Review: The House of Government

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yuri Slezkine is a Russian-American historian (he is also technically Portuguese-American, since he first emigrated from Russia to Portugal and then came to the US with a Portuguese passport) who has written a number of interesting books, and “The House of Government; a Saga of the Russian Revolution” is his latest and greatest offering.  At over 1000 pages, it is not a lightweight book, literally or metaphorically. What he does is follow the lives of a large number of Bolshevik revolutionaries, from their origins as young rebels (they were almost all very young; very few were over 40 when they took over the largest country in the world) to the heady days of the Bolshevik revolution, to the civil war that followed, the first compromise (the NEP), the second and more serious attempt at “true communism” (the five year plan), the terrible violence and suffering of collectivization,  the victory of communism under Stalin, the insane purge and auto-annihilation that followed that victory, the second world war, the desiccation and death of revolutionary ideology, and, perhaps most strikingly, the coming of age of the next generation without any sincere transfer of the purported official ideology, leading to the final, inevitable collapse of the entire experiment.

Continue reading “Review: The House of Government”

Why do nonmulims mistreat muslims so much?

Can Islam still be Islam without misogyny & armed Jihad? – Discussion with Tarek Fatah

Perhaps the reason that nonmuslims mistreat muslims so much is because the vast majority of nonmuslims (and for that matter many muslims) don’t understand Islam or muslims. If carefully watching this video many times was a requirement for every nonmuslim in the world; and if nonmuslims were required to write articles on it to demonstrate their understanding; would this help nonmuslims treat muslims better? I think yes. What does everyone else think?

 

This video is funny like heck. Tarek Fatah should do stand up comedy. It is hard to watch this video without laughing hysterically for large chunks of it. One funny part is when Tarek Fatah said that Mohammed, may peace be upon him, was confused when he said muslims should not make friends with Jews and Christians because they are friends with each other. Didn’t Mohammed, may peace be upon him, know that Christians hated Jews?

 

Tarek Fatah would like for substantially reorganized Korans to be published. However he says that South Asian scholarship is not respected.

 

One important take away is how spot on similar older cultured educated Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are too each other.  Tarek Fatah could easily be a Deshi Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Sikh or Jain and talk the exact same way. When I was a young child, this was much more obvious than it is now. I hope that future generations don’t forget this.

 

Note, the post was heavily edited with feedback from Kabir. Thanks Kabir 🙂

Book Review: The RigVeda

How many fires are there, how many suns?

How many dawns? How many waters?

I ask this, O fathers, not to challenge.

O Sages, I ask it to know

(RigVeda Book 10, hymn 88)

Full Disclosure: I have not actually read the entire RigVeda; all I did was read multiple hymns in each of the 10 books of the RigVeda. The hymns are (as expected) very repetitive, but they do give you a picture of the culture of the Indo-Europeans who came to India around 1800 BC (or so we believe these days, this may be adjusted as ancient DNA from Indian sites yields its secrets). It is a window (and probably the most complete and most ancient window we have) into the Indo-European world that played such a huge role in the creation of the present cultures of much of Eurasia, from Western Europe to India (and beyond). The book is thus a window into our own “heroic age”, so to speak and should be of interest to all, above and beyond their obvious status as shruti (heard, i.e. revealed, as opposed to composed by latter day humans) holy books in Hinduism.

The translation I read is by Indologist Ralph Griffith, who lived most of his life in India (he was the pincipal of Benares college in the Hindu holy city of Benares) and is buried in South India (i.e. one of those Englishmen who came to India and fell in love, or like JBS Haldane, fell in love and came to India). A more recent and scholarly translation is now available but is very expensive. This one is free and available in its entirety at this site:  (http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/index.htm)

In the original Sanskrit, the hymns are arranged in stanzas and follow particular rules of rhyme and meter (hear a sample at the end of this review). They are meant to be memorized (with extreme fidelity to the text and its correct pronunciation) and then sung/recited (as they still are), in religious ceremonies and sacrifices to the Gods.  In this sense, my use of them as a “window into the heroic age” has little to do with their use and status in Hinduism. But then, I am not a Hindu (unless we are following Savarkar’s definition, in which case I guess I am a little bit Hindu too). Anyhow, on with the review. Continue reading “Book Review: The RigVeda”

East Pakistan 1971

This topic comes up every year in December (for obvious reasons) and this year Dawn has published an unusually good summary of events (from a liberal/progressive/reasonable Pakistani POV) and Ahsan Butt has an excellent article about the thinking behind the genocide. You can read these, or read one of the many good books written about the events leading up to the Pakistan army’s surrender in East Pakistan. I have something of a personal interest in this subject (my father and two uncles served in various capacities in East Pakistan in 1971).  In this post, I just want to share my personal opinion about a few aspects of this story. This will likely upset many people, both in Pakistan AND Bangladesh, but my aim is not to upset people, just to get as close to the truth as possible. So here goes..

How many people were killed in East Pakistan and who killed them?

This question gets debated every year; Bangladesh says 3 million Bengalis were killed by the Pakistani army in one of the great genocides of the 20th century. Pakistani nationalists either deny the killings altogether, or insist that “only a few thousand” were killed (which is pretty awful in itself, when you think about it) and that shit happens in civil wars, everyone should move on. In addition, Pakistanis also blame the Bengalis in turn for two separate rounds of killings. The first one in March 1971 when Bengali mobs are accused of killing West Pakistani civilians and Biharis during the civil disobedience phase of events and a second (and bigger) round of killings that took place after the Pakistani army surrendered, when the Mukti Bahini and Bengali mobs took revenge against collaborators and against the Bihari community in general.  

The army’s refusal to call a national assembly session after the Awami League had won the elections led to province wide and near-total civil disobedience in early March 1971; civil disobedience was so complete that the military leadership was unable to find a Bengali judge willing to administer the oath of office to their new governor; banks, post offices, civil administration, everything ground to a complete halt; cantonments were running short of food because no one would sell it to them. The Biharis were Indian immigrants (mostly, not exclusively, from the state of Bihar; they were Urdu speaking, generally leaned Islamist, and supported the army during its crackdown against the Bengalis; many of them joined special “Razakar” (volunteer) groups that fought alongside the Pakistani army and served as their eyes and ears. Many of their members also took the opportunity to settle personal scores and grab Bengali (especially Hindu Bengali) property. Biharis also played a disproportionate role in  two paramilitary organizations set up by the Islamist Jamat Islami party (Al Shams and Al Badar) whose members did much the same as the razakars, but with far greater enthusiasm and ideological commitment. Incidentally, both the razakars and  AlShams and Albadar did have Bengali members, though this is now underplayed in Bangladeshi historiography.  The Jamat e Islami related groups (Alshams and Albadar) are also the prime suspects in a major crime that occurred on the eve of surrender, when many leading Bengali nationalist and progressive intellectuals in Dhaka were mysteriously picked up and killed, most likely as a heinous and calculated attempt to “decapitate” the new state whose independence seemed to be imminent.

So who is telling the truth? No one will ever know with total certainty because the opportunity to systematically examine these events, interview survivors, collect records and produce statistics was lost in the chaos that followed the independence of Bangladesh. What follows is my personal opinion, based on all that I have read and heard: Continue reading “East Pakistan 1971”

Why nonmuslims treat muslims so badly?

Hi, this is anan. Omar invited me to post at Brown Pundits. I am deeply honoured [Queens English spelling versus US spelling] to participate in this community, which I have read since its inception. If it is okay with all of you, I would like to write a series of articles on why nonmuslims treat muslims so badly. Please watch this video on how the UK mistreats UK muslims:

UK statistics on honor crimes are from the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service]:

  • “honour” based violence includes forced marriage and FGM reported to the police
  • However, despite the rise in reporting, the volume of cases referred to the CPS for a charging decision is the lowest it has been for five years.
  • The number of “honour” crimes reported to the police increased from 3,335 in 2014 to 5,595 in 2015 – a rise of 68%, according to data collected by the charity from every police force in the country.
  • The number of reports dropped slightly to 5,105 in 2016.
  • However, the latest figures published by the CPS show only 256 “honour” crimes were referred to the organisation by police in 2016/17 – just 5% of the cases reported over a similar period.
  • The 256 referrals resulted in 215 prosecutions and a subsequent 122 convictions.
  • a man was to be charged for FGM, following an investigation by the Metropolitan police. If the prosecution is successful it would mean the first British conviction for FGM since the practice was outlawed in 1985.
  • Insp Allen Davis who leads Project Azure, the Met’s response to FGM, said: “These are hidden crimes and police data is never going to reflect the true scale of the problem. The data is really useful for shining a light on this complex area but it needs to be taken in context.
  • “For example, with FGM, we get a lot of reports where a child may be at risk but it doesn’t necessarily mean a crime has occurred. It will be counted as a police report but the response may involve obtaining a protection order.”

From other crime reports, honour [Queens English spelling versus American spelling] crimes against young muslim females are prosecuted at a much lower rate than other types of crime in the UK. I don’t understand why this is. Is it because of widespread bigotry, sectarianism and racism in UK society? A sense that young female UK muslims “deserve it”? What am I missing?

I think society should bend over backwards to be respectful of muslim culture and religion. For example, if a patriotic UK muslim family wants to nonviolently punish their minor daughter for what they see as inappropriate conduct; they have the right to do so. Any UK muslim family can ask their relative who is 18 or older to leave their house and excommunicate her. What is illegal is to use violence. What is wrong is not to give young UK muslim females the same legal protection and help that non muslim UK females get. What is wrong is to treat muslims worse and differently than nonmuslims.

I believe that when nonmuslims fail to protect muslims from Islamists, this hurts not just muslims, but all nonmuslims too. This makes muslims afraid of Islamists and resentful of unequal treatment by nonmuslims. Which in turn ends freedom of speech for muslims and kills dialogue with Islamists, since muslims are afraid that they won’t be protected from Islamist violence. I believe that dialogue with extremists is the only way to ameliorate Islamism. For dialogue to happen, those who engage in dialogue need to be protected. And that starts by protecting vulnerable young muslim females from “honour” [Queens English spelling versus American spelling] violence. Muslim families and communities have the right to engage in “honour” social ostracization, but don’t have the legal right to engage in “honour” violence.

To be clear FGM is a complex issue. I don’t think that male circumcision should be banned, and perhaps that logic might apply to some very light forms of FGM to accommodate muslim culture. But most FGM is far more dangerous and intrusive than male circumcision. Global society needs an open and honest discussion about FGM and what to do about it; including banning very dangerous types of FGM.

The UK isn’t the only country that mistreats her muslims. The same is true for many other countries around the world, which might be the subject of future articles.

My views on this and most other things are not set in stone and I am open to changing them based on new information. Please let me know the many things I am missing or misunderstanding.

Thanks again for letting me be a part of the Brown Pundit community.

Turkish Turbulence – Shock Therapy for Turkish Armed Forces

 

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain

“A tree won’t fall with a single blow”. Turkish proverb

A failed coup attempt by some members of Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) in July 2016 made international headlines for few days. The news quickly faded away and firm clamp down and a purge inside Turkey prevented any detailed information about the dramatic changes in Turkish Armed Forces in the last two decades.

Events of July 2016 were the final phase of the demise of the first republic established by the country’s founder Kamal Ataturk and emergence of second republic. Turkish Armed Forces assigned themselves the role of guardian of the republic and were a dominant force for almost a century. TAF directly intervened several times while at other times removed civilian governments by orchestrating events behind the scene if they perceived any deviation from the Kamalist secular vision. Turkish Armed Forces have finally met their tragic end and moved out of the power center. Continue reading “Turkish Turbulence – Shock Therapy for Turkish Armed Forces”

Disaffection of Kashmiri Muslims

At the outset I must say that I am a Kashmiri Pandit, born in the 80s in Srinagar and my family (and I) were forced to migrate from the Valley in the early 90s. I have summarized my experience on brownpundits earlier. In this third of a series, I’d like to analyse the reason why Kashmiri Muslims were, and significant sections of Muslims still remain, disaffected with India. [Please note that what you’re going to read is my opinion, which may contain some bias in spite of my best efforts to correct it. Much as I try to remain objective about Kashmir’s politics generally, it is not humanly possible to isolate my thoughts from my experience.]

Continue reading “Disaffection of Kashmiri Muslims”

Religion trumps race in Sri Lanka


Monk-led mob attacks Rohingya refugees in Sri Lanka:

“These are Rohingya terrorists who killed Buddhist monks in Myanmar,” the monk said in his live commentary on Facebook, pointing to Rohingya mothers with small children in their arms.

Sri Lanka’s extremist Buddhist monks have close links with their ultra-nationalist counterparts in Myanmar. Both have been accused of orchestrating violence against minority Muslims in the two countries.

South Asians understand that the power of religion as opposed to race more than most people. The craven and obsequious respect granted to Arabs (and to a lesser extent Iranians and Turks) by South Asian Muslims is so natural and taken-for-granted that it only seems that way to outsiders. Despite the fact that Muslims and Hindus of any given region are clearly related by blood (in some cases, whole portions of castes convert in toto), they often speak as if they are racially distinct. Muslims somewhat sincerely, but affirming obviously false West Asian Asian, and Hindus more performatively, by asserting that India is for the Hindu race, from which Muslims are excluded.

The above story is a different dimension: the identification of Sri Lankan Buddhism monks with the Buddhist Burmese against the Rohingya. There is some historical background to this, as both the Sinhala and Burmese are predominantly Theravada Buddhist peoples. During periods of Buddhist decline in Sri Lanka lineages were reinforced form Burma, and vice versa.

The Rohingya, as I have stated, are racially really no different from the people of Bengal. And like Bengalis the Sinhala are a dark-skinned South Asian people (there are still debates as to whether the Indo-European language in Sri Lanka came from Gujarat or Bengal). The Sri Lankans I’ve met could easily pass as Bengali, and in general vice versa.

It’s an interesting observation from an American perspective, where race is the most salient factor in social-political identification. At least explicitly.

When all you have is postcolonial theory everything is about the white man

Recently I read a piece, Confronting White Supremacy in Christianity as a Christian South Asian, which is interesting from an anthropological perspective. After all, I don’t know what it’s like to be a progressive South Asian Christian, which is the perspective of this author. But as I read the piece I felt that it elided and conflated so much. A much deeper and richer story was being erased so as to serve up another illustration of the primacy of white supremacy.

If you read From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East you know that how white American Christians treat non-white Christians can be rather ridiculous. One of the stories I recall is of an Arab Christian waiter in Jerusalem who wore a cross, and was very irritated with white Americans with strong Southern accents would inquire when he had converted to Christ. This person of course privately scoffed, and reflected that when his ancestors had been Christians for centuries his customer’s ancestors were still worshipping pagan gods.

Here is a passage from the above piece which I think really confuses:

Christianity in India highlights a violent history of white supremacy through colonization and mass conversion by Europeans including, the Portuguese, Irish, Dutch, Italian, French, and English many of whom hold cultural influence that has remained to this day in places like Kerala, Pondicherry, and Goa. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference in the diaspora. For instance, my family converted to Christianity while living under the Apartheid regime in South Africa, an entire system of white supremacy supported by ‘Christian’ values.

The writer is a young Canadian woman whose family is from South Africa of Indian heritage. Additionally, though she never is explicit about it, her family seems to be evangelical Protestant. This is an interesting perspective, but it is a totally different one from that of South Asian Christianity.

Bracketing Kerala with Pondicherry and Goa is simply misleading. Christians are nearly 20% of the population of Kerala, and most are St. Thomas Christians, whose origins predate European contact with India by many centuries. Originally part of the territory of the Persian Church of the East, modern St. Thomas Christians have splintered into numerous groups with varied affiliations, in part due to the trauma of contact with Portuguese Catholicism. But through it all they maintain an indigenous Christian identity which is distinct from any colonial imprint.

Second, large numbers of India’s Christians are converts from Dalit populations, or, tribal peoples in the Northeast who are racially and culturally distinct from other South Asians. The framing in the piece is that South Asian Christianity has to bear the cross of colonialism, but a good argument can be made that for Dalit converts and tribal groups in the Northeast Christianity is the vehicle for resistance to oppression, assimilation, and colonialism on the part of the dominant South Asian cultural matrix.

This is not to say that the piece does not speak to a real dynamic. North American white evangelical Protestantism is inordinately freighted with racialized baggage. And it is easy to reduce into the Manichaean framework of postcolonial theory, where whites are the sole agents of action in the world. But to the generality, Indian Christianity has many disparate threads, and this sort of reduction is misleading.