Review | Belief, Mayank Bhatt

30149694A Muslim family in Mississauga, Ontario has their lives upended when they come across an email with details of a terrorist plot on their son Rafiq’s computer. Scared yet trusting in the Canadian justice system, they turn to a trusted friend for advice, only to have Rafiq arrested.

Belief is a timely novel that brings to light the discontent and disillusionment some immigrants face when their new life in Canada isn’t quite as equitable and free from racism as promised. This is certainly true for Rafiq and his sister Ziram, who struggled to fit in at school — I especially love the scene where Rafiq figures out the ‘Canadian’ voice and teaches his sister to use contractions. It’s also true for their parents Abdul and Ruksana, who came to Canada to escape the 1993 violence against Muslims in Mumbai — there’s a poignant scene where Abdul comes to terms with the fact that, despite taking ESL classes and joining networking circles, he’ll never have a lucrative career in Canada, and that his children’s future is worth this sacrifice.

Despite the broader scope of its plot involving the terrorist who tries to recruit Rafiq to his team, the book feels very personal with its focus on Rafiq’s family. We learn about their immigration to Canada and about how they deal with the fallout of Rafiq’s arrest. We also see Rafiq’s growing discontentment and how his desire for connection drew him to Ghani Ahmed and his plot to blow up various spots across the Greater Toronto Area. At one point, Rafiq realizes he doesn’t agree with Ghani Ahmed’s methods, yet he isn’t quite sure how to get out of it. Particularly affecting is a moment when he looks around one of the proposed sites, a food court at a mall, and realizes just how many people will be hurt, and how many of these people look like him.

Belief is a slim volume, but a dense story, and one not often told in CanLit. The ending doesn’t provide quite as much closure as I would have liked, but I do like that it takes a realistic view of the situation Rafiq’s in. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a thoughtful one, and a welcome addition to Mississauga Can Lit.

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Thank you to Mawenzi House for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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