Are all Arabs “honorary” Muslims?

Gibran of course was a Maronite and was inspired by his encounters with Abdul Baha. The Belle Époque seemed an especially sensitive time for Oriental spirituality (Grierson and Gandhi were somewhat contemporaneous).

At any rate most Pakistanis would internalise Gibran as one of their own and Tagore as foreign.

I used to be more skeptical about this Arabophilia; like all liberalstanis I used to say Khuda Hafez etc. However I’m of the opinion that pan South Asian nationalism has simply not made enough space for the two competing overarching identities.

In my podcast today with Professor Majeed; we briefly touch on the meta-aspect of Hindi and Urdu. It simply is the dividing civilisational fault lines.

When the Bengalis and Tamils needed to make their choice they were happy to prioritise their meta-identity In 1947 (Bengali were Muslim; Tamils were Hindu). However in 1971 the Bengalis in turn clarified their choice, which culminated in an “Indian-friendly” but distinct nationalism.

Tamil politics on the other hand, interacting and influencing no doubt with Sri Lanka (it’s fascinating that Tamil Muslims politically segregated during the Sri Lankan colonial era culminating in a distinct political identity as opposed to the mainland) is now grappling with the same choice.

It’s absurd to compare modern day India with 1971 Pakistan (the language question has been resolved in the 50’s with the adoption of Bengali so it wasn’t simply a linguistic matter) but the underlying tensions are the same.

Once a side picks their “civilisational” meta-identity then the demand for local identity starts to flourish in the wake of national homogeneisation.

I have begun to become very interested in the Seraiki question. It’s almost the equivalent of Cornwall getting separate constitutional state in the UK (Scotland is a Kingdom, so is NI – the remnants of one, and Wales is a Principality).

The only local or distinct identity Cornwall has in being the Duchy of Cornwall. This is the Prince of Wales’s subsidiary title hence why Camilla is addressed as the HRH the Duchess of Cornwall instead of Lady Diana’s previous and popular title as the Princess of Wales. It is important though since the Duchy Estates are the personal income of the Prince in a way the only other Duchy (of Lancashire) is not.

Interestingly the Duke of Lancaster is HM the Queen (the income from that estate reverts to the Crown, to which she is entitled 15% for the Royal Household’s running costs). The Duke of York is usually given to the monarch’s Spare son; it’s a title Prince Harry will eventually inherit. It’s fascinating to think that one of the oldest and most prestigious titles in the United Kingdom (the Duke of York) will eventually be held by an individual (Archie with Obama as his godfather) who would be considered as black in the United States (and so would his descendants).

But back on topic Lancaster is considered to be a fundamental part of England while Cornwall is an ambiguous territory; close to but not quite Wales.

In much the same way the emerging conversation on Seraikistan will emerge. It’s obviously not as distinct as Sindh but there is a formidable “Seraiki” ethnic identity.

Does that entitle it to a distinct Province? A separate Province would be very good for Pakistan because it would automatically re-jigg the Punjab’s disproportionate role in Pakistan. However as in the case of Andhra & Telangana; there is a fundamental unity to the region inasmuch as there is distinction between them.

It has taken centuries for Britain to express these Constitutional and regional quirks not to everybody’s satisfaction (the Brexit dilemma centres on the NI backstop). How will Pakistan accommodate this?

22 Replies to “Are all Arabs “honorary” Muslims?”

  1. \In 1947 (Bengali were Muslim; Tamils were Hindu). \

    ??. Bengali Hindu had a distinct identity – both cultural and territorial- and still do. There are Tamils Christians and Muslims today and in 1947. Tamil christian cast their lot in the national independence movement. Muslim League of the erstwhile Madras Province was fanatically pro-Jinnah and pro-partition even though they were not stakeholders in the proposed solutions. Just a handful of Tamil Muslims migrated to Pakistan, the promised land, after 47. madras Muslim league was used as asswipe by Jinnah which service they performed merrily

    “underlying tensions” whatever they are in India 2019 is nowhere near Pakistan 1971. Any ‘tensions’are economic as the states may demand more economic autonomy from the centre. Economic and commercial autonomy would also help the state level political forces which are steeped in corruption up to their eyeballs. Opportunism and corruption are driving any tensions , not vision of a different society.

    1. “Just a handful of Tamil Muslims migrated to Pakistan, the promised land, after 47”

      Did any non N-Indian muslim move to East Pakistan rather than the West wing. Its strange that tamils, mallu and Telugu muslims who moved , moved to West one rather than the East wing. Always found it strange. Perhaps the only non Bengalis moving to East Pakistan were East Indians like Biharis, Assamese muslims due to distance. And even there Biharis have sort of a split since lot of them also moved to West Pakistan.

    1. I am highlighting the constitutional arrangements for Cornwall (if any); Gaelic is a mole compared to the English mountain in Ireland Proper but it still fed Irish nationalism.

      Furthermore I would trust you watch your tone going forward; it’s verging on disrespect.

      1. Zach

        I wanted to write ‘you are making a mountain out of a molehill’ ; ‘making a’ got left out. That is all. No disrespect intended.

        1. I got that – I don’t think that is appropriate tbf.

          at any rate the language question is not critical to the formation of sub-nationalities (nationalities) in the UK.

          Cornish, Welsh, Scottish & Irish Gaelics are more symbolic as resistance than as living languages (except in pockets).

          They are a foreshadowing to a Anglofied world where the memory of a language is maybe even more to important to identity formation than the language itself

  2. “Once a side picks their “civilisational” meta-identity then the demand for local identity starts to flourish in the wake of national homogeneisation.”

    That local identity picking is heavily dependent on circumstances and can change. Bengali muslims picked Islam as local identity in the wake of national homogenization in 1905 as well as 1947. But they choose culture and language in 71.

    I think religion in a sense is the definite marker, if religious divide is present than it almost always becomes the “local identity” . But if both sides seem to have same religion (N-India vs tamil , Bengalis vs Pakistani) only then culture (Tamil nationalism, Bengali nationalism) comes into play.

    1. Yes that was what I was trying to say.

      A good example is the Hungarian in the Hapsburg Empire. Against the Turks they are Christian; but vis a vis the Austrians, they are Hungarians (the most implacable people to be ruled over apparently).

      As for Bengal; the Muslim elites switched over round the turn of the century (I think- Begum Rokeya etc) so that foreshadowed (word of the day) the eventual 1971 split.

      I found it hilarious that apparently the Muslim population in Kolkata speak Urdu. Such a complicated world!!

      1. ” apparently the Muslim population in Kolkata speak Urdu. Such a complicated world!!”

        Why would this surprise anyone? Bengal use to be a large global center of Farsi in the 1800s.

        I don’t want to start a Hindu/Hindustani/Urdu discussion again. For me they are mostly the same thing.

      2. My understanding is that it’s the large bihari/awadhi Muslim community who speaks Urdu in Calcutta. Perhaps also because of the large marwari pop, there’s a critical mass of hindustani speakers to limit assimilation to bengali. Also the traditional “mughlai” food that Calcutta is famous for, the biryani, rezala, kathi rolls, ect, is the contribution of this community.

          1. Xerxes, circa 2000 it became difficult to get by with Bengali in many parts of Calcutta because of immigrant non Bengalis.

            Again, why would you be surprised that Bengal has long had a large Urdu/Hindi speaking population? During the Mughul era Farsi was common in Bengal. Urdu/Hindi became common in the late Mughal era.

    2. if religious divide is present than it almost always becomes the “local identity” .

      Wise people have observed that a manageable Muslim population (in the Goldilocks range of 10-15%) is necessary for India to maintain its national integrity. 😉

  3. A good example is the Hungarian in the Hapsburg Empire. Against the Turks they are Christian; but vis a vis the Austrians, they are Hungarians (the most implacable people to be ruled over apparently).

    hungarian protestants marched with the ottomans. the catholics fought with the habsburgs.

  4. At any rate most Pakistanis would internalise Gibran as one of their own and Tagore as foreign.

    some of this is racial as many seen themselves as MENA+ and not south asian. even includes some hindus like pandits i’ve talked to.

  5. RSS declares all Indians, Muslims and Christians included, as honorary Hindus.

    The only problem is that it is unrequited love. 🙂

    1. yeh but that’s bullshit too. indians (left or right, secular or religious) believe in hereditary identity really strongly no matter what rss says. i had an indian christian (nasrani) friend who basically converted to hinduism (his beliefs were hindu, he was married to hindu), but his hindu friends/acquaintances kept saying “well actually you’re christian, you aren’t hindu.”

      i was only when he came to the USA that he could ’embrace’ his hindu identity since ppl here are more accepting you can change identity/community.

      1. Razib,
        “that’s bullshit too. indians (left or right, secular or religious) believe in hereditary identity really strongly no matter what rss says. i had an indian christian (nasrani) friend who basically converted to hinduism (his beliefs were hindu, he was married to hindu), but his hindu friends/acquaintances kept saying “well actually you’re christian, you aren’t hindu.””

        Deshis certainly enjoy gossiping and minding everyone else’s business.

        Can you provide more granular details? More background. For example what Hindu paramparas or orders or temple communities did he join. Did he formally become a Brahmin with these orders? Get initiation? Mother tongue. Region of India. Did he want to be considered a Christian Hindu? A Christian + member of a specific sampradaya?

        There is a lot of regional variation.

        I think you and Scorpion Eater are talking past each other.

        Dattatreya had 24 Gurus. Bhishma from the Mahabharata had seven Gurus in his childhood and more later in life. Dattatreya and Bhishma and Hindus in general are associated with all their Gurus and Paramparas. It is additive. Part of this is because the concept of conversion is not understood.

        Because of this a Christian will generally be seen as a Christian Shaivite or Christian Shaakta, or Christian Hare Krishna, or Christian Lingayat etc. People will assume one of his Gurus was the great Maha-Purusha Sat Guru Jesus. Even if he were to become a monk his nicknames would stick. He would be the Christian Vedanta monk. Or Christian Shankaracharya Sanyasi. Etc. Or Christian Brahmin whatever.

        That does not mean they are not regarded as authentically part of the parampara they have joined. It means that they would be seen as being authentically Christian in addition to whatever other paramparas or communities they are part of.

        Deshis also notice Jati and Gothra. Your friend would be seen to be Christian Jati who happens to also be Kashmiri Shaivite, or 18 Siddha Siddhanta or Sai Baba devotee or whatever.

        Because of this people’s past accompanies them. Sometimes people don’t like this.

        This is entirely consistent with Scorpion Eater’s statement about Christian Hindus. Likely most Hindus think this way.

        In any case people rarely identify as Hindus per say in my anecdotal observation. Someone might be a Ram Bhakta, Hanuman Bhakta, Vaishav, Nath Sampradaya, Gorakhnath sampradaya, Sri Vidya, Ramana Maharishi, Ramakrishna, Sai Baba bhakta, Gareeb Nawaz Bhakta etc. Often people are many things at once.

        This reminds me of an anecdote from A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He initially didn’t get why so many Americans wanted to become Vaishav or Hindu or whatever. Couldn’t they be Christian Hare Krishna bhaktas? Is this what was happening to your Christian friend?

        Check out Hindu Puja rooms. Many are like the United Nations. Everybody is there. Lots of side bets just in case. A little Jesus. A little Buddha. A little Mahavira. A little Guru Gobind Singh. A little Zarathustra. A little Angiras. A little Agastya. A little 7 saints. A little Navagraha. A little Naga/Sarpa. A little Garuda. Got to keep Hanuman there too.

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