“How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position” by Tabish Khair: Review by Lasana M. Sekou

There are Caribbean people who would call Tabish Khaira bold man,” “that bold-faced fellow,” for daring to write How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position, his newest novel.

Some of us might agree with The Times of London that the book is “Hilarious” and brilliant. But a good many would belabor its gritty humor-glad irreverence (not necessarily in a bad way, nor even as a question, and as if forgetting that our kaisonians and tone-laden languages do it withwe own thingall of the time!).

Award-winning author Tabish Khair in London, England, reading from his newest novel How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position. (Photo courtesy T. Khair)

Award-winning author Tabish Khair in London, England, reading from his newest novel How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position. (Photo courtesy T. Khair)

So, readers in St. Martin and other parts of the region and its external frontiers, might pose matter-of-factly, “How Tabish could write so” (yes, we’d use his first name), about certain issues that are becoming increasingly acerbic worldwide. Issues that toggle incessantly at the fabric of human affairs, even as we’re barely robed halfway in the second decade of the new century: religious extremism, rabid racial, ethnic, and immigrant phobias, terrorism, and “the misunderstanding between rich and poor.”

A Huffington Post review remarks that while Khair does look at such issues of the day, he also explores “more personal themes of love and imperfection, literature and life, city and country.” The satirical novel of less than 200 pages is further a “rare thing: a mature comic novel,” according to a review in The New Republic.

The publisher of How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position, Interlink Publishing, gets straight to the juicy point: The unnamed Pakistani narrator copes with his divorce, Ravi -despite his exterior of skeptical flamboyance – falls deeply in love with a beautiful woman who is incapable of responding in kind, Karim, their landlord, goes on with his job as a taxi driver and his regular Friday Qur’an sessions. But … why does he disappear suddenly at times or receive mysterious phone calls? When a “terrorist attack” takes place in the Danish town where they are immigrants and flat mates, all three men find themselves embroiled in doubt, suspicion, and, perhaps, danger.

Cyber consultant, author, and model, Nya Gregor Fleron, discovers the pleasure of reading How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position, in New York City’s Central Park. (J.V. Lauritzen/photo courtesy T. Khair)

Cyber consultant, author, and model, Nya Gregor Fleron, discovers the pleasure of reading How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position, in New York City’s Central Park. (J.V. Lauritzen/photo courtesy T. Khair)

I asked Tabish (see what I mean about first names?) to comment on or select a line from the text that might bring the novel home to Caribbean audiences, for whom I think that this book is unmissable. He chose from the text: “For me, though, infected surely by Ravi’s enthusiasm and sense of wonderment at what had happened between them, it was like a miracle gone unremarked: as if someone was walking on water while people went about their barbeque parties all over the beach, poking sausage and salting steak on their grills, and guzzling down beer.”

This week the paperback edition of How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position was released and is available at Internet bookstores. The book has been having a successful run with its European, Canadian, and USA hardback editions, a French translation, international reviews, and author appearances – following and overlapping each other in rapid order between late 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. A former guest author of the St. Martin Book Fair, Khair is already set for book signings in Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere in the second half of the year.

Tabish Khair was born in India in 1966 and has taught at Aarhus University in Denmark, where he lives. He is the author of several critically acclaimed novels and poetry collections. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize as well as fellowships at Delhi, Cambridge, and Hong Kong, his novels–The Bus Stopped (2004), Filming: A Love Story (2007), and The Thing About Thugs (2010)–have been translated into several languages and shortlisted for major literary prizes including the Encore Award (UK), the Crossword Prize, the Hindu Best Fiction Prize, the DSC Prize for South Asia (India), and the Man Asian Literary Prize (Hong Kong). His co-edited Other Routes – 1500 Years of African and Asian Travel Writing is a paradigm-shifting must read for any one interested in the history of tourism.

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