Kamila Shamsie: Intersection of British Muslim Identity

As a child, I often paused before answering the question, “where are you from?”. I was never confident nor interested in trying to briefly summarize my Tibetan-American identity which I was still working to piece together for myself throughout my adolescence. During standardize testing, I hesitated when requested to fill-in-the-circle which best encapsulated my multicultural identity of “Asian”. Although I lacked the vocabulary and emotional maturity to articulate my thoughts, my intuition guided me to a gut feeling of wrongness. I felt reduced by a statistic which worked to devalue the individuality in my existence. In the novel Home Fire (2017), Kamila Shamsie develops scenes which successfully illuminate intersectional identities of British Muslim character Eamonn Lone.

From a young age, Eamonn develops a sense of instinctual uncertainty and defensiveness of his precarious British identity. Born into a Pakistani immigrant family, Eamonn identifies more comfortably with the predominantly white culture of Notting Hill’s upper-class. Eamonn’s father, Karamat Lone, who holds the position of British home secretary, has been accused of being an extremist by native Londoners and a traitor among London’s Muslim immigrant community. The insecurity which Eamonn feels towards his identity roots itself in ideologies of assimilation in which his father encourages the “need for British Muslims to lift themselves out of the Dark Ages” in order to dodge discrimination (Shamsie, 61).

Eamonn makes a trip to Aunty Iseems’ home outside of London after befriending Isma in Amherst, MA over the shared connection of being British Muslim abroad. Upon entering Aunty Iseems’ home, the hypersensitivity to which Eamonn feels towards the emblems of Pakistani culture decorating the walls of her home is outstanding when Eamonn observes Aunty Iseem as “determined to inhabit a stereotype” while warmly offering to fry him samosas (Shamsie, 64). Shamsie’s choice of diction when articulating Eamonn’s observation of Aunty Iseems determination to fulfill the Muslim stereotype of eating samosas suggests a rhetoric which acknowledges the act of eating samosas while being Muslim as negative. Shamsie’s choice of diction when she describes Aunty Iseems as “determined”, hints at the foolish irony of her chasing what is harmful to her. So, the determination described by Eamonn of Aunty Iseems, implies the associations of the Muslim identity as shameful, unlike the British identity. The effects of this observation, works to reveal how Eamonn prefers to claim and engage identities associated with Britishness over Muslim.

In this same interaction, Eamonn reflects on his missed experience of not knowing his “dadi” or paternal grandmother (Shamsie, 64). Eamonn’s “wishing” for a paternal grandmother reveals feelings seeking familiarity (Shamsie, 64). In conflicting interest, Eamonn stands in between his wish for further connection into aspects of the Muslim identity which don’t disturb his Britishness. Eamonn wishes to obtain a sustainable balance of both his Muslim and British identities. The significance of his observations relay the consistently shifting dynamic Earmonn faces in his intersectional identity. Eamonn will always shift between identities because that is the nature of an intersectionality.

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Works Cited

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

Struggling to Breathe

What happens when you feel yourself being split between two worlds? Do you pick one or opt to transition between both for the rest of your life? In Kamila Shamsie’s 2017 novel “Home Fire”, she sheds light on young British Muslims trying to find their identities in a society that is telling them to hide their Muslim side. Parvaiz, the sole brother of the Pasha siblings, has always felt like he was in the shadow of his sisters. So when ISIS recruitment soldier Farooq finds him and fills his mind with with prospects of greatness and a sense of purpose, Parvaiz becomes torn between two worlds. Through the use of personification Shamsie encapsulates this conflict between his Muslim and British identity. 

Farooq shows Parvaiz pictures of men by the Euphrates river with promises of the caliphate being a paradise for muslims. All this newfound knowledge and temptations of belonging flip a switch in Parvaiz. The narrator states “increasingly his lungs did not know how to breathe the air of London”(Shamsie 150) followed by Farooq asking him numerous questions wondering how he could want to stay in a country that limits his freedom. The personification of the lungs being the things breathing instead of Parvaiz allow for a sort of separation between himself and his organ; this fuels the separation he has been feeling through the entirety of the novel. Here Parvaiz’s lungs appear to be in distress considering they can no longer breathe this “London air”. Lungs are vital organs we can’t live without; it’s simple if you can’t breathe you eventually die. By personifying the lungs as being a thing that’s slowly suffocating, Shamsie allows us to see the extent of Parvaiz’s distain for his currently life in London. It’s not just a simple dislike for his current living situation, but something that is equivalent to physically hurting or killing him. Suffocating is a slow and painful process that will turn deadly if not treated properly. Farooq tries to offer a “treatment” by persuading him to accompany him to the caliphate. Considering the physical and mental pain Parvaiz is experiencing it was no surprise he took Farooq up on his offer. 

By stating his lungs are suffocating due to the London air, we can interpret Parvaiz is beginning to resent his “London side”. After seeing a place where everyone embraced being Muslim in what appeared to be a brotherhood of men, his lungs began to yearn for the “liberating” smell of the caliphate air. It is here we see the shift from a British-Muslim to simply Muslim. It leaves us to wonder, why must he throw away one identity in order to embrace another? 

 

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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