That fuzzy muzzy feeling when you’ve had enough sleep but you’re still woozy because of the time of day.

Hope it gets over soon.

Got back in from Sharjah yesterday afternoon and I’m still digesting the trip.

The best attitude to have in such a situation is a ‘just to go with the flow’ a ‘see what happens’ approach.

It really comes down to ‘insha Allah’. A phrase which both explains the Arab approach to life and frustrates the heck out of outsiders at the same time.

Insha Allah literally means ‘if God wills’.

Honestly, as a Muslim, for me to say I’m going to do anything in a definite way makes me shudder unless I say ‘insha Allah’. And I’ve taken to actually writing it as ‘if God wills’ in email correspondence.

Just chock it down to one of the little idiosyncrasies of dealing with Muslims, like how people learned how to say Gesundheit when they sneezed, even though I think Gesundheit is a LOT harder to say than insha Allah.

Knowing Arab culture the way I do I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew things would be a LOT more laid back than I’m used to, and that was definitely the case.

I was there for basically eight days, and according to the conference I was only required to do about four school visits and one panel discussion. That was it.

But that said, our panel did get some media coverage here:

It could have been done in two days.

But alhamdu lillah, I spent a lot of time learning things anyway.

And this is what it comes down to. You might think the reason for a trip is to promote your book that has just come out in Arabic, and yet if you keep your eyes open and more importantly your mind open, you can come away with completely different lessons.

I sure did.

I think it came down to coming across a person who found it objectionable to write their name in Arabic.

It boggled my mind, but it also revealed a huge depth of hatred of a culture, that they wouldn’t even allow their name to appear in the Arabic language.


Just wow.

It was depressing to think that such a level of hatred could really exist. And I thought there is SO much work to do.

And some people will never change.

Not unless they’re forced to change and the only way to force someone to change in that regard I think, has to do with money.

If their livelihood is at stake, people can suddenly become very accommodating!

If not downright tolerant!

And the other huge lesson I learned was that many Arab publishers were not particularly interested in my work even though I come from a Muslim background and we have a lot in common.

One person even told me that they’re more interested in getting international exposure for their local authors.

And I thought based on what?

I understand that all regional publishers are looking to get international exposure but don’t they get it that it goes both ways?

It basically told me that some publishers aren’t so much interested in good literature as they are interested in promoting a cultural identity.

But the problem is that only good literature will do that. Nobody cares if you’re Pakistani.

Or Indian.

Or Arab.

If you’re trying to beat a drum and say, “Look at me! Look at my culture!” Nobody is going to care!

Why should they?

It would be like trying to write a story about how great being Muslim is!


Of course I think it’s great, but I’m not going to write a story about that! It would be nothing but propaganda!

You’ve got to tell a good story!

Which comes down to another very interesting meeting I had with some very earnest women. They took me out for coffee and one of the ladies, a simply charming Muslim woman told me how it was her dream to write. She wanted to write stories about how Islam is the right choice…

And I just looked at her horrified and said, “But that’s propaganda!”

And right there, in that little coffee shop, I told them, “It’s got to be about the story!”

Chuck the propaganda, and just tell a good story.

Be honest.

Be true to the characters, and then, and only then, will people care.

Don’t get me wrong.

There’s a LOT of propaganda that gets published in the name of children’s literature. Western publishers do it all the time.

But is that literature?

Will it stand the test of time?

I highly doubt it.

I actually think it’s this very propaganda that has turned kids off reading so much.

I guess the whole situation can be seen as being very depressing, but I prefer to be optimistic.

Here I’d thought “I made it! Now the whole middle east will open up to my work, insha Allah.” Only to find, nope. They’re looking inward.

And I just had to nod to myself. Tell myself, “Right, then.” Roll up my sleeves and work all the harder.

I always felt that the people in the middle east would never take me seriously until I’d made it here in the west, and I guess I still have to make it more.

I’m starting to be recognized here in the west as a good author, not just a good Muslim author, or a good Pakistani Canadian author or a good children’s author. Just a good author. But it’ll still take some doing before they can see that, I guess.