How does Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody show an ironic condemnation of racist or religious attitudes?

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Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody shows an ironic condemnation of racist and religious attitudes by presenting Mahmoody's prejudiced observations of Iranians in an unthinking manner.

Although Mahmoody may not intend to be racist in her depiction of Iranians, her words give the game away. Drawing upon the language of "othering," Mahmoody describes Iranians in less than flattering terms. Mammal, in whose house Mahmood lives, is described as "a scruffy Iranian." At other points in the novel, we see Iranians depicted as dirty, sweaty, and uncivilized.

That Mahmoody isn't simply singling out individuals for such racist generalizations is confirmed when she ruefully reflects that she must smell "like the rest of them"—in other words, the Iranian people. Not only do Iranians look differently to Americans; not only do they practice a strange religion; they even smell differently.

All of this is ironic because it's not really the intention of Mahmood to engage in conscious racism or the disparagement of other people's religions. But in her unconscious othering of the Iranian people and their very different way of life, she leaves us with a series of highly offensive observations that reveal a fairly stark example of Orientalism.

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