Tariq Ali’s A Sultan in Palermo: Historical Fiction and the “War on Terror”


This paper investigates Tariq Ali’s representations of Islamic civilization and the relationship between Islam and the West during the medieval times in his novel A Sultan in Palermo (2005). The paper argues that by means of resorting to history, Ali reflects on the current affairs between Islam and the West, particularly with regard to the ongoing “War on Terror”. Making use of postcolonial approaches, particularly Edwards Said’s views on the relationship between Islam and the West as well as Hayden White’s ideas on history and historical fiction, the article contends that Ali renarrates history from the view point of the colonized to challenge ideas behind Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “Clash of Civilizations” as well as contemporary Western media’s depictions of Muslims and Islamic cultures as backward and violent. The article maintains that by providing horrendous depictions of war and by suggesting that military action breeds further violence, Ali undermines the ongoing political discourse that the “War on Terror” can defeat terrorism and contribute towards establishing peace worldwide.


Nisreen Yousef


historical fiction, postcolonialism, Tariq Ali, the “Clash of Civilizations”, the “War on Terror”, 9/11