Mohsin Hamid

By Green, Graeme | New Internationalist, June 2017 | Go to article overview

Mohsin Hamid


Green, Graeme, New Internationalist


The author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist talks to GRAEME GREEN about extremism, the refugee crisis and feeling at home in the past.

In your new novel, Exit West, you write: 'Geography is destiny'...

In geopolitical terms, geography can be a matter of life and death. When relations between people start to break down, when suspicion and xenophobia grow, and when schisms start manifesting themselves, the exact location where you are from can take on deadly forms.

Very often, we experience political events in a particular way because of who we are. People aren't necessarily bound by where they come from, but it has a very real impact.

I take a position that it's not as simple as being 'from Britain' or being 'from Pakistan'. I don't think that because someone is British or Pakistani or Muslim or male or gay or whatever that that decides everything. But we have to acknowledge that there are some forces at work.

Exit West looks at the refugee crisis. Why did you want to tackle this issue?

It's a central issue of our time. It has always been a central issue of all time. The movement of people, of migrants and refugees, has always been part of the human condition. What is perhaps different is the relatively recent notion about the boundaries of nation-states. In some ways, the borders of Pakistan or Britain or Germany or America are unnatural. The current crisis isn't about people being refugees and migrants. The crisis is that we think of such movements of people as a crisis.

I think inevitably humanity is going to come to a place where the notion that people can move and choose where they live will be thought of as a right that is as fundamental as the right to speak as we want or worship as we want.

How do you think future generations will judge this moment in world history?

With a certain degree of horror at the way we have treated our fellow human beings. It will seem as abhorrent to us as having slaves looks to us now.

Opposition to migration is a fundamentally immoral position. We have built societies on the notion of democracy and individual rights and liberty. We are seeing our liberal democratic systems shudder under the weight of this hypocrisy: if we are unprepared to extend liberal democratic values beyond the boundaries of the nation-state, we are hypocrites. …

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