BOOK REVIEW: Dear Infidel: Tamim Sadikali

October 30, 2014

dear infidel

Dear Infidel (Paperback). By Tamim Sadikali

Dear Infidel is evocative of the frustrations and challenges faced by British Muslims as the gravity of world politics has a domino effect on their own lives. With the news full of young British men going off to fight in a war and for a reason that many find unfathomable this is a well-timed book on a delicate subject.

With some very interesting viewpoints and some jarring opinions this is book shows that all minorities have one thing in common; the difficulty in being accepted by the majority as ‘normal’, but when faith and politics entwine then the stresses on the individual become intolerable. If you won’t compromise, then how do you preserve your identity, constructed or not?

The book carefully explores this from the perspective of a young British Muslim who’s attracted as much by his faith and its demands on him as a man, but also by the lure of something more; outside of the safe life in a Britain.  It’s the end of Ramadan and his family are gathering for the traditional celebration and the book is mostly successful when it deals with the interactions of the various members of the family and the wonderfully precise characters who we can all recognise, the mother who never adjusted to life without a full home, the cankerous grandfather as harsh as he is generous, the confused withdrawn cousins, socially awkward but bright. This is where the book is at its best; its falls down on being too eager to please, to cover everything, to shine a light into every controversy. I wanted more on the feelings of integration, of how this family had adjusted, on how the relationship between the protagonist and the only female of note in the book had started and deepened to become so serious.

Some questions were dodged that would have been dealt with very well in the setting of this book, Sadikali would benefit from a tighter understanding of intersectionality, families have all sorts of people in them, this one is completely straight. Possibly the only one I know of, and I know many lesbians and gay men who have a Pakistani heritage who have grown up British and clashing in so many ways but who have found a way through the many levels of hate, both public and private to embrace and develop themselves into whole, loving beings, one or two even retaining their faith. This book is about the same struggle, not an LGBT struggle, but a struggle for a voice, a normal, loving voice to be heard in a world twisted by bigotry, hate and politically sanctioned demonising, aggression and violence.

For more information and background about the author, click here:

Overall the book was interesting although a bit uncomfortable around it’s depictions of women and the young men’s attitudes towards sex and porn, but then that’s possibly because it’s another level of truth we fail to acknowledge, the corrosive power of porn. It’s a curious clash of a book and one that I enjoyed reading, as much for putting me inside the mind of a young Muslim male mind in Britain as for its narrative momentum.

Sadikali writes well, it as his best when he’s caught the subtle interaction of inter-generational family bemusement and observing the secret small things honest people do to save their sanity in a world seemingly determined to ignore the whole unvarnished truth of their lives.


Out now from all good bookshops and online here: