What would you consider the thesis of The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

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Another central premise of this text is that racism can actually produce or create the very specter—a dangerous "other"—that it fears. Changez first comes to America with big dreams; he imagines himself as the star of his very own Hollywood movie. He is ready to embrace life in America. He...

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Another central premise of this text is that racism can actually produce or create the very specter—a dangerous "other"—that it fears. Changez first comes to America with big dreams; he imagines himself as the star of his very own Hollywood movie. He is ready to embrace life in America. He works quite hard, harder than most of his white American peers. With his "friends," like Erica, he experiences some microaggressions: they are nice to him but treat him with a recognition of his difference from them.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, however, the racism Changez encounters is much more overt and violent. He is actually attacked by two men one night, one of them calling him a "[expletive] Arab" when he dares to defend himself against their attempt to assault him. Soon after, he begins to grow his beard long, despite knowing how this will influence other white Americans' treatment of him. As he experiences more prejudice and loses all of his illusions about America and his original dream, he begins to turn against America.

In short, then, experiences with racism actually compel him to become a fundamentalist—precisely the kind of individual feared by American racists in the first place. He is "reluctant" because becoming a fundamentalist was never his intention, but after his experiences in America—along with his developing understanding of how America asserts its dominance in the world, furthering some conflicts for its own gain or supporting countries who are engaged in unethical practices because it somehow benefits itself, for example—there seems to be no other way to be true to himself.

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One of the central premises of Hamid's work is how perception shapes reality.

Hamid displays his thesis in a variety of contexts.  One is evident in social- political understanding.  This is addressed in whether Changez is a terrorist. Changez's actions can be seen in both frames of reference.  For example, when he reaches for something shiny in his pocket, is he reaching for a gun or for something else?  We can ask the same questions regarding the American. Is he an agent for a government organization sent to eliminate Changez or is he simply an American who wants to know more about Changez's story? Perception impacts the reality in how Changez and the American are viewed.  

Another instance of how perception shapes reality is seen in the actions of September 11.  For many in America, the September 11 attacks revealed an awareness that America has enemies who wish to harm it.  However, the novel shows that in others parts of the world, the September 11 attacks were not seen as unfair targeting.  Rather, they saw it as a case of retribution, or even, justice.  

This underscores the perception of America, itself.  To those who live in America, it represents unparalleled opportunity.  "The American Dream" embodies how someone from a place like India can come to America and make something of themselves.  However, to others, it represents exclusion, where judgments are made upon how an individual looks or from what culture they hail.  Changez shows how both perceptions impact his reality, an idea operating as the novel's thesis.

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