Islam in India
April 14, 2005 4:54 AM   Subscribe

I once saw an alleged V.S. Naipaul quote to the effect that India owed much of its latter day poverty to Islam's incursions. Any notions where this comment might be found? Also, any other books on the history of Islam's spread into India (old, new, passionate, dispassionate, biased, unbiased- the more points of view the better) would be most welcome. Many thanks for your help in this matter
posted by IndigoJones to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I googled some of the Guardian articles that I remember reading about V.S Naipaul:

and here.

"V.S Naipaul"

Hope this helps.
posted by Jongo at 5:55 AM on April 14, 2005

vs naipul is hardly the most balanced and independent of observers.

another idiosyncratic view of india's history (and the rest of the world) is nehru's glimpses of world history - a really excellent book, imho.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:04 AM on April 14, 2005

vs naipul is hardly the most balanced and independent of observers.

You can say that again. He embraces his prejudices proudly, and Islam-bashing is one of them.

For a decent summary, try this site. I don't have any books on Indian Islam specifically, but if I find what looks like a good bibliography I'll post it here.
posted by languagehat at 8:01 AM on April 14, 2005

Islam has been in India for centuries; the Mughal Empire was muslim. While that is not as long as Hinduism has been around, it has a significant stronghold. I would think that Imperialism has more to do with poverty than Islam. But no, I don't know the concept behind V.S.' remark.
posted by scazza at 3:35 PM on April 14, 2005

Response by poster: Seems the particular thing I recalled is almost beside the point. All links here most interesting, both Naipaul and not. (Hadn't realized he was going the Hindu Nationalist route. I suppose it figures.) Many thanks to you all.

Not that I am uninterested in any further information. (Languagehat- this means you! Or anyone else for that matter.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:24 PM on April 14, 2005

Hadn't realized he was going the Hindu Nationalist route

No, no, he hates them too. He's your basic self-hating colonial; he worships Oxbridge British culture and despises the wogs. (Obviously, take this oversimplified characterization with several grains of salt, but as my dear departed aunt used to say, "there's more truth than poetry in it.")
posted by languagehat at 6:24 PM on April 14, 2005

Response by poster: It was the first Guardian link that suggests he condescends to being their creature, or at least their polite applauder. Not a new leaf? Mind you, he's always struck me as a tiresome sort of fellow.

By the way, I like your website.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:29 AM on April 15, 2005

IndigoJones: don't dismiss Naipaul too quickly. It is true that he holds some fairly unreconstructed views on Islam and India. (Like Kingsley Amis, he rejoices in being politically incorrect, and I suspect he supports the BJP because he wants to annoy the liberal intelligentsia.) But he is also a brilliant writer and a master of English prose. An Area of Darkness is everything a travel book should be -- honest, vivid, passionate, engaged -- and although I haven't read his two books on Islam, Among the Believers and Beyond Belief, I imagine they ought to be on the reading-list of anyone who is seriously interested in the subject. Naipaul is not a careless or superficial writer; and even at his most tendentious he cannot be lightly dismissed.

(I also think it's unfair to describe him, even in jest, as a 'self-hating colonial'. His first novel, The Mystic Masseur, is partly a satire on Indians who worship British culture; the main character, Ganesh Ramsumair, reinvents himself as an Englishman and reappears at the end of the novel as G. Ramsey Muir, Esq, MBE. It's not that he despises Indian culture for being inferior to British culture; rather, he despises Indians who make fools of themselves by trying to copy British culture. Like I said, he's not a superficial writer.)

(Nor, by the way, is he uncritically pro-Hindu. The main thesis of An Area of Darkness is that India is a medieval country with little sense of history or tradition, and therefore it's impossible for any religion to put down very deep roots. He argues that the Mughal invasion completely wiped out all cultural memory of Hinduism in Kashmir, and that the same thing might easily happen in reverse: 'should another conversion now occur .. in a hundred years there would be no memory of Islam'. In other words, neither Hinduism nor Islam have really penetrated to the heart of Indian culture (unlike poverty, which he sees as an unalterable fact of life). Of course this is massively tendentious, but as with so much of Naipaul, if it's wrong it's not simply wrong, it's complexly wrong.)
posted by verstegan at 12:13 PM on April 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's a pretty strong POV! Now I have to read it (Area of Darkness), Dalrymple notwithstanding. The ramifications of such a thesis- I mean to say....

Well, I did ask for variety.

Thank you, verstegan, truly. (Ditto for Mitchell and Kenyon by the way, as I failed to chime in at the time.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:07 PM on April 16, 2005

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