Fracas over Naipaul

Karnad was right in slamming Naipaul for his views on Islam



Girish Karnard and Anil Dharkar took their fight to media over the former’s criticism of the Nobel Laureate author V S Naipaul. Certainly Anil Dharkar was within his rights to slam Karnard publicly albeit couched in courteous terms. But Dharkar was naďve and simplistic  when he came to the rescue of  Naipaul denying Naipual’s antipathy towards Muslims. Karnard did not say anything new. It is ironic that Naipaul, a wizard of prose lends intellect to the phenomenon of Islamophobia.
Earliar Iqbal Ahmad, reputed Pakistani political thinker asked Naipaul to sell sausages in disgust. Salman Rushdie called Naipaul a fellow traveler of fascism and disgracing Nobel award. Edward Said and Derek Walcot accused him of being a neo colonial apologist. William Dalrymple took issues with Naipaul’s understanding of medieval history in a brilliant and profoundly historical article in Guardian in 2004. `Trapped in Ruins' Mr Naipaul failed to see Islam’s contribution to India’s composite culture. 
Historiography is ticklish. It is more ahistorical. It is written to advance political narratives.Earlier leftist’s version got official backing. Many a few maintained fierce independence  in history writing, Romilla Thapar is an outstanding example. On the other side of the division historical revisionism threw up various positions.Leftists historians tended to underplay the pillage and plunder of some medieval Muslim  rulers. The massage was straight : - after independence and partition,democracy was fledgling and economy shaky. The national integration  sought top priority.Historical sore points tended to be swept under carpet. Professor Mujeeb denounced it. A modern nation state,secular and multi cultural has to learn the lessons from the history. History is nowhere a smooth affair? It is laden with strife, convulsions,cataclysms,persecutions,wholesale massacres, holocausts, depredations and so on. But it is witness to progressive evolution of synthesis, syncretism’s, assimilations, creations, recreations of art music, culture and brilliant movements like that of Bhakti and Sufi.and so on. 
Revisionism of history has many shades. Some are self styled. A starkly communal, linear and compartmentalized historical narrative has been deliberately pushed into the mainstream political discourse.This serves rightists and reactionary forces.This creates a sense of obligation and these historians and academicians are then rewarded.The historical periods are divided into shades –golden, dark and others,ripped apart with no continuity. 
Now comes the issue of V.S.Naipaul’s antipathy towards Indian Muslims.He is married to a Pakistani Muslim woman and the marriage is elitist. Many RSS workers are married to Muslim women. Does this exonerate them from espousing fascism.Marriage is entirely private.What about Naipaul’s writings, books, essays, travelogues  and numerous interviews? “Islam is a religion of fixed laws”, he told “Outlook “magazine in 1998. Even a genuine disbelief and critique of a belief system of adherents particularly of a minority pushes it to the receiving end. It brings the community to notice and focus for wrong reasons. Mr Naipaul has traveled to the Muslim world to explore the “zeal” and “rage” of converted people.He had not jettisoned entrenched stereotypes and biases before embarking on the journey. He undertook excursions to reinforce them.The conclusion were forgone.Hosts were pilloried and belief of the ordinary people ridiculed. 
V.S Naipaul's views on Islam are identical with fundamentalists. There was never a monolithic version of Islam even from its earliest times. When Islam had empire and glory  it tolerated fair share of heterodoxy and dissidence. Colonialism and subjugation made Islam recalcitrant. The challenges of modernity drew different responses from Muslim community. Orthodoxy clung to primordial identity. This is the psyche of insecure people. The depredations of Anglo-American block continue. Extremists found and continue to find constituencies. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exacerbated the responses. Mr. Naipaul threw his lot with Bernard Lewis, Faud Ajami, Varaqa Nofal  and other apologists of imperialism, unkind and unsympathetic to the third world. 
Now come to the naiveté of Anil Dharkar. Once editor of “organizer” averred he won’t object his daughter’s marriage to a Muslim. He had dipped his pen in bile and between the lines one could discern the diatribe against the Muslims.

(The writer works for the department of fisheries. He can be mailed at

Lastupdate on : Sun, 18 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 18 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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