We enjoyed this book and found the letter to the 7/7 Bomber Shehzad Tanweer in the final chapter to be moving and a testament to the author's ability in the end to be both British and a good Muslim. The letter is profoundly sad and sets out to explain that when he "did what he did" on that day -killing innocent people- he was not being a good Muslim and there will be no reward for him in Heaven.
In the earlier chapters Malik describes what it was like to be a practising Muslim from birth in Bradford aka Bradistan, Yorks. A feature of her faith was the emphasis on the afterlife and the need to be good in order to go to Heaven. Heaven and Hell are graphically described by Malik. It was noted that there are some similarities in the experience she describes and our own past experience of Christian worship in Church for example: the phenomena of the pious nature of the worshippers twinned with their practice of policing the neighbourhood and reporting on anyone who is seen to be out of line. However she also described incidents which contrasted with the Book Club's experience such as the time she prayed for a flute but none arrived leading her to conclude that she had not been good enough.
After leaving university Malik stopped practising for a while but was forced to confront whether she was a Muslim when she was arrested and questioned in Pakistan. Her reflections lead her to the conclusion that it was not her but her inquisitors who were not good Muslims.
It was noted that there was little evidence that Malik interacted with children from Christian or secular families. The absence of interaction between established and incoming communities is widespread and numerous examples were made such as British expats in Spain or workers in the oil industry. This lead to a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the policy of multiculturalism.
One of the benefits of reading this book was the opportunity it gave us to learn about the interior world of the author as she was growing up. This prompted the suggestion that we read Richard Maguire's book I dream in Autism for our November meeting.
Michele Challenger — July 2014