Wash U Frosh to Study Book Whose Narrator Sympathizes with 9/11 Attackers

It’s absolutely mind-boggling why Washington University would choose to force incoming freshman to study a book whose main character is a Pakistani man resentful towards the United States and “smiled” and was pleased by “the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees” when he watched the towers fall on 9/11. The university is one of several across the country choosing to do this.

The Freshman Reading Program steering committee has announced that the Class of 2014 will be reading and studying “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid.

Over the summer, incoming freshmen will receive copies of the book along with a reader’s guide and are expected to have completed the book before arriving on campus. During orientation, freshmen will participate in faculty-led discussions, and programs will be planned throughout the academic year based on the key topic or themes of the book.

Hamid’s second novel, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” is a novel set in the aftermath of September 11 and told from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani, who despite his love for America, sympathizes with the attackers.

“The steering group considered many books that had been recommended to us by students and faculty,” said Karen Coburn, senior consultant in residence and a member of the reading program’s steering committee. “Those of us who read ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ found it engaging, accessible and provocative ⎯ a book that we thought would stimulate discussion among faculty and new students.”

Coburn joined Ian MacMullen, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science in Arts & Sciences, and a group of students for a discussion of the book in January.

“In addition to themes about the immigrant experience and what it means to be an American in a post-9/11 world, students talked about themes close to their own experience as freshmen ⎯ about coming to a new environment and deciding how you present yourself to others, what assumptions you make about others, what values you choose for yourself and whom you choose to trust,” Coburn said.

The main character, Changez, is upset at the way Americans react after terrorists murder thousands of their fellow citizens so he decides to provoke indignation towards himself by making himself seem fundamentalist. Does one still reserve the right to be offended if one chooses to do that which would cause others to react a certain way? Setting them up, especially after 9/11, such a sensitive period? And to use this as some flashpoint for a discussion on immigration? Yes, let’s. Several of the 9/11 attackers were here on expired visas.

What is the point of requiring freshman to read this book? To teach students to sympathize with people who resent them based upon their own screwed up logic and desire to provoke outrage by casting their lot emotionally with terrorists?

(h/t DSM of Reboot Congress)