Paki Pundits

I’m responding to Kabir’s concerns that this blog is becoming far too Islam-focussed and not in a nice way.

I have been very busy so I’ve been following the threads quite lightly. Furthermore my perspectives are beginning to align online and offline (the advantage of blogging under your own name – difficult to troll).

So while I can appreciate why ethnic Pakistanis such as Kabir & myself may constantly refer back to Pakistan as a reference point, it’s becoming a bit obsessive on this blog.

If the whole point of Brown Pundits is for some commentators to bash Pakistan & Islam then that calls for introspection.

While there can be a healthy debate on whether the Islamic conquests, Partition and Islam are positive or negative influences on South Asia; the contention that Islam is the source of all misery is simply bunk.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka are probably the least Muslim regions in the Subcontinent since Islam was brought there by traders rather than conquerors. One could argue that it has much higher HDI than the rest of South Asia (Kerala & SL) but it hasn’t been all that more peaceful (Tamil politics in both countries has been turbulent).

One could of course counterclaim that the modern day polity of India was sullied by long periods of medieval Muslim rule. However Indonesia, Malaysia and even Turkey provide examples of very vigorous & even forward-thinking Muslim polities.

I’m not giving Islam or Muslims a clean chit but to dwell on them excessively, especially when one is not of the culture, smacks of Islamophobia. We have had some interesting discussions on Sri Lanka, caste politics, voting in Gorakhpur and other myriad topics however if the commentariat wants to obsessively continue to discuss Pakistan & Islam then let’s rename this blog to Paki Pundits so that we have a very clear focus..

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55 Replies to “Paki Pundits”

    1. “cultural Muslims”
      Kabir, most of the people who comment on brown pundits already know this. What is the point of preaching to them? What is the point of preaching to the choir?

      If you want to improve the world; to make things better; then reach out to those who don’t know. Let them feel safe to share their own thoughts and misinformations–usually lodged deep in their inner recesses.

      What is the point of only having dialogue with good people? Isn’t the point of dialogue to have it with extremists, with bad people? Aren’t the bad people human? Do they not have hearts? Can their hearts not melt too? Has any purely bad person ever been born? Didn’t Anne Frank say that everyone was at least partly good?

      Avoiding dialogue is the same thing that I don’t understand about interfaith dialogue. There is no point and value to having interfaith dialogue with reasonable muslims. The only point of interfaith dialogue is for it to be between all faiths (including reasonable muslims) and islamist muslims.

      In the same way we need loving respectful dialogue with fascists, nazis, racists, bigots, sectarians (of the non Islamist kind), ethnic nationalists of all types, communists, post modernists. How else can the world be made better?

      If we stop discussing hard and uncomfortable subjects; then we risk turning into another Southern Poverty Law Center:
      https://www.splcenter.org/20161025/journalists-manual-field-guide-anti-muslim-extremists#nawaz
      Note the designation of Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as Islamaphobes in a de facto assassination hit list for Al Qaeda and Daesh.
      https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/charles-murray
      Charles Murray is respected by economists and the attack against him has deeply scared and seared the economics profession. In the economics professions there are now many taboo subjects that economists want to research but are too afraid to. To the point that economists avoid studying solutions to poverty and long term underemployment–for fear of ending up on an SPLC hate list.

      If Brown Pundit becomes another Southern Poverty Law Center; won’t we become part of the problem?

      Let all the dark ones came. And let the darkness turn into light. Love heals all. Let us be free.

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      1. Charles Murray is the “Bell curve” guy? His work is deeply racist. I don’t think university students should shout him down. He should be allowed to speak. But his work is deeply racist, that cannot be denied. The so-called “Conservatives” in the US are deeply deeply racist. Our current president just proves this point.

        The point about “cultural Muslims” was that even those of us who may not be particularly religious still identify with our culture. It’s hard to separate Islamic culture from the religion itself. Therefore nasty remarks about Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) hurt “nominal”, “liberal” Muslims as well (not a fan of the word “liberal” for various reasons).

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      2. Kabir, when people call Charles Murray racist it sends chills of the deepest possible fear down the spines of economists, econometricians, statisticians, mathemeticians and geneticists.

        Charles Murray was doing econometric analysis to prove the opposite point that his research found. He kept running statistical analysis again and again until the data was irrefutable. This caused Murray–who had been a libertarian–to change his mind on policy. He now favors a large universal basic income allowance given to all human beings and has come out strongly against people who call poor people and lower middle class people “lazy” . . . the pull yourself up from your boot strap crowd.

        I don’t know any economists who deny his findings in private. Charles Murray to my knowledge never argued that IQ was mostly genetic. In fact he hopes that it is as environmental as possible because the prospects of it being mostly genetic are too scary for him to contemplate.

        I have thought of posting a series of articles about this topic. Would you be interested to read them?

        Most of Murray’s work is now widely accepted in the academy. For example on the basis of decades of data it is now widely accepted that high IQ individuals on average have:
        -10% divorce rates
        -10% out of wedlock birth rates for their children
        -much, much higher academic performance
        -much higher wealth and income outcomes over their lives
        -very low rates of committing crimes or being incarcerated

        IQ is now accepted by economists as being correlated with much of global inequality.

        The part that remains controversial is that average IQ scores vary between groups of people vary. Most Asian ancestry people for example are deeply concerned that reported average Asian IQ scores are higher than reported average European ancestry IQ scores; and don’t want this data disseminated. [I have unproven theories on what might be driving the data but want to avoid this hot potato as much as possible.]

        Another issue of controversy is decades of date on the difference in average IQ scores between Latino Americans and African Americans (5 to 7 points). My belief is that a large part of this difference is because African Americans are afraid of getting beaten up and made fun of if they academically excel. This has to do with insidious policies to colonize the minds of slaves in the deep south in the early 1800s with inferiority complexes and a derision towards academically excellent free black Americans (in many states before the civil war educating free black Americans was illegal.) This colonization of the mind was continued in the 1900s by post modernism. This is why I blame non African Americans (Americans who are not black) for the beating up of nerds, geeks, coons, uncle toms, native agents, native informants, blacks “acting white”. I also blame post modernism for why black out of wedlock births and black divorce rates have risen from about 10% in 1900 to 76% now. I also blame post modernism for why 25% of all African American males spend much of their lives in prison (K-12 American schools now teach that there is no good or bad, no meta-narrative, no universalist norms, no values) versus a very small fraction of that number in 1960.

        If African Americans were free to academically perform well in school without getting beat up; I think academic performance between African Americans and Latino Americans would converge sharply. I also suspect that much of the 5-7 point average IQ gap would dissipate away. Although I can’t prove how much. My hope would be that most or all of it might dissipates.
        +++++++++++++++++++
        I also believe that IQ isn’t as static as the health profession believes and that people can increase their IQ materially. I think the world needs to debate the virtues of teaching people how to increase their own intelligence–teaching people to work smarter versus harder. If global IQs would rise; this would dramatically reduce global poverty, and dramatically improve global career and business outcomes. Eastern civilization and culture has long known techniques for doing this but kept them secret.

        I hope to write an article extensively citing Glenn Loury and John McWhorter on this topic. These are two of the greatest living academics in the world.
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        Kabir, many muslims regularly make “nasty remarks about Allah and the Prophet (pbuh)” from a certain point of view. Not from your point of view since you appear to be a moderate devout practicing Sunni; but from the point of view of Islamists (maybe 400 million or 1/4 of the world’s muslims are Islamists). This road is scary. Will hundreds of millions of muslims be declared Kuffer and Islamaphobes? I mean not by you personally but by Islamists? Muslims cannot be free to discuss Islam unless nonmuslims are too.

        This said my prayer to them would be to consider exercising this freedom in as respectful a way towards muslims as possible. But I don’t think they can or should be forced. Freedom means the freedom to be disrespectful.

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        1. I will take your word re: Charles Murray and economists. I don’t know enough about economics to comment (though I took an econ course–hated it and my father happens to have an advanced degree in econ). But I think that linking IQ and race is problematic. IQ is measured through tests and those tests may be culturally biased. Black kids are treated differently in schools, their schools (generally inner city schools) aren’t given enough resources as compared to the nice suburban schools that rich white kids (and rich Asian-American kids) attend. The US also remains a deeply racist country, despite the fact that electing a half-black man as president was supposed to usher in a “post-racial” era. On these matters, I agree entirely with the political left.

          I would identify as a “cultural Muslim”. Why assume that I’m Sunni? The Sunni Shia thing didn’t matter in Pakistan when my parents got married. It only matters now because Saudi and Iran decided to have a proxy fight in Pakistan….

          “freedom means the freedom to be disrespectful”–there’s such a thing as hate speech. And when it comes to Islam, being “disrespectful” can get you killed. We all remember those French cartoonists (those cartoons were super obnoxious btw, but were not worth murder). More practically, in the country I live in, a mob can accuse you of blasphemy and take your life. So saying anything nasty about Islam is not something to be taken lightly….

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          1. 1) Please never agree with me to be nice to me or be polite. I really appreciate appreciate your candor and honesty in all things. I read and carefully consider what you and others write. Hopefully my views evolve over time.
            2)Charles Murray is well intentioned and in good faith. His econometric results are legitimate. However, I disagree with him on several of his interpretations of his data. So I am sure do you (if you took enough time to understand them) and many others. My point is that he is not a “hate” person or a “white nationalist”.
            3) “But I think that linking IQ and race is problematic” You mean the genetics of race? My that gives everyone the shivers. Geneticists too. Geneticists claim to be close to decoding the genes of intelligence. As they crack it . . . I am afraid to learn the truth. I am a coward. The entire genetics and neuroscience profession are scared as heck about what they are now learning. There is a war between post modernists (including from psychology) and (genetics+neuroscience) over what is now being learned.
            4) “IQ is measured through tests and those tests may be culturally biased” This is an extremely studied subject. I would say something analogous but not exactly the same. The problem is the very high correlation between IQ scores and life outcomes. Perhaps this means that life outcomes are highly correlated with cultural bias? Let us drop this issue for the moment. This is why I compared African Americans with Latino Americans; to minimize the difference accounted for by culturally bias, differences in how Black kids are treated in schools, school resources.
            4) I think data sets already do a good job accounting for the effect of school resources on IQ, academic performance and life outcomes.
            5) Currently about 45% of differences in life outcomes can be attributed to measured IQ
            6) Just over 10% of the difference in life outcomes can be determined by having two parent homes and single mother homes
            7) combined effect of school resources and teacher quality in life outcomes is about 10%.
            8) Academy went through a crisis in the late 1960s when they learned that school resources had little effect on IQ, academic performance and life outcomes.
            9) Personally I think teacher quality might be measured wrong and that teachers can have a larger effect. But I can’t back it up with data and my views are in the minority.
            10) I think every country is highly racist, America included. I know you disagree with me (and please keep your own council . . . I might be wrong), but I consider that racism to be post modernism, inferiority complex, bigotry of low expectations.
            11) My understanding is that only Sunnis recognize and accept the 6 Sunni Hadiths. Every other muslim sect has their own texts in lieu of the 6 Hadiths. The Sufis are in between. They agree to publicly respect the 6 Sunni Hadiths while de facto doing their own thing. I think the Sufis do this to avoid violence and being killed.
            12) liberal, nominal (I like this phrase as much as you do), secular, reform, agnostic, atheistic; and a large fraction of moderate Sunnis (who are not Sufi) also reject large parts of the 6 Hadiths.
            13) Only conservative Sunnis accept the full jurisprudence of the 6 Hadiths (you know about the strength of Hadiths etc.) through one of the four schools of theological jurisprudence.

            This is my understanding only and might be wrong.

            Like you I strongly condemn the Khamenei vs. Saudi war (which is being waged in every country on earth). Very bad for the world.

            Kabir, you are an intelligent guy. You can probably figure people out very quickly when you meet them or read a few of their comments. What I shared was my instant impression of you when I first read your comments last year.

            To be honest, I would rather there were real Islamists on this blog. Because then I could ask them questions and understand what they think and why. Islamists almost never offend me or cause an emotional response on my part.

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          2. If there were real Islamists on this blog, you would probably be dead. They don’t take very kindly to the asking of questions (Rushdie barely survived and he had police protection and the UK government behind him)

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          3. 1) I think we are going to fundamentally disagree about racism so let’s drop it. I come from a humanities background (Literature, Anthropology, Drama) and we all know that humanities departments are run by leftists (some would say “cultural Marxists”). You come from an econ background, where people tend to be much less left-wing (we would call them “neoliberal”). This is not to say that the humanities have not gone overboard in the ten years that I’ve been out of school. They definitely have. For what its worth, engineers and computer scientists tend to be even more right-wing than economists. This is a generalization, but there has been research done on it which I can’t bother to Google right this instant.

            2) The US was built on slavery and white supremacy. All Americans have to reckon with this, just as all Germans must atone for Nazism (this is a big part of socialization in Germany). Ta-Nehisi Coates has done some excellent work on this (though again I don’t agree with every word he says).

            3) As for conservative Sunnis vs. Shias, I know a lot of Shia, and trust me they are plenty conservative (some of them are in my extended family). I know a lot of Sunnis who barely practice their religion. It is true that Sunni Islam looks to Saudi,which is far more backward in many ways than Iran (which is what the Shia look to). But both Saudi and Iran are really screwed up countries and have really screwed up foreign policies. Let’s leave it at that.

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          4. Kabir: But both Saudi and Iran are really screwed up countries and have really screwed up foreign policies. Let’s leave it at that.

            I would like to put my money on Iran though, as it looks more democratic. Further, Iranians are much more complex (culture, politics, religion) as a people than the Saudis.

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          5. If you make me choose, I would choose Iran as well. Women are educated in Iran (I read somewhere that 50% of Iranian university students are women–not sure about the exact number). Further, Persians are very proud of their pre-islamic culture. They also happen to be really beautiful as a people (physically).

            But Iran’s foreign policy in Syria and Yemen is terrible. The Iran-Saudi struggle for control over the Persian Gulf (or Arabian Gulf as our Arab friends call it) is a major problem.

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  1. Obsession is in the eyes of the beholder.
    I see a lot of Pakistan-focused posts from one recent user 🙂

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  2. Omar – would love to have you write more (articles and comments) on subcontinental history, religion and politics

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  3. Kerala, Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka are probably the least Muslim regions in the Subcontinent since Islam was brought there by traders rather than conquerors. One could argue that it has much higher HDI than the rest of South Asia (Kerala & SL) but it hasn’t been all that more peaceful (Tamil politics in both countries has been turbulent).

    As you say Islamic conquerors did not make inroads into Sri Lanka. Maybe our society is more equitable because we dont subscribe to a morality that sanctions a hierarchical social structure.

    The Tamil politics were not bad as made out to be until outside actors intervened around 1977 and instigated a civil war.

    The recent (a couple of weeks ago) Muslim/Sinhalese violence in three towns (Kandy, Ampara, Gintota) was because of Ineffective/Unstable central govt

    The Muslim//Sinhalese violence is done by outsiders, not by neighbors or community. i.e. Political henchman from outside the community are brought in to create violence and mayhem for political purposes. As usual many conspiracy theories as who and why benefits from these violence.

    A question from other commenters.
    How many of you reside and are citizens of your native countries (know about Zachary). Are all these discussions merely academic and dont really affect your life.

    Given that I asked a personal question need to disclose my status.
    A Sri Lankan Citizen (no dual citizenship/residency elsewhere). 25 years in the US from 1988; Student Visas and 3 H1B visa)

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    1. I was born in Pakistan. Hold dual nationality. Currently living in Pakistan. Grew up in the US.

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        1. Like other elite Pakistanis who have foreign passports, I can always leave when things get too rough.
          But yes I have relatives living in Pakistan and I care very deeply for the country.

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  4. good point sbarkkum. Given your strong opinions on the Tamil/Sinhala equation, and India’s role (negative from your perspective) in Sri Lanka, would be helpful if you can declare your background/priors too. Indians/Pakistans can infer these based on an indvidual’s posts; we just don’t have the same familiarity with SriLankan dynamics to do the same with you.
    So would be great if you give indication of whether you are a Tamil or Sinhalese (Tamil I think), “Native” Tamil (as opposed to those that migrated over the last 100-200 years), Christian or Hindu, establishment or not (i.e. part of the SriLanka system) etc..Thanks.

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    1. Satya,
      I am 3/4ths Sri Lankan (Jaffna) Tamil, 1/8th Sinhalese and 1/8th Irish; a proper mutt.

      Maternal: Grandfather a Govt Surveyor married my grandmother of Sinhalese/Irish from the deep south, in the early 1900’s. They lived in the deep South, are generally considered Sinhalese and look Eurasian (common among upper class Sinhalese). They were Anglicans (Church of England), became Evangelical Christians (AOG) and built the first Evangelical church in the South.

      Paternal: Sri Lanka (Jaffna Tamil). Paternal ancestors converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule, went back to being Hindu and then became Methodists (and Anglicans) around 1850 (ggfather). They were Administrators and translators to the British, poets and writers in Tamil and English. Grandfathers sister was the first female Tamil novelist of modern times

      I was brought up as an Evangelical even attending Bible study till about the age of 13. Agnostic and later atheist.

      I studied in Sinhala, did a Bachelor in Chemistry and Physics in Sri Lanka. Then did Oceanography graduate stuff and research in the US.

      I am about 60 years old, no kids, widower. Sri Lankan citizen (no dual) and been back in SL since 2012. Live in small village near a National Park, run a very small budget guest house and try to do some agriculture that can survive the Elephants, monkeys and wild boar incursions.

      I am not really anonymous, a little digging and you can find my identity.

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  5. I saw a call for more “diverse” posters somewhere back in this blog. My family’s from Bihar and the whole Pakistan question has always interested me very little. I find the back and forth sniping on online forums annoying. I’m a U.S. citizen and grew up mostly in the West, but still feel very Indian.

    I’m very interested in Hindi belt regional languages/dialects, caste politics, old Indian history, love/hate relationship and inferiority complex with Westerners, relations with India’s often ignored neighbors like Nepal, genetics, and present day economic disparities between states. I’d be happy to contribute to such discussions.

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    1. Raj, could you write articles about your perspectives? I would be very interested in understanding more.

      Assume you don’t belong to Jharkand (which is one of my favorite places to visit).

      Do you enjoy visiting spiritual places? What are some of your favorite places in Bihar? For example I love Bodh Gaya and Gaya.

      What can you share about the muslim/non muslim relationship in Bihar. I haven’t visited the Sufi shrines in Bihar although I have heard about them. Understand that some Ashroff sing about Radha. Apparently many Chisti, Suhawardia and Qadri live in Bihar. Do many nonmuslims go to their Dargahs as is customary elsewhere? Do some of the Sufis go to spiritual places that are not predominantly muslim?

      As you can see I have many questions for you and look very much forward to learning from you.

      I hope to write a series on inferiority complexes and their connection to post modernism. Please see this video if you have the time:
      http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/03/11/post-modernism/

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      1. Yes, I will try to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.

        Bihar has two ancient claims to fame as the seat of power during ancient India and the birthplace of the Buddhist religion. Bodh Gaya is a very good place to visit and was fairly decent, safe even during the jungle Raj days of Lalu Yadav for benefit of all the foreign visitors that would come.

        I’m not going to claim Bihar is any religious relations utopia. I would imaging life for Muslims is like it is elsewhere in India. They are concentrated in the Northeastern third of the state (which is the farthest away from Patna and very flood prone, hence poor), though present in every town where they tend to live in their own neighborhoods. The state has been ruled chiefly by “Secular-Socialist” parties since 1990, which tend to crack down early on any perceived “communal” rumblings to keep the peace. There is also less of the vigilantism and government crackdown on leather and meat industries by cow protection groups as compared to UP. Compared to all states in Northern and Western India, there is much less religious polarization during election times, as Muslims are essentially regarded as another group like the Yadavs, or Rajputs, or Dusadhs voting as a block for their preferred leader in alliance with other groups hoping to get a share of the spoils (as compared to the cross caste lines Hindu polarization in other regions as mentioned above).

        But that’s how Bihar is. Despite being a very traditional place, fuedal and obsessed with caste identity, one thing that it isn’t is a particularly religious place. Though living standards are too low to afford mass meat consumption, vegetarianism itself is rare even among Brahmins. Religious festivities are celebrated in a more subdued manner as compared to elsewhere. Given the wealth and influence of Western India, however, some of this is changing with their more orthodox customs, obsession with vegetarianism now taking hold and changing the customs of many families.

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  6. Zach, I just wanted to remark that Kerala has quite a significant Muslim population, around 27%. With the Malabar region having Muslim plurality districts. Assam, was also largely outside the Mughal ambit, and has a Muslim population around 34 %, with quite a few outright majority districts. This is in contrast to northern states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan which have sub-10% muslim populations. Strictly speaking, Malabar is more muslim on average than Hindustan. That they seem less Muslim is another matter, and may have to do with the racial archetypes we associate with specific religions. If familiarity with Arabic is any measure of ‘muslimness’, then Malabaris will probably excel in that over Pakistanis as well.

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    1. girmit, I have heard many complain about Kerela’s intense political divisions, caste divisions, sectarian divisions. From a distance it appears worse than anywhere else in India.

      For example generally Christians and Hindus get along very well in India with many Christians participating in Hindu spirituality while remaining Christians and visa versa (many Hindus have spiritual experiences with Jesus and remain Hindu, albeit with Jesus as their Ishta Devata). Hindus, muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists love to go to elite christian educational institutions and get along famously well in said institutions. But then there is the case of Kerala–where this does not seem to be true.

      Kerela, I have been told, has the worst caste problems in India. Vivekananda famously complained about it has have many ever since.

      There are also tensions between muslims and nonmuslims.

      And finally there appears to be very mean spirited partisan politics.

      girmit, might you consider writing an article about what Kerala is like from your perspective?

      Thanks.

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      1. Kerala is the place where that girl converted to Islam and married a Muslim boy and her parents totally lost their shit to the point that this case landed up in front of India’s Supreme Court which had to actually decide whether a grown woman a) has the right to convert to the religion of her choice and b) is actually married to the guy that she says is her husband.

        Seems like a waste of the court’s time to me. Btw, they decided in her favor. She is very much Muslim and very much married, despite what her dad thinks. She also said her dad kept her locked up for 11 months. That’s one dysfunctional family right there.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadiya_court_case

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        1. Very sad story Kabir. Malayalis share many other bad stories too. I don’t understand why it is like that. And most of the tensions isn’t between muslims and nonmuslims.

          For example most Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist/Jain ashrams, temples and spiritual centers are full of Indian Christian visitors (who remain Christians since Sanathana Dharma isn’t into conversion). I have heard this might not be as true in Kerala.

          Kerala is the only state where I hear about severe caste problems; although they might also exist in other parts of India that I am unaware of.

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      2. Anan, I’m not from Kerala , although I’m close enough to have my opinions on their society. I’d be wary of whoever informed you on the social strife in that state, they might have insincere motivations. I would also say that the prosperity malayalis enjoy and the overall dignity of their surroundings are such that they will benefit greatly from not being influenced by the rest of us in India, they have too much to lose. Feel similarly about Sri lanka, that indeed they must have social problems, but what Indians think of them is sort of irrelevant, because they are problems of a different class, of a people who have solved many of the first order challenges of basic human dignity.

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        1. Girmit, kerela is economically prosperous. No doubt about it. India gets richer and richer with each visit.

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  7. Kerala, Tamil Nadu & Sri Lanka are probably the least Muslim regions in the Subcontinent since Islam was brought there by traders rather than conquerors. One could argue that it has much higher HDI than the rest of South Asia (Kerala & SL)

    Give this “poverty follows Islam” thing a rest, guys. First off, Kerala is quite a “Muslim region”, compared to UP/Bihar and parts of Central India, which are genuine c–pholes. Secondly, the country with the highest per capita income and HDI in South Asia is the Maldives, which is 95% Muslim. In South-East Asia, the richest or best managed/developed countries [excluding city-state Singapore] are Muslim-majority Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Even attempts to downplay the “oil wealth” of Gulf regions is a little overwrought. Venezuela, other parts of Latin America, Central & Southern Africa, and parts of Asia are teeming with natural resource wealth, and they haven’t turned it into nearly as big a money-spinner. If you go region by region, Muslim countries do not do too badly. Muslim majority Bangladesh and Pakistan do about as well as India in HDI stats [the former is poorer per capita whilst the latter is closer for now], whilst Hindu Nepal would be the laggard. And of course taking the wealthiest countries in Asia [excluding the East Asian countries which are somewhat outliers], many would be Muslim [although Islam is obviously somewhat over-represented geographically].

    This isn’t an argument for Islam, since I believe it DOES cause enormous development problems in the long run. But with the same degree of seriousness in adhering to the “faith”, so does Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. All religions will cause this kind of development bump. So Islam is not unusual here.

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    1. Mostly agree Butal Miah. But only with respect to countries with predominantly moderate muslims. For example:
      -Turkey
      -Malaysia
      -UAE
      -Morocco
      -Tunisia
      -maybe Jordan and Indonesia but more marginally so

      Conservative Islam isn’t good for economic development. And Islamism is catastrophic for economic development. The rise in Islamism in Bangladesh has been an economic disaster. Islamism has severely hurt Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, most of the middle east versus what they would otherwise be.

      I don’t agree with you that adhering to Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. This doesn’t retard economic growth in my opinion.

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      1. I don’t agree with you that adhering to Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. This doesn’t retard economic growth in my opinion.

        Depends on how you slice it, doesn’t it? Most people tend to think of the “West” [i.e. Europe and North America] when charting Christian countries. Never mind that most of these places are secular, majority non-religious and heavily atheist. They forget about poor African countries like DRC or places like Timor Leste.

        “Conservative Islam” occurs in the countries that have some of the highest GDP per capita’s in the world [e.g. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai etc.]. Certainly amongst the Muslim world. Lots of people immediately jump to “but oil wealth!”, without ever realizing that tons of mineral resources without decent management will result in basically nothing [i.e. resource curse]. So why are these conservative Muslim countries so unbelievably good at extracting revenue from their resources?

        The rise in Islamism in Bangladesh has been an economic disaster

        …. which happens to coincide with the fastest rate of economic growth the country has seen since it’s independence? You sure?

        Don’t get me wrong, I actually agree that excessive religion of any sort ultimately hinders [and hurts] development over the long run. But the way that is demonstrated in practice is often extremely flawed, and at times actually suggests the complete opposite.

        But like I said, I don’t think it’s a problem unique to Islam, as we are seeing it unfolding across many different areas of the globe. Excessive ANYTHING without checks and balances appears to be pretty bad and de-stabilizing. Especially religion.

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        1. UAE Islam has moderated greatly in recent decades. I use to be a big critic of the UAE.
          KSA is much poorer than it would have been ceteris paribus.
          Bangladesh is much poorer than it would have been ceteris paribus. Bangladesh has little freedom of speech. Many leading bangladeshi politicians and journalists live outside the country for fear of assassination.

          We generally agree.

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          1. Bangladesh is much poorer than it would have been ceteris paribus.

            Other things being equal to what? The country has amongst the fastest growth rates in South Asia, and has clocked 5-6% for close to a decade. I fail to see what being another religion would have done to dramatically improve on that. At independence it was a serious c–phole mired in a lot of chaos.

            KSA is much poorer than it would have been ceteris paribus.

            I’m sorry but this is simply a random assertion, with almost no credibility to back it up, since it again ignores the [non] ability of non-Muslim resource rich nations to capitalize on their “assets”. Exactly what remarkable superpower would the KSA have been without Islam? Muslim countries are neither the only ones with oil nor certainly not the only ones with resources. And as I have shown, they do well economically going region by region.

            Bangladesh has little freedom of speech. Many leading bangladeshi politicians and journalists live outside the country for fear of assassination.

            Bangladesh certainly has more restrictive speech when compared with [say] India. But then it would do; India has significantly stronger secular institutions. I would agree that Islam tends to much more heavily disrupt secular institutions, primarily because the religion emphasizes a seriousness [steadfastness] that is highly unusual. But I don’t see that this is limited only to Islam. India’s secular institutions are strong, but Nepal’s are much weaker. Burma’s are non-existent. Cambodia doesn’t strike me as a “free” place to live. Neither does that other bastion of Dharmic influence [fused with Confucianism], Vietnam.

            There’s a helluva lot more free speech in Bangladesh when you can satirize the Prophet Muhammed, compared to that. Also, you have to distinguish here between governmental/institutional forces, and that of [organized] mobs.

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          2. Butul Miah, I love Vietnam. I could live in Vietnam. Vietnam has far more freedom and Bangladesh, albeit without elections. And yes Vietnam has heavy Eastern philosophical influence blended with atheism–which is a very good thing.

            “There’s a helluva lot more free speech in Bangladesh when you can satirize the Prophet Muhammed”

            Use to be. No longer. Bangladesh has become a lot, lot worse since the 1990s. Many Indian Bengali business people no longer do business in Bangladesh because it isn’t safe. India is overrun with Bangladeshi illegal immigrants who say Bangladesh isn’t safe. I keep hearing from Bangladeshis and Bengalis about the rapid deterioration in Bangladesh. Both Daesh and AQ have a large presence inside Bangladesh and they assassinate people. That is why I keep asking, has Bangladesh fallen.

            You are describing the Bangladesh of the 1990s which was amazing. Today the PM Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh has no freedom of speech and is constantly afraid of assassination. She is opposed to Islamism but often feels powerless. Much of the political class lives outside Bangladesh for safety.

            Saudi Arabia would be vastly richer if it were even slightly well governed. Their education system is awful and most of their people lack even basic employment skills. KSA has extraordinary per capita natural resources.

            Venezuela also has extraordinary per capita natural resources (highest oil reserves in the world with only 32 million people) but is run by post modernist socialists that have made it one of the poorest countries on earth. Obviously Venezuela is the worst run country on earth. Please use an example other than Venezuela to compare KSA to.

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    2. The society in Maldives used to be a fairly lax version of Islam. The underlying society had old Sinhalese culture practices. Maldives had (or still has) the highest divorce rate in the world.
      However, I seem to get the impression that it is becoming a more stricter Islamic country.

      Indonesians and Malays also seemed lax Islamists, as we in SL say pork eating muslims. That opinion is based on a very small minority who live in Sri Lanka. They too are appearing to become stricter in their practice of Islam

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/mapped-countries-with-highest-divorce-rate/
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lankan_Malays

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  8. Kabir, you are right about the hard sciences and economics being far more free market than liberal arts. Hard science and economics like each other.

    “The US was built on slavery and white supremacy.”

    I have always found the phrase “white supremacy” extraordinarily offensive. Any phrase that even slightly hints that “darkies” or “Asians” are not extraordinarily powerful is immoral, ammoral colonization of the mind. “Power” is in large part psychological. We can be powerful if we choose to be. We cannot allow anyone else to even slightly imply the lie that we are not powerful.

    Every country in the world has always been built on slavery. Every country in the world today is built on slavery. This is the past of the homo sapien sapien modern species.

    Kabir, you know well that much of the intense emotion that nonmuslims have for muslims relate to slavery. But to nonmuslims I say: forget, forgive, move on.

    I laugh when you say Germans should atone for Nazism. When will Hindus and Buddhists stop being blamed for Nazism and the holocaust?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Shia and Sunnis:
    I have no issue with non Islamist socially conservative muslims. I like them in fact. My reference would be with respect to inside doctrinal issues; how the 30 living twelver Marjas compare with the leading Sunni Sheik Imams.
    To be honest I am afraid to share what I have heard. Enough to say there are major differences.

    BTW, socially conservative muslims are loving the me too movement. Victorian social values are back baby! Now boys and men are afraid to consummate outside of long term committed relationships for fear of being blackmailed by their female partner. 🙂

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    1. German atonement for the Holocaust is a real thing. And they don’t blame “Hindus and Buddhists”, they blame themselves.

      “At the time that I began to interview my grandfather, I had been living in Germany for the better part of a decade. I worked in a German office and spoke more German than English in my daily life. Trips back to the States showed me how German my habits had become. So when my grandpa mentioned his own grandparents’ slaves, my mind turned to Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, a concept that permeates daily life in Germany. The word is notoriously difficult to translate — the English translators at my job bickered about whether to render it as “unearthing and confronting the past,” “coming to terms with the past” or “reappraisal of the past.” The problem with all these translations is that they imply an endpoint, but Aufarbeitung has no closure. It’s supposed to be a ceaseless process of digging up the most uncomfortable parts of history — your country’s and your family’s — and grappling with what the actions of past generations mean for the present.”

      http://narrative.ly/can-german-atonement-teach-america-to-finally-face-slavery/

      I found this with a 30 second google search. google is really your friend.

      As for “white supremacy”, this is not my phrase. This is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s phrase. He is America’s premier black intellectual. You don’t like the phrase, take it up with him.

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  9. Kabir, Germans don’t blame Hindus and Buddhists for Nazism. But post modernist and Indologist scholars have done just that many times since the 1940s. Including Indian post modernist scholars. Hope to write a series of articles on precisely that. Why do you think Dharma traditions have such a difficult relationship with post modernists? Again you are not responsible for this. None of this is on you.

    I love Germans. I really, really like Germans. It is time for the world to forgive Germans and for the Germans to stop living with so much unhealthy dangerous guilt. Grandchildren are in no way responsible for the crimes of their grandparents and great grandparents.

    The world has to forget and forgive slavery and move on. Or muslim vs. nonmuslim tensions can never be eased. For that reason alone the world need to get over slavery. Africans in Africa and people of the African ancestry around the world need to forgive muslims and be done with it. Africans also need to forgive Europeans, Brazilians, Latin Americans, Americans. We need to move on.

    Today Daesh and Al Qaeda are fighting conventional wars across most of the African continent. To the degree slavery comes up it distracts from this fight and leads to tensions between good muslims and nonmuslims.

    Many African Americans (including Glenn Loury and John McWhorter) strongly disagree with Ta-Nehisi Coates and think he has harmed African Americans. Many argue that MLK would find his arguments substandard if still alive. I tend to agree. Ta-Nehisi Coates has further normalized post modernist and subaltern studies thought in America. Hope to write an article about this and the parallels between this and what the English did to India.

    W.E.B. Du Bois had a very different conception than Ta-Nehisi Coates:
    https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/w_e_b_du_bois
    Du Bois wanted Americans to stop giving charity to African Americans and allow African Americans to be educated and to work:
    “And when we call for education we mean real education. We believe in work. We ourselves are workers, but work is not necessarily education. Education is the development of power and ideal. We want our children trained as intelligent human beings should be, and we will fight for all time against any proposal to educate black boys and girls simply as servants and underlings, or simply for the use of other people. They have a right to know, to think, to aspire.”
    Du Bois, Booker T Washington, Frederick Douglass, MLK valued and prioritized education; realizing the infinite potential inside each of us. Ta-Nehisi Coates does not.

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    1. It’s perfectly OK to disagree with Ta-Nehisi Coates. I think he makes white supremacy a little bit too important. However, other black intellectuals like Dr. Cornel West (whom I respect very much) think that he is not radical enough. West and Coates had a famous spat in The Guardian a few months back.

      Why do you keep linking slavery to Muslims? The British and American slave traders were not Muslim.

      On German national remembrance, I agree grandchildren are not responsible for what their grandparents did. Today’s Pakistanis are not responsible for 1971. I had this very discussion with my brother once (he is more leftist than me). He pointed out that the Nazi Regime is part of German historical memory and all Germans (even naturalized citizens) need to learn about it to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Similarly, all American citizens (even those of us who were not born American) need to learn that our country was built on the backs of genocide of the native americans and exploitation of black people. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” only used to apply to white men who owned property. This is part of the country’s history and must be addressed if we are to move forward.

      Perhaps looking at US politics as it applies to South Asian Americans would be a fruitful angle for BP. It would also prevent it from becoming “Paki Pundits” as Zach was saying.

      You really hate subaltern studies! Were you forced to read “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. Would you describe yourself as a conservative in the US context? Full disclosure: I have always voted Democrat since I was 18. Though I really do not like HRC (she is a neo-liberal) and was fully behind Sanders. I would never ever consider voting for a Republican. They all hate Muslims, want to ban abortions, and basically only care about rich white people…. They don’t like LGBT people either (ref. Vice-President Pence).

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  10. Re: Bangladesh:

    Sheikh Hasina refuses to hold free and fair elections. You may not like BNP-Jamaat (I don’t particularly) but when only Awami League is contesting elections, there seems to be an issue…

    I won’t say more because I’m not familiar with the situation and for obvious reasons Bangladeshis don’t take kindly to Pakistanis telling them how to run their country.

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    1. Bangladeshis don’t take kindly to Americans, Indians or foreigners telling them how to run their country either. This is why the “Has Bangladesh fallen” post hasn’t been posted yet. Trying to figure out how to express myself without offending Bangladesh.

      I am sympathetic to Sheikh Hasina but she isn’t perfect and hasn’t held elections yet.

      “Perhaps looking at US politics as it applies to South Asian Americans would be a fruitful angle for BP. It would also prevent it from becoming “Paki Pundits” as Zach was saying.”

      Have already started this:
      http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/03/14/is-it-time-for-asian-americans-and-latino-americans-to-ask-to-be-considered-white/
      Got e-mails saying I should have said all Americans are Americans.

      Hope to write many more on this subject. Including on how immigrant Americans and Asian Americans and Latino Americans have to do a lot more to help less educated poor and lower middle class caucasion males and African American males. Right now Asian Americans are missing in action.

      I can’t figure out what any American political labels mean anymore. They all seem to be mush. President Trump often uses post modernist thought too. But President Trump loves Asians and Asian Americans. And my oh my does he love Russians. There is that. And that is good.

      Sanders is weirdly less post modernist than many other American politicians, including Republicans. He is remarkably transparent and honest and uncorruptible. Many years ago he was asked “why do they hate us”. He said because of our “sexual openness” and then gave other reasons. He said this at a time when this opinion was very politically incorrect and unpopular. I personally like and admire Sanders. I think he is really serious about taking on Islamism and understands that if the Islamists ever win they will string him up (he is Jewish after all). He is simultaneously pro Israeli and pro Palestinian in the tradition of Peter Beinart (you can google Peter . . . I agree with Peter on many things). Disagree with Sanders on economics, but there we are.

      I am not a fan of subaltern studies. Gives me nightmares from college. But to be fair, I would need to study it more and carefully write an article on it to appropriately critique it.

      Slavery is not just an issue that is brought up in the US and I tend to look at things from a global perspective. I am as curious about Brazil as America. Slavery is becoming a bigger issue in Brazil and Latin America too. Unfortunately this feeds into tensions between Latino Americans and African Americans which is a major American challenge. It isn’t only a Zimmerman Trayvon issue.

      The world copies America and I am afraid that bringing it up in America will bring it up in most other countries too. Already some Indians are mentioning Ta-Nehisi Coates and saying that Indians need to bring up slavery. That would be catastrophic.

      Regarding American history; what you are saying has been taught since the time of President Lincoln and President Grant (Grant was the most pro Native American president in US history in my opinion). In Lincoln’s second inaugural:

      “If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

      With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

      If this isn’t Sufi poetry, I don’t know what is.

      +++++++++++++

      In 2000 W won over 80% of the American muslim vote. W did well with the American muslim vote in 2004 too. But things have changed since then.

      For example it isn’t unusual for Americans to tell Afghan Americans (who support American foreign aid for Afghanistan and the Afghan National Security Forces) that they are traitors by favoring Afghan interests over American ones and for favoring the shedding of American blood to help Afghans. Many Americans are extremely disrespectful of the Afghan Army and laugh derisively at the more than 50,000 ANSF martyrs who have died in combat serving a cause greater than themselves. Something about America has hardened and it isn’t nice.

      It isn’t like Pakistan at all. At least Pakistanis are afraid that the ANSF are anti Pakistan and have legitimate concerns. The ANSF are not anti American. They are fighting America’s enemies and the world’s enemies; and many Americans are both ungrateful and extremely mean about it.

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      1. The subject of Arabs is coming up more and more in the American discussion about slavery. Muslims owned large numbers of slaves across Africa and sold many slaves to America and Europe. Of course many non muslim Africans also owned and sold slaves–this isn’t a muslim only thing.

        I am afraid that too much discussion about slavery could lead to a backlash against muslim Americans and maybe even anti muslim American riots.

        In the 1992 LA riots about 45% of all businesses attacked were Korean American owned. Almost 100% were Asian or Latino owned. Almost non were caucasion owned. The large majority of people killed were Asian and Latino (about 25% of the people killed were Latino).

        Couldn’t this happen again, but this time focused on muslim Americans?

        The slavery discussion is very dangerous and needs to be tamped down.

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      2. Peter Beinart is a liberal Zionist. I have no time for liberal Zionists. I think I have made clear that my people are the Palestinian Arabs (both Muslim and Christian). They need their homeland back. If Israel doesn’t remain “Jewish” it’s not my problem. “Jewish and democratic” is an oxymoron. A State is either “Jewish” or “democratic”. It’s like Pakistan. We’re a homeland for Muslims and yet non-Muslim Pakistanis are supposed to be equal. It’s not working out very well….

        It’s very hard to square the circle between liberalism and Zionism. Haven’t seen anyone do it successfully yet. Most just drop their liberalism when their tribal identity is threatened. Perhaps that’s human nature. “Progressive except for Palestine” is a real thing.

        American blood should not be shed in the Middle East. Afghanistan (which is not in the “Middle East” whatever W thought) is known as the “graveyard of Empires” for a reason. The Pashtun have never taken kindly to foreign occupation. It is now America’s longest war and it doesn’t seem to be going very well… Someday the Taliban will have to have a share in power. Of course, they will have to drop their weapons first.

        Re Subaltern Studies: I think we had to read “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in some course in college. No one really understands it. But its not like subaltern studies has destroyed the world. Neoliberalism on the other hand actually has had terrible effects.

        W won the Muslim vote because the Democratic candidate for VP was Jewish and unfortunately the Muslim community is prejudiced. Also Muslims in general tend to be socially conservative and don’t like stuff like gay marriage. I didn’t vote in 2000 because I was 14. But if the Republican party wasn’t so Islamophobic (with President Trump’s “Muslim Ban” and all), Muslims would be natural Republican allies. Muslims after all do believe in the heteronormative family. But now that the Republicans have moved so far to the right, people of color would have to be insane to vote for them.

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        1. Peter Beinart is the heart and soul of J street, which advocates for Palestinian rights. He is far more openly and overtly pro Palestinian than Sanders–who you support. Peter Beinart is also a deeply religious man. Peter Beinart appears to view Fatah and Mustafa Barghouti as allies.

          “The Pashtun have never taken kindly to foreign occupation” This is the Pakistani Army line. The Afghan response is that 63% of Afghans are not Pashtuns and that Pashtuns (or Pakhtoons) are over represented in the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP). Afghans say that the ANA is not a foreign occupation and are very upset at what they regard as Pakistani propaganda to the contrary. What really angers Afghans is when Pakistanis (they call the Taliban “Punjabia” or “Pakistani”) call the ANA the Indian Army. And so the insults go back and forth into perpetuity. War without end.

          It seems like 90% of the conversations between the UN, international community, NATO, US and Afghanistan is pleading with Afghans to stop obsessing over Pakistan.

          My solution is:
          1) [Global level] freedom for muslims all over the world and dialogue with Islamists
          2) dialogue between Afghans and Pakistanis at all levels of civil society, students, business, culture, government, and critically between the ANA and Pakistani Army. My hope is that musicians such as you play an important role in this.
          3) dialogue between Quetta Shura Taliban and Afghan government supported by Pakistan, Qatar, KSA and UAE
          4) dialogue between Pakistan and India over all issues including Afghanistan and Kashmir
          5) dialogue between Pakistan and Iran over all issues including the treatment of Pakistani Shia and Afghanistan
          6) dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Afghanistan and all issues [good luck with that]
          7) dialogue between Americans and Pakistanis
          8) dialogue between Pakistanis and Russians (only this appears to be happening so far)

          Many of these moving parts have to synchronize to end the de facto war between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the war between Afghans and the Taliban and the war between Afghans and Daesh. All of this is hard.

          +++++++

          With respect to America and Afghanistan . . . my hope is that Americans learn to respect Afghans. Why is this so hard for Americans? But it is. American policy matters a lot less than whether Americans respect Afghans or not. Please stop insulting the ANA.

          ++++++++++++++++++

          Neoliberalism has been a god send to the world’s poor. The large majority of economists agree with this. And economists don’t understand why the liberal arts academy doesn’t agree with them on this.

          Stiglitz (who is admired by many from the liberal arts who don’t understand what he actually says) also agrees with this for the most part. Stiglitz wants rich countries to remove restrictions on imports of goods, services from poor countries. Stiglitz is a free trader. Stiglitz also supports deregulation and simplification of regulation since economists believe regulation generally favors the powerful.

          +++++++++++

          American politics have completely shifted. Poor less educated males now overwhelmingly vote for Trump (including many poor less educated black males, Latino males, and homeless people). Rich people and the upper middle class and the very educated vote democrat (Asian Americans, Arab Americans, are massively over represented in these groups). Much of this is specific to Trump. Wonder how much this will revert after Trump leaves politics.

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          1. I know what J Street is. Please remember I am from Washington, DC. But ultimately J Street is still about Israel’s interests as they see it. J Street is not a Palestinian rights organization. They will not recognize that Zionism is equal to colonialism. That would cause too much cognitive dissonance for them. I am with these people: “The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights”
            https://uscpr.org/

            It is my understanding that the Pasthun are the largest group in Afghanistan (42% according to Wiki). In any case, I am not interested in dialogue with Afghans. They hate Pakistan for some legitimate reasons. But they are also really ungrateful. We (Pakistan) were the country that took in the most Afghan refugees. I think Iran confined them to refugee camps. But they are running all around Pakistan, many of them with fake Pakistani identity papers. In my opinion, Pakistan should fence the entire border (whether the Afghans refuse to recognize the “Durand Line”, Pakistani land is Pakistani land) and just wash our hands of the mess next door. If the Afghans want to be close to India, let them. Let’s see how that goes for them. In any case, I don’t speak Pashto or Dari. I am Kashmiri-Punjabi. I would probably do better at dialogue with Indians, with whom I share some culture. I share no culture with Afghans. Perhaps their Pashtun brothers from KPK should talk to them.

            I’ll let you believe what you want about Neoliberalism. I am on the side of Bernie’s people on that. I don’t think either of us are going to change our opinion.

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          2. There was data that whites as a whole largely voted for Trump including college-educated whites. Coates has written about this. Racism is actually a thing.

            There is discussion in the Democratic party right now about whether the party should try to win back “working class” whites or just give up on them all together and try to win with a coalition of people of color and LGBTQ plus the “coastal elites”. Let’s see how the Midterms go later this year.

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  11. girmit, I find your comment about Kerala interesting. To your list of places in South Asia which have solved the first order challenges of human dignity, I would add Himachal and slightly behind, Uttarakhand.

    One aspect that separates HP and UT from the rest of North India is the structure of caste system. These regions are not ones in which one has an upper caste Hindu population of about 20%, dominant former peasant castes of around 40%, with another 20-25% artisan castes, and 20-15% Dalits. Instead, the pattern one sees is more like 60% upper caste (mostly Brahmin and Kshatriya) and 40% artisans + Dalits. There are hardly any middle peasantry castes there.

    Is Kerala lacking a similarly politicized middle peasantry like Jats/Yadavs/Patels/Marathas ? The closest approximation I can find are the Ezhavas. But is it possible that the peculiar trajectory of politics (Communist inspired) and mobility in Kerala (migration to Gulf) deemphasized the formation of caste parties by such a group to take control of the administration ?

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    1. Vikram, HP and UK are definitely quite different from the plains. You could also include Kashmir with them in a way. There’s a similar socioecology i suppose, maybe its step paddy cultivation combined with a unique horticultural niche that makes them naturally advantageous trading partners with the plains. Can’t grow apples and pine nuts in Agra can they? Although the lack of a vast middle peasantry is probably also what prevented them from becoming a great centre of military power.
      In the case of Kerala, I’d also note that the sort of prosperity they have is a feature of the western littoral all the way up through the Konkan. So while I’m not exactly a strident critic of socialism in all its manifestations, I wouldn’t credit Kerala exceptionalism to post-independence socialist policies alone. Dakshin Kannada district, Goa, and Sindhudurg-Ratnagiri are control groups of a kind, and they have many of the same admirable indicators. Kerala did have remarkably pernicious caste discrimination a century ago, but between the Narayan Guru type of social reform movements and leftist egalitarianism, the masses have essentially assimilated the elite.
      To casually throw out a theory of backwardness that explains insular south india and the gangetic plain vs the exceptional periphery. The latter may have had a more resilient food system and less dependence on grain production. As populations swelled, the riparian agricultural societies of the interior were beyond their carrying capacity and the marginal classes were settled onto poor soils away from the fertile basins. In the deccan these people are in a vicious cycle of water exploitation and scarcity. They believe their only hope is the further exploitation of water resources towards growing cash crops like sugarcane. Another deeper obstacle, if that were not enough, is that there has been a legacy of not investing in female education in the insular zone, again due to the socioecological externalities of dryland millet/ wheat focused agriculture.

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      1. “As populations swelled, the riparian agricultural societies of the interior were beyond their carrying capacity and the marginal classes were settled onto poor soils away from the fertile basins.”

        I think the reason for the expansion of agriculture by evicting existing populations there was the prerogative of creating new feudal estates for the imperial polities that have taken shape in the interior from time to time. The best records we have are for the British expansion into Central Punjab via the canal colonies, and this definitely involved the eviction of ‘janglis’ to create estates for the new feudal military class created by the Raj. One might say that a similar process is underway today with the eviction of adivasis from forest land to sustain the crony capitalists patronised by the Indian state.

        I think population expansion followed such a process, rather than the other way around.

        I agree that the West coast always had advantageous trading relations, but I feel that these have been with West Asian countries rather than the interior. I am honestly surprised that the entire West coast region did not become more different from the rest than it is.

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    2. HP and UT have higher amounts of upper caste population, or in other words higher amounts of Aryan ancestry. And genetics do matter. In the U.S. the Scandinavians have created a very high middle class standard of living for themselves in the bleak conditions of Minnesota and the Dakotas, as have the Germans to a lesser extent generally in the Midwest, as compared to the Scots-Irish Appalachian region or the heavily black Southern lowlands.

      In contrast to HP and UT, a poor state like Bihar has a huge backward caste population base, 68% plus 17% Muslims likely to be of OBC origin. There’s more indigenous and less Aryan ancestry present overall, despite R1A chromosome being strong in the region. In contrast nearby West Bengal (which is no poster child for good governance) with double or triple the per capita income has likewise double or triple the number of upper castes as compared to Bihar.

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      1. I am afraid you have totally misconstrued my argument. My point was about the impact of ethnic group percentages on politics and thus state spending priorities.

        Where the middle peasantry has sufficient numbers, it takes command of the state, and redirects spending to agriculture (which is their livelihood) and government salaries (where they want their sons to work). This means that the development spending for most marginalized Dalits, and infrastructure spending for cities takes a hit.

        Where the upper castes are in large numbers, development spending is higher, since there is no direct conflict between the interests of such groups and the Dalits.

        I have no idea what Minnesota etc have to do with India’s living standards. Development is a function of entrepreneurial energy and political evolution, it has nothing to with chromosomes etc.

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