Saturday, 19 December 2009

Back in the midst of books again

My blog has not been updated for quite some time, except for the three links and the copied poem that comprise my last four posts. There is a lot to write about, a lot of things happening, light being shed on new things, and most important of all, I have actually started reading books again.

A colleague at work, with whom I regularly have intellectual discussions, suggested that I read Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. The title of the book should suggest the kind of topics we discuss, if it does not, I will - it's mainly politics and sociology. And he even let me borrow his copy of the book. So I started reading it about two weeks ago, and I have not made much progress. It is certainly not the book and its contents that's keeping me away, it is something else, I will describe soon what.

Two months ago, while blog-trotting, I happened to read As'ad Abukhalil's blog - Angry Arab News Service. As I read more and more about him, I came to teh conclusion that, this was one person who truly believed in what he said. He is a socialist, and like me firmly believes that one day, the land of Palestine will return to its rightful people.
Browsing through the list of books by the Angry Arab, I happened to see the title "The Battle for Saudi Arabia - Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power" and some more digging revealed that it dealt with Wahabbism and its hold on the Saudi regime. My interest in West Asian politics apart, I felt this was a book I want to read. Wahabbism has always been a philosophy that frightens me in a way. As a member of the Muslim community in Malabar, growing up in the 1990's, I have seen and experienced the kind of extreme expression of religion that Wahabbism leads its followers to. Think of a brand of Islam, that labels all the beliefs and traditions as blasphemy/heresy and says the one and only true religion is this crazy ideology that sprouted in Najd in the 1800's and grew up in the shade of Saudi petro-dollars. I have seen communities divided and heard about Masjid's being put under Administration because the over-zealous followers of the imported Wahabbism felt that they needed to take over the community in true styles of their original heroes. Wahabbism for me, is a shade of Islam that is so differerent from the Islam that I have been taught, that I grew up surrounded by, I saw people practice and I myself have tried to practice. The aspect of Islam that is distorted the most by Wahabbism is probably its stress on co-existence and tolerance. I knew I had to read this book.

I went to Landmark at The Forum in Bangalore and placed my order. They didn't have a copy in stock, so they told me I will have to wait. They promised to give me a call when the book arrived. Five weeks later, I hadn't yet received the call and I had to call them twice to get the book. Meanwhile my friend had given me Huntington's book and I had started reading it. But I decided to put it away once I had the Angry Arab's book.

So far, it has been a very good experience. As I turn each page, it reinstates in me the belief that I have always held about Wahabbism - that it is a complete contradiction to what Islam teaches and it is plainly wrong. The information that As'ad has put into his book about the nexus between the Wahabbi theology and the House of Saud is huge. I have not yet finished it, but hope to finish it in two days.

Then I plan to read Huntington's book. After that, it will be  "Mappila Muslims of Kerala, Society and Anti ColonialStruggles" by Dr. Hussain Randathani. It is published by Other Books, Calicut and although I tried, I could not get a copy in Bangalore. I am still in the hunt for the book, I hope to get a copy when I go home for vacation at the end of this month.

Happened to meet one more socialist. The number of socialists I come across at work amazes me. Maybe, socialism is not all dead and buried, after all.

PS: I also read Chetan Bhagath's 2 States. It was the first Chethan Bhagath book that I was reading, and contrary to my perception, the book turned out to be good.