V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers

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Basy Lys
Berichten: 42
Lid geworden op: Zo Feb 23, 2003 12:30 pm
Locatie: Dar al-Harb

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers

Berichtdoor Basy Lys » Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:23 pm

De boeken van V.S. Naipaul had ik al veel langer moeten lezen. Zijn indringende vaststellingen en scherpe analyse zouden heel verhelderend geweest zijn op mijn reizen in islamitische landen. Zijn schrijfstijl is prachtig. De man kreeg niet voor niets de Nobelprijs Literatuur.

De lectuur van V.S. Naipaul's twee boeken over zijn reizen in islamitische landen zijn een must voor iedereen die de islam wil begrijpen.

Ik zal uit Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey enkele (min of meer lange) excerpten geven, per land dat hij tijdens zijn reis bezocht.

Eerst wat achtergrondinformatie gesprokkeld in zijn boeken:

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, New York, 1981, ISBN 0-394-71195-5

V.S. Naipaul was born, of Indian ancestry, in Trinidad in 1932. He came to England in 1950. he spent four years at University College, Oxford, and began to write, in London, in 1954. He has pursued no other profession

1959: Somerset Maugham Award.

In 1960 he began to travel.

1963: Hawthornden Prize.
1967: W.H. Wmith Award.
1971: Booker Prize

V.S. Naipaul received a Knighthood in the 1990 New Year’s Honour’s List for services to literature; in 1993 he was the first recipient of the David Cohen British Literature Prize in recognition of a ‘lifetime achievement of a living British writer’.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.

In 1981, V.S. Naipaul’s Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey was published to universal acclaim. In 1995 he returned to Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan and Malaysia. Beyond Belief is his account of those travels.

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981), a large-scale work, is the result of seven months’ travel in 1979 and 1980 in Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Its important sequel, Beyond Belief (1998), is on the theme of Islamic conversion in these countries.
Laatst gewijzigd door Basy Lys op Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:34 pm, 1 keer totaal gewijzigd.
Veritas odium parit

Basy Lys
Berichten: 42
Lid geworden op: Zo Feb 23, 2003 12:30 pm
Locatie: Dar al-Harb

NAIPAUL, Among the Believers, Iran

Berichtdoor Basy Lys » Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:24 pm

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, New York, 1981, ISBN 0-394-71195-5


p. 15

That expectation – of others continuing to create, of the alien, necessary civilization going on – is implicit in the act of renunciation, and is its great flaw.

p. 33

Certain modern goods and tools – cars, radios, televisions – were necessary; their possession was part of a proper Islamic pride. But these things were considered neutral; they were not associated with any particular faith or civilization; they were thought of as the stock of some great universal bazaar.

Money alone bought these things. And money, in Iran, had become the true gift of God, the reward of virtue. Whether Tehran worked or not, seventy million dollars went every day to the country’s external accounts, to be drawn off as required: foreign currencies, secured by foreign laws and institutions, to keep the Islamic revolution going.
Veritas odium parit

Basy Lys
Berichten: 42
Lid geworden op: Zo Feb 23, 2003 12:30 pm
Locatie: Dar al-Harb

NAIPAUL, Among the Believers, Pakistan

Berichtdoor Basy Lys » Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:26 pm

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, New York, 1981, ISBN 0-394-71195-5



p. 90

The state [Pakistan] withered; But faith didn’t. Failure only led back to the faith. The state had been founded as a homeland for Muslims. If the state failed, it wasn’t because the dream was flawed, or the faith flawed; it could only be because men had failed the faith. A purer and purer faith began to be called for. And in that quest for the Islamic absolute – the society of believers, where every action was instinct with worship – men lost sight of the political origins of their state. They forgot the secular ambitions of Mr. Jinnah, the state’s political founder, who (less philosophical than Iqbal) wanted only a state where Muslims wouldn’t be swamped by non-Muslims. Even Iqbal was laid aside. Extraordinary claims began to be made for Pakistan: it was founded as the land of the pure; it was to be the first truly Islamic state since the days of the Prophet and his close companions.

p. 99

... part of the thuggish public life of the Muslim polity, where in practice the only morality (and also the eternal balm) was the possession of the faith.

p. 100

The dream of the Muslim homeland had had strange consequences. And strangest of all was this: the state that had appeared to some as God itself, a complete earthly reward for the faithful, lived not so much by its agricultural exports or by the proceeds of its minor, secondary industries, as by the export of its people. The newspaper advertisements called it “manpower-export.”

p. 101

The idea of the Muslim state as God had never converted into anything less exalted, had never converted into political or economic organization. Pakistan – a thousand miles long from the sea to the Himalayas, and with a population of more than seventy million – was a remittance economy. The property boom in Karachi was sustained in part by the remittance of overseas workers, and they were everywhere, legally and illegally. They were not only in Muslim countries, Arabia, the Gulf states, Libya; they were also in Canada and the United States and in many of the countries of Europe.
The business was organized. Like accountants studying tax laws, the manpower-export experts of Pakistan studied the world’s immigration laws and competitively gambled with their emigrant battalions: visitor’s visas overstayable here (most European countries), dependents shippable there (England), student’s visas convertible there (Canada and the United States), political asylum to be asked for there (Austria and West Berlin), still no visas needed here, just below the Arctic Circle (Finland). They went by the planeload. Karachi airport was equipped for this emigrant traffic. Some got through; some were turned back. Germans shoot 4 Pakistanis: Illegal entry. This was an item in Dawn, sent from Turkey, on the emigrant route, and it was the delayed story of the humane disabling (men shot in the leg) and capture of one batch.
Abroad, the emigrants threw themselves on the mercies of civil-liberties organizations. They sought the protection of the laws of the countries where the planes had brought them. They or their representatives spoke correct words about the difference between poor countries and rich, South and North. They spoke of the crime of racial discrimination and the brotherhood of man. They appealed to the ideals of the alien civilization whose virtue they denied at home.
And in the eyes of the faithful there was no contradiction. Home was home; home wasn’t like outside; ecumenical words spoken outside didn’t alter that. The Muslim polity was like God itself, a thing apart, and had ceaselessly to be purified and defended. As the Tehran Times article said, speaking of the Islamic wave, “With reformation and adaptation to present needs in full conformity with the holy Koran and Sunnah (the old, right way), Iran and Pakistan with a clarity of purpose and sincere cooperation can establish the truth that Islam is a complete way of life.”

p. 113

“Let me finish”, Mr. Mirza said; he couldn’t bear to be interrupted. And he went on. Prophets were the ones through whom God expressed his will; Islam was dedicated to the idea that the time would come when prophets would cease to be necessary.
Where had that got us, or Pakistan? It had got us to this point: that the law and institutions of Pakistan, as they were, were not divine. In spite of his reputation and his books, Mr. Mirza had not thought beyond that point. His education was part of his vanity; but he was like the simplest mullah. And in fact, as an Islamizer as pure as any, Mr. Mirza had political ambitions. With the disappearance of Mr. Bhutto and the suppression of Mr. Bhutto’s party, with an Islamizing military government, Mr. Mirza was hoping to be lifted to the heights.
I said I was going. Mr. Mirza was disappointed; he had more to say to me. He offered me his car. I accepted. Waiting for the car, he attempted to organize his own interview. He said, “I suppose you are thinking that I should be in a monastery and shouldn’t be in business.”
“I am not thinking that.”
“But in Islam, you see, there is no separation. It’s a complete way of life.”

p. 122
Ahmed said: “I will tell you the story of this country in two sentences. In the first quarter of this century the Hindus of India decided that everything that was wrong had to do with foreigners and foreign influence. Then in the second quarter the Muslims of India woke up. They had a double hate. They hated the foreigners and they hated the Hindus. So the country of Pakistan was built on hate and nothing else. The people weren’t ready for Pakistan, and people who don’t deserve shouldn’t demand.
It was what many conservative Muslims said: that the Muslims of India, as Muslims, hadn’t been pure enough for a Muslim state.

p. 123
Ahmed said: ”Everybody fools everybody else here. Politicians, civil servants, everybody”.
And Ahmed and his other visitor (who had so far said little) agreed that people were turning to Islam because everything else had failed. Even at the universities the islamic wave was swamping academic life.
But wasn’t that, I asked, the special trap of a place like Pakistan? Couldn’t people now accept that they were Muslims in a Muslim country, and that Pakistan was what the faith had made of it? Did it make sense – after the centuries of Islamic history – to say that Islam hadn’t been tried?
Ahmed became grave. He said, “No, it has never been tried.”

p. 123

And Ahmed and his other visitor (who had so far said little) agreed that people were turning to Islam because everything else had failed. Even at the universities the Islamic wave was swamping academic life.

p. 124

But wasn’t that, I asked, the special trap of a place like Pakistan? Couldn’t people now accept that they were Muslims in a Muslim country, and that Pakistan was what the faith had made of it? Did it make sense – after the centuries of Islamic history – to say that Islam hadn’t been tried?
Ahmed became grave. He said, “No, it has never been tried.”

p. 142

It was the poet Iqbal’s hope that an Indian Muslim state might rid Islam of “the stamp that Arab imperialism was forced to give it.” It turns out now that the Arabs were the most successful imperialists of all time, since to be conquered by them (and then to be like them) is still, in the minds of the faithful, to be saved.


p. 142

So theology complicates history for the people of Pakistan. And for people who feel that their country hasn’t worked, that in the Muslim homeland they are still strangers, of dispossessed, or threatened with dispossession, for such people the wish to claim kinship with a triumphant Islam makes for further disturbance.

In orthodox theology only the first four caliphs were rightly guided. After that the caliphate becomes a dynasty; the Islamic ideals of brotherhood are betrayed. Sind, therefore, was conquered by the Arabs in the bad time; but the Arabs brought the faith, so the bad time becomes a sacred time.The Mongols destroyed the Arab empire in the East. So the Mongols were bad. But the Mongols became Muslims and established the great Mogul empire in India; so that becomes a wonderful time. The Turks displace the Mogols; but the Turks also become Muslims and powerful, and they, too, cease to be bad. So history – which begins as a “pleasant story of conquest” – becomes hopelessly confusing. And out of this more-than-colonial confusion some Pakistanis fabricate personalities for themselves, in which they are Islamic and conquerors and – in Pakistan – a little like people in exile from their glory. They become Turks or Moguls. Or Arabs.
The Chachnama shows the Arabs of the seventh century as a people stimulated and enlightened and disciplined by Islam, developing fast, picking up learning and new ways and new weapons (catapults, Greek fire) from the people they conquer, intelligently curious about the people they intend to conquer. The current fundamentalist wish in Pakistan to go back to that pure Islamic time has nothing to do with a historical understanding of the Arab expansion. The fundamentalists feel that to be like those early Arabs they need only one tool: the Koran. Islam, which made the seventh-century Arabs world conquerors, now clouds the minds of their successors or pretended successors.
It was the poet Iqbal’s hope that an Indian Muslim state might rid Islam of “the stamp that Arab imperialism was forced to give it.” It runs out now that the Arabs were the most successful imperialists of all time, since to be conquered by them (and then to be like them) is till, in the minds of the faithful, to be saved.
History, in the Pakistan schoolbooks I looked at, begins with Arabia and Islam. In the simpler texts, surveys of the Prophet and the first four caliphs and perhaps the Prophet’s daughter are followed, with hardly a break, by lives of the poet Iqbal, Mr. Jinnah, the political founder of Pakistan, and two or three “martyrs,” soldiers or airmen who died in the holy wars against India in 1965 and 1971.

p. 143

History as selective as this leads quickly to unreality. Before Mohammed there is blackness: slavery, exploitation. After Mohammed there is light: slavery and exploitation vanish. But did it? How can that be said or taught? What about all those slaves sent back from Sind to the caliph? What about the descendants of the African slaves who walk about Karachi? There is no adequate answer: so the faith begins to nullify or overlay the real world.
The military rule; political parties are banned. There is 15 percent literacy, and fundamentalism stifles the universities. There is no industry, no science. The economy is a remittance economy; the emigrants, legal and illegal, pour out. But in the social studies textbook in the sixth class in English-language schools the child reads:
“’Uncle’, said Salman, ‘I have read in my history book that in old times the caste system had a very firm hold in India. Everyone had to adopt the occupation of his family. He could take no other work.’ ‘Oh!’ said the uncle. ‘conditions in India are much the same to this day. But we are a democratic country. Here everyone is free to adopt the occupation of his choice. This is the secret of our progress’”

p. 145

I had felt in the garden of Ayatollah Shariatmadari’s house in Mashhad, that Islam had achieved community and a kind of beauty, had given people a feeling of completeness – if only the world outside could be shut out, and men could be made to forget what they knew.

p. 163

I had momentarily – a number of irritations coming together: the political virulence of his paper, his wish both to remain Islamic and to exploit the tolerance and openness of the other civilization – I had momentarily allowed myself to be aggressive with him. I felt guilty.

p. 167


In the fundamentalist scheme the world constantly decays and has constantly to be re-created. The only function of intellect is to assist that re-creation. It reinterprets the texts, it re-establishes divine precedent. So history has to serve theology, law is separated from the idea of equity, and learning is separated from learning. The doctrine has its attractions. To a student from the University of Karachi, from perhaps a provincial or peasant background, the old faith comes more easily than any new-fangled academic discipline. So fundamentalism takes root in the universities, and to deny education can become the approved educated act. In the days of Muslim glory Islam opened itself to the learning of the world. Now fundamentalism provides an intellectual thermostat, set low. It equalizes, comforts, shelters, and preserves.

In this way the faith pervades everything, and it is possible to understand what the fundamentalists mean when they say that Islam is a complete way of life. But what is said about Islam is true, and perhaps truer, of other religions – like Hinduism or Buddhism or lesser tribal faiths – that at an early stage in their history were also complete cultures, self-contained and more or less isolated, with institutions, manners, and beliefs making a whole.

The Islamic fundamentalist wish is to work back to such a whole, for them a God-given whole, but with the tool of faith alone – belief, religious practices and rituals. It is like a wish – with intellect suppressed or limited, the historical sense falsified – to work back from the abstract to the concrete, and to set up the tribal walls again. It is to seek to re-create something like a tribal or a city-state that – except in theological fantasy – never was. The Koran is not the statute book of a settled golden age; it is the mystical or oracular record of an extended upheaval, widening out from the Prophet to his tribe to Arabia. Arabia was full of movement; Islam, with all its Jewish and Christian elements, was always mixed, eclectic, developing. Almost as soon as the Prophet made his community secure he sought to subdue his enemies. It was during a military march in the fifth year of the Muslim era that Aisha spent that night alone in the desert.

p. 168

The West, or the universal civilization it leads, is emotionally rejected. It undermines; it threatens. But at the same time it is needed, for its machines, goods, medicines, warplanes, the remittances from the emigrants, the hospitals that might have a cure for calcium deficiency, the universities that will provide master’s degrees in mass media. All the rejection of the West is contained within the assumption that there will always exist out there a living, creative civilization, oddly neutral, open to all to appeal to. Rejection, therefore, is not absolute rejection. It is also, for the community as a whole, a way of ceasing to strive intellectually. It is to be parasitic; parasitism is one of the unacknowledged fruits of fundamentalism. And the emigrants pour out from the land of the faith: thirty thousand Pakistanis shipped by the manpower-export experts to West Berlin alone, to claim the political asylum meant for the people of East Germany.

The patron saint of the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan was Maulana Maudoodi. He opposed the idea of a separate Indian Muslim state because he felt that the Muslims were not pure enough for such a state. He felt that God should be the lawgiver; and, offering ecstasy of this sort rather than a practical programme, he became the focus of millenarian passion. He campaigned for Islamic laws without stating what those laws should be.

He died while I was in Pakistan. But he didn’t die in Pakistan: the news of his death came from Boston. At the end of his long and cantankerous life the maulana had gone against all his high principles. He had gone to a Boston hospital to look for health; he had at the very end entrusted himself to the skill and science of the civilization he hat tried to shield his followers from. He had sought, as someone said to me (not all Pakistanis are fundamentalists), to reap where he had not wanted his people to sow. Of the maulana it might be said that he had gone to his well-deserved place in heaven by way of Boston; and that he went at least part of the way by Boeing.

p. 169


Step by step, out of its Islamic striving, Pakistan had undone the rule of law it had inherited from the British, and replaced it with nothing.

p. 173

Syed said he felt isolated from his friends at the medical school. They just wanted to pass the examinations, to become doctors; they weren’t interested in intellectual matters. They just wanted the skill; they weren’t interested – as Syed was -- in the civilization that went with the skill. 5but Syed didn’t put it like that.) How had he arrived at his intellectual interests? Well, he had the advantage of his father’s medical background – that put him a generation or two ahead of most of his fellows. He had spent a year in England. And he had read a lot in English.

p. 178


The fundamentalists, insecure, with their unhistorical view, feared alien contamination. But fundamentalism offered nothing. It pushed men to an unappeasable faith; it offered a political desert. It violated the “basics”; it could never wall out the rest of the world. And I thought it was possible, looking not many steps ahead, to see how in Pakistan, by the very excesses of fundamentalism, Islam might be preparing its own transformation.

p. 199


I said, “But isn’t it strange that the only freedom he wants is the freedom to leave the country? He doesn’t have any idea that the country might be developed, that there might be jobs here.”
Masood didn’t understand at first. The idea of escape was too much in his own mind. When he did understand he said, “But the rulers of the country have never had that idea or given people that idea. Now the army is in control.”

p. 200

We stopped at the town of Jared. It was famous for its woodcarving. But the examples I saw were poor – wooden daggers, trays, ashtrays: poor design, poor carving. Masood bought a walnut ashtray for fifteen rupees. Clearly there was once a tradition; now the absence of skill, eye, judgement, was like part of the human desolation.

p. 210

How could he read, how could he judge, how could he venture into the critical disciplines of another civilization, when so much of his own history had been distorted for him, and declared closed to inquiry? And how strange, in the usurped Freemason’s hall of Rawalpindi, to talk of the English political novel and the distortions of colonialism, when in that city in a few weeks, in the name of an Islam that was not to be questioned, the whipping vans were to go out, official photographs were to be issued of public floggings, and one of the country’s best journalists was to be arrested and photographs were to show him in chains.
Veritas odium parit

Basy Lys
Berichten: 42
Lid geworden op: Zo Feb 23, 2003 12:30 pm
Locatie: Dar al-Harb

NAIPAUL, Among the Believers, Malaysia

Berichtdoor Basy Lys » Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:28 pm

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, New York, 1981, ISBN 0-394-71195-5

p. 223


p. 225

Islam spread as an idea – a Prophet, a divine revelation, heaven and hell, a divinely sanctioned code – and mingled with older ideas. To purify that mixed religion the Islamic missionaries now come; and it is still from the subcontinent – and especially from Pakistan – that the most passionate missionaries come.

p. 227

And they grow to understand that in the last hundred years, while they or their parents slept, their country – a new idea: a composite of kingdoms and sultanates – was colonially remade; that the rich Malaysia of today grows on colonial foundations and is a British-Chinese creation. The British developed the mines and the plantations. They brought in Chinese (the diligent, rootless peasants of a century back), and a lesser number of Indians, to do the work the Malays couldn’t do. Now the British no longer rule. But the Malays are only half the population.

The Chinese have advanced; it is their energy and talent that keep the place going. The Chinese are shut out from political power. Malays rule; the country is officially Muslim, with Muslim personal laws; sexual relations between Muslims and non-Muslims are illegal, and there is a kind of prying religious police; legal discriminations against non-Muslims are outrageous. But the Malays who rule are established, or of old or royal families who crossed over into the new world some generations ago.

The new men of the villages, who feel they have already lost so much, find their path blocked at every turn. Money, development, education have awakened them only to the knowledge that the world is not like their village, that the world is not their own. Their rage – the rage of pastoral people with limited skills, limited money, and a limited grasp of the world – is comprehensive. Now they have a weapon: Islam. It is their way of getting even with the world. It serves their grief, their feeling of inadequacy, their social rage and racial hate.

This Islam is more than the old religion of their village. The Islam the missionaries bring is a religion of impending change and triumph; it comes as part of a world movement. In Readings in Islam, a local missionary magazine, it can be read that the West, in the eyes of its philosophers, is eating itself up with its materialism and greed. The true believer, with his thoughts on the afterlife, lives for higher ideals. For a nonbeliever, with no faith in the afterlife, life is a round of pleasure. “He spends the major part of his wealth on ostentatious living and demonstrates his pomp and show by wearing of silk and brocade and using vessels of gold and silver.”

p. 228

Silk, brocade, gold and silver? Can that truly be said in a city like Kuala Lumpur? But this is theology. It refers to a hadith or tradition about the Prophet. Hudhaifa one day asked for water and a Persian priest gave him water in a silver vessel. Hudhaifa rebuked the Persian; Hudhaifa had with his own ears heard the Prophet say that nonbelievers used gold and silver vessels and wore silk and brocade.

The new Islam comes like this, and to the new men of the village it comes as an alternative kind of learning and truth, full of scholarly apparatus. It is a passion without a constructive programme. The materialist world is to be pulled down first; the Islamic state will come later – as in Iran, as in Pakistan.

And the message that starts in Pakistan doesn’t stop in Malaysia. It travels to Indonesia – 120 million people to Malaysia’s 12 million, poorer, more heterogeneous, more fragile, with a recent history of pogroms and mass killings. There the new Islamic movement among the young is seen by its enemies as nihilism; the call it “the Malaysian disease.” So the Islamic passion of Pakistan, with its own special roots, converts and converts again, feeding other distresses. And the promise of political calamity spreads as good news.

MALAYSIA steams ...

p. 229

In public gardens and in other places in this new town can be seen young village Malays dressed as Arabs, with turbans and gowns. The Arab dress – so far from Pakistan, so far from Arabia – is their political badge. In the university there are girls who do not only wear the veil, but in the heat also wear gloves and socks. Different groups wear different colours. The veil is more than the veil; it is a mask of aggression. Not like the matted locks of the Ras Tafarian in Jamaica, a man dulled by a marginal life that has endured for generations; not like the gear of the middle-class hippie, who wishes only to drop out; these are the clothes of uprooted village people who wish to pull down what is not theirs and then take over. Because an unacknowledged part of the fantasy is that the world goes on, runs itself, has only to be inherited.

p. 242

It was strange to think of books being written and published in Shafi’s village, books of rules like those written in Iran by ayatollahs like Khomeini and Shariatmadari, copies of which were to be found in the houses of their followers, who could consult them without shame on the most intimate matters and find out what was permitted by the Koran and approved by Islamic tradition, and what was not permitted. The simple life was a rigid life. It had rules for everything; and everyone had to learn the rules.

In Pakistan the fundamentalists believed that to follow the right rules was to bring about again the purity of the early Islamic way: the reorganization of the world would follow automatically on the rediscovery of the true faith. Shafi’s grief and passion, in multi-racial Malaysia, were more intimate; and I felt that for him the wish to re-establish the rules was also a wish to re-create the security of his childhood, the Malay village life he had lost.

Some grief like that touches most of us. It is what, as individuals, responsible for ourselves, we constantly have to accommodate ourselves to. Shafi, in his own eyes, was the first man expelled from paradise. He blamed the world; he shifted the whole burden of that accommodation onto Islam.

p. 255

The West, after its many mutations, had remained new, prompting change, prompting disturbance, as it was doing even now. Islam had aged, had appeared to have become part of a self-contained and – to use the word shafi was soon to give me “mediocre” Malay village life.

p. 262

ABIM, Shafi’s group, was not the only Muslim youth group in Malaysia; Anwar Ibrahim, with his high idea of Islam, was not the only leader. There were other leaders, with less difficult messages. Missionaries (from Indian and Pakistan) had brought the idol-smashing message to Malaysia. They had worked out, from various books they had consulted, how many thousands of years in paradise a Muslim earned for every idol he smashed; and they had calculated that a grand total of thirty smashed idols won a Muslim the jackpot, an eternity in paradise.

The Malay rage was really about the Chinese shrines – some no more than concrete boxes – that were everywhere in the towns (there were two just outside the Holiday Inn). But the Chinese were powerful, and had their secret societies. The Tamil Hindus were a small, pacific community. So Hindu images were smashed. On many nights – during a three week period in 1978 – Tamil temples were desecrated.

Then, at the Kerling temple, there was a tragedy. A group of five idol-smashers (at least two university students among them) were met by eight temple guards. Four of the idol-smashers were killed. Idol-smashing stopped after that. And now – more important than the Temerloh temple case – was the trial of the eight Kerling guards on charges of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder.”

p. 288


... Malaysia – with its painful problems: the casualness of the Malays, the energy of the Chinese, the racial politics, the corruptions of the new money, the technological dependence of the small, uneducated country – vanished, became an abstraction itself, a land of pure belief, of total submission to Allah. In that submission everything was solved.


p. 288


...”The Perfectness of Islam.” There was a logic in this. The West, which had provided Mohammed with academic learning, was open to the criticism it hat trained him in. Islam, which had not provided this learning, which provided only the restoring faith, was exempt from criticism.

p. 289

That was where his Malay and Muslim passion, his knowledge of history, the beginning of self-awareness and intellectual life, had led him. He had no idea of reform or any ameliorative process. He didn’t deal in the concrete. It was hard for him – dependent on other people’s words and thoughts, fitting those thoughts to his own wordless emotions – it was hard for him to be concrete. He wished only for the world to be remade and repossessed as suddenly as (in his memory, the village boy going to the mission school beside the cemetery) it had been taken away from him. This was the promise of Islam.

Veritas odium parit

Basy Lys
Berichten: 42
Lid geworden op: Zo Feb 23, 2003 12:30 pm
Locatie: Dar al-Harb

NAIPAUL, Among the Believers, Indonesia

Berichtdoor Basy Lys » Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:29 pm

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, New York, 1981, ISBN 0-394-71195-5


p. 300

It is the army that holds the archipelago together. An army rule – after the Sukarno years of drift and rhetoric – has given Indonesia fifteen years of rest. In this period, with the help of Indonesian oil, Jakarta has sprouted its skyscrapers, the main roads have been paved; the beginnings of service appropriate to a big city have appeared. In this period of rest there has also grown up an educated generation, the first generation in fifty years to know stability. But the army rule chafes. And already – the trap of countries like Indonesia – with stability and growth there is restlessness.

The restlessness is expressed by the new Islam, the Islam that is more than ritual, that speaks of the injustice done to Allah’s creatures and of the satanic ways of worldly governments: the Islam that makes people withdraw, the more violently to leap forward.

p. 304

She had seen what was clear to Suryadi: that the boy was a poor student, didn’t have the background, couldn’t cope with university life. He was still some way from taking his degree and wasn’t giving enough time to his work. During the month of Ramadan, the fasting month, he had given up his work altogether, fasting all day and going to the mosque in the evening to pray. That was easier than being with the difficult books; and his religious correctness was admired by his Islamic group at the university.

p. 305

After the dizzying history of the last fifty years, the world had grown strange, and people floated. Whether they moved forward, into the new civilization, or backward, like Suryadi’s daughter, towards the purer Arab faith, they were now always entering somebody else’s world, and getting further from themselves.

p. 323

... Abdur Rahman Wahid...

p. 330

Prasojo was Muslim; he had friends among the new Muslims. But he was as yet far removed from the new Muslim wish to purify, to create abstract men of the faith, men who would be nothing more than the rules. Prasojo possessed his Javanese civilization too completely for that: it was his civilization that he had been talking about during the drive.

The koum of Linus’s village said that young people were learning more about Islam at school and for that reason were becoming more interested in the faith. But the koum’s Islam was the old Islam of the village; and the koum, with his fees for his religious services, his acre of land, and his knowledge of the past, saw himself living in the good time. There were many people now who knew nothing of the Japanese or the Dutch, many people for whom there was no longer room in the village, people who were being ejected or banished from the only way of life they knew. They lived in a bad time; and the Islam that spoke to them was not the koum’s Islam, but an Islam that sanctified their sens of wrongness.

p. 350

Islam, like Christianity, complemented the older religions. The religion of the village was a composite religion; the idea of the good life was a composite idea. People lived with everything at one: the mosque, the church, Krishna, the rice goddess, a remnant of Hindu caste, the Buddhist idea of nirvana, the Muslim idea of paradise. No one, Umar Kayam said, could say precisely what he was. People said, “I am a Muslim, but – “ Or, “I am a Christian, but –“

p. 351

... So the Prambanam people felt they should declare themselves Hindus.
The trouble then was that they didn’t know what they should do as Hindus. They had no priests and no idea of the rituals they should perform. They sent for Balinese Hindu priests, and the Balinese came over with a Balinese gamelan orchestra to instruct them. But it didn’t work. The past couldn’t be reconstructed; the old rituals and theology couldn’t take again. And so the people of Prambanam had returned to being what they had been, people of a composite religion.

p. 353

There was another side to this concern with beauty and correct behaviour. In 1965, when Sukarno and his communistic government had been deposed, between half a million to a million people were slaughtered in Indonesia. All the frustrations of overrefinement came out then; every kind of private feud was settled. In Hindu Bali, which the tourists now visit, the killing was as fierce as anywhere else. But there, to give a touch of ritual to the butchery, the village gangs took out the gamelan orchestras when they went killing.


Islam was part of the composite religion. And the questions raised by the Australian academic in his letter to Taufiq remained. What did the new missionary Islam, the Islam of the pesantren, have to offer these villages? What new ideas of land tenure, what kind of debate did it offer to these villages which were not as enchanted as they looked, where the balance was broken?

p. 354

The koum of Linus’s village said that young people were learning more about Islam at school and for that reason were becoming more interested in the faith. But the koum’s Islam was the old Islam of the village; and the koum, with his fees for his religious services, his acre of land, and his knowledge of the past, saw himself living in the good time. There were many people now who knew nothing of the Japanese or the Dutch, many people for whom there was no longer room in the village, people who were being ejected or banished from the only way of life they knew. They lived in a bad time; and the Islam that spoke to them was not the koum’s Islam, but an Islam that sanctified their sense of wrongness.

p. 355
The Islam that was coming to the villages – brushed with new and borrowed ideas about the wickedness of the machine, the misuse of foreign aid – was the Islam that in the late twentieth century had rediscovered its political roots. The Prophet had founded a state. He had given men the idea of equality and union. The dynastic quarrels that had come early to this state had entered the theology of the religion; so that this religion, which filled men’s days with rituals and ceremonies of worship, which preached the afterlife, at the same time gave men the sharpest sense of worldly injustice and made that part of religion.

This late-twentieth-century Islam appeared to raise political issues. But it had the flaw of its origins – the flaw that ran right through Islamic history: to the political issues it raised it offered no political or practical solution. It offered only the faith. It offered only the Prophet, who would settle everything – but who had ceased to exist. This political Islam was rage, anarchy.

p. 362

... Imaduddin ...

p. 377

“... Because I believe that what we need right now is a true Muslim leader.”

Out of this, as in the days of Omar and the other rightly guided caliphs, all good would flow. It was here his fundamentalism led: the need for the pious leader, not a man of individual conscience, compassion, or wisdom, but a man who lived according to the book, the man who could stand in for the Prophet, the man who knew the Prophet’s deeds and revelations so well that he would order affairs as the Prophet himself might have ordered them. It was the idea of piety and goodness that separated Islam from other ethical systems.

The logic of Imaduddin’s faith, and his own integrity, was simple: injustice was un-Islamic, and Indonesia was full of injustice. And the Imaduddin who grieved about injustice at home could travel without pain to Muslim despotisms abroad. To these countries he travelled as to lands of the achieved faith. In such lands you did not look for injustice; you considered only the leader, and felt cleansed by the purity of his faith.

p. 378

... And Newsweek, in a feature, had included the Prophet and one other Muslim in a list of fifty people who had most influenced the history of the world. “it’s in history now,” the young man said, meaning only that it was in Newsweek (History like a divine ledger, guarded, like so many things, by the other civilization.) ...

p. 378

Newsweek and Time were helping to make the history they recorded. Islam was pure and perfect; the secular, dying West was to be rejected: that was the message. But the West was taking a long time to die. And more and more people were being drawn into the new world. In this new world, whose centre seemed so far away, so beyond control, newly evolved men like the president of the Jakarta youth organization felt only their inadequacies. These men were not peasants or pesantren boys. They aspired to high Western skills; they took encouragement from, they needed, Western witness. It was part of their great dependence. This dependence provoked the anguish which (like adolescents) they sought to assuage in the daily severities of their new religious practice: the five-times-a-day prayers, the unnecessary fasts. The religion which was theirs but which they had disregarded had now become an area of particular privacy. It gave an illusion of wholeness; it held a promise of imminent triumph. It was also where they became interesting to themselves – and as newspapers made them understand, to others – again.

p. 380

He was a Muslim from Sulawesi, formerly the Celebes, where – as in Sumatra and West Java – in the 1950s there had been a strong Muslim separatist movement. And there was more than a remnant of that rage in him, though he had benefited from the holding-together of the Indonesian state. Starting from nothing, he had become educated; he had studied abroad, in the United States; he had prospered in the business he had established; he had shared in the development of the country after the waste of the later Sukarno years. But it was not enough. His success had, if anything, been dislocating. It made him see more clearly the kind of people who had got ahead, and of all these people he wished to be rid. He wished now to pull down the state that had enabled him to rise.

p. 381

There was too much injustice. Too many people were unemployed, and their number grew year by year. Not enough jobs were being created by the government, the multinationals, the Chinese entrepreneurs from Singapore and Hong Kong. Rage was the response of this man: rage, seemingly political, that was really Islamic, and end in itself; and racial rage.
Veritas odium parit

Basy Lys
Berichten: 42
Lid geworden op: Zo Feb 23, 2003 12:30 pm
Locatie: Dar al-Harb

NAIPAUL, Among the Believers, Reprise

Berichtdoor Basy Lys » Wo Mei 28, 2003 1:31 pm

V.S. NAIPAUL, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, New York, 1981, ISBN 0-394-71195-5


p. 391

... A Pakistani scientist based in Europe had won a Nobel prize; but he belonged to the proscribed Ahmadi sect, who venerated their own Promised Messiah; and his visit to Pakistan had led to a student riot.

p. 392

I had been aggressive with Nusrat. He had said that he wanted to go to the United States to get a degree in mass media or mass communications and then perhaps to get a job with some international body. The assumption that – while Pakistan and the faith remained what they were, special and apart – the outside world was there to be exploited, had irritated me. I had said that he wasn’t qualified to do what he said he wanted to do. And that impulse of aggression towards him – so friendly, open, anxious – had worried me.

p. 400

The faith was pushing men to extremes. With only the Koran and the traditions as a guide, no one could ever be sure that he was good enough as a Muslim; no one could ever be sure that he had completely submitted to Allah and that he was entirely selfless. Men like Nusrat made greater and greater demands on themselves. To a man anxious to submit, to be pure in heart and mind, the world was full of traps: like Nusrat’s joy in his 248 rupees interest from the bank, his irritation with his fellow Muslims in the slum colony.
Veritas odium parit

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