Mohsin Hamid’s, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, follows the story of a high status Muslim American named Changez as he lives through the hardship of prejudices held on Muslims in the early 21st century. This passage comes in the wake 9/11 and illustrates the biases that most Americans held on Muslims post 9/11. The words that Mohsin Hamid uses in the first sentence set the tone for the passage and setup the story he later tells in the passage: “Yet even at Underwood Samson I could not entirely escape the growing importance of tribe.” Hamid uses the word “yet” to start the passage and discard what he says in the preceding two paragraphs. That he being Muslim, trumps the fact that he is a successful and hard worker at Underwood Samson. To conclude the sentence, Changez says that he is trying to “escape” the “growing importance of the tribe”. The use of escape as a verb in this part of the sentence illustrates how encompassing the hatred towards Muslims is- even those of high-status. The use of italics on tribe and the fact that Changez cannot escape it, gives tribe the meaning of the togetherness Americans felt post 9/11, and the exclusion the “tribe” had on Muslims.
This first sentence puts a lot of heart and feeling on the reader, but sets the reader up for the coming story. After the introduction sentence, Changez jumps straight into telling a story about walking to his rental car in the parking lot of the cable company. When he is in the parking lot he runs into another man. To describe the way he was greeted, he uses the word approached, which gives the story a formal feel. When the man gets closer to Changez he, “pressed his face to mine” and says “unintelligible noises”, something similar to “akhala-malakhala” or “khalapal-khalapala”. Here there is a shift in tone in the story from an everday encounterment to Changez becoming more aware that this man might have a problem with him. Hamid shows that as Changez and the man come closer to each other, both parties start to have judgements. Hamid does this by having the man say words of what he thinks Muslim people sound like, “akhala-malakhala” or “khalapal-khalapala”, and having Changez think to himself what the man says are “unintelligible noises”. The overall thread of the story changes when the man “pressed his face alarmingly” close to Changez.
At this point, it changes from disrespect and bitterness to hostility and animosity. Changez feels threatened by the man saying “unintelligible noises” and by him stepping “alarmingly close.” Hamid then shows that Changez feels threatened by writing that Changez, “shifted my stance”, and trying to become more macho by, “presenting him with my side and raising my hands to shoulder height.” Before the physical activity continues, Hamid writes what Changez is thinking to himself to continue the idea that Changez is the victim in this situation. Changez says that he thought the man might be “mad”, “drunk”, or “a mugger”- all words that show that Changez thinks that the man’s actions are victimizing him. Hamid ends Changez train of thought by writing by showing that Changez is being persecuted by saying, “I prepared to defend myself or to strike.”
By writing that Changez is “prepared to defend myself”, Hamid once again uses words that make Changez look innocent. Hamid also refers to Changez partner throughout the story as, “man”, which makes him impersonal and the predator. Before the tone of the story again escalates, another man appears and takes his friend away. Though the man’s friend took him away, he too showed his biases towards Muslims. Hamid writes, “he too glared, but took his friend by the arm and tugged at him.” Right as the two walk away, the first man decided to conclude the situation in words and said, “fucking Arab”, as they left Changez. This passage in The Reluctant Fundamentalist echoes Changez struggles throughout the book to be accepted and feel at home as a Muslim American. Hamid describes the actions of each character shows the unjust prejudices that many Americans held on Muslim Americans after 9/11. Hamid uses this passage and the experience that Changez has with the man to exemplify what almost all Muslims experienced after 9/11.
Hamid, Mohsin. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Boston: First Mariner Books, 2007. Print.