The #MuslimBan Reading List: Advanced Class
Although the Muslim Ban is temporarily suspended, the fact that it happened still means that we are unsafe. In this political climate where our phones are shaking with panic with news of a terrorist for president-cum-dictator, arming yourself with knowledge is perhaps not a bad idea. Don’t come at brown people with your ignorance, please.
This reading list continues from this post I wrote (and this Instagram image I posted) to be a personalized introduction to the dilemma — and celebration — of modern Muslim identity. These selections go deeper thematically, psychologically, racially, and historically into deconstructing the fear around the Islamic world.
Descent into Chaos: The United States & the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan & Central Asia — Ahmed Rashid
Intrepid Pakistani reporter Ahmed Rashid illuminates the culture of chaos born by the West with regard to the East, and perpetuated by opportunists with little regard for the war-torn and rugged, yet rich, landscapes of the more dangerous regions of the world.
Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition— Nisid Hajari
What does Partition have to do with the Muslim world? Everything. Hajari’s work contextualizes a cycle of ruthless violence targeting Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, that spun out of control politically. As the summer of 1947 approached, all three groups were heavily armed and on edge, and the British rushed to leave. Some of the most brutal and widespread religious segregation in modern history — and not to mention the greatest migration in human history — erupted on both sides of the new border, searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today.
Epic family saga set in Egypt under colonial rule from Naguib Mahfouzwww.bbc.co.uk
The Cairo Trilogy — Naguib Mahfouz
The BBC radio 4 dramatized series of the classic Naguib Mahfouz trilogy features Omar Sharif and is a treat to listen to (and a relief not to power through the many meaty volumes of!). Colonialism, betrayal, and marital bliss are some of the themes called into question through the perspective of one Muslim family living under the British occupation of Egypt.
American Muslim Women: Negotiating Race, Class, and Gender Within the Ummah — Jamillah Karim
In order for Islam to work, it must be intersectional. Sound familiar? This ethnographic study of African American and South Asian immigrant Muslims in the American city explores how Islamic ideals of racial harmony and equality create hopeful possibilities in an American society that remains challenged by race and class inequalities. The work focuses on women who seek self-determination outside of their ethnic Muslim spaces in search of gender justice.
The Golden Cage: Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny — Shirin Ebadi
This novel written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi traces the destinies of three men of the faith navigating the Shah Pahlavi dynasty up until Khomeini’s revolution which rocked Iran and led to a massive diaspora. Ebadi shows why the events of 1979 shaped Islamic Iran’s PR problem and history of diplomatic troubles with the US today.
Feminists, Islam, and Nation : Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt— Margot Badran
And speaking of the making of the modern nation, Margot Badran has a very well-honed feminist perspective on the topic. Her work unsettles a common claim that “feminism is Western” and puts to rest the alleged opposition between feminism and Islam. The text draws upon various pieces of women’s writing to tell the story of how Egyptian women assumed agency and subverted the conventional patriarchal order.
Vikram Seth's tale about a mother's attempts to find her daughter a husband in 1950s Indiawww.bbc.co.uk
A Suitable Boy — Vikram Seth
This is one of my most beloved stories ever, about a woman trying to find a viable suitor for her daughter in 1950s India. Defending the title of the longest novel in the world, BBC Radio 7, never one to miss an opportunity to render venerable literary works into snacking size, conveniently dramatized it into a beautiful tale of multiethnic, post-Partition Indian society. Courtship and prejudice swap masks upon love interests of differing faiths. Watch for the sequel, A Suitable Girl, coming soon!
Curfewed Night — Basharat Peer
This work by renowned Kashmiri Journalist Basharat Peer is his powerful memoir of growing up in war-torn Kashmir. Peer lays out scenes of the delicate beauty of Dal Lake, the vulnerable peace of the mountains, and the terrifying violence of the city square to contextualize one of many terrorized minority groups in the South Asian subcontinent.
Age of Anger: A History of the Present — Pankaj Mishra
Indian scholarly writer Pankaj Mishra explores the origins of the great wave of paranoiac hatred that has grasped our modern society. Topic range from American “lone wolf shooters” and ISIS to Trump, Modi, and racism and misogyny on social media.
The Satanic Verses — Salman Rushdie
You can’t study Muslim literary works without including the seminal Rushdie novel that prompted Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini to declare a fatwa on him. It is a controversial work of fantasy that merges evil with faith, falling together and struggling mid-flight.
Bastard of Istanbul — Elif Shafak
This beautifully written novel by famed Turkish writer Elif Shafak Elif Shafak confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. Family sagas entwine against genocide, mass deportation, and existentialism.
Walking Through Fire: A Life of Nawal El Saadawi — Nawal el-Saadawi, Sherif Hetata
I wanted to finish this list off strong with the one woman who inspires me most with her tenacity and persistence that intersectional feminism is the way. This semi-autobiographical work chronicles el Saadawi’s upbringing and encounters with child brides, female genital mutilation, patriarchy. She deconstructs the tendency toward oppressive sexual expression on the part of faith systems with an intellectual eye.
Thanks for reading my recommended reading list. I’d love to see what you’ve got in your personal libraries as well!
Encourage your inquisitive mind with the wealth of knowledge that is out there, and don’t let ignorance, shame, or inertia hold you back.