Historical Context

The War on Terrorism
In late 2002, America, only one year removed from the September 11 attacks, had just defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan but was deeply divided over the impending war in Iraq. At a time of continued anxiety over possible attacks from al Qaeda and other Muslim terrorists, Americans were increasingly curious about Islam. Many struggled to understand why many Muslims hated America and why the al Qaeda airplane hijackers were driven to kill otherwise innocent Americans. Many Americans saw the need to deal with, and perhaps make peace with, Muslims after the carnage that al Qaeda had wrought on the United States. However, books such as Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations (1996, Simon & Schuster) asserted Christian and Islamic cultures were absolutely opposed and could not peacefully coexist. As an earnest practitioner of Christianity Islam and Hinduism who saw no conflict between these three beliefs, Pi became a symbol of how the major religions of the world could coexist and that they in fact shared many common features. Pi’s reconciliation of three different faiths stood in sharp contrast to the violence between Christian and Muslim peoples that was evident both in America and in the Middle East.

In the decades before the issue of a possible clash between Muslim and Christian cultures arose, growing numbers of Americans had also become less attached to specific churches while still affirming a belief in God and seeking to pursue a religious path. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph (London) shortly after receiving the Man Booker Prize, Martel said his novel “will make you believe in God or ask yourself why you don’t.” Pi, a believer who does not choose between the various visions of God offered by the world's different religions, offered American readers a way to explore faith and spirituality without having to follow any specific creed or tradition.

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(The entire section is 515 words.)