In an essay titled, Britain’s Muslim empire and its Indian future, facile Devji wrote
THERE was a time not so long ago when British statesmen proudly characterized their empire as the ‘world’s greatest Mohammedan power.’
This is not true. British Statesmen, might from time to time have said- 'we must not forget that we are the world's greatest Mohammedan power' and thus mustn't antagonize India's Muslims too much. The problem was that, more often than not, they would just go ahead and do it anyway. Why? Indian Muslims didn't greatly matter. The Hindus hated them and it was the Hindus who were in the majority.
It is true the Brits were proud of having a really big Empire- because having lots of real estate is a good thing. But they weren't particularly proud of ruling over darkies and heathens of various descriptions because they didn't like darkies or heathens. No Britisher was saying 'Aren't we lucky to rule over all those lovely wogs? We must give them kisses and cuddles in plenty.' The truth is, they'd much rather have been ruling over Christians with fairer complexions. Thus it isn't the case that the Brits were proud of being the World's largest Hindu power, or Jain power, or Sikh power, or Muslim power, or Voodoo power.
By using such a locution these men sought to compete with the Ottomans,
Nonsense! Nobody wanted to compete with the 'Sick Man of Europe' which had continually lost territory for 200 years. It is true that 'Abdul the Damned' tried to use 'Pan-Islamism' to bolster Turkey's position. But he failed miserably and was forced to abdicate by the 'Young Turks' who, bizarrely, the British Ambassador & Chief Dragoman (Lowther & Fitzmaurice) believed to mainly consist of Jewish Freemasons!
whose emperor claimed to be the Caliph or heir to the Prophet Muhammad’s worldly authority.
Did any British Monarch claim Caliphal authority? No. Thus there was no 'competition' as opposed to 'contestation', but such contestation was plentiful within the Islamic fold.
On the other hand, it is true that British Governor-Generals did from time to time find it convenient to get the 'Khalifa' to write to a Tipu Sultan to make friends with the the Brits. This Caliphal authority also came in handy to condemn the Mutiny as irreligious.
Yet the Turkish sultan only started claiming authority over Muslims outside his domains in the eighteenth century,This is the notion that the Sultan sought to retain a spiritual authority- similar to that exercised by Christian Patriarchs in Ottoman territory- over Muslims in territory ceded to Russia in 1774. But that authority was utterly vacuous. All it could do was remind the Turks that their decline was accelerating.
once European powers had advanced similar claims over his Christian subjects,
European powers wanted to gobble up the Sultan's domains. Lloyd George and Clemenceau wanted to expel the Turks from Smyrna and confine them to the Anatolian plateau.
which only goes to show that pan-Islamism has its origins in the West as much as anywhere else.
No. Islam started off 'pan-Islamic' but some of the splits which occurred in its early years have persisted.
Unable to claim a comparable religious status for themselves,
If the Brits had wanted to convert to Islam they could have done so. They did not want a 'comparable religious status' because Islam, at that time, represented weakness and backwardness.
The fact is the British Press had turned against the Muslim Turks and so British Governments were not keen on an alliance with them.
the British derived their Islamic credentials
like their Black credentials
from the sheer number of Muslims
They also ruled over more homosexuals than anybody else. Thus, by Devji's logic, the Hindu King Emperor (not Muslim, because Hindus were more numerous) was also Black and Gay. No wonder the Kaiser hated George V! The fellow had lifted his lungi to thrust his great big black cock up the keyster of his Germanic cousin.
The truth is, the Brits were acceptable rulers to the Indians precisely because they weren't Muslims or Hindus or even Catholics. Their Anglicanism was novel and its proselytizing zeal somewhat lacking compared to other sects. Had the King Emperor decided to pander to the Muslims, the Hindus would have been the first to howl with dismay.
Devji can't accept the obvious truth. What legitimized British power was military strength and fiscal solvency. Nothing else.
But by basing their religious legitimacy on the facts of demography, Britain’s ideologues ended up conceiving of their empire as a liberal, if not quite a democratic order, in which the consent of the greatest number had to be secured.
This is sheer fantasy. Britain did have 'ideologues' but they were concerned with persuading British people to give them a little money or power in exchange for flattering lies.
And indeed they were keen to demonstrate that by offering its subjects religious freedom and promising to protect their interests, the empire did in fact represent Muslims as well as Hindus and other groups whose most sizable populations were all to be found in India.
No. The way you demonstrate that representation is occurring is by actually having a couple of representatives. The Brits did that in India. There were Muslims and Hindus and so forth on the Legislative Council as well as plenty of Rajahs and Nawabs and so forth.
However numerous the religious communities within this empire, it was only the Muslims who lent their name to its otherwise Christian dominion,
This simply did not happen. There was no point saying 'We are a Muslim power' because in that case Muslim politicians and princes would have started making all sorts of demands. Incidentally, the Aga Khan demanded Tanganyika as a reward for support during the First World War. He didn't get it.
perhaps because their global distribution more than matched Britain’s own.
The truth is, the British Monarch did think it worthwhile to take the title of Empress of India- perhaps so as not to be upstaged by her daughter who had married the new minted German Kaiser. But no European potentate would want to claim to be the leader of Islam. Why? Christian zealots at home would demand that the heathen be converted.
After all it was not because they comprised the majority of this empire’s subjects that Muslims could claim it for themselves, and certainly not because they ruled it, but only by virtue of their planetary dispersal, of which India formed the dominant part.
Muslims weren't greatly dispersed. In any case, in North Africa and Europe and Central Asia and India and Indonesia they were coming under Western European control. The truth is Muslims mattered less and less- till Europe fucked itself up and Islam, thanks to its jurists and preachers, proved a great bastion against the madness of Communism.
Disingenuous and self-serving though it may seem, we should recognize that such rhetorical forms of religious authority played an important role in British policy,
No we shouldn't. It simply wasn't true.
and were often tailored to suit the convenience of Muslims themselves.
Right! Coz the Brits really coddled the Muslims didn't they? No doubt, pure altruism motivated their toppling Mossadegh in Iran and seizing the Suez Canal from Nasser.
In ways both devious and direct this narrative
is utter bullshit
that drew religious legitimacy from numbers rather than doctrines might even constitute the source of all those movements that from the beginning of the twentieth century have dedicated themselves to Islamic nationalisms, democracies and republics.
No. Islamic revival was a wholly Islamic affair. The Brits can claim no credit for it- nor, indeed, do they. It would be something of an own goal.
For it was in colonial India that Islam first became a political category in the modern sense,
No. Islam became a 'political category' in the modern sense almost immediately after its inception.
naming as it did the interests and opinions of a population
Islam furthered the interests and was in line with the opinions of its very first adherents.
rather than some ritual observance or religious authority.
but, ritual observances and religious authority are matters which affect the interests of a population which may hold very strong opinions indeed about them.
But military activity was the least part of Britain’s Muslim empire.
No. It was its foundation. That's how Empire's work.
More important by far was the fact that in their search for an ‘authentic’
There was no 'search'. The thing already existed. The Brits took over an existing service industry. They didn't give a fuck about 'authenticity'. What mattered was enforceability- itself a function of what people were accustomed to.
Islamic or Hindu law that they might administer in secular fashion, the English ended up discarding or downplaying the customs and profane regulations that had characterized previous dynasties,
if it was convenient and remunerative to do so
to set in place purely ‘religious’ legal systems in their colonies.
Nonsense! Anglo-Mohammadan Law permitted customary deviations- e.g. Khojas like Jinnah getting to keep Hindu inheritance law.
Islamic law as we know it today, then, is in great measure
Islamic. Not British or Portuguese or anything else.
a combination of Muslim jurisprudence and English case law
No. Islamic law in most places is based on Codifications approved by Muslim jurists. English case law is irrelevant except in so far as it represented pre-existing Muslim Law.
that was produced in India starting in the eighteenth century and exported to many other parts of the Muslim world. It is this hybrid legal system, known in colonial times as Anglo-Mohammedan law, which forms the basis of the Sharia as a legal system pertaining to the citizens of modern states as disparate as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
This is completely untrue. Some French dude helped codify Iran's Laws under the first Shah. Saudi Arabia's reforms are pretty recent and nobody in their right mind would suggest it has any resemblance to anything obtaining under the Raj.
Even when Britain did not impose such new practices outside the subcontinent, some ended up nevertheless being adopted by Muslims there.
Only if- like Oman- they were protectorates under the Viceroy or, like Egypt, were under British control to a greater or lesser extent.
After all India’s place at the heart of the empire
The heart of the empire was London. Britain had Canada and the West Indies and Australia and a big chunk of Africa. India was important, but its importance tended to decrease.
made cities like Bombay into magnets for Muslim traders, intellectuals and politicians across Asia and Africa,
Nonsense! No African or Asian intellectuals or politicians ever settled in Bombay or Calcutta. There were some foreign Muslim traders but they didn't do particularly well compared to Armenians or Baghdadi Jews.
becoming a centre for the production and distribution of print materials, recording and film to all corners of the Islamic world.
There was little of this and it soon disappeared. The fact is India was backward and the Indian Muslim was considered, in places like Egypt, as a simpleton. Maulana Azad returned the compliment- at least as far as Al Azhar was concerned. The Muslims of the MENA looked to Paris and other European cities. Al-Afghani, it is true, spent some time in India. Was he a Russian agent? Some Brits thought so. Indeed, he was linked to Blavatsky as well as to certain Continental strains of Free Masonry. But one can scarcely say that Al-Afghani found any great inspiration in India. It was a backward, poverty stricken place with little intellectual life or cultural distinction.
On the eve of the First World War, then, two great Muslim powers confronted each other
coz Asquith's real name was Asghar Pasha.
– the Turks with their Middle Eastern and European possessions against the British with their Asian and African ones.
The Brits had Middle Eastern protectorates- like the Trucial States- and colonies- like Aden.
Each represented a different form of Islamic authority
No. The Sultan represented Islamic authority. The King Emperor represented Anglican Christian authority. It is simply not true that Muslims have ever thought that Christians could represent their Religion in an authoritative manner.
and served as the centre of political gravity for a large part of the Muslim world.
Muslims in Muslim ruled States in India considered the the Ruler- e.g. the Nizam- as the center of political gravity.
Before going to war Britain’s prime minister had promised India’s Muslims that the Ottoman Empire would not be dismembered once hostilities ceased and that the Caliph’s position would remain inviolate.
Some senior British diplomats seem to have got it into their heads that the 'Young Turks' were Jewish freemasons. At any rate, this was the sort of propaganda Yusuf Ali (an ICS man now remembered for his translation of the Quran Sharif) and other British agents were putting out. The truth is the Brits wanted the Caliph to be a less powerful version of the Nizam or Khedive. They had substantial investments in Ottoman Turkey- as did the French- and wanted to control the Turkish economy without actually assuming responsibility for its defense. Had it not been for the genius of Ataturk and the fighting ability of the Turkish foot soldier, the Brits and the French might have propped up the Caliph and preserved the appearance of territorial integrity or suzerainty for that Empire.
As it turned out, Indian soldiers were deployed against the Ottomans
and the Germans
only to see their Middle Eastern possessions partitioned between the British and French, with Turkey narrowly escaping a similar fate due to her military revival under Mustafa Kemal Pasha.
But this was scarcely a big surprise.
David Lloyd George acknowledged the importance of his pledge to the empire’s Muslim subjects in these telling words:
‘It is too often forgotten that we are the greatest Mahomedan power in the world and one-fourth of the population of the British Empire is Mahomedan. There have been no more loyal adherents to the throne and no more effective and loyal supporters of the Empire in its hour of trial. We gave a solemn pledge and they accepted it. They are disturbed by the prospect of our not abiding by it.’
The context is a debate in Parliament where Lloyd George was facing criticism for letting the Turks keep Constantinople. He replied that it was to have gone to Russia but the Bolsheviks now ruled the roost there. Anyway, they said they didn't want it. He then brought up his declaration of 2 years previously which was meant to help recruit soldiers in India. This is what he said '
'Nor are we fighting to destroy Austria-Hungary or to deprive Turkey of its capital, or of the rich and renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are predominantly Turkish in race. Outside Europe we believe that the same principle should be applied.…While we do not challenge the maintenance of the Turkish Empire in the homelands of the Turkish race with its capital at Constantinople—the passage between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea being internationalised and neutralised [as they will be]—Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine are in our judgment entitled to a recognition of their separate national conditions."
What the cunning fellow did not say was that the Brits wanted the Caliph to stay on as a puppet. The Khilafat movement in India was actually quite helpful. Indeed, a Khilafat agent tried to assassinate Ataturk- one reason he decided to abolish the Caliphate altogether.
Lloyd George's entire speech can be found in Hansard. It is obvious that he was only talking about Muslims in India so as to resist calls for the annexation of Constantinople or even a 'hang the Caliph' type agitation further down the road.(The declaration was given on) January, 1918. That was a perfectly deliberate pledge. I am going to ask the House and the country to realise what it meant. This was not a speech delivered at a public meeting. There was a good deal of disquiet as to our war aims. There was a feeling amongst the workers—and this was brought to our notice—that we were fighting for some aggressive imperialistic purpose. This was interfering with output for the purposes of the War, and we were informed that it was essential that we should reassure the workers of the community as to the purposes for which we were waging war. This was not an offer to the Turks. It was to reassure our own people as to what we were fighting for. There was another reason. The Mahomedan population of India were disturbed and they wanted a reassurance. We were making a special effort here to procure output for the War, and we were making a special effort in India to secure recruits. We needed all the men we could get for France, and what happened two or three months afterwards showed how important it was that we should secure all the support we could get in the East to do the fighting in Turkey. What is the effect of that statement? The effect of the statement in India was that recruiting went up appreciably from that very moment. They were not all Mahomedans, but there were Mahomedans amongst them. Now we are told "that was an offer you made to Turkey and they rejected it, and therefore you are absolutely free." It was more than that. It was a statement of our war aims for the workers of this country, and a statement of our war aims for India. It is too often forgotten that we are the greatest Mahomedan power in the world. One-fourth of the population of the British Empire is Mahomedan, There have been no more loyal adherents to the throne, there has been no more effective loyal support to the Empire in its hour of trial than came from the Mahomedans of India. We gave a solemn pledge, and they accepted it, and they are disturbed at the prospect of our not abiding by it. I can give you a statement made by the Viceroy. In May, 1919, we were considering this at the Peace Conference. He said: Moslem feeling is already deeply stirred. Educated opinion is probably prepared for extensive territorial losses but not for the loss of Constantinople, especially in view of the recent announcements made by the Prime Minister and Lord Robert Cecil. They depended on my Noble Friend's words just as much as they did on mine.
Though Arab nationalists professed themselves happy to exchange Turkish suzerainty for a European one,
The Turks claimed sovereign, not suzerain, status. Class A League of Nations Mandates gave more than suzerain rights to European Nations but only on a temporary basis. The Arabs weren't happy about this at all- as is well known.
India rose in revolt with a fervour not seen since the days of the Mutiny.
Nonsense! There was an almost entirely peaceful agitation which petered out once Gandhi called off the Non Cooperation Movement and Secretary of State Montague published a telegram showing that the Viceroy had been doing his best for the 'Khilafat' cause.
Quickly placed under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, this movement brought together Hindus and Muslims, Sunni and Shia, in a non-violent agitation that shook British rule in India by the scale at which people refused to cooperate with the government, resigning posts, preventing the work of administration and flooding jails. Gandhi himself withdrew from the movement, though he never disclaimed it, when violence started breaking out, and without able leadership or indeed Arab and Turkish support it eventually fizzled out, especially once the Turks themselves abolished the caliphate in 1924
The truth is Britain was militarily weak and faced a 'Red Menace' at home. India could have got what Ireland and Egypt and Afghanistan got at about this time. But Gandhi called off the agitation. It then became obvious that the Hindus had been lying. They didn't give a fuck about Khilafat. But, neither did the Shias. Then, it turned out, neither did the Turks. Some Khilafat funds got embezzled. The thing turned into a shit show. By 1926, Hindu Muslim riots were back with a vengeance. Why? Gandhi's hypocrisy was plain to see. He had lied to the Brits- pretending to be loyal when he was actually seditious- he had lied to the Muslims- pretending that Hindus felt they had a religious obligation to fight and die for Khilafat- he had lied to the entire Indian nation- saying he would deliver Swaraj but then backing down and saying India wasn't ready, indeed, might never be ready to rule itself- and he had lied to his own disciples- telling them he could himself earn a Rupee a day from weaving- in other words, even if Swaraj did not come to India, his methods could help ordinary people become better off.
Devji, too, is a hypocrite. He can't possibly believe that 'the Indians who engaged in (the Khilafat movement) saw themselves as the citizens of a Muslim power.'
Britain was not then, and is not now, a Muslim power. It has an Established Church which is decidedly Christian, not Muslim at all. Indians who joined the Khilafat movement may have pretended to be 'loyal subjects' but they were no such thing. They wanted the Brits out of India and out of Asia and out of Africa.
What enraged them more than anything else during this episode was Britain’s ‘betrayal’ of her Islamic obligations.
If Britain had Islamic obligations, the foremost of them would have been to make Islam, not Christianity, the Established Religion. It is a different matter that a promise made by the Government should be kept. But, Constantinople wasn't handed over to Russia. Thus, for extraneous reasons, the promise was in fact kept.
For it was because many Indians believed that they were or should be partners in empire
because being conquered means you should be a partner of your conqueror- right? It's like what happens when somebody hits you on the head and runs off with your wallet. He owes you half the proceeds of the robbery because you were his partner in crime.
that they were outraged by the treatment meted out to the Turks,
by, among others, Indian- including Indian Muslim- soldiers
which gave rise to the subcontinent’s first mass mobilization, and the world’s only great pan-Islamist agitation.
greatly shite agitation which failed completely. If no such thing has happened anywhere else it is because Indians are stupider than others.
For his part the Mahatma’s aim was simply to hold the British to their word and call upon them to represent their subjects:
Nonsense! The Mahatma's aim- or so he said when put in charge of the Congress/Khilafat combine- was to deliver Swaraj (Home Rule) within 18 months. He didn't give a tinker's cuss for Khilafat. Nor did he want the Brits to 'represent their subjects'. Suppose the Viceroy had put on a dhoti and started babbling bollocks about chakri and khaddar and so forth. Gandhi would have been well miffed.
‘What is this British Empire? It is as much Mahomedan and Hindu as it is Christian.
Gandhi had been to Britain. He knew that British people were not as much Mahomedan as they were Christian. Furthermore, the reason the British Empire was called 'British' was because Britishers ran it.
Its religious neutrality is not a virtue, or if it is, it is a virtue of necessity. Such a mighty Empire could not be held together on any other terms. British ministers are therefore bound to protect Mahomedan interests as any other. […]
But, it turned out that the Viceroy as well as the Secretary of State for India had indeed protected Mahomedan interests far better than he and his Hindu chums had. Montague sacrificed his career so as to 'protect' Indian interests. Gandhi & Co had simply been opportunistic hypocrites.
To join the Khilafat movement then means to join a movement to keep inviolate the pledge of a British minister. […] If the seven crore Mussulmans are partners in the Empire, I submit that their wish must be held to be all sufficient for refraining from punishing Turkey. It is beside the point to quote what Turkey did during the war.’
These were empty words. No Hindu went to Jail for Khilafat. Plenty said they would, but none did.
Gandhi’s task was to compel his rulers to act in a democratic fashion
which means holding elections. But that wasn't what the silly sausage campaigned about.
by moral and non-violent means,
lying is not moral. It may be non-violent but a lot of white collar crime is non-violent.
for he thought Britain could forever redeem herself by doing so, and thus establishing a world wide commonwealth in the truest sense of the term.
Gandhi redeemed himself by quietly pleading guilty to sedition and going off to jail like a good little boy. No doubt this established a world wide commonwealth in the truest sense of the term- which is nonsense simply.
It was during the Khilafat Movement that he finally lost his faith in the empire and turned to nationalism in its more conventional forms.
Conventional nationalism wages war against foreign occupiers. By 1920, nobody anywhere had any faith in Empires. The Tzar was gone, the Hapsburgs were gone, the Kaiser was gone, the Chinese Emperor was gone- true, Britain had a King Emperor, but the Labor party formed a Government in 1924. The country was moving in a Socialist direction.
Nevertheless, pan-Islamism continued to interest the Mahatma, not least because in the period before non-alignment and socialism came to take its place, Islam formed the only substantive link between India and her neighbours,
Nonsense! Afghanistan and Iran were the only Islamic neighbors India had and Islam wasn't much of a link with either because there were modernizers in both countries. In Iran (and Turkey) they gained ascendancy. The 'hijrat' to Afghanistan failed. The country was poor and badly governed. The fact is, Islam did not matter much in the Twenties and Thirties. Indeed, it was on the back foot.
Anti-Imperialism, on the other hand, did link India to Ceylon and Egypt and Iraq and so forth. But this too was inconsequential.
and one that was of far more political and popular consequence than subsequent forms of internationalism ever were.
Maybe for Pakistan, not for India. The thing was a waste of time.
In other words India could only become a world power
Newsflash! India is not a world power. Briefly, under the Brits, Indian soldiers fought in Europe and the Middle East and thus affected the Global Balance of Power. It won't happen again.
as an Islamic one,
just as Britain was actually Islamic and America was like totally in your face Muslim and the Chinese were constantly brandishing Qurans and did you know Beyonce's twerking buttocks are actually a semaphore version of Sahih Bukhari? After all, Statistics indicate that as much as 20 per cent of her fan-base is Muslim or lives in historically Muslim countries like the UK. This proves she is a very devout Muslim- just like Bibi Netanyahu or Narendra Modi, both of whom rule countries with significant Muslim minorities.
by gaining the trust of her Muslim neighbours
both Afghanistan and Iran were as weak as shit. Who cared about their 'trust'?
rather than depending upon the support of distant powers with global interests of their own, something which would reduce India to the position of a client state rather than a force in her own right. Or as Gandhi put it: ‘It is only a people whose mentality has been perverted that can soothe itself with the domination by one race from a distant country, as a preventative against the aggression of another, a permanent and natural neighbour.
Very true! All those Hindus and Sikhs who were killed or who had to run away from Pakistan had a very perverted mentality indeed!
Brigadier Dyer, a month or two after earning the title 'Butcher of Amritsar', led mainly Indian troops against the Afghans- putting them to rout easily enough. Only Rajaji was cowardly enough to support Khilafat on the grounds that otherwise the Afghans would conquer us again.
Instead of developing strength to protect ourselves against those near whom we are permanently placed, a feeling of incurable impotence has been generated.
Two strong and brave nations can live side by side,
like the French and Germans- right?
strengthening each other through enforcing constant vigilance, and maintain in full vigour each its own national strength, unity, patriotism and resources. If a nation wishes to be respected by its neighbours it has to develop and enter into honourable treaties. These are the only natural conditions of national liberty; but not a surrender to distant military powers to save oneself from one’s neighbours. […]
India was not respected because a tiny number of Brits ruled it better than it had ever been ruled before. Why was Gandhi pretending India had achieved what Afghanistan gained even after losing a War?
‘The Indian struggle for the freedom of Islam has brought about a more lasting entente and a more binding treaty between the people of India and the people of the Mussalman states around it than all the ententes and treaties among the Governments of Europe.
But British India had cowed those States! When Gandhi wrote this shite, there were 100,000 Indian troops garrisoning the MENA for the Brits. What entente can there be between a subject race and its free and independent, albeit much smaller, neighbors?
Gandhi may not have foreseen that the departure of the Brits would lead to millions of Hindus and Sikhs being killed or having to flee. But Devji knows this is what happened. Why quote Gandhi at his most asinine?
No wars of aggression are possible where the common people on the two sides have become grateful friends.
Germany and Russia had been 'grateful friends' for more than a century. The common people of both countries got on pretty well. Yet a 'war of aggression' took place between the Tzar and the Kaiser. Gandhi may not have noticed this. He was not an observant man.
The faith of the Mussulman is a better sanction than the seal of the European Diplomats and plenipotentiaries.
But Gandhi betrayed the faith of the Mussulman.
Not only has this great friendship between India and the Mussulman States around it removed for all time the fear of Mussulman aggression from outside, but it has erected round India a solid wall of defence against all aggression from beyond, against all greed from Europe, Russia or elsewhere.
Because the Brits had disappeared and the Japs, bless their cotton socks, would never try to invade India. After all, they too were 'grateful friends'. Indeed there was a Japanese spy, got up as a monk, who turned up at Gandhi's Ashram and who went around beating a drum till some local villagers gave him a good kicking.
‘No secret diplomacy could establish a better entente or a stronger federation than what this open and non-governmental treaty between Islam and India has established. The Indian support of the Khilafat has, as if by a magic wand, converted what was once the Pan- Islamic terror for Europe into a solid wall of friendship and defence for India.’
Okay. I get it. Devji is a comic. He was writing this about the time ISIS was kicking off the second wave of Pan-Islamic terror. But killing those fuckers quietens them down a treat.
This of course had been the basis of Britain’s own Muslim policy before the First World War,
Nonsense! The Brits had established suzerainty over Afghanistan and extracted concessions out of Persia at the point of a gun.
so the Mahatma was only urging Indians to make it their own in a more genuine and honest way than the English had ever done. It was also a policy that continued to inform Muslim leaders in the subcontinent for many years to come. So the Nizam of Hyderabad, for instance, who was both the world’s richest man and the eccentric ruler of India’s largest princely state, entertained the ambition of transferring the caliphate to his own dynasty by supporting the exiled Ottoman emperor and marrying into his family.
The Nizam subsidized the cousin of the last Ottoman Emperor whom Ataturk had given the ceremonial title of Caliph to. But Ataturk changed his mind and exiled the Prince. I need hardly say that Hanafis don't accept that sovereignty can pass through the female line. The Nizam paid a good bride-price for two Ottoman Princesses.
In this he was encouraged by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, an Englishman who had converted to Islam, produced a famous translation of the Quran still in use today and agitated for pan-Islamic causes which he thought were entirely in Britain’s true interests. Outlandish as it appears today, the idea of situating Sunni Islam’s central authority in a still colonized country where Muslims were a minority was not considered especially peculiar then.
This is utterly mad. Pickthall was considered an eccentric whose support for Turkey during the First War (unlike the loyalty shown by Yusuf Ali) would block any possible official appointment his linguistic attainments might otherwise bring him.
The Nizam, on the other hand, was perfectly respectable and working for him helped rehabilitate Pickthall. But there was no prospect of continued Muslim domination of Hyderabad. It imported soldiers from Yemen which had lost whatever military reputation it might have had a thousand years previously.
Devji probably doesn't think it peculiar that Steven Segal is the acknowledged 'tulku' of some Tibetan Lama or that the World Center of the Ba'hai Faith (which originated in Iran) is in Israel or that the Maharishi decided to hole up in the Netherlands. Why? I think the answer is that Tibetan Buddhism or the Bahai Religion or the practitioners of Transcendental Meditation pose no threat of any sort.
The truth is guns matter, money matters, Science matters- but Religion does not matter unless it has money and guns in which case only money and guns can prevail over it. But, nowadays, it is Science which generates the money and which makes fancier guns.
There is something to be said for Religions which inculcate thrift and enterprise and so forth. Apparently, in the USA, moving to a Mormon neighborhood raises your kid's chances of going to College- or at least staying out of Jail. Islam's future, like the future of other Religions, depends on improving life-chances for its young people. Devji thinks Indian Muslims could play a leadership role for Islam going forward. Is it because he sees that Indian Muslims are determined to rise by their own thrift, enterprise, hard work and pursuit of educational and professional excellence?
No. He thinks Islam is in trouble because no 'great power' in the Muslim World exists. Apparently, the British Empire was actually a Muslim power and so everything was cool with Islam between the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate and the end of the Raj. Then everything turned to shit.
today there exists no great power in the Muslim world and no centre of gravity for its politics,
So what? The tide has turned against Western meddling in the region. Why should Islam not come up, the way Christian Europe came up, with multiple centers of gravity for its politics?
all of which goes a long way towards accounting for the state of things in this extended region, something explanations based on the politics of oil or neo-colonialism cannot quite manage to do. By a centre of gravity, of course, I do not mean some kind of theological order, but instead a power that might centralize political and religious thought across an entire region, whatever its constitutional character. This in fact is what has already happened to Christianity, which despite its huge following in the poor and powerless countries of the global South, is nevertheless stabilized politically in the rich and powerful states of the North.
Nonsense! Christianity grew rapidly because of competition between Christian sects and Nations. It hasn't 'stabilized' at all. Take the issue of Gay Marriage. The prosperous North can't ram it down the throats of the Global South nor- thankfully- can they force homophobia down our throats.
But then this is not a particularly new argument, with Muslim thinkers making it since the end of the First World War, the event from which Osama bin Laden too dates Islam’s decline. In this vision of things pan-Islamism does not refer to some kind of theological entity or even a world state, but only a Muslim great power of the Ottoman or British kind. And pan-Islamism, as we have already seen, is as much a Christian fantasy as it is a Muslim reality, being in either case a thoroughly modern phenomenon.
Bullshit! Pan-Islamism disappeared at the time of Khajirites and Kerbala.
Today the British model of an Islamic power is the only one possible, not because its pluralist character was more egalitarian than the Ottoman, its secularism more pronounced or its demographic politics more imaginative, but rather because India in our time has once again become the world’s greatest Muslim power.
No it hasn't. It has become the world's only Hindu power.
For although they are by and large an impoverished and disadvantaged minority in the country, the enormous population of over a hundred and fifty million Muslims there renders any simple socio-economic profile suspect, especially in light of the fact that the Indian community represents a significant portion of the world’s total and still constitutes a centre of gravity for Islam in the region.
Since Devji wrote this, Indians have tended to become more determined that Islam should have no 'center of gravity' in India. But something similar could be said about parts of Europe.
After all it is no accident that every single religious movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan, militant or moderate, from the Taliban and Lashkar-e Taiba to the Barelwis and Sufis, all have their intellectual and doctrinal origins in India.
Nor is it any accident that ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims and persecution of 'heretical' Muslims in such places has reinforced the Hindu determination to quickly and massively retaliate against Muslims running amok in India. The fact is Muslims in Hindu dominated regions thought that superior martial spirit might permit them to prevail. This same type of craziness motivated 9/11. The good news is that Muslims can dominate areas where they are the majority. If they want to lock up women, nothing can stop them. But there is an economic price to be paid for this type of 'Indian' (as the Egyptians say) stupidity.
What is more Islam in these borderland states is capable only of radicalizing its Indian roots, not setting down any of its own.
No. Pakistan can't 'radicalize' the Indian Deobandis for the simple reason that they don't want to be massacred by the majority.
Despite all the talk of Middle Eastern funding for fundamentalism and militancy in the region, no Muslim movement there derives its history or inspiration from places like Saudi Arabia but only from India, and more especially from the days of the British Raj.
This is because the Saudis and others stopped funding people who turned out to be useless and unreliable. So the Pakistanis can monopolize their backyard. However, it too faces the problem of 'blow-back'. Islamic Governments have gotten out of the business of backing any indigenous sect. Hizb ut Tahrir has been no help to the Palestinians. Erdogan turned against Gulen. The Saudis spent a lot of time and money on taming the wilder Wahhabi ulema. Religion, it turns out, isn't a 'force multiplier'. It is a Frankenstein's monster.
India does have Islamic sects- Devji may belong to one himself- which don't proselytize and don't do crazy shit. Their spiritual preceptors- be they 'Westernized' or 'traditional'- encourage thrift, technical education and enterprise. The result is that such people do just as well, if not better, as Hindus or Zorastrians or Sikhs.
This extraordinary situation should at least give us pause for thought.
Why? The fact is that Muslim sects which did smart things rose up economically and educationally. Those that did stupid shit had to expand laterally and stick their fingers into the electric socket of jihad. Pakistan could export its craziness to Afghanistan- which was even poorer and more backward. But nobody wants to be like the Taliban. It may lose out to ISIS which has nothing Indian in its genealogy.
Were it to be fully appreciated, scholars and policy-makers would realize that India is the key to Islam’s flourishing in the region, as well as to the latter’s own stability.
Utterly mad! Hinduism is the reason India is cohesive. Salafi Islam is the reason Pakistan has declined economically. This does not mean that South Indian Muslims or Bohras or Ismailis etc can't do just as well as Hindus in India. But if they start killing the majority, there will be massive retaliation till they become quiet.
Rather than placing Pakistan and Afghanistan in a Middle Eastern context, in other words, such experts would see that India provides the centre of gravity for Islam in both.
No. India expelled the Muslim supremacists. Bangladesh too got rid of those nutters. Pakistan was able to expand its influence into Afghanistan because of American and Saudi money. But China will discipline them if they don't straighten up and fly right. After all, Pakistan now owes China a lot of money. It will have to work off that debt before resuming global jihad.
This is one reason why India serves as the focus for Pakistani militant groups in particular, which are dedicated not to avenging the suffering of Indian Muslims so much as the loss of Islam’s historical centre there.
This is nonsense. India kills Muslims and has now taken to cross-border strikes. Why die at the hands of the kaffir when you can subjugate fellow Muslims in Pakistan or Afghanistan?
Neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan is large enough or powerful enough to centralize Islam and make of it a global model, just as no Middle Eastern country is able to do.
Yet Islam has its center in Mecca & Medina from its very first inception. This is not to say that a world religion needs a center. Buddhism did fine without one.
Indeed the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, while mobilizing a great many people for this or that reason, has never produced a single mass movement of any kind,
The Ahmadiya sect is Pakistani as is the persecution of Ahmadiyas.
let alone a national one, since the day it was founded over half a century ago.
So what? Most countries don't found mass movements.
Its religious politics is therefore like every other politics there, made up of conspiracies, compromises and coups d’etat conducted by all sorts of factions, each making up for its lack of numbers by direct action and armed force.
Devji sure has a low opinion of Pakistan!
Only a federation that brings together India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka, perhaps along the lines of the European Union, has any hope of creating a stable and prosperous South Asia while centralizing both Hinduism and Islam within it.
Rubbish! Muslims slaughter and ethnically cleanse non-Muslims where they are the majority. If the Indian Army couldn't keep the Kashmiri Pundits safe what hope have the rest of the Hindus? That's why they start killing Muslims within 12 hours of Muslim attacks on Hindus. The majority soon prevails over the minority.
Indeed the former religion has been as radicalized as the latter with the partition of British India. It was because he realized that Hinduism ran the risk of becoming politicized merely as a state religion that the Mahatma had advocated a more expansive global role for it and India in general, one that justified his own participation in the Khilafat Movement:
‘The age of misunderstanding and mutual warfare among religions is gone. If India has a mission of its own to the world, it is to establish the unity and the truth of all religions. This unity is established by mutual help and understanding between the various religions. It has come as a rare privilege to the Hindus in the fulfilment of this mission of India to stand up in defence of Islam against the onslaught of the earth-greed of the military powers of the West. […] If Hindus and Mussalmans attain the height of courage and sacrifice that is needed for this battle on behalf of Islam against the greed of the West, a victory will be won not alone for Islam, but for Christianity itself. Militarism has robbed the crucified God of his name and his very cross and the World has been mistaking it to be Christianity. After the battle of Islam is won, Islam and Hinduism together can emancipate Christianity itself from the lust for power and wealth which have strangled it now, and the true Christianity of the Gospels will be established. This battle of non-cooperation with its suffering and peaceful withdrawal of service will once and for all establish its superiority over the power of brute force and unlimited slaughter. What a glorious privilege it is to play our part in this history of the world, when Hinduism and Islam will unite on behalf of Christianity, and in that strife of mutual love and support each religion will attain its own truest shape and beauty.’
Gandhi could not foresee that within a few short years of his death, Hindus of all family backgrounds would reject distinctions of caste and color and even gender. However, once Islamic terrorism began to grow they acquired a healthy fear of, and fury against, Muslims. But this was also true of the Chinese and the Europeans and so forth.
In the absence of a South Asian union in the foreseeable future, and with the loss of Hinduism’s world-historical ambition for the time being,
Hindus have the same 'world-historical' ambition as everybody else- viz. having a secure and reasonably prosperous life in this world. Religion is about the next world- or birth, as the Hindus say.
the Republic of India, as the region’s only great power, has a particular role to play as far as the politics of Islam is concerned.
If Islam has a politics then non-Muslims will have to have a countervailing anti-Islamic politics.
And this role its Muslim citizens can take on by exercising a kind of gravitational pull for their co-religionists elsewhere, in the same way as they had in the colonial past, and in doing so to provide a model for Islamic politics globally.
Is Devji saying 'Muslims must join R.S.S.?
As it is this huge population that is yet a minority already serves as the chief example of Muslim politics in a democratic mode, though it is more fashionable today to talk about the community either as a breeding ground for terrorism or as a victim of discrimination and violence at the hands of Hindu militants. While they are ostensibly opposed, these characterizations are of course nothing but mirror images of one another.
It is likely that Muslims will be split on caste lines by extended reservations. This will pretty much put things back to the way they always were.
In one way India has been true to her colonial past by trying to become a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference, (attempts always frustrated by pakistan) sponsoring her citizens to go on pilgrimage to Mecca and routinely playing the Muslim card in her dealings with Middle Eastern states. But on the other hand her governments have viewed even Islamic organizations with a long history of patriotism, such as the important seminary of Deoband, with suspicion and have tried to cut down their international profile.
It is true that India wanted to beg money from the Oil Sheiks. One Ruler said to the Indian Ambassador (later a Vice President of the Republic) 'Go tell your people that I have always kept an Indian as my night-watchman. Do you think I will forget my night watchman?'
Sadly, the success of the Software industry showed India that there was something better in life than being the night-watchman of some Arab dude. It then turned out that the Gulf and Saudi and so on were perfectly happy to invest in India- because it wasn't Islamic at all.
The seminary, for example, which used to attract students from places as far away as South Africa and South East Asia, has now to content itself with a largely Indian intake, the rest having gone off to study in countries like Saudi Arabia.
But then the best Islamic scholars from India have gone there too. On the other hand, there are Hindu and Jain savants who find it to worthwhile to pursue Research Degrees at Western Indological Institues.
And this is to say nothing of the routine discrimination that many Muslims face in India.
Hatred against Muslims has greatly increased in some neighborhoods. But, we have to admit, there have been other such internecine quarrels in which Islam wasn't involved at all.
Nothing could be more counterproductive for India’s own regional ambitions and global stature than this situation, which in addition serves to destabilize the whole of South Asia.
This is not true. Islam does not matter. Even Terrorism doesn't matter if massive retaliation is possible. Being able to project force on land and sea against China does matter as does not getting trapped in their infrastructural eco-system. Ultimately, it may be China which renders the Afpak region peaceful- if not exactly prosperous *vecause the Chinese need a return on their investment.
But half a century after the partition of British India, the ceaseless conflict of whose successor states poisoned the religious atmosphere of India,
India's religious atmosphere has been fine- for Hindus. The surprising thing was that caste did not slaughter caste and sect did not turn on sect. Why? I suppose it was because Hindus were simply too poor to afford to kill each other so as to assert their superior holiness.
things are finally changing.
Devji was right. Things were changing. People were beginning to understand that Professors had shit for brains.