July 26, 2003

Ludlum revisited …

Certain comments by people who read my last entry on Ludlum and his latest, "The Janson Directive", as well as my own perceptions on further reading the book have impelled me to write this further rant :p Laurie’s comment made me realize that I was misleading both the reader and myself when I said that the mis-portrayal of Sri Lanka was one of my concerns .. I realized I wasn’t being honest there. Yes, the mis-portrayal of Sri Lanka did tie into the problem I had with the plot for the book, but it was again concerned with the whole fact that Ludlum decided to take an existing scenario which would have served his purposes just as well and to convert it totally into a plot which would (once again) vilify Muslims. I am a Muslim, I don’t believe that one should kill anybody whether they bey of your own faith or of a different faith to justify your views and I neither does Islam preach that. In fact, Islam preaches tolerance for all religions, all races. Unfortunately, people always tend to pervert something good to their own uses and still claim that they are following the original … I would think that people can see this difference but unfortunately most people in the world can’t since they prefer to be told what they should think and so, their perceptions are moulded by what they see on the news, hear on the radio or read in a book. Which is where I have a problem with Ludlum because he has subscribed to every stereotypical anti-Muslim image he can come up with and I really don’t think he needed to here – he could have taken a different route by talking about the actual terrorist threat in Sri Lanka or moved the locale to his fictional land of Anura but kept the rest of the details the same – he borrows heavily enough from Sri Lanka for the rest of his stuff to say that he couldn’t have done that.

For instance, he refers to Cinnamon Gardens where Janson lives with his wife in Anura – this is actually an area Colombo. Then there are all the described terrorist attacks – the killing of the country’s leader by a suicide bomber (the only thing changed was the title – Prime Minister instead of President), the bombing of the World Trade Center building (renamed to International Trade Center) and even the descriptions of the terrorists with cyanide capsules in a chain around their necks – all of these are identical to what really happened in Sri Lanka. So why does he have to go and make the terrorists themselves Muslims? Is there any logic to it at all except to cash in on the existing paranoia about Muslims? Is this the way a responsible writer should behave? I don’t know .. maybe hatred and money rule in this world and there isn’t any responsibility any longer.

There are other details – such as the bombing of the American Embassy in Anura by the terrorists .. that never happened in Sri Lanka but that should really get the fires of hatred stoked shouldn’t it? After all, aren’t American lives sacrosanct? Then there are the other subtle digs – the terrorist leader has sex with an American woman and then performs prayer using her pillow-slip as a prayer mat. How low can you go? If the leader is a devout Muslim, he wouldn’t be praying immediately after sex – because there are certain rules about prayer and you cannot perform prayer just after sex … And why a pillow-slip? You mean he couldn’t find anything at all bigger than that to perform his prayers on? But then again, I guess Ludlum isn’t really interested in details – just the shock value. And of course, the terrorist leader (Caliph as he is known) has a superstition about bandicoot rats – even though he was educated at an American College mind you.

Am I being really thin skinned here? Am I protesting only because I’m a Muslim myself? I don’t know .. I usually don’t like to talk about Islam and the general perception by Muslims that Islam itself is being vilified because I think that’s a bit too paranoid. But then again, when I see something like Ludlum’s novel – especially since it would have been released soon after 9/11, I can’t but think that there is something to all that after all. I am not objective enough to judge but this is what occurred to me as I read further. Oh yes, Johan mentioned that he’s Dutch .. just had to clarify that the comment about the Dutch in the previous entry was an ironic reference to the way Ludlum might have reasoned it :p And here some history might be useful – the Dutch did rule Sri Lanka for a while but it was actually the British who ruled Sri Lanka for over a hundred years and from whom we finally gained independence in 1948 – but in "The Janson Directive" there is no mention of the British – it’s the Dutch governor who gets assassinated … I found that kind of interesting .. Anyway, my rants notwithstanding, you should make up your own mind :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:57 pm  |  No Comments