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Hanif Kureishi's "My Son the Fanatic"

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Mari Carmen Ramos

on 22 April 2015

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Transcript of Hanif Kureishi's "My Son the Fanatic"

Hanif Kureishi
"My Son the Fanatic"

Hanif Kureishi (1954)
He was born in a multicultural family.
Works related with cultural issues.
Influenced by racial politics in Britain.
Perspectives on identity framed by a ethnic position.
Exploration of "half-caste."
Focus on identity, hibritidty, alienation, racism, fundamentalism...
"My Son the Fanatic" (1994)
He wrote the story “to understand what it is to be a son, what it is to be a father. What it is to live in a world where there is radical Islam.” (Kureishi 2006)
"My Son the Fanatic"
After the WWII.
Great immigration to Britain.
Contrast between 1st and 2nd generation of immigrants.
Living in Western civilization in a different way.
Critique of the relationship between multiculturalism, liberalism and fundamentalism.
Summary (I)
“My Son the Fanatic” is a short story. However, it has a big emotional burden and almost every word is very meaningful.
This story tells us the problems between a Pakistani immigrant father and his son Ali.
The father, named Parvez, has noticed something weird is happening in his son’s behavior. The boy falls apart of his expensive belongings. Due to that, Parvez is disappointed and begins to drink.
Later, he comes to a conclusion, his son is TAKING DRUGS. However, what really happens is that Ali is a follower of the Islamic religion (ideology which his father refused when he was young)
Ali criticizes his father because he breaks many rules of the Koran and wants Parvez to change his life.
Summary (II)
“How can you love something which hates you” (Kureishi 104).
Ali thinks the problem is in England, it is England “The West was a sink of hypocrites, adulterers, homosexuals, drug takers and prostitutes.” (Kureishi 104)
Summary (III)
Parvez already tired tries to connect more with him, though he still hates his father because he does not want to follow the rules of the Koran.
Finally, one day things get twisted and Parvez sees Ali praying. Then, Parvez hits him and as an answer the boy neither defends himself nor runs away. He only said, through his split lip: “So who’s the fanatic now?’”(Kureishi 108)
He was born and grew up in Britain.
Dedication to being a Muslim and follow the Koran.
Turn to religion to find comfort and support.
Father figure failed.
Parvez and Bettina met in a taxi service.
A person who he could trust and gave him support.
Close friends.
Lives in Britain, grew up in Lahore
Influenced by his family's ideology
Before move to Britain:
He got some reasons to leave that country.
Implicated in the British culture
After moving to Britan:
He had a son and he wanted the best for him.
Bad relationship with his wife.
Working as a Taxi driver, shared it with other Punjabis.
Great relationship with Bettina.
So, who's the fanatic now?
Is Parvez more of a fanatic than Ali?
Too much implication in British society?
Too much attachment to Islamic religion?
Implication in other cultures
Fundamentalism: Western lifestyle (Britain) vs. Eastern lifestyle (Pakistan)
Distinguish between:
"My Son the Fanatic" deals with fundamentalism from Parvez's and Ali's points of view.
Both characters go too far, each one in his own direction
Ali -> "fundamentalist?"
Parvez -> "liberal?"

"So, who's the fanatic now?"
Religion: Aspects of Islam
Monotheistic religion.
“Islam” means voluntary “submission” to the Will of God.
The god of the Muslims is Allah who is the creator of the Koran.
Muslims’ main concern is to obtain peace because they believe in the “hereafter”. Peace can be achieved by following Allah’s commands and following these five pillars:
The first rule is to pray 5 times a day (Fridays in the mosque)
The second rule is the Zakat. They must donate some of their riches to relieve the soul.
The third rule is the Saum, fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Another rule is the predominance of faith.
And the last rule is the Hajj, which means to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca (at least once in their life.)
[Many of these features can be seen in Ali, who follows all these “rules”. However, his father “had broken countless rules of the Koran.” (Kureishi 103)]
Opposition of two cultures which clash: Islam in the Eastern cultures vs. Western religions of the British country.

Many conflicts between them although their differences could be negotiated.
Parvez, as a example of someone implicated in another culture which was not the same as when he was a child.
Regarding to Ali's behaviour, Parvez was not conscious about the real issue of his son.
Ali became very religious (pray and change stuff as a symbol of a change in his life).
Conclusion: My Son the Fanatic has an inversion of the readers. Ali is acting more as a father and Parvez not tolearte his son's religion. Ali's aim is to break with the English society and devote to the Islamic religion, all the contrary to his father.
First generation immigrants Born in a country and migrate to another.

Second generation immigrants Search for identity.
Related to present time (I)
Pakistani Community of England -> Third largest ethnic group in Britain nowadays.
Migration of Pakistanis -> in the 1960s
In 1951 ->5,000 Pakistanis
In 1966 ->120,000 Pakistanis
More than 90% of Pakistanis -> Muslims.
Pakistanis are NOT immigrants -> they are “British Pakistanis.”
The majority -> from Kashmir and Punjab areas of Pakistan.
Related to present time (II)
Where have they mainly settled? -> Birmingham, Bradford and Oldham
Population of British Pakistani Community in 2015 -> 1.17 million.
Population estimated by 2031 -> 2.63 million.

Definition: prejudice or hatred against the Islamic religion and Muslims. Type of Racism.
Worldwide issue.

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