Isolated Incident

By (author) Mariam Pirbhai
Categories: Fiction
Publisher: Mawenzi House
Paperback : 9781774150887, 224 pages, October 2022


When a rock, a threatening letter, and a burning Quran are thrown into a mosque on the outskirts of Toronto, religious leaders and the police shrug it off as an isolated incident. But many see it as a hate crime. Among them is Kashif Siddiqui, the son of Pakistani immigrants. Kashif joins a group of volunteers at an Islamic Cultural Centre on a security watch during the festive Eid night, a potential target of another attack. When an attack materializes, Eid night becomes a test of friendship, family, and faith for the community; it also ends in near-tragedy and a declaration of love and reconciliation.

Recommended by CBC Books, Quill & Quire, Hamilton Review of Books, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, and FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity), Isolated Incident is Mariam Pirbhai's debut novel. Isolated Incident depicts the disturbing rise in hate-crimes directed at Canadian Muslims living in Ontario and Quebec, while also calling into question issues of land and belonging for both immigrant and settler. Will the children of South Asian immigrants, like Kashif Siddiqui and Arubah Anwar, be able to cultivate a new relationship to what is at once an Indigenous and colonized land-even as they are, themselves, under attack for their difference and their beliefs? Pirbhai enters provocative new territory in Canadian literature, seeing in the Pakistani-Canadian and Muslim diasporas a reservoir of experience and story, where questions of faith and community, migration and citizenship, misogyny and Islamophobia, are central to the political and social tenor of our times. As Quill & Quire reviewer Zeahaa Rehman notes, "reading Isolated Incident is not unlike receiving a series of pinpricks that ultimately form a bruise in the reader's heart, reminding them of their relationship to the deeply rooted Islamophobia in Canada."


"The novel illustrates the plurality of Muslims, illuminates the big and small ways Islamophobia shapes their daily lives, and ultimately urges the reader to interrogate and unlearn the ways in which they might uphold prejudice." --Quill & Quire

"Absorbing, earnest and beautifully written, Isolated Incident is a loving portrayal of Canadians besieged by hate-crimes. Through fluid and insightful storytelling Mariam Pirbhai shows how each must rise above grief, rage, and despair to face the price and dangers of belonging." --Shauna Singh Baldwin, author of The Tiger Claw, What the Body Remembers and English Lessons

"Set in Toronto, with its huge population of immigrants, the novel sensitively explores the challenges faced by immigrants and their children as they are caught between cultures." --Maple Tree Literary Supplement

"A scholar of postcolonial and diaspora studies, specializing in migration, multiculturalism and diaspora, Pirbhai presents thought-provoking debates on land claims, relationality, indigeneity and diasporic and immigrant belonging throughout the narrative. Isolated Incident is a poignant and rich narrative on the tensions of belonging and othering in Canada through the perspective of a marginalized and targeted community." --Event Magazine

"Mariam Pirbhai's Isolated Incident offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of Muslims in the diaspora. We meet Kashif and Arubah, both young second-generation Canadians in search of purpose and a sense of belonging during intensifying Islamophobia. When a mosque is attacked, not everybody in the beleaguered community agrees on how to keep safe in the face of constant misrepresentation and marginalization. The incident triggers an unlikely alliance between Kashif and a white retired cop named Frank while tensions threaten Arubah's friendship with her queer mixed-race best friend, Marisol. Mariam Pirbhai is a consummate storyteller, deftly navigating the complexities of identity, family and faith during dangerous times. Isolated Incident is an important novel portraying the often-neglected stories of a community under siege but rarely given voice." --Carrianne Leung, author of That Time I Loved You

"In Isolated Incident, Mariam Pirbhai gives voice to a Canada confronted by an Islamophobia that has become as entrenched as its multiculturality. Centred on the lives and loves of South Asian, Arab- and Muslim-Canadians, brought to lively and sometimes humorous relief through sensory details of past origins, shared familial meals, university exchanges and cultural centres, eponymous to Canadian life, Mariam Pirbhai reveals the complex negotiations her characters undertake as they collide with a landscape that has continued to define itself as a Franco-British settler-colony. Isolated Incident will make all readers rethink what it means to be Canadian today and what it might mean tomorrow were we to awaken to the realities lived by the marginalized within Canadian borders. A must-read, urgent and topical." --Myriam J A Chancy, author of What Storm, What Thunder

"Mariam Pirbhai's debut novel, Isolated Incident, is a thoughtful and intelligent examination of faith and intolerance centred around a vicious attack on a Toronto mosque. Through the perspectives of a rich cast of characters who are forced to navigate a landscape riddled with more and more hate crimes against Canadian Muslims, Pirbhai gives us a glimpse into the complex reality of a community rarely depicted in the popular media." --Tasneem Jamal, author of Where the Air Is Sweet

"Isolated Incident is an absorbing tale that probes deeply into the links between migration and indigeneity, on the one hand, and misogyny and Islamophobia, on the other. This is just as much a story of place, land, and river as it is a story of love, violence, and belonging in the Americas. Faced with hate crimes, Mariam Pirbhai's characters struggle, question, and find peace in ways that will stay with readers long after turning the last page. We all need to read this outstanding novel with so much to teach about how to endure." --Dr Shazia Rahman, author of Place and Postcolonial Ecofeminism: Pakistani Women's Literary and Cinematic Fictions

"Isolated Incident is a poignant and moving tale of how Islamophobia has impacted Muslim communities. Pirbhai weaves together a fascinating story that holds up a mirror to the consequences of anti-Muslim racism. Believable and relatable characters offer a window into the fraught experiences that the post 9/11 era ushered in for Canadian Muslims facing hate crimes, surveillance, state sanctioned racism and stereotypes of religious degeneracy. Subverting . . . Orientalist scripts through which Muslims are too often represented, Mariam Pirbhai masterfully crafts authentic, real-life narratives of Canadian Muslims trying to negotiate belonging in a land that has become increasingly hostile to their faith and identity. A compelling story at a time where Islamophobia has reached deadly proportions in Canada and around the globe." --Dr Jasmine Zine, author of Under Siege: Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation

"Focalized through Canadian Muslim immigrants, Mariam Pirbhai's Isolated Incident provides a nuanced perspective on anti-Muslim racism, a climate of increasing hostility and hierarchies of belonging in a multicultural land. Grappling with vulnerability, defiance, hate crimes and painful questions about Canadian and Muslim citizenship, young people are shown to powerfully enact their subject positionings in a religiously and spiritually disenchanted world. Faced with the burden of reorienting the essentialist notion of the dangerous Muslim 'other', Pirbhai's novel is an awakening to a new consciousness of articulation and performance of Muslimness. A compelling read!" --Dr Aroosa Kanwal, co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing