Dear Infidel is Tamim Sadikali’s first novel. And it is quite an achievement. It is subtly written and permeated with moments of comedy as well as tragedy; and tackles looming political and social issues including responses to terrorism in the West and the treatment of Muslims in Britain. Sadikali doesn’t hold back, encouraging the reader to face up to crucial but difficult questions. Should Muslims feel obliged to condemn acts of violence by supposedly Islamic groups hundreds of miles away? Can Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain not only coexist but be mutually respectful of each other? Indeed, what does the future hold for Muslims in the West? Although an intensely political novel, it also touches on issues that many readers, regardless of race or religion, will empathise with: tumultuous marriages, painful family reunions, and personal and professional failure.
Although Dear Infidel incorporates multiple generations, from first-generation migrants to young children, it focuses on five main characters who are the ‘middle’ generation. Office worker Aadam gradually becomes disillusioned with life in Britain and vehemently opposes the War on Terror. His wife Nazneen takes an often rational political position but spends much of the narrative pining after a non-Muslim ex-boyfriend. Aadam’s brother Salman is more religious than the others and is pessimistic about the future of Muslim and non-Muslim relations. Their cousin Pasha enjoys a successful career and, of the group, is the most keen to assimilate into British society. Finally, Aadam’s other brother Imtiaz is in many ways the family ‘loser’; unmarried, awkward and addicted to pornography. These second-generation Pakistani characters offer a multitude of perspectives on what it means to be both British and Muslim.