My Son the Fanatic Questions and Answers
by Hanif Kureishi

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What is the plot of "My Son the Fanatic"?

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This story is about the conflict between a Pakistani cab driver living in England, Parvez, and his son, Ali. Parvez is a westernized Pakistani who enjoys "freedoms" like drinking alcohol and eating pork. Ali, however, has embraced Islam and cannot understand why his father rejects the teachings of the Q'uran. The religious conflict is, however, simply another way of expressing larger problems the father and son share as outsiders living in the West. Ali's embrace of Islam is as much a rejection of his father's values as it is a religious attitude; Parvez, for his part, cannot see how his alcoholism and infidelity (he is having an affair with a sex worker) disgust his son. In fact, Parvez's abandonment of Islam and his embrace of the values of a foreign culture are more "fanatical" than Ali's persistent praying and attendance at mosque.

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In this story, a Pakistani taxi driver who has moved to England wonders why his son is acting strangely. The taxi driver, Parvez, learns his son, Ali, has rejected Western culture to embrace radical Islam. The father, who has bad memories of Pakistan, fully accepts Western culture, eating pork, drinking alcohol, befriending a prostitute and working so that his son can attend college and become financially successful. For Parvez, the material world is all important. Ali treats his  father with contempt, despising him for his drinking and weakness, and for not understanding that, in Ali's opinion, Pakistanis will never be accepted in English culture as equals. They engage in generational and religious culture clash. They can't understand each other because their values are so seemingly far apart. In the end, angry that Ali has insulted his friend Bettina, a prostitute, Parvez beats his son, prompting Ali to ask who's the fanatic?

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