“While we might share some aspirations, what motivates us in an American culture does not motivate the people of Afghanistan or Pakistan.”
Lake Forest, IL (PRWEB) September 15, 2010
“The $25 million bounty on Osama bin Laden should probably be dropped,” says M. Salahuddin Khan, author of Sikander. “While we might share some aspirations, what motivates us in an American culture does not motivate the people of Afghanistan or Pakistan,” says Khan.
“We can debate how important it is to find bin Laden, but if there’s to be an end to this war, we need deep understanding of the people. It’s an understanding which most Americans, including our politicians, seem to lack,” adds Khan.
Khan’s Sikander is an historically accurate novel about the struggles of the Pakistanis and Afghans going back to the Soviet era whose by-products were both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Khan believes his book provides in-depth insights into the region’s ethnic, cultural and religious makeup, that would benefit policymakers and military leaders alike. “It’s been nine long years,” says Khan, “and simply having a dignified exit strategy is as unlikely to be a winning move as was America’s neglect of the region after the Soviet withdrawal. We need to respect unfamiliar customs like the jirga system of tribal justice, the right to bear arms, and the obligation to defend a protection-seeker whether friend or foe. We need to help the local people re-establish a functioning society which isn’t alien to their sensibilities.”
Spanning more than 20 years of recent history, Sikander (ISBN 978-0-578-05288-5, 586 pages, http://www.sikanderbook.com, $24.99, Karakoram Press 2010) is the sweeping, tale of the son of a Pakistani middle-class family.
It's 1986 and seventeen-year-old Sikander dreams of studying and living in America, but in a blind rage after a family quarrel, he leaves the comfort of his Peshawar, Pakistan home. Encountering Afghan mujahideen warriors on a resupply mission in Peshawar, he is persuaded to join them in their fight against the occupying Soviets in neighboring Afghanistan. Together they travel back into Afghanistan over the mountain passes, ferrying weapons by mule to the travelers’ remote village.
American assistance is stepped up with advanced weapons, like the Stinger missile, and the mujahideen begin prevailing against the Soviets. After just two years following Sikander's arrival, a Soviet withdrawal begins and Sikander returns as a war-wise hero, reconciled with his family and settling down to build a normal life in Pakistan.
Discovering romance, Sikander becomes a happily married successful entrepreneur in Pakistan, but he finds his life abruptly thrown into turmoil as he's caught up in the aftermath of 9/11. He must draw on the lessons from his mujahideen past and as he takes on a perilous journey reaching as far as America, it changes his life forever.
Sikander takes us from the pricey suburbs of Peshawar to the primitive war-torn landscape of Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, to the placid serenity of Scotland, through the camps of Guantanamo, and finally, corporate America. It’s a 21 year journey through freedom and captivity, love and loss, wealth and poverty, dignity and humiliation, and transgression and redemption. A rare glimpse of a mainstream Muslim's experience of the West, Sikander is also a journey of growth and self-discovery, and will touch the humanity of its readers.
Khan manages to weave into the narrative several stranger-than-fiction accounts. For example, how the British SAS were enlisted to train mujahideen to operate the Stinger missile; or how the U.S. intelligence community paid bounties of thousands of dollars to Afghan locals for turning over non-Afghans, suspected Taliban and/or al-Qaeda; or how a secret deal was struck between Pakistan’s Musharraf and Dick Cheney’s office to airlift Pakistani military and intelligence personnel out of Afghanistan in the midst of America’s November 2001 offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. One day the Pakistanis were advising the Taliban and the next, their government had switched sides to join the American Global War on Terror. This placed the ones advising the Taliban in grave danger and they had to be evacuated. A safe air corridor was created allowing Pakistani transport aircraft to shuttle back-and-forth between Pakistan and Afghanistan ferrying the evacuees, including in many cases their close Taliban friends, and, it is believed, even some al-Qaeda members, while frustrated Northern Alliance and US Special Forces looked on with strict orders not to attack.
While enjoying the fast-moving and gripping narrative of Sikander readers will also gain insight into the rise of the Taliban, origins of al-Qaeda, a Pakistani / Muslim perspective of 9/11 as it unfolded live on cable TV, the American ouster of the Taliban, the role of Bagram and Guantanamo, and the wider meanings of Jihad.
“If you want to know how America is seen and discussed in much of the Muslim world,” says Khan, “you’ll get a sense of the often contradictory images of America that are out there in different layers of Muslim society. Through the story of Sikander, the over-simplistic views held by many about this part of the Islamic world can be replaced with better informed and deeper insights into a history, culture and terrain understood by only a very few Americans.”
Akbar Ahmed, former ambassador to the UK for Pakistan, now ibn-Khaldun professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington D.C. and named by the BBC as the world’s foremost expert on modern Islam, says “M. Salahuddin Khan’s SIKANDER is a sprawling, fast moving and gripping novel that takes the reader through several decades and through several continents. In the tale of SIKANDER, we experience the tribal conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the problems of adjustment of the community as a minority in America today. For those looking for a good read while also learning about the world we live in, I strongly recommend SIKANDER.”
Grady Harp, a Top 3 Amazon reviewer, adds: “Were there more novels like this astonishing, absorbing and challenging one by M. Salahuddin Khan then perhaps the confusion and chaos of the world response to the seemingly endless wars of the past decades would ease.”
Duane Evans, a former CIA Officer and author of North From Calcutta says “Intricate in detail and vast in scope, Sikander is a journey worth taking.”
Ross Rojek of the Sacramento/San Francisco Book Review calls Sikander “An epic novel, reaching across the years of conflict in Afghanistan, from Soviet occupation to the post-9/11 years. Khan's depictions of everyday Afghan life… provides an eye opening look at something often glossed over in search of easy depictions of good and evil."
Sikander is available in paperback and hardcover on the publisher’s website http://www.sikanderbook.com, and at Amazon.com along with the Kindle format, on Apple’s iBooks store, and at fine booksellers everywhere.
About the Author
M. Salahuddin Khan of Lake Forest, IL, earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from University of Southampton, and is a management consultant primarily in the areas of training and marketing. In 2008 Khan was Co-Executive Producer of a 12 minute short movie called “The Boundary” starring Alex Siddig of Syriana fame. The movie dealt with the issues of civil liberties at the U.S. border crossing in a post 9/11 world. Khan was the founder of Salagar Sonics which produced award-winning self-amplified loudspeakers. The author has also served as VP of marketing and technology for NAVTEQ Corp., as publisher of Islamica Magazine, and as a consultant for Computervison Corporation in Bedford, MA. Khan is a designer, engineer, artist, writer, inventor, and worldwide traveler.
Media Contact: For a review copy of Sikander or to arrange an interview with Salahuddin Khan, contact Scott Lorenz of Westwind Communications Book Marketing at scottlorenz(at)westwindcos(dot)com or by phone at 734-667-2090, Cell: 248-705-2214 or http://www.book-marketing-expert.com