Naipaul's anti-Islamic views are now in fashion
Stabroek News
November 14, 2001

Dear Editor,

A great discourse about Sir V.S Naipaul continues in the Stabroek News and I would like to add to this discourse. Naipaul, with 26 books over a 45-year career, has nothing good to say about the developing world except for India and that was not the case in his early writings. Naipaul wants to be the interpreter of the developing countries and Islam for a British and American readership. But this is mostly what he says about the Third World and Islam:

"Nothing was made in Trinidad" or "Africa has no future" or " no imperialism like that of Islam." These generalizations have caused much hostility towards him. The 1992 Nobel laureate, St Lucian poet Derek Walcott, who called him "VS Nightfall" in a poem, described him as "our finest writer of the English sentence", whose beautiful prose was "scarred by scrofula", by his "repulsion towards Negroes" and the "self-disfiguring sneer that is praised for its probity".

It would seem that his emotional rage against India in his early writings, An Area of Darkness (1964) and India: A Wounded Civilization (1977) drastically changed when he turned his rage against the Islamic World in, India: A Million Mutinies. He was kinder now to India after he re-discovered his "Aryan Brahmin" roots. Maya Jaggi wrote in the Guardian of September 8, 2001, "Although Naipaul's Brahmin grandparents had "lost caste" as they crossed the waters in the 1880s, his mother Droapatie's family were

landowners and pundits who bestowed "a caste certainty, a high sense of the self" in "our island India", as Naipaul wrote in Finding the Centre (1984), his "prologue to an autobiography".

Indian national, Jeet Thayil reflecting on Naipaul's latest book, Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples, writes "It was a systematic attack on Islamic culture, specially the converted Muslim countries of Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia. In the latter book Naipaul sang great praises for India's intelligentsia, while he took cheap shots at Pakistan. He uses every opportunity to belittle Muslims. One of his critics Edward Said, writes, "In the earlier book, its funny moments are at the expense of Muslims, who are "wogs" after all as seen by Naipaul's British and American readers, potential fanatics and terrorists, who cannot spell, be coherent, sound right to a worldly-wise, somewhat jaded judge from the West."

V. S. Naipaul in Beyond Belief equates Islam to Imperialism. He writes, "has been no imperialism like that of Islam and the Arabs because it is a new imperialism that insists on new faith, new language, new names and new dress; the past is erased as an article of the faith, the greatest war was to be made on their own past, and everything that linked them to their own earth." Edward Hoagland in the New York Times thought Among the Believers is a "vitriolic tour [that] evinces an inherent antipathy to the religion of Islam so naked and severe that a book taking a comparable view of Christianity or Judaism would have been hard put to find a publisher in the United States".

Naipaul, whose humour is often facetious, has of late been seen as a worthy heir to Evelyn Waugh - a good writer and a reactionary - whose son, Auberon, was a close friend. On stage at the National Theatre in 1990, Naipaul described Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against Rushdie as an "extreme form of literary criticism", then threw his head back and laughed. A decade earlier, asked by Elizabeth Hardwick what the dot on a Hindu woman's forehead meant, he replied, "It means, 'My head is empty.' " Naipaul is never short of champions of what is described as his fearless veracity. Jason Cowley, in the Observer last month, said he was a "cold, clear-eyed prophet, a scourge of sentimentality, irrationality and lazy, left-liberal prejudices".

And to what does Naipaul owe the honour of receiving the world's most prestigious literary award at this time in history? His anti Muslim venom? His justification for western Imperialism? Or is it his rage against the Third World? Sir Vidia Naipaul is now in fashion since war has now been declared against "terrorism". Sir Vidia is one of the most anti-Islamic writers of our era who frequently airs his venom in the local British press. Naipaul's emotional rage against Islam and the Third World has left him very unpopular in the Southern Hemisphere.

Yours faithfully,

Raymond Chickrie