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What’s in a Name?

yes, this is "downtown" Truckee in winter

In reading the Submission and working on a public speaking project about math and science until 3:30am I remembered something from high school. I went to a charter school, as I’m sure most of you know, which means I had classes three days a week, math for two hours a week, science for three, college advising for one, and gov/econ for one hour each week as well. My classes rotated like a college schedule with math and science Mondays and Wednesdays and the other classes on Tuesday. We were held to state standards exactly like public school (because charter is public) and so if we missed a day of math class we were rapidly falling behind. You all probably also know that I come from some place with crazy amounts of snow each year, more than 200 inches each year on average. So, we had something like seven snow days that impacted our math class days. When we had snow days the math classes were to refer to certain Khan Academy videos in place of being taught the lesson.

The Submission, of course, is about a man named Mohammed Khan. The website we used in high school was started by Salman Khan. Based on the title of my post, you know this blog will be about names. Khan, who created the very helpful tutoring website obviously shares a last name with Khan, who created a very controversial 9/11 memorial. To me it seems if both of these are positive acts. One helps children understand something they can’t get a grasp on in class, the other helps children mourn the loss of deceased relatives. Khan Academy is well used and supported. I suppose there are probably some radical christian homeschooling mothers who refuse to use Khan Academy because it might have a Muslim influence, but from everyone I talked to about it back in Truckee, everyone fully supported the website and thought it was great. What then, is the difference between Khan getting a positive response and Khan getting a negative one?

It could solely be the obvious ties between 9/11 and someone with a last name like Khan. But because Mohammed Khan has the name he does, does not make him a terrorist of course. Citizens know this because they’re clearly willing to put their kids in front of a computer screen for 45 minutes while they watch math videos of things parents don’t understand. The masses are not assuming this is brain washing, they think it’s something beneficial. When the masses see Khan designed a garden in the book, they assume it is Islamic and like constructing a heaven for those who hijacked the planes.

I think this means, and I’m barely figuring this out now, as I type, that the tie between Mohammed Khan and the extreme uprising that resulted when his submission won is not based on his name. It can’t be. Or at least, solely it cannot be. Instead the response to his victory is one that occurs because of a multitude of reasons. It is because of his skin color, his lack of response to their question of fear (is it an Islamic garden? are you religious?), his name, and the event that the memorial was created for. The ties between who he is and who brought the buildings down is far too close for the comfort of the masses in the novel.

2 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. Marta says:

    Salman Khan is also Mo’s father’s name in the book. 🙂

  2. joerger15 says:

    I think that Mohammed is the part of his name that people most associate with Islam and then somehow get the idea that he is a radical Muslim, because for some reason they think all Muslims are radical, just like all Christians are great people, right? Sorry, you can probably tell I’m being sarcastic, but anyways Mohammed to me is very obviously Muslim, whereas Khan is such a common name (one of my best friends’ last name is Khan) to me that it does not necessarily mean Muslim name to me like it may mean to others. As you may know, Muhammad was the founder of Islam. Because of this name’s tie to the religion Islam, it would almost automatically be assumed the a person with the name is Muslim, just as a person with the name Jesus is almost certainly Christian. Other names tied to the Bible and Qur’an are not so easily pigeon-holed into a specific religion, as those names such as Abraham are featured throughout Christian, Judaic, and Islamic scripture.