A TALIB’S TALE

A TALIB’S TALE

Islam and the West

A TALIB’S TALE
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A PASHTOON ENGLISH- MAN

Author(s): John Butt

Reviewed by: Imran H Khan Suddahazai

 

Review

This is an emotive, immersive and experiential safarnamah of a faringi malang, John Butt. An English dervish, born in Trinidad, educated privately at a Catholic school in England, reflects on his life’s journey, from a hippie peddling soft narcotics to fund his travels to Afghanistan in the 1970s, to becoming the first westerner to graduate from Dar al-[Ulum Deoband, in UP, and then subsequently living and working as a journalist and teacher in the valleys of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier.

Although an argument could be put forth to the topical and current nature of the content, alongside its wonderful narrative and exposition, such as his initial arrival in Swat, conversion to Islam, accusation of spying for the British and subsequently his brief imprisonment, John Butt’s work should not be conceived solely through the lenses of security or international politics and relations. Further, to classify this as a simple travelogue or commentary on the sociological ecosystem of the region will, if the text is carefully examined, betray the author’s intent. The book of English Pashtoon, or Jan (John) Mohammad as he aptly re-identified himself after conversion, conveys the essence of his tale and experience. He writes to share the human dimension, further the perspectives and interpretation of faith, history, identity and its place in the geo-politics of peoples who were seen by pre/post-colonial eyes as savages, uncivilised, inhuman and, as the recent war on terror has demonstrated, the worth-less other.


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