It was interesting to read the letters on Girish Karnad’s criticism of V.S. Naipaul in the Mumbai LitFest. It is the privilege of writers to express themselves, and critics to criticise. The platform and the mode in which the criticism is aired are important.
If the majority of us direct our energies towards minimising economic disparities, we should be able to establish a true secular state. Let writers and critics do their jobs. We have our work cut out.
Mr. Karnad — and all Indians who can think — can and must denounce a writer who has been honoured apparently for giving vent, in several published works, to a blind hatred for very many Indians. That hatred is to be opposed especially because it has the power to reproduce itself in the weak minds of many who will then use their muscles to act upon it. That hatred is to be opposed because it both draws upon and feeds the malign plan that the Hindu right has for the destruction of all that is civilised about India.
The common Indian is proud of India as an edifice of pluralism, multiculturalism and unity in diversity. Hence, with all due respect to Sir Vidia, his views on the role of Muslims in India’s history should be condemned. The culture of India is a rich tapestry of interwoven strands of which the Aryans, Huns, Muslims and even the British are an integral part. There may be negative or positive impacts of all the above as testified by history. Therefore, to single out a community, which has woven itself into the lovely fabric of our country, is not only immature but prejudiced too.
While I agree with Mushirul Hasan that Mr. Naipaul’s writings on Muslims are not justified (Nov. 7), I think he has gone too far in criticising him and saying that a historian or writer should write things that bridge the divide between religions. I don’t think this should be the aim of a writer. A genuine narration could be challenging and could arouse resentment at some point but that doesn’t mean it is always harmful to society. History holds many good examples where writings like those of Naipaul have proved beneficial to society.
There are several myths about Islam, Prophet Muhammed, and Muslims like: Islam is a violent religion spread by the sword, Muslims are intolerant, women have no rights, etc. These myths were first created by European scholars in the medieval period and later developed and propagated by the Orientalists to serve their imperial masters. That scholars like Naipaul subscribe to the myths without going into historical realities is unfortunate.
Fortunately, the myths are exposed time and again. Eminent scholars such as Johan Elverskog, Karen Armstrong and Deepa Kumar have done brilliant academic work to demolish them. Deepa Kumar says in her book, Islamophobia and the politics of Empire, “Myths about Islam in the 21st Century are indeed historical but they are based on a distorted or selective interpretation of the past.”
N. Jan Mohammed,
As a member of a minority community, I can see why a Muslim feels he is not properly understood. But why are prominent Muslims not trying to educate the rest of us on the details of Islam? I, for one, would really like to know about the religion and am open to all points of view. Educate us; many of us are willing to listen without bias. Ours is a country that is home to almost all major religions.
Except for those few who use religion for their own reasons, political and otherwise, we are tolerant of each other’s religions, languages and customs.