Multiculturalism and the problem of integration in Hanif Kureishi’s screenplay
1. The plot
3. Character constellation
3.1. The father-son-conflict or
Multiculturalism from two different points of view
3.2. Minoo between being mother, wife and Muslim
4. The film – how effects support the mediation of emotions
5. Peculiarities of the film
The 11th September and the bomb attacks of London we will keep in mind forever. Watching television or listening to news one gets the impression that terrorism and violence become more and more part of modern life – if we do not even go through it ourselves. A striking majority of such attacks are committed by so called “fundamentalists” or “fanatics” – particular followers of the Islam who hate Western culture and all the people who live according to it. According to their doctrine it is the greatest honour to die on behalf of the Islam – and to take as many unbelieving (which means here different-thinking and not believing in Islam or simply not following this doctrine) people as possible with them.
However, the public reacts shocked every time the offenders turn out to be young men and – as it seems to be the case most often – not emigrants but their descendents in second or third generation, who are supposed to have integrated into western culture. In many cases they seem to have integrated worse than their own parents, and often they have lived a “normal” Western life before they turn into fanatics.
What makes such young men be that angry at the only life they know and at the society they have grown up in? What makes them want to kill former friends, neighbours and countless other innocent people and even themselves for the purpose of bloody revenge for nothing more than a lifestyle that does not fit into their religious patterns? What makes them that susceptible to the inhuman ideas and orders of allegedly “religious” leaders?
There is a lot of literature written about successful and failed integration, about the consequences of multiculturalism and about young people who try to break through the borders of segregation, and their success - or failure – in it. One of the authors who deal with this subject very convincing again and again is Hanif Kureishi, son of a Pakistani and his English wife himself, who has grown up near London. The stories he is famous for are about people belonging to a cultural minority who feel isolated and despised by the society they live in, and about their very different ways to handle this uncomfortable situation. So is “My Son the Fanatic”, written as a short story in 1994. It gives some answers to the questions asked above and offers a close insight into the problem of integration and what it can do to young people. This paper deals with the film, which was first shown at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, and its script. “My Son the Fanatic” is a story about a father-son-relationship as well as about the problems of multiculturalism and integration. Hanif Kureishi has included many of his own experiences and, regarding multiculturalism, shows what can be seen as the other side of the coin.
Multiculturalism and the problem of integration in Hanif Kureishi’s screenplay
1. The plot
The main character of the story is Parvez, a taxi driver in his fifties in a town somewhere in Northern England, who originally comes from Pakistan. He and Minoo, his obedient Pakistani wife, have a son who is called Farid and who, according to Parvez, is top-student of the year at college, studying to become accountant. When he came to England, Parvez left most of his past behind, as for example religion, and he never educated his son very religiously. Today Parvez hardly ever goes to the mosque and sees no problem in drinking alcohol.
Further, due to his business Parvez also drives prostitutes like Bettina, a close friend to him. She seems to be the only person Parvez talks to about everything he is worried about, as, for example, his son Farid who seems to have changed lately. During the whole story this friendship becomes closer and closer and in the end it will turn into a sexual relationship.
When Parvez drives German businessman Schitz, the German quickly notices that the zealous taxi driver could be useful for him. Soon he engages him to be his personal driver and to organize special sexual events for him. On Schitz’s demand Parvez arranges a meeting between his client and Bettina – who will be the German’s personal company for the next few days – and engages several prostitutes for a party that Schitz organises. The German pays him very well for every job.
The luckier Parvez’ life is on business at the moment, the more unfortunate it seems to be privately. Coming home the late night one day Parvez finds his son’s possessions in the dustbin. During the following days he has to learn that Farid has not only decided to get rid of everything that has been important for him up to now but also to change his life completely. His son has new friends now that Parvez does not know and leaves his English girlfriend Madeleine, whose father is Chief Inspector, because he is aware of the contempt and disgust that the man feels for him and his family. With that he destroys his father’s hopes for Farid to work his way up in the police. Instead of Madeleine he wants to marry a girl that is chosen by some of his new friends. More and more often Parvez seems to need a drink to calm down or to encourage himself. He finds his son sitting in his room and praying, and when he follows him to the mosque one day and sees that the entering of Farid and his friends causes trouble, he hears from a man that the boys are not welcome because of their radical attitude.
One evening, when father and son go out together, Farid tries to talk his father out of drinking alcohol and eating pig. Parvez wants to make his son try beer and meat, but without any success. They start to argue about values and religion. Farid reproaches his father with doing evil by ignoring the religious law and of loosing all his pride by “grovelling” to the whites (p. 91), whose culture he accuses of being “soaked in sex” (p.90). When Parvez mentions an airline ticket he has found in his son’s room, Farid uses this opportunity and explains that the ticket is for a maulvi, a religious man from Lahore. He asks his father if the maulvi could come and stay in their house for a while. Parvez, quite drunken meanwhile, is relieved that the ticket is not for is son to leave the country, and agrees. When the discussion comes to Farid’s attitude towards women, the argument revives and escalates. Father and son have to leave the restaurant and on their way out they meet Bettina and the German. Schitz asks Parvez to engage Prostitutes for a party, and Bettina tries to talk to Farid. Soon Farid must notice that his father has already done several jobs like that for the German and that Parvez and Bettina must be close friends. Later in the car Farid finds a comb and a lip-stick, both belonging to her. As drunk as he is Parvez cannot drive them home, so it is Farid’s task. Instead of going home, he brings his father to a place where drug-selling lads are hanging around and kids are playing around a fire and throwing stuff in there. He tells Parvez that neither he nor Madeleine is studying, but that both of them have been with these guys all the time instead. In the community of “the brothers” (p.102) as he calls his new believing friends he felt strong enough to get out of this situation and to change his life.
One morning Parvez wakes up and finds his son cleaning the house with some friends. They tell him that it is because of the arrival of the maulvi – what Parvez seems to have totally forgotten. He attempts to convince his son to book the religious man a hotel, but Farid refers to the promise that Parvez made, and they pick the maulvi up at the airport.
During the next days nobody avoids any efforts to satisfy the maulvi. To follow the religious dogma Minoo refuses to eat with the men but stays in the kitchen, and even puts away Parvez alcohol to keep him from hearing Louis Armstrong, what he always does while drinking.
Together with the maulvi and other young men Farid starts to organize a demonstration against prostitutes. The day Parvez is supposed to drive the German to the airport suddenly his taxi is surrounded by this demonstration and a fight breaks out between the demonstrators and the prostitutes. When his taxi is stuck among raging people, Parvez gets off and finds Farid spitting in Bettina’s face. He helps his lover and takes his son home in his taxi, leaving the German there among the demonstrators.
Coming home, father and son start to argue about the maulvi. Parvez wants him to leave the house, but Farid threatens to go away himself if Parvez throws the other man out. When the discussion comes to the prostitutes Farid accuses his father of having a sexual relationship to one of them and both of them start to fight against each other. In the end Farid moves out of his parent’s house, accompanied by his religious friends.
Minoo, who has overheard the argument, wants to go home to Pakistan with Parvez. For he does not want to go back she decides to go alone. She knows that he loves another woman, but promises to come back one day if he really wants her to.
Later when Parvez meets Bettina she tries to convince him to go to India together for a while. Hanif Kureishi does not say exactly if they will go but leaves the possibility for Parvez answers to her quest “You put such ideas in my head!” and she replies “Good. Good.” (p. 151)
In the very end of the screenplay Parvez walks through the house alone. Having a drink he listens to Louis Armstrong and starts to dance.