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Naipaul on Saudi Arabia

VS Naipaul's condemnation of Saudi Arabia is entirely a personal opinion and that way, others can very well designate Israel as the kernel of all evil in the world. Doubtless both sides can array facts and fiction. That is just a matter of debate but this debate must be engaged in to flush out the contours of all the evil in the world, including a sense as to which is the greater evil and which is the lesser evil.

Saudi Arabia had been in the good books for United States, since King Abdul Aziz met US President Franklin Roosevelt back in 30s. Their shared interests were oil. Nothing more nothing less. The US has reaped benefits of a reliable family holding power in the Kingdom, to ensure continued cheap supply of oil to the US as well as to western allies. With its huge oil deposits, Saudi Arabia is destined to remain an ally of the United States at least till the end of the current century.

V. S. Naipaul's grouse against Saudi Arabia is more of a personal hurt to see Islam or its protagonists ruling India for a long span stretching over a millennium --- India, the adopted land of his forefathers after they trekked long distances and long periods to call it their 'native land'. He writes with true feeling and genuine hurt. However, being a highly successful writer, his pain is immensely marketable. And there-in lies the depth and frequency of his melodramatic pronouncements against Islam. For attacking Islam will not change anything better for him or his kind. Brahmins in India are a very small minority. They are hugely talented like the Jews. They truly are God's own chosen people. This is a fact and not fiction. But their idea of world domination, through clever manipulations, to compensate for their small numbers, is not always seen as legitimate. With distinction and excellence writ large over their existence, even when they are forced to live incognito lives, their brilliance soon gives them away and the rest of the less endowed people are soon after their blood. Both these communities have nothing to share with the rest of the world. The vacuum in their lives festering for centuries is ever expanding and the more they acquire the accouterments of worldly success, the more they feel deprived. They live a perennially disaffected existence. They always feel persecuted by lesser people. They can never be generous to anyone except their own kin.

Compare this to Islamic vision of life. Its notion of community is open to all, without any discrimination on the basis of race, region, colour, and ethnicity. It offers a direct connection to God, for all humanity. At least that is how the Prophet had brought the message and that message is still pristine in its attraction. What Naipaul calls the complete Arab take-over of Muslim lives, is not seen as such by the believer. Islam literally means submission. The 'slave' is so content in his 'slavery' that he has no need to revolt. Naipaul's mission is making him feel exploited, diminished. That mission will take lot of efforts to be convincing to a billion people. Besides, the speed with which Islam is being voluntarily accepted as a fulfillment of human longing for a more meaningful life, Naipaul's lament against Islam and Arab imperialism will remain a very disjointed effort to stem the waves of the coming tide.

Ghulam Muhammad

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