Parvaiz’s British and Muslim Identity Struggle

 

Who are you? are you suddenly tongue tide to answer this question? In British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie’s 2017 “Home Fire” novel the character Parvaiz is a complex dimensional character, that tries to discover his identity. Parvaiz has two sisters, Isma and Aneeka, who live in Great Britain. Isma decided to move to Massachusetts to obtain her PHd in Sociology. While in Massachusetts Isma met Eamonn, the son of the home secretary, Karamat Lone. Aneeka is a law student, Eamonn visists Aneekas home and the two begin a complicated yet passionate romance that results in a proposal and multiple fights. Parvaiz is recruited into joining ISIS by Farooq. Farooq uses Parvaiz’s father in order to convince Parvaiz that his father was a great man and his legacy must be continued.

More specifically, the scene that this post will focus on is the scene in which Farooq is trying to convince Parvaiz that the reason for his unhappiness is his sisters’ fault. Farroq says that Isma and Aneeka keep him in the house in order for him to do chores for them, they have done this by keeping Parvaiz dependent on them in a childlike state, where he depends on Isma like a child depends on their mother. Farooq specially blames Isma for having extensive control over Parvaiz. He quotes the Quran and says that ‘Men are in charge of women’. Farooqs words turned in Parvaizs mouth and it made him think to himself,

“He was a Muslim, of course; he believed in God, and went to the mosque for Eid prayers, and put aside 2.5 percent of his income for zakat, which he split between Islamic Relief and the library campaign, but beyond that, religion had, since early child hood been a space he’d vacated rather than live in it in the shadow of Isma’s superiority” (Shamsie 133).

In this quote the most outstanding literary device is metaphor. This metaphor is seen in the line “Religion had, since early childhood been a space he’d vacated”, the metaphor compares religion to a physical space. This implicates that religion is a physical space that he can step in and out of off, and that in this case he stepped out of during his early childhood. Ismas superiority caused him to vacate the space of religion and puts up a barrier between him and his Muslim identity. Parvaiz didn’t completely separate himself from religion, he “believed in God, and went to the mosque for Eid prayers and put aside 2.5 percent of his income for Zakat” (133). He touched the surface level of religion but separated himself from the deep aspects of being Muslim. This is the ideal British identity according to Karamat Lone, an identity he no longer feels comfortable with.

In the metaphor the word “vacate” meaning is important because it shows the absence of Parvaiz’s presence in his Muslim religious life. The metaphor of comparing religion to physical space creates an image of an object, for instance a room. Religion can be seen as a room that Parvaiz smoothly touches the surface of but does not enter to. In addition, the space has a shadow that is created from Ismas superiority, Parvaiz is allowed to travel to the center through “the shadow of Ismas superiority” (133). In addition, Parvaiz is not able to “live in” the space that he vacated which further distances him from religion.

This metaphor points out the important turning point in Parvaiz’s religious connection in which he makes religion a space he can dominate as a result of Farook’s influence. His British and Muslim influence can be distinguished by his dominance in the “space” of religion. Parvaizs British identity is subservient to Ismas and in his Muslim identity he can take charge of how and what he does with his life. He can now fully take part in his Muslim Identity and leave his British identity behind.

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Works Cited:

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

What’s in a Name?

How do we make our identities evident to those around us? One of the ways is through our name. My name, for example, Heidi, showcases my American identity while my last name, Kim, showcases my Asian identity. In Kamila Shamsie’s Homefire (2017), the Muslim and British identities intersect in Karamat Lone’s son’s name, Eammon. Eammon’s name showcases how the Muslim identity shadows the British identity, portraying the British identity as dominant.

Shamsie illustrates the intersection of British and Muslim identities through the character of Eammon, Karamat Lones’s son. In the first chapter told from Isma’s perspective, she notices a young Muslim man who looks like Home Secretary Karamat Lone, but soon finds out that the young man is his son, Eammon. Before approaching him, Isma’s thought process explains that Eammon’s name had been changed from “Ayman” to “Eammon” so people would understand that his father, Karamat, “had integrated” and further depict his father’s “integrationist posing” (Shamsie 16).

Shamsie’s use of the words “integrated” and “integrationist” implies that in order for the Muslim identity to be considered equal, it must be combined with the British identity. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines  “integration” as “incorporation as equals into society or an organization of individuals of different groups” (Merriam-Webster). Through Eammon’s name change and the context behind it, it depicts that the Muslim identity is one that is inferior and must be combined with the British identity in order for it to be considered equal. Additionally, it portrays the integration of the Muslim and British identities as a positive thing, rather than a negative thing for needing to adjust one’s personal identity to fit the confines of another.

In using the words “integration” and “integrationist” in consecutive sentences, it reiterates how important it is to identify more as British than Muslim. Using the word “integration” instead of the word “assimilation” indicates the combining of the two identities rather than the complete removal of one identity. If Shamsie had used the word “assimilation” instead of “integration”, it would then seem as if identifying as Muslim is unacceptable. In using the word “integration”, it depicts the adjusting of one’s identity rather than completely eradicating it.

Shamsie’s use of the words “integration” and “integrationist” is significant because it depicts how the changing or adjusting of one’s identity is evident through a generation and the importance of showcasing the combining of identities. It informs the reader of how the British identity is the identity that is the more outstanding than the Muslim identity.

 

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017

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British or Muslim: One or the Other, But Not Both

If there’s ever an appropriate time to speak your mind casually, it’s with your friends, when you can be your most uncensored.  However, the thoughts we share casually might often be derived from unconscious stereotypes.  In Kamila Shamsie’s 2017 novel Home Fire, the character Eamonn is the son of Britain’s Home Secretary who is known for his rigid stance against British Muslims involved in terrorist organizations and who has suppressed his own personal Muslim upbringing.  Eamonn is also romantically involved with Aneeka, who wears a hijab and whose twin brother has left England to join ISIS in Syria.  In the novel, Eamonn’s friends begin to mock his involvement with a more traditional practicing Muslim woman, utilizing the literary device of hyperbole to tease him.  Through the crafting of Eamonn’s character, Shamsie exhibits how difficult it is to adhere to two separate societal expectations of culture.

In one particular scene, Eamonn meets his friends in a park for what ends up being a laid-back sort of intervention on account of him spending much of his time with Aneeka over them.  Eamonn is jokingly judged by his friends for beginning to “act” Muslim, contributing to the notion that if he wants to fit in with his British friends, he needs to act less Muslim, and more standardly British.  His friend Mark jokes, “Twenty-something unemployed male from Muslim background exhibits rapidly altered pattern of behavior, cuts himself off from old friends, moves under the radar.  Also, are we sure that’s an evening shadow rather than an incipient beard? I think we may need to alert the authorities” (Shamsie 84).  Another friend goes on to joke that they haven’t lost him completely because he is still drinking alcohol.  This phrasing in particular suggests that Eamonn’s supposed shift toward becoming more Muslim culturally sparks an influx of culturally essentialist jokes by his British friends.

The hyperbole stating that “we may need to alert the authorities” connotes that any linkage to Muslim tradition must be something worthy of reporting as suspicious behavior (Shamsie 84).  In passing this exaggerated implication in a casual, joking manner, Eamonn’s friend Mark helps illuminate how commonplace it is to assume that a British individual with strong links to Muslim identity becomes an internal enemy to England.

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The effect of hyperbole in this example directly correlates to the understanding of Eamonn’s friends regarding British and Muslim identity.  Individuals such as Aneeka’s brother, who isolated himself from his family and defected to ISIS, act as a scapegoat for the type of cultural stereotyping people have about British Muslims.  Anybody in England with any sort of Muslim identity becomes immediately stigmatized as dangerous when there is an “altered pattern of behavior” (Shamsie 84).  While Eamonn’s friends might be exaggerating in their joke about alerting the authorities, their joke is a harsh reality for Britons who feel a need to protect and separate Britain from Islam.

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. New York: Riverhead Books, 2017.

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Interrogating Identity–Literally

The word “identity” is often thrown around as if it is something constant that everyone has. However, identity can be incredibly difficult to navigate. In her novel Home Fire (2017), Kamila Shamsie tells the story of the Pasha siblings, who are British, Muslim, and orphaned. Parvaiz, twin of Aneeka and the only boy of the siblings, falls for ISIS propaganda because he feels lost, longs for a connection to his dead father, and because the racism and anti-Muslim violence of Britain make it difficult for him to construct an identity as a British Muslim. In Parvaiz’s narrative, Shamsie uses rhetorical questions to illustrate what Parvaiz comes to feel is the irreconcilability of the United Kingdom’s history of violence against Muslim people and British Muslim identity.

After he learns that his eldest sister, Isma, will be moving to America and selling the family home, Parvaiz drifts under the influence of Farooq, an older ISIS fighter who seeks to recruit him. In the process of recruiting Parvaiz, Farooq asks him a series of rhetorical questions that target Parvaiz’s precarious sense of national and religious identity.

M15 officers were present at Bagram, Farooq told him, and showed him evidence to corroborate that. Your government, the one that took taxes from your family and claimed to represent the people, knew what was going on. How can you live in this place, accepting, after all that you now know? How can you live in this mirage of democracy and freedom? What kind of man are you, what kind of son are you? (Shamsie 150-1)

These questions contain their own answers. By calling Parvaiz’s home “this place,” Farooq distances him from it. By juxtaposing his connection to Britain with Britain’s histories of violence and a lack of masculinity and family loyalty, Farooq makes it impossible for Parvaiz to answer that he can live in Britain. This quote is part of Parvaiz’s third-person internal monologue, which shows how Farooq’s questions have entered his mind and begun to shape every aspect of how he sees the world.

Farooq’s questions also get at a true inconsistency in Parvaiz’s supposed citizenship and belonging. Although Farooq’s intentions are manipulative, many of the images and facts that he presents to Parvaiz are accurate. Britain does participate in torture abroad, and racism at home. By presenting questions that contain their own answers, Shamsie demonstrates how untenable British Muslim identity is for Parvaiz.

 

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

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Identity, Unchained

We are only as strong as our weakest link. In Kamila Shamsie’s novel Home Fire (2017), she explores the way in which a fragmented and broken identity can wreak havoc on ones self and their relationships with others. One of the main characters in the novel, Parvaiz, delves into his Muslim Identity, although he is British and considers him self a Muslim and a Londoner, the exploration of his islamic identity and his understanding of the islamic state brings him closer to his father, affords him a sense of freedom from the doubts he has never confronted, but tears him away from his family. He looses the sense of security he once felt with the duality of his identity and allows his Muslim identity to overtake his British identity, leading him to make life altering decisions.

As Parvaiz builds a bond with Farooq, a member of an extremist group he begins to feel closer to his father and gain an understanding of the significance of his Muslim identity. Upon entering Farooq’s apartment Parvaiz finds himself chained and waterboarded, as a means to simulate the torture his father had to endure. After Farooq frees him form he chains and lets Parvaiz leave he feels a sense of peace and solace despite the physical pain he has endured. He feels closer too his father, and feels a yearning to pursue a career in the Islamic state for it gives him a sense of connection to his father, and gives him the feeling of brotherhood and security. On his return home he notices the sound of a “wedding ring against a yellow hand rail” which Shamsie likens to “chains unlinking.” In likening the sound to “chains unlinking” Shamsie highlights the impact of the ordeal Parvaiz has endured, but simultaneously uses the imagery created by the disassembly of chain links to connote the sense of freedom Parvaiz has gained. He feels free from doubt as he has come to understand more about his father, but he also feels free from uncertainty about his identity. He embraces the muslim identity he had kept locked away out of fear, and he had suppressed his faith with his British identity, as he had never explored his connection to Islam because of his father and because of the way in which he felt persecuted in British society. Whilst this metaphor signifies a significant revelation for Parvaiz, it also symbolizes the close bond between him and his sisters being broken. As his revelation and the breaking of chains foreshadows his disassociation from his siblings when he leaves England to join the extremist group his father was a part of.

Shamsie’s use of this metaphor in conjunction with the use of foreshadowing highlights the way in which Parvaiz’s identity takes him from a whole man, to a fragmented and broken man. Like a chain, it is only as strong as its links. In the convergence of his two conflicting identities, his newfound understanding for his islamic identity breaks him apart from his British identity, and separates him from his sisters who embrace both identities as one, rather than two conflicting halves. Shamsie demonstrates the impact of conflicting identities throughout the development of Parvaiz’s character, and uses her craft to highlight the detrimental impact of conflicting identities.

 

By Caroline Berezin

Works Cited

Shamsie, Kamila. Home Fire. Riverhead Books, 2017.

Blog Post #3