How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position

Funny and insightful, engaging and sad – these are all words I’d use to describe Tabish Khair’s How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position , a must-read book for 2014.

9781472110480

Set in Denmark, the tale begins with the unnamed protagonist, a non-practicing Indian Muslim, English lit academic and recent divorcee, providing a ‘Prolegomenon to a Plot’. In these opening pages, he feeds the reader with small but intriguing snippets of information, first about his divorce, then about how he came to live with his rich, charming best friend, Ravi, an academic and sometimes Hindu, and Karim Bhai, a fiercely devout Muslim. Given the two friends both enjoy a carefree lifestyle of drinking and casual sex, and Karim Bhai is adamantly opposed to anything like that, they seem an unlikely trio to cohabitate. But their intelligent discussions regarding religion and humanity make for interesting and often thought-provoking discourse throughout the novel.

The introduction also reveals the driving theme of the story – that being the fact that some sort of ‘Islamist terror attack’ has occurred and the main characters were somehow involved. The story then begins, with the narrator back-tracking to explain the events that led up to the ‘incident’.

This is a absolute page-turner. Throughout the chapters, the reader is bated with clues and shards of information, almost as though author Khair is enticing the reader to draw a conclusion about the characters,  even before the truth is revealed. And it works. As the reader, I couldn’t help but dissect each morsel and question what it meant in relation to the ‘incident’. Why does Karim keep disappearing for days a time? Why is Ravi so interested in participating in Karim’s Friday night Qur’an sessions? Who are the mystery visitors that come and go from the flat?

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All is revealed at the end – but not before I’d created a mound of possible conclusions in my mind. So, why did I make those particular conclusions? I don’t know. But Khair has successfully crafted a novel that not only entertains  but also leaves you examining your own behaviours and beliefs.

At just under 200 pages, it’s a quick and enjoyable read, one filled with likeable characters, witty banter and humorous situations. Despite its brevity and light-hearted style, it manages to offer an honest, insightful commentary on the world today, one that reveals many of humanity’s flaws and highlights the stereotyping that goes on every day (in every culture!). A novel that explores serious ideas of prejudice, fear mongering, racism and religion, as well as themes of love, literature and self-acceptance, How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position is a book I highly recommend!

 

 

 

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