Essay: Hanief Kureshi’s “My Son the Fanatic” and Kamila Shamsie’s “Salt and Saffron”

The Clash of Civilizations: Internal Conflict and the Inner alienation of diasporic characters in Hanief Kureshi’s “My Son the Fanatic” and Kamila Shamsie’s “Salt and Saffron”


This study aims at highlighting the Inner conflict present in the minds of expatriates. This paper also explores the lacking in adapting the new cultures by the Diasporas and leaving their past behind. The focus would be on the characters of “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanief Kureshi and Kamila Shamsie’s “Salt and Saffron”. This paper also explores the inner alienation present in their personalities. The study will be primarily based on the Theory of Clash of Civilization by Samuel P. Huntington. The aspect of cultural interpretation by the old and the new generations will be of prime importance here in this work.

Cultural experiences, socioeconomic conditions and relocation have been the dominant themes of most of the works produced by Diasporas. We find stories of maladjustment, misfit or lost identities and disintegration in their works. These themes seem influencing both these writers; Kamila Shamsie and Hanief Kureshi. Their theses works are clear evidences of cultural alienation, sense of loss of suffering and element of homesickness. They have presented their personal experiences in these works. Both the writers have given words to their own feelings and have made their characters express those feelings. It owes to the modern social networking sites and the modern media which has lessened the intensity of this concept.

Key words:

Inner-alienation, Diaspora, Clash of Civilization, Culture


Civilization is a process of slow development in the cultural values which include Language, history, traditions and the most important, religion. With this slow process the values become inherent to the very personalities of the human beings which become very hard and at times impossible to root out. Cultural differences create internal conflict and then this leads to the inner alienation. Both the writers, Hanief Kureshi and Kamila Shamsie, have presented this fact in a very convincing manner in their works. Kamila Shamsie takes the aspect of food whereas Hanief Kureshi opts the cultural and religious perspectives to communicate their ideas.

Here in this analysis there is a comparison of the conventional values and practices, as were exhibited by the old generations, and the ones prioritized by the young generations of various identities to find out conclusion what seems to signify or contribute to cultural conflicts between two civilizations. Hanief Kureshi and Kamila Shamsie, through their characters, portray that how the clash in ideas and cultures generate a gap not only between the host and the alien people but also in the old and new generations of the same civilization. The characters in these works have split personalities and they represent incompatible selves on personal and communal levels. The multiple aspects of their characters invoke in them a sense of estrangement and hostility to their host nations.

Literature Review:

“The Clash of Civilization” is a hypothesis by Samuel P. Huntington which was published in 1993. Huntington was of the view that the major reason of conflict in the world in the coming next years would be the Clash of Civilization. He negates the economic or political reasons behind the conflicts.

Bernard Lewis used the term Clash of civilization in “The Roots of Muslim Rage”. Whereas in 1926 this term appears in “Young Islam on Trek: A Study in the Clash of Civilizations” by Basil Mathews.

Huntington has provided six basic reasons for the clash;

1. Differences among civilizations have generated the most prolonged and the most violent conflicts.

2. The world has become a global village and the communication between people of different civilizations increase the consciousness.

3. Economic growth and the social change across the globe are uprooting people from local identities.

4. West through her power and colonialism has enhanced the civilization-consciousness.

5. Cultural characteristics in contrary to political and economical ones are less flicker and capricious so are less prone to changes.

6. Strong economical conditions will also enhance the consciousness.

Huntington has theorized his hypothesis at national level but pondering at the implications of this hypothesis at the individual level, it can confidently claim that it is equally applicable as the civilization is the collection of all mental aptitudes of the whole of the individuals. This is very evident from the Hanief Kureshi’s “The Rainbow Sign” where he points out his personal experience when he and his friend were not allowed to enter into the cinema being called as inferior people. The exile from the homeland creates frustration among the expatriates. They could never be settled in the new countries. Culture difference, cultural displacement and culture confusion involves the loss of language, family ties and support.

Salmon Rushdie, in his novel, “Imaginary homeland” talks about the turbulence and turmoil, a migrant goes through when he says, “A full migrant suffers, traditionally, a triple disruption. He loses his place, he enters into alien language, and he finds himself sounded by beings whose social behavior and codes are unlike and even offensive to his own.”In his “Midnights Children”, the protagonist Saleem Sinai travels through Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and yet there was no certain place for him to settle down. Thus relocation is the root of problem here.

Edward said tells on exile that “Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the un-healable rift forced between a human being and native place.” (173)

Homi k Bhaba in his introduction to the “Location of Culture”; “From the sense of displacement a number of other feelings like insecurity, awkwardness, confusion might arise in the mind of the diasporan subject to make him/her act in queer ways.” (P.8)

Jumpa Lahiri states about exile and Diaspora as; “No country is my motherland, I always find myself in exile in whichever country I travel to that is why I was tempted to write something about those things in exile”

Suketu Mehta in his novel “Maximum City” states; “You cannot go home by eating certain foods, by replaying its films on your T.V. screens. At some point you have to live there again.”

So his novel is the portrayal of real lives, habits, customs, cares, traditions and dreams of his original homeland. It is, therefore, true that the diasporic writing is full of feelings of alienation, love for the homeland and dejection.

Research Methodology:

An analytical and critical method has been employed to carry out this qualitative research. For analytical convenience this research is carried out in the perspective of “The Clash of Civilization” Samuel P. Huntington. The text of both these works has been taken as object. This study explores the following questions;

1. Which events and incidents depict the inner conflict and inner alienation of the characters?

2. How far these incidents have influenced the lives of these characters?

3. How far the theory of “The Clash of Civilizations” is applicable to these works?

Data Analysis:

“My Son the Fanatic” by Hanief Kureshi and Kamila Shamsie’s “Salt and Saffron” are perfect examples of presence of inner conflicts in the personalities of expatriates. They live their life in a constant panorama of an unending war. The characters of both these writings replicate their writer’s personal experiences. As both Hanief Kureshi and Kamila Shamsie themselves were the expatriates and were experiencing the feelings of inner alienation which they have vomited out in the form of these works. Due to his mixed heritage, as his father being a Pakistani and mother being English, Kureshi felt himself divided between the two worlds. The author’s own crisis of identity is quite evident in his works. He himself writes about his Pakistani identity;

“It was a word I did not want to use about myself. I could not tolerate being myself” (Kureishi,1986, p.7).

It is said that literature is the mirror of a society. It seems to hold its ground in case of Kamila Shamsie’s works. She closely depicts the strataism present in society through her characters in the background of socio-cultural environment. We find typical diasporic characteristics in her works but her writings are infused especially with a lingering sense of nostalgia.

Looking out first at the term Diaspora, there will be respective analysis of both the above mentioned under-consideration works.


In a past few years, especially in the last two decades, the term Diaspora has gained momentous popularity. It is a term specifically used for the expatriates. It is glued with the people who had left their original homeland for good either for economic cause or educational betterment. It is a forced or willful dispersal from the homeland. In the case diasporic people feel alienation in the host countries. They find troubled relationship with the host societies. There is a continuous clash of identities and a loss of civilization. As is said by Goethe;

“Culture is a theatre for the projection of identities; a battleground where ideologies come into clash” (culture and imperialism).

Diaspora, the word, is traced in Greek translation of Old Testament, means Dispersal from original homeland. To Rushdie Diasporas are “people floated upwards from history, from memory, from time. Appadurai and Breckenridge state Diaspora a trail of collective memory about another place and time, creating new maps of desire and attachments.

My Son the Fanatic:

Hanief Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic” is a story of a father and a son; both the characters are entirely contrary to each other and have conflicting personifications.

Both the characters are the exponents of disintegrated worlds and contrary ideas. According to self-sensation Parvez is the perfect father who is doing ceaseless efforts for providing all the luxuries of life to his family. As he says “He had explained patiently to Ali that for years he had worked more than ten hours a day that he had few enjoyments or hobbies and never went on holiday.”

Contrary to his farther, Ali has no concerns with all this. An anti-Western ideology has enrooted in his mind. Both men have similarly opposite notions of Britain and Britishness’, as for Parvez, Britain is both the dream of the perfect life and the constant need to satisfy that dream. For Ali, Britain is a “bottomless pit” of corruption and sin, guilty of oppressing Muslims around the world. Here the cultures clash. Ali prefers his Muslim culture whereas his father stresses living and adopting the new British culture. The following words of Parvez are very much evident of this fact;

“You are not in the village now, this is England. We have to fit in.”(P.125)

Ali’s reply was very much abrupt and he was trying to counter the arguments presented by his father. “The western materialists hate us”, Ali said “Papa, how can you love something which hates you?” (P.126). Ali’s inner conflict is very much exposed here through his this statement. His inner conflict and alienation has taken such hype in him that he was supposed to ride on the way extremism. “My people have taken enough. If the persecution doesn’t stop there will be Jihad. I, and millions of others, will gladly give our lives for the cause.” (p.126)

In his narrative, Kureshi discovers issues of identity and alienation and artfully creates a fractured relationship that allows for consideration and analysis of these themes on both an individual and a societal level.

There is widely generational gap between father and son. Both of them think that they are ingenuous in their shattered domains. Here are the some glimpses of fragmentation: ‘Before Parvez could speak, Ali made a face. “Don’t you know it’s wrong to drink alcohol?” he said. “He spoke to me very harshly,” Parvez said to Bettina. ‘I was about to castigate the boy for being insolent, but I managed to control myself.’ There is further discussion where Parvez tries to prove himself candid according to his point of view: “He had explained patiently to Ali that for years he had worked more than ten hours a day that he had few enjoyments or hobbies and never went on holiday. Surely it wasn’t a crime to have a drink when he wanted one? ‘But it is forbidden,’ the boy said. Parvez shrugged, ‘I know.’ And so is gambling, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes. But surely we are only human?'(P. 124). The complete dialogue here between the father and son depicts the alienation and inner conflict faced by both of them. Though both were father and son, in a blood relation but actually were poles apart from one another. “Each time Parvez took a drink; the boy winced, or made a fastidious face as an accompaniment. This made Parvez drink more quickly. The waiter, wanting to please his friend, brought another glass of whisky. Parvez knew he was getting drunk, but he couldn’t stop himself. Ali had a horrible look on his face, full of disgust and censure. It was as if he hated his father”. (p.124)

Ali’s hate for the western culture was explored at the point when his father, Parvez, asked him the cause of his harsh and rude behavior. “What has made you like this?” Parvez asked him. “Is there a particular event which has influenced you?” (p.126). Ali’s reply was very much obvious. “Living in this country” (p.126)

The conversation between father and son shows that they are distant from each other but one thing is remarkable that both the characters consider themselves veracious according to their insight. Parvez tries to legitimize his forbidden doings and he consoles his son by saying that we are only human beings. These actions are common in a society like England. On the other hand Ali has stuck to religion and he scolds his father on his wrong doings ignoring the fact that Koran and religion forbids to humiliate one’s parents. Ali shows his hatred against his father.” Ali said, ‘Real morality has existed for hundreds of years. Around the world millions and millions of people share my beliefs. Are you saying you are right and they are all wrong?’ Ali looked at his father with such aggressive confidence that Parvez would say no more.” (p.129)

Due to these fragmented views, at the end, both father and son had to depart. In closing scene of the tragic end of the story transpires:

“At last he went upstairs and paced up and down outside Ali’s room. When, finally, he opened the door, Ali was praying. The boy didn’t even glance his way. Parvez kicked him over. Then he dragged the boy up by his shirt and hit him. The boy fell back. Parvez hit him again. The boy’s face was bloody. Parvez was panting. He knew that the boy was un- reachable, but he struck him nonetheless. The boy neither covered himself nor retaliated; there was no fear in his eyes. He only said, through his split lip: ‘So who’s the fanatic now?’ (P.130.131)

Salt and Saffron:

In “Salt and Saffron”, Kamila Shamsie is of the view that Diasporic –consciousness arises through the cross cultural differences. Shamsie exposes the inner feelings of the people living abroad through the characters of Aliya, her elder sister Maryam and others. Aliya’s family had ancestrally belonged to Taimur Lung later they moved to Indian Subcontinent. As her family had been in the web of three different cultures, it injects the consciousness of inner alienation among the family members. Aliya was a true picture of neither here nor there situation. She was of paradoxical nature. Shamsie has exemplified her as a sailor sailing in two boats at the same time. Shamsie presents a continuous inner conflict present in the very beings of her characters. A continuous skirmish is seen throughout the action, resentment towards the foreign culture and yearning for the life spent in home land. She pens down their lack of adaptability for the new culture.

Shamsie has given words to the desire of Diaspora through Aliya, to be in and out of the homeland at the same time. She effectively displays the long details of her homeland;

…trees and houses and electricity poles silhouetted against the sky…the rustle of the leaves was a benediction. Karachi’s nights remind you that you can love a place, and for me that’s always been a reason to rejoice (Salt and Saffron: 172)

Shamsie’s characters are so possessed by the feelings of alienation that Aliya calls even the modern airports, a hindrance for the immigrants to feel at home. As the words;

“It takes more than a Nepalese ox to distract attention away from my family…” (Salt and Saffron: 3)

reflect her consciousness of mind and her anxiety to settle down. Shamsie calls the place as the point of conflict.

Shamsie talks in culinary terms in this work. She labels the Diasporic people as important as the ‘Salt’ in food but despite of its so importance, people often forget to mention it when describing the food. As she says;

“Why is it when people exchange recipes they so often forget to mention salt?”(Salt and Saffron: 178)

Shamsie gives exclusive descriptions about food, clothes and relationships to make it evident that the expatriates cannot escape from craving. . However, some diasporic people believe in cultural identity an adopted object rather than an inherited one. Aliya stresses this reality:

My cousin, Samia had become a sandwich eater, Bread, mayonnaise, mustard, salami, sliced roast beef lettuce, tomatoes….. Tuna salad. Good God, how dreary… Behind the loaf of bread was a sauce boat, not dissimilar in size and shape to Aladdin’s lamp (Salt and Saffron, 21).

Aliya’s journey back home to Pakistan instills life long memories in her. She tries to trace her past and find out her true identity. Her memories constantly haunt her. As she believes that memories cripple our life rather than making it happy and comfortable. The prime feature of Diasporic consciousness is a sense of alienation in a new society and culture. When the term alienation is discussed, it is tried to explore its nature. Aliya and the other characters of this work are alienated and put in a quest for self-identification.

Conclusion: The analysis of both these works can be concluded in the views of Samuel P. Huntington who links cultural identity with post-Cold War era. Huntington was of the view that the most prominent distinction among peoples is not economic, political or ideological but is cultural. The analysis helps us to understand the generational gap between the old and the new generations. What happened in both these works portrays that people define themselves in terms of language, ancestry, history, values, customs, institutions and religion (Bowie 112). People also identify themselves with their tribes, religious communities, ethnic groups, nations (Schmidt 16). Applying the idea in a broader sense it can be said that people like to be identified with reference to the civilization as the case of Ali’s father who wanted to be part of Western civilization. (Huntington 21). It can be seen from the study that culture is dynamic not only within a given time frame but also across various nations, ethnic groups and religions. People can have different faiths and believes living in a society and having difference of opinion and no tolerance can lead to serious conflicts as can be seen in case of Ali and his father Parvez. Ali’s extreme behavior was leading him to radicalism and fundamentalism. As Ali, most of the European youth was finding interest in radicalism owing to its potential of creating purity and security that most of the young people need. On this note, Kureishi (21) states that fundamentalism should be considered as “an aberration, a desperate fantasy of worldwide black brotherhood; a symptom of extreme alienation” (Kureishi 21) the young generations are exposed to. Therefore the young people feel inferiority, insecurity and alienation in the new cultures.


1. Huntington, Samuel P. (2002) “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”. London: Simon and Schuster.

2. Young Islam on Trek: A Study in the Clash of Civilizations (p. 196). By Basil Mathews

3. (Ashcraft, Bill. And Pal Ahluwalia, Edward Said: The Paradox of Identity Routledge, London & New York 1999, p.31-56)

4. Lahiri, Jhumpa. “The Namesake”, September 2003. Houghton Mifflin. Print.

5. Bhaba, Homi K, The Location of Culture, London, 1994

6. Rushdie, Salman. “Midnight’s Children”(1981). Jonathan Cape. London United Kingdom.

7. Mehta, Suketu, Maximum City Viking, Penguin, 2004, p.13

8. Appadurai, A. & Breckenridge, X. (1989). “On Moving Targets. Public Culture (1).

9. Rushdie, S. (1983). Shame. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

10. Shamsie, K. (2000). Salt and Saffron .Oxford University Press.

11. Said, E. (1979).Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.

12. Bowie, David (1974) “Rebel Rebel.” Diamond Dogs. RCA.

13. Rushdie, Salman (1991) “The New Empire within Britain.” Imaginary Homelands. Essays and Criticism 1981-1991. London: Penguin, 1991.

14. Schmidt, Alvin J. (1997) “The Menace of Multiculturalism: Trojan Horse in America”. The United States of America: Greenwood Publishing.

15. Kureshi, Hanief (1997) My Son the Fanatic, “Love in A Blue Time”. London: Faber and Faber

16. Lewis, Bernard. September 1990, “The Roots of Muslim Rage”:The Atlantic Monthly

Review this student essay:

Comments (optional)

Latest student essay reviews:

About this essay:

This essay was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.

If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay Sauce, Hanief Kureshi’s “My Son the Fanatic” and Kamila Shamsie’s “Salt and Saffron”. Available from:<> [Accessed 10-12-18].