The Good Muslim
Tahmima Anam, Text
Set in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence, The Good Muslim tells the tale of siblings, Maya and Sohail, scarred in heart and mind by the war and carrying their wounds heavily.
Maya, a doctor, returns home after years away delivering babies in the countryside. She is shocked to encounter her brother, whose war trauma as a guerrilla has been submerged in his extreme religious conservatism.
She has seen also too many atrocities committed in the name of God to sway her from her own liberal and pluralistic path. She is adamant she will not become “one of those people who buckle under the force of a great event and allow it to change the metre of who they are”.
Maya is dismayed to learn that Sohail’s young son is to be sent to a madrassa, an Islamic school, on an island in theJamunaRiver.
She intervenes, thinking she is acting in his welfare, and the trio’s fate is sealed.
Anam has dealt with some tricky themes in this book, many of which seem to arise from her concern for her country and its identity crises.
Maya and Sohail are also drawn well. Maya is knowledgeable, independent and aware of the injustices in her society and Sohail is a time bomb, rigid and poised to explode. Yet neither come across as caricatures.
Others say it’s not necessary to have read the preceding book in Anam’s planned trilogy to get the sense of The Good Muslim, yet I wonder if I might have been well-served to do so. Instead, negotiating the jumps between timeframes confused me — dulling my appreciation for this otherwise intriguing novel.