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.

It’s Your Fault

Image result for muslim assimilationMuslims in Britain can find it difficult to be accepted for who they really are. They may feel forced to lose apart of themselves and their culture due to the expectations of others in society. The novel Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (2017), an award winning writer and novelist, does a good job of depicting how some Muslims are often treated, and the hardships they have to face because of practicing their religion. The book first introduces readers to a woman named Isma who is traveling through customs but gets taken into custody by the police; she is seen as a threat due to her hijab and religious beliefs. Eventually she makes it through customs and acclimates herself in  Massachusetts where she casually has coffee with a man named Eamonn, who is the son of a politician named Karamat Lone. Eamonn expresses to Isma that he left London so that he could escape from the drama associated with his fathers beliefs on Muslim practices.

Later on in the novel there is a scene where Eamonn watches a video of his dad presenting his views to a group of Muslim students, on how they needed to live their lives in order to thrive in London he tells the students “Don’t set yourself apart in the way you dress, the way you think, the outdated codes of behavior you cling to, the ideologies to which you attach your loyalties. Because if you do, you will be treated differently–not because of racism though that does still exist, but because you insist on your difference from everyone else in the multiethnic, multitudinous United Kingdom of ours” (Shamsie 90). This quote communicates to readers that Karamat does count his Muslim culture as a part of his identity. But it also displays that he feels he along with the other students, that he refers to as “you”, need to hide parts of their religious practices in order to prevent receiving backlash from society. Karamat’s use of the word “you” makes readers understand that this topic is very important to him because he doesn’t just generalize the students into one group. He instead tries to communicate with the students on a level that directly speaks to each person even though he is speaking to a large group. Throughout the entire speech Karamat referred to the students using the pronoun “you” by doing so he individually engages each student in his conversations, and blames them for being the reason why they as Muslims are treated so poorly. Karamat communicated to each student that unless they assimilated they were going to suffer in society and the only person to blame would be themselves. This shows Karamat’s support of Muslims as a whole to lose their contrasting religious habits that set them apart from others in order to prosper; which suggests that a persons Muslim identity has to be outshone by their London identity. 


Works Cited

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



Two Identities, One Decision B3

In the novel Home Fire (2017) by Kamila Shamsie, all the characters have an internal conflict with their British and Muslim identities. Parvaiz, is conflicted with his identity, as he begins to learn about his father. He never knew his father, so when he learns about him, he wants to be just like him, he sees him as a hero that fought for Iraq; his country. He believes that by learning more about his father, he will be more connected with him and his Muslim identity would be more prominent.

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Shamsie states, “Muslim men need to be detained, harassed, pressed against the ground with a heel on our throat,” (135).  The quote uses imagery to represent how Muslim men are treated in Britain. Muslim men are mistakenly viewed as a threat. The quote does not explain Parvaiz’s experience as a Muslim man in Britain, but it does explain how he feels. He did not understand, until he started to learn about his father, Adil Pasha. Adil Pasha was not talked about in Parvaiz’s family, they avoided bringing him up. To Parvaiz’s family, Adil willingly left them to return to Islam to fight, which resulted to him being labeled as a terrorist in Britain, preventing him from coming back home to his family. That was the version Parvaiz grew up knowing until he met Farooq, a young Muslim man that told him stories of the war and the experiences both of their father’s had.

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From Farooq’s stories, Parvaiz uncovered that his father was not wrong for leaving. Farooq explained that Britain is not welcoming to migrants and that Islam is because there is no differentiating between race, class, and skin color. In Islam everyone is accepted and important, not ignored. Farooq put this idea in Parvaiz’s head. Since Britain could do nothing for him, he should put his energy elsewhere, such as Islam, a country he belongs to and that cares about him. This is like what his father did, because he left everything back in Britain, such as his family to go to war in Islam because he believed in something bigger than himself: his country. The quote emphasis this bigger picture, which is belonging and acceptance. Parvaiz began to only consider himself Muslim. His Muslim identity and understanding his father were not emphasized enough, so now that he has the chance to learn more, he is going to take advantage of it.

Works Cited

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


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.


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


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.