When a rock, a threatening letter and a burning Quran are thrown into a mosque on the outskirts of Toronto, religious leaders and the police shrug it off as an isolated incident. But not everyone is convinced by this tepid response, many seeing the ‘incident’ as a sign of escalating hate crimes. Among them is Kashif Siddiqui, the son of Pakistani immigrants who joins a group of volunteers at an Islamic Cultural Centre on an ill-conceived security watch during Eid night—the likely target of a bolder attack. When a chance meeting with a retired cop stokes Kashif’s ambition to join the police force, he realizes any form of vigilantism could be a strike against him. But Kashif is pulled towards helping the Muslim community at the Centre, seeing it as a refuge in difficult times. Eid night becomes a test of friendship, family and faith for the people in Kashif’s orbit. For Kashif, it may mean the difference between life and death.
Advance Praise for Isolated Incident
Absorbing, earnest and beautifully written, Isolated Incident is a loving portrayal of Canadians besieged by hate-crimes. Through fluid and insightful storytelling Mariam Pirbhai shows how each must rise above grief, rage, and despair to face the price and dangers of belonging.
Mariam Pirbhai’s Isolated Incident offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Muslims in the diaspora. We meet Kashif and Arubah, both young second-generation Canadians in search of purpose and a sense of belonging during intensifying Islamophobia. When a mosque is attacked, not everybody in the beleaguered community agrees on how to keep safe in the face of constant misrepresentation and marginalization. The incident triggers an unlikely alliance between Kashif and a white retired cop named Frank while tensions threaten Arubah’s friendship with her queer mixed-race best friend, Marisol. Mariam Pirbhai is a consummate storyteller, deftly navigating the complexities of identity, family and faith during dangerous times. Isolated Incident is an important novel portraying the often-neglected stories of a community under siege but rarely given voice.
Carrianne Leung, author of
That Time I Loved You
Isolated Incident is an absorbing tale that probes deeply into the links between migration and indigeneity, on the one hand, and misogyny and Islamophobia, on the other. This is just as much a story of place, land, and river as it is a story of love, violence, and belonging in the Americas. Faced with hate crimes, Mariam Pirbhai’s characters struggle, question, and find peace in ways that will stay with readers long after turning the last page. We all need to read this outstanding novel with so much to teach about how to endure.
Dr. Shazia Rahman, author of
Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism: Pakistani Women’s Literary and Cinematic Fictions
In Isolated Incident, Mariam Pirbhai gives voice to a Canada confronted by an Islamophobia that has become as entrenched as its multiculturality. Centered on the lives and loves of South Asian, Arab- and Muslim-Canadians, brought to lively and sometimes humorous relief through sensory details of past origins, shared familial meals, university exchanges and cultural centers, eponymous to Canadian life, Mariam Pirbhai reveals the complex negotiations her characters undertake as they collide with a landscape that has continued to define itself as a Franco-British settler-colony. Isolated Incident will make all readers rethink what it means to be Canadian today and what it might mean tomorrow were we to awaken to the realities lived by the marginalized within Canadian borders. A must-read, urgent and topical.”
Myriam J. A. Chancy, author of
What Storm, What Thunder
Mariam Pirbhai’s debut novel, Isolated Incident, is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of faith and intolerance centred around a vicious attack on a Toronto mosque. Through the perspectives of a rich cast of characters who are forced to navigate a landscape riddled with more and more hate crimes against Canadian Muslims, Pirbhai gives us a glimpse into the complex reality of a community rarely depicted in the popular media.
Tasneem Jamal, author of
Where the Air Is Sweet
Isolated Incident is a poignant and moving tale of how Islamophobia has impacted Muslim communities. Pirbhai weaves together a fascinating story that holds up a mirror to the consequences of anti-Muslim racism. Believable and relatable characters offer a window into the fraught experiences that the post 9/11 era ushered in for Canadian Muslims facing hate crimes, surveillance, state sanctioned racism and stereotypes of religious degeneracy. Subverting Orientalist scripts through which Muslims are too often represented, Mariam Pirbhai masterfully crafts authentic, real-life narratives of Canadian Muslims trying to negotiate belonging in a land that has become increasingly hostile to their faith and identity. A compelling story at a time where Islamophobia has reached deadly proportions in Canada and around the globe.
Dr. Jasmine Zine, author of
Under Siege: Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation
Focalized through Canadian Muslim immigrants, Mariam Pirbhai’s Isolated Incident provides a nuanced perspective on anti-Muslim racism, a climate of increasing hostility and hierarchies of belonging in a multicultural land. Grappling with vulnerability, defiance, hate crimes and painful questions about Canadian and Muslim citizenship, young people are shown to powerfully enact their subject positionings in a religiously and spiritually disenchanted world. Faced with the burden of reorienting the essentialist notion of the dangerous Muslim ‘other’, Pirbhai’s novel is an awakening to a new consciousness of articulation and performance of Muslimness. A compelling read!
Dr. Aroosa Kanwal, co-editor of
The Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing