How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position

BOOK: How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position
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First American edition published in 2014 by

INTERLINK BOOKS
An imprint of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.
46 Crosby Street, Northampton, Massachusetts 01060
www.interlinkbooks.com

Copyright © Tabish Khair 2012, 2014
Originally published by HarperCollins India, 2012
Cover image copyright © Navarone | Dreamstime.com
Cover design by Julian D. Ramirez

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.

ISBN 978-1-56656-946-0 (hb)     ISBN 978-1-56656-970-5 (pb)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Khair, Tabish.
How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position / by Tabish Khair. -- First edition.
    pages cm
ISBN 978-1-56656-970-5
1. Single men--Fiction. 2. Life change events--Fiction. 3. Denmark--Fiction. 4. Satire. I. Title.
PR9499.3.K427H69 2013
823'.92--dc23

2013023658

Printed and bound in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To request a copy of our 48-page full-color catalog, please call 1-800-238-LINK, visit our website at www.interlinkbooks.com, or write to:
Interlink Publishing, 46 Crosby Street, Northampton, MA 01060
[email protected]

With thanks to Sam Selvon and Dany Laferrière

CONTENTS

Prolegomenon to a Plot

Postures of Prayer

Retrospective Mysteries

Great Claus and Little Claus

Lilacs Out of the Dead Land

A Glass Full of Love

The Sun Also Rises

The Principal Claus

Loudly Sing, Cuckoo

When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

A State of Niceness

November, November, November

The Islamist Axe Plot

Postscript to a Plot

Acknowledgments

PROLEGOMENON TO A PLOT

Always begin in medias res, said the only girl I ever fucked who had an MFA in writing (from an American university). At the moment she gave me that bit of advice about writing, we were almost in the middle of something else and consequently the rest of her advice was cut short or has since slipped my memory.

Having set myself the task of providing a full account of the events that have exercised considerable media attention in Denmark in recent months and that involved me, though not mentioned by name, I now wish that I had paid more attention to her words and less attention to her. This, however, was difficult.

But whatever she or her MFA professors might have said, I am certain that this account starts one winter morning on Kastelsvej, which is a desolate suburban street off the main road leading from Århus to Randers, where I sat behind the steering wheel of a parked Hyundai i10, engine running for warmth, and tried desperately to jerk off into a plastic container with a label bearing the name and social security number of my wife. This was a little over two years ago.

I had ten minutes to fill the container to the best of my capacity and drive it to the fertility clinic, which was just around the corner and would be opening at seven, in exactly ten minutes. Then I had an hour to drive to a high school in Randers, a forty-five-minute drive in light traffic, where I was supposed to deliver a guest lecture at eight. Hence the desperation.

The fact that these plastic containers are made by someone with a rather optimistic idea of the productive capacity of man did not help. The fact that I had been following this routine for more than six months did not help. And the fact that a patrol car was slowly cruising the main road in the morning haze did not help at all.

I prayed to the God I did not believe in that the patrol car would cruise on and not turn into a desolate side street with a Hyundai i10 parked in it, its engine running. Even as I duly submitted my prayer in triplicate, I knew it stood no chance. It was bound to be rejected. No self-respecting patrol car could ignore such a target of investigation so early in the morning. Doing my best with one hand to keep to my schedule, I observed the car in my rearview mirror. It slowed down. Then its left indicator winked hazily and its headlights cut through the fog into my street.

My heart sank. If this particular cop found the sight of a law-abiding Japanese or Far Asian car suspicious, parked no matter where and how, what would he think when he discovered that the driver of the car was a more or less Muslim-skinned man? The excitement of the situation must have helped, for at that very moment my beleaguered appendage sent an SOS of sensation back to me, a silent version of the whistle that old-fashioned trains let off in old-fashioned films before they start pulling out of old-fashioned stations. Did I have the time to let this train pull out and cap the evidence before the patrol car pulled up? And if I did, would I be able to get my clarifications in place quickly enough to make it to the clinic and then to my lecture, for which I was going to be paid money that my gaily mortgaging bank could use in these times of financial crisis?

I had to make a quick decision. And suddenly, after months of indecision, I knew what I had to do. I looked at the name on that ambitious plastic container. I said, in my heart or perhaps even audibly, I am sorry. I might even have said: no more. I zipped up. Then I slowly pressed the clutch, changed the gear, waved nonchalantly at the cops in the patrol car, and drove back home.

If I had not said sorry at that moment and definitely if I had not said “no more” later on, I would not have gotten divorced. And if I had not gotten divorced, I would not have started sharing a flat with Karim and Ravi. And if I had not started sharing a flat with Karim and Ravi, the account that I am going to give you—which is a more complex version of what you might have read in the papers—would not have been necessary.

So in medias res or coitus interruptus or whatever else in Latin Ravi might suggest, this is where it all started.

I had known Ravi for three years, ever since I moved to Århus with my English wife. This was when, having completed a PhD at Surrey, I was offered my first full-time position, with the carrot of tenure tied to its stick of pedagogic overwork. Following my divorce, with my wife heading back to Guildford in Surrey, Ravi and I decided to save money and rent a flat together. Ravi had just been politely kicked out of his fifth flat in fewer years; this time, he proclaimed, for putting too much (fried) garlic into his food.

He claimed that he had been asked to leave, politely, for playing (mostly Maghrebi) music too loud, frying his food instead of boiling it, walking about in his undergarments, using too much (fried) spice in his cooking, and not cleaning his windows—in that order—in the past. Of course, those were never the reasons given, Ravi confessed under intensive cross-examination by my (now ex-) wife; the reasons given were always polite ones. Dammit, yaar, he said to me later, this is not a bloody Third World state; it is a civilized country. You think anyone would give you real reasons in a civilized place? On one occasion, he conceded, it might also have had to do with him encouraging his landlady’s barkative poodle down the stairs at a rather precipitous pace. But, in general, Ravi maintained, his food, music and clothing had a role to play in his gypsy status in Århus. Not that my ex-wife had believed his stories. “Can you imagine anyone throwing Ravi out, in any country?” she had asked me, alluding to the ease of assurance that Ravi exuded. “He must set out to provoke these poor people.”

It was while we were doing the rounds looking for places to rent—our university background prevented us from going for one of those “udlænding ghettoes” where Ravi’s cooking would have been tolerated—that we met Karim. At forty-five, Karim was more than a decade older than us. He had a full flowing beard, speckled with grey. Like Ravi, he was an Indian; like me, he was a Muslim. Unlike me, he believed in God and his prophets, especially the very last one; unlike Ravi, he did not get worked up about what the West had been doing to all the rest, as Ravi liked to put it. But let me not jump the gun. There is probably a MFA rule against it that, I am sure, I would know if I had paid more attention to my MFA girlfriend of yore. Let me commence with our meeting Karim.

This was about a year after my fatal encounter with the cruising patrol car: my separation and divorce did not take place instantly, it need hardly be said. But a year later, divorce filed for, mortgaged flat sold at a slight loss, mortgaged car sold at a significant loss, (almost ex-) wife departed to Ye Olde England, Ravi and I decamped from an overpriced flat-to-rent with a caring property agent showering brochures on us with the avidity of relieved family members strewing rice on the bride. We were late. Our next meeting, with another property agent, was on the other side of the town.

We jumped into the first taxi we came across. Karim was the taxi driver. His beard fooled Ravi into thinking that Karim was from Pakistan, like me, or Afghanistan, like the Italians in our favorite Italian pizzeria, Milano, on Borgmester Erik Skous Allé. Ravi believes in maintaining good neighborly relations: he might rudely ignore fellow Indians, but he always pulls out his most chaste Urdu, knots it like an old school tie for identification and prestige, and launches into intricate conversations with Pakistanis. Within minutes these conversations dive into private matters with a comfortable inquisitiveness that would do credit to any of my aunts. We were only halfway through town before Karim and Ravi were exchanging the nicknames of their third cousins and remarking on the fact that while Hindu and Muslim names in the subcontinent mostly differ, the nicknames usually tally. Or Ravi was remarking on it; Karim was nodding politely.

When we exited the overpriced, under-spaced flat we had rushed to investigate, dodging the brochures showered on us by another property agent, and came out on the street, Karim’s taxi was still parked by the curb. Karim was standing there, rolling a cigarette. Ravi went over for a farewell chat and a final exchange of nicknames of distant cousins. I stayed where I was. A cold wind was blowing, reducing audibility. I could only catch a word or two of their conversation. I could see it was getting chummier and chummier. Or Ravi was, as Karim was a friendly but reserved man. Very soon Ravi was clapping Karim on his shoulder. Then the two of them did a kind of Eid Mubarak hug.

Ravi came back to me with a broad smile on his handsome Bollywood-star face. I have never met anyone with a broader smile than Ravi’s, when he decides to let it rip. He did that day. Guess what, bastard, he said to me. Bastard was a term of affection between us, as it usually is in the subcontinent between men who share a Catholic missionary-school education. Guess what, bastard, Ravi said, I have found us a fucking flat.

As I blinked up to him in wonderment—I am not short, but Ravi is a bit over six—he explained: Karim Bhai there, he has rooms to rent in his flat, and I think we should take them.

Ravi’s enthusiasm faltered when we entered Karim Bhai’s flat. Yes, it was that flat: the flat that was mentioned—in lieu of our legally protected names—in all the tabloids when it happened. As you probably know from the newspapers, the flat was well situated, on the third floor of a building on a quiet street. It had a small balcony that looked out over the street, onto a park. You have probably seen photos of the flat and the building from so many angles. No, location or convenience was not the problem. The problem was that it was a two-bedroom flat. Two bedrooms, a larger living room, with a small lobby between them, a kitchen with space for a table with four chairs, and a cramped bathroom and toilet.

In his windswept conversation with Karim, Ravi had got the impression that there were two rooms to rent. Now, he looked down at Karim—the shortest of the three of us—and said, with just a touch of irritation, “Karim Bhai, we are in the humanities, I know, but we are not completely gay.”

Karim looked like he had been slapped. He was not a man who joked about too many things.

“Allah forbid,” he said, slapping himself lightly on both cheeks, the first time I had seen this traditional gesture of repentance performed anywhere except in a historical Bombay flick, “Such an indecent thought would never cross my mind, Ravi Bhai.”

Karim peered at us from wide staring eyes. He had baby eyes: round and a bit dilated, as if in surprise, with slightly darkened edges. In all the months we shared his flat with him, I could never determine if the darkened edges were natural or due to the application of kohl that, though uncommon now, was once widely used by men in north India. I knew Ravi had gone too far. Karim was not from the kind of circles where sexuality was a matter of choice—or irreverence. I hastened to explain to Karim that Ravi’s joke was his way of mentioning that we wanted to rent separate rooms.

“Separate rooms. Of course, yes, of course. See,” said Karim, with relief writ large on his face, “see, there are two bedrooms.” He gestured towards the doors of the bedrooms on the other side of the small lobby.

BOOK: How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position
10.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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