The central figure in the formation of modern Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism was the Buddhist revivalist Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933), who has been described as "the father of modern Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism".  Dharmapala was hostile to all things un-Sinhalese and non-Buddhist. He insisted that the Sinhalese were racially pure and superior Aryans while the Dravidian Tamils were inferior.   He popularized the impression that Tamils and Sinhalese had been deadly enemies in Sri Lanka for nearly 2,000 years by quoting the Mahavamsa passages that depicted Tamils as pagan invaders.  He characterized the Tamils as "fiercely antagonistic to Buddhism".  He also expressed intolerance toward the island's Muslim minorities and other religions in general.  Dharmapala also fostered Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism in the spirit of the King Dutthagamani who "rescued Buddhism and our nationalism from oblivion" and stated explicitly that the Island belongs to the Sinhalese Buddhists.  Dharmapala has been blamed for laying the groundwork for subsequent Sinhalese Buddhists nationalists to create an ethnocentric state  and for hostility to be directed against minorities unwilling to accept such a state. 
In 2007, Davidson College assigned this book to all incoming freshmen as a topic for later discussion during Freshman Orientation. This book kicked off the theme of the school's 2007-08 year, which focused on diversity. In 2008, Tulane University gave the novel to all new undergraduates as part of the Tulane University Reading Project.  In 2009, the University of St Andrews announced that they would be sending a free copy of The Reluctant Fundamentalist to all of 1,500 new undergraduates as part of a new incentive to "offer students a common topic for discussion and focus energies on reading and intellectual debate".  In 2010, Washington University in St. Louis gave the book to each of its incoming freshmen, as a part of the "Freshmen Reading Program."  Georgetown University chose this book for incoming freshmen's summer reading. Ursinus College has incorporated the novel into their unique Common Intellectual Experience for freshmen students. Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas uses the book in all honors rhetoric classes for first-year students. Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa and Siena College in Loudonville, New York use the novel as an introduction to their First Year Seminar programs. Lehigh University assigned all incoming freshman this novel in 2012. Rollins College has assigned this novel to their incoming freshmen as part of their summer reading program. The University of Evansville in Indiana uses the novel as a tool in the freshman First Year Seminar program. This program has the purpose of engaging incoming first-year students to topics of leadership and citizenship. Bucknell University chose it for the first year common reading for the Class of 2018.