A poignant journey through Muslim lands by a half-Indian, half-Muslim son attempting to find answers to his paternal identity.
Journalist and novelist Taseer (Noon, 2011, etc.), raised in Delhi but largely educated in English and American schools, records his eight-month journey to break the “sterile obsessions” with his long-absent father and ascertain for himself what being a Muslim entailed. The product of an affair between a Delhi journalist and a Pakistani politician and disciple of Ali Bhutto, Taseer was raised in Delhi by his mother and Sikh grandparents amid no small confusion about where he fit in. His journalistic trip was an attempt to learn about Islamic traditions and practices and to discover how his own father could consider himself so staunchly Muslim without being in any way religious. Taseer traveled from the extremely secular, in Istanbul, to the extremely pious, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and found Islam served as both a nationality and “brotherhood of man.” Interviewing people of varying degrees of faith, he gained the sense that Islam was considered a “world system,” with its own rituals and rejection of everything else, namely Christian and Jewish practices, and a conviction that “to be a Muslim is to be above history.” Increasingly appalled by the Muslim parochialism he witnessed, Taseer realized the more he learned about Islam, the more his interest in it was “extinguished.” In another painful twist, the more he got to know his father, whom he visited in Lahore, the more he recognized a similar narrow-minded focus and indifference to the hard truths of history.
A brave, cleareyed look at the contemporary flourishing of Islam.