The idea of foreigness in the Indian Muslim narrative

Happy Independence Day to India. Jai Hind and I will share Vidhi’s important tweet-thought on it:

Otherwise I was reading this article How the Tricolour and Lion Emblem Really Came to Be and then looked at another article, Growing Up in a Muslim Family That Didn’t Fit Any Stereotypes,  by the same author, Laila Tyabji. She’s a proper Nehruvian (like Maulana Azad) but this passage struck me:

The khandaan she came from comprised the huge, extended clan of Futehallys, Hydaris, Alis, Latifs, Fyzees and Tyabjis – convolutedly inter-related in the best multiple Muslim tradition, all part of the same vast Suleimani Bohra tribe from North Yemen. Liberal, emancipated, proudly Indian – rather unconventional, given the times. Even in the late 19th century, all the women were educated and at least bilingual. Love marriages were the norm, often to similarly brought up cousins. Despite the khandaan’s standing and wealth, they were not in demand as daughters-in-laws. Perhaps, because their outlook and upbringing were so different from more conventional Muslim families.

Though different branches of the family prided themselves on their distinctive characteristics, (the hawk-nosed Alis versus the pakoda-nosed Tyabji’s) they agreed utterly on the really important issues. Opting for secular, multi-cultural India, for instance, rather than the monotheistic claustrophobia of Pakistan. My mother’s branch of the family included ‘bird man’ Salim Ali and the Hamid Alis – he, one of the early Indian civil servants, she, (Sharifa), a redoubtable social worker; both central figures in UP cultural and intellectual circles.

The author is distantly related to actress Aditi Rao Hydari. The status of Indian Muslims is fantastic since they simultaneously occupy the under class and upper class; I can’t think of a similar social-religious class anywhere else in the world.

People often compared my mother’s fine-boned delicate looks to a Mughal miniature. But she was also brave, resolute and principled. Married to a charismatic forceful personality 11 years her senior, she held her own and became his moral compass, the moving centre of our home. When my parents’ house was attacked and ransacked during the Partition, she sent us children away, but herself refused to leave my father, going off every day to work in the refugee camps at Red Fort.

Our ancestors had arrived in India three centuries ago, landing in Cambay from Yemen in search of religious freedom. The women never wore burkhas, though they covered their heads with lace or embroidery edged chiffon.

My great-grandfather Badruddin Tyabji the first, who later became the first Indian chief justice of the Bombay high court and third president of the Indian National Conference, and his brothers, sent all their children to either the UK or Europe to study, including their daughters. There are lovely pictures of them in hats, voluminous Edwardian skirts and leg of mutton sleeves in London, not a burkha or hijab in sight! Returning to India, they readily gave up their elaborate ornamented satin lehenga ordnis for khadi sarees at Gandhi’s call, joining the freedom movement, taking up social and political activism.

Also I have noticed that most “pro-Indian” Muslims have always been the ones that were most sure of their foreignness. It’s a bit like Parsi Privilege the Parsis will crow about being Indian because in a very fundamental way they are not Indian. In the same way it’s always been the convert classes that are the most keen on Muslim identifiers to mark them off from their origins.

I can imagine in an alternative reality if the Indian Muslim population was merely made up of the “foreign class”, which would have been a few million at best, they would have been as treasured and fawned up as the Parsis.

Finally:

As I was leaving for the colloquium on Muslim women, my goddaughter Urvashi asked where I was going. When I told her, she said, “Why do we have to give people labels and divide them up into communities? I think it’s so unnecessary.” She has a point. Hopefully, as typecasting stops, the relevance of labeling us by communities too will become a thing of the past.

Urvashi sounds like a Hindu name and this idea of why can’t we simply be one community sounds like majoritarianism. It’s a bit like the civil code; drowning the minorities into the national framework. I have no real thoughts but simply notice the patterns.. Laila Tyabji sounds like an interesting chick and reminds me of that upper-class girl who chooses the unorthodox route but gains respectability with age.

The unsex appeal of Asian Men..

The Weird History of Asian Sex Stereotypes

If you take a look at popular culture there's a pretty strange divide between Asian women and Asian men. Asian women are adored and fetishized by men of many ethnicities, while Asian men are rarely seen as sex symbols of any kind. Why? Well these stereotypes don't come from nowhere, they actually evolved from a long and twisted history of war, trade, and persecution of American citizens. Watch this MTV Decoded Season 3 throwback episode with Franchesca "Chescaleigh" Ramsey episode to learn more. Special Guests: Lily Du – https://twitter.com/lilydHstau Liao Sources: Asian Dating Datahttps://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/11/30/247530095/are-you-interested-dating-odds-favor-white-men-asian-womenhttps://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/12/okcupid-race_n_5811840.htmlAsian Womenhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/millennial-media/201104/what-is-exotic-beauty-part-ii-the-case-the-asian-fetishhttps://www.bitchmedia.org/article/the-madame-butterfly-effect-asian-fetish-history-pop-culturehttp://operabase.com/top.cgi?lang=enhttps://everydayfeminism.com/2015/12/asian-woman-fetishes-hurtful/https://www.politico.eu/article/my-body-was-not-mine-but-the-u-s-militarys/Asian Men:http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1164&context=tmahttps://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/lies-asian-american-men/https://mic.com/articles/116626/6-dating-myths-about-asian-men-that-just-need-to-go#.iXkneWr6PFor more on racial stereotypes go to: http://www.lookdifferent.org/topics/4-racial-stereotypes

Posted by MTV Decoded on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I was going to write on Pakistan at 71 but sex is always an interesting topic. This part struck me as I was listening to the video:

More specifically the Map of Asia used:

The video basically blames white people/power for over-fetishising Asian women and de-masculinising Asian men. Franchesca makes a good point about “sexual prejudice” towards the end of the video.

At 1:15 she goes to the shirtless Asian chap and tells him that she finds him hot However what she doesn’t include is that the chances are that he won’t find her attractive simply because of her race.

So alot of Asian male dissatisfaction is really about gaining purchase in the “white” dating market rather than the wider market.. I do believe the trials & tribulations of Black Women though are more serious since they suffer on a broader scale.

Nipple & Button – the decline & fall of the American Empire

Ahead of a meeting with India’s prime minister, Trump mispronounced Nepal as “nipple” and laughingly referred to Bhutan as “button”, sources told Politico. He reportedly didn’t realise what Nepal and Bhutan were. One person familiar with the meeting said: 

He didn’t know what those were. He thought it was all part of India. He was like, ‘What is this stuff in between and these other countries

Trump ‘needs reminders about how time zones work’, according to White House aides

President Trump is single-handedly hastening the end of a unipolar world. The deft Obama-era diplomacy where the former President reached out to recalcitrant nations (Iran, Cuba) is swiftly coming to an end.

The world is shaping along the lines of a Hindutva-Zionist wet dream. The Anglospheric nations (Britain firmly at the centre because of Brexit) along with India & Israel. What prompts this vision of a Eurasian entity is the sudden collapse of Turkey by a single Trump Tweet.

This isn’t to say that Turkey didn’t have pre-existing political and economic issues but when the US is trying to twist the knife; well nations have very long memories. The US has antagonistic relationships with Iran, Russia and China; to add Pakistan and Turkey to the mix is to essentially recreate the Ghost of the Gunpowder Empires.

I was looking for Macaulay’s essay on Land Empires and came across this:

Of these 6 Empires; 5 will be firmly in an anti-Western anti-American camp. The other Great Powers are the EU, India, Israel (an important minor power) and Japan (and the Koreas).

Happy 71st birthday to the Mughal-Muslim Republic that is Pakistan. I would consider it to be the inheritor of the Land Empire of the Mughals whereas I see the modern Indian Republic to be more of an Indian Ocean Entity connected to the rest of the Anglosphere and more attuned to the time of the Mauryas. The level of animosity towards the Mughals in modern day India is reaching such histrionic levels that histories as well as geographies must now be partitioned.

Pakistan’s geopolitical importance can never be overstated and it will be interesting how India will be managing an intense relationship with Iran/Russia and a growing friendship with the US. For the US to lose Turkey is simply a strategic blunder because the latter is probably the most important Islamic country and the Turks are a generation ahead of the rest of the Muslim world. If in the medieval era the three great Islamic Imperiums (the Ottomans, Safavids & Mughals) had formed a stable alliance there probably would have been able to beat back any outsider power..

Let us see now how King Khan will navigate an increasingly interesting yet turbulent world.

V. S. Naipaul has died

Like many I have only read Naipaul’s nonfiction. His genius, as a literary intellectual, was to distill intuitions and observations that many of us have, but compress them into more economical and clear prose.

But, in my opinion, literary intellectuals’ genius lay not in uncovering new things, but unmasking what we already knew. Therefore Naipaul never presented me a startling insight that was totally novel, and much of his analysis I later rejected upon deeper study and thought. And yet if the question is the answer, then his prose definitely opened many mental doors.

Of course, others can speak to his fiction.

Has Manish Malhotra jumped the shark?

Manish Malhotra has come out with a new “Indo-Persian” collection called “Zween.” I had never heard of the word before but apparently it’s Arabic and means beautiful.

Image result for zween arabic

Image result for zween arabic

I thought I would share some pictures from an actual “Indo-Persian” culture since I can’t find Iran in the above pictures; just Bollywood wearing a few floral motifs..

Image result for bunto kazmiImage result for aarij hashmi

Image result for bunto kazmi

Manish should have simply titled his exhibition; “back to Pakistan” or something such rather than unnecessarily exotify it with “Zween” and Indo-Persian. Like any good Delhite Punjabi he feels the tug of that hypnotic rich Mughlai high culture that has miraculously endured in Karachi..

However unfortunately Pakistan has failed as a country  and is rightfully perceived as a basket-case. On the hand the rise and rise of India continues..

#SareeSearch: One year later

A year after #SareeSearch, DCM Carlson is celebrating Indian #IndependenceDay with her collection of 16 sarees. She loves them all, esp #Khadi & #Handloom- fabric that feels like freedom! To her, sarees represent the rich diversity of #IncredibleIndia. #WeWearCulture #USIndiaDosti Smriti Zubin Irani Ministry of Textiles, Government of India

Posted by U.S. Embassy India on Friday, August 10, 2018

 

Caste in Buddhist Monastic Orders of Sri Lanka

Excerpts from an an article
https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sketches-from-the-south-the-rise-fall-of-amarapura/

The history of the Buddhist clergy, in this country, has largely been a history of schisms, splits, and amalgamations. Over the centuries, certain points have been inferred with respect to this process. First and foremost among them, that the breakdown of Buddhist monastic orders in response to growing caste militancy was only a partial, and not complete, consequence of the political games played by the British. Insignificant though this may be, it is nevertheless important in that certain writers paint a rosy picture of caste-ism while forgetting that the rifts between different castes were exacerbated once the British realised it could harness them to its advantage. Caste-ism was, in other words, waiting to be harnessed by external forces.

When the annexation of Kandy was complete, assurances were made by the Colonial Office that steps would be taken to preserve the privileges of the traditional elite, which obviously included the monastic orders (the Siyam Nikaya). Until then, the politics of the Kandyan Kingdom had followed a largely cyclical process, with shifting loyalties and shifts in the regime (particularly after the Nayakkars began their reign). But with the advent of the outsider, this was destined to be succeeded by a largely linear process, in which that outsider, the imperialist, managed to concentrate hitherto traditional privileges within his bureaucracy. The traditional elite, naturally anxious to preserve those privileges, sought to preserve them through their faith. It was in this context that the Siyam Nikaya was guaranteed the continuation of its practices, in part through the much vilified, controversial Kandyan Convention.

The two (Governor of Ceylon, Robert Brownrigg and John D’Oyly, Chief Translator and later Baronet of Kandy) promised to undertake three practices which had been the duty of the King: providing food to the temples from the Maha Gabadawa, holding the pageant of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, and maintaining the Dalada Maligawa.

Of the three, the first is the most interesting, since the adherence to and the abrogation of its practice is for me a good indicator of how the Colonial Office affirmed, and later derogated from, the practices of the traditional Kandyan elite. It took several decades for the British to abscond from taking part in the ceremonies of traditional society in India, and that was a consequence of the Mutiny, which took place in 1857. In other words, it took an entire Mutiny to turn the British away from Indian life and culture. In Sri Lanka, by contrast, only 17 years were needed for them to renege on their promises regarding that life and culture; by 1832, contrary to the provisions in the Convention, the Colonial Office had elected to do away with the provision of food to the monks, and instead replaced it with a scheme whereby an annual stipend of 310 pounds (or about 30,000 pounds, when adjusted for inflation) would be paid to the temples. This was an uneasy proposition from the start, and was doomed to stall.

those rebel sects were quickly coming up. Their emergence was conditioned by the regions they originated from. In the hill country, the dominant caste was Govigama; in the low country, the dominant castes were Salagama, Karawa, and Durawa. The Siyam Nikaya yielded to the pressures this soon necessitated, and years after its founding by Welivita Saranankara, it yielded to the dominant caste. Upasampada was restricted to this caste (which was not dominant in the low country, or along the coastal belt). This was true especially when considering how power was distributed in the bureaucracy, prior to the British annexation, between the different castes: while in Kandy the non-Govigama castes had their own headmen, the departments to which they were attached were overseen by Govigama chieftains.

 

In 1799, therefore, Ambagahapitiya Nanavimala, a Salagama monk who resided in Welitara (a Salagama stronghold), went to Burma with a contingent of five samaneras and three lay devotees. They stopped at Amarapura, where they were duly ordained in 1800, and from where they returned in 1803 to inaugurate the new sect at Balapitiya (another Salagama stronghold, in many ways more so than Welitara). This was the Amarapura Nikaya, and their trek to Burma was financed by a leading (Salagama) entrepreneur from the region, Dines de Zoysa Jayatilaka Sirivardana, most likely an ancestor of Cyril de Zoysa, who would lead the Buddhist revival in the 20th century.

It is a mistake to suggest that the British did away with feudal structures in the societies they colonised. Far from it. In societies advancing towards capitalism, as Marx correctly surmised, such archaic structures would give way to an industrial class, which is why and how the Tories yielded to the Whigs. Such a transformation did not come about in the colonies. The reason is obvious. The British did not want to be the catalyst for the sort of change that would empower a nationalist bourgeoisie in the countries they had conquered. The one link with the past that those countries had which would hold back such a transformation was those feudal structures. In India, Africa, and of course Sri Lanka, the conqueror resorted to them, and in resorting to them, he found the perfect way of keeping us locked in the past. Those who believe that feudalism is retrogressive would be surprised to learn that the British didn’t really combat it. Instead, they encouraged it. That was their game, after all. Divide and rule.

This is where we must credit the Amarapura Nikaya, because for the first time in the history of the Buddhist order, it brought forth (as Professor Malalgoda observes) “closer cooperation between the monks and their devotees.” This had less to do with an overt objective by those monks to erase caste distinctions than with the fact of their own meagre historical condition: given that it had no royal patronage, the Amarapura Nikaya was compelled to rely on the lay devotee. As an anthropologist once wrote, moreover, this had an impact on the way even the Govigamas saw it: “I know many villagers of the Govigama caste who prefer to give alms to monks of the Amarapura or Ramanya Nikaya rather than those of the Siyam Nikaya because they believe that the former are less worldly.” Here, then, was a Buddhism that promised people salvation in this present birth, as opposed to the more conservative Buddhism which gained prominence among urban followers in the latter part of the 19th century.

Bana shalawa or Prayer Hall of the main Temple of Amarapura Nikaya, at Balapitiya.  Most likely a church originally.   Quite a few Buddhist Temples down south that have Church buildings (eg. Dodanduwa/Kumarakanda Temple  and Shailabimbaramaya Temple, Dodanduwa; note Unicorns)

.

Visit ancient temples at Kataluwa, Totagamuwa and Balapitiya

 

An Interview on Bangladesh Street Protests

I think this short interview about Bangladesh Street protests pretty much sums up what is going on in Bangladesh. The interview led to predictable and dire consequences for the person foolish enough to speak his mind about Bangladesh to the foreign media while living within Bangladesh! I am posting the transcript of the interview and then posting the video.

Q: These protests were sparked by two teens who were killed in a road accident but is this all about road safety or is there something larger going on?

A: Very much larger. This has been going on for a very very long time. It is an unelected government so they do not really have a mandate to rule, But they have been clinging on by brute force. The looting of banks, the gagging of the media. You mentioned just now the mobile internet is currently switched off, the extra-judicial killings, the disappearances, the need to give protection money at all levels, bribery at all levels, corruption in education. It is a never ending list. It has been huge.

So it really it is that pent up energy, emotion, anger, that has been let lose. This particular incident, sad as it is, really is the valve that has allowed things to go through. Very recently there was another very big protest about the quota because the quota system is rigged in such a way that only people close to the party in power get to get government jobs and there is a disproportionate amount of jobs going to them so ordinary people protested. And that was very brutally brought down.

Under pressure the prime minister offered reforms but them reneged on them. So that is also part of the reason. So this time when students did go on protests, again it went to a situation where they could not control it and the Prime minister has promised that she will cede to their demands, but of course people no longer believe. She has no credibility. She has made promises before, it has not been accepted, so now they don’t do it.

But I think what we need is to look at is what is happening in the streets today. The police specifically asked for help from these armed goons to combat unarmed students demanding safe roads. I mean now ridiculous is that. Today I was in the street and there are people with machetes in their hands chasing unarmed students and the police are standing by watching it happen. In some cases they are actually helping it out. I mean …. this morning, there was tear-gassing and I saw the police ganging up trying to catch these un-armed students, whereas these armed goons, are going out, wielding sticks and machetes, are walking past and they [the police] are just standing by.

Q: So where do you think these things are going to go from here? These protests appear to have spread across the country quite spontaneously and without any kind of central leadership here. This is part of the challenge the government is dealing with, in that it is so grass-roots in the way that it has spread.

A: I think the Government has miscalculated. It certainly felt that fear was enough, repression would have been enough, but I think you cannot tame an entire nation in this manner. And of course they are approaching elections, so the nearer it gets to elections, the more sensitive they are. They know that if there is a fair and free election, they will lose. But they haven’t got an exit plan as they have misruled for so long so that if they do lose, they will be torn apart. So they have to hang on by any means, so that is exactly what they are doing. They are clinging on using the entire might of the system plus the armed goons at their disposal.

 

Short Thoughts –

White people are not gods, they bleed: Razib makes important points about class and race.

In contrast, even South Asians who grow up poor in the United States, usually have an ancestral class background which is somewhat elite. While black Americans and South Asians may share common physical features as dark-skinned people of color, most black Americans descend from slaves, while most South Asian Americans are more likely to either be the scions of a genuinely elite family or a prosperous lineage from a rural backwater. If you buy Greg Clark’s argument in The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility, then you know that he makes the case that social status is highly heritable when you look across many generations, as opposed to focusing on single generation correlations.

The Universal Law that differentiates an Immigrant from an Expat. An Immigrant goes one social class lower when moving to a new country and an Expat goes one social class higher upon moving to a new country.

So an office worker in the US will be an office manager in Uganda. An office manager from South Asia won’t hold the same position upon emigrating to the US because the cultural adjustment will have to take place (unless it’s Facebook or Googles which is essentially Indian).

At BP our world is very narrowed back to the Desh but Diaspora issues are extraordinarily important. Race intersects with class and the non-Muslim Asian minority is rapidly ascending the ranks. Even among the Muslims one can distinguish certain sub-ethnicites (Mirpuri, Sylethi) as being the more backward variants.

As a final thought privilege can have a deadening effect on the soul. When I contrast myself to my white friends of a similar background; I notice the speed, grit and alacrity which I have is a gift of my immigrant background. The 9-5 paradigm and pub after work paradigm simply does not apply to my life and that’s a big asset. I’m constantly “on” all the time as opposed to alot of my white friends who seem addicted to leisure..

Mind you I don’t know if it’s a good thing that I don’t have an off button.

Other Links: Continue reading “Short Thoughts –”

The Story Of A Tamil Boy’s Revenge

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-story-of-a-tamil-boys-revenge/

Excerpt

Crinkle-Bottom gives him a few coins which Kanthan receives with both hands outstretched and a bow at about 45 degrees to the direction of gravity.

“Did you see what happened there putha (son)?” the father said to young Thevaram. “Uncle is a rice trader. Rice is the staple food around here. Uncle sets the price of rice. He is also higher in the hierarchy of clusters in our society. So he sets the price of fish also!

“What would happen if there is a hotel here? Kanthan will sell his fish to the hotel at a higher price, wouldn’t he? And uncle Crinkle will lose the economic power he wields over Kanthan. So, he needs the social hierarchy, he needs the God, he need the rituals of the God having a bath once a year, this place has to be declared sacred and the hotel project blocked.”

Such social clustering and hierarchy carries to this day, we ought to note with a sense of shame. It was reported a couple of months ago, in a village neighbouring Couragenagar, when there weren’t enough young people of one cluster to take God to his bath, instead of letting those from other clusters to participate, temple management hired a JCB earthmover!

[ God being taken for a ride: photograph via newjaffna.com ]