The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf: A delusional fiction
by Danusha Goska
Mohja Kahf’s 2006 “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf” was celebrated in the New York Times and on National Public Radio — the novel introduced, they said, the voice of Arab, Muslim women to the American literary canon. “Scarf” is taught in university literature classes, though its veneer as a novel is thin. It is, rather, a rigged, bristly rant against Americans, Christians, Israel, and Jews, and a plea for affection — affection more than respect — for Muslims. It is also a fatwa against examination of Islam. Those interested in rigorous education, clarity in public discourse, ethical and firm responses to terrorism, Christian apologetics, and the fate of the novel as an art form would do well by reading and responding to this book.
My parents were Catholic, peasant immigrants from Eastern Europe. I have lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and in Europe. I wanted to write against stereotyping of Polish Catholics and of peasants like those I lived among overseas. I spent some of the most gut-churning moments of my life as a writer confronting the Kielce pogrom. In 1946, Polish Catholics stoned to death forty Jewish survivors of Nazi concentration camps. To write about Polish Catholics for people who were not Polish, not Catholic and not peasant — for audiences including Holocaust survivors — I had to first immerse myself in, understand, own up to, reject and forfend horrors like the Kielce pogrom. I needed to state that Polish anti-Semitism is real and intolerable. I had to make that journey into the Polish heart of darkness before my words about Poles would be worth reading. A Jewish scholar, Antony Polonsky, served as editor of my book “Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype: Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture,” and an organization significantly made up of Polish Catholics, the Polish American Historical Association, awarded “Bieganski” their Halecki prize.
I was not inventing the wheel; others had paved my route. Inspired by Nobel-Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, essayist Jan Blonski broke ground by addressing Polish failures vis-Ã -vis Jews. Jews, too, acknowledged that they had to reassess their own behavior. Nobel-Prize-winning novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote, “How can anyone move into someone else’s home, live there in total isolation, and expect not to suffer by it? When you despise your host’s god as a tin image, shun his wine as forbidden, condemn his daughter as unclean, aren’t you asking to be treated as an unwelcome outsider?”
Literature did not make the same demands on Mohja Kahf that it made on me. I see no evidence that anyone — any editor, professor, or friend had the courage or standards necessary to say to Kahf, “Confront the weakest parts of yourself. Literature demands believable characters. To make them believable, you have to be willing to see the other’s point of view.” Sun Tzu and Clausewitz may dominate the syllabi of warriors. Warriors would benefit from a visit to the multicultural literature class. Society rewards and punishes thought and speech. Those rewards and punishments are negotiated in literature classes. Those literature classes nurture the atmosphere that dictates not only what we can and cannot say, but what we can and cannot do.
“Scarf” tells the story of Khadra, a Syrian Muslim girl who grows up in Indiana in the 1970s. The book takes Khadra from childhood into her thirties. The sentences read like the scrawl on the back of a postcard from a hurried correspondent who doesn’t particularly care whether or not the recipient understands the many dropped personal names, foreign terms and time shifts. Kahf uses many non-sentences, for example, “A right principle wrongly applied or something.” The book reads like a memoir; when it switches to scenes the main character could not have witnessed, the reader becomes confused. There is no attempt at plot or pacing, no attempt to evoke place. I got my PhD at IU Bloomington. One cannot mention its campus without mentioning the luxuriant trees, the rambling student union, the “Triscuit” library. All Kahf tells us of Indiana is that it smells like flatulence and its citizens are brutish Meth dealers, KKK killers who sexually molest their own children, and “football-player-rapist boys.”
Given taboos against speaking frankly about Islam, many know almost nothing about it. In this vacuum, students might be tempted, or coerced, to “learn” the following from “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.”
Non-Muslims are “kuffar.” Kuffar (plural) is a derogatory Arabic term for infidels. The Koran identifies kuffar as people to be mocked, terrorized, slain, destroyed, crucified, and cursed. The Koran also identifies kuffar as ritually impure; therefore, they are often referred to as “dirty kuffar.” The theme of the clean Muslim and the contaminating kuffar American is repeated throughout “Scarf.” America is a “kuffar land.” American kuffar are dirty because they fail to adequately clean themselves after defecation. Even elite Americans “go around with a smear of shit in their crack all day”¦the common people are even filthier.” American imperialism that causes innocent Muslims to suffer is even “more outrageous in light of the fact that its perpetrators did not even know how to properly clean their bottoms.” Americans allow dog testicles to make contact with their furniture. Americans treat their unclean dogs better than they treat their children. Americans “live in filth” and Muslims must run Laundromat washing machines twice. “Be careful of impurities!” a mother warns her daughter before the daughter visits an American home. “Always ask if there is pig in something before you eat anything from kuffar hands.” If an unsuspecting Muslim does eat pig from kuffar hands, she is “tainted forever.” American taint haunts Muslims even in death. “Where do they lie in a non-Muslim land? Next to kuffar graves whose graven images may deter visiting angels?”
Americans in general are lazy, money-hungry, and not spiritual. American parents exhibit “depraved indifference.” They “leave their children wandering in the streets.” The majority of Americans are “ignorant.” Americans swear, smoke, drink, and use drugs. They fornicate and commit adultery. They have broken families. They “had no self-restraint.” They are not “generous” or “hospitable.” Americans lead “shallow, wasteful, materialistic lives.” “The typical American lifestyle” is one of “self-indulgence, waste, and global oppression.” Americans are ugly; “the men’s loose jowls have the cast of a toad’s underbelly.” Men have “blotchy pink type faces” that “loosen and get jowly.” This looks like “the underneath parts of a man’s body that should be covered.” American men should “grow beards like decent folk.”
“American women had to be sluts. That much was clear from the way they dressed.” An American girl dresses like “a young streetwalker.” “You really have to pity them more than condemn.” They dress as they do “to please men.” “Some profound perversion of the soul” causes American fathers to “pimp” their daughters. A Muslim girl visiting an American home risks being fondled by a drunk American. “American girls don’t care if they are open down there.” Girls who don’t wear hijab are going to hell.
Christianity is inherently oppressive, conflated with slavery and imperialism. Christians are “terrorists.” Islam is scientific; “Christianity killed the scientists.” Christianity promotes the “worst possible sin,” one a Muslim can’t even listen to — that Jesus was the son of God. An American Christian, in stating that Jesus is the son of God, violates Muslims.
Israel was founded by “Yahudi terror squads” and “coward Jew terrorists.” “Israel was illegally made by terrorists,” and “Palestinians got killed by the terrorism that Israel was founded on.” “Why is it when Jewish people claim a religious reason for their politics, I’m supposed to roll over, but if Muslims do it, it’s called fundamentalism?” “You don’t have a monopoly on suffering!” is a response to the Holocaust. A suicide bomber who kills Israelis is justifiable, and “is not a terrorist.”
Terrorism is something Americans and Jews, not Muslims, do. The Iranian hostages were “fifty two white American men” who got “a taste of their own medicine”¦they make everyone else in the world suffer while they live like lords. They create terror in other people’s countries while they live in safety and luxury. Let them see how it is to worry”¦acting the innocent victims now.” Americans are blind to the humanity of others. They feel that “only they were human, had faces, had mothers.” America is hypocritical; it says it is democratic while propping up dictators.
Americans are irrationally hateful of Muslims and Islam, and are not qualified to critique either. Americans export drugs to sterilize Muslims and experiment on “poor Third World women.” Americans “carpet bombed” Baghdad after Iraq invaded Kuwait and sniffed at victims as “collateral damage.” In America, “every Middle East crisis dredges up more American hate”¦the government doesn’t even have to tell you the case against you.” “The mainstream media always picks the most sensational thing and highlights the negative.” Americans exhibit “clueless white insensitivity.” American media stereotype Muslims as oil sheikhs leading cartels. Such cartels are justified; oil is the Arabs’ “national treasure.”
There is a minority of Americans who don’t torment Muslims. They are pitiable, laughable hippies of indeterminate gender, one elderly Quaker woman who speaks Arabic, and a Mormon family who go out of their way to find vegan Jell-O containing no pork products. But these Islam-friendly liberals are no better than other kuffar; they always focus on Sufis. “Westerners like to focus on the heretics and deviants in Islam,” the Sufis, “because Westerners cannot stomach the activist Islam that seeks to redress injustices committed against Muslim lands.” When Americans try to make Middle Eastern food, “it tastes like spew.”
The only American critique of Muslims or Islam offered in the book is the brief appearance of thugs who write this graffito: “FUCK YOU RAGHEADS DIE KKK 100% USA.” There is one group of acceptable Americans: “leftist college professors.” “They gave her [Khadra] a language to critique America that fit with her parents’ stance.”
Muslims are innocuous victims of Islamophobic kuffar genocides. “Everywhere, Muslims were being persecuted.” Muslims suffer in “concentration camps.” Allegedly peaceful Buddhists massacre Muslims in Burma. “You can never be true friends with the unbelievers.” Muslims lived completely peacefully in the Balkans and one day, for no reason, their kuffar neighbors began to murder them. “Hundreds of years they’ve lived with the kuffar of their land, taking them for friends and even marrying them, and still the kuffar, in the end, turn on them and murder them”¦Muslims must become strong again”¦and get nuclear arms”¦Only they can save themselves from destruction.”
The fatwa against Salman Rushdie was justifiable. “I’m sick of Western publishers getting away with anything they want to put out about Muslims”¦I’m kind of glad someone is standing up to them.” Syria’s murderous dictator Hafez al-Assad is admirable because he is like “The Palestinians who say ‘fuck you’ to America and Israel even though they were getting stomped on”¦somebody needed to not cave in to the One Great Superpower “¦ saying hunh, we don’t care how you do things over there, we do things our own way.”
In any case, everything is relative. “Radical Islam was her [Khadra’s] James Dean.” Sharia is just like the US Constitution. Muslims are comparable to Pilgrims and to the Amish. Islamic treatment of women is nothing unusual; “Every religion in the world has rules about sex.” Cutting off a thief’s hand is “almost less cruel” than “years of prison in limbo with your life on hold.”
Muslim parents declare “We are not Americans!” to their children. “Americans were the white people who surrounded them, a crashing sea of unbelief” in which Muslims bob, “a brave boat.” Becoming an American citizen, purely out of expediency, is so dreadful for Muslims that they “mourn,” “laugh,” “guffaw,” “seethe,” and then “cry.” A Muslim taking a citizenship oath is comparable to the ancient Israelites of Psalm 137, captive in Babylon, being forced to sing for their tormentors. The best a Muslim can do is roll her eyes and fake it, “like she was ever going to help the US and its buddy Israel kill more Palestinians.” “I’m not American,” Khadra vows, after taking the oath. Later she “cried into her pillow at the defeat the day the U.S. citizenship papers came.” Even the blue and gold Indiana dawn “is not mine. None of it is for me.”
There is unrelenting emphasis on rigorous orthodoxy. Khadra’s mother is touched by an American man; she must perform ablutions to purify herself. The five daily prayers are repeatedly referred to, by their Arabic names. Instructions are given on what body parts go where: “palm, palm, knee, knee, foot, foot, forehead.” There is a debate about whether or not one may continue chewing “past time” during Ramadan. Yes — if you began the bite before the deadline. “What’s already in your mouth can be swallowed.” Abortion is permissible up to one hundred and twenty days after conception, when the soul enters the body. Khadra’s hijab is detailed — its place of purchase, its color and fabric, its arrangement on her head, its occasional flutter and slip. Her hijab was a unique crown and a beloved barricade to a world perceived as inferior, unclean and threatening. Other than obsessive ritual, I don’t know what Islam means to Khadra’s, or Kahf’s, spirit. I sensed no God behind all this bean counting, nothing transcendent of material reality, spiteful competition and political grudges. With one exception, the book is a spiritual desert.
There was one passage that evoked the purely spiritual. In the presence of a Syrian poet, Khadra’s scarf slips. Her hands are stained with cherries, and, fearing staining the scarf, she does not reach up to replace it. She remembers her last swim, as a girl too young to wear hijab, in a public pool. She feels the sun caress her, and she surrenders to enjoyment of it. “The sunlight on her head was a gift from God,” she writes. “Fresh film. Herself, developing.” Veiling and unveiling are both necessary, she writes, “moments in the development of the soul in its darkroom.” This is a lovely, spiritual passage, but it is just one page.
Kahf telegraphs the threat American Christians pose to Muslims by inventing the rape and murder of a Muslim girl in small town Indiana. The crime is never solved; no one cares. The killer is representational of his community; he is a member of “APES: American Protectors of the Environs of Simmonsville.” Americans arrest an innocent Muslim scapegoat for the killing; he is deported. Americans “malign” the dead Muslim girl, suggesting she brought the rape on herself. The Indianapolis Star cooks up a fake story about “the oppression of women in Islam,” dubbing the rape and murder an “honor killing.” Kahf has her main character, Khadra, weep dramatically over this death; Khadra is rescued from her weeping by an adorable Muslim boy named “Jihad.” In the face of all this senseless oppression, the Muslims are passive and noble. The community “labored on with its godly task “¦ just like the early Muslims “¦ when one fell, another picked up the banner and struggled on.”
In response to my query, the Indiana University library reference desk was unable to discover a comparable murder of a Muslim girl in Indiana. In 1968, Carole Marie Jenkins, a young African American woman, was killed — but not raped — in Martinsville. This was not a “nobody cares” murder. When I arrived in Indiana in 1994 for my PhD, I was immediately told about Jenkins’ murder by just about everyone. Everyone spoke of it as a tragedy, and a stigma Indiana was working to overcome. “Let’s not lose sight that this young lady was murdered 33 years ago, and her family has experienced a lot of pain in not knowing what happened to her,” Indiana State Police Superintendent Melvin Carraway said in 2002, according to the Indystar website. Jenkins’ murderer was “a career criminal with a history of bizarre behavior and affiliation with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.” He was ratted out by his own daughter, the crime’s only witness. Not exactly a representative of community values.
I am unaware of any murder of a Muslim woman by a white supremacist that the press attempted to smear as an “honor killing.” Rather, in 2012, in California, an Iraqi-American woman, Shaima Alawadi, was found dead. Her family insisted that the killing was the work of American Islamophobes. Leading Muslims, the mainstream press, and activists supported this, and blamed Islam scholar Robert Spencer for the murder. Facebook hosted “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi.” The page invited non-Muslim women to wear hijabs in support of a victim of Islamophobia. Today Kassim Alhimidi, the victim’s husband, is charged with her murder. It is alleged that he staged a hate crime in order to deflect attention from his own guilt.
There you have it — the things readers learn from “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.” Not so, you might argue. After all, “it’s only literature,” not a textbook. Perhaps Kahf is not saying, “This is what one should conclude about” the topics she writes about; perhaps she is merely reporting what average Muslims think and feel. Perhaps she is doing us the favor of putting it on the table in order to open up debate.
There are several problems with what might seem like these reasonable objections. First, the “lessons” above are all spoken by stick figures who appear only to voice a given point Kahf is straining to make. “Scarf”‘s pages teem with character names. The names appear, the stick figure is minimally described — one is “black as coal” another has a widow’s peak, another is “Jewish” — they occupy three or four pages, and then they disappear. When Kahf wants to make the point that she is an open-minded person but that Israel has no right to exist, Kahf tosses in a Jew for Khadra to befriend and then tell off.
The dialogue is as clunky as Soviet propaganda poster captions; it is interwoven with rudimentary asides about feminine life that are meant to transubstantiate agitprop into literature. “Comrade! I see that you support Israel! Let me present this PowerPoint proving that Israel has no right to exist, while I pour you a cup of coffee as we commiserate about your boyfriend and exchange diet tips that prove how downhome and lovable Muslim American women are!”
Kahf’s heavy-handedness is not limited to characterization. When Khadra has a moment of revelation, she tells a driver that she is seeking “The road to Damascus.” A Muslim boy named “Jihad” starts a band called the “Clash of Civilizations.” He falls in love with a Mormon girl. Because she lives in a distant town their mixed marriage will “break up the Clash of Civilizations.”
The second problem with the “it’s only literature” argument: much of the kuffar talk comes from Khadra’s mother and father, the two most attractive characters in the book. They are humble, selfless, dedicated parents just trying to love their children and convey important life lessons. Khadra’s mother is so benign she is mistaken for Mary, Jesus’ mother, by a crazed American, whose life she saves merely by appearing in public in a white headscarf and a blue overcoat.
The third problem with the “it’s only literature” argument is this. Not just the statements themselves, but how those in power treat the statements, affects readers, and by extension, national discourse. Wafa Sultan is an American psychiatrist. Like Kahf and her character Khadra, Wafa Sultan is an Arab, born in Syria and raised Muslim. Wafa Sultan wrote a book, “A God Who Hates,” that makes many of the same points that Kahf makes, but from a different point of view. Like Kahf, Sultan writes of Muslims faking their American citizenship oath, vowing to protect America while secretly repudiating their own words. Like Kahf, Sultan writes of Muslims despising non-Muslims as filthy, barely human kuffar. The difference is this: Kahf creates a world where Muslims mocking American citizenship, supporting terrorism and despising filthy kuffar is the right and proper thing to do. In Sultan’s world, America is a valuable place and Muslims taint themselves with their false oaths and hidden hostility. Sultan dares to invite Muslims to examine themselves. Kahf was rewarded for her book with a professorship at an American university. Sultan receives daily death threats.
Real literature does open up debate; Kahf and her supporters shut debate down. In “Scarf,” and on too many campuses and in too many elite venues, any critique of Islam is the purview, exclusively, of white supremacists. On the book’s back cover, Afro-American studies Professor A. Yemisis Jimoh blurbs that Kahf “compels her readers to see this country though new eyes.” That’s what professors will punish students for if they criticize “Scarf.” “You failed to see your whiteness, your Christianity, your American imperialism, your kuffar status, through new eyes.” Is it possible — is it still permissible — that students might very well see perfectly through Kahf’s eyes and conclude that Kahf is wrong?
Let’s leave the contested history and theology aside for just one minute. Let’s just talk about the book’s Islamic contempt for dogs and their human owners. Kahf reports that contact with dogs renders Americans “filthy.” In fact, dogs herd sheep, guide hunters and the blind, locate persons lost under collapsed buildings, detect cancer, track criminals, discover drugs, and reach unreachable autistic children and traumatized adults. Close contact with dogs in youth inoculates against autoimmune diseases. Contact with dogs in maturity improves the chances of surviving a heart attack.
No one wants to force Muslims to have pet dogs. Rather, I am asking. Is it even possible, any more, to disregard cultural relativism, to attempt to break through it to something called objective truth? I am allowed to say, on a college campus, that the ideas about women promulgated by a Dominican priest through his notorious witch craze manual, the “Malleus Maleficarum” are objectively false. Am I permitted, under Politically Correct speech codes, to state that Islamic ideas about the spiritual and physical taint of dogs are also objectively false? If cultural relativism forbids us from saying something that simple and verifiable, how can we address the political, military, and theological issues?
If we can’t speak the truth about dogs, how can we address the lies about Jews? Do Jews have a monopoly on suffering? Let’s see. Within living memory, an ideology, Nazism, arose that demanded, and almost achieved, through industrialized murder, the elimination of all Jews. Jews do have something of a monopoly on suffering, a monopoly I’m sure they’d surrender if they could get back the six million. There is no comparable genocide of Muslims, no matter how Kahf feels, no matter what “literature” claims, no matter how hard we look through her eyes.
What would happen if a student were to say any of this in literature class? “If you don’t get it that Americans are intolerant and that Islam is a religion of peace, you fail literature class. Literature demands that we expand our worldviews, and this is how your worldview is to expand.” This is a prostitution of literature. It is cheating. It is bullying. It is indoctrination. In a military history class, one could pick apart how colonialism and Japanese occupation affected Muslim-Buddhist relations in Burma. You can’t have that conversation in literature class. You can only “expand your worldview” or get an F.
The book’s title and cover photo thrust hijab front and center. So let’s talk about women’s clothing. No woman dresses alone. Every woman’s clothing is a comment on every other woman’s clothing. When women travel outside their natal culture, they confront an entirely new text. In Africa, Peace Corps ordered female volunteers not to wear African clothes. “If you dress like an African woman, you will be treated like one. You may find it distasteful, but to improve the lives of African women, you must dress like an American woman.” We obeyed. In Nepal, Peace Corps ordered women to wear Nepali clothes. “There are very strict standards of modesty here, different from American. Here you can show your waist, you can even show your breasts if breast feeding, but not your legs, not even in outline form, in pants.” We obeyed. Saris are impossible for non-natives to wear, and we wore saris. It was we, after all, who had entered African space, Nepali space. These cultures were my hosts, and I respected them. I wanted, above all, to do good work, and I knew that what I wore would have an impact on my work.
Hijab is not passive; it is not silent. It is a commentary on all women who do not wear hijab. It is standard operating procedure for Islamic clerics and for Muslim men to declare that women who do not wear hijab are asking to be sexually violated. After Lebanese men assaulted Australian women, Australia’s senior Muslim cleric stated that women without hijab are “uncovered meat” and to blame for their own attacks. Online discussion boards devoted to the sexual harassment of women on Egyptian streets include posts by Muslim men blaming women. If you wore proper hijab, sister, the men say, you would not be attacked.
When “kuffar” women look at hijab, this is what some of us hear from Muslim women, “I am true to my own sense of my superiority over you kuffar, I am true to Islam’s negative views of women, and I reject any sense of solidarity with you kuffar women and your struggle for freedom and respect.” Kahf complains of boys in school snatching off Khadra’s scarf. Non-Muslims’ removal of Muslims women’s scarves must be condemned. These acts must also be understood in the context of hijab as objection to the freedom we “kuffars” enjoy, and as an allegation against our morals. It is disingenuous to pretend that these incidents are merely about “Islamophobia,” and that they can be cured with more multicultural, shame-the-Westerner workshops.
What I suspect is missing from classroom discussion of “Scarf” is what is absent from the book itself — serious self-criticism. American literature has served as America’s confessional: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Scarlet Letter,” “Catch 22,” “The Ugly American.” Writers in immigrant and minority communities have been no less self-critical. Anzia Yezierska’s “The Bread Givers” exposed traditional Jewish domestic patterns that stifled intellectual women. Philip Roth never shrinks from full depictions of even unattractive features of Jewish American life. Muslim American literature will not reach maturity till a Muslim American writer can be every bit as self-critical as the best American authors, hyphenated or not.
Years ago, I was walking home from work, and “Laila,” a woman in hijab, pulled over to offer me a ride. She was charismatic and funny. Had I been a young man, I would have fallen in love with her during that short car ride. She invited me to a women-only family wedding party, a hypnotically beautiful, shockingly erotic event. We developed a running gag about how our peasant ancestors — hers Arab, mine Polish, but both of the land — inordinately loved goat milk. I tempted her to eat kiszka, a sausage made of pig’s snouts and blood. She resisted. (Truth to tell, I have been wildly unsuccessful in my attempts to entice non-Poles to eat kiszka.) She treated me to our area’s best shawarma. She shared her writing, messy and passionate, about being a Muslim woman in America. I introduced her to “Jane Eyre,” whom she adored. She griped about her family’s constant demands that she provide elaborate hospitality to crowds of male relatives rather than devoting time to her studies, to her writing, and to figuring out who she was, what she wanted and whether or not she could get it. I confessed secrets to her, and she to me, secrets that will go with me to my grave.
On Facebook, I posted about the immolation of my fellow Christians in Nigeria by the Muslim terrorists of Boko Haram. Laila lashed out. She posted denigrating falsehoods about Christianity. Laila knew little about Islam and even less about Christianity. She had been taught in American schools that Islam was a religion of peace and the Christians were the violent ones — the Crusades. I didn’t want to be the one to introduce to her to the harsh realities of her own faith, and I didn’t want to proselytize to her about mine — to me, that’s a lecture, not a friendship. We parted ways. I feel her absence as a wound. I hate the gaps in American discourse, gaps created by Political Correctness, that doomed my friendship with Laila.
Writers lay down the path forward that is built of words. Writers like Eliza Orzeszkowa and Janusz Korczak made it possible for me to speak truths about Polish-Jewish relations. When I encounter a new Jewish acquaintance, I can place myself with this person immediately by saying, “I do not admire Roman Dmowski. I do admire Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.” The hard conversations in Polish-Jewish relations have already gone on all night, and the vocabulary is already there.
People like Mohja Kahf and her supporters abort conversation; they sabotage the path. They demonize the speech that is needed around Islam. Muslims need writers who can do what both Mohja Kahf and Wafa Sultan try to do. They need a writer who wants to show America good Muslims. But they also need someone like Sultan who can acknowledge that Muslims need to engage in self-examination and public confession. A Muslim needs to say, “Yes, I want your love, America. Yes, Americans have wronged me. And we have wronged you, as well. We will take the steps necessary to correct the wrongs we have done to you. We will request that you take the steps necessary to correct wrongs you have done to us. We will hammer out a way to co-exist.” As long as writers like Kahf, who promote a delusional fiction of innocent Muslim victims and utterly repulsive Americans dominate college literature classrooms, that day will never come, and we will remain miles apart.
Danusha Goska PhD is a writer and a teacher.