Can You be Both Muslim and British?

Ziauddin Yousafzai, an educational activist, stated this remarkable quote, “I have multiple identities. I’m British. I’m Pakistani. I’m a Muslim. I’m a writer. I’m a father. And each identity has rich overtones. So I must be careful to look at your identity, and that of others, in the same way.” The novel, Home Fire (2017), by Kamila Shamsie, also explores the multiple identities of humans.

The first 183 pages of the novel, Home Fire, takes us through the perspectives of Isma, Aneeka, Eammon, then Parvaiz. The story is set in London where Isma is the older sister of twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz. Having lost their both their parents, one whom was seen as a terrorist by Britain (the father), we see the different paths these characters life takes them on and the intersection of their Muslim and British identities. Isma takes off to America to further her education while Aneeka is attending Law school in London on a full scholarship, and Parvaiz leaves to Syria under the influence of Farooq, a man who claims he can teach him more about his father but later shows to be false. More Specifically, I will focus on Aneeka who is dating Eamonn, the Secretary of the State’s son, and how her multiple identities, Women, British, and Muslim, oppose each other in existing in Britain.

On page 72, Aneeka is staying over at Eamonn’s apartment where they were previously having sex, and a few hours later, it is time for her to pray according to her Muslim religion. Shamsie writes, “He should have left immediately, but he couldn’t help watching this woman, this stranger, prostrating herself to God in the room where she’d been down on her knees for a very different purpose just hours earlier” (72). Shamise uses imagery to display different perspectives of Aneeka based on her different identities and how they are at odds.

The quote produces effects of imagery because words such as “this woman,this stranger” paints a picture of Aneeka being someone Eamonn doesn’t know despite that being his girlfriend. She is “prostrating herself to God” showing us that she is praying, but that image is contrasted with the earlier actions of her being, “down on her knew for a very different purpose just hours ago.” The words, “This woman, this stranger,” implies that Aneeka is not someone Eammon knows. Painting a picture of someone different then who he has been with a few hours prior. The images brought up by the words, “He should have left immediately,” are one of non-belonging and out of place for Eammon in the room. The reason he feels like this is because the actions of Aneeka currently playing is juxtaposed with the image of her being on her knees earlier for sexual activities.

The imagery produces these effects because it produces a juxtaposition of Aneeka being a woman and having sex to her being Muslim while living in Britain.This juxtaposition implies that these two activities can not be done or is not expected to be done by the same person, especially not in that frame of time.The connotations brought up by his uneasiness is the setting they live in, London where being Muslim is not seen as parallel to being Britain. This reveals the Women identity, Muslim, and British identity of Aneeka. It also reveals how it is not easy for all three of her identities to be seen as inter-sectional in the British society as shown by Eamonn’s surprise by her praying after having sex, calling her, “this woman, this stranger.” This Imagery illuminates the lack of and inability for Aneeka to freely intertwine and express both her gender, being Muslim, and being British.These effects produced by this imagery are important because it shows how hard it is for Aneeka integrate her different identities in everyday situations.


Works Cited

“Ziauddin Sardar.” Wind and Fly LTD, 2019. 07 March 2019.

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

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.


Works Cited

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