Controversial Nobel Laureate Visits Bangkok

Asia Book News - Saturday, May 01, 2004

Nobel Laureate Sir V S Naipaul's message to the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand on April 7th was clear: Too much unity is a bad thing.

At his second public reading in Bangkok as part of 'Bridges: Dialogues Towards A Culture Of Peace?' an ongoing series of debates organised by the International Peace Foundation the Trinidadian-born Indian author lived up to his controversial reputation when he issued a scathing attack on Islam and its fundamentalist followers.

'Islam is aiming at nothing else than world domination,' he said, drawing parallels with Christianity's bloody war of conversion in the past. He added that the problem of the marriage between the state and the Muslim church in Islamic countries compounded the problems, which will not go away overnight'.

Sir Naipaul's wife Lady Naipaul, who is a Muslim, backed up his claim.

'Muslims in India are mostly illiterate and are being exploited by fundamentalist imams funded by Saudi Arabian extremists,' she said.

Sir Naipaul read excerpts from his novels Among The Believers and Beyond Belief which are based on his travels and interviews with fundamentalists in non-Arab Muslim countries in Asia.

His reading, 'at a broadcast rate of 130 words per minute', demonstrated the command of the English-language and powerful use of prose for which he was made the 2001 Nobel Laureate for Literature.

Sir Naipaul was clearly irritated by the fact that his reading was not a black tie event, 'I have never addressed something so informal,' he said.

Despite making a rare move and opening the floor to questions, Sir Naipaul refused to answer, whether critics were justified in stating his books denegrated Asian minority groups and pandered to a Western audience.

'The idea of a universal world with no tensions is a dead world,' he said. 'We mustn't exaggerate the situation or importance of just a few ideologies, there are many other forces at play.'

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