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My son the Fanatic

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As exhibited in “My son the Fanatic”, Hanif Kureishi presents a picture of a big conflict between Parvez and his son Ali. This conflict is majorly a result of Ali’s stand on religious matters; we see Ali a staunch Muslim keenly adhering the Koran’s teachings while his father (not a religious person from childhood) having trouble following Alla’s teachings. Ali’s attitude changes on many issues including on his father as a result of this development.

On page 147, from the 11th to 15th paragraph, we see Ali sticking to Zakat (which describes the aspects of Islam) which makes him to discard his fashionable clothes, computer disks, videotapes, TV, stereo system, guitar, video player and other possessions which he regards anti Islam to keep. He even starts keeping a beard. These developments make his father to think that Ali’s is taking drugs. On the other hand, Ali sees his father as having left the Koran teachings and so does not approve of his way of life. It is even said that when Parvez took a drink in Ali’s company, the boy winced, or made some kind of fastidious face. He hated his father for this.    

In this story, the two had a conflict over what was best for Ali; according to Parvez, Ali was to study accounting and get a good job and he works long hours to see that it happens but Ali gives up his studies and instead goes to work in prison with poor Muslims which he deems right as far as the Koran is concerned. He also gives up sports and breaks up with his English girlfriend. Ali generally hates Britain and all that pertains to it. This makes his father think that he has become addicted to drugs and he even talks to Bettina in the hope of getting some helpful advice.

Parvez has embraced the ways of the west and we see this in the way he drinks socializes with the prostitute – Bettina and even eats pork which is anti Islam. This increases the conflict with his son who detests the westerners’ ways and is willing to go for a jihad against them. We also see Ali declining to have an appointment with his father on the grounds that he is busy (with religious issues).

The extent of this conflict is also exhibited when Ali meets his father with Bettina the prostitute. Ali gets into the car and sits on the back seat where passengers usually sit an indication that they are more of strangers than father and son. Certainly, Bettina is closer to Parvez than his own son.

Looking at this conflict, on can fail to notice that is not only a religious conflict but also an intergenerational conflict. Parvez represents the older generation while Ali is a representative of the younger generation. This is brought out in the difference on their attitudes on life; like the older generation, Parvez thinks he’s the one to shape Ali’s future and so he is doing all he can so that Ali can get a good job (be an accountant), marry the right girl (an English girl), and start a family (p. 149 ll.15-16). Ali, on the other hands believes he is to be left and decide all these by himself.

In this conflict, we have both the right and wrong sides depending on where one decides to stand. For instance, from a parental perspective, Parvez is right as it is believed that a parent is charged with the responsibility ensuring a better future for his children. And so I would say he was right because he meant good for Ali in all these. On the other hand, Ali is equally right given the freedom of worship and subscribing to any religion around the world. It is his life and therefore he should be left to make his decisions so as to be responsible for his own life.

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