The Reluctant Fundamentalist

From the movie ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, the screenplay (based on the novel) plays with the audience’s perception. Is the Pakistani lecturer who was once a high-flying financial expert in America a fundamentalist? Many signs seem to point so at first. *Spoiler alert* By the end of movie, I was still musing over who the titular reluctant fundamentalist is.

Is there a true fundamentalist protagonist or antagonist in the story at all? The word ‘fundamentals’ was used a couple of times in the movie – first in a New York scene, referring to the fundamentals of capitalism (materialism), and next in reference to religious fundamentalism (so-called ‘spiritualism’). Seems like everyone is already a fundamentalist of sorts, adhering to and willing to live and die for certain ideals.

It turns out that the lecturer was no fundamentalist, as in not a terrorist, though he seemed to have some somewhat fundamental beliefs challenged, picking up new ones. Maybe that’s how he was reluctantly seen as a fundamentalist? In a way, the American journalist he was communicating to was kind of a fundamentalist too, in that he held on to the misconception that the lecturer was a likely fundamentalist… leading to a fundamental judgement error. His too, was a reluctant case, in the bid to save a friend. The story is not really one of sheer terror though, but of the terror of terror, the terrible effects of feeding prejudice, hatred and vengeance in an endless cycle. In the eulogy scene, this was uttered in a poem:

They ask us not to cry for their son.
Too many tears have flowed into this river.

They ask us not to take revenge in their son’s name.
Too many tears have flowed into this river.

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