Relocating a Torn Identity and Asserting the Right of the Oppressed to be Heard and Liberated in Mohja Kahf’s The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf


Author: Md Abu Shahid Abdullah (East West University, Bangladesh)
Speaker: Md Abu Shahid Abdullah
Topic: Language, Gender, Sexuality
COMELA 2021 General Session


Abstract

Recently, there has been a rapid increase in the production of literary works written in English by female Arab writers who have brought more appreciation for the Arab women who are often perceived by the Western reader as exotic, eccentric and complex. By depicting the suffering of women from their own viewpoint, these female writers emphasise the fact that English is no longer the voice of the dominant authority, but rather a weapon for the oppressed to fight oppression and marginalisation. The presentation deals with the 2006 novel The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf, a Syrian-American poet and novelist, which presents the reader with a new borderland area occupied by young Arab-American Muslim women. The novel condemns distorted images of Muslims in America by local media and US foreign policy. The presentation aims to show the way the protagonist Khadra attempts to relocate an identity which has been lost between home and abroad and between a radical Islam and discerning secularism. Kahf offers the Western reader a unique portrayal of Muslim women, having developed a subjectivity of their own. The presentation also aims to show that by disclosing the journey—searching for the identity—of Khadra, Kahf enables her to come to terms with both her Arab and American identities where she creates a new identity for herself in order to be accepted and established in America. The new attitude of Muslim-American women resonates with the author’s assertion of the right of the oppressed to be heard and liberated.

Keywords: relocation, borderland, diaspora, secularism, dogmatism