Segregation vs Assimilation: Two Sides of a Bad Coin

by: Anika Hahn

In the short story “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi, part of the family assimilates and another part overly separates, depriving the London community of diversity and evolution of culture. Parvez and his wife are from Lahore, a city in Pakistan, meaning that the family has a darker complexion than the majority white population of London, England. Even though Ali was born in London, he is still of Pakistani origin and has the same complexion as his parents. The father, Parvez, assimilated into London’s culture by abandoning his religion and religious passages. After his son starts to discover their old religion and begins to practice it, he “reminded Parvez that he had ordered his own wife to cook pork sausages, saying to her, ‘You’re not in the village now, this is England. We have to fit in” (116). From a very young age, Ali had to follow what his parents did and assimilate into white culture. As he grew older, Ali began to challenge his parents’ decision by calling them out on what he believed to be their sins. “To cook pork sausages” is against Muslim religious law, and Ali, now a religious person, was disgusted that his father, a formerly religious man, would break such an important law. However, Ali fails to understand that his father was under great pressure “to fit in” to white society. He has to assimilate into the culture to avoid being different, even though he is already separated from white culture by the color of his skin. Parvez chose to reject his culture; Ali chose to reject everything but his culture. The story provides the reader with two polarizing options: assimilate or separate. Neither are good options in the grand scheme of things. 

When people have differences, communities are more vibrant. If everyone were the same, there would be no topics for discussion and no way to learn about new things in the world. When people are different and don’t want to learn from one another, then society becomes stagnant and there is no room for growth. “My Son the Fanatic” addresses the fact that while assimilation is bad, so is overly segregating one group of people from others. 

One thought on “Segregation vs Assimilation: Two Sides of a Bad Coin

  1. Hi Anika,

    I’m wondering about your comment that “Neither are good options [assimilating or not assimilating] in the grand scheme of things.” I think I agree, and I’m curious as to what you think is then left as an option for so many families and individuals that face this dilemma, especially when social, economic, and political standing is at risk.

    – Nora Cornell


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