Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Open Thread: The Reluctant Fundamentalist


23 comments:

yanks4life10 said...

By far the best book we have read so far. I think that rather than throwing alot of violent language and horrific situations in your face, Hamid does a great job of capturing the reader through a story of a man and through that story the reader can form his own opinions about what terrorism is. Not only is it passionate and sympathetic but he stimulates the readers imagination of sitting there with changez and forming your own opinion about what kind of guy he is. I think that there is an on going imbalance on whether we should depict Changez as a born again american or a patriotic pakistani.

In another topic, I have been doing some research on what exactly fundamentalism is and i found this quote.. " The overarching theme to the fundamentalist, whether Muslim or Christian, is that God is to be worshipped, respected, feared & obeyed above all else. All other considerations take a back seat to God. This intense and abiding devotion means that there are some things that are completely, utterly non-negotiable. In this way, it is like viewing the world as being black and white, with little if any gray between that which is good and that which is evil. Accompanying this is a tendency toward literalism. If scripture says that Noah built an ark, put two of each type of animal throughout the world on it, and that they sailed on that boat while the entire earth was flooded, then it happened. No questions need be asked; it happened, regardless of whether it is logically consistent with what we know about animals, floods, ancient ships or the geological record.
An important element of the fundamentalist mindset is the rejection of modernism. Contemporary western values are inconsistent with God's values and with His will for humanity. People's duty is to worship God, not to ignore or ridicule Him. God's rules are clear and they are to be enforced and respected, not flaunted. As a result, fundamentalists have very conservative views on social issues. The fundamentalist finds media portrayals of sex, inappropriate gender roles, and many other elements of Western culture to be abominations completely out of harmony with God's will. God does not like it, doesn't tolerate it, and neither do God's devoted followers.

So are we seeing Changez "change" into a fundamentalist? is America that contemporary culture that is so hated?

CAH said...

SPRING 1990 I attended a Symposium Sociologists were studying Fundamentalism on the World Scene in anticipation of having problems with the Muslims. Prior to 9/11 in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East young people were being taught to be "body bombers"--to give their lives for Allah and kill infidels. We knew there were problems and we could not/did not avert Worldwide crisis. I agree with Entertainment Weekly on this book "Slender,smart and subversive",& well written-I noticed that Hamid now lives in London attended Princeton and Harvard but grew up in Lahore, wise choice, London. CAH

MacCollum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MacCollum said...

Well, Changez becomes a fundamentalist in that he decides that family comes before finance...he's no religious fundamentalist. He's a religious hypocrite, as far as sex, alcohol, etc (p54- "Is it not a sin? Yes, it certainly is--And so, for that matter, is coveting thy neighbor's wife. I see you smile; we understand each other, then."-one example of his views on drinking). His faith is never important to him. He simply begins to resent America when it appears to be "hitting too close to home." He was just as much in love with American culture as the rest of his fellow New Yorkers, until his family was threatened. He was never concerned with Allah or infidels.

MacCollum said...

After Wednesday's discussion:
I think that Changez was absolutely cosmopolitan, but that one of the points of the book is the failure of cosmopolitanism to compete with people's roots (home and family, basic loyalties, FUNDAMENTALS...) when the chips are down. This whole globalization concept that we love to talk about, the whole "global community," is a purely economic construction, and past that it's just an illusion. We have commercial ties to all these other countries, but that's a pretty shallow basis for a relationship, as is proven when Changez is forced to chose between his dream job/life and his family.

KLamm said...

I know this was a hot topic today in class, but I wanted to share my opinion on the idea of fundamentalism because I didn't really get to in class. I'm not trying to start the argument all over again.. just wanted to share my opinion:

I feel that, like others in the class, fundamentalism is having a core set of beliefs that you keep in mind on a day to day basis. These beliefs do not have to be radical or extremist, but on the most basic level, they are things that you trust, believe, and honor. I think everyone has a responsibility to be open-minded and learn different perspectives that will ultimately lead them to draw conclusions about themselves and their ideas. That is what is so great about the human race - we all can contribute a piece of ourselves and it is okay to have different points of view.

The obvious root word of fundamentalism is fundamental. Fundamental, as defined by dictionary.com, means serving as, or being an essential part of, a foundation or basis; basic; underlying. If we look past the negative connotations that the media and others have placed on the word fundamentalism, we can see that fundamentalism is about building a foundation that we can use to develop our character, opinions, and personality. I believe that on the most basic level, all of us have an idea we believe in or a moral we live by, and I believe that it is necessary to have these ideas to become strong, independent, intelligent adults. Not to be cliche, but as the saying goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

CAH said...

http://www.wcco.com/video/?id=41934@wcco.dayport.com
BIO FUEL video--Fuel resources have been labeled as one contributing factor to terrorism and problems associatied with it.CAH

CAH said...

ELEMENT of LIT.-FORESHADOWING-I believe predicts Changez Death-p.99I was reminded of the film TERMINATOR p. 126 Changez returns to Lahore & his Mom waves a 100rupee note over his head.(Is there a price over his head?)p. 176 You seem ready to bolt. Was it that sound in the distance? I assure you it was not the report of a pistol--although I can understand why you might think so--p. 177 Earlier, sir if you recall, you asked me what I did to stop America. Let me know as we come to the end of our time together p. 182 If Erica was watching--I was tugged at by an undercurrent of loss p. 183 Perhaps you are convinced that I am an inveterate liar,you are under the impression that we are being pursued.--It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not image that you Americans are all under-cover assassins. p. 184 perhaps our waiter wants to say goodbye as well, for he is rapidly closing in.--I know you have found some of my views offensive; I hope you will not resist my attempt to shake you by the hand. But why are you reaching into your jacket, sir? I detect a glint of metal. CAH

be love. said...

i don't really see any foreshadowing in this book, to be completely honest. i think that i agree with (i think yanksforlife is libby) that this story is so well written in that it's just that... a story. perhaps i am being naive in my reading, but i really took the book a page at a time and didn't read any of the details as foreshadowing so much. i think if anything it was attempting to make connections in and of itself.

Mario said...

i agree with you that this is just a story i didnt see much foreshadowing at all. from my experience with camus he didnt foreshadow that much. granted i didnt not read the fall and i read the stranger, but i think foreshadowing would have taken away some of the tenseness from teh end of the book in my opinion. of couse i could be wrong its been close to 4 years since i read the stranger or even mentioned albert camus

John Collins said...

Yeah I'm not sure if the gunshot in the distance and the American constantly fiddling inside his jacket were examples of foreshadowing as much as it was to keep the reader on the edge of their seat while they were reading. Had the book ended with the American pulling out a gun and shooting the waiter or Changez helping to kill the American then I think a case could be made that all of the examples were foreshadowing, but since he left it up to the reader to decide what happens I think they are just meant to add suspense. By leaving the ending of the book open Hamid makes sure that all of the topics and questions raised in the book reasonate much more.

KLamm said...

As I was reading this book, I took all of Changez's comments to the American as very sarcastic and almost ridiculing. I just felt like Changez knew something the American didn't. During the final pages of the book, I was waiting for the waiter and Changez to gang up on the American. If the American is reaching into his pocket at the end to get a gun, I think it would be from self-defense, not an initial intent to kill Changez.

But the ending is left entirely up to us. Although I usually hate open endings, I liked this one because of all the directions it could go. The way we read the ending affects our perception of the whole book (whether Changez was naive or hiding a secret, whether the American was paranoid or nervous about upcoming events, whether events were foreshadowing or not). I think leaving these questions for us is exactly what the author intended.

be love. said...

i completely agree! i sometimes felt in class that we gave changez too much credit for being a nice person. every time i read a 'relaxing statement' from him towards the american it always sounded condescending to me. while i agree that the end is left open for a reason and we get to choose it for ourselves, i can see how the way in which he set up the ending is a true testament to the people he knows are reading the book. i believe it is the perfect launching point for your own biases to jump in and allow you to form an ending.

callie grace said...

the open ending of this book serves what the ultimate purpose of this book is. The so called 'foreshadowing' that we read into throughout the pages seems only to unveil prejudices that we hold yet so easily dismiss because they are socially acceptable and portrayed in our daily lives (hence the movie references throughout the book).

i believe the purpose of this book is to reveal the prejudices/socially constructed beliefs and call them into question. I know i was convicted after reexamining my own interpretation of the ending and realizing i had confined both the american and changez to a prison of my mind... bounding them with chains of presumptions and basis.

and this came so thoughtlessly through the pages of a novel, how much easier does it come in daily life? man... humanity needs help.

CAH said...

The Cyclist-I see that he seems to enjoy life, love and food (the later of the two I've heard go hand in hand)however, I'm trying to decide if there could be masses of people who are SOCIOPATHS by nature/personality. That is the only explanation I can find for the thoughts of what the "baby" can do. I am trying to understand the terrorist mindset/worldview. CAH

op.3no.2 said...

I really enjoyed reading this book and The Cyclist. The Cyclist was black and beautiful, absolute handiwork of an artist. A distinction I note of these two books from the first two books we read is that the first two books I felt were Designed, and these last two were more Strands teased out of life. Obviously all four used plenty of literary devices, forms, etc, so that none of them were simply telling a story, rather they were all works of Writing; but the last two did so in a way that was more, well, conversational: in Fundamentalist, it is a conversation with the reader/American, in Cyclist it is a conversation with the self. Both are in first-person, in any case, and reading them I felt the text flowed naturally, freely - an intimate discourse with the reader. In the first two books we read, I always felt a bit of distance. I don't think this is because they are in third-person; I have read others written so without the distance. The first two, I suppose, want the reader as an observor, thinking about what's going on and why; the last two we've read want the reader in the life of the person, want us to understand how he feels.

JE said...

I completely loved this book. I beleive that this book was one that hit home. It was really close to Hospital in that aspect that it changes and helps mold your idea of life. The media is a killer and it can be the object that leads you to kill off a perfect person. Even through the stuggles of war, there should be a kind heart for those who are innoscent. This book reflects the opinions that many outsiders as wells as ourselves have on America. I love my country and countrymen, but I agree that we can be an arogant nation. I often wish I could go some where else, but this is my home. The funny thing about this book, is that shows the way that Changez was treated and his perception of the American ppl, but America treats her own blood the same way. The news always speculate and bring more notice to minorities in crime and violence. There are bias tests that are in place for others to fail even in social class. I would be lieing if i said that there is no future in the people of this country, but there is so much to change. We are so behing, and who cares where the other countries stand on this. we need to start focusing on our own first, if we are truly suppose to be the best. Looking into other peoples business is what got us here today. The Fundamentalist breaks down so many aspects of prejudices and terrorism. Listen, we too are our own terrorists.

MacCollum said...

Je, I don't know what that means-- we are our own terrorists, and the media leads us to kill off innocent people...that was the point of the first book, but I don't know what you're saying about The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

I don't quite buy the whole "socially constructed preconceptions" idea either. I felt and feel perfectly justified suspecting Changez, and I felt like the author dropped the hints he did for a reason. Sure, you can't always KNOW something for certain, but you should also not discount or underestimate INSTINCT. As for his tone of voice, I think he was playing a cat-and-mouse game with the American the whole time. His demeanor was smug, unctuous, and patronizing.

I'm looking forward to the Cyclist thread, because I want to know what everyone else thought. I hated it. I found all the rhymes and alliteration distracting, the unceasing culinary allusions obnoxious, and the "absurdist" ending stupid (absurd in a bad way). Plus, it didn't help me to see anything from a different perspective. I felt like I could identify with Changez's thought process some, but this guy just seemed like a hateful jackass. And again--a hypocrite.

Sarah Jane said...

I agree with Je that the Fundamentalist breaks down so many prejudices because at some points in the book you might empathize with Changez. For me, I could even say i had some social construct or prejudice (probably the wrong word for this) about the word fundamentalist. The whole time I was waiting for Changez to bust out and kill the American. That obviously didn't happen, which makes me think about how sometimes my mind isn't as open as it could be toward some things.

But on the other hand i disagree/ don't really understand where you get that the media is a killer. I even think maybe your mind might be working the opposite of mine. I was thinking Changez was a radical terrorist at first, now your saying that you think Americans are a sort of terrorist. I don't think that the author wants us to think either one really, but leaves the ending open so that you can have a more open perspective.

blfreemyer said...

I agree, I do not know if the media leads us to kill innocent people in this book. However, I do think that media played a huge role in Changez transformation and ultimately leading him back home.

While Changez watches the twin towers fall and when the U.S.is invading Afghanistan the reader can see how the media coverage has affected Changez's outlook. The media also affected how Americans perceived Changez as a terrorist by his appearance.

JE said...

Well im sorry for saying that the media is a "killer". I really did not mean it in a literal sense; however, the media can be a catalyst for destroying lives. the media portrays images that causes a weak mind to draw fear, excitement, jealousy, and other evils. I really dont like the news because it always depresses me, in the fact that the world continues to bring harm to one another. my heart is big, so sometimes i can be a bit sensitive. What happened to the happy news? Has the world really gone that mad?

jtjohnson2009 said...

Happy news isn't really the news that people are into these days. Sadly enough it seems to be the bad stuff that people want to hear.

madel09 said...

But...we all complain about it and the fact that it is all bad news on tv and in the newspaper. I know that I don't watch the local news anymore because all it seems to me that they report is car wrecks, shootings and the weather. Yes, an exageration I know but that just causes me to turn off. I don't think I am alone in this sentiment.
But, I do see what you mean, people are more interested in the kidnapping of someone than a person that donated a million dollars.

I was thinking about this book while writing my paper on it and I was just wondering if like Changez one should foreclose their identity to match that of the western world, completely retain his original identity or does one and mold and change over time and become a fusion of all that one has experienced? Do all three of these instances occur in the natural world?