Describe the character of Parvez in "My Son the Fanatic."

Parvez in "My Son the Fanatic" is a hard-working, cheerful man with a generally positive outlook on life. Thoroughly assimilated into Western society, he is very open-minded and so is naturally concerned by the behavior of his son, a would-be jihadist.

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Parvez is a man who was scarred by his childhood in Pakistan, especially by a strict and sometimes humiliating Islamic education. To him, experiencing Western culture and prosperity by settling in London has been a form of freedom and nirvana.

Parvez has been delighted with the opportunity to get ahead financially through his hard work as a cab driver. He hopes for even more material success for his son, Ali, and is glad to support him by buying him expensive computer equipment and aiding him with his higher education so that he can become a white-collar worker. He desires western material success for his son and helping him to it is an expression of his love. From Parvez's perspective, giving Ali material goods is the best he can possibly offer his son.

Parvez believes strongly in enjoying the gifts of the material world and is not much interested in spirituality or the afterlife. He has been glad to give up Muslim prohibitions, such as on pork and alcohol, and he is close with a prostitute. He does drink too much on occasion. Because he is so solidly pragmatic, he finds it very difficult to understand why his son rejects the good life he is offered.

Parvez and Ali experience a cultural clash based on their different circumstances. Parvez, having grown up in Pakistan, finds it impossible to idealize Muslim life and purity in the way his son does. Ali, only having known the freedom and material advantages of England, is critical of its decadence and the prejudice against Pakistanis. He cannot see the advantages with which he is surrounded the way his father can because they are all he has ever known.

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To a large extent, Parvez is given to us as a foil to his fanatical son, Ali. Whereas Parvez has a positive outlook on life, Ali is rapidly developing a more negative worldview, alienated as he is from mainstream Western society.

Parvez has become thoroughly assimilated into British life since arriving in the country from Pakistan. This has given him the kind of open-minded attitude that contrasts sharply with Ali, whose growing attachment to Islamic fundamentalism is causing his father no little concern. One certainly couldn't imagine the straightlaced Ali consorting with a prostitute like Bettina.

Though still a practicing Muslim, Parvez has left behind a lot of the cultural baggage with which he grew up in Pakistan. Ali deeply resents him for this and angrily confronts him about it in a vicious tirade. The gap between father and son isn't so much religious as it is cultural. Ali's mindset is back in the culturally conservative part of Pakistan from which his parents emigrated. But Parvez has put all that behind him. He generally enjoys life in Britain, with all it has to offer. Which is why he simply cannot understand why Ali is so keen to withdraw from mainstream British society and turn himself into a religious fundamentalist.

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Parvez is an interesting character in Kurieshi's story because he displays behaviors typically reflective of a culturally liberal perspective, but employs a traditionalist parenting style.

Parvez is a cultural liberal.  He believes in the assimilationist ways of modern England.  This means that, as an immigrant, he believes that it is his job to blend in and not stand out.  He embraces all that England has to offer, shedding his own cultural and spiritual background.  To Ali's desdain, his enjoyment of pork pies, bacon, whiskey and gambling is reflective of this tendency.  

His liberalism extends to his inter- and intra- personal choices.  He has no problem befriending Bettina, as he believes that her insights are quite valuable.  He shares his problems with her more than he would with his own wife. Parvez believes that his role is to provide for his family, make money in the opportunities that England affords him, as well as ensure that his son follows in the English way of doing things.  Parvez provides for the boy's studies the best way he can so that Ali can serve as the next generation to model the "good English values" of studying at university, procuring a position at a prestigious accounting firm, and continuing the same materialist process but to a higher degree than Parvez has come to embody.

Yet Parvez is a traditionalist in terms of his parenting.  He fundamentally believes that his son owes it to him to follow the path that Parvez feels is acceptable.  Parvez is not liberal enough to say that it is ok for his son to embrace spiritualism.  Rather, he speaks as if Ali owes it to him to do his father's bidding:

Yet Parvez felt his son's eccentricity an injustice. He had always been aware of the pitfalls that other men's sons had fallen into in England. And so, for Ali, he had worked long hours and spent alot of money paying for his education as an accountant. He had bought him good suits, all the books he required and a computer. And now the boy was throwing his possessions out!

Parvez demonstrates his conservative parenting tendencies in his outrage.  He feels personally slighted that his son would choose such a different path and reject all that he has provided for the boy.  He sees it as an "injustice" that Ali would make such a choice.  In this light, Parvez embraces a vision of parenting where children are to do what their parents insist and not question their authority through their choices.  This outrage is furthered when Parvez tells Bettina that "what I object to...is being told by my own son that I am going to hell!"  Parvez is so traditional in his approach to parenting that he finds his son's questioning approach to be unacceptable. He tries to balance this approach with a liberal understanding one that seeks to empathize with his son, one that seeks to comprehend why the changes in him have taken place.  However, this balance is tilted towards the conservative side when Bettina is mistreated.  The ending of the story where Parvez's conservative tendency in parenting is displayed to its fullest extent is thus not too surprising.  It is the logical consequence of a parenting paradigm that has failed to provide effective answers to complex questions of growth and maturation.

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