MARION – You pay for your own choices

You pay for your own choicesWith the international news focus on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the raging battle for Kobani, and the mass of humanity who have been displaced by the conflict, foreigners living in Turkey are facing constant questions about their safety from concerned loved ones overseas. “They’re over there worrying about us over here, not realizing how vast a country Turkey is and how far away I am from the bombs and the fighting,” reported a friend of mine last week.

Instead, the news we read sometimes makes us wonder whether we should in fact be more worried about our loved ones in Europe and North America A major terrorism trial is currently underway in secret at the Old Bailey in London. Two men are accused of planning a Mumbai-style attack.

The alleged plans also include an assassination plan on former Prime Minister Tony Blair all were foiled by intelligence we are told, although the information being provided is somewhat sketchy. And we have been shocked this week by the seemingly terrorist-related incidents in Canada A hit-and-run attack on a soldier was followed by shootings at the National War Memorial and the Parliament Building.

In the aftermath of such incidents, much attention is focused on the how and why. What makes citizens so angry and full of hate that they plan such violence? Is it faith? Is it a clash of ideologies? Is it retribution for a perceived past wrong? Is it a show of strength and power? We are disturbed by the possibility that something wrong in our society has given birth to such an atrocity as much as we are disturbed by the atrocity itself.

We are disturbed by the presence of those who preach hate as much as we are disturbed by the actions of those who are blinded by the rhetoric they hear We are disturbed by the idea that given the right mix of circumstances and exposure a mild and ordinary citizen can be radicalized to such an extent as much as we are disturbed by firearms and bombs. When the attackers are foreigners — such as 911 and the Boston bombings — it is easy to focus on immigration policy and procedures and see the cause of such depravity as being something foreign and alien to our society.

But when we think about Jihadist Johnnies who maybe went to school with us or our kids and now have gone abroad to fight with the Taliban or al-Qaeda or ISIL, we cannot just externalize all the causes. When we think of the machete attack on British soldier Lee Rigby, carried out in broad daylight on a London street by two British men of Nigerian descent who had been raised Christian before converting to Islam, we cannot say the issue is down to other people’s governments, other people’s school systems, other people’s societies and other people’s media In her haunting and incredibly beautiful debut novel, “The Shadow of the Crescent Moon,” Fatima Bhutto explores family ties and some of the elements that go together to make someone violent.

Set in the town of Mir Ali, high up in Pakistan’s dangerous province of North Waziristan on the mountainous border with Afghanistan, the action takes place over a single morning, just before the start of an Eid celebration. This is the story of three brothers.

At the start of the day they each decide to say their lunchtime prayers in different mosques, because it is unsafe to congregate together, but as their morning unfolds we realize that their lives are gradually diverging, too. Each seems to be trying to break free from some limitation of the past or the present.

Aman Erum, the oldest, has felt constrained in Mir Ali as long as he could remember “He wanted to get out, to be free, to make money, to move without checkpoints and military police poking their red berets into your car and asking for your papers.” But as the story unfolds, we realize he needs to be free from his biggest secret: his role as a government informer It is as his father told him: “You pay for your own choices.

” Sikander, the middle child, is a doctor in the state hospital. His wife Mina, who is slightly mad, goes to strangers’ funerals.

Hayat, the typical youngest child, lapped up his father’s stories of Mir Ali’s rebellion and its brutal crushing by the Pakistan state. He’s now a superior operator in Mir Ali’s underground and his daring exploits — many of them cheekily carried out right under the authorities’ noses — are famous.

And finally there is Samarra, who is determined to make a new life for herself. But unlike Aman Erum who wishes to do this by leaving Pakistan and finding a new story in the United States, she is determined to do this in her family’s homeland.

“I don’t want to leave Mir Ali I don’t want to walk on roads that have no memory of my life. I want you and me to walk our children to school on streets we know by heart, streets that we have known since we were children.

” This feisty but loving tale sparkles with the vivacity of the two female characters. Although originally cast as supporting actors, Mina and Samarra eventually take the lead.

It is Mina who is the strong one in the face of oppression from the Talib. And it is Samarra who takes the decision that leads to all of their lives changing before lunchtime.

This is a narrative of the lives of Pakistani women at its best. Not written by a man who lives in the West, or a Western woman living in the East, but by a lady born in Kabul, who grew up in Damascus and now lives in Karachi.

The men are lulled almost to sleep by the fog of Mir Ali — “the fog that makes it seem as if the tanks are not there at all” — while the women find within themselves the power to break free from this sleep. This is ethnic storytelling with lifting melodic prose that is soaked with the longing for better for a country that the author so clearly loves.

The story is so authentic that it feels as if it should be voiced in a Pakistani accent. Was father Inayet right that each of the young ones pays for their own choices? It seems they are all paying for the choices that he and his generation made when they were young themselves, and when they were raising their own children.

Perhaps this is the part of the novel nearest to home for Fatima Bhutto — whose grandfather was executed, whose father was shot dead by police and whose aunt was killed by a bomb. She tells here a tale of kidnap, bombs and assassination.

Of betrayal and the importance of prayers at the mosque. One morning in Mir Ali.

Just an ordinary day in a town of hate. “The Shadow of the Crescent Moon,” by Fatima Bhutto, is published by Penguin.

799 pounds in paperback ISBN: 978-024196562-7 Rating: four stars out of fiv.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman

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