May 14, 2007


Buying Anti-American: And the annoying whining in The Reluctant Fundamentalist isn’t even authentic. (Ann Marlowe, 5/14/07, National Review)

The commercial success and critical praise of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist — currently on the New York Times best-seller list — are an ill omen for those who support the ideals of liberal society, not only here but in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. As other writers notice its success, we can expect others to follow in its path of Islamic minstrelism, selling the Western audience what it expects to hear from angry Muslims. In this case, the merchant is a thoroughly Westernized, privileged beneficiary of American largesse.

On the website, Hamid disingenuously muses, “People often ask me if I am the book’s Pakistani protagonist. I wonder why they never ask if I am his American listener. After all, a novel can often be a divided man’s conversation with himself.”

Theoretically true, but Hamid’s published opinion pieces are nearly continuous with the hateful characterizations of Americans and America expressed in the long monologue that the book’s narrator, Changez, delivers to an unnamed American in a Lahore café. As a novel, RF is tripe — anti-American agitprop clumsily masquerading as a work of art. People who are buying RF are sending their money to someone who is aggressively anti-American. (The publicity for RF emphasizes Hamid’s American university degrees but does not mention that he turned in his green card in 2006 and applied for British citizenship instead.)

Why are Americans buying this book? Part of the explanation must be their nearly boundless goodwill and naiveté, ever interested in finding out “why they hate us.” Changez, however, is not even one of “them”; he is not an Islamic fundamentalist, but a poorly constructed and implausible character whose anti-Americanism is more aesthetic and snobbish than ideological. It’s closer to a certain strain of European anti-Americanism than anything from the Muslim world.

Try Ms Marlowe's own Book of Trouble instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 14, 2007 8:03 PM

The survey finds, however, that Christians get much lower ratings in predominantly Muslim countries than do Muslims in mostly Christian countries. Majorities in Morocco (73%), Pakistan (62%) and Turkey (52%) express negative views of Christians.

The adage that people in other nations may dislike America, but nonetheless want to move there is borne out in Russia, Turkey and Morocco. Roughly half of the respondents in those three countries say people who have moved to the U.S. have a better life.

But one of the largest gaps between Americans and Europeans concerns the question of whether people who move to the U.S. have a better life. Americans overwhelmingly believe this to be the case – 88% say people who move to the U.S. from other countries have a better life. By contrast, just 14% of Germans, 24% of French and 41% of British think that people who have moved to the U.S. from their countries have a better life.

Posted by: Poloszny at May 14, 2007 11:23 PM

For Europeans a better life is one where the state takes care of you, so those being polled are right.

Posted by: oj at May 15, 2007 6:20 AM

I didn't like Moth Smoke and this seems worse. Hamid is right about Pakistan's image being a lot worse than reality though. Waziristan is a long way away from the Punjab-Sind corridor where the bulk of the population lives, and most of the daily issues people face are the same as the ones in 3rd world countries everywhere.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at May 15, 2007 6:53 AM