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Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples Paperback – December 7, 1999
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Acclaimed writer V.S. Naipaul has the eye of a novelist, the fearless curiosity of a 2-year-old, and the tenacity of a cornered badger. In Beyond Belief, he puts these three attributes to use in delving into the secrets of Islam--the other Islam, that is. Journeying into the non-Arab Islamic countries of Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Malaysia, Naipaul wonders about how these young nations are absorbing a resurgent Islam into their ancient societies and where it might lead them. His exploration is at the grassroots level, through the people living and breathing Islam today. Naipaul illustrates his points with vignettes about characters he meets, by both happenstance and calculation, along the way. We learn about their histories, their families' histories, their motivations, and their dreams. The mosaic that materializes is not always appealing, for Naipaul is a sensitive but disinterested observer, more a watcher than a champion. Islam, we learn, is a font of hope for the converted peoples, sweet when taken in gulps but often bearing an acrid aftertaste. It buries traditional cultures under promising new foundations, indirectly encourages broken families through polygamy, and turns only tentatively to face the issues of modernity. From beginning to end, we find ourselves empathizing with Naipaul's subjects, seeing ourselves in their struggles with family, religion, and nation, feeling their drive to create a fresh world of virtue and prosperity. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this spiritual travelogue, novelist and essayist Naipaul picks up where he left off in his earlier Among the Believers (1981). Whereas in that earlier work he focused primarily on his own stories of his encounters with the revolutionary potential of Islam in Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, here he allows individuals in those countries to tell their own stories about their experiences with the Islamic faith. Crucial to Naipaul's argument is what he sees as the imperialism of Islam. "Everyone who is not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands.... The disturbance for societies is immense, and even for a thousand years can remain unsolved." In Iran, for example, a young teacher remembers with anguish and cool reflection giving up his university education to be a part of Khomeini's religious revolution, only later to be jailed and almost killed by the Revolutionary Guards for failing to give Khomeini unwavering support. Naipaul also recounts the story of an Indonesian leader who integrated Western technology with his Muslim faith in order to gain a lucrative job in the Suharto administration. Naipaul's luminous prose provides glimpses of insight into the lives of ordinary people whose dedication and commitment to the practice of Islam is the foundation of their lives.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
However, there are points where one might feel lost in the details of Muslim societies, particularly in the sections on Indonesia. The sections on Iran and Pakistan are much more crisply written. Happily, there's a reprise on Indonesian Muslim topics at the end of the book that is much clearer than the first third of the book.
As usual for Naipaul, this book is well-researched and has wonderful historical detail. He's less judgemental than in earlier books, but forms clear opinions nonetheless.
Naipaul is one of the foremost thinkers of our time.
I have a much greater understanding of these countries, and the effect of Islam upon them, than before; especially Pakistan and Indonesia. Naipaul does not hit the reader over the head with his points; on the contrary, he leaves the reader to draw his own conclusions.
This book deals with a very controversial issue dealt with through individual stories and one which has always puzzled me . How can a sophisticated and complex civilization be wiped out, erased , by a dominant force which allows for no complexity but a stark black and white belief system? It is even more relevant today with so many converts to this religion described by their adherents stupidly as "reverts" realizing the flaws inherent in their belief system. The word Hindu Kush describes simply in its basic translation Hindu massacre . There has been no greater slaughter in history. The crusades do not even come close, and still the converts come gladly to this dark brutal belief system fooled by the dulcet tones of its polished propogandists and no where is this shown more than in Pakistan a modern day
failed state where blasphemy is a crime punishable by death . This book deals with the human stories embodied by this tragedy beautifully described .
The ambition of the Islamic fundamentalists is not less than the take-over of this part of the world: `In politics you must not expect honesty and morality. The question of winning is the end result. If you put your ideas into the mind of your enemy, and he practices it, you are the winner.' Therefore, the motto is `to control the school is to possess power.'
Besides the destruction of the native culture, Islam destroys families through polygamy. Multiple marriages and easy divorce lead to damaged families, to a semi-orphaned society, with all kinds of financial distress. It also destroys women, forcing on them dress codes, which are `strange habits in a tropical country'.
The `beyond believers' formed a very small power circle of businessmen, politicians and religious leaders. `Connections' and howling with the wolves are the only means to live a decent life: `only corrupt people could afford a house'. The regime creates a mass of hypocrites and cynics.
The villagers who immigrated into the cities were confronted with new oil wealth and felt cheated by the Shah's land reforms. They voted for an Islamic Republic without knowing what it would be.
Some had believed that the fall of the Shah would bring a Western-style democratic government. On the other hand, the communist party (Tudeh) hoped to ride to power on the back of the religious movement. It was slaughtered by the soviet-style apparatus they handed over to the Islamic revolutionaries.
What the people got was an `occult' government, `a mysteriously evolving leadership', which controlled everything (even the way of sitting) and sending helicopters into the air to look for forbidden satellite dishes.
After the revolution, came the war with Iraq, leaving many `martyrs' after a goodbye ceremony dead. Many young women had to survive as spinsters.
Khomeini had said that the revolution had to concentrate on children and the younger generation. But, the young are loosing their faith.
On the other hand, those in power become corrupted and `easy to read.'
At the moment of the partition `Pakistan/India' the rich Hindu and Sikh population left Pakistan. Fortunes were made overnight with properties `taken' by new owners. The very beginning of the religious State was touched by the old idea of plunder. The State became a criminal enterprise. On the other hand, the migrants from India, the mohajirs, had no territory and are still strangers without power in Pakistan.
The Islamic fundamentalists wanted to take Pakistan back to the time of the Prophet, to feudalism with religion and faith as the only ideology. Pakistan shrank, while India with its intelligentsia expanded in all directions.
The majority of the local people are hardly in their own land, `only as ciphers swept aside by the agents of faith', the mullahs, who fix the mind of the converted people on hell and heaven. As someone in this book states: `there is no free will in Islam. The word `Islam' means obedience, submission. Except people with names or money, everybody else is like a worm or an insect. Justice is rubbish. Law is there only for the poor.'
The book ends with a postscript on Malaysia and its formidable and challenging jump from feudality to a rich capitalist State.
Illustrating his viewpoints with extraordinary, tragic, cynical, hypocritical or highly emotional individual human itineraries, V.S. Naipaul wrote a fascinating book.
It is a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
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