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Fear of the Beard

nyc beard

This final post is in response to the last reading we did for the class– The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.  The novel follows the story of Changez, a Pakistani man who works in NYC after graduating from Princeton.  It details his struggles as a Pakistani man in NYC following the attacks on 9/11, but also his internal dissonance as he balances his dual identities as a New Yorker and as a Pakistani.

In section, our discussion opened with an analysis of the first paragraph.  In the first paragraph, Changez, who speaks directly to the reader for the entire story, states, “Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America.”  To set up the story, Hamid chooses to use the symbol of the beard to represent muslims.  Since the publishing of the book, the beard has become a symbol tied to muslims and to islamophobia.  Hamid uses a reference to a beard to say that he is not dangerous, he is not a fundamentalist/extremist.

Inspired by this quote, I created the image above.  The piece is simply graphite on paper.  I use the NYC skyline to create the man’s beard.  I use the irony here to create the symbol of what individuals feared after the attack–men with these beards–out of the city itself.   I even include the twin towers to form his side burns.  Additionally, I include a subtle tear to show the man’s internal conflict over his identity, like Changez.

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