Shooting Kabul

Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind.

One thought on “Shooting Kabul

  1. S. Aziz & M. Wilson says:

    Melissa Wilson
    As a total outsider to both the religion and culture of Islam and the geopolitical landscape of the area surrounding Afghanistan I am eager to hear what Seemi has to say about this book’s accuracy and relevance. I feel as if I have learned something about the complexities and nuances of recent Afghani history while at the same time I am still in the dark about controversial issues surrounding this story such as the treatment and role of women in Islam.

    Seemi Aziz
    While an insider to the religion of Islam I cannot claim to be an insider to the region of Afghanistan along with its societal complexities and nuances. Even though Pakistan is a close neighbour to Afghanistan it is different in many ways. This book does present the audience with views that are, thus far, not commonly understood by western audiences, one of them being the defense of Taliban as a force of both good and evil. This was the point in the story that made me believe without a shadow of doubt that the book was an insider’s perspective without it being tainted by prevalent views.

    Melissa Wilson
    What was especially interesting to me is how the author presents the Taliban and Osama bin Laden as forces of both good and bad. For example, the father in the story explains to his children that the Taliban started out with good intentions but having gained too much power too quickly became corrupted and that Osama bin Laden helped Afghanistan shake off the Soviet occupation before deciding to become dedicated to shaking of the United States. This felt like a balanced view to me.

    Seemi Aziz
    Historically what is projected in the book is what happened in Afghanistan. Taliban came into being to defend the “free world” from the impact of Russia/Soviet in 1979. They were the force that kept the soviets at bay from advancing. And I agree that it was a balanced view presented by the author.

    Melissa Wilson
    Where I feel the author took the easy way out was her reluctance to deal with controversial issues such as why Afghanistan gave bin Laden refuge and the treatment of women in Afghanistan. In these cases she explains away these complicated concepts by attributing them to cultural mores, which are not explained in one sentence, simplistic terms. For example, “As a Pukhtun, his father was bound by the ancient, sacred code of Pukhtunwali to protect his namus—the women of his family—with his life” (p. 9). This feels like “Orientalizing” by turning life in the modern day in to something out of the movie “Aladdin.” Instead of helping the reader to see commonalities of the lived experience, the author romanticizes a father’s innate role of protector in to something mysterious and shrouded in strangeness.

    Seemi Aziz
    Immigration is ages old and has a myriad of impacts. Every migrant reacts in a different manner as they settle into their lives in their adopted countries. It all depends on the reason and way the migration occurred. The author did take the easy way out as she is a present day immigrant to the U.S. and as she states in her author’s note that she tried her best to ‘Not’ write the book as it dealt with issues that are controversial (Senzai, (2010) p. 258-260). As she later addressed each of the issues she probably had to keep in view the audience here and was forced to tone down her arguments and explanations.
    The role and treatment of women in Islam is different from the manner in which each Muslim culture implements it and it is definitely respectful religiously and mostly culturally courteous. Religiously and culturally Muslim men as well as Afghans are responsible for their women (be they directly related e.g. grandmother, mother, sister, wife, daughter or distantly related as aunts, cousins etc.,). Muslim women have a lot of rights under Islam e.g. owning their own property without having to share with their husbands, having rights to whatever the husbands own, they do not have to do housework or work outside if they do not wish to. It is important to understand that feminism is different in the West when compared specifically to the Muslim countries. Further, a guest is respected in Muslim countries and even if there is no food for the hosts they will do their best to make the guest comfortable. It is not ‘tribal law’ but an expected and acceptable way of a Muslim society to behave. As Bin Laden was from Arabia/Middle East and was initially fighting for and defending the Afghans against foreign forces then he became not only their ‘guest’ but also a force to be reckoned with. It is not “Orientalizing” or historicizing behaviors. What one sees and hears through the media and the press are sensationalized views of certain actions that are not the norm and these actions are then taken as generalizations of how men behave and how women are treated in Muslim countries. Sensational things happen everywhere in the world but they are not repeatedly reinforced to become THE story that represents them.
    The treatment and role of women should be seen through the actions of male Muslim characters presented in this book. The manner in which the Fadi uses the protection of women (namus), as his argument and logic to try to save his little sister who is left behind in Afghanistan and the decency of his father’s behavior with his sick mother and sisters should be taken as a norm of Muslim men’s behavior towards their women not because they were exposed to the Western educational system or foreign books but in who they are as Muslims. Fadi’s mother is a matriarch even in her sick state as she moves through the immigration process and later in the U.S. as a guest of her cousin and later in deciding to move out as Fadi’s family sees how difficult it is for the host family as they struggle to coexist under one small roof in the their adopted country. My issue with this book was the casual way Mariam’s coming to the U.S. was presented. I would have appreciated some knowledge, as an audience, about what was going on with her life in the period she was forced to stay away from the family and the manner in which she survived; so young and alone.
    Commonalities of lived experiences will always be distinctive when another culture is presented in books as the customs and settings give it a certain individual flair. These individualities are what make a people stand out and also come together as a sub-society in an adopted country. It is sad that when an author does refer to commonalities of lived experiences for instance working at a McDonalds, partaking in school related competitions, or fighting bullies at school, the suspicions continue and trust becomes an elusive issue due to what a specific small group of individuals did on 9/11.

    Melissa Wilson
    I think this is also the case on page 85 when Fadi and his father are in a shop after 9/11 and there is a conversation about how Afghanistan will be blamed for the tragedy because the Taliban accorded bin Laden “panah” –asylum that includes protecting the guest at all costs. This elementary explanation further cements the “strangeness” of tribal laws and offers the outsider reader nothing to help make sense out of something that in our culture has been viewed with extreme suspicion.
    The truth is the United States is in a war with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, while murdered, may or may not have been sheltered by the Pakistanis after escaping Afghanistan. Some Americans are suspicious of anyone who is Muslim or is from that part of the world. While this story makes the Afghani people “normal” by having the daughter work at McDonalds and a cousin play video games, it also keeps the mystery of the orient fresh in the reader’s mind.

    Your turn Seemi!

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