Discussion:
BOOK REVIEW: Holy Warriors by Edna Fernandes
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Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
Permalink
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
--
----------------------------------------------------------
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
Permalink
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
--
----------------------------------------------------------
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
Permalink
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
--
----------------------------------------------------------
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
Permalink
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
--
----------------------------------------------------------
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
Permalink
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
--
----------------------------------------------------------
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
Permalink
http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
--
----------------------------------------------------------
Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
Frederick Noronha
2006-06-17 19:39:47 UTC
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http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fname=Booksa&fodname=20060501&sid=1

When Old Demons Come Marching In
Long on cliche, short on political judgement, we are left none the
wiser on religious fundamentalism
PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

HOLY WARRIORS
by Edna Fernandes
Viking/Penguin
Pages: 336; Rs: 450

One of the less consequential but irritating fallouts of the
increasing presence of religion in political life is that everyone
thinks it is easy to understand the phenomenon. Following V.S.
Naipaul's example, all you have to do is track down a few
fundamentalists, interview them and watch gleefully as they hoist
themselves with their own petard.

In Naipaul this technique works, because the questions are
penetrating, the psychological insights acute, and a sense of history,
even when mistaken, lends rare depth to the narrative. Sadly, Holy
Warriors, which follows much the same technique of interviewing a
bunch of supposedly interesting characters, combined with a smattering
of history and pop psychological observation, is an example of what
can go wrong with the genre. While Fernandes' heart is in the right
place, the result is a rather superficial book that perplexes more
than it illuminates.

Fernandes embarks on her journey into the heart of Indian
fundamentalism with a peculiarly shallow version of liberal
sympathies. Show that you are even-handed by exposing fundamentalists
of all religions: assorted Muslims ranging from Deobandis to the Imam
of Jama Masjid; Christians in Goa clinging on to a Goan identity, to
Baptists in Nagaland trying to create new ones, assorted survivors
amongst Kashmiri Pandits and victims of anti-Sikh riots. Add a few
second-hand remarks on the violence in Gujarat and a rather hysterical
account of Indo-Pak relations, and the heart of Indian fundamentalism
stands exposed.

The narrative that emerges from these ragtag interviews is profoundly
confused. In one instant, Deoband becomes the harbinger of Taliban, in
another it is just a bunch of defenceless youth, confused and
discriminated against by Indian society.

In one moment India is paranoid about terrorism yet it seems far more
restrained in its response than the level of paranoia would suggest.
Sometimes Indian society seems to overflow with religious zealotry, at
other times we can retreat into the comfortable illusion that religion
is an epiphenomenon; it is really all about employment and jobs.

This claim is comforting to both fundamentalists and liberals: it is a
way some fundamentalists can deny they really are so; and liberals can
assert that they really understand what is going on. If the
jobs-and-employment argument doesn't work, add in a few sentences
about how profoundly confusing modernity is, how fundamentalism
provides a stable anchoring in an uncertain world.

When all fails, toss in the oppression of the modern Indian state and
the discrimination of majoritarian politics. All these are plausible
background conditions under which fundamentalism flourishes, but they
raise more questions than they answer. Why is there such variation in
response to these challenges? And why is the quest for jobs and
dignity expressed via religion? The very phenomenon the book sets out
to study is not explained, but dissolved. Of course, reality is
contradictory and confusing, but what could be more cliched than this
claim?

This book suffers from an acute lack of historical depth and
psychological sophistication. The potted history of Deoband borders on
the simple-minded, the discussion of Hindutva is long on cliche, short
on political judgement and the analysis of particular episodes misses
the woods for the trees. And there is the methodological fallacy of
thinking we can understand fundamentalists by studying fundamentalists
alone.

This leaves the relationship between fundamentalism and the wider
context unclear; and it is premised on binaries like secular and
religious, fanatical and moderate that do not adequately map reality.

Most of the interviews are unrevealing. But the narrative does have
occasional moments. The Imam of Jama Masjid rather disingenuously
portrays himself and Muslims around the world as being framed; there
is a curious externalisation of the challenges Muslims face, not a
moment of self-reflection.There is a rather poignant interview with
Mario Miranda, lamenting the loss of Goan identity under the influx of
outsiders; there is K.P.S. Gill wrestling with the dilemmas he faced
in Punjab.

Still, the book might be worth a quick read. If nothing else, it can
help dissipate the fog of complacency that marks our current attitudes
towards minorities. The insurgency in Punjab may be dead, but the
scars of the violence there and the riots in Delhi still run deep.
Muslims are sandwiched between the hostility of their enemies,
indifference and the patronising attitude of their friends.

As Fernandes says, "it is India's duty to recognise that tolerating
Muslim disengagement is like witlessly listening to a ticking bomb and
not expecting to hear a big bang". A sombre warning.
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Frederick 'FN' Noronha | Yahoomessenger: fredericknoronha
http://fn.goa-india.org | fred at bytesforall.org
Independent Journalist | +91(832)2409490 Cell 9822122436
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