Western Asians are Western

The above diagram really hits at something important. Back when I was commenting on Sepia Munity, or as I read The Aerogram, I always come back to the reality that many people of Asian heritage who grew up in the United States or Europe are culturally Western.

Therefore, fundamental aspects of Asian culture were always refracted through a Western lens. When I read The Aerogram I know what I’m getting: the story will end with a progressive (Western) “final thought.” The types of Asian Americans who write this type of journalism are politically progressive. Those of us who are Asian American, and not progressive, do other types of work.

Not that there is anything wrong with this…but there is often a tendency to not take non-Western culture on its own terms. People of Asian origin in the United States are identified as fundamentally and deeply Asian because of their faces in their native environment, the West. They are ambassadors and exemplars of Asiatic ways. But over the years these people forget that Asians living in Asia see them, rightly, as Western. They have no authority from authenticity, the authority is given to them by non-Asian Westerners who don’t know sari from salwar.

“Woke Asians” are actually simply “woke,” and so they have internalized a world-system where it is bad whites/colonialists against good PoC. When Asian values, Asian practices, don’t fit into the narrative, the prosecution brings the case against Asians for being insufficiently authentic, of being distorted by hegemonic “colonialist” paradigms.

The sin of “oppression” is universal, not particular.

Crazy Rich Asians is not social work

I have not watched Crazy Rich Asians. Perhaps I will for my cultural edification. Unlike some people, I don’t care too much about “representation.” This isn’t for ideological reasons…I just have weak group identity/identification, and on an implicit level, I probably think I’m a unique enough person that no other is going to “represent” me in the media, ever. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But the reality is that the Western Asian cohort in the cultural space is dominated by the aggrieved chattering class. So there is this piece in The Guardian, Where are the brown people? Crazy Rich Asians draws tepid response in Singapore. It references another piece, ‘CRAZY RICH ASIANS’ IS NOT A RADICAL WIN FOR REPRESENTATION.

About the author of the second piece:

Sangeetha Thanapal is an artist and writer working on the intersections of race, gender and body in Asia and Australia. She is the originator of the term ‘Chinese Privilege,’ which situates institutionalized racism within Singapore. Her fantasy fiction and political writing have been published by Djed Press, Brown Girl Mag and many more.

First, about “representation.” I put it in quotes because in a social justice context the word means something particular. For example, “representation” of South Koreans means Sarah bane-of-goblin-kind Jeong. Not, an evangelical Korean missionary in the Middle East. In the academy, “representation” means a good regional, racial, and gender proportionality. Not, reflecting the political and religious variation in the population.

Crazy Rich Asians are Asian, but not the representational kind of Asian. Sangeetha Thanapal though is a representational Asian: she’s cosmopolitan, educated, and woke. Ironically, her South Asianness is almost incidental. Kind of a wrapping around the real substance of her ideological affinity to a certain tendency which spans all shades.

The second issue are the specific particulars to Singapore and the relationship between East Asians and South Asians, or more generally, “Chinese” and “Indians.” It is a simple fact that Chinese people are racist against Indians for being dark, for India being a poor an underdeveloped nation, as well as differences in comportment and social mores. It is also a simple fact that Indians are racist against Chinese people, who are perceived to be strange-looking dog-eaters who lack deeper values than the acquisition of money and power.

If you want to represent the true dynamics of the Chinese and Indian relationship in Singapore, then you need to represent the racism and segregation which is mutual. Of course, there are other dimensions as well, such as the growing number of mixed-race Chindians. Unless that is, you want to “represent” your nonexistent utopian vision?

Which brings me to the big issue about objections to Crazy Rich Asians: the critiques are reductive and simplistic, even if they utilize layered and verbose textures. Singapore is dominated by a Chinese ruling class, and there is racism against minorities. But a massive influx of highly educated professional Indian immigrants in the past few decades into Singapore is why Indians now earn a bit more on average than Chinese in Singapore. But this summary is misleading too, and masks the diversity of the South Asian population, from well-off Indian immigrants to manual laborers from Bangladesh, as well as the long-established Tamil community which is itself socioeconomically diverse.

Finally, there are some things that Thanapal and others bring up as “Chinese privilege” which I don’t see as a privilege. Singapore is a mostly Chinese city, in a region where Chinese economic power is ascendant. It is entirely reasonable that the city-state should be given preference to English and Mandarin Chinese as the dual languages. Thanapal’s Tamil language is not hard-wired into her being like her dark skin and curly hair. Tamil can continue to be maintained in the traditional Tamil community, but in Chinese dominated city-state it seems reasonable that Tamils should learn the lingua franca of the majority and adopt it as their own. Mandarin can be a fine first language even if your hair is blonde or your skin is black.

Chinese Indians speak Indian languages, and when they speak English they naturally have an Indian accent.

I’m not saying my viewpoints are the “right” ones. But, for various reasons my viewpoints are not not “represented” in the mainstream international media. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. So there, I said it.

Quick Thoughts-

  • Vajpayee has passed away and my thoughts on him is that he is the “loveable loser.” A bit like Advani & Rahul Gandhi; these philosophical Brahmins are really no match for the Modi phenomenon. Vajpayee is a remnant of a simpler gentler India; Modi is Hindustan’s future. As we much as we are mourning a Nehruvian relic. Modi’s India is rapidly wisening up to her world role.
  • As an aside I’m just increasingly shocked by how breathtaking the pace of change in India is. In the Pakistani higher circles there was always this assumption that the liberal elite of Pakistan (the 1,000 families) were the most Westernised (but Urduphile) segment of South Asia. That is rapidly beginning to change and huge swathes of the Indian upper classes are becoming “tanned white people.” Their accents, family structures, cultures are just Westernising and a good example is the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas engagement. They probably represent this segment while Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma are the more desi side (the Khan-Kapoor family are somewhere in the middle, Kareena has just gone off on another jaunt with her besties).
  • I’m just a Damad to Indian culture but I hope India doesn’t lose her soul in this rapid transformation (she has the highest growth rate in the world at 7.2% edging out Bangladesh at 7%).
  • I am very passionate about Imran’s Khan need to redistrict Pakistan. We need a Pakistan of the Provinces. We have strong ethno-linguistic regions like the Punjab, Pashtunistan but we also have very strong provincial identities (Karachi must be set free from Sindh to become another Dubai) and Bahawalpur-Multan (one of the great tragedies of Independence is what happened to the Principalities of the Sub-continent and their ignominious fate by Indo-Pak).
  • Sharing some trailers:

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is one of India’s best actors (it’s usually the case in Bollywood where the traditional Bollywood looks & acting ability are inversely correlated; Radhika Apte, Kangana Ranaut, Irfan Khan – Tabbu is probably an exception) and is such a strong reason as to why Sacred Games was the blockbuster as it was.

I have a mixed feelings on Shahid Kapoor as an actor but I guess this movie will be alot like Akshay Kumar’s film, Toilet. Bollywood’s increasingly important tradition of social film-making (Padman, Aamir Khan’s films) is welcome. I guess it’s also a way for aging actors to regain moral legitimacy and cultural relevance..

I’m a fan of Varun Dhawan, he seems to have completely eclipsed Sid Malhotra. However I see his acting style to be somewhat typecast as the spoilt Punjabi kid with comic overtones; he belongs in a joint family. Again I welcome any film that has a made in India message.

Finally if there are any Indian readers who are looking for good Pakistan dramas, I would recommend Suno  Chanda. It’s a light-hearted fare about the Pakistani family and the attendant complications. Much as India is transforming; Pakistan takes pains to preserve the idealised Hindu-Arab cultural mix that is our wonderful Mughal-Muslim Republic.

VS Naipaul (and Prime Minister Imran Khan)..

I have been busy with a move for several months (from the Midwest to the Best Coast) and have not been active on Brownpundits. I hope this will change in the coming weeks and months. Not enough time today for a full post on something,  just some quick notes on two recent events:

  1. VS Naipaul has died. I am a fan of Naipaul the writer, which sometimes gets me into arguments with woke friends, because the memo has been circulated that he was “a White supremacist” and so on (there is also the issue that he was a misogynist and mistreated some of the women in his life, which is probably true, but the broader un-personing instructions are based on his supposed ideological crimes, not his personal life). I don’t have anything to say about his relations with women (FWIW his last wife seems to have been happy with him) or his general crankiness and misanthropy, but I think the ideological accusations are an unfair characterization of his work. As far as I can tell, he had no single over-arching ideology; his aim was to try and see “things as they are”, which is never easy (and perhaps never possible), not to promote a particular Right or Left wing political viewpoint. He will be missed.   

From “The Enigma of Arrival”

Continue reading VS Naipaul (and Prime Minister Imran Khan)..

Hinduism was not invented by the British (or Muslims)

I’m reading a book titled The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History. It’s works within the postcolonial framework. Unlike a lot of postcolonial scholarship it isn’t bluster and rhetoric riddled with basic historical errors. The author presents a lot of interesting facts. But, as I’ve said elsewhere I disagree with the thesis of the book, which is that modern Islamic identity can be understood primarily through its interaction with European colonialism.

This isn’t to say colonialism doesn’t matter. It does matter. It’s just that Muslims are not inactive substrate upon which European agents operate. Muslims, and Islam as a civilization, has its own life, orientation, and self-conceptions, which exist somewhat apart from Europeans, and the West (I say somewhat because it is hard to understand the modern West and Islam without their coevolutionary dance over the centuries). Colonialism did not create the idea of the Muslim world de novo, it operated upon the idea of the Ummah which predated the modern West, and in fact emerged in tension with the ancient late antique Near East and Turan in the 7th and 8th centuries AD.

But this post is not about Islam. From the comments:

The big tragedy during the unmitigated disaster that was the partition upon the Hindus, many realized was that while there was a thing known as Ummah, there was no such thing as the Hindus. There are Muslims, but they are actually the largest plurality. There was no such thing as the Hindus. There was the Brahmins. There was the Namashudra. There was the Punjabi. There was the Thakur…

This to my mind is a much stronger position to defend than the ideas above in relation to Islam. To a great extent modern day, Hindu nationalism seems to be about creating an analog to the Dar-ul-Islam and Christendom for Hindus, many centuries after Muslims and Christians. But, I do think I disagree with this. It seems clear that Megasthenes, al-Biruni, and Faxian all had a sense of Indians, or Hindus as we were all called then, as a distinct, albeit variegated, people.

Hinduism as a particular confession with a creedal orientation is a relatively recent affair. Perhaps you can date it to Adi Shankara. Or even as late as Arya Samaj. That doesn’t matter. Hinduism as a distinctive civilization of Indians, with consistent particular unifying beliefs, is very ancient and dates to antiquity.

One might object that this only applies to the twice-born varna. But the Maurya were like of sudra origin. And South Indian polities welcomed Brahmins, who they clearly saw as part of their civilization, albeit different and apart.

Of course one might change the goalposts with some semantics. I myself liked to be clever and would say that Hinduism was invented by Muslims or Westerners a few years ago. But thinking more deeply, I think that that was just a stylistic pose by me, attempting to burnish my heterodoxy, as opposed to reflecting the first order substance.

Addendum: Genetics is now making it clear to me that the matrix of “Dravidian” and “Indo-Aryan” proto-India were closely connected and emerged around the same time, probably in tension, conflict, and interaction. Religious ideas we’d term “Hindu” probably didn’t exist 4,000 years ago, but the openness of South and North India to engagement and cultural exchange in the historical period is not I think coincidental, but reflects primal commonalities derived from the tumult in the centuries after the decline of the IVC.

Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (c)?


Please watch this short excerpt from a conversation between my main man in the house Veedu Vidz and Shaykh Shabbir Ally.

Veedu Vidz is one of Hindustan’s brightest sons, hottest heart throbs, most talented thesbians, funniest comedians, most enlightened leaders, wisest Islamic theologians and Brown Pundit favorites. He now lives in the UK with his beautiful wife and youtube sensation Mimzy VidzShaykh Shabbir Ally is also one of Hindustan’s greatest lights. He is one of the world’s leading Murdhids or Islamic scholars.

This post is aimed at not so bright nonmuslims who back Islamist extremists against reasonable muslims (such as Shaykh Shabbir Ally) and muslimish leaders (such as Veedu Vidz and the ever elegant Mimzy Vidz). Let me summarize the wise Shaykh Shabbir Ally for you:

  1. Blasphemy and apostasy laws (such as those that require the recitation of pbuh after the name of the holy prophet, or don’t allow visual depictions of the holy prophet pbuh) are unislamic and should be ended.
  2. The holy Koran is consistent with freedom of religion, art, thought and speech.
  3. Mohammed pbuh use to follow Jewish law in absence of specific divine guidance since Mohammed pbuh considered Jewish law to be divinely ordained and better than nothing. Many of the Hadiths show Mohammed pbuh following Jewish law and can be discarded.
  4. Mohammed pbuh probably stopped stoning adulterers when the Koran revealed that the punishment for adulterers should be different [and in AnAn’s opinion lighter].
  5. Many Islamist interpretations of the Islamic Shariah jurisprudence are not based on the holy Koran and can be discarded.

I 100% agree with the wise Shaykh about all of this. All global hate speech laws, demonetization of videos, or removal of videos regarding Islam should be ended immediately. All discussion of Islam and criticism of Islam should be allowed. The nonsensical phrase “Islamaphobia” needs to be retired. Muslims are mature enough not to be offended and engage in respectful dialogue. Muslims don’t need to be condescendingly pretentiously patronizingly infantalized or “protected”.

Every muslim in the world is entitled to freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling. Once this happens Muslims and spiritual nonmuslims will automatically engage in dialogue with Islamist jihadi extremists and melt their hearts with the sweetness of love. The fourteen century Islamic civil war will end and the world will sing with joy.

Nonmuslims; first understand . . . then adjust. Please be slightly curious about Islam and learn the slightest bit about Islam before trying to “help” muslims. Please try to transform and improve yourself so that you have the ability to help others. Now you might ask, how can I learn about Islam and muslims? Good question. Right question. Please watch this discussion between six of the world’s leading Islamic theologians (I would rather our very own Brown Pundit resident Murshid Razib Khan was included too but it was not to be):

  1. Milo  Yiannopoulos
  2. Richard Dawkins
  3. Jordan Peterson
  4. Mehdi Hasan
  5. Maajid Nawaz
  6. and the ever innafable Zakir Naik


Still confused nonmuslim friends? Well, music is Haram:

Any more questions?

Continue reading Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (c)?

The idea of foreigness in the Indian Muslim narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The unsex appeal of Asian Men..

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

More specifically the Map of Asia used:

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

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

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