BrownCast Podcast episode 25: Christoph, center-left edgelord on social justice, Islam, and cosmopolitanism

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Today I talk to Christoph, the erstwhile “Eurasian Sensation.” Long-time readers of this weblog will know that Christoph was an early contributor to this weblog. Over the past few years, he has gained prominence on Twitter as a verbal pugilist of sorts, punching Right and punching Left from the de facto center.

We talk about his own mixed-race identity, and cosmopolitan lifestyle choices and orientation. Both of us also talk about the interesting fact that we are regularly lectured about Islam by non-Muslim progressives.

Between Tariq and Columbus

I have long followed Brian Catlos’ more academic works, so I was excited to read Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. Aside from some strange contemporary allusions, this is a good introductory book. If you are curious about more detail, the author has written good monographs.

The reason that this work is interesting is that Al-Andalus is a frontier society that’s been well studied. Liminal to both Islam and Western Latin Christendom, for various political reasons it is of particular interest in modern times.

One of the themes is Catlos’ work is though that we tend to refract the history of the Iberian peninsula between 700 and 1500 in simple stark modern dichotomous terms, the reality was that confessional identities were simply one of many loyalties. And yet if you read his work you see the meta-ethnic/civilizational identities are what determine the long-term arc of history, the hinges around which it turns.

In the initial decades after the conquest, local Christian elites and power structures remained intact, and the Arab conquest elites utilized them as administrative intermediaries. But after 800 AD a combination of local Iberian converts and Muslims from other parts of the Islamic world were numerous enough that Christian society begins to be pushed to the margins, even if numerically they remained a majority in the 800s.

Additionally, Catlos emphasizes the deep ethnic divisions between old Arab families, who monopolized religious offices 300 years after the conquest, tribes of Berber origin who occupied a position between the indigenes and the Arabs, and finally, Arabicized converts and Christians, Mozarabs. While the high culture became Arab, Latin speech persisted among the rural peasantry. Even the remnant Christian elites within Al-Andalus were literate primarily in Arabic.

One of the major insights from Kingdoms of Faith is that the conversion of Latin elites, whether Basque, Visigoth, or post-Roman, to Islam, resulted in corrosion of Christianity within Iberia. That corrosion was reversed only with political reconquest, and migration of Christian peasants from the north and the gradual conversion of Muslims in the centuries before the final expulsion of the remnant Moriscos.

Kingdoms of Faith is a useful read, not because of what it tells us about the history of Spain, but how we can compare to other regions of the world….

Raj Koothrapali is a shame on all Brown Men

While I was busy disagreeing with Indthings (the idea that “Pakistan” has a better brand value than India is hilariously untrue) they made a very good point on Raj Koothrapali.

Raj Koothrapali is a shame on all Indian men. I don’t know what Kumail’s character is like on his show but from what I’ve watched on the Big Bang Theory, but Kunal Nayyar does a huge disservice to all Brown People.

I have noticed this trait that Indian (Hindus) men are rather insensitive/unaware of their perception in the wider world but are always keen to stamp Pak/Muslims below them.

I had once read a study (I can’t link on it) that in UP, upper castes were more concerned about their relative ranks than their absolute one (tall poppy syndrome magnified).

I have noticed this with Indian origin Baha’i men. The only time they evidence strong India passions is when I or other Pakistanis around them otherwise they are totally consumed by Persian culture (I may be Turanian online but I’m super Tharoorian offline).

I find it interesting how the discourse is so fixated on Pakistan and Islam when frankly the real damage has been done by colonisation. We’ve been through this before several times but Raj Koothrapali is far more emasculating than Ala’u’ddin Khilji.

Furthermore I can understand why Pakistanis, who are on the outskirts of Brownitude, will swim away if being Brown is being Raj K. It provides an existential question; is it better to be feared (and lusted) as a potential terrorist or mocked as a sexless nerd? That’s probably a very salient question for many Pakistani men in the Diaspora as they tack on identities.

Also I feel this is more acute in the Brahmin centred societies; for instance the Tamils of Sri Lanka are probably one of the ASIest people in South Asia but are very swaggy. They’ve managed to disassociate themselves from the nerdiness of South Asian culture and sort of swim on a much cooler Afram vibe.

This isn’t to somehow absolve Pakistan and Islam; in fact my criticisms of those countries and cultures are much harsher. As Kabir B noted I routinely like to mention casually that Muhammad was a pedophile and was generally rather creepy in his sexual interests (he was busy “marrying” all the daughters of his friends; that’s outright disgusting). It’s an important of normalising that Islam, Quran, Allah and Muhammad are nothing special and are not above criticism in common discourse. “Nothing is Sacred.”

However what I have noticed is that when I condemn Pakistani culture I get praise from the Hinditvas but as soon as I target the shortcomings of Indian men; I’m the archetypal Paki.

One just can’t win and I’m noticing just how male these discussions are. For instance in Majlis when we were giving notions, I proposed

“TH believes that India/Pakistan condones gender violence/rape culture.”

Alot of the backwardness of South Asia is to do with the regressive roles of women. India is undergoing a revolution of sorts hence it will make much more rapid strides than Pakistan, where women are locked in 1950’s mode (in fact in many ways American women in the 50’s are much more progressive than Pakistani women).

One could argue that I’m hypocritical since I don’t target the lens at myself. I don’t believe in insulting individuals but ideology, religion and language are all up for fair game otherwise what’s the point. Furthermore this is “Brown” Pundits not Baha’i or Persian Pundits; IRL I spend a lot of time advocating Brown causes but it would  be hypocritical for me not to criticize the immense failings of Brown Culture and where it could improve.

Just to balance it out:

Criticism of the Bahá’í Faith

Egalitarian/Equality and mobility in Society.

Something to keep in mind, an egalitarian/equal society is equally important to happiness of society.

Excerpts from Article

While the US ranks among the least equal and mobile countries in the developed world, recent work shows that it contains places that span the global mobility distribution.

Persistence in income from one generation to the next is higher in unequal societies like the UK and the US, and weakest in the relatively equal Scandinavian countries (the ‘Great Gatsby curve’)

Would would this map out similarly in South Asia, I think yes)

For example, equality and mobility are highest in the Midwest, where Scandinavian ancestry is common. The same goes for every group we study – for example, income mobility is lowest in areas where the population has Italian or British roots.

From Comments (read them too, please).
One should point also out the common observation that all that Scandinavian solidarity is built on a great deal of ethnic homogeneity. The US problem has always been getting the melting pot to melt.

My mother, life-long Republican and descendant of Swedish grand-parents, blamed the “socialist” bent in MN on the dumb Ole-and-Lena’s who maintained their village mind-set of caring-through-conformity post-immigration. In her opinion, worldly-wise people knew better than to just hand money out to strangers. I thought about that a little when reading Tuesday’s piece about trust in society, and cat sick’s comment that keeping business (or wealth) within networks is a way to mitigate risk.

Pakistan, the lost country-

I’ll add a very short thought here. What happens to Pakistan when they interact with other Muslims (especially Arabs, Persians & Turks) is that all of the national identity issues come to the fore.

Pakistanis obviously do not spring from those cultures and as a people virtually all of our holidays are Islamic in origin. Pakistan may seem as an Islamic culture in South Asia but it’s profound “Hinduness/Indianess” refracts in a Muslim setting.

That is a core reason as to why Pakistanis do not garner respect. For instance the Persians (who anyway are the leaders of their own sect of Islam) will always emphasize their own identity and festivals in all contexts. The Turks are supremely proud of being Turkish and the Arabs are of course the archetypal Muslims.

Pakistanis should have been incorporating the “colourful” Hindu festivals (Diwali, Holi, Cheti Chand, Basant) into our cultural matrix and even looked towards appropriating Sanskrit and the Vedas (as Bollywood has done to Urdu). Unfortunately this lack of perspective means we have only substracted from our cultural base as a “tit-for-tat” response.

Pakistan is not only an insufficiently imagined nation but furthermore a hollow one. Many gods have lived on the Indus and unless we welcome them back home, Pakistan’s psyche will be always be on the verge of psychosis (no other nation has happily condemned an innocent Mother of 5 for a decade and kept quiet about it).

Beware of Hinditvas

I love it when my point is so spectacularly proven. But I find it funny how intense these discussions take considering I prefaced the post with my own thoughts on NawRuz and Persian cultural imperialism.

Yes Islam is vulgar but so is Hindi. Just as obviously Muslim symbols wouldn’t find room in polite society neither would Hindi (hence why English is busy eviscerating it in the Desh).

I find it interesting that none of the Hinditvas condemn my constant insulting of Islam but become hysterical at my criticising of what is an ugly and artificial tongue. Just as I find Liberalstanis to be hypocritical in their silence over Islam’s deeply problematic nature; they have on the flip side these Hinditvas. QeA is probably the prototypical Liberalstani and Nehru the Hinditva; hence why the Subcontinent ended up as the disaster as it was. Both these tribes have been thoroughly colonised and participated willing in the destruction of the British Raj, a wholesale inheritance would have meant a South Asia able to be the light rather than laughter of regions.

The whole idea of the Hindi language was simply to cleanse Urdu of any Muslim association. The language policy has been a complete disaster (language played no part in 1971; I just did a debate on the topic).

It’s neither here or there; it doesn’t matter to me since my own life and choices have been able to traverse the deepening divide fairly easily (the upshot of being half-caste). However the sad bit is that India has lost it’s ur-homeland (Indthings is technically not wrong in claiming that the Vedas weren’t composed in modern day India) and AfPak is becoming a firm reality.

It’s the slow generations but these Hinditvas have driven Pakistan away into the arms of an unwilling Ummah. In that same Ummah Pakistanis will always be second or third class citizens because they’re a bit of a joke. They don’t carry much status in the Muslim world since they aren’t really proud of who they are.

To give an example the Muslim Sindhi people in trying to create a language pride day randomly chose a day in December as Sindhi Cultural Day. With a little thought the Sindhis could have instead started ressurecting the Cheti Chand tradition and actually reach out to Sindhi Hindus (especially their rich diaspora) as a way to strength Sindhi identity.

It’s a sad reality both India and Pakistan have lost out because they have squabbled like silly children, one side insisting on an absurd language and the other on an absurd religion.

I find it heart-warming that no-one agrees with me; it means that I’m actually on to something. The more I live the more I realise just how unique my own perspectives actually and being a child of the divide(s) means I’m never going to think like everybody else or make the same life choices..


I asked MJ to prepare a small discourse for my Cheti Chand Celebration. I wanted it to be on the survival of Hinduism through the ages, as Cheti Chand is precisely about that (in a Sindhi context). 

I was rather offended by this lovely video (made by the Baha’is for Norouz). At 00:28 the man says (in rather over-flowery Persian, I feel the Farsi used here was far too ornate, trying to sound poetic without really achieving that) that Norouz was important for Baha’is but especially important for Persians.

Baha’i faith can never be a vehicle for Iranian Imperialism since the promise of our Faith is world encompassing (let your vision be world embracing) and it vindicated my decision to stop celebrating Norouz after marriage in favour of Cheti Chand.

I had a minor disagreement with a fellow Baha’i on this who is also Desi. I didn’t attend the community celebration over the weekend because I argued that as a religious, not cultural, holiday (and so close to Cheti Chand which is in 2 weeks) I would prefer to observe it in a more solemn manner.

He had initially suggested a Hindu-Baha’i dialogue, which I thought about but decided against. Hinduism is the oldest religion on earth and Baha’i Faith is the youngest; we have much to learn from them rather than the other way around.

At any rate MJ sent me his “controversial piece”, THE FAITH THAT NEVER FADES: THE HISTORICAL RESILIENCE OF HINDUISM. 

The Holocaust brings to one’s mind deep anguish and pain, even though not many of us lived during the times when Hitler’s army ran riot over millions of Jews across Europe. It was one of the darkest hours of humanity and the barbarism of the Nazi cruelly added another chapter to the oppression that the Judaistic faith has had to face over the centuries.

What if I were to say that there is another faith (rather a `way of life’) and people who have undergone as many trial and tribulations, if not more, over millenia?

Shocking, right? I speak of Hinduism, arguably the oldest extant religion (not quite a religion though, as much as a way of life) today. Of Sanatan Dharma, or the ‘eternal way of life’ as it is usually called. The Vedic faith that developed and prospered in the Indian subcontinent before having to face wave after wave of slaughter, deprivation, insult and pain. This article is a brief walk down our civilizational memory lane to look at the story of what can be called one of the most ancient and pristine renditions of spiritual humanism, and what made it so resilient and strong to withstand these relentless storms of history.

It’s a wonderful article and his Nazi article is interesting. It reminds me of the German female presenter who said publicly that at least the Nazis brought autobahns (she was immediately fired and I can’t find the link).

It is interesting to note that there are no temples of significance in North India (the Sun Temple of Multan, Somnath) and it seems the initial Islamic conquests (Ghazni-Delhi Sultanate) were particularly destructive (was it more in line with the Turkish invasion or the Arab conquests is subject to debate).

My view is that the history of Islam in the Subcontinent is fundamentally problematic (it did not grow through conversions but was facilitate by evangelisation under the aegis of Muslim conquest). However while acknowledging that it doesn’t mean one should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

So it squares up nicely with my Islamophobia, Hinduphilia, Urdophilia and Hindiphobia.

I don’t think Islam or Hindi belong in polite society though I happily noted a hijabi women wearing a Burberry scarf this afternoon. If one is going to mar one’s looks with a hijab then at least wear a designer one. That’s why I don’t have much issue with Arabs wearing hijab since they do so with so much Elan than South Asian Muslims (they wear black hijab with a duskier skin tone- bad combination; I rarely see South Asian Muslim women wear the Hijab well, they seem to think enforced ugliness is a virtue).

As for Hindi’s vulgarity (it is probably as vulgar as Islam, if not more), this clip was just shocking:

I cannot believe people talk like this. While the content is important, this sort of Hindi is crude and ugly that it lacks either the polish of Urdu or the flow of Hindustani. This is probably what they proudly call Hinglish (it’s really disturbing tbh) and then they threw in some Sanskrit word (Shahtruk or some such)..

I do feel Hindus have much misdirected rage instead of castigating, humiliating and abusing Islam at every opportunity as they should; they instead do so at Islamicate culture (and by extension the Islamicate state, Pakistan).

The lure of the Turanian triangle-

I’m following Drew Binksy, the travelloger, as he is falling in love with Pakistan. It seems to be his favourite country along with Iran. It will be a glorious day when Iran, Iraq, all the Stans (including Kurdistan) and Azerbaijan form some sort of Turanian cultural connection.

In this story he talks about how everyone in Peshawar (or Pakistan) has yogurt with everything. It’s funny because I must compulsively have yogurt with my food and it seems a Iranic quirk (Desi food obviously has yogurt but I’ll always have dollops of it).

The irony is that yogurt, which is so deeply associated with Iranian culture, is of course Turk-Mongolian. But I think the greatness of Iranian patriotism is that unlike say the Greek who make a point of calling it “Greek Yogurt”, Iranians don’t feel the need to Iranify everything.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Finally I’ve noticed that white people are never advised well when wearing desi clothes. The colour patterns and sizes of desi clothes is very different and white people being so pale need to adjust accordingly. Drew is wearing a blue shalwar kameez that’s ill-fitted.

I was looking online at white people wearing Desi clothes for examples of them wearing well and then I remember two white people who wear Indian dresses very well.

Image result for kalki koechlin indian clothes

Image result for katrina kaif indian dresses

When wearing colourful desi clothing one must present contrast. Kalki has opted for a black to offset her pallour and Katrina, I imagine, uses some foundation (and probably darkens her hair) to accentuate her desiness. Whether she’s fully European or not is beside the point what does do however is wear it well. This is another good example of a European wearing desi clothing well. Iranians for instance make a very bad job of wearing desi clothes and I get annoyed when they try to go “Ethnic” and mess it up (I may bleat about Iran online but Iranians can even get to me sometimes).

Image result for white people desi clothes
You can google “white people desi clothes” for examples where they don’t dress well. I think Desi fashion is probably one of the best in the world (obviously biased) but it’s remained, like Bollywood, remarkably indigenous and prevalent.

Will Indians become white, will India become Western?

I was pondering over this last evening since the rate of Westernisation in India is somewhat mind-boggling. Alia Bhatt’s dress to the filmfare awards is what any Hollywood siren would happily wear.  I can’t imagine a Pakistani actress wearing that in the next decade, for better or for worse.

I know it sounds hideously hypocritical but at the same time I don’t know how much would I want the Turanic triangle (AfPak+Iran) to really transform in a cultural space. While I would like to see Islam’s reform I wouldn’t want to see the base cultures become Western.

I also do not think that IndoPak will ever be a thing again; Pakistan is sailing out of South Asia and Indians have let them do so. It’s a mistake since our natural ties are within the geographic range but it’s not something I especially care about. If the Brits were able to shatter South Asia so easily perhaps it was never a real construct..

This Alia Bhatt-Ranbir Kapoor Filmfare Moment Made Neetu Kapoor 'Forget Stress'

Considering that the West is becoming more pagan and spiritual and India is becoming more Abrahamic (Hindutva is like the Bhakti movement, the Abrahamification of Hinduism).

I notice that Westerners now hold India to the same standards and don’t treat it as some “exotic” part of the world.

Contrast this to the Jewish-American travelloger, Drew Binksy:

He was the same chap who called China and India chaotic and his analogy of India to the EU was interesting.. Continue reading Will Indians become white, will India become Western?

Brown Pundits