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“Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do no be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America.”

– Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Page 1)

In The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, the American in the story is portrayed as the typical judgmental character. Although a lot of people could have found that extremely offensive, I do not think Hamid meant it that way. I do believe that he meant to target that type of person, the man or woman who after 9/11 became increasingly wary of anyone who showed signs of being a Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent. It is hard to deny that after 9/11 people turned against ‘that group,’ regardless of whether they had anything to do with the attacks or not, but it is not hard to deny that every American became such a person. Had Hamid written his book to attack America, to say that we are that stereotype, it would not have been nearly as strong. However, by writing a book simply to approach that type of person, I think he showed how ignorant that view point was. Although I have heard others argue that Changez was the violent type and that he led protests, his story still shows that he was targeted because of what he looked and his cultural values even though he had nothing to do with the attacks. The Washington Post could not have said it any better when they reviewed Hamid’s book: “Extreme times call for extreme reactions, extreme writing. Hamid has done something extraordinary with this novel.” Had Americans learned the lesson ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’ a long time ago, I wonder if we would have even been in the position to be attacked in the first place. However, it is never to late to learn, and the sooner we treat our fellow human beings the way that we wish to be treated, the sooner this world will see peace.

 

3 Responses to “Was it Really a Stereotype?”

  1. Marta says:

    “Although I have heard others argue that Changez was the violent type and that he led protests, his story still shows that he was targeted because of what he looked and his cultural values even though he had nothing to do with the attacks.”
    It sounds almost as if you’re saying that Changez’s being “the violent type” and his being targeted are mutually exclusive…to me this implies that to accept that Changez led protests that turned violent (which, in my mind, is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of compelling evidence for the violence of his character, being that he may not have had control over their outcomes) is to vilify him, whereas to acknowledge the ethnic discrimination he’s faced is to hold him up as a saint or something. While I understand entirely how being acquainted with a character’s pain encourages one to empathize with that character, I do feel that to regard Changez (or the American, or any of these characters, for that matter) as totally good or totally bad is to oversimplify somewhat.

    I’m reminded a little of Bertrand Russell’s “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed” (from Unpopular Essays) in which he examines the idea that people who suffer are better people, and ultimately remains unconvinced.
    “If it were indeed the case that bad nourishment, little education, lack of air and sunshine, unhealthy housing conditions, and overwork produce better people than are produced by good nourishment, open air, adequate education and housing, and a reasonable amount of leisure, the whole case for economic reconstruction would collapse, and we could rejoice that such a large percentage of the population enjoys the conditions that make for virtue.”
    Though most of this is highly specific and inapplicable to Changez’s situation, I do think the basic sentiment is worth thinking about. Suffering does not lead inevitably to virtue. If it did, then everyone would be a good person, because everyone suffers.

    • Kasey Stewart says:

      I Put the idea that he could be violent in there to help people understand that wasn’t the ‘changez’ I was talking about. I wanted the moral of my post to be that yeah after 9/11 there were rude people and that yes, people who did not deserve to be targeted were. Sorry if it was confusing, I probably could have said it better. Your comment was really interesting though! You should definitely mention it in class today.
      Thanks,
      Kasey Stewart

  2. Marta says:

    …Also, I’m sorry that my last comment ended up being a total novel. Ha.