Explain the theme of Islamphobia in the novel Flight by Sherman Alexie.

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Islamophobia is not a central theme in this novel, but it is touched on in chapters 13, 14 and 15 as the only Muslim character is portrayed in these chapters.

In these chapters the narrator, Zits, enters the body of Jimmy, a pale American man described as being blue-eyed and...

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Islamophobia is not a central theme in this novel, but it is touched on in chapters 13, 14 and 15 as the only Muslim character is portrayed in these chapters.

In these chapters the narrator, Zits, enters the body of Jimmy, a pale American man described as being blue-eyed and blond. Zits sees Jimmy’s memories of Abbad, a brown-skinned Ethiopian man with curly black hair.

Abbad is first portrayed as a “kind and loving and forgiving man,” as he laughs at the prejudice he has experienced as a Muslim man in America. He jokes that surely Jimmy must have assumed that Abbad was a terrorist when he first showed up to Jimmy’s flight school to learn to fly. The two men joke about their wives: Jimmy tells Abbad that “Muslim women have to be craftier” and Abbad tells Jimmy that Americans “let [their] wives control [their] destiny, that is not our way!” (all ch. 13)

The two men bond and joke and become close friends, despite their cultural and religious differences. They share other interests. From the beginning of the chapter about these men, Zits can understand that Jimmy loves and misses Abbad.

Despite this bond, there are still ways that Jimmy cannot understand all of how Abbad thinks and feels. This becomes clear when Abbad tells Jimmy that he “live[s] in the United States because my real home has been destroyed!” (ch. 14)

Finally, Abbad is portrayed as a “betrayer,” as he is only seen from Jimmy’s perspective. Jimmy is, in turn, portrayed as a betrayer as he has cheated on his wife and hurt his girlfriend as well. But Zits is able to see the way that Jimmy is multi-faceted, regrets his actions, and that his betrayal of his wife is only part of who he is. Abbad is not developed as a character.

The theme of these chapters is mainly about betrayal: both of ourselves and of other people. The way that this chapter could be seen as Islamophobic is that the Muslim character, Abbad, is only a prop. The only reason he exists in this story is to fulfil a harmful stereotype: that of the Muslim terrorist. The reader gets no insight into Abbad’s motivations for hijacking the plane (like we do in the previous chapters of Flight where we read about events from the perspective of Indigenous Americans as well as the United States Cavalry). We don’t know at what point Abbad betrayed Jimmy, or whether he was intending to hijack the plane from the beginning. So Abbad exists only as an object in Jimmy’s memories; as a tool used to show Jimmy’s emotions, not as a human being in his own right.

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