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.