People of Indian ancestry need to learn things outside of India or they will sound stupid

At my other blog, The Decline Of Genocide And The Rise Of Rents. One of the comments is from someone with an Indian name:

The problem with the whitewashing of the islamic invasions of India is that first, nobody does that with the christian invasions of sub saharan Africa and even more so, central and South America and secondly, the genocides did not stop in the past.

I wonder how much of what the author wrote applied to the European conquests of central and south america where the aim was clearly to slaughter and convert.

Since the commenter is parochial, they don’t know about the Spanish Black Legend, which was an Anglo-Protestant propaganda effort to argue that the Catholic Spaniards were particularly cruel and evil. The reality is that the aim was to convert, but, it was also to turn the indigenous peasantry into sources of rents for the Spaniards, who were keen on living like aristocrats in the New World. The demographic collapse of the indigenous population prevented some of that and necessitated the importation of African slaves.

Why was there a demographic collapse? It wasn’t really the Spaniards killing the native people in large numbers (in fact, the conquest of America occurred with the large-scale cooperation of indigenous allies). Rather, it was disease, as outlined in Charles C. Mann’s 1491.  If you look at the comment about, you will notice a peculiar contradiction in the idea that one would want to “slaughter and convert.” Winning souls usually entails keeping them alive!

Henry Kamen’s Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763, the author outlines the contrasting case of what has become the Phillippines. Here Spaniards and mestizos were a tiny minority, and the indigenous peoples were the overwhelming majority, with a large number of Chinese engaging in trade. Why the difference? Because the Spaniards did not bring disease that were particularly impactful on the people of the Phillippines, and on the contrary, tropical climates in Asia were not healthful for Europeans. The mortality rate for the Dutch East India Company in Batavia was incredibly high, as Southeast Asia served as a great mortality maw for young men from the Netherlands and Germany for generations.

The contrast with Africa is the most extreme. Fatal disease meant that the European presence in Sub-Saharan Africa was constrained to isolated fortifications and trading center on the coast for centuries. The reason Africa was “dark” was that even after all this time much of it was unexplored into the 19th century. If you look at biographies of the “Arab slave traders” from this period you will observe that many were of predominant black African ancestry. The primary, but not exclusive, reason for this difficulty of conquest and domination was malaria. The introduction of quinine opened up the continent to Europeans and resulted in the scramble for Africa.

Though some European missionaries did come to continent with colonialism, in most places mass Christianization occurred after the end of European rule. It was driven by native Christians and often spread fastest among groups that were located adjacent to Muslims. Christianity was seen as a bulwark of the native culture against Islam,* which Vodun and other indigenous beliefs exhibited little resistance (it is a peculiar fact that “public paganism” persists in West Africa, but not in East Africa, where tribal religions are much more rural and marginal phenomenon).

What can this tell us about India? As I have posted at length, it testifies to the power and strength of native Indian religious ideas and systems. Though Hindus say they are “pagan”, they are not pagan like African pagans. Or pagans like the people of highland Southeast Asia, or the New World. Or Classical Antiquity. Muslim rulers dominated the region around Delhi from 1200 to 1770, but 80-90% of the people in the region remained non-Muslim at the end of this period!

And yet 30% of subcontinental people are now Muslim. They are concentrated on the margins, in the far west and far east. What does this tell us?

A standard model presented is that slaughter and mass-killings resulted in the shift of religion at the point of the sword. Were Muslims particularly brutal in the west and the east? More brutal in eastern Bengal than western Bengal? More brutal in southeast East Bengal than northern East Bengal?

The idea of an exceptionally violent and brutal occupation is promoted and encouraged by many factors. First, many Muslims in the past and even actually like the idea that the Turks and Mughals were particularly vicious and zealous. The Turks themselves had an interest in portraying themselves as such ghazis converting pagans at the point of the sword. For Hindus, the conversion of marginal, liminal, and low caste communities to Islam of their own free will is not something one would want to address, because it points to “push” factors within Hindu society. Defection says something about the group from which you defect.

Finally, there is the reality that the Muslims did engage in forms of cultural genocide. The destruction of temples, the selective targeting of the religious, the imposition of an alien Persian high culture, are all true things that occurred in a Hindu India.

Note: I may just delete a lot of comments on this post if they don’t meet my standard. Just warning.

* The attraction of highland Southeast Asians to Christianity has the same tendency: they see it as a bulwark against absorption into lowland Buddhist culture.

43 thoughts on “People of Indian ancestry need to learn things outside of India or they will sound stupid”

  1. My understanding is that the primary drivers of conversion in East Bengal were Sufi preachers who attracted lower caste or only partially Hinduized communities.

    Was the conversion of Java also similarly peaceful?

  2. My understanding is that the primary drivers of conversion in East Bengal were Sufi preachers who attracted lower caste or only partially Hinduized communities.

    i think the partially hinduized is key, as the Bangladesh genetic data doesen’t indicate much caste structure at all!

    as for java, it wasn’t pure peaceful, as the coastal Islamic states (demak) took down majaphait,though majapahit was on the downswing. the key is that the Indian ocean maritime system had islamicized, and the vast majority of austronesian maritime ppl switched too. the exceptions are Bali, the Malagasy, and the Philippines. the Philippines is due to the Spaniards, as Islam was spreading in Luzon when they arrived.

    the islamicization of Indonesia wasn’t due to external pressure in anyway, but the shift of coastal elites to the Muslim mercentile system which dominated the Indian ocean. the Hindu elites all migrated to Bali after their defeat, and the peasants were left to their own devices. they were barely Hindu anyway, and for al long time they were barely Muslim. islamicization was thin until the 20th century in village java. Islam is actually stronger in outlying islands, which have no hindu-buddhist history, and no identity that’s as strong as Islam. in java there are still Hindu minorities, and conversion of ‘muslims’ to Hinduism and Christianity is accepted, though most of the Muslims were what we’d call ‘syncretistic.’

    google abangan vs santri

  3. Interesting that you mention the case of West Africans and highland Southeast Asians converting to Christianity because it provides a bulwark against Islam and Buddhism respectively. Do you think this has applied in reverse to Christianity as well? I think maybe one reason Arabs converted en masse to Islam is because it was a bulwark against Greek Christianity. Or maybe Bogomil Bosnians converting to Islam to avoid assimilation into Catholic Croatia/Orthodox Serbia.

  4. the bogomil => muslim model is argued for by others. basically the bosnians were in a liminal position btwn catholic and orthodox and were not as strong in their institutional xtianity.

    I think maybe one reason Arabs converted en masse to Islam is because it was a bulwark against Greek Christianity.

    i wrote about this on my other blog. i think Arabs were probably miasyphite or something xtians. never gonna convert to melkite Christianity. i think Islam emerged as an Arab sect and then got universalized since it was neutral btwn the subject peoples’ religions.

  5. I was waiting that one of BP guys assert the above title. The most of my comments are related to the links between Euro(Serbian) and SA history and pundits should always have this title on their mind. For example, I recently have noticed a mild astonishment and disbelief regarding my comments about ‘ancient Greece and Rome’ but smarter are already catching up. Stay tuned for more…

  6. Agree largely with both ur posts.

    I guess what Indian commentators are conflating is genocide of people (which you are addressing primarily) and genocide/total domination/replacement (for lack of better word) of “Indian” culture/religion/heritage.

    What they see is replacement of the latter in Punjab/Bengal and try to rationalize as “Hindu died, Muslims came and replaced them” as the only way of Islam hegemony in those regions. It ties with the modern view that the way you dominate the others is through sheer out breeding and changing population dynamics and all, since current day conversions in S-Asia to any religion is negligible overall.

    I guess you need to cut them some slack, they have just found their bearings (political power) and it will take time to have coherent positions and views.

  7. Obviously, you know very little about this topic (bogomils). I will write more but for now just briefly. Bosnians, as a separate national entity, have never existed!!!! Only Serbs lived there for many 000s of years. Due to historical circumstances, some under pressure converted to Catholicism, some to Islam. So called Bosnians (the term is 25 years old!) are trying to invent their ancient origins and going back to so called ‘bogomils’ (Serbian word for – God’s favourites) even connect themselves to Celts. They are trying to invent separate origins from Serbs because they are de facto traitors of their roots and they were later involved in genocides against Christian Serbs during Ottoman, WW1, WW2 and 90ies. They are also trying to invent a new language for themselves (Bosnian) by adding some Turkish words to their mother Serbian tongue. They have the same genetics as Christian Serbs. There are absolutely no any differences (linguistic, genetic) except, my observation, their brains stopped developing since their conversion to Islam. Because we have thousands of jokes about Muyo (Mustafa), Haso (Hasan) and Fata (Fatima). Please read the above title again.

    1. U ovoj zemlji svaka laz na kraju postane istina(Dobrica Cosic: “Deobe”).Dobrica Cosic;”otac” moderne srpske nacije.
      In this country(Serbia),every lie becomes the truth in the end(Dobrica Cosic:”Deobe”).Dobrica Cosic;”father” of modern serbs nation.

  8. since current day conversions in S-Asia to any religion is negligible overall.

    Indian Americans too are totally ignorant and shocked by the amount of conversion here. 50% of ppl change their religion. this includes converts to Christianity from Hinduism. a guy from this background kept not wanting to acknowledge his conversion wasn’t a big deal cuz ppl do it all the time in the USA (the guy thinks all Indian Americans should convert to xtianity, but doesn’t want to make the argument on my podcast 😉

    1. Well as they say, all models are wrong, some models are useful.

      Indians (and other parts of the world, but most prominently Indians) model religion as an innate ethnic-civilizational affiliation. This led to an amusing exchange with my father, when he found out one of my faculty was an atheist of Muslim background.

      Dad: Ah, so he’s a Muslim.

      Me: No, he never shows up to the mosque and he drinks a lot and eats bacon, and he says he’s an atheist.

      Dad: That doesn’t matter, he’s from a Muslim background, right? That means he’s a Muslim.

      Me: You can’t be a Muslim if you publicly disavow everything about Islam.

      Dad: Ok fine, he’s an Atheist Muslim.

      Pretty dumb, but that’s what was said.

      On the other hand, Razib’s friend is also pretty dumb. Interpreting religion purely as a personal consumption good (to borrow Razib’s parlance) doesn’t let you understand how Hindus perceive religion, and its ramifications for collectives as well as individuals, and why conversion is offensive to many Hindus.

      And besides, if you wanted to convert for a temporal advantage, what does Christianity even gain you? We don’t live in the 2000s anymore, and Christianity is now marginalized and derided in elite and professional circles. Convert to Wokeness if want to advance your socioeconomic position!

      1. You can ask him if he denounces jihad and taqiyya (let ignore 77 virgins for now). If he does (I still haven’t seen any example), he is really an atheist….


        No one tried to answer my question if Manu was an Aryan. It would be really a paradox that one barbarian and rapist becomes the main lawmaker for many future generations. It would be almost as if you discover that, for example George Washington, was not only a slave owner than a rapist, too. This would be even worse than all affairs of…..uhm…Don Scythian (in English – tramp).

        PS. In my above comment – ‘bogomils’ were Serbs Christians, Bosnia and Bosniacs did not exist. It was a part of the medieval Serbian kingdom.

        1. \You can ask him if he denounces jihad and taqiyya \
          Add to that complete junking of sharia laws as totally incompatible with modern values and life. Especially for those in non-Muslim countries.Those pining for sharia laws have only jumped half the well into modernity , even they have proper Kings British accent or Neurosurgeons or premium league footballers

      2. your dad is normal for indians. they simply don’t understand how individualistic american religious choices are.

        the person i’m talking about was conservative before they were christian. it’s just what happens when you move in certain circles. you get influenced and you end up believing (most people; not me).

      3. hat does Christianity even gain you? We don’t live in the 2000s anymore, and Christianity is now marginalized and derided in elite and professional circles.

        Oh, yes there is a support system, specially for Evangelical Christian.

        My two nieces (cousins to each other) are reasonably religious, church, youth groups etc. Both are in Glasgow, one undergrad and the other a masters.

        They got an apartment for 200 pounds a month either thru the church or a contact in the church. Neither of them are the moocher types, looking for handouts. Parents support and they work part time. So I guess got offered to them, just because they go to church.

        The younger is quite dark, and I have predicted she will end up with a white guy. Told my sis too, who replied so long as a Christian.

        The elder, light skinned (at least for SL), so maybe Afro Carib.

      4. I don’t think your dad was pretty dumb. A man or woman is not made by some few conscious beliefs or lack of them . Each person carries a whole baggage of culture , history and civ and racial ethos with them . Atheist Muslim is acceptable I think . I would call Salman Rushdie one such.AM do not become deracines and not something like Brown Sahib. In fact , such people should be in charge of Muslim countries – for some time anyway , like Ataturk

        1. “Atheist” means that one doesn’t recognize the existence of God while Muslims by definition must believe in Allah and in His Prophet (peace be upon him). You can’t square this contradiction.

          Referring to someone as an atheist of Muslim descent would make more sense.

          1. \atheist of Muslim descent\

            Atheist Muslim is just a shortcut by dropping 2 words

          2. Muslim is not a race but a religious category. If one doesn’t believe in the basic tenet of the religion then one cannot be said to be a member of the group.

            “Atheist Muslim” is a sloppy use of the English language.

  9. Wokeness is the religion of Western elites but I don’t think it will last too long. Wokeness, cultural relativism etc. gained ascendancy in the 1990s and 2000s when US/West was the dominant power. As China becomes more and more powerful, Western elites won’t feel secure in their universalist values and will revert to more regressive ideologies. One historical example is the Arab world of the Middle Ages. They were more cosmopolitan prior to the 12th century but once Christian Crusaders and Pagan Mongols attacked the Islamic heartlands, the myth of Islamic invincibility was gone and the religion became more regressive. Once China surpasses US economically, Western elites will be on the defensive and wokeness could decline. Not sure what will replace it though. Maybe some form of white nationalism+cultural Christianity? But then again in a few decades, there might be more Christians in China than the US so who knows.

    1. Yeah its really interesting what would really replace wokeness. I think white nationalism+cultural Christianity is plausible, but i feel that west has collectively moved forward enough and won’t regress to that extent. Eastern Europe/Latin america could have it though

      Also i am not sure irrespective of numbers China would be able to appropriate Christianity. It will come unstuck as it did when they tried the same thing with Buddhism. Christianity is still seen as a western thing and only very recently has Latin america got its due. I think the next in line would be Africa

      1. Yeah the combination of White Nationalism+Cultural Christianity could work in Eastern Europe. It is the dominant ideology in countries like Poland and Hungary I think. Russia could have successfully championed that ideology in Europe and created a coalition with Poland but these two countries can never get along. The Pope and Patriarch keep on squabbling and alas the Prophet ends up winning.

        1. Yeah, this was the foundation of the “Xtian/Racial/Ethnic/Cultural-commonality/Long-term-common-enemy-China” bridge that Trump (or his handlers) were trying to build to Putin. We may in fact see this emerge even if Trump were to be voted out of power.

    2. Unlikely.

      Think about it. Is there any internally consistent ideological reason for Wokes to love Islam (or at least, underindex on the ills of Muslim societies) and hate Hinduism (or at least, drastically overindex on the ills of Hindu societies)? Of course not. The fact that it happened is a result of the modern political events and constituencies.

      Similarly, if China were to become strong, that would not mean that the American elites give up on their ideology (let alone convert to the ideologies of their marginal and derided enemies). They would just incorporate Sinophobia (or who knows, Sinophilia!) into their mutable, pre-existing ideology of Wokeness.

      1. \internally consistent ideological reason for Wokes to love Islam\
        This is the electoral dynamics. Woke ideology has been, people should be allowed to immigrate as they wish , no checks or vetting on their ideological inclinations should be imposed, all should get equal treatment especially for democratic elections. Non western people who took maximum advantage of this was Muslims from different countries – and it was partly economic migration and partly to escape the civil wars in Muslim countries.
        being nice to and partial to Islam will pay electoral dividends in Woke calculations and Hindus don’t matter electorally relatively

        1. The woke crowd is a cancer. California is a shithole. People are moving out and these woke assholes will bring their cancerous form of liberalism to whatever region they move to without realizing their woke values is why they left the shithole that is the Bay area or such.

  10. Mainland Chinese are also moving toward universalist values and the West is a lot more attractive for them than China is for Westerners. Add in China’s low birthdate which will result in a aged Japanese-like population pyramid in a few decades (which immigration is very unlikely to solve) and you do not have a recipe for Sino-triumphalism.

    The spanner in the works is India and how far or not far it will go, and how westernized or not westernized it will be.

  11. Also there’s no reason Chinese or any other developed country culture will become especially religious going forward. Religion is a non-issue in Japan for example, basically dead in Western Europe except among some immigrant communities, and in steep decline even in the supposed outlier USA.

  12. An important point regarding Spanish colonialism in South America and Asia is that it really wasn’t colonialism. Spanish overseas territories were ruled as Spanish overseas provinces, with subjects (regardless of race) having the same rights, as a rule, as those in Spain — thus, Americans and Filipinos were able to, and frequently did, travel freely to Spain, for example to study. The distinction is important because British and French both used a true colonial system (which obviously blew up in the British case in 1776) under which overseas French and British, even if white, didn’t have the same rights as those in the motherland. This distinction is likely founded on Spain’s long history of contacts (friendly and otherwise) with Moors, which cured Spaniards of any illusions of White Supremacy.

    1. if moors looked like modern Berbers they were pretty much a white population.

  13. Though some European missionaries did come to continent with colonialism, in most places mass Christianization occurred after the end of European rule. It was driven by native Christians and often spread fastest among groups that were located adjacent to Muslims.

    Entirely consistent with this is something that I learned about only recently and which I was quite unprepared for (a result of reading about African history, following some suggestions IIRC on the gnxp site): there is a 400+ year old tradition of Christianity in south central Africa dating back to when the Portuguese established what were initially diplomatic and commercial relations with the Kingdom of the Kongo. For details, see here and here.

  14. Article blames just like others left writer blame Jattis ( kind of caste but its job specific) to conversion never understand how Hindusim works. They try to pivot around one book or one God just like other religions thats where thy fail to understand Hindus.
    During era of Islamic conquest the rate among Hindus to voluntarily convert Islam was low compared to say Persia or other nations losing to Islamic invading armies because Hindu society has been quite interdependent among each other and these groups r well recognized in Hindusim with specific objectives.
    Infact rate of conversion has increased in 21st century as ppl r quite independent and take decision with their own survival in mind. Otherwise while British were in India and main land Hindus didnt convert in mass compared ppl now in India.
    Historically Hindus paid extra tax smd survived lot of obvious pressure to remain Hindu in India. Compared to Hindus converting now without much administrative pressure all over d world.
    Reason can be from
    1) Money is more imp to Hindu then ever before.
    2) Hindus see themselves as individual then ever before.

  15. I think we miss the importance of Akbar and the alliances he formed with Rajputs when we look at demographics in India. The fact is that while Muslim sultanates ruled Delhi, the Deccan came under Muslim rule only after the fall of Vijaynagar (1565), by which time Akbar, who was secular and influenced by the idea of the Church of England, ruled the North. While Shah Jahan was probably much more Islamist, he still looked to preserve the alliances with the Rajputs. Aurangzeb was a fanatic, but the reaction to him both in the North (Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikhs) and the South (Shivaji and the Marathas) was so vehement because he came on the back of 3 generations of Mughal rulers who did not seek to impose Islam – and led to the fall of the Mughals after him

    1. Akbar comes after 400 years of Muslim rule in Delhi.
      Whatever push or constraints to conversion was there should already have been in place.

    2. I have developed a more nuanced view of Aurangzeb over time. Yes, he was an orthodox Muslim and reinstated Jeziya, etc. However, the precipitous decline of the Mughal Empire was due to many factors. Aurangzeb’s predecessors undertook a number of “prestige” building projects and he is often credited with reigning in spending.

      However, his misadventure in the Deccan which consumed him for the last twenty five years of his life, drained the treasury of the Mughal Empire. After defeating the Islamic sultanates of the Deccan and beheading Sambhaji, Aurangzeb mistakenly thought that he had destroyed Maratha unity and power. However, he was sorely mistaken.

      So it was overstretch of empire, inability to deal with Marathas through playing one faction against another, and making a strategic retreat from the Deccan that brought about the demise of the Mughal empire. Religious orthodoxy and fanaticism on the part of Aurangzeb may have been a factor, but not the main reason.

      The Nizam of Hyderabad illustrated how to survive and thrive in the face of ascendant Maratha power.

      1. Never thought on these lines or read anywhere to this effect.
        But this makes lot of sense!
        Most narratives focus on how mughals had limitless wealth on these expeditions to Deccan and Marathas were no match for that front.

  16. Razib says – “The attraction of highland Southeast Asians to Christianity has the same tendency: they see it as a bulwark against absorption into lowland Buddhist culture.”

    I think the same is at play in the hills of the North-East of India where Christianity has developed roots. As also, among various tribal communities in India.

    Ambedkar embraced Buddhism to keep the Dalit community firmly rooted in Dharmic traditions but also an identity that was distinct from mainstream “Hinduism”. Only time will tell if the Dalit community will retain its Buddhist identity or be brought back into the Hindu fold as a result of Modi/BJP’s Hindutva push and specifically embrace of backward castes and communities.

  17. there was a recent conversion of a muslim girl into lingayat faith after her marriage to a lingayat boy. this was sanctified by a local swamiji was head of a mutt.
    a muslim was ordained as head of a lingayat mutt recently.
    lingayats follow basava philosophy and are found across all hindu castes. there is lot of scope for muslims to convert to this faith and might happen slowly but surely, if the bjp rule continues.

  18. Title is appropriate coming from the modern Al Biruni

    I can’t really comment on modern conceptions of Islam in India, but it strikes me that there were five (often interwoven) threads that made up Islam during the time of its introduction to the subcontinent.

    There was the Turks, who were brutal. But they were brutal because they were the descendants of Turkic and Mongol sensibilities, not because they were Muslim. They had just steamrolled Central Asia (or taken charge because they were the only ones willing to fight and die) and India was next.

    There was so-called high (Motazilite) Islam, which had been the central culture of scientific inquiry for a millenium but was dying in Central Asia. This was a culture of inquiry, poetry, and cultivation, but it was no match for both the Turks and…

    Doctrinal Islam (Asharite)… which was conservative, but in a somewhat innovative way. Al Ghazali was like Hume epistemologically, and put God in the gaps of uncertainty. This reshaped the Islamic world to be more like the one Aurangzeb was trying to shape India to be.

    Trade Islam, ecumenical, based on trade routes and merchant practices, connecting the Red Sea to the Spice Islands.

    Mystical Islam with Sufi pirs, offering an egalitarian transcendent charismatic alternative in a form analogous to traditional subcontinental mysticism… where often the lines blurred between different faiths.

    I imagine different people who converted were converting to different Islams for different reasons.

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