Robin Yassin-Kassab


with one comment

I’ve contributed a short story to the latest issue of Critical Muslim, whose theme is Liberty. My copy has just arrived, and it looks very good – there’s Mustafa Akyol’s essay ‘Islam and Freedom’; Vinay Lal’s ‘A Very Short History of Liberty’; an essay on E.M. Forster’s politics; and plenty more. I’m glad to see that Ukraine is prominent. Russia’s invasion, and leftist and rightist responses to the invasion, is the subject of Naomi Foyle’s essay ‘Liberty, Hypocrisy, Neutrality,’ and there’s some great Ukrainian poetry, from Ihor Pavlyuk and Olexander Korotko. You can buy the issue from the publishers, Hurst, here, or from Amazon, etc.

As a taster, here are a few paragraphs from my short story:

She was surrounded by speech. Shouting teachers and chattering students. Patriotic songs from the schoolyard speakers and Friday screaming from the mosques. Sermonisation and pontification. Building and demolition work. Drills and hammers. Clashing pipes. The gas bottle man. Cars in convoy.

It was noisy outside and noisy in. The TV blaring. The maid clattering the dishes. Hooriya’s mother on the phone – clucking, sighing, tutting. Her father shouting at her brothers to say their prayers. Sometimes they dared each other to call back: Why didn’t he say his prayers first? Then her father raised his volume. God understood he was busy and tired from his work, not like these lazy failures who he would disown, who he would thrash first, let them see if he wouldn’t.

The five of them plus the maid lived in a flat on the fourth floor of a twelve-storey building in a respectable area of the capital city. There were cracks in the walls of the stairwell but the walls of their home were decorated by curling plaster embellishments, like cake icing. Chandelier-style electric lights were hung from the ceilings. The little kitchen and the larger living room both led to a balcony closed off with folding plastic walls to prevent people looking in or out. It was a place for hanging washing to dry, not to enjoy the view. The maid slept there when the guest room was occupied. Hooriya wished she could sit on the balcony and watch the street and especially the sky like the people she saw when she walked to and from school. Some of the balconies in the neighbourhood were still open, and the people sat on them singly or in family groups, drinking coffee, smoking, talking, staring out.

The sky was hazy blue in the daytime and darkly red at night. It was red on account of pollution and dust, so her elder brother told her. He said the sky stretched upwards for only about a hundred kilometers, which was three times less than the distance to their father’s ancestral village. If there were a good motorway laid up there vertically a car could drive it in an hour. After that it was outer space: stars and silence, unimaginably vast distances across which no sound could be heard. Sound is a vibration travelling through the particles of the air, but space is a vacuum, airless.


Written by Barnwalls

June 29, 2022 at 11:37 am

Posted in Critical Muslim

One Response

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  1. ‘I did not really understand what I meant by Liberty, until I heard it called by the new name of Human Dignity.’

    GK Chesterton, Autobiography

    David Derrick

    June 29, 2022 at 12:06 pm

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