the good book corner

Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews

Jihadi Jane by Tabhish Khair


Tabish Khair’s heart-wrenching narrative comes at a time when ISIS poses a worldwide threat. The Islamic State was founded by a handful of fanatics; now it holds the world to ransom. Its reach goes beyond the geographical territory it occupies. Millions have been affected by it’s warped ideologies and offensive actions. The fictional narrative of Jihadi Jane, brings to light the human side of  militancy and fanaticism. When and why does religion turn into self-consuming miscreation?

For Jamilla, her religion has always been an integral part of her being. Her friendship with Ameena, starts in the school playground, when she stops Ameena from smoking a cigarette. Both belong to immigrant families, and while Ameena feels at home in England, Jamilla and her family have always felt alienated, struggling to be at home, in the country of their choice. A strong bond of friendship forms and Jamilla helps Ameena reconnect with her religion, much to the dismay of Ameena’s mother. As Ameena’s trips to the mosque increase, the distance between mother-daughter increases. Jamilla is left wondering whether she has done the right thing. In her new found religious strength, Ameena chooses to follow the righteous path and takes submissive Jamilla with her. The Internet helps them connect with other Islamists and together they choose to dedicate their lives to the Jihad. Influenced by a firebrand Internet preacher, the girls decide to leave England…

“…She told me that she was organising with Hejjiye and some others to join Hassan in Syria-why don’t I go with her? I hesitated, tempted by the promises and the vision of joining a righteous fight,…You might wonder how I could be tempted….I have grown up in a family wherein complained relentlessly about the compromises that living in England entailed their faith….We were far from convinced, then, that the Western media were being objective or factual….Most of the Muslims I knew had such doubts then….no man, not one Muslim man, no matter how believing, how faithful, how orthodox, has to face a third of the difficulties that orthodox Muslim women encounter in the West….It builds up a core of bitterness in you….Sometimes I felt I would do anything to be free of all this, to be myself without being considered a monster or a curiosity. From what Hejjiye and the others were telling us about the newly created Islamic State, it seemed to br that sort of place, a country where I thought I could be myself….”

In Syria, the girls move in with Hejjiye and persevere all odds, to help fight the “good fight”. What follows not only tests their friendship, it makes them rethink their reasons for becoming “Jihadi Janes”- militant brides.

Narrated by Jamilla, the story evokes sympathy, pain, anger and despair. Khair’s deft and introspective writing, makes the reader connect with the characters. While Ameena and Jamilla are the protagonists, characters such as Alex, the school heartthrob, Mohammed, Jamilla’s brother, Hejjiye, the powerful preacher and Hasan, Ameena’s Jihadi husband, all play an important role in making the plot credible. This dramatic monologue gives a face to the countless women, who have knowingly and in most cases forcibly, given their lives to this heinous cause. The book reminded me of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. While Hamid’s narrative made the readers empathise with Changhez, Khair’s recount sheds light on the ever-increasing problem of bigotry and misguided ideologies and how it affects countless women. It makes one empathise with the real Ameenas and Jamillas and all those connected with them.

A must read!!!


About artikaaurorabakshi

Artika Aurora Bakshi Artika Aurora Bakshi is the author of three well-acclaimed children’s books,My Little Sikh Handbook, My Little Sikh Handbook 2: Ardas, My Little Sikh Handbook: Travel Journal, and an anthology of stories, Hold On To Me. Her first story, set in Amritsar, during the pre-Partition period, All She Had Left, was published on Story Mirror. She co-manages, a manuscript help and book review site. Her passion for reading has led her to helping other writers with their manuscripts. She comes from a family of lawyers and has a master’s degree in International Banking & Finance. Currently based in Sri Lanka, she teaches Commerce and History on a part-time basis at an international school and enjoys being part of the literary scene in Sri Lanka. A regular at the Galle Literary Festival and other literary events in Sri Lanka, Artika’s articles and book reviews have featured in the Daily Mirror, Daily News, The Ceylon Chronicle, and various blogs, such as,,, She was actively involved with SAARC Women’s Association of Sri Lanka and was President of the Association in 2016. An avid reader, Artika runs an online book club with a membership base of over 600 members. Her quotes are featured under soul.nightingale on Instagram and on Soul Nightingale by Artika Aurora Bakshi on Facebook. Artika is also working on her fourth children’s book in the My Little Sikh Handbook series and a second anthology of stories for adults. You can reach Artika at .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: