Book by: Moshin Hamid
Review by: Lisa Giguere
Woodbury School of Business
Utah Valley University
As advising loads become increasingly more diverse, it is important for advisors to develop intercultural perspectives to help students from various cultures and backgrounds. In The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid, readers are able to experience the 9-11 terrorist attacks from the point of view of a Pakistani living and working in New York City. These attacks were deplorable and the author doesn’t justify them, but through his eyes, readers can better understand how to relate to Middle Eastern students living and studying in America.
The book is set in a café in Lahore, Pakistan, where the main character, Changez, relates to an American companion his story of attending Princeton and then landing a job at a reputable valuation firm in New York City just before the September 11th attacks. Changez struggles with the feelings he had when he first learned of the attacks. It perplexed him because his first reaction was to be pleased after hearing of the attacks. His perplexity arises from the fact that he feels for those who were harmed in the attack, but he was also impressed that a powerful country like America could be brought to her knees by these terrorists. Changez does not radicalize, but he does quit his job and move back to Lahore, where he becomes a university lecturer and advocates on campus for a disengagement from America by Pakistan.
This book could be easily seen as anti-American, and seems a strange choice for a NACADA book review, but there is a lesson to learn from The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Advisors work with Middle Eastern students on a daily basis, and many of those students could be experiencing the same perplex emotions that Changez felt in the novel. One major takeaway from this book is expressed well in the following quote:
As a society [Americans] were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums, not least [Pakistanis], now facing war thousands of miles away. (p. 168)
As terrorist attacks continue to be perpetuated across the world, it is important to focus on what is shared in common with people, and not judge students based on their race, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. Advisors will better serve students by understanding and appreciating their backgrounds and beliefs. Something as simple as asking a student the meaning of his name could lead to a meaningful conversation about the student, his culture, and his belief system.
This was an enjoyable read, but I would not consider it a priority read for advisors. It is worthwhile if one is interested in developing a broader perspective and viewpoint to guide in one’s advising practice.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist. (2007). Book by Moshin Hamid. Review by Lisa Giguere. New York City, NY: Mariner, 184 pp. $14.00, (Paperback). ISBN 978-0-15-603402-9.