My artistic piece combines the values and major ideas gained from reading Hanif Kureishi’s short story, “My Son the Fanatic,” and a major principal gained from studying basic chemistry, Le Chatelier’s Principle. Le Chatelier’s Principle, also called the Equilibrium Law, and named after Henry Louis Le Chatelier, basically talks about how a system and its chemical equilibrium is changed when you add a particular stress. For example, consider the following equation:
Na+ + Cl- ⇌ NaCl
Here, you have Na+ ions and Cl- ions combining to form NaCl in a system. If you add a lot of Na+ ions or if you add a lot of Cl- ions, the system responds by shifting to the right and creating a lot more NaCl ions. Similarly, if add a lot of NaCl molecules, the system responds by shifting to the left and creating a lot more Na+ and Cl- ions.
In a similar way, reading Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic” reminded me so much of Le Chatelier but instead of having Na+, Cl-, and NaCl in the system, you replace these with concepts such as “Western civilization” (238), “Western education” (239), and “England” (239) and concepts such as “The Law of Islam” (238). In many ways, when reading the short story, I could not help but think about how Ali definitely follows this idea of Le Chatelier’s principle. By inducing more Western influences, induced through Ali’s mere location in a Western civilization, particularly Britain, and additionally through his father Parvez’s increasingly Western traits (such as his love for “crispy bacon smothered with mushrooms and mustard and sandwiched between slices of fried bread” (238) for breakfast, Ali definitely responds to such changes to the system by shifting to the Islamic side of the equation. I represent such a phenomenon through my artwork through four different pieces.
The first piece with the shaven man on the left (used to represent the West) and the bearded man on the left (used to represent Islam) is derived directly from the novel–Parvez mentions how Ali begins to grow a beard, which does not always but can indicate a person dedicated to the Islamic faith, as Wikipedia mentions the “Sunnah in Islam” encourages it. Surrounding Ali with unbearded men and particularly their actions that are considered immoral under the Islamic faith, Ali is driven more and more to Islam.
Similarly, I wanted to bring this same idea to the idea of the “bikini and the burqa” that we discussed in class awhile ago. For example, often people in the West look at the “burqa” or even the “veil” and think that these articles of clothing are symbols of repression and oppression of women, not realizing that often Muslim women are doing the same looking at the bikinis of Western women and feeling sorry for Western women who are marginalized and so brainwashed by the culture that they should need to feel pressure to display their bodies. There have been articles written about women wearing veils partially in response to the advent of Western influences in their home countries or simply when travelling in Western countries–the veil then has a secondary purpose of symbolizing resistance to the West. Similarly, women viewing the clothing standards of Muslim women feel the need to wear “bikinis” or more Western garments because they believe they have the “freedom” to. In an ironic juxtaposition the women of both sides view themselves as free and the other as repressed.
The artwork with the red, white (silver), and blue sequins alongside the green plush balls are meant to represent the Western civilization (by taking the flag colors of America and Britain for simplicity purposes) and the Islamic civilization (by using green as green is the traditional color of Islam). The artwork with the red, white, and blue feathers put alongside the red, green, and orange feathers are meant to represent once again the Western civilization and different countries with Islamic majorities (such as Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh which are the countries with the highest percentage of a Muslim population). I need to point out a couple of things. First, these art pieces were done partially inspired after watching “Reluctant Fundamentalist” in Lamont on Tuesday. Second, I need to point out that these two art pieces are very different because I know that “Islam” is not synonymous to “Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh” (which have people practicing other religions). However, I think it is interesting to note that especially around the time of 9/11, this separation between “countries” and the Islamic faith were blurred and largely ignored. Anyone who looked like they had a bit of Middle Eastern heritage in them (I believe that many people stereotype “Islam” as a religion of the Middle East) and especially anyone who bore a beard would be stopped in airports and checked. Another thing that I need to mention is how often I feel that people felt driven to one extreme or the other, especially around the time of 9/11. Although President Bush said specifically, “I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.” (Although of course questionably then declaring a “War on Terror” … but that’s another story). Despite Bush’s cry to the nation, many people still responded to the 9/11 attacks and by being in the same space with people from Middle Eastern countries or Muslims by shifting extremely to the left, espousing “patriotic” love and “nationalistic” fervor that they often equated as opposite to the Muslim religion or Middle Eastern/ African cultures. Similarly, the “nationalistic fervor” which often was synonymous to the persecution of Muslim Americans or Middle Eastern Americans around the time of 9/11 arguably could have influenced Muslim Americans/ Middle Eastern Americans to retreat further to their cultural heritage or faith.
Last note: there are a lot of generalizations and “extremes” that are used for the purpose of creating this simplistic representation–for example, I know that not all men with beards are Muslims. Moreover, I do not want to state that it is always true that the addition of significant influence of one side always results in “extreme” groups or anything of that nature. I also do not want to separate two camps between the Western and Eastern and Muslim civilizations. I simply created these representations to create diagrams to better understand two major stories–”My Son the Fanatic” and “Reluctant Fundamentalist” and to better understand women in both cultures.