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Thursday, October 23, 2008

a muslim's take on the Narnia books

But there was an aspect of Lewis's world which caused me great discomfort. The enemies of Narnia were from a country called Calormen, and we learned more about them as we progressed through the books - especially The Horse And His Boy. These people looked unmistakably like Saracens, medieval Muslims; the Narnians themselves looked like Crusaders. In wanting to identify with the characters, I was torn between a natural desire to be on the side of 'good', the white English children, and a feeling that I was condemned to be in the other camp, the Calormenes, the darkies from Calormen (coloured men?) with their curved swords and spicy food and unmistakable Islamic cultural symbolism. These thoughts caused me discomfort, but I still enjoyed the stories.

One specific example troubled me deeply. Whenever Muslims mention the Prophet Muhammad, they are supposed to proclaim 'Peace be upon him!' as a sign of respect. Whenever the Calormenes mentioned their leader, they always proclaimed 'May he live forever!' in exactly the same tone. It seemed to be a deliberate imitation of the Muslim custom.

It wasn't until my 11+ assessment for the local boys' grammar school that I suddenly realized the Christian religious parallels.

Imran Ahmad on the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

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