MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Unquiet Dead

A Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak Novel

by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan X
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2015, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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Print Excerpt

1.


I will never worship what you worship.
Nor will you worship what I worship.
To you, your religion - to me, mine.

Esa Khattak turned his head to the right, offering the universal salaam at the conclusion of the evening prayer. He was seated with hislegs folded beneath him on a prayer rug woven by his ancestors from Peshawar. The worn red and gold strands were comforting; his fingers sought them out when he pressed his forehead to the floor. A moment later, his eyes traced them as his cupped palms offered the final supplication. The Maghrib prayer was for Khattak a time of consolation where along with prayers for Muhammad, he asked for mercy upon his wife and forgiveness for the accident that had caused her death. A nightly ritual of grief relieved by the possibility of hope, it stretched across that most resonant band of time: twilight. The dying sun muted his thoughts, much as it subdued the colors of the janamaz beneath him. It was the discipline of the ritual that brought him comfort, the reason he rarely missed it. Unless he was on duty - he was tonight, when the phone call from Tom Paley disturbed his concentration.

He no longer possessed the hot-blooded certainties of youth that a prayer missed or delayed would bring about a concomitant judgment of sin. Time had taught him to view his faith through the prism of compassion: when ritual was sacrificed in pursuit of the very values it was meant to inspire, there could be no judgment, no sin. He took the phone call from Tom Paley midway through the prayer and finished up in its aftermath. Tom, the most respected historian at Canada's Department of Justice, would not have disturbed him on an evening when Khattak could just as easily have been off-roster unless the situation was urgent. CPS, the Community Policing Section that Khattak headed, was still fragile, barely a year into its existence. The ambit was deliberately vague because CPS was a fig leaf for the most problematic community relations issue of Islam. A steady shift to the right in Canadian politics, coupled with the spectacular bungling of the Maher Arar terrorism case in 2002, had birthed a generation of activist lawyers who pushed back vigorously against what they called tainted multiculturalism. Maher Arar's saga of extraordinary rendition and torture had mobilized them, making front page news for months and costing the federal government millions in compensation when Arar had been cleared of all links to terrorism. A hastily concocted Community Policing Section had been the federal government's response, and who better than Esa Khattak to head it? A second-generation Canadian Muslim, his career had seen him transition seamlessly from Toronto's homicide squad to national counterintelligence work at INSET, one of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams. CPS called on both skill sets. Khattak was a rising star with an inbuilt understanding of the city of Toronto's shifting demographic landscape. At CPS, he was asked to lend his expertise to sensitive police investigations throughout the country at the request of se nior investigating offi cers from any branch of government.

The job had been offered to Khattak as a promotion, his acceptance of it touted as a public relations victory. Khattak had taken it because of the freedom it represented: the chance to appoint his own team, and as with INSET, the opportunity to work with partners at all levels of government to bring nuance and consideration to increasingly complex cases.

And for other reasons he had never offered up for public scrutiny. His mandate was couched in generic terms: sensitivity training for police services, community support, and an alternative viewpoint in cases involving minorities, particularly Muslim minorities. Both he and his superiors understood the unspoken rationale behind the choice of a decorated INSET officer to head up CPS. If Khattak performed well, then greater glory to the city, province, and nation. If he ran into barriers from within the community as he pursued his coreligionists, no one could accuse the CPS of bias. Everyone's hands were clean.

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Excerpted from The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan. Copyright © 2015 by Ausma Zehanat Khan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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