"Sexy Identity-Assertion": Choosing Between Sacred and Secular Identities in Robin Yassin-Kassab’s The Road from Damascus

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Title of host publicationCulture, Diaspora, and Modernity in Muslim Writing
DatePublished - 2012
Pages117−31
Number of pages15
PublisherRoutledge
Place of PublicationAbingdon
EditorsRehana Ahmed , Peter Morey, Amina Yaqin
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-89677-1

Abstract

This chapter discusses Robin Yassin-Kassab’s acclaimed debut novel, The Road from Damascus (2008), arguing that its central British Muslim character is presented with a choice between sacred and secular modes of living. A wide-ranging and often humorous novel of ideas, The Road from Damascus concerns the staunchly atheist British Syrian student, Sami, finding his assumptions challenged, firstly by his wife’s decision to wear the hijab, and subsequently by the event of 9/11 and its political fallout. The chapter argues that in this text London appears as a locus for the protagonist to work out his relationship with ‘Islam’ and ‘British culture’ (even assuming that these are two discrete entities). It is informed by the interview that I conducted with Yassin-Kassab for my book British Muslim Fictions. Taking my cue from recent anthropological research and from the work of the Community Religions Project, in this paper I also draw attention to the important and dynamic role of religion, specifically Islam, in contributing to ethnic minority identity.

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