For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?

I got these via an email from an author who apparently wishes to remain anonymous. Since any post about partition gets a lively debate going, I though I would put these up (again, I did not write these points, I am just the messenger ūüôā ):

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Intellectual Dark Web

I would define the “intellectual dark web” as the confluence and convergence of leaders from classical European enlightenment, hard sciences, technology (including neuroscience, bio-engineering, genetics, artificial intelligence),¬†and east philosophy streams. Among the intellectual dark web’s many members are¬†Dr. Richard Haier, Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Ben Shapiro, Weinstein brothers, Sam Harris, Glenn Loury, John McWhorter,¬†Yuval Noah Harari, Thomas Friedman, Maajid Nawaz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku¬†, Dr. VS Ramachandran, Steven Pinker, Armin Navabi,¬†Ali Rizvi, Farhan Qureshi, Peter Beinart, Gad Saad, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Russell Brand.¬†¬†If Steve Jobs were still alive, I would include him among them. They defy easy labels and are high on openness. I hesitate to label others without their permission, but our very own Razib Khan strikes me as a potential leader of the “intellectual dark web”; although I will withdraw this nomination if he wishes. ūüėČ

Some see the intellectual dark web as the primary global resistance to post modernism. I don’t agree. Rather I see them as ideation and intuition leaders thinking different:

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India as the hydra against Islam

In some versions of the legend of the Hydra, every time you cut off one of the heads of the monster two more grow in its place.

I have been thinking about why and how India remained predominantly non-Muslim despite most of the subcontinent being under Muslim ruling for 500 years (dating from 1250 to 1750 approximately). The contrast here would be most stark with Iran and Turan. While the zone of the Islamic Empire between Mesopotamia and the Maghreb was dominated by a Christian populace which spoke an Afro-Asiatic language, Iran and Turan retained their language and their cultural distinctiveness, as evidenced in the nationalism clear in the Shahnameh.

There was a comment on this weblog that implied India was unique because of violent resistance to Islamicization. This is patently false. To give a concrete example, the region of Tabaristan in northern Iran was dominated by warlords and dynasties which adhered to the Zoroastrian region until the 9th century, 200 years after the Arab defeat of the Sassanians. Despite the inroads of Islam in the 9th century, after more thorough integration into the Abbassid Caliphate, Tabaristan was still throwing up Zoroastrian anti-Muslim warlords into the 10th century.

But most attempts to infer the religious demographics of Iran, which are to a great extent guesswork, suggest that it was in the 10th century the region became majority Muslim. One indication of this that this is so is that this period correlates with a more muscular and resurgent Iranian high culture and reemergence of political non-Arab political power. As Zoroastrianism was no longer seen as a threat to Islam, Persian cultural identity could reassert itself without a non-Islamic connotation (there is in the 10th century a shift away from ostentatiously Arab names by Persian Muslim elites).

Basically, it seems that it took about 300 years for Iran to become majority Muslim. I’ve seen similar numbers for Egypt and the Maghreb, though in the latter region indigenous Christianity became extinct by the medieval period.

There are two related issues that I want to suggest for South Asia: scale and complexity. Though the Indian subcontinent is geographically smaller than the Arab Caliphates as their height on paper, the reality is much of the Near  East and North Africa are empty of people. Islamic rule really consisted of a string of cities and fortifications interlaced over broad swaths of the territory occupied by pastoralists, as well as a few regions of dense cultivation.

Iran, Turkey, and the Arab world consist of between 400 and 500 million people. The Indian subcontinent has 1.7 billion people. The population in the past may have been different, but I think it gives one a rough sense of the differences in magnitude over the long-term.

Second, the social complexity of South Asia is astounding. I say this as a geneticist: the differences between different castes in the same region are hard to believe. Though there is a great deal of ethno-religious diversity in the Middle East, they are not surprising. Arabs engage in a consanguinity. Ethno-religious minorities such as Copts or Assyrians have less cosmopolitan ancestry than their Muslim neighbors. This is all to be expected.

In contrast, any analysis of ethnic “Telugus” has to take into account local structure because it is so extreme. Dalits are different from middle castes are different from Brahmins. Some of this is due to genetic drift, but much of it is due to continental-scale differences in genetic admixture.

The genetic differences tell us something us deep about the nature of South Asian social relations. Defection to Islam occurred on the individual scale, but generally, quantity could only be had by mass conversions. Even when groups of people of the same community are of different religions it was probably through mass conversion of particular subsegments.

Which brings me to Bengalis. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier was written many years ago, and I read it long before I ever knew much about the genetics of South Asians. In it the author explains that the dominance of Islam on the eastern march of Bengal was due to the fact that it was a frontier society that emerged during the period of Islamic rule. Meanwhile, western Bengal was a culture which was in a stationary state.

The ability of Islam to penetrate into the Bengali-speaking peasantry was due to its fluid and unordered character. In contrast in western Bengal, a more traditional South Asiab society with well-delineated caste boundaries had already crystallized by the time of the Muslim conquest.

So here’s the thing that genetics adds: the topology of genetic variation of Bangladeshis is totally different than what you see in other South Asians. There’s very little structure. Basically aside from a few half-Brahmins and a small community of Dalits, the 1000 Genomes sample from Bangladesh shows none of the genetic variation partitioned by the community you see in most Indian samples. Or, that you see in the Indian Telugus, Gujuratis and Pakistani Punjabis (the Tamils from Sri Lanka are somewhat less structured, but still have more than the Bangladeshis).

To me, this confirms the thesis of¬†The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier. As a frontier society, eastern Bengal was mixed in a way where the structure socially and genetically that was the norm in most of South Asia by the time the Muslims arrived simply wasn’t present. Without the powerful collective substructure, Islam was able to swallow up the rural society¬†in toto. Perhaps the best analogy might be to Indian communities in Trinidad, where caste has mostly disappeared, and Christianity has made extensive inroads.

So why didn’t India become Muslim? What is this “India”¬†of which you speak?

Note: I moderate comments, please don’t stupid spam me.

1900’s: Betrayal and change in China’s Perception of the West

To China: a few excerpts from a moonofalabama post.¬† Link is at bottom of post.¬† Short on words.¬† Read somewhere, Chinese appear to be rude and abrupt.¬† Apparently in China, it is rude to take up another’s time.¬† Once you know Chinese well they can be quite chatty. In Sri Lanka (and SA I assume) ask for direction, and they want have a long conversation on random stuff. Ahh, cultural differences.

I was under the impression the Chinese did not have westernized elite like South Asia (e.g Jinnah,Nehru, SWRDB). I had read about Sun Yat Sen, first President/Prime Minister and about his being kidnapped in the UK from one of my fathers book.¬† From the short article and little more digging, there was an Westernized Chinese elite.¬† However,¬† the west did not honor agreements (whats new) brokered by this Westernized Chinese elite.¬† I think as a result the influence of this Westernized Chinese elite was marginalized and repudiated.¬† Here are two examples of Westernized Chinese elite.¬† Wellington Koo, International law and diplomacy PhD (1912) from Columbia University. His wife Hui-Lan ‚ÄėJuliana‚Äô Oei (Madame Koo) apparently was one of the first ladies to indulge in civilian flying and drove her own motor car about London‚Ķa little grey two-seater Rolls Royce.

To the excerpts
99 years ago, on May 4th 1919, the original Tiananmen student protest broke out. The students protested the Allied Powers’ betrayal at Versailles: The German Shangdong colony was given to Japan instead of returning it to China. This despite China’s sending of 140,000 men to work on the Western front.

Germany took the port city of Qingdao (Tsingtao) on the Shangdong Peninsula where they brought over beer tech giving birth to Tsingtao Beer.

In 1890 Germany played a leading role in attacking the Chinese capital Beijing to suppress the Boxer Rebellion together with the 8 Nation Alliance of Britain, France, United States, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and Austria-Hungary.

As World War I wore on longer than anybody expected, the Allied Powers faced acute labor shortages. Britain came up with a scheme to recruit Chinese labors. But China was neutral so she had to be persuaded to join the war.  China wanted to have the German Shangdong colony returned. Entered U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson asked China to join the war and promised support for China to gain Shangdong back after Germany’s defeat.

While the young republican China sees Britain and France as ruthless Imperial Powers, it has an enormous regard for the U.S. which it hopes to model itself after. Top Chinese diplomat was the American educated Wellington Koo. Madam Koo, an international style icon, popularized Cheongsam/Qipao dresses.

China did as Wilson asked, entered the war against Germany and send 340,000 men to help with the Allied war effort. 140,000 went to the Western Front, 200,000 went to Russia. Chinese comprised the largest non-European labor force on the Allied side during World War I. On the Western front, the 140,000 Chinese labor were know as the Chinese Labour Corp. They dug trenches, worked in timber yards, build steamers, repair railroads. 6,000 were even sent to Iraq to work in Basra.

Unbeknownst to China, while China joined the war on the allied side at the U.S. urging, hoping to gain back Shangdong province, the U.S. and Japan signed the secret Lansing-Ishii Agreement in 1917 where they recognized each other‚Äôs special ‘interests’ in China. Japan‚Äôs interest is the German colony Qingdao. Fully believing Woodrow Wilson‚Äôs promise of self-determination, the top Chinese diplomat Wellington Koo, who won the Columbia-Cornell Debating Medal in his American school days, argued passionately for the return of the Shangdong Peninsula at the Paris Peace Conference.

The Soviets saw a chance to draw China away from the West and into their camp. They leaked details of the secret U.S.-Japan Lansing-Ishii agreement to Eugene Chen in Paris, who then leaked it to the Chinese press. Furious Chinese students took to street to protest at this betrayal especially by the U.S.

Japan then threaten to veto the League of Nations, which would not work without Japan, unless … the U.S. agreed to give Germany‚Äôs former Shangdong colony to Japan. Wilson dutifully complied and decide to honor the Lansing-Ishii agreement, selling the Chinese down the river.

Disillusioned with the West and seeking for an alternative political model leads some to look to the newly found Soviet Union. Two leading intellectuals of the May 4th movement, Li Dazhao (left) and Chen Duxiu(right), co-founded the Chinese Communist Party. While heading the Peking University library, Chinese Communist Party co-founder Li Dazhao would influence a young student working there. His name was Mao Zedong.

The Philippines Genocide: 3 million Filipinos Killed

I guess “Holocaust Deniers” all over the world.

Just the excerpts from the reports during the period (Spanish American War 1898).20 dead filipinos

General Bell himself, who said ‚Äúwe estimated that we killed one-sixth of the population of the main island of Luzon‚ÄĒsome 600,000 people.‚ÄĚ (There is another Bell, George who also fought in the Philippines ).¬† Also see Gore Vidals reply on comment questioning the numbers.

The Philadelphia Ledger November 1901 their Manila correspondent wrote “The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog…

‚ÄúOur soldiers have pumped salt water into men to make them talk, and have taken prisoners people who held up their hands and peacefully surrendered, and an hour later, without an atom of evidence to show that they were even insurrectos, stood them on a bridge and shot them down one by one, to drop into the water below and float down, as examples to those who found their bullet-loaded corpses.‚ÄĚ

Another Marine officer described his testimony.

‚ÄúThe major said that General Smith instructed him to kill and burn, and said that the more he killed and burned the better pleased he would be; that it was no time to take prisoners, and that he was to make Samar a howling wilderness. Major Waller asked General Smith to define the age limit for killing, and he replied ‚Äúeveryone over ten.‚ÄĚ


Mark Twain wrote

‚Äú‚ĶI have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the philippines. we have gone to conquer, not to redeem‚Ķ and so i am an anti-imperialist. i am opposed to having the [american] eagle put its talons on any other land.‚ÄĚ

On 15th of October 1900 Twain wrote the New York Times.

‚ÄúWe have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and orphans out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is the pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag. And so, by these providences of god ‚ÄĒ and the phrase is the government‚Äôs, not mine ‚ÄĒ we are a World Power.‚Ä̬†‚ÄĒ Mark Twain

¬†Please read the whole Post.¬† Interesting pictures.¬† Also President McKinley ‘s Christian reasons for the war.

The Philippines Genocide 3 million Filipinos Killed

Homoeroticism, Blasphemy, and Classical Muslim Society

The following stray thoughts on Islamicate homo-eroticism were penned by Irfan Muzammil on Twitter and I am posting them here for the sake of generating more discussion. My own “off the top of my head” comments are at the end in Italics.

A thread on homoeroticism, blasphemy, and classical Muslim society
By Irfan Muzammil 

In my class on Arabic literature today, we read an anecdote about one of the earliest and greatest of Arab poets, Abu Nuwas. Abu Nuwas lived during the height of Islamic civilization in the early Abbasid period, and rose to such esteem that he taught the sons of caliph Harun al-Rasheed. One of those sons al-Amin became the next caliph and Abu Nawas’ greatest patron. What’s most interesting is that his poetry is filled with eroticism of both homo and hetero kind, and with love for wine and for young boys. The anecdote we read was written by Abu Faraj, who was himself one of the descendants of Umayyad caliphs, and wrote one of the classics of Arab literature, Kitab al-Aghani (Book of Songs), a 20 volume collection of anecdotes on Arabs poets, singers, and¬†musicians.

One of his anecdotes on Abu Nuwas, which we read in class, is about Abu Nuwas seducing a young boy but the conversation between Abu Nuwas and the boy is entirely in Quranic verses. I was frankly shocked, and told my professor that I’d be killed or jailed for even¬† posting this, much less writing it out in a book or teaching it in a class. But according to the professor, who is an Arab himself and an expert in Arabic and Islamic studies, this anecdote has often been quoted even in religious texts as a great example of Arab literature.¬† And it was only in 2001 that the Egyptian Ministry of Culture burned 6000 copies of Abu Nuwas’ books. The amount of homo-eroticism in both classical Persian and Arabic poetry is just staggering.

By the way, yesterday in my class on early Islamicate societies, we saw the naked women painted on the palaces of Umayyad caliphs. I wonder if the classical Muslim civilization was far more liberal than the modern one -unless you were a slave, or a non-elite woman, or a young boy or girl. But it does trash all those silly theories of Iqbal and Sayyid Qutb etc. about the downfall of Muslim civilization because of its moral lassitude. We were far more liberal, at least in terms of sexual mores and wine drinking, when we were at our mightiest, and our downfall began as our society became more severe and intolerant.

(I would be cautious about interpreting this in terms of liberal (then) vs intolerant (now). Times were different all round. And the elites frequently lived lives that did not concern themselves with the moral standards regarded as ideal for commoners or spouted by priests and theologians. Augustus promoted strict Roman virtue without feeling too closely bound by its strictures in his own private life. The Catholic church had a slew of libertine popes without any discernible change in the morality the church was trying to teach their followers. Every Ummayad caliph except Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was supposedly an alcoholic. As were most of the Delhi Sultans and Mughal Kings, but the religious texts in their times all had the same prohibitions they have today. And last but not the least, classical Islam developed within the womb of the Arab empire, it was not present fully formed when that empire rose to power. There is much more interesting stuff to be said about this, but perhaps another day.. meanwhile, I expect commentators will add value)

Diaspora culture are often more conservative

Zach made a comment below about conservatism and Diaspora cultures. There are two trends one has to highlight here. One the one hand Diaspora cultures often exhibit synthesis with host cultures and can be quite novel and innovative.

But there is another trend which is a cultural universal: Diaspora cultures often exhibit archaism and crystallize old-fashioned norms and practices. To give a concrete example foot-binding persisted the longest, down to the 1970s, in the Chinese communities of Borneo. The French of Quebec is peculiar in part because it preserves characteristics of older French dialects. The same is true of some Anglo-American English dialects.

Beyond cultural parochialism

A major personal peeve of mine is that the past few centuries of Western colonialism have overshadowed so much that moderns are often unequipped to understand the vast tapestry of human historical and geographical diversity. If you are a modern Indian or Chinese or African person you know your own culture and its history…and its relationship to the modern West. This is a shadow of a bygone age which is down in its terminal stage.

Presuming that the audience of this weblog is mostly South Asian, here are some very broad surveys which I think the audience might find interesting:

The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian

China: A History

Africa: A Biography of the Continent

The Russian Moment in World History

Strange Parallels…Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800-1830

History of Japan

A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC

When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam’s Greatest Dynasty

The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788

If anyone can recommend a good survey of Latin American history, I’m game.

Shaheed Rani. Hasan Mujtaba’s Poem for Benazir Bhutto

The poet Hasan Mujtaba wrote a famous poem on the occasion of Benazir Bhutto’s martyrdom (December 27th 2007), and it is an absolute classic. I have translated it with his approval¬† (the full urdu text is here, and it also posted at the end of this post):

How many Bhuttos will you kill?

A Bhutto will emerge from every home!

This lament is heard in every home

These tears are seen in every town

These eyes stare in the trackless desert

This slogan echoes in every field of death

These stars scatter like a million stones

Flung by the moon that rises so bright tonight

How many Bhuttos will you kill?

A Bhutto will emerge from every home!

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