Muslim Women in Amy Waldman’s The Submission

Amy Waldman’s The Submission is a novel that struggles to tell “a post-9/11 story” with a potentially implausible concept and a cast of characters lined up as representatives of certain types and injected with nuance with varying degrees of success.

The title is a play on words, a speculation on ”what would happen if a jury in charge of selecting a ground zero-like memorial were to choose, from among the many anonymous submissions, a design that turns out to have been created by a Muslim-American architect.” And then what would happen if the Muslim-American architect stubbornly refused to set people’s fears at rest about his garden design being a “martyr’s paradise” leaving everyone to wonder about Islam and submission and taqiyya and conspiracy and paranoia at unprecedented levels?

Sound familiar? The novel, as this review points out, is remarkable for its uncanny prescience: ”Written largely before last summer’s Park51 ground-zero-mosque fiasco but published a year later, it accomplishes the rare feat of being prescient after the fact, a counterfactual novel that turns out to be accurate in all the details that matter.”

And the characters? Here’s what I mean by types, two by two:

There’s architect Mohammad Khan (“Mo”), secular American Muslim, and Asma Anwar, undocumented Bangladeshi immigrant, not so secular Muslim. [Read more...]

Homeland Insecurity: A Study in How We Felt After 9/11

September 11, 2001 was different for everybody. But it’s safe to say that U.S. Muslims bore a significant burden. As soon as it was announced that the hijackers were Arab and Muslim, it seemed we’d inevitably be associated with the hereto-unpronounced “tribe.” After all, wasn’t that how America thought of us anyway?

In her book Homeland Insecurity, Louise A. Cainkar argues that the idea that all Muslims were somehow connected to 9/11 was easily accepted because of the preexisting isolation of Arab American community; the idea of Arabs and Muslims as “other” for the most part went unchallenged. The national policy espoused by then-president George W. Bush only furthered the notion that Arab Americans and Muslims were different from the average American. All Muslims, especially women, felt the ramifications.

[Read more...]