My Son the Fanatic Questions and Answers
by Hanif Kureishi

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What does "My Son, The Fanatic" by Hanif Kureishi mean as a story?  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the meanings within Kurieshi's "My Son, the Fanatic" is its indictment of fanaticism.

Even though published in 1994, Kurieshi's story speaks to a reality with which the world is struggling today. The issue of so-called "radicalized" youth concerns many people in our world today.  "My Son, the Fanatic" insists that when we encounter that which is different, we must try to understand it.  While our reactions might embrace courses of action that eliminate dialogue, the story reminds us that such knee-jerk reactions should be avoided.

Parvez's problem is that he cannot communicate with his son.  Ali's desire to maintain a passionate embrace of Islam is something that Parvez could have echoed. Instead of being offended and dwelling on his own hurt, Parvez could have shown greater acceptance towards his son. For example, Parvez could have accompanied Ali to the mosque or spoken with leaders of the religious community to whom Ali has declared allegiance.  Dialogue and understanding is replaced with misunderstanding and a lack of trust.  Kurieshi's story equates fanaticism with silencing discussion. When Ali refuses to hear Bettina or his father, it is just as much a form of fanaticism as when Parvez beats his son.  The story's powerful meaning is emphasized in its ending, where no one wins in a world of fanaticism.

The story is very relevant to our world today.  Its meaning reminds us how fanatical displays of violence will not solve any of our problems.  Such paths lead to more disdain, resentment, and future fanatical displays. The story insists that communication is the only way to understand something different and embrace it as a part of our world. Youth like Ali are lost because they do not feel they are being heard.  This reality is addressed in Kurieshi's story and what we experience today.  Looking at Parvez's example and figuring out how to do things better is the ultimate meaning of the story.  It is a message that is more relevant today than ever before.

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