Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe: 2

I borrowed Narang’s nice-looking book from him. I went through it within next four days. As I was going through this award-winning book I was extremely astonished to discover the fact that how valiantly, without having a second thought to his reputation, Narang had translated several chapters from the books by the Western interpreters without acknowledging the actual sources.

- Imran Shahid Bhinder


When and how did you first find out about the plagiarism?

In 2005, I was enrolled for the Master of Arts in English Literary Studies at Birmingham City University (formerly known as University of Central England) to study contemporary trends in literary, social or cultural phenomenon, strictly in the Western context. Before I enrolled for the above course, I studied Post-modern epistemology privately and developed an enormous interest in the epistemological and sociological aspect of postmodernism, which is well known as post-structuralism.

Philosophy in general has always been a passion. I have been studying post-Cartesian Philosophy for the last sixteen years. For the first semester, I wrote two essays, one on great German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s extremely complex philosophy of aesthetics, and second on one of the foremost French psychologist Jacque Lacan’s theory of fragmentation of the self, deeply influenced by Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistic theory. At that time, I had already studied Robert Scholes, Christopher Norris, Catherine Belsey, Terence Hawkes, Raman Seldon and so on.

A friend of mine came from Pakistan, had a huge book in his hand, which he had bought from Islamabad, by Gopi Chand Narang entitled Sakhtiyat Pas-e-Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat. We exchanged thoughts about the epistemological dimensions of structuralism that can be located within the periphery of the highly systematic Kantian philosophy. I established that there is nothing new in Structuralism; it is not even an extension, on any level, of Kantian transcendental philosophy. Structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure is just a linguistic description of Kantianism.

He suggested to me to read Narang’s book because he believed that Narang had taken an original angle. According to his reading of Narang’s controversial book, structuralist philosophy and Derrida’s deconstructive reading of the whole history of western metaphysics had absolutely rejected the entire philosophical tradition. Moreover, Narang, according to him, had shown it. I was inquisitive to learn more about structuralism but this time through Narang’s reading of structuralist theory.

I borrowed Narang’s nice-looking book from him. I went through it within next four days. As I was going through this award-winning book I was extremely astonished to discover the fact that how valiantly, without having a second thought to his reputation, Narang had translated several chapters from the books by the Western interpreters without acknowledging the actual sources.

Can you share with us what portions of his book is lifted and from where?

In all my previous articles, I have written extensively about Narang's plagiarism. I would like to enunciate here few important aspects. English readers will certainly be astonished to know about this strange episode. The first part of Narangs award winning book entitled Sakhtiyat Pas-e-Sakhtiyat aur Mashraqi Sheriyat, in which Narang seems to have discussed structuralism and post-structuralism, consists of exact three hundred pages.

Narang and all the members of his literary company, who have been ingredients of Narangs award related conspiracy, cannot come up with twenty original pages. When I pronounce twenty original pages I do not refer to ideological, linguistic or sociological originality, I mean those twenty pages, which Narang has not plagiarized. Is anybody out there to prove it wrong? I would say no. As I have claimed that a substantial part of the book on western structuralism, Narang has awfully grabbed. It is now Narangs or his well-wishers responsibility to break the silence and crack this enigma however.

I will now indicate the books Narang has plagiarised. Professor Raman Seldons significant introductory book entitled A Readers Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (1993) has been so unhesitatingly abused that this act would definitely seem to any genuine intellectual unimaginable. Narang has just spared the first chapter where Seldon discusses New Criticism of academic Marxist critic F R Leavis, and the last chapter of the book in which Seldon introduces Feminist theories.

Rest of the book, which consists of about 150 pages are reincarnated (but this time in Urdu) as Narangs award winning Sakhtiyat Pas-e-Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat. Apart from this extremely deplorable act, an interesting book by Robert Scholes entitled Structuralism in Literature (1974) suffered from the same fate at the hands of the winner of Padma awards. Similarly, particular chapters from Christopher Norriss entitled Deconstruction (1990), John Sturrocks Structuralism and Since (1979), Catherine Belseys Critical Practice (2003), originally published in 1980, are also word for word translations. However, this is not the final episode.

You can read Anthony Easthopes British Post-structuralism since 1968 (1980), for an interesting, precise although superficial analytical study of Derridean deconstruction and Terry Eagletons Marxism and see how Narang has lifted that discussion in the last chapter of his book. For an interesting discussion about Readers Response Criticism and inauspicious aspect of Narangs plagiarism, also see Elizabeth Freunds The Return of the Reader: Reader Response Criticism (1987). For equally interesting facts see Terence Hawkess Structuralism and Semiotics (1977).



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe

Gopi Chand Narang has been in the news for a while now. Accused of plagiarism for his award winning book 'Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat' by a young scholar Imran Shahid Bhinder, a Birmingham-based doctoral candidate and a teacher. Bhinder has in fact gone ahead and written a book on Narang's alleged plagiarism, which is in the press now along with his other book "Postmodernism and Terrorism", a critique of postmodernism and its claims regarding epistemological, aesthetic, terroristic and revolutionary aspects.

Unfortunately, apart from C M Naim's articles in Outlook, there has not been much coverage of the Narang issue. The latest one from Naim sahab is titled "The Emperor's New Clothes". Taking a cue from it I have titled this post "The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe" - an extensive interview with Imran Bhinder on Narang, plagiarism and Urdu literature.


"I firmly believe that Gopi Chand Narang has always been a passive adherent to the western so-called superior theoretical work, who completely failed to conceive the western theoretical process. He also absolutely lacks the principal intellectual traits, which are essential not only to perform subtle analysis, but also to establish his reputation as an honest writer."
- Imran Shahid Bhinder


What impressions you had of Gopi Chand Narang and how did it change after you found out about the plagiarism?

Impression as an epistemological theorist or literary critic? As a social or cultural critic? Fairly speaking, let me ask you that, can a reader of Urdu literature classify Narang as one of these? I do not think someone can answer this question so straightforwardly. To look for a detailed answer of the questions, I posed above, rather than isolating Gopi Chand Narang, I would like to explore Narang’s work in a general literary, social and cultural context.

Following literary ethics, I can affirm that a writer must be judged by the quality of his work and the impact he or she has on the individual as well as on the collective social, cultural or literary trends and spirit of his epoch. Has Narang produced such a work on the basis of which Narang can be tested against literary criteria? Has he constructively influenced the literary, social or cultural atmosphere? The answer is emphatic no. I find absolutely futile and weightless argumentatively the writings of Narang’s well-wishers through which they make huge propaganda to prove him highly revered theorists.

Some of them have gone to the extent that they propagate that Narang is one of the main theorist of postmodernism in the West. This is so shocking that I cannot even find words to express this severe absurdity. Frankly speaking, I have always been a reader of Western philosophy, literature and criticism and have never been a great admirer of Urdu literary criticism, because I believe that there is no literary criticism in Urdu.

Most of the so-called Urdu critics have imported certain Western ideas, without comprehending the contextual importance of the complicated themes. Through personal experience, I can understand that how concretely the ideas originate in a particular context and how the ideas are tested against the empirical reality within a different context. Any particular social, cultural or literary theory becomes obsolete if it contradicts with the existing or emerging empirical reality of human life. Transcendental criteria, I mean some timeless principle, annihilating empirical reality of its importance, has never been categorically exercised to judge the invigorating aspect of a theory.

Let me draw the attention of readers to the contextual significance of theoretical and ideological approaches in the West. For instance, in the twentieth century, from Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure onward to French Postmodernist Jacque Derrida, all believed in a very strange idea that reality is not socially constructed, it is claimed, on the contrary, that the reality is linguistically constructed. Well, Derrida, in the first chapter of one of his most important book Of Grammatology, sees the emergence of Cybernetic theory as well as immensely complex system of information as an essential outcome of recent development in the scientific and economic sphere. Despite certain fascistic aspects in Derridean deconstruction, such as debasement of meaning, I appreciate his move of locating his arguments in a concrete social and historical context.

Derridean science of grammatology views suspiciously the whole Western philosophical or metaphysical tradition that, he thinks, is based on Logocentrism. Philosophy based on Western Logocentrism, attempts to justify the difference between signifier and signified, then the difference between signifier and signified; as a totality, is reduced under the philosophy of Western metaphysics of presence. According to that, transcendental consciousness occupies a privileged place. It determines meaning according to its own conditions. Transcendental means an immovable presence, a fixed point.

Derrida’s intention is to liberate the signifier, which according to transcendental consciousness eventually reduces itself as a signified. Derrida extremely motivated by the marginality of Jews in the west developed his strategies to deconstruct all the polarities and dichotomies that occupied privileged location conceptually under Christian theological Logos, Reason or Logic.

The point to ponder is that Derridean deconstruction is implicitly a Jewish philosophy that struggles against the reduction of Jews under the Christian Logos. Jews should liberate themselves from the oppressive Christian philosophy, say Derrida. As a Jewish philosopher, in one of his most obscure, but important book Glas, Derrida challenged the fundamental theme of Logos and trinity in Christian theology.

Let me ask this question to Narang or the other ingredients of his propaganda machine, had he ever tested the western fascistic theoretical work against the concrete aspect of his own society? Did Narang, through his de-contextualised and distorted translations, ever attempted, implicitly or explicitly, to explain the meaning of “Western Metaphysics”, which was so integrated with Derridean deconstruction?

The point I want to lay emphasis on is that the Western theorists do not disregard the significance of the whole social, political and economic developments. They also keep on the agenda their loyalties with their own class or groups.

In this background let me come to your question now that the impression I had about Narang. I firmly believe that Gopi Chand Narang has always been a passive adherent to the western so-called superior theoretical work, who completely failed to conceive the western theoretical process. He also absolutely lacks the principal intellectual traits, which are essential not only to perform subtle analysis, but also to establish his reputation as an honest writer.

Before discovering the truth about Narang’s plagiarism, I had always been suspicious about his stature as a critic or writer. Narang mendacious act of massive plagiarism has just converted my suspicions into a firm belief.



Thursday, September 3, 2009

Islamic literature in Urdu

Few weeks ago, I was in the historic town of Bath in England. Bath is famous for the early Roman grandeur, and was the site of the Roman town of Aquae Sulis. The main attractions are the Roman Baths that attract hundreds of people.

It was a weekend and the city centre was teeming with people marvelling at the architectural beauties or finding their way to the museum dedicated to famous author Jane Austen. As I was walking through the busy market area, I saw some Islamic literature in English and Urdu. I was amazed by the sight of the Urdu booklets. The small booklets sought to clear doubts about Islam and could be picked up for free.

Though there were not many who were interested I managed to get a peek but had to rush as I was running against the departure time of my bus back to London. The collection was from the Bath Islamic Society and it had two volunteers who were standing near the humble collections.

It felt good to know that such books are being published and are being circulated in such a way. Apart from newspapers, magazines and old titles, Islamic literature seems to be the only other subject which has found expression in Urdu, especially in the Indian sub-continent. This has perhaps also given credence that Urdu is the language of Muslims.

How many books on other religions are available in Urdu? The number of non-Muslim Urdu writers are on the decline and I haven't heard of popular comics having Urdu editions, even though some of them come out in multiple languages.

The same also goes for Sanskrit. One of the oldest languages, it is fast disappearing from colleges and universities. My only memory of Sanskrit is from my cousins in a primary school in North India studying it for their exams. That too was 15 years ago, I do not know what the status is now.

Booklets and thin books apart, I am not sure how many people would be interested in reading 'Bahishti Zhevar' written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi. Do people look out for such books?