The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Saima Saeed
HOW TO FIGHT ISLAMIST TERROR FROM THE MISSIONARY POSITION by Tabish Khair Fourth Estate , HarperCollins Publishers India, 2012, 191 pp., 450
September 2012, volume 36, No 9

Tabish Khair’s fourth novel is a brilliant piece of satire on Islamic terror and Islamism and how the West perceives, as also reacts to the two, post 9/11. The setting of the novel in Aarhus, Denmark brings out the stark contradictions and cultural divides between the East and the West, the cosmopolitan and the local, tradition and modernity, the colonizer and the colonized.

To begin with Khair’s choice of the three central characters—the narrator, a Pakistani Muslim who asserts his atheism on several occasions; his friend, charming and flamboyant Ravi and their fundamentalist landlord Karim Bhai whose staunch adherence to a Muslim way of life makes him a perfect character that invokes a series of responses (from suspicion, to hate, even deep abhorrence of his traditional and closed understanding of life, religion, women, food, alcohol et al, is telling. To that extent love, relationships and women on the one hand and reactions to Islam (Ravi, ‘technically’ a Hindu but with keen interest in Islam starkly contrasted to the two opposite types of Muslims, Karim Bhai a near fanatic and the narrator who is at pains to establish his disconnect with Islam) on the other, are the key themes that bring all the elements and events in this remarkable novel together.

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