After several terrorist attacks, society have focused and learned a lot about Islamic extremist, Jihad and countries of the Middle East in general. Almost every day the news contains stories about how orthodox Muslims and al-Qaeda recruits young promising students to fight the suppression of Muslims all over the world. This is also the issue which is talked about in this short story: “My son the fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi. Ali is one of those promising students. He got straight A’s and was remarkable at cricket, swimming and football, had lots of friends and a lovely girlfriend.
He was completely integrated in the English society. Then suddenly he becomes an orthodox Muslim and gives all of his belongings away, possibly because he is the “type” of Muslim who believes that only by neglecting the material world you are a true Muslim, or it’s because all of those things is a symbol for the western world which he is trying to escape from. Ali also changes his attitude. He disperses with his friends and his girlfriend and begins to talk harsh and disrespectfully towards his father Parvez.
He and his father used to be like brothers, “We were not father and son – we were brothers! (P. 194 l. 14-15) They used to talk about everything but after Ali’s “transformation”, it’s really awkward when they are together. Parvez takes Ali to a restaurant and tries to break the silence but Ali was extremely reluctant to talk and started lecturing Parvez on all his wrongs in life according to the Koran. He no longer talks to Parvez as his father but like he is somebody that he must convince to become a Muslim. Parvez is the father of Ali. He is born in Pakistan but is now a taxi driver in England. He loves living in England is completely integrated in the western culture.
He does everything he can to create a normal life for his family. He works a lot to give Ali a first-class education. However, Ali drops out of school and Parvez is bothering his head about it. He talks to his friends about and they concludes that he must be taking drugs, however, after a few days with that theory, he finds out that Ali has become an orthodox Muslim, it consequently breaks Parves’ heart. Parvez isn’t Muslim but believes that you should live your life the way you want to, but still respect others. He believes that if you would like some pork or a drink you should be allowed to have it.
This and his friendship with the brass Bettina clash with Ali’s orthodox belief. Parvez has the amazing ability to see something good in everyone. Even when Ali disgraces him at the restaurant he still believes in the good in him. Bettina is one of Parvez’ regular customers due to being a brass and therefore working late, when Parvez like to work. She is an extremely good friend of Parvez and he can talk to her about things he wouldn’t even discuss with his wife: “he could talk to her about things he’d never be able to discuss with his own wife. (P. 195l. 1-2) Nevertheless Bettina is, for Ali, a symbol of everything that is wrong about the western society. Ali might also think that Bettina has something with his father that his father doesn’t have with his mother. Bettina also helps Parvez trough the tough times when he don’t know what is going on with Ali. I think the reason that the writer has chosen a prostitute to be the wise one is to show how Parvez can see something good in everyone, even those who you see as the bottom of the society.
The ending drastically shows how frustrated and powerless Parvez is feeling. He has no idea of what to do. Everything he has worked for is just tossed out the window. To sum up the themes of this short story it’s all about clash of cultures. We have the western culture which we see in Bettina and Parvez meeting the Islamic culture which is represented by Ali. It also takes up the theme about the relationship between father and son, and furthermore how a father’s expectations can make a son go the opposite direction.
Courtney from Study Moose
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