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Born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1975 Khurrum moved to England when he was one. He is a west London boy and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two sons.

Khurrum is currently working as a Senior IT Officer but his real love is writing. He has a screenplay which has been optioned by a Danish TV producer but is now concentrating on novels. East of Hounslow is his first novel. Homegrown Hero, the second in the Jay Qasim series, will be released in November 2018.


Meet Jay.
Small-time dealer.
Accidental jihadist.
The one man who can save us all?

Javid – call him Jay – is a dope dealer living in West London. He goes to mosque on Friday, and he’s just bought his pride and joy – a BMW. He lives with his mum, and life seems sweet.

But his world is about to turn upside-down. Because MI5 have been watching him, and they think he’s just the man they need for a delicate mission.

One thing’s for sure: now he’s a long way East of Hounslow, Jay’s life will never be the same again.

With the edgy humour of Four Lions and the pulse-racing tension of Nomad, East of Hounslow is the first in a series of thrillers starring Jay Qasim.

East of Hounslow was also shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Debut Dagger Award 2018 and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award 2018.


Khurrum Rahman’s pacy story-telling and sharp dialogue fly like sparks along a fuse in this funny and subversive piece of modern satire. Jay Qasim is a character we can’t help but like – a cool dude drug dealer who lives with his mum and sleeps in a Batman onesie. Yet this novel takes us with Jay into dark territory, where our young hero ends up reluctantly working undercover for MI5 while undergoing radical Islamist training. Khurrum Rahman manages to make this feel real, scary, ridiculous and all too possible, as hapless, conflicted Jay tries to figure out how to stay alive. A really great new voice in the thriller genre.

East of Hounslow is published by Harper Collins.

Homegrown Hero is published on 29th November 2018.

Read a sample of East of Hounslow

Part One



An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

  • Mahatma Gandhi



My name is Javid Qasim. I am a Muslim‚ a British-born Muslim.

Do you know how many times I have been pulled over by the police since 9/11? Once. And that was because I was nonchalantly jumping lanes without indicating my intentions to my fellow drivers. I got a ticking off from the fuzz who were quite happy to forego the paperwork and give me a friendly warning. They didn’t even search my car‚ even though the stench of skunk was unmistakeable. To this day I am proud to say that I have never had my fingerprints taken.

Do you know how many times I have been racially abused since 7/7? Not even once. I get called Paki every day‚ but not in the what the fuck did you call me? way. In my circle it’s a term of endearment. You see‚ we know who we are. And what some may see as an insult‚ we see as a badge of fuckin’ honour. The word Pak means pure and the word Pak means clean. And if you didn’t know that‚ then consider yourself educated.

I’m not stupid or naïve. I am aware of exactly what is happening around me but you’ve got to play the game otherwise you might as well carry a big fat kick me sign on your back. Don’t walk around wearing a sodding shalwar and kameez with a great big dopey beard and drive around in a fuckin’ Honda. That’s when you get pulled over and that’s when you get racially abused. But not me. Why? ’Cos I play the game.

I know the plight of my Brothers and I know the struggle of my Sisters and I feel for them‚ every fuckin’ one of them. But what do you want me to do about it? No‚ man. It’s not my war. Call it religion or call it politics or call it greed. It all amounts to the same thing: bloodshed‚ devastation and broken homes. Why would I want to get my head into something like that? Especially since my life has basically been one sweet ride – not too different from my latest acquisition‚ a black BMW 5 series. It’s only two years old‚ less than thirty on the clock and it’s comfortable as fuck‚ which is essential in my line of work‚ as I spend a helluva lot of time in my car. It’s my mobile office. I picked it up for a cool twenty G. I paid over the odds but fuck it‚ I could afford it as business was ticking.

I was sitting in my ride at the back of Homebase car park in Isleworth‚ West London‚ waiting on a customer. He was late which would normally piss me off but I was otherwise distracted by all the shiny buttons and gadgets on my new whip. The speakers sounded sik and my nigga ’Pac never sounded so good as he rapped about dying young. I clocked my patron approaching and I couldn’t help but frown. This was exactly what I was talking about. He’s wearing a plain white suit shirt tucked into his tracksuit bottoms‚ finished off with a pair of Bata flip flops‚ looking like he just stepped off the fucking boat. I know for a fact that he’s forever being targeted because he looks like a fucking freshy. No one likes a freshy.

He looked around the car park and I realised I hadn’t told him that I’d replaced my Nova. I flashed my lights at him and his smile widened at the sight of my Beemer. He approached and walked around it whistling appreciatively‚ taking special notice of my customised rims. I slid my window down and told him to get the fuck in. He did and he slammed the door‚ hard. I bit my tongue.

‘Salaam‚ Brother.’ ‘You’re late‚’ I said.

‘Sorry‚ Brother‚ I just came straight from the Masjid. Didn’t see you there. Then I remembered it’s only Thursday. You only ever come for Friday prayers‚ Javid‚’ he said‚ laughing at the unfunny observation.

We shook hands and the deal was done. He left with a fistful of Hounslow’s premium and I with a fistful of dollars. He slammed my door and toddled off in his ridiculous outfit. I hate that fuckin’ sanctimonious prick. In the space of a minute he vexed me twice. Firstly‚ he took a swipe at me because I don’t go the Masjid day in day out. It doesn’t make me any less of a Muslim than he is. So what if he decides to grow a beard and I decide to grow marijuana? I’m still a Muslim. I couldn’t care less if you sit in Aladdin’s eating your Halal Inferno Burger whilst I sit in Burger King eating a Whopper. I am still a Muslim. I’ll drink when I want‚ I’ll curse and I’ll fuck and I’ll gamble and I’ll get high. So what!? Read my lips. I. Am. Still. A. Muslim. I believe in Allah and only He can judge me. Not you. Or anyone else who walks this land.

Secondly‚ he called me Javid. No one‚ but no one‚ calls me Javid‚ not even my Mum. No self-respecting drug dealer is called Javid. No playa is called Javid. Girls don’t wanna be giving out their phone number to a guy called Javid.


Call me Jay.



I woke up in my own sweet time. I rubbed the shit out of my eyes as I ran my tongue over my pearly whites‚ which were anything but. It was Friday. Day of worship‚ day off from my daily dealing. On Friday I should be clean and my thoughts should be pure‚ which is not easy especially as Katrina Kaif‚ Bollywood sex siren‚ was staring down at me‚ wearing a sheer sari which had obviously been soaked whilst she was out singing and dancing in the heavy downpour. Her sari clung to her every arc and her smile was greeting me with more than just a good morning. I resisted the urge‚ instead averting my eyes to Malcom X‚ looking dapper in his black suit. The quote emblazoned at the foot of the poster read: If youre not carefulthe newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressedand loving the people who are doing the oppressing. – Boom. There you have it‚ what a fucking line. I don’t know much about Malcom X‚ but he was a Muslim and made shit happen and he was friends with Muhammed Ali. I mean how many cool points is that? I had a couple of books on his life knocking around somewhere‚ which I hadn’t got around to reading‚ but I have seen the movie a couple of times. Denzel Washington’s portrayal was on the button.

Prayers was at one. Sutton Mosque was only a mile away but I still had to allow myself at least half an hour travel time because Friday prayers are always packed and there’s always traffic as Hondas and Nissans jostle for parking spots. I stayed in bed for a touch longer and browsed through my phone‚ hungry customers requiring merchandise. Sorrynot today. Hit me up tomorrow was my token reply. There was a text message from my Mum asking me if I wanted eggs for breakfast‚ sunny side up? Oh yes please was my response. She came back with Well you better go to the shops and buy some eggs. I could just picture her downstairs in the living room chuckling to herself whilst watching Phil and Holly. My mum is pretty cool‚ she ain’t like the other Asian parents where it’s all educationeducationeducation.

We’d lived in the same house‚ just the two of us‚ all my life. I’d be hitting thirty in a couple of years but I had no intention of moving out. Have you seen the house prices? Fucking obscene! No shame living at home with your Mum‚ especially if you’re Asian. It’s the norm. I may not be where I expected to be by this stage of my life‚ but‚ you know… Fuck it! Got my health‚ a few quid in my pocket. Life ain’t so bad. Well-doers telling me to knock dealing on the head‚ find a real job‚ get out of my comfort zone‚ the fuck I want to do that?

My old man died in a motorbike accident whilst I was still warm and developing inside Mum‚ so I never actually got to see him – so it’s not like I lost him because‚ really‚ I never had him. They had an arranged marriage and the accident occurred within the first year. Mum wasn’t too cut up about it either‚ as she once told me that she hadnt got around to loving him yet. Anyway‚ Dad died. The world spun along and Mum and I spun along with it.

Mum doesn’t treat me like a child but on the flip side she doesn’t treat me like a man either. To her‚ I’m somewhere in-between. I realise that she dates and isn’t averse to a night out‚ and I know she knows that I’m out there getting up to all sorts‚ but as long as I’m not bringing the police to the door‚ and she’s not bringing guys home for me to call Dad‚ then it’s all good in the hood. We keep out of each other’s business‚ adhering to our unsaid rules.


In preparation for prayers‚ I took a thorough shower‚ the water hot enough to cleanse away all of my bodily sins. I rubbed and I scrubbed to compensate for my colourful lifestyle. I didn’t drink the night before because I did not want to be hungover at prayers‚ but I did party hard and I did toke hard and at the end of play‚ in the back of my Beemer‚ I spent some quality time with a half ’n’ half girl‚ christening my new car whilst listening to fuckin’ Beyonce‚ who‚ by the way‚ I can’t stand‚ but the chicks seem to like all that girl empowerment crap. I’m all for it. What do I care?

I brushed my whites twice in the shower and tried to get rid of the lingering taste of her in my mouth‚ concentrating in particular on my tongue‚ which felt like it was about to fall out of my mouth. My final act was to go to town down below – I have to be free from any sins. Have to be Pak.

It’s only on Fridays‚ when the Shaitan – Satan – is banished from my thoughts and replaced by Farishta – Angels – that I seem to spend all day feeling guilty. I put on my cleanest clothes‚ loose dark blue jeans with a plain black T-shirt. The tee has to be plain – no depiction of any unbelievers. That’s what Mr Prizada‚ the guy who runs the newsagents and after school Islam Studies‚ used to tell me back in the day. I selected my aftershave carefully‚ ensuring that there was no alcohol present. I chose my rattiest‚ tattiest‚ vagabond sneakers as they would be off and shelved as soon as I entered the mosque. Muslim or no Muslim‚ a thief is a thief is a thief and I’ve had a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s Limited Edition liberated from me in the past and I ain’t walking home in my socks again. Lesson learnt.

I was clean. I was dressed. But not quite ready. Even though I had showered and scrubbed to within an inch of my life‚ I had yet to perform Wudu – Ablution. Running order goes like this: wash hands and arms up to my elbow‚ three times. Rinse out my mouth‚ three times. Wash my face‚ three times. Wet my hands and run them from my forehead to the back of my head. Clean behind and in the grooves of my ears. Finally‚ wash each foot. Three times. All this had to be carried out with the right hand where possible. Now‚ between Wudu and the end of prayer‚ if I have to visit the toilet for a number one or indeed‚ a two‚ the Wudu is broken and has to be carried out again. If I happen to pass gas from behind‚ Wudu is broken. If I fall asleep‚ fall unconscious‚ bleed or vomit‚ Wudu is broken. Honestly‚ I find it tough‚ and I only do this once a week for Friday prayers. Others… Well‚ they do this five times a day‚ seven days a week.

I gave Mum a kiss and walked out of the house into the cold sunshine‚ my trusty rucksack tight against my back. I passed my old Vauxhall Nova and gave it a loving pat on the roof. It was my first car and it did me proud. It was going to kill me to sell it. With a press of a button the boot of my Beemer flipped open and I stashed the rucksack rammed full of bags of skunk and bundles of cash inside. Even though I don’t deal on Fridays I still had to have the bag nearby at all times‚ and that particular night I had to drop off the cash to Silas‚ my supplier‚ and pick up my cut and he’d decide whether to send me back with the leftover gear or replenish. I started the car and the air conditioning took mere seconds to kick in. I switched from CD to radio‚ as I couldn’t have rap music and all the profanities and sexualisation that comes with it polluting my pure mind‚ and I headed for Sutton Mosque.


I saw a handful of parking spaces directly outside the mosque. I double checked the time just in case I had turned up an hour early‚ and I wondered if the clocks had gone back and I was still on yesterday’s time. The mosque was normally rocking around this time‚ with wall to wall Pakis lining the streets. Instead‚ it was quiet.

With difficulty‚ I parallel parked in a tight spot directly outside the mosque. There were other‚ bigger spaces but I wanted everybody to see my ride. It took me a few attempts but I finally managed to squeeze in. As soon as I turned off the engine I realised that I couldn’t leave my car here‚ not with weed and unscrupulously collected money in the boot‚ so close to the House of God.

I whispered Bismillah to myself as I stepped into the near- empty mosque. The first person I saw was Kevin the Convert who was stood near the shoe rack‚ which‚ like the mosque itself‚ was near empty. Kevin was speaking animatedly to Mr Hamza the Cleric.

‘A crime reference number‚’ Kevin said‚ incredulously‚ waving a piece of paper in his hand. ‘And what? You think that is enough?’ Kevin scrunched up the paper and looked as though he was about to throw it to the floor in disgust‚ but thought better of it and handed it back to Mr Hamza.

‘Brother Kevin‚ we must stay strong‚’ Mr Hamza said in that same deadpan tone that we were accustomed to when he led Friday prayers. He flattened and neatly folded the piece of paper and put it into the side pocket of his kameez. ‘This is a time to keep your head and have faith. I know‚ just like you know‚ just like everybody knows‚ the Police will not help.’

‘So‚ why call them?’

Mr Hamza‚ smiled‚ revealing a gap in his teeth that‚ as kids‚ we used to rip the piss out of. ‘A crime has been committed‚ Brother. The police have to be called. Even though it is to give us a meaningless number‚ we must still adhere to the law of the land that we have chosen to reside in‚ otherwise we are just as wrong as the sinners around us.’

I removed my shoes and placed them on the shelf. I kept my head down and walked past them and into the main prayer hall.

What I saw made me sick.

Illustrated on the far wall‚ just above where the Imam led prayers‚ was spray painted a crude drawing of two pigs. From the mouth of one‚ a speech bubble read eat me or get the fuck out of my country. The second drawing was another pig adorned with explosives with the caption BOOM. I averted my eyes and looked up at the heavens and at the large‚ beautiful chandelier that had only just been purchased and installed after a whip round. Hanging from it were ladies’ undergarments. With shaky legs I walked around the prayer hall taking in the scene. Holy literature had been removed from the large bookshelf and thrown to the floor‚ replaced by printed images of naked women and homosexuals harshly tacked to the bookshelf. The prayer rug had been removed – offensive graffiti had been sprawled across it‚ I later learned – and I found myself standing on a hard cold floor.

What should have been a house full of Muslims standing side by side‚ praying in harmony and perfect synchronisation to Allah‚ was replaced by a dozen or so Brothers cleaning.

I glanced around the Prayer Hall‚ I watched one of the bearded regulars bring in a ladder and hold it under the chandelier‚ but as there was no wall nearby he had nowhere to lean it. He shook his head in frustration as he laid the ladder down. I looked on as another regular placed a table directly underneath the chandelier and then a chair on top of the table to give enough height. Between the two of them‚ one secured the chair and the other climbed onto the table and then comically and dangerously scaled up onto the chair. They removed the ladies undergarments‚ holding them with just their fingertips‚ and then swiftly disposed of them into a black bin liner.

I looked around for a familiar face and I spotted Parvez‚ who lived across the road from me. Parvez is by far the most infuriating guy I know and bizarrely also the nicest. We had history. He would hover around me like an irritating mosquito‚ always popping around my house unannounced. He would go on about Fear of Allah‚ Judgement Day‚ Taqwa and Hadith‚ amongst other teachings. He was harmless though and despite my efforts I couldn’t not like him.

Parvez was knelt down picking up broken prayer beads and books and not quite knowing what to do with them. I stooped down on the floor next to him and immediately started to help out. Parvez looked at me with glistening eyes and just like that I felt my own eyes spiking with tears. I blinked them away and placed my hands on his shoulders.

‘They’ve stained our home‚’ he said. ‘We must get the Masjid back to a state of cleanliness.’

‘Parvez. What the f— What happened?’ I said‚ watching my language. ‘I… I don’t understand. What happened?’

‘Kafirs‚’ Parvez said‚ by way of explanation. ‘Kafirs is what happened‚ Brother.’

‘But‚ how? There’s someone here at all times.’

Parvez shook his head and wiped away his tears. ‘Everything will come to light in due course‚ Inshallah‚ and we will act accordingly.’

I nodded in agreement even though I didn’t quite know what I was agreeing to.

I left the mosque feeling pretty good about myself. My initial anger had melted away and was replaced by something similar to… I don’t know what. Faith? Respect? Solidarity? There were initially only about a dozen of us cleaning the mosque. Word had spread fast via social media and old fashioned word of mouth that Sutton Mosque had taken a beating. I wasn’t surprised that word hadn’t reached me; I didn’t move in those circles. The regulars were redirected to attend neighbouring mosques for the all-important Friday prayers‚ but as soon as prayers were over and the clock hit two‚ Pakis turned up like they were giving away free samosas.

No word of a lie‚ about two hundred of them all bearing the necessary tools: bleach‚ rubber gloves‚ tins of white paint and paint brushes‚ mops‚ refreshments and of course some of the finest home-cooked‚ butter-infested‚ blazing hot‚ heart-attack- inducing food. I watched as they made a social event of the whole scene. There was the sound of laughter bouncing off the walls‚ there were tears and embraces. The hall was treated to a brand new paint job and a local Sikh businessman – a Sikhthe old enemy! – who owned Punjabi Carpets‚ graciously donated a variety of new carpets and rugs until the prayer mats were replaced.

We turned that place inside out‚ leaving it looking brand new‚ and we left feeling holier than thou.

Those stupid fucking two-bit vandalising motherfuckers didn’t know the first thing about Islam and about our strength within. Attack us again. Go on‚ I fucking dare you.

My phone rang as I approached my Beemer. Before answering‚ first things first‚ I checked the boot and made sure that the gear and the bills hadn’t been jacked. Satisfied‚ I checked my caller display. It was Parvez. Whats he want? I had just spent the best part of the day with him‚ helping to clear up the mosque. I hoped he wasn’t taking the time we’d spent together to be some sort of bonding session‚ and he now wanted to hang out with the cool kids. He was a good guy‚ but well and truly part of the God Squad‚ and I think he’d always seen me as some sort of project. Parvez the Preacher‚ we called him. I ignored the call and pocketed my phone.

I closed my boot and over the roof of my car I saw the cops walking towards me. Just one copper‚ actually. He wasn’t in uniform but I have a sixth sense when it comes to picking out the fuzz from a line up.

And besides‚ this particular copper happened to be my best friend‚ Idris Zaidi.

I would never tell him this but Idris is one cool motherfucker‚ and the reason I would never tell him this is because he knows he’s one cool motherfucker and I don’t feel the need to indulge his already inflated ego. We go back to day dot‚ born within a day of each other. Our mums became friends in the maternity ward at West Mid Hospital. Aunty actually helped Mum a lot during that period‚ as my old man was busy decomposing. They were like sisters‚ and we like brothers. We were at nursery together‚ and then we hit junior school hard‚ making the right noises and earning respect at the grand old age of nine or whatever the fuck it was. Right little tearaways. But it was secondary school when things turned somewhat. Idris showed more of an interest in his studies and I showed the same commitment towards having a good time. The amateur shrinks amongst you would probably put that down to the lack of a father figure‚ but I was too busy having a good time to give it thought. So‚ soon-to-be PC Plod plodded off to university‚ and did pretty well too‚ according to the Masters degree hanging askew over his fireplace. He became a cop and I became a robber. Or‚ to put it more accurately‚ he a detective and I a dealer.

As Idris approached I surreptitiously checked him out. A dark blue casual blazer‚ with a crisp blue shirt. Wrapped around his neck in a loose knot was a lightweight black-and-white polka-dot scarf designed for design rather than to serve purpose. A pair of tight skinny grey trousers which made me wonder how the fuck he was going to give chase if the occasion occurred. Nice shoes though‚ black suede Fila hi-tops.

We shook and I nodded for him to jump in. I waited nonchalantly for him to acknowledge my new whip.

‘Nice‚’ Idris said‚ smirking at me knowingly. Always knowingly.

‘Yeah‚ it’s alright. Gets me from A to B.’

‘Look at you trying to act cool with your new ride‚ you crack me up.’

‘So‚ what’s the latest? You don’t call‚ you don’t write. Bad guys keeping you busy?’

‘Yeah.’ He smiled. ‘Something like that. Keeps me in a job.’ My phone rang again‚ I looked at the display and frowned.

‘Shit. Parvez!’

‘The Preacher? That Parvez?’ Idris asked.

‘Yep. One and the same‚’ I said‚ weighing up whether to answer it or not. ‘I better get it. It’s the second time he’s called in the space of a minute. Hang on.’

‘He loves you‚ you know that‚ right?’ Idris said‚ poking me in the ribs. ‘He lurves you!’

‘Fuck off.’ I swiped my screen and answered. ‘Yeah‚ Parvez.


‘Aslamalykum‚ Brother.’ Parvez said. ‘Thanks for helping out today.’ Helping out? I didn’t like the way he said that. He didn’t mean to say it in that way‚ but it came across as a touch patronising and it wound me the fuck up.

‘Of course.’ I said. ‘Thank you for helping out today.’ Yeah‚ that’s right! How you like me now? Two can play that game.

Parvez comes back with. ‘Please‚ Brother. It was my duty‚ my Farz.’

Oh‚ I give up. He played the Farz card. Fine. Whatever. You’re a better Muslim than me. Sanctimony is not becoming. I inserted the key into the ignition and the Bluetooth immediately kicked in and the technology gave me a small thrill as I placed my phone down on the centre console. However‚ my thrill was short lived as Parvez’s voice was now emanating through my Blaupunkt speakers‚ sounding twice as annoying.

‘Am… Am I on speaker?’ Parvez asked‚ at the change in transmission.

‘Yeah… So‚ what’s going on?’

‘Right. So some of the Brothers are assembling at Ali’s Diner at eight tonight.’


‘We need to talk about what happened at the Masjid. Discuss best way forward. Security and that. You know?’

‘Yeah‚ I know‚’ I sighed. I looked at Idris who was predictably shaking his head at me. I turned away from him. ‘What time?’

‘Eight‚ Brother. I’ll see you there‚ yes?’ ‘Yeah‚ cool. In a bit.’ I ended the call. ‘Really‚ Jay?’ Idris exclaimed.

‘Uh… Did you not hear what happened at the mosque?’ I asked‚ sounding defensive. ‘I’ve just come from there. It was a state. I helped with the cleaning. Man‚ we turned that place inside out.’

‘So‚ you helped out‚ right?’

‘Yeah‚ course. I was there most of the day. I don’t recall seeing you there.’

‘I was at work‚ you twat. What I’m saying is‚ you’ve done your bit. What is there left to do?’

I shrugged. I was an accomplished shrugger. I had a shrug for every occasion. This one was slight‚ barely a movement‚ a little lift of the shoulders. A shrug that said‚ maybe somethingmaybe nothing. ‘Are you going to track them down with the rest of the Brothers?’ He said‚ and I could just feel the cynicism dripping in his tone. ‘And then what‚ you going to give them a good beating? Maybe someone would be kind enough to stab one of

them‚ so this will never happen again.’

‘Look‚ calm down‚ Detective Inspector! Chill‚ man. Take your copper’s hat off for a minute and put on your Paki hat and see it from our point of view. Something like this happens‚ people just need to vent and be around others akin to them.’

I hadn’t realised until I’d finished that I’d raised my voice. Idris looked at me with elevated eyebrows. ‘Akin?’

‘Yeah‚ fucking akin. I can throw down an akin when the moment takes me. Or do I need a diploma?’

‘All I’m saying‚ Jay… Find another way to help. Sitting in a room full of angry Muslims isn’t healthy. You want to help‚ do it another way.’

‘What other way?’

‘I don’t know‚ Jay. Just another way.’ ‘I’m not you‚ Idris‚’ I said.

He looked out of the passenger window‚ I fiddled with the temperature controls on my dash. Silence filled the car. It wasn’t awkward. We were tight enough not to feel the need to fill the airwaves with inane chatter. Silence sat comfortably with us. After a spell I broke it.

‘Is there any heat on me?’

‘No‚ Jay. Not heard any whispers. Just keep discreet and don’t make any stupid moves‚’ Idris said‚ eyes roving all over my car.

‘It’s under Mum’s name. Asian parents are always buying cars for their kids‚ right?’

‘Yeah‚ maybe‚’ he said.


‘What? Nothing!’

‘I know you wanna say something. Say it.’

Idris sighed. Then he shrugged. His shrug wasn’t as good as mine. It was exaggerated‚ shoulders touching his ears. Then he sighed some more.

‘Fuck’s sake. What‚ Idris?’

‘Jay. We go back a long way‚ right? Me and you‚ we’re like brothers. Fuck that‚ we are brothers and I know you better than you know yourself.’

‘Yeah. And?’

‘So‚ I know that you can’t be happy with what you’re doing. You’re smart‚ Jay. You’re one of the most creative guys I know. You can do better than this. Yes‚ you’re making some money but is this what it’s going to be like for the rest of your life? You’re not on our radar because you’re low level but inevitably—’

‘I can’t be doing a Dolly Parton‚ Idris. Starters‚ I got no qualifications. So what are my options? Burger King‚ security guard‚ baggage handler? Nah‚ you’re alright‚ mate. Not for me.’

‘Start a business… A legit business.’

I wasn’t about to tell him about the rented one-bedroom flat in Cranford. Fluorescent lamps‚ bags of skunk seeds and soil‚ the fucking lot. It was a rash decision‚ a moment of grandeur delusions‚ one I realised that I could not have gone through with. I planned to clear it out at my first opportunity.

‘You must have some savings by now‚’ he continued. ‘You’ve been doing this forever.’

I shook my head.

‘What? Nothing?’

‘You’re sitting in it‚’ I said‚ sheepishly.

‘You spent it all on the car?’ He sounded incredulous. I felt stupid. He smiled at me.

A smile laced with sympathy.

Interview with Khurrum Rahman

Bridget Lawless talks to Khurrum Rahman

Bridget: East of Hounslow starts with a searing swipe at devout muslims, and your character Jay’s claim that he’s still a Muslim, despite selling drugs, eating burgers, only going to the mosque on Fridays, and so on. Despite the criticism he (sort of) claims should be levelled at him, he makes it clear that only Allah can judge whether he’s a good Muslim or not. Is that also a cleverly veiled message to potential Muslim critics of your work?

Khurrum: I don’t think there is a searing swipe at devout Muslims at all throughout East of Hounslow or even veiled messages aimed at Muslims. It’s more of a case of you live the life that works for you, and I’ll do the same. Jay believes he is a Muslim regardless of how he carries himself or how he practices Islam. He doesn’t feel that he has to meet certain requirements or follow exactly what is stated in the Quran to prove to himself or anyone else that he is a Muslim. To him his religion is his business. It’s personal to him.

There is something important called Niyyah in Islam, it means Intention, and Jay lives his life with the very faith that if his intentions are good then God will judge him as he should be judged. But that’s Jay, and that’s how he thinks, and really, there are many Muslims that have a similar outlook and there are others that pray five times a day. Is there a right or wrong way or does it come down to intention? I have met many Muslims, devout and otherwise, and I don’t think any two practice the same way. I’ve listened to esteemed Islamic Scholars who interpret certain aspects in different ways. It doesn’t make one or the other right or wrong. I guess a lot of it comes down to interpretation and, yes, intention. Speaking of which, my intention was to write a thought provoking, gritty, funny story that resonates in some way, shape or form with people of all faiths and backgrounds.

Bridget: You create a very charming interface between Jay the cool dude and Jay the young Muslim who, when he get around to doing any of it, defends the ritual and adherence of his religion and seems to love explaining it all to us. He’s also not afraid to point out if something seems stupid or inconvenient. Is that how you feel about faith in general – that it’s full of contradictions?

Khurrum: Far from it. It’s not at all that Jay doesn’t agree with it, or that he thinks it’s inconvenient or stupid. Not at all. If a Muslim finds peace or discipline or a closeness to Allah by following the verses of the Quran, or anybody else, for that matter, following any religious scripture that teaches good values, then that truly is a blessing. More power to them.

Jay fully understands that what may not work for him, may work for others. But does that make him a bad Muslim, I don’t know, Jay doesn’t seem to think so. Not sure that there are good or bad Muslims, just good or bad people.

In regards to how I personally feel about faith, I’m a very proud Muslim but also pretty private about my religion and only discuss with those close to me. What I will say is that at 43 I think I have found the balance for me personally. Who knows, it may change in the future but I’m loving the journey.

Bridget:  Jay is moved and horrified by seeing the bombing of a school in Canada on television.  It’s a fictional attack, whereas some of the videos he’s later shown or told about are recognisable incidents – the Boston marathon bomb, the Jordanian pilot burnt to death. Is there some moment or incident in your own life that triggered that same kind of feeling, and is East of Hounslow your response?

Khurrum: No, no trigger. I had created Jay before I had a vehicle for him. I just wanted to portray a young British Muslim that you don’t really see in fiction or media, a Muslim that I am familiar with and those that I have grown up with, work and socialise with. Jay could have easily have ended up in a romance, horror, murder mystery story. I went down the terrorism path because I wanted to stretch Jay, find the most hostile environment and drop him into it from a great height and then watch him grow from the experience. Also separately I wanted to explore how a Muslim and a Non-Muslim view these despicable acts of terrorism. Both are horrified, but a Muslim has the added burden of their faith being hijacked, being grouped as one and suffering the now engrained media campaign, for the sole purpose of fitting a narrative.

I didn’t write East of Hounslow as response to any event or even as a message, I wasn’t trying to put the world to rights. I think if I had that mindset when I set out to write, the tone of the book would be very different, possibly it may have come across a little sanctimonious.

Bridget: Jed Mercurio was widely criticised for making the apparently oppressed Muslim woman in The Bodyguard turn out to be a jihadist mastermind, neatly replacing one stereotype with another.  In East of Hounslow, you’ve avoided plenty of stereotypes and given us complex, detailed very human, fallible and funny characters. But still, you are writing about radicalisation and terrorism. As a Muslim writer, does it feel like something you that you’re almost obliged to tackle? That it pigeon-holes you in some way? Or is this just the story you wanted to write at this time?

Khurrum: I never really see myself as a Muslim writer or an Asian writer at all, though having said that I have been referred to as an Asian/Muslim writer and it doesn’t bother me. People like labels. It’s not a problem. As long as it states ‘writer’ in there somewhere, then I’m pretty happy. But I don’t see any association between Muslim and Writer or feel that I am obliged to write about subjects relating to it. Yes, East of Hounslow covers radicalization and terrorism, but it’s very much about human nature, friendship and ultimately a coming of age tale. I wrote it to entertain and not to serve to make a point.

Jed Mercurio isn’t a Muslim and in my opinion he did an incredible job with The Bodyguard and the issues surrounding it. The criticism, I think, was harsh, but probably expected. It always is when dealing with any kind of sensitive issues. Okay, so he portrayed a Muslim woman as a jihadist, and that seemed to have caused a backlash, but, and I think this is important, she was also portrayed as a strong woman, an engineer, a mastermind, no less! Even if she was a terrorist. Jed did well to step away from many incorrect stereotypes that are easily thrown around in the media. In the newspapers! But the critics seemed to focus on that one issue, not once mentioning that another Muslim suspect was innocent of a bomb attack and the fact that MI5 were involved. I think Jed dealt with the grey areas brilliantly.

Bridget: How have the Muslim community reacted to your work? Have you received criticism or congratulation (or both) for writing about such a serious subject this way?

Khurrum: Positive! Positively positive! I couldn’t be happier. I did have a concern as to what the reaction would be, not solely from the Muslim community but generally how it would be received considering the subject matter. I read it over and over with very much that in mind. I’ve had lots of Muslims reach out to say how familiar the characters felt, especially with Jay and how that portrayal of a British Muslim is rarely realised. So, yes, no criticism and a few pats on the back. I’m very grateful and in hindsight, not sure why I was so worried in the first place.

Bridget: This is a very funny novel. It’s also daring and subvervise, satarising some of the absurdities of the world you’re writing about.  There are a growing number of Muslim stand-ups now. Do you think we might be seeing a faith-based, self-mocking brand of humour emerging that could prove as rich a vein as Jewish comedy?

Khurrum: I am a huge fan of Larry David, a Jewish comedian and the master of doing just this. When writing East of Hounslow I was influenced by a similar style of observational humour. Also, I have to mention Aziz Ansari and Hasan Minhaj, both young American Muslims who talk and make light about subjects that I think we in this country tend to back away from. I would love to see more of this, because, and I say this with all due respect, religion just provides so much material!

Bridget: At times, East of Hounslow is very moving. Jay is quite open about things that drive him, and quite able to admit when his hopes are dashed or he feels inadequate. Despite the cool image he tries to convey, he’s often self-deprecating, easily wounded, embarrassed, scared, and quite conflicted as he gets sucked in. In all it’s quite a confessional. Did you enjoy revealing the softer, weaker side of a male character?

Khurrum: Most of the spy thrillers and movies that I read and watch, the protagonist is the all-smiling, all conquering, alpha. The type who would walk into a room and against the odds over power the villains and then walk away with the most beautiful girl in the room who was suitably impressed by his manliness. Or something to that effect. It’s all good and it has its place, but it’s not something that I can relate to. From early on I wanted Jay to be a little softer, less assured, wanted him to say and do the wrong thing and make mistakes with regret. That’s in us all and I think it’s one of the reasons why Jay is a popular character. He has the ability to frustrate the reader like a friend, whilst falling for his nature.

Bridget: Will we be seeing more of Javid Qasim in the future?

Khurrum: Homegrown Hero will be out November 2018 and I am currently writing a third. After that, if readers still want to be annoyed and entertained by Jay, then I’m sure he’ll return.