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The Power of Religion Essay

In a very rapidly evolving economy and society the power of religion, culture and politics are making a major effect on the world that everyone today calls home. The power of religion, culture and politics relate to the post colonial literary lens and can be synced into creating the definition of what the post colonial literary lens means. In the New York Times bestseller written by John Updike titled Terrorist, the post colonial lens is evident throughout the novel as there is a continuous struggle of religion, culture and politics. The power of religion and culture is shown as individuals are willing to risk their lives for their own religion.

In the United States of America members of the Muslim religion are not always treated as equally as the average American and this creates a struggle. The effects and struggles are shown throughout the novel from three of the main characters Ahmad Mulloy, Jack Levy and Shaikh Rashid. Ahmad Mulloy is an eighteen year old boy who is about to graduate high school and is strongly influenced by his Muslim religion and background beliefs. Jack Levy is the guidance councilor at the school that Ahmad attends and sees the intelligence in Ahmad when others do not including Ahmad himself. Shaikh Rashid is the leader of the local mosque that Ahmad attends frequently for advice and to pray. Through these three very different characters the post colonial lens is shown in different ways.

At the beginning of the novel it is evident that the Muslim religion is not welcomed and appreciated in the American society of Patterson, New Jersey where Ahmad has been raised. Ahmad has a hatred for his mother Teresa Mulloy who raised him from a child, but on the flip side he idolizes his absent father who left Ahmad and his mother when he was only three years old. The power of the Muslim religion on Ahmad is present right from the beginning of the novel as he has sexual impulses towards another girl at his high school named Joryleen. The power of the Muslim religion on Ahmad can be seen when “Ahmad knows it is a sin to be vulgar towards his own god and that is why his sexual impulses for Joryleen dissipated,” (Updike, 18). Ahmad had sexual impulses towards a fellow schoolmate Joryleen who he had a crush on but God instructed him to repress them as it is a sin to have thoughts like this occupying your head.

The power of religion is shown as he forces himself to give up thoughts that make him happy and excites him because it is not welcomed by the God in which he finds himself in the arms of. Moving through the novel Ahmad who is a very intelligent young adult has a desire to be a truck driver as he is convinced that it is a practical skill of good merit. Ahmad is also very frightened by the thoughts that continuing his academic studies in high school will strengthen his occasional religious doubt. While Ahmad is sitting in class his thoughts are doubtful, “sitting in class listening to his fellow classmates discuss what they are doing on the weekend, he realizes that he is not doing as much to keep up with his religion as he did in the past,” (Updike, 64). Ahmad has been in school and is realizing that the effects of an American public high school is changing his views on his religion and in his mind he believes he is betraying his God and this frightens him. He realizes that he needs to get out of school because it is manipulating him into a non-Islamic minded American like all of the others.

He decides to drop out of school and become a truck driver and focus more on his religion and practicing the Muslim religion and this is why he begins going to a local mosque frequently. Moving on towards the ending of the novel Ahmad has become a very big believer in the Muslim religion and it is overpowering his thoughts on what is politically right and right in his religion. Ahmad’s involvement in the local mosque that he attends has got him involved in a terrorist plot against American infidels or non-Muslims. Shaikh Rashid who is the leader of the mosque Ahmad visits frequently begins going through the terrorist plot “Ahmad you will be driving the truck that is going to be used to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River,” (Updike, 196).

Ahmad is willing to risk his life by blowing himself up in the blast of the Lincoln Tunnel for the Muslim religion he believes in and stands so strongly behind. The power and impact of others and God on Ahmad is evident in showing how the power of religion is used and shown in the novel as not many people are willing to go to the extent of killing themselves to prove that they are true to their religion and beliefs. Throughout the novel Ahmad goes from losing his beliefs in the Muslim religion to realizing that his religion is what sets him free from everybody else and it is what he cares so strongly about.

Moving throughout the novel and after Ahmad had realized that he needs to put more focus into his Muslim religion he meets a man named Shaikh Rashid. Shaikh is Ahmad’s imam at the local mosque that Ahmad begins to attend and his visits become more frequent as he gets closer to Shaikh. This man worked as Ahmad’s imam and mentor and this kept Ahmad going back and back to the mosque more frequently as he liked to associate himself with Shaikh. A good time in the novel where this is shown is when Ahmad left school to go to the mosque, “the streets were empty as everybody was in class learning and as Ahmad was about to learn more about himself,” (104). Shaikh was a great mentor for Ahmad and this is shown as he would give up going to school to further his beliefs in the Muslim religion. Shaikh agrees with Ahmad’s decision to give up going to school and focus on his religion because he also agreed that by continuing the opportunity of going to school it would further corrupt his mindset on the Muslim religion.

This would occur because Ahmad would have more American based beliefs pushed into his mind every day at the public high school he was enrolled in. Continuing deeper into the novel Shaikh found Ahmad a job with a furniture company called Excellency Home Furnishings and at this point Ahmad began trusting Shaikh more and more as he was helping him move on from high school. Shaikh announced the news to Ahmad about him finding him the job at Excellency Home Furnishings and this lead to Ahmad being more independent and without his mother. Ahmad shows this when he says, “My mother has tried to strip me down of my true Muslim desires for her own comfort,” (141). Shaikh has made Ahmad believe that his mother was a bad influence on him as it is evident that she did not put any focus into his background and where he came from.

Ahmad does not feel the need for his mother anymore and begins being more independent because his mother is the only person in his life and she does not believe in the Muslim religion. To Ahmad this means that it is just him and the people he knows from the mosque now as he sees them as more caring towards him than his own mother. The power of Ahmad’s religion has pushed him right out of his mother’s arms and into the arms of fellow Muslims at the mosque. Shaikh turns out to be a very manipulative person and has mentored Ahmad for his own benefit and the job at the furniture company just turns out to be part of the plan. Shaikh manipulates Ahmad to participate in the terrorist bomb plot to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River. Shaikh has gotten Ahmad taken over by the Muslim religion and says, “Already you have lived longer than many martyrs in Iran and Iraq,” (195).

Shaikh has used the power of religion to manipulate Ahmad into participating in the terrorist plot and sacrificing his own life. The power of the Muslim religion has taken Ahmad fully over and it had been pressured upon him by Shaikh who is also a strong believer. Ahmad has felt let down by both of his parents and feels as if there is no life left in him; this is his calling to be a true Muslim and to prove that he is a pure believer. Shaikh used the power of religion to get a young adult to sacrifice his life for something that he himself was to coward to do alone. Throughout the novel Shaikh uses the power of religion to manipulate a young adult to do things he never would have done on his own. The power of the Muslim religion is proven when Ahmad follows through on the sacrifice of his life even after he finds out that is was staged.

Lastly, the power of religion on Ahmad can also be seen through the interactions with the guidance councilor of the high school where Ahmad was attending. Jack Levy is an American Jew who had abandoned practicing his religion earlier on in his life. Jack in the novel showed that he cared for Ahmad quite a bit after visiting his mother to try and get her support in pushing Ahmad to further educate himself at the college level as he is very intelligent. Jack comes across as a nice and caring guy as he is trying to help Ahmad make the right choice in his life as shown when he goes to talk to his mother Teresa Mulloy “hello Ms. Mulloy, I am Jack Levy…” (176). Jack and Ahmad’s mother both agreed into trying to push Ahmad towards going to college but Ahmad disagreed. He thought about what abandoning his religion got Jack and it got him nowhere, he became one of many Americans who is in an unhealthy marriage and lives every day of his life facing coming home to an obese wife.

To Ahmad he cannot abandon his religion because putting more belief into it has changed who he is and how he does things. He is not risking of getting this happiness and freedom that he sees in the Muslim religion taken from him by going to college. Moving on into the conflict between Jack and Ahmad, each of them learn more about each other and many things come as surprise to both of them. One of the things that Ahmad learns about Jack is that he has been having an affair with his mother for the past three months. Ahmad learns this when Jack tries to have an honest conversation with him and says, “I have been having an affair with your mother for the last three months,” (213). This is the last string for Ahmad as he sees that Jack abandoning his religion has turned him into a sinner and a cheater as he cheated on his wife. The last thing that Ahmad wants is to turn out like Jack and share the same American non-Islamic beliefs.

At this point Jack realizes that what he has just told Ahmad has pushed him further away and his mind more on continuing his religious practice. The power of the Muslim religion on Ahmad has him unwilling to turn into and die a sinner and thus is why he continues in his terrorist plot. Coming towards the end of the novel Ahmad is not looking back and has no regrets. He continues his trek to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River. Nothing can stop him at this point and this is seen when “Ahmad while approaching the meeting point in the bomb-laden truck does not see his accomplices,” (274). On the day of the planned terrorist plot Ahmad’s accomplices are not at the planned meeting place but the mission must continue in Ahmad’s mind.

Ahmad avoids being arrested by federal agents and continues his suicide mission alone as he has no intentions of turning around. Jack hears about this planned plot and tries to stop Ahmad but is ignored as Ahmad drives past him. At this point for Ahmad it is sacrificing his life because to him it is the right thing to do as his God is telling him to do it. He had two choices to continue the mission or to stop and turn out like the other American non-Islamic people and he did not want to turn out like them. The power of religion upon Ahmad is very evident and Jack Levy is used to show that nobody could stop Ahmad as the power of his beliefs caused him to get involved with criminal activity but it is what the Muslim God wanted for him.

Finally, the aspects of the post colonial lens such as the power of religion, culture and politics are very evident in this novel. The power behind the belief in the Muslim religion is shown through Ahmad as the novel progresses and it is evident that no religion should be challenged. The struggle of American non-Islamic citizens on a true believer of the Islamic Muslim religion is seen throughout the novel. Evident characters in the novel that fall victim to these struggles are Ahmad, Shaikh and Jack. Ahmad was the biggest person in the novel that was influenced by the Muslim religion and proves that religion is very powerful as shows the willingness to sacrifice his life for his God.

Shaikh is the main person involved in Ahmad’s life as he taught him a lot about himself and motivated him also. Although seen the motivation not always to be a good thing in his mind it was right, he strongly believed that. Jack is the one who saw well in Ahmad but failed to be able to help him because at this point Jack was only fueling Ahmad’s terrorist plot activity. Throughout the novel the power of religion surprises everybody and it is proof that nobody should challenge another person’s beliefs because it is infuriating and this is shown through Ahmad’s activities towards the end of the novel.

Works Cited

Updike, John. Terrorist. New York: The Random House Publishing Group. 2006. 310.


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