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In Dallas, a Muslim Writer is Asked a Difficult Question

Acclaimed novelist Mohsin Hamid recounts part of a recent trip to Dallas, where he discovered that he is both "they" and "us."

Pakistan-born, American-educated, London-living novelist Mohsin Hamid was in town during the spring to read from and sign copies of his latest novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, in which a Pakistani man tells his tale to an American who may or may not be a government assassin. On Sunday, Hamid published an essay in The Washington Post in which he recounted some of his visit to Dallas, part of which he spent at the Barnes & Noble on Northwest Highway across from NorthPark Center:

Recently, I found myself in Dallas, a place I'd never been before. As a Muslim writer, I felt about going there pretty much the way an American writer might have felt about heading to the tribal areas of Pakistan: nervous, with the distinct suspicion that the locals carried guns and weren't too fond of folks who look like me.

So I was surprised by the extraordinary hospitality I encountered on my trip. And I still remember the politeness with which one elderly gentleman addressed me in a bookshop. He held a copy of my latest novel, "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," and examined the face on its cover, comparing it to mine. Then he said, nodding once as if to dip the brim of an imaginary hat: "So tell me, sir. Why do they hate us?"

That stopped me cold.

--Robert Wilonsky

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