human dignity across the nations and they live their creed. They share these ideals with people in many countries, speaking many languages. As thoroughgoing globalists, they make full use of the World Wide Web’ (2006: 137). It is only in his next sentence—‘This band of brothers and sisters resists the crass consumerism of modern Western society and its growing influence in the rest of the world’ (2006: 137)—that Appiah’s rhetorical trick starts to become apparent, via his appropriation of the terms ‘brothers and sisters’, which is easily recognizable as language commonly used in Muslim communities. The apparent cosmopolitans adumbrated early on are replaced by intransigent, messianic, and intolerant ‘neofundamentalists’ (2006: 140). In the novel, Anam uses similar sleight of hand, showing the internationalist tendencies of Sohail’s jamaat, with its links to the Forashi Jamaat, a rather weakly ascetic French group, as well as various other jamaats from Russia and South Africa (33−4, 137), and its members’ knowledge of various languages, including Arabic and Spanish. Maya exclaims, ‘It’s like the United Nations up there’, which sounds impressively pluralist and ambassadorial, until she continues, ‘They weren’t even speaking Bangla’ (36), which, coming from an arch-nationalist, suggests that they are out of touch with local concerns. Later, she makes her condemnation explicit, telling the unconventionally-schooled Zaid: ‘All these languages and you don’t know your own alphabet’ (62). As well as abhorring the group’s isolation from Bengal and the rich Bengali language and its literature, Maya is also worried by its didacticism when she overhears Sohail telling his followers ‘what to believe and how to live’ (22). But it may be she who is out of step with the Zeitgeist, a ‘dinosaur [. . .], stuck in the past’ (58), and Sohail who is more in tune with his nation’s increasingly visible, borderless religiosity. Even language is being Arabicized under Ershad’s Islamic Right regime, with the traditional Bengali farewell ‘khoda hafez’ being replaced by ‘Allah hafez’ and Maya’s hedonistic friends peppering their speech with Arabic expressions of piety, such as ‘Alhamdulillah’ (53−4). The novel is told almost exclusively from Maya’s point of view, although, as I have shown, hers is exposed on several occasions as being an unreliable narrative perspective. There is a short passage in which Rehana recalls, through free


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indirect discourse, Sohail’s Marxist youth and his conversion (91−3) and another, even briefer fragment from Sohail’s standpoint (166−7). This comes during the genuinely cosmopolitan phase of his religious thinking, when he would recite sections of the Qur’an alongside the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, venerating Judaism and Sikhism, as well as Islam. So Anam only allows us to see Sohail’s religiosity from the inside during its modernist, dialogic stage; after the moment at which, under Silvi’s influence, he adopts a reactionary brand of Islam, we are limited to viewing him through Maya’s eyes. This is problematic, because it suggests that, ultimately, Anam, like her heroine, finds real difference difficult to deal with and can only tolerate what is often termed ‘multiculturalism lite’. When Silvi teaches Sohail her predominant tenet, ‘One. [. . .] There can be only one’, it is portrayed as a ‘final blow’ (176) to his pluralism. And yet, this is Islam’s central doctrine, not just Silvi’s. As Sarah Farrukh writes in a caustic and occasionally reductive review of the novel: ‘Apparently, tawhid—belief in the Oneness of God, that everyone and everything is connected to Him—leaves no room for a literary inner existence’ (2012: n.p.). To conclude, The Good Muslim provides important meditations on war, hegemony, and love, but its crucial contribution to current literary discourse is in unsettling the binaries often thought to separate Islamists from secularists and ‘good Muslims’ from ‘bad Muslims’. Maya, with her nostalgia for the ‘golden age’ of nationalism in the early 1970s and her reverence for the written word, is not so dissimilar to Sohail and his congregation, who look back on the era of the Prophet and first four ‘Rightly Guided Caliphs’ as a perfect time and believe that, for Muslims, ‘[t]he Book was the miracle’ (166). Ultra-secularism and radical Islamism meet in the middle, despite the tendency of each to portray the other group in terms of alterity. The novel gives a penetrating account of the human need for faith and the difficulties of explaining all phenomena through the lenses of science and rationalism. It also shows that the borders between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims are artificially drawn and damaging. If the text contains a good Muslim, it is Rehana, but she is impossible to categorize and does not conform to the Sufi stereotypes beloved of many Western commentators and lampooned by Andrew Shryock. However, although the novel is carefully patterned in order, gradually, to reveal Maya’s secularist myopia and her own extremist tendencies, it only shows us Sohail’s conversion from the outside and is more comfortable with Hindu-inflected, pluralist forms of worship than the mainstream Muslim doctrine of tawhid or unity. In a novel entitled The Good Muslim, which clearly seeks to problematize this concept, the lack of an internal perspective on Sohail’s decision to join the Tablighi Jamaat represents something of a missed opportunity.

Notes 1 See Anam (2011: 17). Subsequent references are to this edition of The Good Muslim and will be cited parenthetically in the main text. 2 However, the suffering and violence that Anam describes means that, in tone, The Good Muslim is far removed from the ludic borrowing from history in order to question it that Hutcheon analyses in A Poetics of Postmodernism.

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3 In South Asian literature, writers frequently stage the family home as a microcosm of the nation. In A.K. Ramanujan’s celebrated poem ‘Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House’, the house is a decaying place where one could get trapped amid the clutter, paralleling the assimilatory and accommodating energies of the Indian nation. R.K. Narayan’s ‘The Financial Expert’ ([1952] 1997) and Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Shadow Lines ([1989] 1995) both contain passages in which two brothers argue and eventually partition their joint family home. Moreover, in both Anam’s and Ghosh’s novels, the barrier between siblings comes to be seen as the natural order of things: The Good Muslim’s Maya hears her brother speaking in a disembodied voice ‘[f]rom beyond the partition’ (134) about religion, while Ghosh’s families ‘liked the wall now; it had become a part of them’ ([1989] 1995: 124). In a similar way, after the partitions, the new parameters of India, Pakistan, and, eventually, Bangladesh have been naturalized by politicians. 4 Fundamentalism is a troublesome term, given that it has its roots in Protestant American and/or broader Judeo-Christian history (see Lewis [1994] 2002: 5). Even Islamism, this essay’s preferred term, is problematically diverse and includes a spectrum of groups, including right-wing Wahhabi extremists and non-violent revivalist movements, such as the Tablighi Jamaat. 5 I am very grateful to Pakistani writer Bina Shah for this point.

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Part IV

Representations, stereotypes, Islamophobia

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11 Saving Pakistan from brown men Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan’s last best hope for democracy Cara Cilano

‘I wld [sic] hold Musharraf responsible’, Benazir Bhutto wrote in an email to long-time American friend Mark Siegel, referring to the likely culpability were she to be assassinated upon her return to Pakistan in late 2007. In the same message, Bhutto reveals: ‘I have been made to feel insecure by [Musharraf ’s] minions’ (2007: n.p.). Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Court’s August 2013 indictment of former Chief of Army Staff and President Pervez Musharraf for Bhutto’s assassination seems to validate her insecurities, even while this legal action likely complicates the delivery of ‘justice’ in the case. Nonetheless, Bhutto’s email is an eerie premonition of a death foretold. Further, it augments the chronicle of her assassination not only by inviting conspiratorial thinking about the circumstances of her violent demise, but also by contributing to a developing dimension in the US-dominated War on Terror narrative: namely, the groundswell of victim’s discourse inaugurated by former US President George W. Bush, when, in his 12 September 2001 speech, he declared: ‘Freedom and democracy are under attack’ (Bush 2001a: n.p.).1 At the same time, this claiming of the victim’s role coincides with more ‘muscular’ assertions, which prevent the victim’s role from being one of outright fear or vulnerability. In that same 12 September speech, for instance, Bush proclaimed: ‘This battle will take time and resolve, but make no mistake about it, we will win’ (Bush 2001a: n.p.). These two stances—the victim and the saviour—blend to produce affective appeals that reinforce the putative righteousness of the US’s approach to the War on Terror. In this chapter, I argue that the pervasiveness of both the saviour’s and the victim’s stances throughout representations of Benazir Bhutto’s political career showcases a specific strain of War on Terror discourse the appeal of which lies in how it frames US interests as progressive, righteous, and, significantly, threatened. To that end, I trace the narrative of Bhutto’s rise to power in the late 1980s and follow her story’s legacy through to the present day. In addition to Bhutto’s two memoirs, Daughter of Destiny and Reconciliation, I refer to pieces from The New Yorker, the New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Asian Affairs, and the UN’s report on Bhutto’s assassination.2 These sources’ dates range from 1988 to 2013. My examination of the hallowing of Bhutto’s image involves, first, how the representations rely on saving discourse and its cultural implications. Then, I connect the conventional elements of saving


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discourse to the War on Terror’s concomitant claiming of a victim’s role. The seemingly paradoxical conjunction of the saviour’s and victim’s roles in this narrative of Bhutto’s emergence as Pakistan’s last best hope for democracy bears affective dimensions that themselves bear gendered implications. Insofar as these representations of Bhutto enact a convergence of saving and victim’s discourses, they also signal an expansion of long-standing domestic narratives in the US to the wider sphere of global relationships, which becomes evident in both the UN’s report and Bhutto’s own books. I derive my ideas about saving discourse from Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s formulation that the British colonial prohibition on sati in India represents a case of ‘[w]hite men [saving] brown women from brown men’ (1994: 92). Spivak points out that the ‘native’ response to this colonial action was ‘[t]he women actually wanted to die’ (1994: 93). At stake here is the freedom promised by ‘enlightened’ British attitudes, on the one side, and the rigor mortis of tradition guaranteed by the ‘native’ attitude, on the other. Nowhere between these two attitudes, Spivak argues, can the woman’s ‘voice consciousness’ be sounded, much less heard, and its absence matters, because ‘it would have constituted the ingredients for producing a countersentence’ (1994: 93). Beyond the specific historical phenomenon of sati, Spivak’s analysis locates where gender and violence intersect in the larger field of colonial power. From the nineteenth to the early twenty-first century, much of the discourse emerging from the War on Terror—in part, a shorthand for the neo-colonial relations between the US and Pakistan—maintains the structures so evident in what Spivak identifies as saving discourse, including the imposition of binaristic opposites that operate according to power imbalances; a moralistic hierarchization that ascribes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities to these epically pitted discursive positions; and essentialized and gendered subjectivities that appear natural or outside of—rather than constituted by—history. With respect to the narrative trajectory constructed by these Bhutto representations, the mediatized Bhutto is first riven by a near-insurmountable dichotomy that pits ‘good’ against ‘bad’. Bhutto must resolve this tension on the side of ‘good’, in order to emerge as a viable saviour, a triumph that appears very much like redemption. Bhutto’s redemption connects saving and victim’s discourses. While these representations of Bhutto deploy elements of victim’s discourse chronologically later than they use the standards of saving discourse, theoretically at least, the victim’s role is the starting point, and redemption serves as the process by which the victim becomes the saviour. But Bhutto’s apotheosis works as a test case, wherein these two discourses converge, amounting to an expansion of a common US domestic narrative to cover internationally generated representations of the same events. Victim’s discourse has an extensive history in the US national imaginary. Michael Rogin, for instance, has argued that the US, due in part to the ‘pervasiveness of propertied individualism in our political culture [and] the expansionist character of our history’, has long ‘demonized’ ‘racial, ethnic, class, and gender aliens’ (1998: xiv). In this schema, the demonized other is obviously a threat to the pure and righteous self that is America. Presenting the

Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s last hope 159 inverse perspective, Lauren Berlant’s work on sentimentality and American national identity emphasizes the recurrence of ‘the turn to sentimental rhetoric in moments of social anxiety’, a move made evident in the foregrounding of feeling wounded or threatened (Berlant 1998: 646). Berlant’s focus on the power of a beleaguered affect to bind citizens to the nation specifies Peter Coviello’s observation that ‘the question of affect, impassioned feeling, and American nationality has a startlingly long history, one that stretches back as far as the Puritans’ (Coviello 2002: 440)—that is, Berlant’s contributions highlight the central role the figure of the threatened citizen has played in the history Coviello mentions. Even more, Berlant stresses that the ‘culturally privileged’ often deploy a rhetoric of ‘identification’ based on ‘the capacity for suffering and trauma at the citizen’s core’ (1998: 636). This deployment amounts to an appropriation of the unprivilegeds’ real histories in favour of unity based on shared affect, felt most keenly by those most fortunate (Berlant 1998: 636). Shared feeling matters, for it is only through common suffering that a saviour whose goal is to return the nation to its previous state of security can emerge. Given this discursive history, the emergence of victim’s discourse—and the hope for a saviour—post-9/11 seems nearly inevitable. According to Elisabeth Anker, US media portrayals of 9/11 framed that day’s events as a ‘nationwide empathic victimization, a collectively experienced pain in response to unjustified suffering perpetrated by an evil villain’ (2005: 22). Anker’s choice of terms, such as ‘unjustified’ and ‘evil villain’, helps her read US representations of 9/11 as melodrama, a ‘popular culture narrative that employs emotionality to provide an unambiguous distinction between good and evil through clear designations of victimization, heroism, and villainy’ (2005: 23). Just as Berlant does, Anker reinforces the important role emotion plays in welding a collective bond. In melodrama as in our post-9/11 context, this bond derives from a strong conviction in the US’s moral goodness. And that conviction benefits from saving discourse’s tendency toward moralization, thereby facilitating the clarity Anker sees melodrama lending 9/11 representations. Speaking specifically to the construction of the post-9/11 hero, Anker contends that redemption is central to the transformation of the victim into the hero, since this process restores ‘innocence’ and ‘demonstrates moral might’ (2005: 25). The representations of Bhutto build upon the moralized binaries inherent to saving discourse to recategorize Bhutto as ‘like us’, making her the most preferable proxy in Pakistan for all the ‘good’ the US represents. That is, Bhutto is the US’s synecdochical satellite, as she also occupies the same ‘virtuous victim/ hero’ role as the post-9/11 US does (Anker 2005: 24). As it operates in a post-9/11 context, victim’s discourse positions the US and all the abstractions this nation stands for, including ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, and, as I will discuss, even progressive views on gender, as under threat by terrorists who ‘hate our way of life’. Thus, an embattled righteousness characterizes victim’s discourse, and, in this context, historical specificities matter less than idealized visions of national and civilizational identities and the emotional pull that binds citizens to these visions. My analyses of the articles and reports issued by the above-named sources reveals a narrative penchant for all the hallmarks of binaristic thinking sketched in


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Spivak’s formulation of saving discourse, including, especially, the tendency towards moralism, which is laden with affective resonance. While undeniably better informed than more mainstream representations of Muslims or Islam, the representations of Bhutto, Pakistan, and Islam in these materials nonetheless contribute to the ‘us versus them’ approach common to mainstream media portrayals. In his review of Bhutto’s autobiography Daughter of the East, which appeared in The New York Review of Books in March 1989, for instance, Ian Buruma posits two distinct Benazirs—the ‘Larkana Benazir’ and the ‘Radcliffe Benazir’—as a quick way to identify what he sees as Benazir’s internal identity struggle or her ‘double life’, as his title has it. The ‘Larkana Benazir’ refers to the woman who is the product of Sindh’s feudal system (Larkana is the district in northern Sindh over which the Bhutto family has great influence) and whose tendencies are thus autocratic and imperious. The ‘Radcliffe Benazir’ is shorthand for the woman who has embraced liberal thought and democratic ideals during her university and postgraduate careers at Radcliffe College and Oxford. The autobiography closes as Bhutto prepares for her first term as Prime Minister of Pakistan, and Buruma wonders how the struggle between these two Benazirs will play out as the woman takes power: The Radcliffe Benazir realizes that politics must be divested of mythology to be lawful and subject to reason. Does the Larkana Benazir know this? Or, to make things even more complicated, are the Radcliffe Benazir’s political ideals perhaps part of the Larkana Benazir’s myth? [. . .] Are her politics, and by extension the politics of Pakistan, to be a matter of compromise, regular elections, and the same rules applying to all? Or will it remain a contest between Good and Evil, between great leaders and reactionary, obscurantist, wicked, uneducated thugs? (Buruma 1989: n.p.) By pitting these two Benazirs against one another, Buruma, perhaps inadvertently, contributes to the very myth-making he sees occurring in Bhutto’s book. As most myths do, this reduces the complexity by creating diametrically opposed poles that align with moral positions: the Larkana Benazir introduces ‘a contest between Good and Evil’, while the Radcliffe Benazir respects democracy and fairness. By associating the Radcliffe Benazir with democracy, Buruma constructs what turns out to be a persistent slippage, when he figures Bhutto as a metonym for Pakistan’s democratic potential. As Buruma contends, Bhutto’s autobiography does indulge in myth-making and hagiography, bolstering Bhuttoism as a bastion of democratic ideals. To do so, Bhutto constructs oppositional tensions within her own persona and then within the Pakistani political arena. If Buruma’s two Benazirs bifurcate Bhutto’s personal history rather too neatly, Bhutto herself engages in some selfessentializing. For instance, her autobiography was published under two titles: Daughter of the East in the UK and Daughter of Destiny in the US. In a profile by Mary Anne Weaver published in The New Yorker in 1993, Bhutto addresses the title change:

Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s last hope 161 ‘A daughter of the East or a daughter of destiny? [. . .] Did I have a choice? [. . .] I am a daughter of the East. I was born into it; conditioned by it; thrust into a political system which is Eastern—a political system in which I have to win or lose’. (Weaver 1993: n.p.) Bhutto’s response hedges but ultimately essentializes her identity. Claiming that the East ‘conditioned her’, Bhutto also characterizes her identity in the East as ineluctable. Moreover, Bhutto extends this essentializing tendency to include the political system—note the singular—of the East, making Pakistani politics a zero sum game. Bhutto’s self-framing as a daughter of the East, which also makes her a daughter of destiny, fits into the schema Buruma creates, in the sense that it posits the East as separate from its binary opposite, the West. The representations of Bhutto that follow on chronologically from Buruma’s—those published in the 1990s—chronicle the ongoing tension between the two Benazirs Buruma identifies. Between the two, clearly, the ‘Radcliffe Benazir’ best represents the US’s hope for Pakistani democracy. But these representations signal an ongoing uneasiness over the influence the ‘Larkana Benazir’ holds over Bhutto. Thus, Benazir must save herself, before the US can believe that she can save Pakistan. For instance, Lawrence Ziring, the renowned historian of South Asia, directly cites Buruma’s two Benazir formulation in his profile of Bhutto published in Asian Affairs in 1991. Ziring argues that in Pakistan people responded to, and elected, the ‘Larkana Benazir’ (1991: 179). Ziring’s claim essentializes the Pakistani voting public just as much as Buruma and Bhutto herself essentialize her identity—that is, the argument that Pakistanis choose the ‘Larkana Benazir’ over the ‘Radcliffe’ one implies that this population voted culturally or civilizationally rather than politically, by which I mean for democratic ideals or other platforms. Nonetheless, Ziring still sees Bhutto’s first term as prime minister, despite its short tenure, as ‘the catalyst for the transformation of Pakistan’s political experience; a bridge between one ruling tradition and another more representative of popular sentiment and democratic discourse’ (1991: 178). Here, Bhutto becomes the conduit and symbol for Pakistan’s democratic potential. In ‘Bhutto’s Fateful Moment’ (1993), Weaver also rehearses Buruma’s two Benazir theory, while pointing out that, unlike her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, ‘who played the Americans off against the Soviets, and favored the Chinese’, Bhutto professes ‘an essentially pro-American foreign policy’. In effect, these predilections toward viewing Bhutto as a hope for democracy raise the stakes, for the US especially, in Bhutto’s struggle to rise above the way politics is done in the East to call upon the essentialized notion of Eastern politics Bhutto herself puts forward. However, as several writers point out, Bhutto proved less than trustworthy during her second swing at leading Pakistan from 1993 to 1996. Weaver, for example, highlights a moment from Daughter of Destiny, when Bhutto writes of accompanying her father to New York in late 1971, in order to press the UN Security Council to intercede in the conflict between Pakistan and India that had


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developed over East Pakistan/Bangladesh. Z.A. Bhutto tells Benazir to ‘[i]nterrupt the meetings [. . .]. If the Soviets are here, tell me the Chinese are calling [. . .]. One of the fundamental lessons of diplomacy is to create doubt: Never lay all your cards on the table’ (Bhutto 1989: 67). In Weaver’s telling, this moment crystallizes the suspicions over Bhutto’s trustworthiness. Despite Bhutto’s claim that she ‘follow[ed her father’s] instructions but not his lesson. I always lay my cards on the table’ (1989: 67), Weaver offers: ‘Some Western Ambassadors who have dealt with her find her assertion difficult to accept’ (1993: n.p.). More specifically, two sticking points spanning both of Bhutto’s administrations prompted American officials to doubt Bhutto’s credibility: Pakistan’s nuclear capability and its association with the Taliban. Regarding Pakistan’s nuclear capability, Weaver describes Bhutto’s visit to Washington in 1989 as a moment when many in Congress lost faith. According to Weaver’s source in the US State Department: When [Bhutto] stood on the floor of the United States Congress, promising, to thunderous applause, that Pakistan neither possessed nor intended to assemble a nuclear bomb—the very day after she had received a detailed briefing on the weapons program from the director of the C.I.A.—her worth was diminished in the eyes of the United States. (Weaver 1993: n.p.) Framed here as deliberately dishonest, Bhutto disappoints her American allies, and their disapproval bears a nearly moralistic tone, as if the members of Congress were thinking: ‘How could she lie to us?’ Another example also catches Bhutto in a lie, though the lie’s exposure happens subsequently. According to Stephen Coll, writing in The New Yorker in 2008, during Bhutto’s second administration (1993 to 1996), she ‘participated in many discussions with I.S.I. [Inter-Services Intelligence] officers about [Pakistan covertly supporting the Taliban]—a fact she denied at the time but later conceded’ (Coll 2008: n.p.). Coll’s decision to include Bhutto’s concession rehabilitates her image: she takes responsibility for her actions, a move that, rhetorically at least, inaugurates her redemption. Although Coll does not identify the date when Bhutto conceded her deceit, this detail, when taken as part of the larger Bhutto narrative constructed by this body of representations and coming as late as it does in this narrative’s line, serves as a turning point: Bhutto’s road to Damascus. Her concession of dishonesty signals that the democratic Bhutto prevails over the autocratic one and rewards the predilections identified above that would invest American hope for Pakistan’s democratic future in Bhutto. Indeed, Coll’s New Yorker article provides proof of Bhutto’s self-redemption by contrasting her reliability in our post-9/11 era to that of Pervez Musharraf. While Musharraf repeatedly insisted that Pakistan no longer supported and, in fact, would not tolerate extremist groups, Coll reports, Bhutto ‘doubted that the Army and the I.S.I. had abandoned the policies of the past’ (Coll 2008: n.p.). Bhutto’s forthrightness, confirming as it did US suspicions and intelligence at the time,

Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s last hope 163 proves her to be a stalwart ally, the one the US can count on to speak out against the untrustworthiness of her nation’s government. The chronological charting of these representations of Bhutto’s fall from grace and her subsequent redemption illustrates how Buruma’s two Benazirs theory resolves itself so that the ‘Radcliffe Benazir’ prevails. In other words, Benazir, according to this narrative trajectory, redeems herself and is now primed to save Pakistan to democracy. That locution—that Benazir was primed to save Pakistan to democracy—rankles the ear. Yet, as Lila Abu-Lughod contends, to save someone from is also to save someone to (2002: 788−9). Were I to finish that earlier sentence with from, what noun would be the object of the preposition? Dictatorship? Terrorism? A militant Caliphate? Such speculations lead to Abu-Lughod’s point about the force of a ‘saving to’ formulation: ‘What violences are entailed in the [saving] transformation, and what presumptions are being made about the superiority of that to which you are saving?’ (2002: 788−9) Arguably, the cultural implications of saving discourse function as one such violence. Abu-Lughod’s question draws attention to how saving discourse not only essentializes cultural identities, but also hierarchizes them according to a culturally specific moral scale that nonetheless passes itself off as universal and ahistorical. To return to Spivak’s initial articulation of saving discourse, the subjective distance suggested by its ‘white men’/‘brown men’ binary effectively essentializes these two types of identities, which is part of Spivak’s point, thereby encouraging an understanding of the interactions of representatives of these identities as cultural interactions, rather than as merely interpersonal or circumstantial ones. Thus, to speak of ‘white men’/‘brown men’ is to engage in what Mahmood Mamdani calls ‘culture talk’, which he defines as a ‘predilection to define cultures according to their presumed “essential” characteristics, especially as regards politics’ (2002: 766). ‘Culture talk’ renders inherent and prediscursive dynamics and attitudes that arise through historical interactions, and the more convincing ‘culture talk’ is, the more likely that it will allow its interlocutors to ‘avoid history and issues’ (Mamdani 2002: 767). Instead, ‘culture talk’ relies on absolute cultural attributes, such as ‘free’, ‘just’, ‘democratic’, and their opposites. The abstract quality of such attributes has the power to call forth, through recourse to nationalist mythologies, affective responses associated with seemingly primordial cultures or civilizations. Thus, when George W. Bush proclaimed in his 20 September 2001 speech to Congress, ‘They [the terrorists] hate our freedoms’ (2001b: n.p.), the major national media responses repeatedly emphasized the emotive power of Bush’s words: both the NBC and ABC commentators, for instance, viewed the president as ‘strong’; CBS was hyperbolic, claiming that ‘no President in the history of our country has ever delivered a speech such as this’; and commentators from Fox News called the president ‘angry’ and remarked upon his ‘passion’ (‘Media Reaction’ 2001: n.p.). These affective appeals galvanize representations of events such as 9/11 and shape subsequent conversations with an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dynamic. Significantly, Bhutto’s redemption positions her as ‘like us’, on ‘our’ side of the ‘culture talk’ divide. ‘Culture talk’, then, allows for the avoidance of specific cross- and intra-national dynamics that create history and,


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instead, centralizes abstract emotional appeals. Within this switch, violence lies, both materially and discursively, as the world gets divided into mutually exclusive collectives. The division of such collectives entails a moralizing component that reinforces the affective strength of identifying with the ‘like us’ collective. In fact, Mamdani sees the differentiation of ‘good’ Muslims from ‘bad’ Muslims as a key feature of post-9/11 ‘culture talk’. As it is constructed by these representations, Bhutto’s narrative highlights ‘bad’ Muslims’ starring role. In Bhutto’s own words, Pakistan suffers from a moral conflict that has two dimensions: an internal and an external one. The internal dimension involves an ‘intra-Islamic debate about the political and social values of democracy and modernity’, while the external dimension refers to ‘the looming potential for a catastrophic showdown between Islam and the West’ (Bhutto 2008: 4−5). In the ‘intra-Islamic debate’, Bhutto thematizes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims, playing out again and again the dynamic that Mamdani cautions ‘dehistoricizes the construction of political identities’ and makes conformists of all Muslims, rather than agents (2002: 767). This dynamic also obstructs the formulation of alternative Muslim voices that would otherwise refuse the binaristic reduction of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’. While both Remnick and the UN’s Report endow Bhutto with secularist credentials, she nuances her position, warning that ‘[w]e shouldn’t be talking secularism, which to Muslims is a clouded, misleading, and sometimes contentious term’ (Bhutto 2008: 77). Instead, in Reconciliation, Bhutto devotes many pages to illustrating how Islam and democratic principles are ‘not only compatible but mutually sustaining’ (2008: 22). Although Bhutto’s own words counter the UN’s and Remnick’s desire to frame her as secular, the impulses behind all of these representations overlap: they all contribute to the differentiation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims. The ‘good’ kind knows that Islam and democratic principles go hand in hand, while the ‘bad’ kind is authoritarian. In Reconciliation, Bhutto states as much: The right to declare who is a ‘good Muslim’ and who is a ‘bad Muslim’ is a right that belongs only to God. Those who say that we on earth must determine who is a good Muslim and who is a bad Muslim are in many ways responsible for the political legacy of murder, mayhem, sectarian warfare, and oppression of women and minorities we see in the Muslim world. These extremists are destroying the Muslim world by pitting Muslim against Muslim. (2008: 69) Here, Bhutto ostensibly objects to the differentiation of Muslims into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories; yet, her framing of those groups who claim to possess this right as essentially ‘bad’ Muslims implicitly counters this move. Bhutto maintains the binaristic structure, even as she argues against its deployment by certain groups. Her own deployment of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ rhetoric also clearly aligns the latter type of Muslim with all manner of evils, from murder to oppression. The

Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s last hope 165 inference is, of course, that ‘good’ Muslims, of which she is one, stand in opposition to these political legacies and oppressions. Morality clearly lands on the side of democratic ideals. Sussing out the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’, the morally righteous from the morally suspect or corrupt, matters, for it facilitates the conjunction of saving and victim’s discourses. As Pakistan’s last best chance for democracy, Bhutto is also continuously under threat, a vulnerability that stands in metonymically for the US’s vulnerability, itself amplified to civilizational vulnerability. The roots of this dynamic in Bhutto’s narrative precede 9/11. In her 1993 New Yorker profile, Weaver creates a provocative image of just what Bhutto is up against by observing that her Islamabad house is ‘in the shadow of Zia’s grave’ (Weaver 1993: n.p.). Given the date at which Weaver published this profile, the Bhutto-Zia conflict to which she alludes largely concerns Zia’s overthrow and eventual execution of Z.A. Bhutto, as well as Benazir’s years of incarceration at Zia’s behest. From the perspective of the wider narrative that I am sketching, though, the conflict to which Weaver’s image refers also begins to hint at the major vulnerability that comes to dominate later representations of Bhutto and/in Pakistan: Bhutto under threat from the extremists and those who support them. The ‘Report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry into the Facts and Circumstances of the Assassination of Former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’, published in April 2010, ties together Zia’s military dictatorship and the extremist-friendly environment it produced and explicitly asks readers to consider Bhutto’s death in this context: Under the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq from 1977 to 1988, a once secular military was aligned with political Islam, and jihad was used as a tool to recruit and support insurgents fighting against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military organized and supported the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan in 1996. Similar tactics were used in Kashmir against India after 1989. These policies resulted in active linkages between elements of the military and the Establishment [the Pakistani intelligence agencies] with radical Islamists, at the expense of national secular forces, and the entrenchment of religious extremists and other militant groups in the tribal areas and Punjab. Ms Bhutto’s return from exile in 2007 occurred against this backdrop. (United Nations 2010: para. 201) Notwithstanding the verity of these historical developments, the UN’s Report presents the Pakistan to which Bhutto returns in the passive voice: the ‘once secular military was aligned with political Islam’; ‘jihad was used as a tool’. Without a clearly identifiable and active subject, this sentence construction grammatically removes the agents responsible for these moves. Such a subtraction functions rhetorically to create an idea of the inevitability of the rise of ‘radical Islamists’ and ‘religious extremists’, thus reinforcing the essentialized ‘culture talk’ Mamdani describes. This paragraph also removes Bhutto from the


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internal developments, making it appear as though she simply returns to a Pakistani establishment sympathetic toward extremism. Beyond overlooking Bhutto’s own role in these developments during her two terms as prime minister, such a presentation of Bhutto’s detachment from the rise of extremism within Pakistan positions her in a vulnerable anti-extremist role. After all, these militants come to power ‘at the expense of national secular forces’. With this mention of secularism—a prized Western value—Bhutto, threatened, once again joins the ranks of ‘like us’. In this developing narrative, then, Bhutto inhabits a forward-looking, prodemocracy stance that contrasts sharply with the perceived revanchism of the extremists’ views and actions. Other writers’ representations of Bhutto in a post9/11 Pakistani context cement this contrast and the threats it entails. David Remnick’s short ‘Talk of the Town’ column, appearing in the 7 January 2008 issue of The New Yorker, succinctly wraps up Bhutto’s fall and redemption, noting how, in her second administration, Bhutto ‘lent support to the Taliban in Afghanistan [. . .] and did little to halt the rise of a nuclear Pakistan’. That is two strikes against her from an American foreign policy perspective. But by the time of her return to Pakistan in October 2007, Remnick writes, Bhutto was clearly on the side of ‘right’: The Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud was among those who, threatened by her liberal secularist principles and her promises to crack down on the militant Islamists, spoke of sending suicide bombers, but Bhutto believed that her most dangerous and capable enemies were in the government. (2008: n.p.) Coll makes nearly the identical point, citing Bhutto’s words directly: ‘ “Everybody talks about Baitullah Mehsud and Osama bin Laden and all of that [. . .]. There is another structure that is giving them succor, that is giving them encouragement” ’ (Coll 2008: n.p.). Both Remnick’s and Coll’s representations stress the danger posed by Bhutto’s adversaries. Further, these representations invite a slippage between the Pakistani Government and highly recognizable and villainous personages, such as Mehsud and bin Laden. The conflation of the Pakistani Government with these high-level figures who espoused civilizational rhetoric to bolster their militancy suggests that the ways the Pakistani Government operates is similarly civilizational, rather than historical. In short, this conflation essentializes not only these extremists, but also Pakistan’s government and, conveniently, fits into the schema that ‘culture talk’ dictates—in other words, one premised upon epically pitted and inherent differences. Moreover, the threat posed by such villainous personages casts Bhutto’s narrative in starkly moral terms. With Bhutto identifying—and the UN, Remnick, and Coll reinforcing—the Pakistani Government itself as a threat, these representations also effectively pit her against them, staging a struggle with clear-cut moral underpinnings.

Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s last hope 167 Firmly on the side of the morally righteous, these post-9/11 images of Bhutto lend credence to the underlying impulses of War on Terror rhetoric. That is, as a Pakistani and a Muslim who has redeemed herself and joined ‘our’ fold, Bhutto appears to highlight the justness of the American cause and can now bear the weight of that cause in her own country. As significantly, Bhutto’s gender bolsters what Gargi Bhattacharya refers to as the War on Terror’s ‘cultural politics’, especially this politics’ insistence on the ‘defense of women’s rights’ as one of the war’s primary objectives (2008: 6). Perhaps the earliest and most reductive assertions of this objective occurred in November 2001 in a speech then-First Lady Laura Bush gave in place of her husband’s customary monthly national radio address. Early in her address, Bush asserts: ‘Afghan women know, through hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering: The brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists’ (Bush 2001: n.p.). With this statement as a foundation, Laura Bush calls for emotional solidarity, even while she frames the ‘fight against terrorism [as] a fight for the rights and dignity of women’: ‘All of us have an obligation to speak out. We may come from different backgrounds and faiths—but parents the world over love our children. We respect our mothers, our sister and daughters’ (Bush 2001: n.p.). This distinct admixture of the affective and the rational rehearses the villainous threat Americans and their allies face and, at the same time, sounds a call for heroic action. That is, Bush’s speech exemplifies the conjunction of saving and victim’s discourses. As miriam cooke argues, positioning Muslim women as oppressed by their own men enacts an ‘imperial logic [that] genders and separates subject peoples so that the men are Other and the women are civilizable. To defend our universal civilization we must rescue the women. To rescue these women we must attack these men’ (2002: 227). Enter Benazir Bhutto. In this context, the closing chapter of Bhutto’s posthumously published Reconciliation is strikingly prescient. Bhutto identifies herself as one who grew up in ‘an environment of gender equality’, thanks to her familial circumstances, and has since taken offence at gender inequality, ‘both as a woman and as a Muslim’ (2008: 288−9). While Bhutto acknowledges that inequality often results in a lack of education and poverty, she does not connect her own experience of gender equality to her class identity. Instead, Bhutto argues for a ‘gender-blind’ democracy that will educate women, for ‘literate mothers raise literate children’ (2008: 289). Bhutto’s discussion excises all identity factors but gender, and then deploys gendered identities in highly affective terms—woman as mother—much as Bush’s speech does. A few pages later, Bhutto calls for the creation of ‘Women of the Ummah (WOTU), an organization aggregating women’s rights groups throughout the Muslim world, [which] can help Muslim women to act as catalysts for a democratic society that challenges the very dictatorship that breeds extremism’ (2008: 292). The WOTU, in Bhutto’s formulation, illustrates precisely cooke’s point about the separation of Muslim women from men, but with a twist: Bhutto endows these women—and, of course, herself—with the agency to accomplish the firm establishment of what the West would recognize as democracy throughout the Muslim world. In effect, Bhutto’s saving efforts


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prove that Muslim ‘women are to be rescued not because they are more “ours” than “theirs,” but rather because they will have become more “ours” through the rescue mission’, just like Bhutto herself (cooke 2002: 228 [emphasis in original]). Bhutto, thus, promises to save Pakistan from brown men by saving the brown women first. The dashing of this great promise deepens the grief over Bhutto’s death, and it lays the foundation for viewing Bhutto’s assassination as the death knell for democracy in Pakistan. Both Coll and Remnick, for instance, identify Bhutto as lending democratic legitimacy to Musharraf ’s much-hobbled dictatorship. According to the UN’s Report, Bhutto’s return, signalling as it did the possibility of ‘real’ elections, offered a ‘transition to democracy’ (2010: para. 11), a desperately needed corrective to the finally acknowledged reality that there are no ‘rogue’ elements in the Pakistani Government that support extremists; rather, these links exist centrally (2010: para. 217). Indeed, as the UN’s Report goes on to claim: ‘The actions of politicized intelligence communities undermine democratic governance’ (2010: para. 264). Echoing Ziring’s 1991 profile, these recent representations earmark Bhutto as, once again, Pakistan’s last best chance at democracy. The commentary and news reports surrounding Musharraf ’s recent indictment further extend this narrative line. Despite Michael Kugelman’s assertion that Musharraf ’s indictment marks a ‘resounding victory for democracy in Pakistan’, most other commentators and journalists see this development as ‘revenge politics’ orchestrated by Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf overthrew in the 1999 bloodless coup (Asad 2013; Kugelman 2013), or as unlikely to instil any trust in the rule of law in Pakistan (Masood and Walsh 2013). With Bhutto’s murder, hope for a transition to democracy no longer exists, or so these sources would have it. The blurbs printed in the front matter of Reconciliation make explicit this view. Arianna Huffington, a famous political commentator in the US, offers that readers will ‘finish [the book] and mourn for what might have been’. Former US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi echoes that sentiment, stating: ‘The strength of [Bhutto’s] message of hope underscores how much was lost in her tragic death’. And, finally, from the late Senator Ted Kennedy: ‘Benazir Bhutto’s book is a powerful and insightful analysis of the formidable challenges that confronted an extraordinary woman who paid the ultimate price for daring to attempt to bring democracy to Pakistan’ (Bhutto 2008: n.p.). The doleful tones of these statements—clearly solicited and selected to convey just this sense—frame the US’s investment in Bhutto on an epic scale and imply that the Pakistan that continues on will be a source of regret or suffering for the US and the West. With Bhutto’s death, the ‘bad’ Muslims prevail. Bhutto could not save Pakistan from brown men. Where does Bhutto’s assassination leave the state of US–Pakistani relations, at least from the perspective of media representations? The representations I have examined suggest that Pakistan bears responsibility for the turmoil visited upon its relationship with the US after Bhutto’s death. Such an implication positions Pakistan as an autonomous actor, precluding analysis of the historicity of its foreign relations, a move that allows the US’s and the West’s roles in

Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s last hope 169 geopolitics to go unremarked upon. Without doubt, the most widely circulated trope for post-Bhutto Pakistan hinges upon that nation’s untrustworthiness. Coll claims that a ‘climate of suspicion’ (2008: n.p.) enveloped Pakistan after Bhutto’s assassination and compromised the legitimacy of the elections that were eventually held in February 2008. The UN’s Report repeatedly emphasizes that the Pakistani Government, especially the intelligence agencies, failed to provide ‘credible reasons’ for its (in)action, both before and after Bhutto’s assassination (2010: para. 136, 140, 146). Similarly, the Report stresses that the government failed to conduct a ‘genuine search for the truth’ (2010: para. 159). The government’s lack of credibility, the UN’s Report concludes, only fuels the Pakistani national preoccupation with conspiracy theories (2010: para. 224). Moreover, in what is rapidly becoming the authoritative account of the investigation of Bhutto’s death, Heraldo Munoz’s ‘Getting Away With Murder’, an excerpt from his forthcoming book that appeared in an August 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs, plainly asserts Musharraf ’s moral culpability—if not verifiable legal guilt—for Bhutto’s assassination. Munoz uses terms such as ‘whitewash’ and ‘deliberately botched’ to characterize the Pakistani authorities’ handling of the case and adds: ‘In Pakistani politics, everything that works is the result of a deal that has been cut’ (2013: n.p.).3 Casting similar aspersions, Lisa Curtis, writing for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative American think tank, goes so far as to suggest that Musharraf, while ‘unpopular’, has ‘support from some shadowy elements’, which she neglects to identify (2013: n.p.). The implication of covert machinations is enough, one concludes, given the familiar trope of Pakistan’s political corruptness. While these representations focus on what Pakistan has done to itself, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder’s ‘The Ally from Hell’, published as the December 2011 cover story in The Atlantic, illustrates how the untrustworthy trope extends years beyond Bhutto’s assassination. In fact, Goldberg and Ambinder’s piece does not even mention Bhutto. Instead, this article posits Pakistan as an ‘unstable and violent country located at the epicentre of global jihadism’, fulfilling the promise of its title (2011: 50). Repeatedly, Goldberg and Ambinder point out Pakistani turpitude, including: ‘Like many statements made by Pakistan’s current leaders, this one [about the safety of the nation’s nuclear arsenal] contained large elements of deceit’ (2011: 50); and: ‘Pakistani leaders also tell untruths when they assert that their military and security organizations are immune to radical influence’ (2011: 56). As if confirming the worst fears expressed in the representations I cite above, Goldberg and Ambinder’s statements shine a harsh light on a condemned Pakistan. This negative image of Pakistan’s mendacity is part and parcel of the ‘culture talk’ that pervades all the representations I have examined. Untrustworthiness appears as an inherent characteristic of Pakistan, Eastern politics, and, by implication, Islam itself, precisely because this characteristic appears to exist outside of historical encounters. Goldberg and Ambinder concede that relations between the US and Pakistan have ‘been shot through with rage, resentment, and pretense for years’ (2011: 54). Nonetheless, both nations have


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managed to maintain the relationship only ‘because [they] have chosen to pretend to believe the lies they tell each other’ (Goldberg and Ambinder 2011: 54). Although this statement initially appears to acknowledge the historical encounters linking the two nations, Goldberg and Ambinder proceed by differentiating between the types of lies each nation told/tells. In addition to its dishonesty regarding its nuclear programme and its support for extremists, Pakistan ‘embeds’ in the nation’s ‘collective psyche’ a ‘particular narrative’ that anyone visiting the country cannot help but notice: ‘This narrative holds that the U.S. favors India, punishes Pakistan unjustifiably, and periodically abandons Pakistan when American policy makers feel the country is not useful’ (2011: 56). Claiming that the ‘story is more complicated’ than this narrative presents it as, Goldberg and Ambinder go on to qualify the nature of American lies, claiming they are ‘of a different sort’ (2011: 56). Mostly, the US ‘has lied to itself, and to its citizens, about the nature and actions of successive Pakistani governments’ (2011: 56). The suggestion here is that American lies are protecting the US and its citizens from disillusionment, from having their faith in Pakistani decency and commitment to democracy broken. However, by not being honest with themselves about the true nature of Pakistan, the US has allowed the ‘State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism [to become] effectively meaningless’ (2011: 56). By invoking Pakistan’s ‘collective psyche’ and attributing a ‘nature’ to Pakistan’s government, Goldberg and Ambinder represent Pakistan’s ‘lies’ and their tenacity as an inherent facet of Pakistani culture. In the same vein, the representations of the US’s lies attribute to this nation a tenacious hope in the goodness of others, even to the point of self-harm. Once again, the US can occupy the victim’s role. Neither characterization accounts for the historical interactions between these two nations that contribute to their present relations. Nor do these characterizations allow for an alternative view: no matter what the Pakistani Government says, the US will be wary. Over the nearly 20 years covered by the sequence of representations I have traced, Benazir Bhutto emerges as almost a manifestation of the very ideals the US prides itself as upholding. That the Western sources I consult and Bhutto’s own biographies frame these ideals in terms of binary oppositions that culminate, post-9/11, as ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ Muslims speaks to the tenacity of, and mutual interplay between, saving and victim’s discourses. The expansion of victim’s discourse—a mainstay in US domestic narratives of belonging—to encompass an other via the subsumption of saving discourse common to colonial contexts signals a new development achieved through the War on Terror. And just as Spivak worried over the ability of the other to formulate a ‘countersentence’ sounded from her ‘voice-consciousness’ (1994: 93) in the context of British colonial rule, this expansion accomplished via War on Terror rhetoric requires us to look carefully and with concern for alternative narratives about Pakistan and its relations to the US. No easy task, this, especially given the strong affective pull exerted by appeals to ‘freedom’, ‘gender equality’, and ‘democracy’ for all.

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Notes 1 The refrain ‘why do they hate us?,’ heard for years after the 11 September 2001 attacks serves as the most ordinary and common instance of victim’s discourse. 2 A vibrant conversation of post-9/11 representations of Muslims in the mainstream American and Western media already exists; my analysis supplements this discussion with its focus on publications widely viewed as higher brow. That is, the publications I list above appeal to what passes for the ‘thinking classes’ in the US, with The New Yorker and The New York Times located left of centre, The Atlantic, right, and The New York Review of Books, perhaps in between. Asian Affairs is a well-established scholarly journal whose roots are in Britain’s Royal Society for Asian Affairs, and the audience for any UN report is clearly rather self-selecting. 3 Munoz was the lead UN investigator sent to Pakistan to look into the ‘facts and circumstances of the assassination’ (United Nations 2010: para. 2).

12 Queer South Asian Muslims The ethnic closet and its secular limits Shamira A. Meghani

This chapter explores contemporary British and North American discourses on diasporic South Asian Muslims and same-sex desire and identity. It considers the ways in which the apparent incompatibility of same-sex desire with Islam functions to secure secular values by suggesting specific, Muslim limits to narratives of progress. The ‘Muslim other’ has become delegitimized in secular discourse, particularly through the ‘New Atheism’ popularized by Richard Dawkins, which utilizes gender and sexual politics to discredit religious belief and represent it as virtually the sole source of homophobia and gender inequity. ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ are discursively produced as necessarily failing—more than other religions—to uphold individual human rights, particularly those related to gender and sexuality. As Sara Ahmed has argued, ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ become synonymous with ‘unfreedom’ through repetitions that no longer need to be explicit, as the ‘repetition of that proximity makes the association “essential” ’. Ahmed continues: ‘A repetition of proximity is an affective mechanism: the word “Islam” becomes sticky; it comes to carry the conations or value of the words that it is placed near’ (2011: 125). This chapter discusses the continuity of such discourses in some aspects of mainstream lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics. While it is possible to show that the supposed opposition of South Asian Muslims to gay and lesbian identity is a misrepresentation born out of racist or Islamophobic discourse, I want to consider how these discourses of opposition are constructed, as well how they function. This is particularly important for interpreting texts by diasporic queer South Asian Muslims, which cannot be read simply as ‘authentic’ anthropological documents, as ‘gay’ texts, or as racist representations of Muslim homophobia: ways of reading must resist the parameters of a minoritizing single-issue political logic. I argue from the position that diasporic sexual selves are mutable and conditioned in the context of Western capitalist economies (D’Emilio 1983: 102; Hall [1989] (2003): 226) and that the cultural production of identity discourses has fashioned a particular kind of coming-out narrative around the racially unmarked body, which has become naturalized in discourse through political usage (Saxey 2008: 2, 11, 6−7). The oppositional media discourses that I explore here tend to position gay and lesbian identity as ‘natural’, rather than considering same-sex desire as

Queer South Asian Muslims 173 conditioned into identity through specific material circumstances, including the prevalence of the coming-out narrative. Represented as natural and ahistorical, LGBT identities are defended largely through the language of human rights, drawing on secular values. This secularity is largely aligned, in both popular and theoretical work, with atheism. While LGBT discourses are more generally opposed to religion (particularly to Catholicism, along with Islam), Islam has become increasingly visible in recent years. The current convergence of antireligious and racist discourse focuses on South Asian Muslims in their places of origin and in the diaspora. Here, South Asian Muslims in the diaspora are always already aligned with global Islam and are subject to greater scrutiny. I first explore contemporary media discourses, before turning to diasporic South Asian queer fiction and film to consider how these literary and cinematic narratives respond to the confluence of variously conditioned intersectional identities. I intend to disrupt the assumed incompatibility of same-sex desire and Islam, while treating homophobia, racism, and Islamophobia seriously as practices of exclusion. If LGBT identities are read as ‘natural’, Muslim identity is also often thought of as immutable, but undermined by transitions in identity terminology. Indian and Pakistani identities of the 1950s gave way, from the 1970s to the late 1980s, to the public and political use of ‘Asian’ for all South Asians and ‘black’ as a political term for all non-white people. Religious identities were not politically significant for second generation South Asians in the era of street racism and anti-racist organization (Ramamurthy 2006: 42−3). The emergence of ‘Muslim’ as a coherent primary identity and specific category of description for young people arose through shifts in UK politics. The UK Asian Youth movements, which in the 1970s were aligned with international socialism and antiimperialism, fragmented following the government’s uptake of the Scarman Report (1981), which ‘advocated the need to fund “ethnically disadvantaged” communities’ (Ramamurthy 2006: 56). Funds were distributed from central and local government to unelected, conservatively-minded ‘community leaders’ largely representing religious institutions, in turn fostering religious affiliation as a way for youth to gain funding (Ramamurthy 2006: 56; Malik 2010: 58−9, 65). By the close of the 1980s, a British Muslim community was defined. Its extranational allegiances to a global Islam became particularly visible in 1989 during the Satanic Verses controversy (Malik 2010: 28−9), and since then these have only become more ‘sticky’, in Ahmed’s terms. That religion coheres with race as ethnicity in public discrimination is a key issue in the critical debate about ‘Muslim homophobia’. Its premise is that Muslims are inherently anti-gay, while non-Muslim antagonism towards LGBT people is assumed to be unusual. The production of a specific Muslim identity parallels the emergence of LGBT identities, which took on the qualities of ethnicity in politics from the 1970s onwards (Epstein 1987: 20−1). Ethnicized sexual identity in some ways positioned white lesbian and gay people as marginal to white society, as a minority appealing to a majority. In quite rightly appealing for equality, the logic of achieving the same status as the mainstream came to


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prevail. The putative oppositions between the sexual and ethno-racial identities of the present are reliant on these constructions, while their histories are often erased. The political focus on local and global non-white LGBT people is fairly recent and has in some ways built on long-standing government, NGO, and supranational feminist concerns about ‘Third World women’. However, it is only very recently, in the few years since civil partnerships came into effect in December 2005 and Section 28 was finally repealed in November 2003, that UK LGBT activism and the British Government have turned their attention to statesanctioned violence against LGBT people elsewhere, sometimes threatening the withdrawal of aid. Despite the fact that the current Conservative-led coalition government’s institutionalizing of equal marriage engendered vociferous protest from those in their own party, the mainstreaming of lesbian and gay identity has, in part, been achieved by following imperial patterns in international development. Moreover, Jasbir K. Puar has shown the emergence of ‘homonationalism’—the repositioning of gays and lesbians within nationalist patriotic discourse as a mark of US and UK exceptionalism—in the context of the ‘War on Terror’ (Puar 2007). In both the US and UK, this has led to a particular focus on South Asian Muslims, but the alignment of Sikhs with Muslims in public (mis)understandings of religious markers is evidence of the conflation of religion with race (Puar 2007: 166; Ramamurthy 2006: 58). The rise of a specific media interest in queer Muslims and Muslim homophobia has been discussed by Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir, and Esra Erdem (2008). These authors argue that the growth of a focus on queer Muslims is not accompanied by self-representing Muslim voices (Haritaworn et al. 2008: 75−6) and that Muslim queer visibility is represented in the LGBT press as one of only difficulty. Exploring media and activist discourses, Haritaworn et al. highlight the focus on sensational stories of persecution and the failure to represent stories of Muslim parental support of their queer children or Imams performing the nikah (marriage contract) for same-sex couples. They argue that this misrepresentation of Muslim heterogeneity ‘feed[s] directly into a virulent anti-Muslim racism’ (Haritaworn et al. 2008: 76). An earlier empirical study by Elizabeth Poole similarly showed this broad pattern of the overrepresentation of Muslims qua Muslims in reportage of violent, hateful, and criminal events, alongside the underrepresentation of Muslims in less controversial or more positive stories. Only in the latter, positive report, would Muslims not be differentiated by religion and, while individual reports did not misrepresent, overall the ‘rich variety of life [was reduced] to a simplified limited framework’ (Poole 2009: 252). Reductive depictions of Muslims and Islam by the mainstream press and some LGBT activists have produced an almost unquestionable ideology of ingrained ‘Muslim homophobia’. Haritaworn et al. follow Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s argument that the gender and sexuality rights of Orientalized people are only of interest in the global north at particular historical junctures and that these are ‘more to do with developments in their own culture than with the “Other” ’ (Haritaworn et al. 2008: 79). They suggest that the ‘construct of

Queer South Asian Muslims 175 “Muslim homophobia” confers value to “Western” identities. It also confers political capital to some “Westerners” who have traditionally been excluded from it’ (Haritaworn et al. 2008: 80). Peter Tatchell, the UK-based civil rights campaigner and LGBT activist, is heavily criticized in their discussion, and also in Sara Ahmed’s, for his use of ‘racialised vocabularies’ (Ahmed 2011: 122) while critiquing the homophobic attitudes of particular Muslim leaders. His use of terms such as ‘Islamo-Fascism’ (Tatchell 2005: n.p.) spuriously yokes religion together with fascism (Ahmed 2011: 127), and he has, amongst other examples, discredited the entire Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) as ‘anti-gay’, rhetorically linking the MCB to the far-right British National Party. Although Tatchell did at least nod to the ‘heterogeneity of Islamic discourse’ (Haritaworn et al. 2008: 87) in demanding that Sir Iqbal Sacranie (leader of the MCB) be replaced by progressive, non-homophobic Muslim speakers at a 2006 Unite against Fascism conference (Tatchell 2006: n.p.), this pales when contextualized against his articulation of repeated ‘problematic proximities’ that generate their ‘own claim’ (Ahmed 2011: 127). In 2011, Johann Hari, a columnist for the Independent newspaper, similarly offered little nuance in the title of his article ‘Can We Finally Talk About Muslim Homophobia in Britain?’, implying the impossibility of speaking about such things. The article itself attacks Muslims and ‘Muslim culture’ as being responsible for the rise of homophobia in London, arguing that zero per cent of Muslims find homosexuality ‘morally acceptable’. This claim relies on a poll that has been criticized for its small sample size (Aethelread 2011: n.p.). Hari argues that gay people have a natural solidarity with Muslims as an oppressed minority and have failed to critique Muslim homophobia for this reason—something which is clearly not the case. While Muslim support groups such as Imaan are congratulated for their work, Hari’s most vivid suggestion is that the UK should, like the Netherlands, ‘show all new immigrants images of men kissing’ as a test of entry (Hari 2011: n.p.). The thrust of the article, despite its caveats, is that homophobia comes from elsewhere and that it can be defended against through stringent pro-gay immigration controls. Without reference to same-sex desire in Muslim cultural histories, or to mainstream Muslim critiques of homophobia (Pink News 2011: n.p.), the incompatible opposition remains, producing queer Muslims as exceptions that prove the rule. In the decade since the repeal of Section 28, the British Government—and, arguably, British culture—has been in the process of reinventing British histories of gender and sexuality. The construct of a specifically Muslim homophobia is a useful cultural smokescreen that allows the government to position Britain as unerringly progressive in relation to its former colonies. Countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, and Jamaica receive high levels of criticism for repressive cultures of homophobia. These criticisms oversimplify national cultures, which in any case are partly the result of the Victorian values established during formal colonization. The legal expression of this repression emerges from the retention (and, in some cases, expansion) of the British-instituted Colonial Penal Code Section 377 on ‘unnatural offences’—and their other legal counterparts—more


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commonly thought of as the ‘anti-sodomy’ laws. Section 377 was inherited by all South Asian states; while there have been few successful prosecutions, the code has, along with other public order offences, underpinned the harassment of queer citizens and hindered the prevention of HIV/AIDS. After sustained legal challenges, India’s High Court of Delhi read the code down in July 2009 in a judgement that referenced the inclusivity of India’s Constitution. In a move that was immediately and widely criticized both within India and globally, the Supreme Court overturned the judgement in December 2013, recriminalizing homosexual acts and indicating that it is for parliament to amend the law. It is worth noting, in the context of this chapter, that arguments in support of retaining the 2009 High Court decision included those made by Indian parents of LGBT children. Advances in sexual minority rights have never enjoyed straightforward progress in any part of the world, and a pattern of contestation persists everywhere. Haritaworn et al. commented in 2008 on the recent ‘transformation of “European” identities, which besides “democracy” now claim “women’s equality” and “gay rights” as symbols of their superior “modernity” and “civilisation” ’. They argued that while this was welcome for bringing issues of gender and sexuality to the forefront of political debate, ‘its main basis [wa]s not a progress in gender and sexual politics but a regression in racial politics’ (Haritaworn et al. 2008: 79). The positioning of freedom as somehow representative of European culture parallels the representation of formerly colonized others as necessarily homophobic, producing a diverting hierarchy. The UK’s Minister for Europe’s statement marking International Day Against Homophobia in 2010 looked very much like an attempt at burying Britain’s history of instituting the homophobic Penal Code in its former colonies. In this statement, David Lidington claimed that: The UK has a long and proud history of defending the basic rights and freedoms of the oppressed and vulnerable. We are committed to promoting British values overseas and to placing human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Everyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled. (Lidington 2010: n.p.) The reinvention of the national imaginary here elides not only a recent British history of homophobia, but also its colonial and neocolonial histories of sexuality. If we compare the claim of this ‘long and proud history’ with the actual record of having instituted those very laws globally through the Colonial Penal Code, as well as the New Labour government’s struggle to repeal Section 28, this long history starts to look very much imagined.1 The appearance of British progress depends on its self-representation as removed from its colonial history, as well as on the construction of non-modern others as the ‘real’ abusers of gendered and sexual others. This is not to dismiss homophobia, but rather to suggest that progress is a shared global project, rather than one through which claims of

Queer South Asian Muslims 177 national or racial ‘leadership’ can be made. The construction of a specific ‘Muslim homophobia’ is misleading not just because homophobia is spread more widely, but because it simultaneously reifies group religious identity as unchanging. Implicit in all suggestions of ‘Muslim homophobia’ is the notion of Muslim identity as being unaffected by other aspects of material culture. The heterogeneity of Muslims is, by definition, refused when they are considered to be a politically coherent group with unelected representative leaders in the context of democratic Britain. Its parallel is the heterogeneity of any group of people identified through single aspects of identity, including LGBT people. Political administrations from the late nineteenth-century colonial era have managed— and, in some cases, produced—inequality and identity by dealing with people as groups. It might be said, then, that the queer South Asian Muslim becomes an impossibility not because of cultures of origin, but because of modern administrative politics. With the self-representation of queer South Asian Muslims in mind, I will now turn to three texts from the first decade of the twenty-first century. Touch of Pink is a 2004 film made by a Canadian Ismaili Muslim, Ian Iqbal Rashid, and set in two South Asian diasporic contexts: London, UK, and Toronto, Canada. Straightening Ali (2007) is a novel written by a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, Amjeed Kabil. Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s 2011 novel The Two Krishnas is set in the US and Kenya, and its author is a South Asian Ismaili Muslim of East African origin. The first two texts take different narrative, as well as textual, forms: Touch of Pink is a romantic comedy with a happy ending, while Straightening Ali is somewhere between a thriller and modern tragedy, ending with survival tainted by despair. Although they tell quite different stories, both narratives are focused on negotiating Muslimness and gayness as fixed positions. Straightening Ali is not forthcoming on racism, while Touch of Pink develops race and imperialism as contexts. Both protagonists have to engage with the Orientalist objectification of themselves as non-white queer subjects. By contrast, The Two Krishnas is a tragedy that narrates the consequences of a married Kenyan-origin Hindu man in a passionate relationship with an Indian Muslim man, drawing on the homoerotic literary traditions of both Islamic and Hindu South Asia. In addition to the use of this longer tradition, the novel circumvents the limited opposition of Muslim to gay identity by engaging South Asian beliefs and ethnicities alongside each other. I will discuss these South Asian diaspora texts in terms of the identities they construct and will attend to Straightening Ali and Touch of Pink first, as they both centralize the opposition between ‘Muslim’ and ‘gay’. Esther Saxey has argued that as a narrative genre, the coming-out story is instrumental in constructing lesbian and gay identity (Saxey 2008: 2−3). Kabil and Rashid’s two stories of gay Muslims begin in a different place: sexuality is defined prior to the narrative arc, and the story is about the negotiation with family members and other Muslims, as Muslims. While Straightening Ali often caricatures Muslims as homophobic, Touch of Pink critiques the assumed homophobia of Muslims in one of its most dramatically charged scenes. Nevertheless,


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both produce queer Muslims and Muslim acceptance as exceptional and do so in ways that maintain an incompatibility between same-sex desire and Islam. In what follows, however, I argue that Touch of Pink is far more disruptive of this incompatibility than Straightening Ali, particularly as it negotiates the production of South Asian Muslim identity in a way that queries assumed heteronorms. Straightening Ali tells the tale of a 24-year-old Muslim man returned to Birmingham from university. Several years previously, Ali had come out to his family,2 but he nevertheless has a secret boyfriend of two years who is studying in France. The novel begins with Ali finding out that his family has arranged his marriage to take place in two weeks’ time to a 20-year-old Pakistani girl from Nottingham. Although it leans heavily on stereotypes, the novel attempts to convey the complexity of British Muslim culture by demonstrating its generational and religious differences. The vague suggestion of heterogeneity in South Asian Muslim identity emerges via the fact that the more traditional Pakistani Muslim norms of Ali’s mother’s generation are represented alongside a Muslim fundamentalism acquired at university in Britain (Ali’s sister, Yasmin, is the only fundamentalist in the family [6, 95]). His older brother, Yunus, conforms to a caricature of masculinity: he is a thuggish (10), sexist (8), homophobic brute, who is overly interested in Ali’s sex life (29−31). Overall, the attempt at heterogeneity fails: the most textually developed Muslims are stereotypically overbearing and controlling figures who lack complexity. The briefly mentioned Muslim social worker who offers him housing is undeveloped as a character and appears at a point in the narrative that is invested in Ali’s survival. This lack of complexity is troubling, as the novel also seems to present itself as anthropology. In addition to the glossary that explains the most basic South Asian and Muslim terms, as well as the title of an English television soap opera, at several points it also takes pains to describe mundane food and cultural habits in the kind of detail that suggests it is representing itself primarily to a non-South Asian and a non-UK readership (the book was brought out by a small-scale publisher in Virginia). At times, this glossing is achieved through Ali’s family explaining customs to him, which simultaneously suggests his alienation from ‘their’ culture, as well as his enforced absorption of this culture. The crude homoantagonism of his brother, who asks ‘why do you like being fucked up the arse by old men?’ (32); the blinkered refusal of his fundamentalist older sister, who insists ‘You’re not gay. Stop believing what this kafir culture wants you to believe’ (6); and the bribery and emotional blackmail of his mother (11−12), sets up the incompatibility between his Muslim background and his gay identity. Escape from his Muslim family is positioned as the best outcome for Ali, and this is underwritten as an escape from Muslim culture through the guidance of his ‘not very religious’ (56) best friend, Haseena. She is highly supportive of him as a gay man and herself has escaped from her family and married a white, non-Muslim Englishman. The day after Ali’s unconsummated marriage to Sajda, he, too, escapes to Haseena’s house. Ali’s gay selfhood is explained, rather than shown; the novel does not represent desire or develop sexual imaginaries, and the escape narrative leads to a focus on incompatible identities.

Queer South Asian Muslims 179 The slightly blurred temporalities of Straightening Ali also produce a focus on what is represented largely as Pakistani Muslim, rather than South Asian British, culture. The Birmingham gay club’s Bollywood night situates the narrative in the early twenty-first century, when what Graham Huggan terms ‘Indo-chic’ (2001: 59, 67) was at its peak in mainstream culture. Additionally, Ali knows about the legalization of gay marriage in Amsterdam and is aware of the growing prevalence of civil partnerships in the UK, suggesting a date of around 2004, contemporaneous to the novel’s publication. However, a contrasting historicizing marker is that Ali uses payphones, rather than a mobile phone, email, or Skype to contact his boyfriend in France, which suggests the late 1990s. There is very little in the way of specific wider historical context for British Asians, and the temporal disjuncture is the background for a discussion of Pakistani views on sex and marriage through Haseena’s friend, Imran. The text, or Ali, takes a transantagonistic turn here, as Haseena introduces Ali ‘to what could only be described as a Pakistani man dressed as a woman’ (80), and Ali has to try to ‘hide his amusement’ (81). Imran presents his relationship with his wife in a way that appreciates her as a soulmate, but also objectifies her as Pakistani (82). Having explained his sexual preference prior to marriage, ‘[s]he said “so what if you like men. It doesn’t stop you from marrying me” ’. Imran explains her acceptance and encouragement of his sexuality as due to her being Pakistani and therefore ‘more realistic’, with ‘fewer expectations’. He also suggests that ‘she was used to seeing hidden relationships between the different men’ (82). Thus, Imran’s partner, Nick, lives with them and their children, and Imran’s unnamed wife shares with him the joys of ‘[s]hopping, dressing up in saris, and sharing each other’s makeup’ (83). Imran encourages Ali to be honest with his fiancée and give her the choice, but changes his mind once Altaf, another gay Pakistani, joins their discussion to recount the story of his own wife’s homoantagonistic and violent brothers (87). Haseena finds both Imran’s and Altaf ’s arrangements disagreeable, selfish, and dishonest (82−3, 87). The alternative arrangements of even Imran—not unproblematically represented, given his suggestion that his wife accepts his queer desires only because of her ‘small village’ background—are dismissed by Haseena, the text’s heroine. The prevailing perspective is that gay sexual identity is primary: non-gay arrangements are rendered ‘backward’. Imran’s family set-up is not an unusual one in contexts of polyamory, but it is dismissed as a warning about the future, specifically on the grounds that alternatives which negotiate cultural norms— even open and honest ones—make for ‘victims’ (89). Gay Muslims are doomed, then, to give up contact with family and community, and the novel does not really represent this as much of a loss. The feature film Touch of Pink is set in London and Toronto early in the twenty-first century, and the wider context of imperialism, Orientalism, and racialization frames the plot. The narrative is introduced by ‘the spirit of Cary Grant’: Alim is an out, gay, Ismaili-Muslim Canadian man of Kenyan origin, living with his white, British, and otherwise undefined, economist for UNICEF


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partner, Giles, and is described as ‘happy, successful and in love’. This enviable position is one we are soon led to see as marred by his being ‘in the closet’ in relation to his mother, Nuru, who wishes to see him married. She arrives in London with the intention of persuading her son to attend his cousin Khalid’s wedding in Toronto and disrupts his seemingly perfect relationship with Giles. Alim decides he cannot tell his mother he is gay, and this prompts a reorganization of his and Giles’s home, as well as the development of the lie that he is engaged to Giles’s sister. This closeting produces tension and the necessity for coming out. Nuru is suspicious of the white man whom her son ‘shares’ accommodation with, but is nevertheless won over by Giles, who takes her out sightseeing, shopping, and dancing. The coming-out story is subtended by the imaginary friendship Alim has with the film star Cary Grant, whose sexuality has been the subject of contentious debate since his death. This debate forms a parallel dialogue through the film, which, poised against the coming-out narrative, serves to develop a kind of dynamism to Alim’s ‘growing up’. Cary Grant functions as his closet-gay closetcoach: his partner, Giles, does not know about the ‘relationship’ and the figure of Grant articulates Alim’s ethnic and queer difference. When Alim contemplates a drink, Grant suggests ‘how about a mimosa for my little samosa?’; with a painfully patronizing Orientalism. Grant presents Alim’s sexuality as unequivocally gay, while also detailing the plan for how they will hide it from his mother. When Alim ponders coming out to his mother, Grant counters: ‘your mother doesn’t deserve to be told, she hasn’t earned it: she abandoned you’. Grant functions as a substitute parent and also encourages Alim’s distance and difference from his parents. Attending Alim’s and Giles’s anniversary celebration at The Ramrod (a gay club) with Giles’s sister and parents, Alim finds it hard to imagine his mother there. Grant responds: GRANT:

Yeah well, your mother’s different. She’s Muslim—from the Third World. ALIM: I’m Muslim; I’m from the Third World. GRANT: But you’re a sophisticated, elegant young man. Grant posits Nuru as ignorant and unsophisticated, because of her Muslim, ‘Third World’ background. While Alim challenges this tired stereotype, it is his exceptionalism that Grant foregrounds and which Alim uses as the reason for not coming out. Grant’s reputation as a closeted gay man and his representation as a man with outdated views of ethnicity provide a source of dynamism to the perspectives available in the film. The film encourages understanding sexual identity as a fixed truth through jest, particularly in the scene where preparations for Nuru’s arrival include Grant sorting through Alim’s books and tossing aside almost every volume as ‘gay’ and therefore to be hidden. Nuru cannot, on account of her ‘Third World’ and ‘Muslim’ background, be exposed to anything gay. Alim and Giles struggle to keep their relationship secret, and after Giles has won over Nuru, Alim comes out to his mother by showing her his framed nude

Queer South Asian Muslims 181 photograph of Giles. Nuru departs and what follows is probably the most memorable scene in the film. As Giles argues that Alim could have been less blunt in his approach, Alim responds by parroting Cary Grant’s earlier assertion: ALIM:

She’s a Muslim woman from the Third World. You keep forgetting that she’s not like me. You have to shift your expectations. GILES: So what you’re really saying is that she’s just an ignorant Paki? ALIM: Well, I wouldn’t have put it quite like that. GILES: I think you would have if you could. But if she’s just a Paki, what does that make you? Giles situates Alim’s self in relation to his mother, and his implicit critique of internalized racism centralizes the conflated construction of racial and religious identity. It disrupts the internalized racism and is positioned quite against the wider assumptions about Muslim homophobia. The challenge that Giles formulates is that Alim’s mother is perfectly capable of understanding her son’s sexuality, but that Alim is himself unable to acknowledge this because of his assumptions about her, in relation to the racial and religious identity that they share. Giles’s challenge to Alim situates Giles in the position of a white ally with greater reflective capacity and the unprejudiced voice of truth and reason. In some ways, this is reminiscent of the view that complex yet possible queer Muslim lives are best represented by non-Muslims, which Haritaworn et al. have highlighted as a mainstream pattern (2008: 75−6). That Giles has taken the time to get to know Nuru complicates this, however, and it cannot be forgotten that the film is representing an interracial, or inter-ethnic, gay relationship. This demands more than negotiating family as individuals, and space is made for Nuru’s critique of colonial appropriation, including her socially inappropriate mediation of this through Giles. Alim’s alienation and self-absorption are frequently made apparent during the film, as he struggles with various aspects of his identity through the relationship with the spirit of Cary Grant, rather than with those around him. The apparent conflict of religion, race, and sexual identity are in some ways resolved at his cousin Khalid’s wedding, allowing for the strengthening of Alim’s relationship with his mother and also with Giles. His mother’s sister, Dolly, knew of the masti (youthful sexual relationship) between her son and Alim, and did not take it seriously: for her, sexuality is not the issue but failure to marry would be. Khalid is marrying in the full awareness of his sexual preference for men and (unlike Imran) has a callous attitude to his bride. He claims it is his duty to marry, while attempting to proposition Alim sexually. Nuru becomes aware of their argument and of the strength of Alim’s feelings for Giles, which prompts her full acceptance of him. Giles and Alim’s unambiguous embrace in the middle of the wedding party is a something of a shock to Alim’s family and the wider Ismaili community, but it results mainly in bemused and off-hand curiosity. Nuru, who has been


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pretending that her son is engaged to a female economist, changes her pronouns and smiles with motherly pride. The coming out to the community is Cary Grant’s final cue for departure. Of course, as Grant is a figment of Alim’s imagination, the dialogue Alim has with him is one that he, in actual fact, has with himself, triggered by his childhood obsession with Hollywood (something Nuru initially—and inexplicably—‘blames’ for Alim’s sexuality). Alim’s uncle reveals that ‘my little samosa’ is how Alim’s long-dead father referred to him as a baby, making clear that Grant is, in part, the voice of Alim’s father: from a father, it is a tender endearment, rather than an Orientalist nickname. Nevertheless, through the choice of Grant as a white, male representative of Hollywood, Rashid is effectively engaging with, as well as aiming to resolve, what Fanon described as a ‘third-person consciousness’. In the colonial context that Fanon is critiquing, consciousness of the body and the self it composes in the world creates a ‘real dialectic between [. . .] body and world’ (Fanon [1952] 1986: 110, 111) and is productive of non-belonging. Imagining and conversing with Grant, Alim’s internal dialectic is self-consciously externalized. Alim’s viewing of himself through a benign but strangely controlling white male figure strongly suggests the work of racial ideology. Situating Grant within the film enables a metatextual engagement with the influence of film. That Grant’s films—which Nuru also reveals a love for—provide Alim with succour as a gay man, as well as exposure to racist discourse, suggests the need for, and the value of, textual complexity. Alim’s decision to end his reliance on Grant is a rejection of easy, short-term solutions. Ultimately, it is his coming out to the community—not just his mother—which produces the end of the relationship with Grant, suggesting the resolution of a struggle. The film’s closure on this point reinforces the centrality of sexual identity, while also undermining the assumptions that Alim speaking his truth will fundamentally disrupt his familial and community relationships. If it can also potentially be interpreted to suggest that life as a queer South Asian Muslim man is resolved by coming out, to do so would be overly optimistic. While the focus of the film is the Muslim coming-out story, the wider context suggests an array of hopes, but also challenges: Alim’s cousin Khalid’s internalized homophobia and his plan to continue a clandestine gay life; Giles’s parents’ acceptance—evidenced by their presence at Giles and Alim’s anniversary party at The Ramrod—which nevertheless comes with evidence of their discomfort; Giles’s struggle with monogamy; the privilege of whiteness in interracial contexts and comparative inequities of wealth and status. Despite these differences in representation, I argue that both Straightening Ali and Touch of Pink construct the closet as a specifically ethnicized space: South Asian and Muslim. This locates them in existing racial ideologies. Unlike the ‘coming-out’ genre of the mainstream global north, in which protagonists move towards the self-discovery of their sexuality, while readers are fully cognizant of what they will find (Saxey 2008: 1), these texts complement recent media discourses so as to largely, if not solely, reposition the closet as ethnic. In their

Queer South Asian Muslims 183 sometimes problematic flattening out of queer identities towards white global north tolerance and acceptance, while producing a specific contrast with nonwhite ethnicity and religion—especially Islam—it becomes clear that the coming-out narrative is one of religion and ethnicity that needs to be overcome, in order for the closet to reopen. It is not sexual identity that needs to be discovered, but rather religion and ethnicity that stand in the way of what is already known. In Straightening Ali, religion and ethnicity, rather than the breadth of heteropatriarchy, are the threat to non-heteronormative sexuality; Touch of Pink presents religion and ethnicity as ideas that have become overdetermined and that can be undone. Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla’s modern tragedy, The Two Krishnas (2011), in some ways defies this trend. Set in the US, the novel features a queer diasporic Indian Muslim man, Atif, in an initially clandestine relationship with a married, East African Indian Hindu man, Rahul. The novel centralizes the negotiation of various intersectional selves—the male lovers and Rahul’s wife, Pooja—through contrasting South Asian sexual and romantic imaginaries, invoking Hindu and Muslim mythology and culture as resources. Both Indian homeland and transoceanic East African and US diasporas are represented in contexts of racism, Orientalism, and homoantagonism, but in ways that cut across intersections of oppression that lean one way and, instead, critique, celebrate, and complicate geographies, ethnicities, patriarchies, religions, and sexualities. While Pooja finds it hard to believe that her Hindu Krishna stories have been interpreted as representing same-sex desire, Rahul’s reluctance to come out is located in his unwillingness to disrupt the heterosexual family unit and particularly because his Americanized teenage son is homophobic and violent. Atif, by contrast, has come out to his Muslim family in India and yet, despite rejection by his father, retains a homoerotic Muslim heritage in his sexual imaginary. In this way, The Two Krishnas does not just disrupt the flattened, undifferentiated representation of Muslims, but also, by virtue of multiple South Asian diasporic contexts and their contrasts, serves to undo dominant ideologies of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality in a productive manner. Where texts aim for the secular, they seem to do so by invoking the ideology of single-issue politics. In prioritizing single-issue politics and their impact on each other, these texts are, of course, able to explore some of the difficulties of living queer Muslim lives in the twenty-first century. However, in resolving narratives by valorizing only one of the two aspects of identity (and why are there only two?), they suggest that difficult identities cannot fit together without displacing some aspect of self, without actually undoing what constitutes these separate selves in the first place. Despite the tragedy of the homoantagonism that ends The Two Krishnas, this novel allows for the possibility of seeing differences not as incompatible opposites, but rather as relationally produced. While it is simpler to think in single-issue terms, in the context of recent and continuing political gains for LGBT people, rights are, in their newness, quite fragile, particularly given that they have not yet served to embed an anti-homophobic culture. In queer political imaginaries that have not yet come to terms with the


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breadth of ethno-racial difference, the limits to rights-based freedoms will inevitably emerge from some darkly imagined corner. Positioning those limits with minority identities and religions shifts the responsibility away from attending to the wider limitations of heteropatriarchy and homophobia, in all their forms.

Notes 1 Haritaworn et al. note that: ‘[T]he Labour government had to use the Parliament Act [. . .] as the House of Lords [. . .] had repeatedly vetoed its [Section 28’s] abolition’ (2008: 79). 2 See Kabil (2007: 6−7). Subsequent references are to this edition of Straightening Ali and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the text.

13 After 9/11 Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows Aroosa Kanwal

Fictional representations of Islam and Muslims by writers of Pakistani origin are receiving increasing attention, especially in the post-9/11 political climate, with its attendant reductive focus on Islamic fundamentalism. After the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001, ‘Islam’ has emerged as a key conceptual category to (re)construct Muslim identities in the West, as a result of changed societal perceptions about Muslims. The ‘War on Terror’ has become a dominant political narrative in Europe and the US today, and it tends to equate Islam and Muslims with terrorism.1 As we shall see, the power of this narrative is evinced in the way that perceptions of Muslims have metamorphosized from a ‘terrorized minority’ to a ‘terrifying majority’ over the last decade or so (Appadurai 2006: 111). International fear of Muslims has produced wide-ranging ontological effects, often taking the form of ‘indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions directed at Islam or Muslims’ (Bleich 2011: 1585). This chapter highlights how Kamila Shamsie’s novels Broken Verses (2005b) and Burnt Shadows (2009a) confront these negative international attitudes towards Muslims and Islam. By locating her characters in their homelands as well as abroad, Shamsie engages with issues related to identity and migration that began to change as a result of post-9/11 mainstream public narratives about suicide bombing, religious fanaticism, terrorism, jihad, and Islamic fundamentalism. Muslims in the West are caught in the process of redefining what it means to be a Muslim; they are aware that simply asserting that Islam is a religion of peace rather than war will not suffice and that more is being asked of them. As Shamsie suggests: [R]eligious identity defines you at certain times. [. . .] It is hard to be a Muslim in a post-9/11 world and not be aware of ‘Muslimness’. [. . .] [Y]ou hear all kinds of things being said about Muslims. And you start to feel yourself being Muslim in a way you never felt before. People will say: So what is it about Islam that makes people turn to violence? And so, on the one hand, there is the assumption that this religion is deranged and on the other, there is the assumption that you must speak up for it. Both of these situations are uncomfortable. (Kramatschek 2009: n.p.)


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The idea of ‘Muslimness’ that Shamsie refers to here registers the stigmatization of Muslims in the West against the backdrop of War on Terror rhetoric that has accelerated a shift from Orientalist epistemology to terrorist ontology. The negative images of Muslims, as a result of ongoing debates about Islamophobia in the West, have continued to shape Western attitudes and speech in such a way that the figure of ‘the Muslim’ has become a metaphor for barbarism and violence. Thus, Muslimness becomes synonymous with terror, a position which I term a terrorist ontology. As a part of the same phenomenon, Pakistan has emerged (in much of the US media at least) as a leading locus of terrorism. As we shall see, Shamsie’s Pakistani characters are shown to be victims of this media stereotyping. Shamsie contends that this tendency to homogenize the whole Muslim community as violent and hostile after 9/11 has resulted in the conflation of moderate Muslims and Islamic extremists.2 As a result, many second-generation Muslims are caught in the effort to redefine what it means to be a Muslim, shifting the focus away from radicals preaching hard-line Islam. This attitude calls for the redefining of the very terms ‘Islamist’ and ‘Muslim’. Amin Malak and Olivier Roy flag up the ambiguity of these terms in the context of second- generation Muslims in Britain. Whereas Malak defines Islamists as practising believers, and Muslims as those who are affiliated to Islam by culture or origin ([2004] 2005: 5), for Roy, a Muslim is someone who identifies him- or herself as Muslim and not someone who is a Muslim by culture or origin (2004: 102). I find synthesis between Malak’s and Roy’s definitions. For me, the term ‘Muslim’ features both its purely religious and its cultural dimensions in contrast to the term ‘Islamist’, which I understand broadly as referring to any form of political Islam. Nevertheless, to be more specific in religious and cultural dimensions, I use the terms ‘practising Muslims’ and ‘non-practising Muslims’, respectively. These interpretative paradigms, suggested by Malak and Roy, for identitarian choices or one’s affiliation with either Islam or Muslim culture, become more important when, in the light of Islamophobic narratives, Muslims are imagined as a homogenized community of followers of a monolithic Islam. The term ‘Islamophobia’ has a plethora of interpretations, yet there is no widely accepted definition. In research conducted by the Runnymede Trust (1997), the Islamic Human Rights Commission (2002), and the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (2007), Islamophobia is defined as an anti- Muslim and anti- Islamic phenomenon. However, as Erik Bleich argues, without a concept that applies to various analogous categories such as racism, anti-Semitism, or xenophobia, it is ‘virtually impossible to identify the causes and consequences of Islamophobia with any precision’ (2011: 1582). Given the plurality and multiplicity of interpretations, S. Sayyid highlights the controversy that permeates Islamophobic discourses; it is not Islam ‘per se which is the target of discriminatory practices but Muslims, and as such, the use of the term “Islamophobia” prevents legitimate critique of Islamic practices’ (2011: 13). I would argue that this observation is questionable in a post-9/11 world, when it is not only Muslims but also Islam that is

Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s fiction 187 targeted, particularly in terms of its concept of jihad as propounded in the Qur’an and Islamic shariah laws (such as the Hudood Ordinance). The Runnymede Report also affirms this ‘unfounded hostility towards both Islam’ and Muslims and defines Islamophobia as ‘a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam—and, therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims’ (1997: 1). This international fear of Muslims has wide-ranging ontological effects, which are highlighted in the Runnymede Report, from the ‘unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities’ to ‘the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs’ (1997: 2–4). My central concern, though, is to consider how the events of September 11, 2001, are represented in Shamsie’s fiction as resulting not only in a re- emergence of Islamophobia as an historical ‘anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic phenomena’ (Sardar 1995: 2), but also in an increased urgency to redefine Islamophobia as an ideology that continues to shape Western attitudes and which determines and initiates abusive ‘practices and prejudices’ (Allen 2010: 169). Situating post-9/11 Islamophobia in relation to earlier historical moments, Shamsie argues that the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan during Zia-ulHaq’s rule in the 1970s and 1980s, in conjunction with his support of Afghan mujahideen, partly contributes to hostile attitudes towards Islam in the West. Zia revived the concept of militant jihad, which was largely ‘dormant in most of the Muslim world’ (Kramatschek 2009: n.p.). Shamsie’s fiction situates the post- 9/11 framing of Muslims in relation to Islamization policies in Zia’s Pakistan and to US interventions in the region since the late 1970s, foregrounding political and historical causes that underlie the recent global stereotyping of Muslims, as well as the War on Terror rhetoric. In Broken Verses, for example, Shamsie highlights the effect of the US’s backing of Pakistan’s military, because of its own Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union and the way that the US manipulated Islamic fundamentalists against the Soviets in Afghanistan. A recorded debate between feminist Samina and a cleric, Maulana Moin Haq, gestures towards the repercussions of Zia’s participation in the Afghan jihad that was informed by the dominant paradigm of affiliation with the Muslim Ummah. Samina contends: [Y]ou spout phrases like ‘the unity of ummah’ as you hand those boys— those [. . .] ready-to-be-brainwashed boys—the most sophisticated weapons [. . .]. What happens after Afghanistan, have you considered that? Where do they go next, those global guerrillas with their allegiance to a common cause and their belief in violence as the most effective way to take on the enemy? (285–6) The novel provides a stimulating account of the effect on the nation caused by Zia’s manipulation of religion in two ways. First, Pakistani madrassas (Islamic seminaries) experienced a dramatic rise in intake during Zia’s regime (1977–1988), as they were used for the training of


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mujahideen. However, these institutions became a target for the US Army after the Soviet-Afghan war, as some of the radicals who had been trained here became members of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The radical atmosphere of the post-Cold War era has shaped the nation’s sensitivity towards offences against Islam, whether these offences are global Muslim concerns, such as the Rushdie Affair, the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy, the derogatory YouTube video Innocence of Muslims (2012) or indigenous protests against the Blasphemy Laws or Hudood Ordinance. Broken Verses considers the repercussions of the Islamization of Pakistan through the character of Samina, Aasmani’s mother. While protesting against the Hudood Ordinance and ‘Islamic Law of Evidence’ (92–4)—examples of the ‘misogynist deployment of religion to assert control over women’ (Ahmed et al. 2012: 203)—Samina is repeatedly beaten and incarcerated by the forces of Zia, the Mullah dictator, whose government aims to ‘sen[d] violent tremors down the spine of the women’s movement’.3 This reflects how Pakistan’s 1980s regime ‘concerned itself primarily with striking down the rights of women and befriending fundamentalists’ (138). Similarly, Samina’s friend Shehnaz Saeed refuses to be ‘one of those women the beards approve of ’ (59). Both these women challenge the patriarchal interpretation of Islamic laws under Zia’s government. That said, there is no denying that Islamic radicalism and a culture of intolerance inaugurated by Zia continues to have significant social, cultural, and political momentum in contemporary Pakistan. Second, Zia’s politically-motivated Islamization policy divided Pakistan along ethnic and religious lines. The sectarian acrimony and ethnic violence in the 1980s threatened the stability of domestic space by promoting a culture of intolerance towards varying ethno-national identities. Shamsie’s Salt and Saffron (2000) and Kartography (2002) also critique Zia’s religious reconfigurations, the ethnic violence triggered by his foreign policy, the influx of Afghan immigrants, and the rise of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM); in these novels, Pakistan slides towards Islamic extremism. Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows accentuate the repercussions of the ruthless Islamization of Pakistan that these earlier novels map, while highlighting growing trouble for Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Since her oeuvre highlights political and historical causes to contextualize local grievances in global settings, Shamsie draws upon those relations that exemplify what Arjun Appadurai terms ‘the geography of anger’. Reflecting upon the nexus between post-9/11 narratives of terror and long-standing regional and local histories of India and Pakistan, Appadurai writes: The geography of anger is [. . .] the spatial outcome of complex interactions between faraway events and proximate fears, between old histories and new provocations, between rewritten borders and unwritten orders. [. . .] The geography of anger is produced in the volatile relationship between the maps of national and global politics (largely produced by official institutions and procedures) and the maps of sacred national space (produced by political and religious parties). (2006: 100)

Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s fiction 189 In Broken Verses and Burnt Shadows, Shamsie foregrounds these volatile relationships between national and global politics, such as the 1947 Partition and political tensions in Pakistan in the 1970s and 1980s; such territorial tensions become, in her work, ‘fractals of wider perspectives and images’ (Appadurai 2006: 101). Burnt Shadows recapitulates stories of Partition, migration, and ethnic violence within Pakistan and between India and Pakistan. It also excoriates Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Hiroko says: ‘ “Islamization” was a word everyone recognized as a political tool of a dictator and yet they still allowed their lives to be changed by it’.4 According to Shamsie, the emergence of the Taliban’s power in Pakistan and the current war in Afghanistan are the fruits of this era. In an interview with Claudia Kramatschek, she expresses the hope that the 1980s sections of Burnt Shadows ‘show the extent to which the Pakistani government and the ISI were very, very happy to take America’s money and act for their own benefit’ (2009: n.p.). Shamsie takes from this the idea that superpowers are not only to blame for the violence of recent global geopolitics, but that any nations ‘willing to do [bad things] to other nations in the name of freedom and justice’ must also shoulder responsibility for the ensuing outcome (Kramatschek 2009: n.p.). In Burnt Shadows, Harry contemplates the way the regional battle of Afghan people ‘to win back their land from a superpower [the Soviets]’ (279) has been exacerbated by the US and other foreign countries’ interference in the region, thereby turning this territorial conflict into a global war. Shamsie’s novel shows how this alliance between national and global politics has contributed to the international fear and stereotyping of Muslims in the post-9/11 world: In Harry’s mind, there was a map of the world with countries appearing as mere outlines, waiting to be shaded in with stripes of red, white and blue as they were drawn into the strictly territorial battle of the Afghans versus the Soviets in which no one else claimed a part. When he arrived in Islamabad, it had been a three way affair: Egypt provided the Soviet-made arms, America provided financing, training and technological assistance, and Pakistan provided the base for training camps. But now, the war was truly international. (203) Harry’s comments corroborate Appadurai’s observations: national politics and global alliances prepare the grounds for international wars and, specifically in this context, for ‘attacks against ordinary Muslims’, which perpetuate the fallacy ‘that they truly belong not to a terrorized minority but to a terrifying majority, the Muslim world itself ’ (Appadurai 2006: 111). Harry ruminates on the way the interference of other countries within the territorial dispute between Afghans and Soviets has turned this regional battle into an international armed conflict. However, after the Soviets’ evacuation from Afghanistan, tribal Afghans, trained as jihadists in US-sponsored madrassas, were not only left alone with a civil war, but were also labelled as terrorists (and as a terrifying majority) after 9/11.


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The yearning and nostalgia with which Shamsie’s diasporic characters regard their ancestral places of origin has serious implications in the post-9/11 context. For some commentators, the fall of the Twin Towers has further sundered the world into discordant cultural spaces, characterized by an Orientalist binary of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. At this historical juncture, as Shamsie puts it in Broken Verses, all the lessons of global culture became moribund and, as a Muslim, ‘you stopped being an individual and started being an entire religion’ (45). This is particularly evident from the representation of Muslims in the US in the novel. Shamsie deploys the character of Ed in part to challenge myths about the US as a global cosmopolitan space. Ed, the son of a famous retired actress, Shehnaz Saeed, has recently returned to Pakistan from New York after ten years, because he, like many other Muslims, became a victim of the 9/11 tragedy. Ed, who happily embraced the American dream and faced no significant problem in being part of mainstream American society before 9/11, returns to Pakistan because he is no longer entitled to pursue his dreams in that foreign land. Similarly, he is no longer entitled to pursue his dreams in the UK, another unwelcoming country. While the ‘only dream [he] could think of’ was ‘to go to London and join RADA. [. . .] [,] everyone convinced [him], places like that they don’t even consider Pakistanis’ (61). Despite Ed’s insistence that it was not something specific ‘that made him decide to leave’ the US or stop pursuing his ambitions in the UK, both locations are represented as hostile, alien spaces, and his final comment sums up his post- 9/11 dilemma: ‘I was laid off because I’m Muslim’ (46). And it is, indeed, because of his Muslim and Pakistani identity that he experiences or becomes threatened by the following inventory of horrors: ‘[t]he INS. Guantanamo Bay. The unrandom random security checks in airports. The visit from the FBI’ (46). In Burnt Shadows, Hiroko Tanaka possesses a certain ontological privilege stemming from her Japanese identity, privilege that is denied to Broken Verses’s Ed as a Pakistani national. Hiroko is a survivor of the 1940s Nagasaki bombing, and she travels to India after the death of her German fiancé, Konrad Weiss, to find Konrad’s half- sister, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s English husband, James Burton. During her stay with them, she falls in love with their Muslim employee, Sajjad Ashraf, whom she marries. Following the 1947 Partition, Sajjad and Hiroko are forced to settle in Karachi, where they raise their son, Raza. After Sajjad’s death, Hiroko heads to the US—the land she abhors, because its military destroyed her city and fiancé—to live with Harry’s daughter, Kim, and Elizabeth. On Hiroko’s arrival at New York airport, the immigration officer looked quizzically from her face to her Pakistani passport, then heaved a great sigh as he opened the passport and saw her place of birth scrawled beneath her husband’s name. ‘It’s OK,’ he said, stamping her passport without asking a single question. ‘You’ll be safe here.’ (287) Unlike Ed, who as a Pakistani Muslim feels compelled to leave the US, Hiroko finds no significant problem in making that country her home. Moreover,

Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s fiction 191 Hiroko’s Japanese nationality qualifies her to be a recipient of benefits such as social security, which are denied to Ed as a Pakistani. A similar prejudice is accentuated when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative, Steve, cautions Harry—who works for a private military corporation, Arkwright and Glenn, contracted by the US military for operations in Afghanistan—not to recruit Muslims for his projects: You’re an idiot to hire all these Third Country Nationals. Economically, sure, I see the sense. But stop recruiting them from Pakistan and Bangladesh. You’re acting like this is a territorial war and they’re neutral parties. Go with guys from Sri Lanka, Nepal, the Philippines. Indians are OK, so long as they’re not Muslim. (280) Such suspicions in the post-9/11 world have not only triggered hostile feelings towards Islam and Muslims, but have also led to Muslims facing racial, religious, and cultural profiling. Reflecting on current discourses of Islamophobia, Judith Butler illustrates how the claim that ‘ “there is no excuse for September 11” has become a means by which to stifle any serious public discussions of how US foreign policy has helped to create a world in which such acts of terror are possible’ (2004: 3). What Butler suggests here is that the rhetoric of the US War on Terror has suspended ‘our’5 capacity to think about the causes behind current global conflicts, through its deliberate strategy of conflating acts of war and acts of terror. Butler contends that the discursive strategy of synonymizing Muslimness with terrorism and conflating acts of terror with acts of self- defence has inevitably resulted in the discursive creation of a feared other. This has created an impression that people are living in ‘a state of ontological hysteria’, a situation Richard Jackson describes, citing Joseba Zulaika and William A. Douglass, as that in which ‘a nation constantly anticipat[es] the next attack, just “waiting for terror” ’ (Jackson 2005: 118; quoting Zulaika and Douglass 1996). Following Butler’s lead, I argue that Shamsie flags up this state of ontological hysteria in Burnt Shadows. The events in the final section of the novel, set in Afghanistan and New York, are framed in such a way that, through an interaction between foreigners to, and nationals of, the US, Shamsie builds a tale of tension and complexity, guilt and anger. For example, Kim’s perception of the Muslim world is shown to be in line with a post-9/11 American psyche shaped by the dominant narratives of the War on Terror. As Kim is a US citizen, her paranoia about Abdullah, an Afghan, her perception of him as a terrorist and a threat, and her decision to inform the police about him reflect the consequences of these dominant discourses. Moreover, when Raza comes to help Abdullah, the former is arrested and thinks: ‘[t]he policemen need never know he [Raza] had helped Abdullah escape; they’d merely conclude that the American woman was paranoid, seeing a threat in every Muslim’ (359). Despite Kim’s clarification that she does not know that ‘he’s done anything wrong. He just looked suspicious’,


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and her plea to the police to ‘let him go’, Raza is taken by the police to ‘answer a few questions’ (357). This seems to imply some self-consciousness about the War on Terror, as here the police, as representatives of the nation-state, seem to recognize the paranoia of North American citizens, even as they nevertheless go ahead and act upon it. Reflecting on the same paranoia, Susheila Nasta explains that: We all—whether insiders or outsiders—seem to be culpable participants but are, at the same time, rendered helpless as the plethora of images of this socalled ‘War on Terror’ accumulates, amplifies and continues to induce more panic and fear. (2007: 1) The purpose of highlighting this is to suggest that War on Terror propaganda has resulted in the stigmatization of Muslims, who are fixed into one clear identity as Muslim.6 Amina Yaqin and Peter Morey’s recent work on the stereotyping of Muslims highlights the processes by which certain images are constructed and, through repetition, become ‘default signifier[s]’ and ‘fetish object[s]’ (2011: 19–25). In Burnt Shadows, Ilse’s grave misconception of Sajjad as a rapist, when she leaps ‘to the worst possible conclusion’ on seeing Hiroko ‘in a state of partial undress, yelling and pummelling Sajjad’ (92–3), and Kim’s suspicion about Abdullah as a terrorist, resonate with contemporary assumptions that Muslims are violent and sexually predatory and with what Homi K. Bhabha describes as the ideological construction of otherness based on ‘the idea of fixity’ (1994: 66). Such demonization of Muslims at the international level has become a cliché and denies the constructed identity any opportunity of change. Butler argues that former President George W. Bush proposed a kind of binarism, in which only two positions are possible: ‘Either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists’. As a result, it is almost impossible to say a plague on both your houses and instead question Bush’s binarism, because ‘to oppose the war meant to some that one somehow felt sympathy with terrorism, or that one saw the terror as justified’ (Butler 2004: 2). In Shamsie’s novel, it is this feeling of sympathy towards Abdullah, a fellow Muslim (and a fetishized object for the US Army), which ultimately sends Raza to Guantanamo Bay, despite all his services as a translator for Arkwright and Glenn in their ‘security’ operations in Afghanistan (274). Steve becomes suspicious about Raza on discovering his links with Abdullah, and therefore he treats Raza as ‘just another Pakistani who the Americans had turned against after extracting all that was useful from him’ (307). Similarly, in the last section of the novel, Steve’s conversation with Harry about recruiting people for his security firm, in which Steve dismisses Harry’s sympathy for Raza and other Muslims by calling it ‘nostalgia’ (281), indicates the complexities that Butler discusses; to oppose the war means sympathy with terrorism. In relation to the fixing of Muslim identities, it is important to consider how performative aspects of faith have emerged as major signifiers in framing Muslim identities, particularly in the post-9/11 world. Religious dress or

Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s fiction 193 practices have long served as important identity markers, but the evolving religious performativity in the post-9/11 world also blurs the public and private dimensions of an individual’s faith. The marker of 9/11 is, of course, not the only sign of crisis for Muslims across the world; other events have played a significant role in the rise of Islamism both in the UK and the US. Tahir Abbas contends that three major events—the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the public burning of The Satanic Verses, and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie—contributed towards increasing Islamophobia in the West, which, in turn, resulted in the rise of Islamism in the UK from the late 1970s (Abbas 2011: 95–6). I broadly agree with Abbas, who argues that the stereotypical representation of Muslims in much of the British media—in general due to racial discrimination and more specifically during the Iranian Revolution in 1979—contributed to an increasing use of the terms ‘radical’, ‘fanatical’, and ‘fundamentalist’. Dressed in black, two million Muslims in the streets of Tehran captured Western media and public attention and were made representatives of the global Muslim community. However, in 1989, the public burning of The Satanic Verses in Bradford was ‘the first occasion when Britain began to look at its own Muslim population in a critical [and] sensationalist manner [. . .] question[ing] their loyalty to the state’ (Abbas 2011: 96). The pronouncement of the fatwa against Rushdie in 1989 reinforced negative mainstream perceptions of Muslims as barbaric and intolerant. Importantly, the media almost invariably represented Muslims as a homogenized group that was seen ‘to pose a serious threat to liberal and progressive British and Western values’ (Allen 2010: 43). Against this backdrop of the homogenized categorization of Muslims, performativity of faith in the form of uncompromising adherence to Islamic rituals has not only emerged as an important affirmative identity marker, but has also blurred the public and private dimensions of individuals’ faith in the post-9/11 world. Highlighting religion qua performance, as well as delimiting the two spheres, Burnt Shadows demonstrates how Raza’s Muslim identity is emphasized by Steve through the recognition and sanctioning of his private life. Despite his services for Arkwright and Glenn, Raza’s Muslim identity rouses anxieties. Indeed, Steve becomes suspicious of Raza at precisely the moment when he sees him offering his prayers. Steve’s perception of Raza’s religious practice fixes Raza’s identity as a Muslim. In a cave in Afghanistan, Steve discusses Raza’s religiosity with Harry and is taken aback by the latter’s apparently relaxed response: ‘It really doesn’t bother you—in this time, in this place—that he’s found religion?’ In response to Harry’s bafflement, Steve adds: ‘I saw him prostrating himself in front of a mosque the first time I flew in. He thought there was no one around to see him’ (281). Steve, while witnessing Raza’s apparently private act of prayers, translates this private act into a public assertion of faith. This has serious implications for Raza, as a Muslim, in terms of his public role in a private military firm linked to the CIA. Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity is helpful in understanding how Raza’s ‘body comes to bear cultural meaning’ (1988: 520). Emphasizing the performativity of gender attributes on the basis of which a body produces its

194 A. Kanwal ‘cultural signification’, Butler argues that ‘these attributes effectively constitute the identity they are said to express or reveal’. What Butler suggests is that gender is not based on an internal identity, but on the reflective notions of performativity; therefore, ‘one is compelled to live in a world in which genders constitute univocal signifiers, in which gender is stabilized, polarized, rendered discrete and intractable’ (1988: 528). A juxtaposition of Butler’s theory of gender performativity with the performative aspects of religion indicates that whatever he actually believes (or thinks) about his security job, Raza’s performativity of faith is seen by Steve as a (religious) attribute that primarily constitutes his identity as a Muslim, rather than as a Pakistani-American national supporting the US in the fight against terrorism. According to this postulation, Raza is judged by Steve within a specific frame of reference and societal perception. His act of prayer does not reflect a merely individual choice or gesture, but a public action or performative act that is constructed as being part of his Muslim identity. Therefore, Steve assumes that there is no difference between Raza and other Afghan mujahideen. Moreover, Raza’s body, while offering prayers, comes to bear cultural meaning, which, in the post-9/11 context, delimits his identity options or subject position, reaffirming an Orientalist stereotype of ‘Asiatics’ as ‘duplicitous’ (Bhabha 1994: 75). As Steve says to Harry about Raza: ‘You know his skills at deception’ (281). Divining Harry’s relaxed attitude towards Raza’s religiosity, Steve asserts that as a 17-year-old boy, Raza had joined the mujahideen’s camp by passing as a Hazara: ‘And even now, no one except [them] knows [. . .]. Surrounded by Paks and no one knows he’s one of them’ (281). Shamsie suggests an interesting overlap between performance and deception in these sentences. Raza’s religious performance, which represents an authentic devotion to his faith, is misunderstood by Steve as a duplicitous performance. Indeed, it is worth noting that Raza’s talent for both deception and linguistic translation—described by Ahmed Gamal as his ‘reshaping skills’ (2013: 604)—not only ensure his entry into the mujahideen’s camp, but also make him eligible to serve as Harry’s assistant in the US mission. However, these reshaping skills seem to demand a different interpretation from the American after his body performs a religious act. Raza’s act of prayer signifies its temporal and collective dimensions and therefore its ‘public nature is not inconsequential’ (Butler 1988: 526). Raza, who has been indirectly serving the CIA’s mission, becomes suspicious in the eyes of Steve, who conflates Raza’s private act of prayer with his reshaping skills and thus calls Raza’s loyalty to the US military into question. Likewise, a misunderstanding between Kim and Abdullah during their conversation about Islam is informed by a similar kind of conflationary rhetoric of devotion-as-deception—that is, adherence to faith for the practitioner is perceived as deceitful pretence by the onlooker. Abdullah’s devotion to Islam is perceived by Kim as a symbol of his religious extremism, and this understanding leads Kim to believe that Abdullah takes up what Shamsie describes as ‘the most damaging form of interpretation’ of Islam. In Offence: The Muslim Case, Shamsie writes of

Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s fiction 195 expert commentators from outside the Muslim world who continue to quote the Quran and Hadith in explanation of Muslim reactions to offence rather than recognizing the plurality of interpretation within the Islamic tradition and asking, more pertinently: why, at a precise collision of history and geography, should certain forms of interpretations be privileged over others [. . .]. And why do the most damaging forms of interpretation currently coexist at so many points of geographic and historic collision? (2009b: 10–11) Here, Shamsie flags up the tendency in the West to homogenize Islam and Muslims and to leave the plurality of interpretation within Islamic traditions unacknowledged. This is precisely what happens during Kim’s and Abdullah’s discussion. Abdullah’s effort to clarify his position as an Afghan in the US offends the American woman and she starts arguing with Abdullah about whether he really understands the Qur’an and Islam. Kim asks Abdullah, ‘[i]f an Afghan dies in the act of killing infidels in his country does he go straight to heaven?’ Abdullah replies by saying that if his murder victims came ‘as invaders or occupiers’, the Afghan would be a shaheed or martyr (346). Abdullah’s personal interpretation of the Qur’an is taken by Kim as an ideology propagated by terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda. Her anger and paranoia about Abdullah are governed by what is described by Sayyid and Vakil as a ‘homogenising and totalising label which privileges one identity option or subject position over other’ (2011: 15). Kim considers Abdullah as one of those ‘Afghan[s] with a gun who never stopped to think of Harry Burton as anything but an infidel invader whose death opened up a path to Paradise’ (347). Her final decision to brand Abdullah as a terrorist is also based on the most damaging form of interpretations about jihad, which are currently popular because of al Qaeda’s notoriety. The most striking aspect of this passage is that a non-Muslim is claiming to know Islam better than a Muslim does. This attitude frustrates Abdullah, as he says: ‘They’re all, everyone, everywhere you go now—television, radio, passengers in your cab, everywhere—everyone just wants to tell you what they know about Islam, how they know so much more than you do’ (352). Burnt Shadows can be read as an effort to break the perceived East–West binary. Stigmatization on the basis of ethnicity has transmuted into stigmatization on the basis of faith, and xenophobia has been overlaid by Islamophobia. In the novel, Shamsie questions debates about integration in Europe and the US through the forced migrations of her characters. In contrast to Raza, who is not happy with his hyphenated identity, Hiroko learns to live in a multilingual and multicultural world. Similarly, Rehana, a Pakistani woman, who had ‘grown up in the hills of Abbotabad’ (141) and lived in Tokyo and Karachi, is at ‘at home in the idea of foreignness’ (141). Hiroko shows ‘no interest in belonging to anything as contradictorily insubstantial and damaging as a nation’ (204). Ed, Aliya, and Karim all try to retain their feelings for home, even in states of alienation, but in Burnt Shadows characters learn to engage with, and live in, diasporic spaces of otherness. Hiroko, Sajjad, Ilse, and Raza want to overcome a sense of


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not-belonging in a foreign land. Shamsie emphasizes this in Burnt Shadows at the level of narrative; each of the sections focuses on two families, one from the East and one from the West. There are situations when it becomes impossible for the characters to feel themselves living outside of history. Yet through their interactions and situations in which ‘heterogeneous cultures are yoked by violence’, Shamsie, to borrow Sara Suleri’s words, ‘offers nuances of trauma that cannot be neatly partitioned between colonizer and colonized’ (Suleri 1992: 5). Shamsie’s novel is significant in identifying both the subject positions of colonizer and colonized as ‘victims of traumatic change’ (Suleri 1992: 5). This breakdown of binary thinking is highlighted in Burnt Shadows, where not only Asians, but also white non- Muslims become victims of difficult transformations. It is not only Hiroko, Sajjad, and Raza’s lives that are irrevocably marred by the United States’ bombing of Nagasaki and by the Partition of India and Pakistan; Harry, Ilse, and Kim’s lives are also affected. Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows can be read as an effort to abolish ‘the distinctions between centre and periphery, and other “binarisms” that are allegedly a legacy of colonial(ist) ways of thinking [in order] to reveal societies globally in their complex heterogeneity and contingency’ (Dirlik 1997: 52). Sajjad’s compatibility with Hiroko, despite their affiliations to different religions and communities, Raza’s association with Harry, Kim’s friendship with Raza, and Ilse’s affiliation with Hiroko reveal the contingency and heterogeneity of global societies, in which the whole concept of otherness crumbles. It is not only South Asians who are shown to be displaced. Neat divisions of margin and centre are blurred in such a way that both are revealed as steeped in constructions of otherness. If, on the one hand, Islamophobia has been a galvanizing force in much Western public discourse, on the other hand, according to Shamsie, ‘[a]nti-Americanism was, and continues to be a rich vein to be mined in the Pakistani psyche’ (2009b: 66). This Islam versus the West debate has never faded. However, Shamsie insists on the urgency of complicating reductive binary thinking, suggesting: The only way out of this vicious circle of mutual suspicion is for both sides to take a closer look at each other. A closer look at the Muslims of the world reveals [. . .] that the Mosaic of the Offended Muslim is only a small part of the larger Mosaic of Muslims. (2009b: 77) In her fiction, Shamsie highlights the paranoia surrounding Muslims and its wide-reaching ontological and epistemological effects in a range of contexts. As Paul Gilroy suggests, the West must ‘transform paralyzing guilt into a more productive shame that would be conductive to the building of a multicultural nationality that is no longer phobic about the prospect of exposure to either strangers or otherness’ (2004: 108). While, as I have shown, religion has once again emerged as a major social signifier, Muslims across the globe cannot be generalized as one homogeneous group, given the vast differences in the public performativity and private beliefs of radical, secular, and moderate Muslims

Islamophobia in Kamila Shamsie’s fiction 197 from various sects. As we have seen, two characters of Burnt Shadows, Raza and Abdullah, epitomize Shamsie’s nuanced engagements with this theme. The novel can be taken as a plea for what is described by Gilroy as ‘planetary humanism’ (2004: 4), a term used to denote the ability to accept cultural diversity and pluralism. Disrupting essentialist narratives of place and culture, Shamsie not only challenges the articulation of new orthodoxy towards Islam and Muslims in public discourses, but also unsettles the clash of civilizations thesis by showing her characters as complicating and transcending national borderlands and cultural boundaries. Gilroy’s idea of planetary humanism tacitly reinforces the notion of Muslim Ummah, which is based on post-national identity and accommodates and embraces humanity, because of the diversity it carries within itself.

Notes 1 While Obama and Cameron have distanced themselves from the Bush-Blair language of a War on Terror, they have continued many of the international political and policy manoeuvres of the earlier governments and the ‘lethal military embrace’ that has resulted in serious security and peace problems in Afghanistan, the destabilization of Pakistan, and the spread of al Qaeda (see, for example, Jenkins 2011). 2 Edward Said points out a similar conflation, arguing that the term ‘Islam’ defines a relatively small proportion of what actually takes place in the Islamic world, which numbers a billion people, and includes dozens of countries, societies, traditions, languages and, of course, an infinite number of different experiences. It is simply false to try to trace all this back to something called ‘Islam’. ([1981] 1997: xvi) 3 See Shamsie (2005b: 138). Subsequent citations are to this edition of Broken Verses and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the main body of the text. 4 See Shamsie (2009a: 182). Subsequent citations are to this edition of Burnt Shadows and will be cited parenthetically by page number in the main body of the text. 5 In this usage, ‘our’ refers to the general population and to those parts of the media that act as ‘public voices’ (Butler 2004: 1). 6 The ‘Islamic Rage boy’, a title first given to Shakeel Ahmad from Indian- occupied Kashmir, is America’s hated poster boy of Islamic radicalism, which has become a cult figure on the internet, with its image of burning eyes and straggly beard. For details, see Morey and Yaqin (2011: 26–8).


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9/11 attacks on the United States 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 35, 59, 63, 124, 127, 129, 130, 131, 138, 142, 147, 157, 159, 162–6, 170, 185–97 Aboulela, Leila 38–9 Abu-Lughod, Lila 163 Adil, Alev 69 atheism 39, 64, 130, 146, 173; see also New Atheism Afghanistan 21, 24, 51, 59, 99, 130, 165; Soviet war in (1979–89) 50, 59, 97, 165, 187–9; United States war in (2001–) 24, 59, 130, 189, 191–5 affiliation see filiation/affiliation affinity 12, 129, 132–4, 140 agency 1, 3, 22, 52, 117, 120, 167 Ahl-i-Hadith 150 Ahmad, Rukhsana 31 Ahmed, Sara 145, 172, 173, 175 Akbar, Emperor 77 al-Andalus see Andalusia Algeria 42, 49, 50; see also Maghreb Alghamdi, A. 4 Alhambra 59, 63, 68 Ali, Agha Shahid 12, 60–2, 63, 86–96, 111 Ali, Jan A. 150 Ali, Monica 4, 35, 119 Ali, Syed Ameer 64 Ali, Tariq 60, 63, 64–6, 87, 97 al-Mawaridi 123 al Qaeda 59, 188, 195 al-Sisi, General Abdel Fattah144 allegory 53, 101 Amazigh see Berber Ambinder, Marc 169–70 American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) 163 Amin, Samir 23–4

Amis, Martin 130, 140 amnesia 71, 75, 76 Amnesty International 97 Anam, Tahmima 12, 142–53 Andalusia 8, 12, 49, 50, 59–69; see also Arab-European culture; Arab-European encounter; Spain Anker, Elisabeth 159 Ansar, Mo 1 anti-Americanism 129, 138, 196 anti-Muslim: rhetoric 2, 79–81, 84, 174, 186–7; violence 7, 71, 84 anti-Semitism 186 anti-religious discourse 6, 173 Appadurai, Arjun 105, 185, 188–9 Appiah, Kwame Anthony 151 ‘Arabi, Ibn 49 Arab(s) 3, 8, 10, 21, 27, 31, 38, 40, 60, 61, 64, 125; see also Arab World; Maghreb; Middle East Arab Spring 5, 23, 25–6, 29 Arab World 23, 43, 47, 50, 53, 66 Arabian Islam 146; and Kashmir 134 Arabic: language 20, 39, 43–5, 48, 49–50, 52, 63, 65, 66, 95, 125, 151; literature 45, 61–2, 63 Arabization 43, 151 Arab-European culture 8, 12, 60, 62–3, 66; see also Andalusia; Spain Arab-European encounter 8, 59–60, 65, 66 architecture 12, 50, 64, 88 Asad, Muhammad 149 Asad, Talal 10, 116–17 Asian Affairs 13, 157, 161 Asian Women Writers Collective 31 Aslam, Nadeem 38 Atlantic, The 157, 169 autobiographical fiction 42, 43–4, 49, 52 ‘axis of evil’ 130



Ayodhya 4, 7, 28, 70, 77 azadi (freedom or independence) 87, 99, 108, 111 Azam, Gulam 119, 143–4 Babri Masjid 7, 67, 70, 77 Bangladesh (earlier East Bengal, East Pakistan) 3, 4, 7, 11, 12, 32, 35, 119, 142–53, 161–2; and 1971 War of Independence 4, 11, 119, 142–4, 161–2; see also Bengal; Bengali Culture Bangladeshis, British/in Britain 33, 35, 119 Barodekar, Hirabai 78 Batty, Nancy 74, 76, 77, 79, 83 Baudelaire, Charles 92, 111 Bean, Richard 35–6, 37 Beckerlegge, Gwilym 150 belief 8, 9, 33, 40, 71, 129, 136, 145–6, 152, 172, 196; see also faith Bengal 60, 64, 142, 143–4, 146, 150, 151 Bengali culture 149, 151 Bennett, Clinton 121 Berber(s) 46, 49, 50 Berlant, Lauren 159 Bhabha, Homi K. 53, 92, 192, 194 Bhagavad Gita 152 Bhakle, Janaki 74–5, 78 bhakti 10, 60 Bharata Janata Party (BJP) 18, 20, 28, 72 Bhattacharya, Gargi 167 Bhutto, Z.A. 162, 165 Bhutto, Benazir 3, 13, 157–71; assassination of 157, 165, 168–70; Daughter of Destiny (Daughter of the East) 157, 160–1; and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims 158, 164–5, 170; ‘Larkana’ and ‘Radcliffe’ Bhuttos 160–1; and post-9/11 discourse 159, 164–6, 168–70; Prime Minister of Pakistan, first term as 160–1, 162; Prime Minister of Pakistan, second term as 160–1, 162; Reconciliation 157, 164, 167–8; and ‘saving discourse’ 157–71; UN Report on assassination of 157, 164, 165–6, 168–70; and US-Pakistan relations 157–71, 158 Bible 152 Bildungsroman 43, 98, 100–1, 115–26 Bilgrami, Akeel 6 bin Laden, Osama 2, 21, 27, 63, 134, 166 binary thinking 2, 10, 13, 95, 107, 147, 161, 163, 170, 190, 195–6 Blair, Tony 128, 130

blasphemy 7, 20, 188; see also Hudood Ordinance Bleich, Erik 185, 186 Bloch, Maurice 22 Bombay (Mumbai) 31, 67, 68, 70–1, 73, 77, 78, 81, 84, 85 Boabdil (Abu Abd’alla, last King of Granada) 61, 63, 64, 67, 68 Boehmer, Elleke 52–3 borders: and ‘border zones’ 53; crossing 50; and Kashmir 87, 97–9, 101, 104, 105, 107, 131; national 10–11, 52, 80, 197; Pakistan-Afghanistan 51, 129; public/private 44 Bosnia 2, 103 Bradford, W. Yorks 35, 65 Bradley, Arthur 130, 139, 140 Brahmins 72, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79 Brenton, Howard 64 Britain: and multiculturalism 5–6; and secularism 6, 8; and Islam 115–16, 128 and Islamism 115; Muslims in 1, 13, 30–1, 38–9, 117–19, 122–6, 130, 175–7, 178, 186, 193; see also British Asian; British Islam; British Muslims; Britishness; multiculturalism; secularism; racism British Asians 32–3, 30–41; see also Britain; British Islam; British Muslims; Britishness British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 1, 64 British Government 115, 116, 174–5 British Islam 12, 30, 115–19, 122, 125–6; see also British Muslims British Muslims 30, 31, 126–7, 173; and Britishness 37, 39, 116–19, 125; and generational differences 38–9; representations of 11, 13, 30–2, 36–8, 177–9; secularized 116, 124; as social category 31; young 11, 30–41 British National Party (BNP) 175 Britishness 37, 117–19, 125 Brooks, David 3 Bush, George W. 128, 130, 147, 157, 163, 192 Bush, Laura 167 Burton, Antoinette 48, 53 Buruma, Ian 160–1, 163 Butler, Judith 191, 192, 193–4 CBS 163 Calhoun, Craig 6, 9 Cameron, David 6

Index capitalism 22–7, 43, 130; see also global capital, globalization Catholics, Catholicism 18, 65, 67, 69, 74, 88, 136, 173 Chambers, Claire 17, 31, 90, 91 Chew, Shirley 76, 77, 78, 83 Christians, Christianity 28, 44, 59, 60, 63–7, 89, 91, 136, 149; see also Andalusia; Arab-European culture; Arab-European encounter Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 21, 191, 193, 194 Cervantes, Miguel de 49, 65, 68 citizens, citizenship: British 10; and equality 7, 9; Indian 2–3; Muslim 2–3, 11; and Pakistan 5–6; secular, and secularism 2–3, 5–7, 9, 83, 85; and United States 159, 170, 192; and women 53 civil partnerships 174, 179 ‘clash of civilizations’ 21, 37, 130, 197 class 20, 23, 26, 36, 43, 46, 47–8, 63, 72, 74, 78, 81, 138, 149, 158, 167 Coetzee, J.M. 106 Cold War 3, 5, 50, 187, 188 Coll, Stephen 162, 166, 168, 169 colonialism 8, 13, 42–4, 48, 49, 52–3, 102, 104, 105, 59, 67, 72, 90–2, 158, 170, 175–6, 176–7, 182, 196 Colonial Penal Code 175–6 Columbus, Christopher 61, 65 communalism 5, 32, 47, 52, 126, 130; in Kashmir 132–3; tensions in India 18, 28, 67, 73, 77, 82, 85, 129, 131, 135 communism, communists 21, 59, 64 contrapuntal 61–2, 72, 83 cooke, miriam 167–8 Copenhagen 19–20 Cordoba 50, 62, 63, 66; see also Andalusia; Granada; Spain cosmopolitan 65, 127 cosmopolitanism 151–2 Cossman, Brenda 7 Coviello, Peter 159 Crusades 8, 20, 27, 66, 147 cross-pollination, cultural 60, 69 cultural assimilation (mission civilasatrice) 43 ‘culture talk’ 163–4, 165, 166, 169; see also Mamdani Curtis, Lisa 169 Dabashi, Hamid 2 da Gama, Vasco 67–8


Danish cartoons 25 Darwish, Mahmoud 60–1 Dawkins, Richard 6, 172 Dawn 7 decolonization 42, 44, 47, 51, 53 de Lauretis, Teresa 51 Deleuze, Gilles 98, 104–5, 107–8 Deobandi 12, 117–18, 121, 150 Delhi 18, 28, 87, 88, 132, 176 democracy 3, 21, 26, 32, 35, 170, 176; and Pakistan 157–61, 163–8, 170, 176; see also Bhutto, Benazir Denmark 19, 21, 28 Desai, Anita 43, 70, 88 Deshpande, Shashi 70–85 deterritorialization 98, 104, 106, 116, 118–20, 124–5; see also Deleuze, Gilles Dhalla, Ghalib Shiraz 177, 183–4 Dharker, Imtiaz 63–4, 67 diaspora 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 10–12, 14, 116, 173, 177, 183; see also Bangladeshis; British Asians; migrants; migration; Pakistanis Dickinson, Emily 87 discrimination 71, 173, 186–7, 193 Djebar, Assia 42, 43, 49–52 Doshi, Tishani 63–4 doubt 41, 81, 98, 108, 129, 130, 134, 147, 162 Eaglestone, Robert 138–9 Eagleton, Terry 130 education 26, 39, 43–5, 49, 52, 137, 167 Egypt 3, 43, 47, 48, 90, 118, 119, 144, 189 Ehteshami, Anoushiravan 21 Eid 19 Eliot, T.S. 92–3 English Defence League (EDL) 1 Enlightenment 2, 7, 10, 130 epistemic violence 51, 105 epistemology 10, 45, 104, 140, 186, 196 equality 6–7, 22, 167, 170, 173, 176; and inequality 119, 130, 167, 177 Erdem, Esra 174–5, 176, 181 Esposito, John L. 21 essentialism 8, 81, 82, 158, 160–1, 163, 165, 166, 197; and anti-essentialism 127 ethnicity 3, 5, 31, 32, 43, 53, 158, 177, 188; and sexuality 172–3, 180–3, 195 ethnocentrism 53 Europe 2, 4, 7–8, 20, 21, 22, 23, 44, 46, 59–60, 62–7 exile 9, 12, 61, 67, 71, 72, 85, 87, 90–2, 93, 165



extremism 12, 67, 115, 138, 139, 142, 166, 167, 187, 188, 194 Eurocentrism 66, 104 European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia 186 faith 7, 39–41, 64, 116, 124, 126, 128–9, 132, 135, 139, 140, 145, 148, 150, 153; ‘bad faith’ 100–1; ‘living faith’ 117; multi-faith society 37, 39, 130, 132, 133–4; performativity of 192–5; private 94–5, 116; social 126 Faiz, Ahmed Faiz 70 family: and sexuality 177–9, 181, 183; and women 44–8; see also filiation/ affiliation 73–4 fanaticism, fanatics 30, 32, 41, 134–8, 193 Fanon, Frantz 182 Farebrother, Rachel 74 Farrukh, Sarah 152 fatwa 4, 45–6; see also Rushdie, Salman Federation of Student Islamic Studies 118 feminism, Islamic 44 feudalism 43–4, 46, 160 filiation/affiliation 12, 53, 73–4, 79–80, 127, 128, 132, 135, 137, 139–40, 173, 186, 187 film 177–82 fitna (social disruption) 44, 51 Fitzgerald, Timothy 10 folk: customs 48, 73, 103, 149; festivals 48 Foreign Affairs 169 Foucault, Michel 102, 104 Fox News 163 France 6, 40, 49, 66, 178, 179 freedom 25, 106, 122, 137, 170, 184, 189; as (assumed) European value 176; fighters 107–8; hurriya 46; personal 37; from religion 26; religious 5; ‘unfreedom’ 172; and ‘War on Terror’ 157, 159; and women 46, 63, 128; see also azadi; Kashmir; ‘War on Terror’; women French colonialism 43–5, 48–50; see also Maghreb Freud, Sigmund 91 fundamentalism, fundamentalists 30, 53, 83, 85, 97, 135, 139, 141; Hindu 26, 135; Islamic 20–1, 24–5, 26, 121, 127, 128, 134, 144, 178, 185, 187, 188, 193; in Kashmir 97, 134, 138; and nation 83, 85; ‘neofundamentalism’ 151; religious 131, 146–7; secular 39–40, 130, 146; see also fanatics; Hindu nationalism

gender 2, 13, 45, 52, 74–5, 78, 158–9; and equality/inequality 47, 49, 167, 170, 172; and Islam 2, 172; and nation, nationalism 48, 52–3; and race, ethnicity 4, 53, 158, 176; and ‘War on Terror’ 158–9, 167; see also feminism; sexuality; women Ghalib, Asadullah Khan 19–20, 146 ghazal 60–2, 63, 86 Ghosh, Amitav 89, 146 Gilman, Sander L. 2 Gilroy, Paul 5–6, 196–7 global capital, globalization 23–6, 53, 130 Glynn, Sarah 115, 120 Goldberg, Jeffrey 169–70 Goodhart, David 5 Granada 59, 61–3, 65–6, 69; see also Andalusia; Spain Grant, Cary 179–82 Guardian 1, 144 Gujarat 4, 7, 129 Gujjars 98, 106–7, 111 Guantanamo Bay 190, 192 Guru, Mohammad Afzal 87 hadith, ahadith 19, 20, 21, 37, 117, 149, 195 Hakim-Murad, Abdal (Timothy Winter) 124 Hamilton, Grant 106 Hanan, Tin 49 haram 149 harem 42, 44–6, 47 Hari, Johann 134, 175 Haritaworn, Jin 174–5, 176, 181 Hashmi, Shadab Zeest 62–3 Herbert, Zbigniew 92–3 heteronormative 47, 178, 183 hijab 1–2, 40, 147, 148 Hindi 43, 50, 135 Hindus, Hinduism 10, 18, 20, 21, 24, 27–8, 70, 71, 73–4, 75, 76, 77, 86, 89, 99, 131, 132, 133, 139, 152, 177, 183; and Muslim cultures 10, 17, 76, 77, 78–81, 83, 84–5, 94–5, 133, 150 Hindu mythology 177, 183 Hindu nationalism, Hindu Right 6–8, 26, 43, 67, 70–1, 72, 75–7, 103, 106, 135, 138; see also majoritarianism Hindustani music 71, 74–5, 77–8 Hindutva 77 Hispano-Arab poetry (muwashahat) 60 historiographic metafiction 49, 143

Index Hizb ut-Tahrir 115, 118, 120–4 homophobia 172, 176, 182, 183, 184; ‘Muslim homophobia’ 172, 173–5, 177, 181 ‘homonationalism’ 174 homosexuality 13, 175, 176; see also lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities; queer identities; sexuality honour/dishonour 46–7, 132, 136, 138 Hope, Laurence 95 Hosain, Attia 42, 43–8 Hudood Ordinance 187–8 Huggan, Graham 179 human rights 172–3, 176, 186 Husain, Ed 38, 115–26 Hussein, Aamer 68–9, 145–6 hybridity 68, 69, 75, 78, 80, 82, 88–9, 94, 125, 127 Ilyas, Muhammad 150 Imam, Jahanara 143, 144 Independent 6, 175 India: British colonisation of 43, 44, 53, 67; communal tensions in 4, 5, 18, 82; Hindu-Muslim culture in 78–9; Hindu nationalism in 6, 8–9, 24, 43, 67, 70–2, 76–7, 106; and homosexuality 176; and independence 74; Islam in 18–19; Muslims in 4, 10–11, 23, 28–9, 45, 46, 70, 72, 77, 80, 83–4, 127, 129, 134; and Partition 2, 5, 10–11, 59, 67, 70, 131, 196; secularism in 2, 4–7, 10, 12, 67–8, 70–2, 74, 82–3, 85; see also Hindu nationalism; Indian subcontinent; Kashmir; Muslims; Partition; secularism Indian subcontinent 2, 4, 6, 8, 10–11, 12, 13, 31, 32, 38, 42, 43, 68, 70, 75, 76–7, 84, 87, 97, 120, 129, 131, 151; see also India Indian Constitution 5, 7, 67, 176 individualism 32, 34, 37, 116–17, 121, 125, 158 intertextuality 52, 67, 68, 92, 93, 95, 144 Iran 10, 129; Iranian Revolution 3, 193 Iraq 130 Islam: as conceptual category 185; and democracy 164; and ethnicity, race 3, 183; and European encounter 8, 59–60, 65–6, 69; and feminism 44; and fundamentalism 20, 21, 24, 26, 127–8; ‘global’ 19, 173; in India 18–19, 43; orthodox 127; and patriarchy 42, 45–6, 48, 52–3, 12, 138, 188; and pluralism 39, 147, 152; progressive 21; radical 8,


32, 137, 186; representations of 2, 3–4, 8, 13, 17, 20, 25, 33, 42, 59, 138–40, 160, 172, 174–5, 185; secularized, and secularism 8, 35, 37, 39, 115–17, 124, 125, 144, 172; and terrorism 12, 127–8, 185; and tolerance 38, 147, 149; tradition 27, 125 Islamic Right 12, 142, 151 Islamic Society of Britain 124 Islamic Human Rights Commission 186 ‘Islamic world’ 8 Islamism 8, 19, 26, 42, 115–25; literary representations of 32–3, 40, 115–25, 138–40; and/in Britain 32–3, 116–17, 118–26; and (secular-)liberalism 116, 117, 119, 125–6; and deterritorialization 116, 118–20 Islamization 13, 37, 50, 143, 187–9 ‘Islamo-Fascism’ 175 Islamophilia 147 Islamophobia 2, 13, 147, 172–3, 185–7, 191, 193, 195–6; see also racism; stereotypes; Orientalism Israel 21, 66 ijtihad (independent reasoning) 18, 45 izzat/sharam see honour/dishonour Jackson, Richard 191 Jamaat-e-Islami 117–19, 121, 144, 150 Jameson, Fredric 53 Jerusalem 65 Jews, Jewish identities 2, 3, 4, 60, 63, 65–8, 137 Jinnah, Muhammed Ali 6, 46 Judaism 152 Juergensmeyer, Mark 6, 9 jihad, jihadists 4, 40, 41, 121, 129–30, 131–2, 134, 135, 137, 140, 147, 165, 169, 185, 187, 189, 195 jilbabs 122 Jones, Sherry 4 justice 47, 157, 189 Kabbani, Rana 2 Kabil, Amjeed 177–9, 182–3 Kabir, Ananya Jahanara 89, 94, 102, 103, 105, 111 Kapur, Ratna 7 Karachi 68, 190, 195 Karim, Abdul 78 Kashmir 4, 11, 12, 61, 86–96, 97–112, 131–9, 165; Kashmiriyat 89, 132 Keats, John 91–2 Kennedy, Ted 168



Khan, Uzma Aslam 42, 49–52 Khatun, Samia 144 Khayyam, Omar 20 Khilafat Movement 59 Khomeini, Ayotollah Ruhollah 32, 64, 67, 129, 134 knowledge: colonial systems of 8; as distinct from belief 8; and power 51; spiritual 124–5; Western 123 Kugelman, Michael 168 Kumar, Priya 5, 7, 8, 9 Kundnani, Arun 115 Kureishi, Hanif 31, 32–9, 41, 118 Lahore 63, 87 language 43, 45, 49–50, 52, 53, 60–2, 75, 84, 102, 151; see also individual languages lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identities 13, 172–4, 176; see also homosexuality; queer identities; sexuality Lewis, Philip 118, 151 liberal (ism), liberal-secular (ism) 5, 12, 32, 34–5, 41, 115–17, 119–20, 121–5, 128, 160, 166, 193 Lidington, David 176 literary form 12, 60–2; see also autobiographical fiction; Bildungsroman; ghazal; historiographic metafiction; intertextuality; melodrama; metafiction; poetry Lionnet, Françoise 53 London 2, 27, 32, 36, 38, 68, 92, 117–19, 122, 125, 175, 177, 179–80, 190; 7/7 attacks 2, 3, 8, 30, 59, 63, 68, 116–17, 131, 151 Lorca, Frederico Garc’a 61–2, 63, 69 Lucknow 43 McCarthy, Mary Therese 143 madrassas 187, 189 Madrid 2, 44 Maghreb 42–3, 49, 52, 53, 152; Maghrebi women’s writing 42–54; see also Arabs; Arab World; Middle East majority: identity 80–2; and nation, nationalism 71–2, 77, 80–2; majoritarianism 6, 71–2; and secularism 5–6, 8–9, 72; see also Hindu nationalism; minority; nation; nationalism; secularism; tolerance Malak, Amin 4, 140, 186 Malaysia 23, 43

Malik, Kenan 5 Mamdani, Mahmood 138, 147, 163–4, 165 Mandelstam, Osip 92–3 Mane, Tarabai 78 Marathi 94, 84 Marx, Karl 2, 28, 123 Marxism 21, 22, 26, 46, 64, 142, 152 marriage 45, 51, 148, 149, 174, 178–9; gay marriage 178–9; see also civil partnerships, nikah Mawdudi 119, 120, 121, 123 Mecca 44, 124, 130 media: representations of Muslims by 3, 4, 13, 30, 35, 59–60, 172–3, 193; and queer Muslims 172–4; United States media 13, 129, 157–71, 186 Mehsud, Baitullah 166 melodrama 159 memory 12, 61, 68–9, 70, 88, 89, 93, 102, 129, 143 Menocal, Maria Rosa 60, 66 Menon, Nivedita 10 Mernissi, Fatima 21, 44–8, 51 metafiction 49, 143 métissage 53 Middle East 11, 42–3, 59, 65, 129; see also Arab World; Maghreb migrants 32, 36–7, 127, 129–30, 132, 151, 175, 188 migration 8, 12, 65, 67, 105, 106, 116, 175, 185, 189, 190, 195 ‘minor’ location 48, 98, 104 minority, minorities 13, 43, 48, 67, 80, 70–85, 104, 121, 129, 164, 173, 175, 185, 189; minority rights 5, 176; minoritization 2, 70, 72, 81–3, 172; and secular criticism 9, 71–2; and tolerance 1–2, 8, 72; and secularism 5–7, 9, 72, 78, 83–4, 70–85 modernity 67, 176; and Arab world 50; and democracy 164; postcolonial 82, 83, 85; European, Western 121, 176 Modood, Tariq 3, 4, 5, 10, 31 Mohammed (prophet) 124, 149 Mohanty, Chandra Talpade 174 Mollah, Abdul Quader 144 Mondal, Anshuman 122 Moretti, Franco 100 Morey, Peter 4, 11, 12, 60, 192 Morocco 42, 43, 44, 49, 66 Morsi, Mohamed 3, 144 mosques 1, 36, 38–9, 90, 94–5, 99, 103, 124, 128, 132, 136, 151, 193; see also

Index Babri Masjid; Brick Lane mosque; Cordoba Mughals 43, 60, 67–8, 77, 86, 89, 95, 102, 129, 132–3 Muhammad, Omar Bakri 120, 122 mujahideen 51, 59, 108, 187, 188, 194 Mufti, Aamir 2, 9, 10, 70, 71–2, 75, 77, 81, 83, 84, 85 Mukti Bahini (Bangladeshi Liberation Army) 142 multiculturalism 4–6, 8, 33, 35, 37, 39, 60, 62, 64, 67–8, 127, 130, 152, 195, 196 Munoz, Heraldo 169 Musharraf, Pervez 157, 162, 168, 169 music 12, 14, 32, 34, 70–85, 92, 93, 99, 133; and Andalusia 49, 60–1; literary representations 78–85; contrapuntal 72; and national history 74–5, 78, 84; and gender 74–5, 78; and Hindu-Muslim culture 77–8, 84; Muslim musicians 77–8, 84; see also Hindustani music Muslim(s): demonization of 2, 8, 59–60, 192; in film 179–82; ‘good’ and ‘bad’ 23, 76, 138, 142, 144, 147–8, 152, 158, 164–5, 170; and homophobia 172–3, 174–7; in literature 31–6, 38–41, 42–54, 70–85, 142–53, 182–3, 187–97; in media 13, 160, 174–5; orthodox 10; and Partition 2, 11, 70, 77, 80; representations of 3–4, 13; terrorized minority 185, 189; stereotypes of 2, 140, 147, 152, 172, 178, 186–7, 192–3; suspicion of West 27; visibility 2, 3, 174; women 42–56, 63, 167–8; see also British Muslims; Islam; South Asian Muslims; stereotypes Muslim Brotherhood 117–18, 119 ‘Muslimness’ 80, 125, 177, 185–6, 191 ‘Muslim World’ 43, 47, 164, 167, 187, 189, 191, 195 Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) 116, 128, 175 Muslim Student Society of the United Kingdom 118 Muslim Youth Forum 118 Muslim Youth League 118 Nabhani, Taqi 122–3, 125 Nandy, Ashis 5 Nash, Geoffrey 4 Nasr, Vali 93 Nasrid dynasty 59, 68 Nasta, Susheila 128, 192 nation, nation-state: and democracy 2;


and citizenship 79; and minorities 6, 9; and religion 9, 71; and secularism 4–5, 7, 72 national culture 71–2, 74–5, 78, 80, 83–4 national identity 6, 11, 12, 42, 67, 70–1, 74, 75, 188 national language 43, 52, 84 nationalism 5, 9, 70–1, 74–7, 82, 91, 94, 98, 163, 174; anti-colonial 45–8, 52–3; Bengali/Bangladeshi 142–4, 152; and Kashmir 94, 98, 103, 107, 111; and religion 9, 71–2; and women 45–8, 52–3 National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) 163 ‘native informant’ 51 Needham, Anuradha Dingwaney 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 48, 72 neo-colonialism 53, 158, 176 Netherlands, the 175 New Atheism 130, 139, 172 New Labour, Labour Party (UK) 35, 176 New York 25, 35, 59, 63, 128, 131, 161, 185, 190, 191 New York Times, The 13, 128, 157 New York Review of Books, The 157, 160 New Yorker, The 13, 157, 160, 162, 165, 166 Nehru, Jawaharlal 77, 102; and secularism 5, 7, 9, 72 niqab 122 nikah 174 nomad, nomadic 73, 98, 104–6, 111; see also Deleuze nostalgia 72, 75, 85, 89, 96, 101–2, 129, 133, 145, 152, 190, 192 offence 119, 120, 133, 140, 188, 194–5 Oldham 35 Orientalism 3, 64, 95, 174, 177, 179–80, 182, 183, 186, 194 Ottoman Empire 59, 119 Palestine 61, 120 Palestinian (s) 2 Pandey, Gyanendra 5, 9, 82 Pakistan (earlier West Pakistan) 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 32, 42, 43, 48, 49–51, 59, 64, 67, 69, 77, 84, 85, 87, 88, 97, 106, 109, 129, 131–3, 135, 137, 142, 144, 157–71, 186, 187–90, 196; blasphemy legislation 7, 188; civil war see Bangladeshi 1971 war; Islamization of 13, 50, 186–9; ‘new Pakistani literature’ 4; Pakistani Army 119, 143, 162;



Pakistan continued relationship with Afghanistan 50, 59, 129, 165, 187; secularism in 5–7; United States and 13, 50, 157–71, 187, 189–97 Pakistanis, British, in Britain 31, 38, 170, 173, 177–9 Parekh, Bhikhu 5 Partition 2, 4, 5, 7, 10–11, 59, 67, 70, 76–7, 80, 84, 129, 145, 189, 190, 196; and Kashmir 86–7, 92, 97, 131–3 pastoral 90–3, 101, 102–3 patriarchy 2, 37–8, 35, 40, 42, 45, 52–3, 120, 138, 143, 183–4, 188 Peer, Basharat 103, 110, 138 Pelosi, Nancy 168 performance: and gender 74–6; and secularism 83–5; and Islam 125, 137 performativity: and faith 192–4 Persian 20, 43, 45, 50, 60, 61, 62, 89 picturesque 102–3 pluralism 31, 32, 34, 37–8, 39, 41, 46, 62, 80, 85, 125, 132, 134, 137, 143, 147, 151, 152 poetry 12, 45, 59, 59–69, 70, 86–96 Poole, Elizabeth 174 Popham, Peter 6 postcolonial: nation-states 6, 42–3, 48, 52, 72, 78–9, 82, 84, 105; postcolonialism 104–5 Prakash, Gyan 5, 8, 9 private space 42, 44, 46, 53, 76, 126, 128 Prevent Violent Extremism agenda 115 Puar, Jasbir K. 174 public space 7, 42, 44, 48, 52–3, 76 purdah 17, 46, 148 queer identities 172–84 Quilliam Foundation 1, 115 Qur’an 17, 19–21, 26, 31, 37, 40, 46, 62, 137, 148–50, 187, 195 Qutb, Sayed 21, 119, 122 race 3, 4, 8, 31, 32, 36, 173–4, 177, 181, 183; and class 36; and Islam 3; and Muslim identity 31; and religion 173–4, 181, 183; and sexuality 181, 183; see also ethnicity racism 1, 3, 32–3, 119, 125, 172–4, 177, 181–3, 186; and anti-racism 31, 33, 173; see also Islamophobia; Orientalism Rafiq, Haras 116 Rahman, Sheikh Mujib 143 Ram Janam Bhoomi movement 28; see also Ayodhya

Ramayana 26 Ramazani, Jahan 92, 94 Rashid, Ian Iqbal 177–83 religion: and ethnicity, race 174, 181, 183; and nation, nation-state 6–7, 9, 67, 71, 88, 118; and performance 193–4; as private 7, 95, 116, 128, 193, 194; and secularism 2, 6, 8, 10, 13–14, 142–3; see also faith; Islam; Islamism; Muslims; secularism Remnick, David 164, 166, 168 Renaissance, European 62, 66 Robinson, Tommy 1 Rogin, Michael 158 Romantic poetry 90 Roy, Oliver 116, 186 Rumi, Jalaluddin 147, 148 Runnymede Trust 186–7 Rushd, Ibn 50 Rushdie, Salman 31–2, 60, 70, 87, 88, 127–41; East, West 33; The Enchantress of Florence 127, 140; Fury 131; Joseph Anton 32, 128; Luka and the Fire of Life 128; Midnight’s Children 89, 127; The Moor’s Last Sigh 20, 67–8, 135, 138; The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie Affair 4, 8, 13, 18–19, 25, 31, 32, 35, 64–5, 127, 129–30, 147, 173, 193; Shalimar the Clown 31, 101, 127, 131–41; Shame 130 Russia 80, 93, 151; see also Soviets Rustin, Susannah 128 Sacranie, Iqbal 128, 175 Said, Edward W. 3–4, 8, 9, 59, 61, 71–2, 73, 74, 80; see also Orientalism, secular criticism Salafism 122, 138, 139 Santesso, Esra 144 Sardar, Ziauddin 17, 187 Sarwar, Ghulam 118 Saudi Arabia 10, 25, 27, 125, 135 ‘saving discourse’ 157–60, 163, 165, 167–8, 170 Saxey, Esther 172, 177, 182 Sayyid, Salman 186, 195 Scarman Report 173 Schofield, Victoria 86, 87, 97, 99, 103, 131 science 9, 66, 130, 145, 146, 152 sectarianism 118, 132, 134, 164, 188; see also communalism Section 28, 174–5, 176 secular criticism 9, 71–2, 73 secularization 37, 41, 144

Index secularism: in Bangladesh 11–12, 142; in Britain 6; critiques of 4–5, 9; and citizenship 3, 7; constitutional 7; crisis of Indian secularism 7–8, 12, 70–2, 74; in Europe 2, 7, 8; and Hindu nationalism 6, 72; Indian 7, 10, 70–2, 79; and minorities 9, 78, 83; and multiculturalism 4–5; and Muslims, Islam 4–5, 28, 85, 144, 152, 164; and nation-state 4–6, 10; Nehruvian 5, 7, 9, 72; as ‘norm’ 50; in Pakistan 6, 9, 11–13, 142, 164, 166; and rationality 10; and religion 8, 10, 13–14, 143; and tolerance 5, 8, 9; see also Islam; minorities; multiculturalism; Muslims; nation; secular criticism; religion; secularization; tolerance Seth, Vikram 70, 74, 75 sexuality 2, 4, 13, 22, 52, 149, 172, 174, 176–83; and race/ethnicity 173–4, 181, 183; see also homophobia; homosexuality; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities; queer identities Shakespeare, William 12, 47, 92, 111, 146 Shamsie, Kamila 43, 101, 185–97 shariah 116, 128, 187 Sharif, Nawaz 168 Shelley, Percy Bysshe 90–1 Shia(s) 10, 46, 88, 93–4, 96, 131 Sidahmed, Abdel Salam 21 Shih, Shu-Mei 53 Shiv Sena 70, 84 Shryock, Andrew 147–8, 152 Sikhs, Sikhism 10, 28, 68, 131, 152, 174 Smith, Zadie 35 socialism 26, 27, 173 Sontag, Susan 86 Soviet (s) 50, 59, 97, 161, 162, 165, 187, 188, 189 South Africa 151 South Asian Muslim (s) 2–3, 4, 6, 7, 12–13, 128, 172–4, 177–9, 182; writers 8, 11, 42, 52, 59–60, 67 Spain 59–60, 62–5, 67–8, 148; see also Andalusia; Granada; Cordoba Spencer, Robert 128, 129, 130 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty 13, 51, 104, 158, 160, 163, 170; see also ‘saving discourse’ Srinagar 86, 88–9, 90, 93, 94, 103; see also Kashmir stereotypes, stereotyping 2, 4–5, 26, 27,


65, 121, 136, 140, 147, 152, 178, 180, 186–7, 189, 192–3, 194 Sufi, Sufism 10, 20, 36, 37, 38, 94, 115–19, 124–5, 129, 132, 139; in Britain 116–18; as ‘good Muslim’ 148–9, 152; mysticism 47, 60, 89, 133–5; secularized 122, 124 Sufi Muslim Council of Great Britain (SMC) 116–17 Suhrawardy, Shahid 64 Suleri, Sara 196 Sunder Rajan, Rajeswari 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 48, 72 Sunni, Sunnis 46 Sweden 1 syncretic, syncretism 2, 10, 11–12, 50, 53, 77, 85, 88–9, 94–5, 133, 146 Syria 125, 144 Tablighi Jamaat 3, 12, 117, 142, 145, 150–1 Tagore, Rabindranath 88, 146 Taliban 21, 25, 59, 162, 165, 166, 189 Tansen, Mian 77 Taseer, Salman 7 Tatchell, Peter 175 Tate, Andrew 130, 139, 140 Tauqir, Tamsila 174–5, 176, 181 terrorism, terrorists 82, 91, 131, 140, 151, 188, 191, 195; equation of Muslims and Islam with 2, 59, 121, 129, 185–6; Islamic, Islamist 12, 127, 129, 132, 138; Pakistan and 2, 131, 157, 163; representations of 131–3, 136–9; see also ‘War on Terror’ ‘Third World’ 23, 26, 53, 104, 174, 180–1 Tillion, Germaine 136 Times of India 18 tolerance 1–2, 5, 8–9, 72, 82, 125, 134, 147, 183; and intolerance 125, 145, 188 Toronto 177, 179, 180 Turkey 145 Ummah 122, 124–6, 137, 144, 187, 197 United Kingdom Islamic Mission 118 United Nations 13, 87, 157–8, 161, 164, 165–6, 167, 168–9 United States 7, 136, 162, 196; antiAmericanism 138, 196; and Benazir Bhutto 157–71, 161–2, 166–7; media 129, 157–71, 172, 174, 186, 193 (see also individual publication titles); and Pakistan 157–71, 189–90; (North) America (ns) 6, 8, 13, 60, 61, 65, 87,



United States continued 124–5, 128, 129, 131–3, 136, 137, 172, 190; see also 9/11 attacks; Bhutto, Benazir; Bush, George W.; Pakistan; ‘War on Terror’ ul-Haq, Zia 13, 50, 59, 165, 187 Upanishads 92 Urdu 20, 43, 50, 60, 62, 70, 84; and South Asian Anglophone poetry 61, 63–4 Vakil, Abdool Karim 195 VanAntwerpen, Jonathan 6, 9 veil, veiling 4, 52, 53, 63, 122, 128, 136 victim discourse 157–9, 167, 170 victimization 1, 13, 33, 159, 186 violence 17, 22, 25, 63–4, 115, 139, 144, 163–4, 174; against women 51–2, 142; anti-Muslim 1, 28, 85; communal 70–1, 73, 77, 81–2, 85, 91, 129, 132, 188; epistemic 51, 105; Kashmir 86, 88, 91–5, 98–9, 101–2, 106–7, 111; routine 82–3; see also Islamophobia; communalism; terrorism voice/voicelessness 30–1, 52, 95, 110–11, 158, 170, 174 Wahhabis 36, 117, 119, 120, 135 Waheed, Mirza 12, 87, 97–112 ‘War on Terror’ 2, 30, 128, 130, 157–8, 167, 170, 174, 185–7, 191–2

Weaver, Mary Anne 161–2, 165 Willliams, Rowan 128 women: and desire 47–8, 51–2; emancipation of 13, 158; female gaze 51; female space 46, 51–3; Islam and 2, 33, 48, 21; and nation 52–3, 70, 74–5; ‘new woman’ 45, 48; Maghrebi Muslim women’s writing 42–53 (see also individual authors); public and private space, spheres 42, 44–5, 48, 51–3, 74–6, 83; South Asian writers 42–56, 70–85 (see also individual authors); and tradition 48–9; violence against 52, 144; and ‘voice consciousness’ 158, 170; women’s bodies 22, 44, 51; women’s history 51; women’s rights 45–6, 128, 167, 176, 188 Women of the Ummah (WOTU) 167 Woolwich, London 1, 2 World Assembly of Muslim Youth 118 ‘writing back’ 4 xenophobia 2, 186, 195 Yaqin, Amina 4, 60, 192 Yassin-Kassab, Robin 38, 39–41 Yeats, W.B. 91–2 zananah 51 Ziring, Lawrence 143, 161, 168