Islamic fundamentalism is not only a major issue in the Middle East; it also affects the whole world. No more so than in England, where many Pakistani Muslims have settled, looking for a better life. What would happen if the proud, westernized father of a Pakistani family in England suddenly finds out that his son has rejected his father’s western ways in favor of a strict religious lifestyle? Then, what if the son and his Islamic buddies start harassing and even beating the father’s new young mistress, who just happens to be a prostitute?
Those are just some of the questions that the fascinating, but corrupt, plot of MY SON THE FANATIC answers. A new art movie from England, written by London-born author, playwright and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE), MY SON THE FANATIC paints a vivid picture of the clash of cultures and values now occurring in England over Pakistani immigration and Islamic followers of Mohammed. It’s also a strange clash of generations, because the father, who considers himself an “enlightened” liberal, chastises his son for being too rigid and “conservative.”
Pouring gasoline onto this volatile fire is the fact that the father, Parvez, a taxicab driver, is pimping for a prostitute he likes, Bettina. Parvez helps Bettina hook up with a rich German tourist. While Bettina sees the German tourist during the coming days, her friendship with Parvez grows into an adulterous love affair. Parvez in fact has become estranged from his wife Minoo because she often nags him about his lack of ambition. Minoo unfavorably compares Parvez’s career to a rich friend of theirs who owns a fancy nightclub and restaurant.
Meanwhile, Parvez’s son, Farid, breaks up with his white fiancée, the daughter of an important police officer. Farid then becomes a strong believer in Islam, the family’s religious heritage that Parvez no longer follows. Parvez is upset about these changes in Farid, but he agrees to let Farid’s mullah or religious leader stay in their house. The leader’s entourage, however, disrupts their whole lifestyle. Even Minoo must now eat in the kitchen while the mullah, Parvez and Farid eat in the dining room.
This whole turn of events culminates in a big argument between Parvez and Farid at the rich friend’s restaurant. Farid says the Western and Muslim cultures do not mix. He condemns Western capitalism and adds, “Their society is soaked in sex.” Parvez condemns his son’s “anti-white” and “anti-Jewish” propaganda. Eventually, he and Farid come to blows when, during an Islamic protest against the local prostitutes, Farid physically attacks Bettina. By now, Farid knows his father is having an affair with the woman, and his attack seems partly to be out of rage over his father’s sinful behavior. At the end of the movie, Parvez is left alone in his house. His wife Minoo has fled to her relatives in Pakistan, and Farid has gone to live with his Islamic friends.
MY SON THE FANATIC contains an outstanding performance by Om Puri as the distraught, passionate Parvez. The movie does not completely side with either Parvez or Farid, but it ultimately seems to favor Parvez’s humanist, atheistic viewpoint. At one point, Parvez explains to Bettina that he can’t explain the origin of the universe. He tells her he always fell asleep as a boy during his religious lessons before a holy man back home in Pakistan. At another point, he tells his son, “There are many ways of being a good man.” This last comment is a positive statement in favor of pluralism, the self-contradictory, false ideological engine that fuels the Fabian socialism of today’s post-modern world.
The movie also ultimately sees Parvez’s relationship with Bettina as a positive thing for both people. Parvez represents Bettina’s last chance at a normal heterosexual relationship. She becomes in turn the nurturing person that Parvez does not get from his wife at home. Parvez never does admit he’s doing anything wrong in having Bettina as a mistress. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Thus, although this movie gives us a valuable glimpse into the Pakistani and Islamic fundamentalist subculture in England, with some moral elements, its worldview is not biblical and ultimately is anti-religious and sexually immoral. This is not surprising since, like many movies from Europe lately, it was sponsored in part by government funding. MY SON THE FANATIC also contains lots of strong foul language and other sleazy content.
Moderately strong humanist worldview that combines a few anti-spiritual & pro-moral elements; 49 obscenities & 2 profanities; mild violence, including some pushing & shoving, man beats up woman, man beats up man, & a street riot against prostitutes staged by Muslims; implied sexual adultery & sexual prostitution; upper male & female nudity & rear nudity; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking & cocaine use depicted in one scene; Islamic false religion advocated but rebuked by other characters; anti-capitalism sentiments expressed; and, miscellaneous immorality such as adultery, pimping & lying.