Magazine 2015
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Jayashree Palit  
Terrorism has been defined as the use of violence to achieve political, economic and/or social objectives.  
The paper explores the theoretical argument (Political Process Theory) that terrorism should be viewed as  
a form of political communication much like civic engagement activities such as voting, marching and  
protesting. It examines how three writers have focused on terrorism and counter terrorism in relation to  
religious and secular identities. Do these writers regard terrorism as a form of political communication? Can  
these novels be categorized as a form of protest literature? The paper attempts to find answers to these  
Key Words : terrorism; protest literature; religious fundamentalism.  
Introduction :  
A new theme for fiction, has emerged since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on  
September 11, 2001. The focus of the post 9/11 novel in the genre is on the rise of international terrorism  
and it foregrounds religious fundamentalism. According to Hoffman these novels deal with religious  
imperatives and its distinctive “value systems, mechanisms of legitimation and justification, concepts of  
morality and world view” (Hoffman 94-95). These novels can be read in actually specific ways as narratives  
that critique official responses to terrorist attacks or as East-West encounters or what Samuel Huntington  
would term the Clash of Civilizations. (Wilson 91)  
Three novels that focus on terrorism and counter terrorism in relation to religious and secular identities,  
and on issues of national security and individual freedom, can be read in terms of national politics as well  
as global events. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) a psychological study of cultural  
clash set in Pakistan and the United States. Orhan Pamuk’s Snow (2004) a postmodern fable of religious  
and ideological factionalism set in Eastern Turkey and Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown (2005) that  
focuses on Western fears about the manifestations of terror and its sources in Islamic fundamentalism. All  
three novels engage with the threat posed by the other often within national boundaries and exploring  
the psychology and motivation of the terrorist. Why do they do what they do? (Wilson 91-93)  
The question whether these novels can be considered to be protest literature is one that is bound to  
evoke mixed responses. Protest literature can broadly be defined as thought provoking and incisive  
writings on the struggle of humanity against social injustice. These writings confront war, racism, patriarchy,  
and other social issues. In that sense almost all literature can be called protest literature in a sense that  
they all portray a point of view or theme. Hence a special distinction is often made. Protest literature has  
to be specifically written for change. The author needs to have specific goals for change in society or  
individuals from the very start.  
Stauffer defines protest literature as text that not only criticizes and protests society, but that suggests,  
either explicitly or implicitly, a solution to society’s ills. The important need, it seems, is to challenge and  
extend definitions of protest literature. McCarthy defines protest literature as a mode and style of social  
analysis which can change depending its time period and political climate .He further adds that it does  
not necessarily have to involve or demand a change in intellectual currents, but merely articulate extant  
social sentiments (The Harvard Crimson).  
The three novels that have been taken up for detailed study can be seen as texts of social analysis (and  
by extension protest literature) that deal with one of the most important issues of our times – Terrorism.  
Terrorism is a highly contested concept. As the popular saying goes one man’s terrorist will always be  
another man’s freedom fighter! Terrorism has been defined as the use of violence to achieve political,  
economic and/ or social objectives. Matthew Todd Bradley emphasizes that fact that the major assumption  
of the theory of political process is that conflict is inherent and that power structures are the main  
determinants of domestic conflicts Terrorist politics ultimately involves a direct challenge to the existing  
status quo and is disruptive. Terrorism is seen as an alternative political communication. For Bradley  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
terrorism is a means (like voting and protesting) to an end. The writers have their individual take on the  
issue and it is the purpose of the paper to analyze the approach taken by literary works to the problem  
of terrorism and how the texts can be broadly categorized as protests against social injustice.  
What can literary works of fiction tell us about terrorism and what drives terrorists and support for terrorism  
that social science cannot? This is an important question to address. The political discourse on terrorism  
lacks a way of thinking about the darkest motives of individual lives and goes deeper than paradigms  
like the ‘clash of civilizations’. The novelists show compassion for young people involved in terrorist  
networks that theoretical texts are lacking. They help us to know and experience why someone chooses  
terror. We get inside the mind of the terrorist. They focus on feeling ‘terror’ instead of a particular political  
tactic ‘terrorism’.  
In analyzing the literary response one finds several possibilities of viewing terrorism other than the  
process theory outlined by Bradley and others. One of the theoretical frames that may be used to  
examine how the writers, taken up to study in this paper, have presented the conflict between western  
and Islamic civilizations is the ‘clash of civilizations’ which is a theory proposed by political scientist  
Samuel P. Huntington. This paper uses this theory as a framework. Huntington states that people’s  
cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-cold war world. In the  
993 Foreign Affairs article, Huntington wrote that it was his hypothesis that the fundamental source of  
conflict in the new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions  
among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the  
most powerful actors in the world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between  
nations and groups of different civilizations. (Huntington, 1996)  
Religious fundamentalism usually begins as a response to what is often experienced as a materialistic  
assault by the liberal or secular world. Their enemies are not merely the American led forces of globalization  
but also those domestic groups which have accepted the alien influences of modernity and imposed  
them on Muslim people. The rise of terrorism can be seen as a struggle against globalization finding its  
ideological sustenance in particularist values and beliefs.  
In today’s world, we are witnessing the insurgence of religious identity. This single dimensional  
categorization of human beings is dangerous. An Islamist instigation of violence against infidels may  
want Muslims to forget that they have any identity other than being Islamic. What is disturbing is that  
those who oppose this kind of fundamentalism also suffer from the same intellectual disorientation by  
seeing Muslims primarily as members of an Islamic world. This has been very ably delineated in the  
novels taken up for study. What is now needed is a “dialogue among civilizations” which challenges the  
notion of reducing many- sided human beings to one dimension. Mohammed Khatami introduced the  
idea of Dialogue Among civilizations as a response to the theory of clash of civilizations. The term  
Dialogue Among civilizations became famous after the United Nations adopted a resolution to name the  
year 2001 as the year of Dialogue Among Civilizations (UNESCO). All three novelists Orhan Pamuk,  
Mohsin Hamid and SalmanRushdie underline the fact that there is a strong need to question and debate  
the central issues of globalization.  
Snow (Turkish Kar) is a novel by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. It was published in Turkish in 2002 and in  
English (translated by Maireen Freely) in 2004. The story encapsulates many of the political and cultural  
tensions of modern Turkey namely the clash between secularists and Islamists. The novel vividly portrays  
cruelty and intolerance of both the Islamic fundamentalists and the representatives of the secularist  
Turkish state. The latter represents the westernizing ideology reinforced brutally by the military.  
The fundamentalists appeal to the sense of tribal identity. Blue tells a story from the ancient epic Shehname  
once upon a time millions of people knew it by heart… But now, because we’ve fallen under the spell of  
west, we’ve forgotten our own stories”(Pamuk.2004,81). The reader is left to conclude the implications of  
his question to Ka “Is this story so beautiful that a man could kill for it” (Pamuk.2004,81).  
The issue of the headscarves becomes a symbol of asserting one’s tribal identity. The epigraph from  
Dostoevstey – “Well then, eliminate the people, curtail them, force them to be silent (Pamuk.2004,81).  
Because the European enlightenment is more important than people – sums up the west’s arrogant  
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approach to fundamentalist political movements. Despite Kemal Ataturk’s westernizing ideology, Kars is  
sunk in poverty and hopelessness, its bourgeoisie had fled.  
Pamuk has given eloquent voice to the anger and frustration of both sides. These are no monsters but  
ordinary human beings who actually have much more in common than they would wish to acknowledge.  
The novel reveals the difficulties faced by a nation torn between tradition, religion and modernization.  
Set in the farthest east of Turkey, the locals are certain that in western eyes they all considered ignorant  
yokels. Western hubris, as Huntington’s theory implies is a catalyst for an insurgence of tribal identity.  
Religion is the easiest crutch to rely on. As one character says “To play the rebel heroine in Turkey you  
don’t pull off your scarf, you put it on” (Pamuk.2004.319)  
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, published in 2007 is about a young Pakistani named  
Changez who goes to America and is alienated from the promise of the west. The novel is written as a  
monologue by Changez who tells the story of his success and subsequent disillusionment to a American  
stranger he encounters at a Lahore café. The unnamed American may or may not be a spy just as  
Changez may or may not be a terrorist. It is also an account of one man’s departure from America. As  
Mohsin Hamid writes that the immigrant narrative becomes an emigrant narrative, almost a fable where  
America is no longer pulling but pushing. It is a reversal a polarity from attraction to repulsion.  
Changez lived the American dream for four and half years. After studying at Princeton, he finds a job at  
one of the leading consultant firms in New York. Gains and losses, the economic fundamentals of the new  
world, determine his thinking and actions. From this point Changez is torn between the desire to belong  
and his pride in his muslim heritage, his muslim identity. The events that follow 9/11 drive him to leave  
America and return to Pakistan to organize anti –American protests.  
The author has commented on the double meaning of the title. “He is a reluctant fundamentalist because  
his environment sees him as a religious fundamentalist though he isn’t one. He, on the other hand, rejects  
the economic fundamentalism of the business world to which he belongs – a world oriented solely  
around gains and losses”. Thus, the author dovetails both cultural and economic clashes into the theme  
of the novel. As he writes that for me, this is what fundamentalism is, looking at the world from a single  
perspective, thereby excluding all other perspectives. The novel not only reflects Huntington’s theory of  
the ‘clash of civilizations’ but it also underscores America’s imperial hubris (economic and political) and  
its posture as the world police force.  
The turning point for Changez is the collapse of the Twin Towers and with that his carefully constructed  
world of the American dream also collapses. His smile as he watches the Twin Tower collapse is provocative  
What hurts Changez most is the group punishment being meted out to an entire religious group.. This is  
the result of the fear psychosis that has gripped the west and is the antithesis of global citizenship.  
Changez starts questioning his loyalties, his patriotism, the cultural barriers between the east and the  
west and most of all his identity as a citizen of the world. No matter how “globalized” the world gets,  
when it comes to the crunch most align with their tribal identities. Thus, Huntington’s theory of the clash  
of civilization is made evident in this novel. At the same time, other aspects of the globalization debate  
also figure namely, how American capitalism, which linked Changez to America now, pushes him back to  
revealing its dark side.  
Of course, Mohsin Hamid is, as he himself states, a novelist, not a political theoretician. It is remarkable  
how this short novel negotiates the political with the personal. It is the story of one man’s decision to  
leave the west and assert his tribal identity. The novel creates a web of fear and suspicion that remains till  
the end. It seems that the novel is more of a protest, a kind of message to the west that their policies will  
only instigate and intensify terror.  
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Hamid deals with the question of whether globalization has heightened the attraction of fundamentalism.  
When Changez is working in New York, doing his job and making good money, any attachments to his  
Pakistani – Muslim identity are easily manageable. But when suddenly he feels that those worlds are in  
conflict, those latent tribal identities well up inside him and shatter the veneer of being a global cosmopolitan  
citizen. It’s important to remember that tribal identity, which the globalized world tends to mute in order  
to have us all get along better with each other, has not entirely disappear  
Shalimar the Clown (2005) is a novel by Salman Rushdie. Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the clown is not a  
clown, but a Kashmiri man who became a terrorist. The reason given is personal revenge. Shalimar kills  
Max Ophuls, the former U.S. ambassador to India who has seduced the woman Shalimar loved and then  
betrayed her. The novel begins in Los Angeles in 1991 when Shalimar kills Max Ophuls. Khagendra  
Acharya in ‘Hypocrisy for Survival: Redefining Terrorism in Shalimar the Clown’ has analyzed that the  
murder story entails an alternative definition of terrorism Shalimar’s motivation is personal revenge but  
Westerner’s view it as a terrorist attack. Rushdie thus resists western discourse of terrorism as a  
consequence of Islamic fundamentalism. Sucheta M. Choudhuri in ‘Death was not the end’ resentment,  
history and narrative structure in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the clown’ is of the view that the narrative  
continually blurs the dwindling line between the personal and the political. The eponymous Shalimar  
merges his hurt for Macmillan Ophuls with the larger project of the liberation of Kashmiri, to which end he  
becomes an initiate the pan Islamic insurgent groups. Arijana Luburic makes an interesting point concerning  
the symbolism of Shalimar’s determination to wreak vengeance. For her, Shalimar’s humiliation symbolizes  
the humiliation of Islamic culture by the US in particular and the west in general. (Luburic, 253-58)  
Rushdies novel offers a strong criticism on expression of all kinds whether it derives from nationalist,  
jihadist or personal motives. It includes ordinary moderate Muslims and Hindus and celebrates the  
harmony between there different religious groups. It also criticizes US foreign policy which, among other  
things has contributed to the creation of conditions which made it possible for contemporary terrorist  
networks to grow.  
The analysis of the literary response to the issue of terrorism clearly shows that the writers are not too  
concerned with the political analysis of the phenomenon. Thus, the political process theory expounded  
by Bradley and others is not the main focus at all. Samuel Huntington’s thesis of the clash of civilizations  
is a paradigm that is a better theoretical framework to help explain the three terrorist novels selected for  
this paper. The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Snow in particular play on anxieties and uncertainties about  
social, ethnic and religious differences. Fears of proximity to an unknown, featureless terrorist cause the  
victimization of innocent persons. The fluctuating intimacies between Changez and his American interlocutor  
is ambiguous and dangerous and the political factionalizing and polarization in Snow suggests that self-  
collectivity in Turkish society can find its identity only in antagonistic relation to the other. The problematic  
perception of the other is mediated through the media, which propagate stereotypes and blurred images  
that become turning points in the plot. Political reporting stirs up public uncertainty by playing in fears of  
annihilation and developing an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and menace, thus diminishing the  
characters sense of reality.  
In The Reluctant Fundamentalist the media begins to shift Changez’s perceptions, catalyzing his religious  
conversion and in a sense restructuring his real life. He is not moved by the tragedy when watching on TV  
and twin towers collapsing in 9/11 but experiences vicarious pleasure at the right of Goliath being cut  
down to size. He was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought  
America to her knees (R.F. 83)  
In Snow the media control of reality is parodied as representing what will happen once printed insure that  
the event will come to pass. As Serdar Bey, owner of the Border City Gazette in Kars and proponent of  
state ideology says to Ka “you should see how amazed people are when things do happen only because  
we’ve written them up first” (Snow 29) For example, when Ka arrives in Kars and the local paper reports he  
has written a poem called ‘Snow’ which he later writes. When Ka comments that he is an atheist, this is  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
reported in the newspaper along with the news of his death at the hands of fundamentalist, which does  
indeed happen some years later, after he has returned to Frankfurt.  
The uncertainties created by cultural threat and political upheaval, whether explicitly linked to  
fundamentalism or not, are manifested in revised national ideologies and self identifications through a  
heightened awareness that national borders are porous and potential conducts to external threats and  
The novels do not seek to understand terrorism on its own terms or as part of a political process. But  
they do give focus to the fragility of power relations within and between nations and cultures and the  
ways they can be maneuvered and destabilized.  
References :  
Acharya, Khagendra  
Bradley Mathew Todd alternative- form-of-  
communication July 22, 2011  
Choudhuri Sucheta M. org/Publications/  
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. London: Victor Gollancz, 1998. Print  
Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order New York. Penguin  
Book 1996 Print.  
Khatami Mohammed. Round Table: Dialogue Among Civilizations United Nations, New York, 5 Sep 200.  
Rubin-Wills J. Daniel Panelist Discuss Protest-Literature panelists discuss protest-  
literature April 4, 2005  
Wilson Janet ‘The Contemporary Terrorist Novel and Religious Fundamentalism: Richard Flanagan, Mohsin  
Hamid, Orhan Pamuk in Burning Books Negotiations Between Fundamentalism and Literature, edited by  
Catherine Person- Miquel and Klaus Stierstorfer, AMS Press Inc, New York. 2012 Print.  
Dr. Jayashree Palit, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College, Mumbai.  
Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in  
knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?  
T. S. Eliot