October 23, 2015, 10:02a.m. – LITERATURE can become a means for intercultural dialogue to address issues such as racism and extremism, British author Qaisra Shahraz said in a lecture at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex Auditorium last Oct. 21.

Shahraz said one of the things that prompted her to delve into intercultural issues was her dual life of a Muslim trying to fit in British society.

“In the university I was wearing jeans, [but] at home I would wear traditional clothes. Outside, I would eat British fish and chips, [but] at home I would eat chapatti (unleavened bread). Outside, I would speak in English, [but] at home I would speak in my traditional language,” she said. “I said, this is wonderful! I want to share this with my Western readers.”

She said her work was a reflection of her deep love for her faith, and had contributed to combatting racism and Islamophobia. “I feel like my faith has been hijacked and by extension, all Muslims have been hijacked. So one of the messages I incorporate in my writing is this: I am a Muslim, but I am not a terrorist,” she said.

Shahraz, author of novels such as “Typhoon” and “Revolt,” is known to write stories with characters within the context of Islamic culture.

“Ms. Shahraz’s works may be included as part of the corpus of 21st century literatures that may be utilized to address issues of gender, migration, clash of cultures, intergenerational conflict, the usual ambiguities attending interpretations and globalization,” said Prof. Joyce Arriola, chair of the University’s department of literature, in her opening remarks.

Commenting on Shahraz’s novel “The Holy Woman,” Ailil Alvarez, deputy director of the UST Publishing House, agreed that writing serves as an avenue for dialogue, aside from raising awareness. “Writing as raising awareness is more than a prism to refract the white light of truth. It becomes a channel to attend to dialogue,” she said. 

Literature professor Augusto Antonio Aguila cited the impact of the British author’s work on contemporary literature and on the women she represents in her works of fiction. “She gives a voice to the women of the Middle East and of course that voice is distinct. She renders these women a very special place in post-colonial literature,” he said.

Titled “Using Literature as a Tool to Build Bridges, Raise Awareness about Gender Issues and Promote Intercultural Dialogue,” the lecture was hosted by the Faculty of Arts and Letters’ Department of Literature, along with the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, the Research Center for Culture, Education and Social Issues, the UST Literary Society and the UST Graduate School. Cedric Allen P. Sta. Cruz


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