In 2006, a small group of amateurs plotted to set off bombs in downtown Toronto, along with several other targets. The group later became known as the Toronto 18, eleven of whom were convicted, two of whom are serving a life sentence. The Language of Secrets is loosely based on these events but with a decided difference. The investigation is run by Inspector Esa Khattak, a Canadian Muslim, who heads up Toronto’s Community Policing Section. While there are dozens, if not hundreds of novels that feature Muslim villains — terrorists, jihadists and so on — there is a paucity of literature confronting these challenges from a Muslim character’s perspective. Muslim characters, like Muslims themselves, are frequently otherized in literature: two-dimensional representations that speak to a foreignness we in the West claim not to recognize.

The Language of Secrets allows these characters to speak for themselves, representing a wide variety of viewpoints. While some questions are infinitely knowable through shared human experience, as Khattak’s investigation suggests, others remain impenetrable. My talk will discuss the experience of being otherized, the multiple motivations behind jihadism, and the dangerous rhetoric of collective guilt that conflates an entire faith community with a radical fringe, as seen through the lens of a Muslim detective born and raised in the West.

ausmazkahnAusma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in international human rights law with a specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. A former adjunct law professor, Ms. Khan was editor in chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine targeted to young Muslim women. A British-born Canadian, Khan now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband. The Language of Secrets is her second novel, following The Unquiet Dead.

When: 6:30 p.m. conversation and cash bar; 7:00 p.m. dinner; and 8:00 p.m. program

Cost: If paying via Paypal cost is $20 for members; $23 for non-members. Choose the option you want from the drop-down menu (Member, Non-Member, or Non-Meal), and then click the Add to Cart button. Note: if you want to sign up both a member and guest, you must pay for each with a separate Add to Cart transaction. Payment at door is $25 for everyone! RSVPs are necessary. Please email our Caterer Director, Susan Paturzo to insure your reservation! The reservation deadline is Monday, February 8th.

Menu: Shrimp scampi—shrimp and tomatoes stewed in white wine garlic butter tossed with angel hair pasta, with classic caesar salad.