A quick reaction to Indian Election

I wrote the following article for one of the English daily newspapers in Bangladesh. The main idea is directly borrowed from a very good post in Brown Pundits (2016) by always superb contributor Omar Ali bhai.  “Is Islam the rock on which the liberal order broke?”  https://www.brownpundits.com/2016/12/05/islam-is-rock-on-which-liberal-order/

Link to my article here.  Text follows. Just as a reminder, newspapers op-eds are not suitable place for good elaboration and defense of ideas. This is not an analysis or theorizing, just a reaction.

The rock that broke liberalism

https://www.dhakatribune.com/opinion/op-ed/2019/05/25/the-rock-that-broke-liberalism?fbclid=IwAR3cQVWjO1PYe6muE33Dijy44kR90fJRH1Iv6UBqS9KYqHr9e7AlTHKjvdo

I was watching live streaming of the India Election 2019 results on the NDTV website. Panelist after panelist was commenting on how significant were Balakot strikes in boosting BJP’s re-election prospects, and how ignorant are the liberal elites of India about the appeal of national identity among the masses.

This was NDTV, as a reminder, one of the citadels of India’s liberal elites. BJP’s triumphant re-election under Narandra Modi underscores the wave of right-wing populist nationalism sweeping across democracies of the world — Europe, Australia, Latin America, the US, Asia, maybe soon in Canada also.

With every election, every referendum taking place in established democracies, it is becoming apparent that this wave may not be just yet another right turn in the cycle of politics soon to be corrected by pivot to the left, but a fundamental shift in the people themselves.

A couple of years ago, in a South Asia focused blog I frequent, a much-admired Pakistani-American writer wrote a post posing a great question: “If and when modern humanism and liberalism crashes and burns, will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?”

His point was not that Islam single-handedly threw a powerful challenge to the liberal order, or “end of history” would have been achieved if Islam didn’t throw a wrench into the gears of civilization.

He argued that by obdurate refusal to accept the fundamental assumptions of post-enlightenment worldview, by obstinate resistance to assimilate with the mainstream when in the minority and by dogged persistence in recreating antediluvian theocracies when in majority, Muslims not only undermined the universal validity of the whole liberal project, but also sowed deep doubts about the liberal project among its previously most faithful adherents.

Muslim recalcitrance has hastened delivery of the contradictions that the liberal project was pregnant with from the beginning.

And the contradictions are huge indeed. The liberal order is prone to breakdown because it doesn’t sufficiently account for the fact that human nature itself is broken. People are not just utility or satisfaction maximizing beings. Enjoyment and suffering are intimately co-mingled.

People do not just want to reach heaven together; they want some, preferably who are somewhat different, to be confined to hell as well. Apart from the contradictions, surely undercurrents of technological and economic change, the shift in global power balance, the inevitable decay of political order, played a far more important role in undermining the liberal dominance than obstinate resistance of the followers of Islam?

However, it’s hard to deny any causative role of Islam. The emergence of right-wing, national identity politics was perhaps inevitable in India, but BJP’s astonishing dominance must be partially attributable to Pakistan’s persistent spoiling and nightmare-neighbour role? Right-wing majoritarians everywhere are scapegoating Muslims as the principal other; morality of their methods can be questioned, but the success cannot.

Moreover, I would argue that Islam has not undermined the liberal order by sowing doubts within liberal ranks or exposing its contradiction, it has weakened liberalism by emboldening and consolidating the enemies of liberalism in established democracies which were scattered and disheartened after the bloodbath of WWII and subsequent emergence of liberal world order.

Stubborn defense of group identity by Muslims of the world has made upholding group identity respectable for all groups, majority or minority, powerful or weak. In the age of mass politics, group identities like religion or nation have more elements in common than in difference. If Muslims can be unabashedly assertive about the sanctity of their religious identity and traditions, other groups can be unapologetic about their respective identities too.

Muslims may be a small minority in most of established democracies, but they comprise nearly one-fourth of humanity, and they have a very emphatic presence in Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe. To people of different faiths, Muslims, regardless of their actual numbers as minority, represent the much talked-about demographic threat from the south.

Muslims, whether in majority or minority, are on the other hand deathly afraid of the political, cultural, and economic threats emanating from the leading political and ethnic groups of the world. It’s a mutual cycle of fear spiraling downwards. Muslims cheering the probable demise of a liberal world order is the height of folly.

As the world’s most powerless and disunited major group, they will continue to pay the major price of breakdown in blood and misery. Uighurs of China portend that bleak future.

In established democracies, Muslims are generally politically allied with liberal progressives, and this alliance has opened liberals up to accusation of double standards in protecting a very illiberal minority identity. Abandoning universalism and embracing identitarianism is hollowing out liberalism from within. Either the principles of liberalism apply for all groups or none at all.

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Islamic Extremists, Human Rights and Evangelical Christians

Abstract:

Is Sri Lanka (and similar small states) going to be the frontline between Islamic Caliphate versus Human Rights/Evangelical Christian Empire. Like Vietnam was a proxy War/battlefield between the goal of a Communist vs Capitalist World Empire.

Post WW2, Evangelical Christianity (thru the US) and “Human Rights” (thru US and Europe) have been terrorizing the Mid East for over half a decade.

What is the difference between

  • a) Bombing multiple countries to install “Human Rights” compliant with the Empire of the West.
  • b) or Bombs with the goal of establishing Sharia Law compliant Caliphate Empire.
U.S. bombs  southern Baghdad, killing another six civilian

Pre WW2 Europe (2) was the foremost in promoting “Christian Values” while obviously exploiting and looting the resources of brown and yellow heathen savages.
Post WW2, Europe and the US has redefined itself as advocates of Human Rights illegally supporting war either (see the box below for examples)

      • by acting unilaterally
      • using false evidence for UN resolution
      • acting beyond UN resolutions

In order to invade Iraq, Colin Powell stood on the UN floor and assured that Iraq had WMD. Colin Powell later regretted his speech.
A spokesperson for the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) falsely defended the bombing of Libya as within UN resolution. The UN resolution was only to establish a no fly zone. The Norwegian aircraft dropped 588 bombs

To Europe, US markets the wars as protecting Human Rights or the (in)famous Right to Protect (R2P) of Samantha Power and Hillary Clinton. At home in the US sells  Human Rights as Gods Wish/A Just War to the very important Evangelical home base to garner support for Iraq War and bombing of Libya.

No MSM writeup says, Christian Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama instigated a Just War.  However, George W. Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church. Barack Obama is and has been a member of Evangelical Churches. Evangelical leaders post 9/11 signed an open letter to Bush approving war on Iraq satisfied the criteria of Christian “Just-war” theory. ( see here and here)

“Iraq represents that existential threat we have from global Islamic Jihadists. “We must defeat it in Iraq, Afghanistan and then act preemptively to destroy it wherever it emerges.”.

“Throughout Scripture, there is evidence that God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses it to accomplish his will. He has also given governments and their citizens very specific responsibilities in regards to this matter,” Charles Stanley, Televangelist, pastor First Baptist Church of Atlanta and In Touch Ministries said in a sermon broadcast internationally on his television program.,

As one can see, there is not much difference between Christian and Islamic priests advising people and countries to wage war.

Two examples of US and European Post World War 2 atrocities
1953 Iran: CIA coup overthrows the democratically elected MP Mosaddegh .

1980-1988 Iraq Iran War:

  • Support for Iraq
  • USS Vincennes shoots down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988, killing all 290
  • Chemical weapons supplied to Iraq by US, UK,  Netherlands and German companies

It is pretty clear, the US and Europe with the blessings of the Evangelicals/Human Rights Religion has been the first instigators in the Mid-East.  The Muslim response has been slow and generally localized to places of regime change and invasions.  With the creation of Al-Qaeda and ISIS the war has been fought on a larger geographical terrain.

Now the war between Evangelicals/Human Rights Religion and Islamic Jihad has been taken worldwide. Suicide bomber cells now include family groups including children. Suicide bombers attack churches, tourist hotels and beaches where westerners congregate.  T

Unhappily, Islamic extremism is also an opportunity for Western powers to establish a foothold.  In Sri Lanka.  The US wants to sign a  secretive Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with clauses to exclude the American soldiers from the local jurisdiction.  Liberal Human Rights types and Westernized   Sri Lankans (many are Christians, like current PM Ranil Wickremasinghe) would welcome the West with open arms.  This would result in Sri Lanka being a proxy battle field for Western powers and the Islamic Caliphate.  Sri Lanka should find its own solution to keep Christian/Islamic wars out of its shores.

(1)Disclosure. Author is a Tamil by Heritage, Atheist, though born to an  Evangelical Christian family, post graduate education and work in the US.
(2) The Catholic Church has much blood in the past. Post WW2 as far as I know, no war has been justified by the Vatican.

Other readings

Islam, Extremism & Hypocrisy, Nur Yalman (2017)
Short history of Wahabism to ISIS

https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/islam-extremism-hypocrisy/

History of Wahabi violence in Sri Lanka.
http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190505/sunday-times-2/the-need-to-identify-the-enemy-within-347960.html

From Sri Lanka to Indonesia, more mothers are becoming suicide bombers
– and killing their children too
https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/3008808/sri-lanka-indonesia-more-mothers-are-becoming-suicide-bombers-and?

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Contemplating the weave of the world

    [ exploring various versions of how the world of concepts can itself be conceptualized ]

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Have patience with me: Omar Ali has invited me to post here, an honor I greatly appreciate, and I am introducing myself.

I’m an outsider. I’m your guest, and I only just arrived.. To be precise, I’m a Brit, resident in the United States:

If I’m to write on BrownPundits, I need to you know how ignorant I am in many respects, before I shed some of what knowledge I do possess — and also to focus myself in the Brown direction, because this place is devoted to “a discussion of things brown” — and while I’ll no doubt wander far afield as I post, I want to acknowledge and honor the purpose of this blog as I introduce myself here.

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My interest, my fascination, my obsession even, is with the weave of the world. And indeed, if my friends Omar Ali, Ali Minai, and Hasan Asif can be any indication, the Punditry of Brown extends intellectually across all of history, geography and genius, to encompass the world of ideas and the world world to which the ideas refer in their combined entirety..

And thus the weave of the thing. That’s how the Kathasaritsagara, or Ocean of the Streams of Story, comes in to my story. Somadeva Bhatta’s concept of the oceanic streams of story caught Salman Rushdie’s eye, and Rushdie reference to it —

He looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and Iff explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each coloured strand represented and contained a single tale. Different parts of the Ocean contained different sorts of stories, and as all the stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was in fact the biggest library in the universe. And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories; so that unlike a library of books, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was much more than a storeroom of yarns. It was not dead, but alive.

— it’s a universal mapping of the sort that enchants the likes of Jorge Luis Borges and Umberto Eco, librarians both, encompassing the realm of human thought in narrative terms. And it’s one subcontinewntal form of the universal map, or model, or metaphor — the Net of Indra in the Avataṃsaka Sutra would be another.

Outside the subcontinent — but well within the compass of Brown Punditry– there are other such metaphors for the whole of the whole. Teilhard de Chardin’s oosphere is another, as is Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s >World Wide Web, in which complex weave of thoughts we now find ourselves.

But for my own purposes, the most interesting figure of the whole, the universe as we are able to think and name it, conceptually speaking, is the Glass Bead Game as described by Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel of that name

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My own personal predilections run from cultural anthropology through comparative religion to depth psychology, and from violence to peace-making. But that’s a huge sprawl at best, and to bring all that into some kind of focus, to learn how to map that immense territory, and the vaster universe beyond it, I turn not just to strong>Hesse’s novel, but particularly to the Game which he describes in that book:

The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

You’ll see how that description covers much the same ground as Rushdie’s description of the Kathasaritsagara, and Edward Tufte’s image of the Ocean of Story which I’ve placed at the top of this post could also be a depiction of Hesse’s great Game.

There are many voices in the Ocean, and many voices in the Game, and they are interwoven: they form which a musician would recognize as a polyphony — their concepts and narratives at times clashing as in musical counterpoint, at times resolving, at least temporarily, in a refreshing harmony.

And what better model of the world can we contemplate at this moment, that one in which a multitude of at times discordant voices wind their ways to concord?

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[ above: conventional score, bar-graph score and keyboard recordings of JS Bach, contrapunctus ix

Johann Sebastian Bach is the master of contrapuntal music, and, be it noted, a great composer for and improviser on the organ. And it is Bach whose music I listen to as I approach the business of modeling the world of ideas.

My mantram ca 1999/2000 was:<To hold the mind of Bach..

Where Bach devises and holds in mind melodies that collide and cohere, I want us to hold thoughts in mind — at times clashing thoughts — and learn to weave them into a coherent whole..

That’s my approach to making the Glass Bead Game which Hesse conceptualized, playable. And my playable variants on Hesse’s Game, the HipBone family of games, will be the topic of my next few posts — thanks to the kind inquiries of my BrownPundit friends, and Omar’s generous invitation to me to post here.

And perhaps, if you’re interested, we’ll play a few rounds of my games, or explore across the world of ideas and your and my interests, what I’ve come to think of as the HipBone style of thinking..

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Charles Cameron is a poet and game designer, managing editor of the Zenpundit blog, and now an invited guest at BrownPundits. You can hear a discussion of the overlap between the Glass Bead Game and Artificial Intelligence featuring Omar Ali, Ali Minai and myself on this BrownPundits podcast — with an appreciative bow to Razib Khan.

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The Post-White World

As I was scoffing down my lunch (I jest; I actually eat really healthy food) a thought came into my mind that a good book title would be “The Post-White World.”

Since 1492 (when Granada fell and Columbus set off) there has been an increasing consolidation of the West. It reached its apogee in the Victorian Era, where it was unabashed racial hegemony, and it took two World Wars to really shake it off. It’s interesting that Islam experienced so much “innovation” in the 19th century simply because the incursion of the West was finally being internalised. Continue reading “The Post-White World”

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SATYASHRAMA: A CONCEPTION OF DHARMIC POLITICS

My good friend MJ wrote an interesting piece on Dharmic Politics. I debated against him last week against the Union. I really enjoyed his speech since it was so well laid out.

SATYASHRAMA: A CONCEPTION OF DHARMIC POLITICS

Gerua: Rediscovering a tinge of renunciation

The full name is bhagwani i.e. the colour of bhagwan which Forbes translates cloth dyed with geru (red ochre), another common name is jogirang i.e. the colour worn by religious mendicants. I collected a few samples and am told that they are all shades of cinnamon brown; the popularity of the colour may be judged from the blazons, seeing that tenne is in every instance only a representative of the lighter shades, and murry (sanguine) in most instances a representative of the darker.

Ṛtaniti and Satyashrama: New Age Dharmic Politics

I see the meta-dynamics of the Universe quite clearly, particularly being a student of Physics myself. A set of laws here, a manner of movement and interaction between entities and forces there. The Universe could have been a vast number of possibilities (in the multiverse picture, they all exist independently) but it is what it is. There is a certain order in the Universe, seemingly self-organizing but yet directed. This is what ancient Indian philosophers and seers called Ṛta. That which maintained this order and respected the nuances of this reality was the Truth or Satya. You may start feeling that I will embark on a detour of philosophy and spirituality next. Not quite. After a lot of reflection and meditating on the nuances of these concepts, I feel there are two core ideas and nuances that matter when one speaks of that wisdom that maintains the  universal order (Ṛtaniti).

An Economy of Social Capital, Personal Social Responsibility and e-Democracy

However, having said that, I also strongly believe in the idea of Swadharma: the tendencies and capacities of the individual, and a system that provides for opportunities and liberty to the same. Some are born with innate abilities to solve mathematical conundrums. Some are born athletes or singers or artists. Not only at the level of abilities but also comfort in undertaking certain pursuits, every person is distinct. Only when this idea and reality is respected can society remain harmonious and efficient. In today’s age, we have a rush to pursue certain kinds of activities. These are guided by aspects of remuneration and prestige many a times, over and above the comfort and interest of the individual in pursuing them.

In Conclusion

In this essay, I have looked at some core ideas of ancient Indian philosophy and tried to synthesize by reasoning and reflection a truly Indian political philosophy – Satyashrama. Today people speak of Hindu nationalism and communal politicking in the same breath. Today people talk of fascism and a culture that has always believed in tolerance and dignity of the individual since times immemorial, again, in the same breath.

Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar – Mj to his friends – likes to be called a student of science, society and sensibilities. He is currently pursuing his postdoctoral research in Physics in the University of Cambridge and is the current Vice President of the Graduate Union of the University of Cambridge.

Having completed his PhD at 25 from the University of Cambridge, he looks forward to exploring Physics at greater depths in the future. His current work relates to studying the symmetries in physical systems and their correlation with entanglement patterns in these systems. This work, being done in collaboration with the Hitachi-Cavendish Laboratory, is all the more relevant given the industrial interest in the application of quantum entanglement in quantum computation. Mrittunjoy enjoys actively engaging with the world of science popularisation, policy and diplomacy, as much as pure research. He has worked actively with the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, and bodies such as the Cambridge University Science Policy and Exchange (CUSPE) and BlueSci – the science magazine of Cambridge University, in these areas, both in India and the UK.

Continue reading “SATYASHRAMA: A CONCEPTION OF DHARMIC POLITICS”

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India and Pakistan; the Fog of War

On the 14th of February 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed when a convoy of the Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was attacked in Pulwama (Indian Kashmir) by a vehicle borne suicide bomber. The attack was immediately claimed by a Pakistan-based terrorist organization called the Jaish e Mohammed (JEM, the army of Mohammed), who released a video of the suicide bomber, a local lad from southern Kashmir. JEM is led by a Pakistani cleric named Masood Azhar who had been captured by Indian security forces in the 90s in Indian Kashmir, but was released in exchange for the hostages on board an Indian airlines aircraft in December 1999. After his release he went to Pakistan and set up his Jihadist terrorist organization and has operated openly in the country ever since.

This is, of course, not the first major terrorist attack in India to be claimed by an organization based in Pakistan. JEM has been accused in the past of organizing an attack on the Indian parliament as well as many attacks in Indian Kashmir. And the biggest attack ever launched in India by Pakistani-based terrorists was the attack on Mumbai in November 2008, in the course of which ten terrorists wreaked havoc in the city of Mumbai and killed at least 165 people, including a few Israelis and Americans. Some of the more prominent attacks were followed by Indian threats of military action against Pakistan but in the end the Indian establishment opted on all of those occasions to try and isolate Pakistan diplomatically but stepped back from direct military action. This option was chosen not because of any residual Gandhian hangover in India but because of two interlocking factors: Continue reading “India and Pakistan; the Fog of War”

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Complete Victory For Imran Khan

Pakistan is offering to return the pilot as a gesture of goodwill. Huge humiliation for India on every level.

I’m extraordinarily impressed with Imran’s handling of the crisis. This is the end of Modi, who should have been the Indian Benjamin Nethanyahu.

Pakistan has been cool, strategic and conciliatory while India has been bombastic, hotheaded and bloodthirsty. Completely outfoxed and to lose in a dogfight with Pakistan is a big shame on the Indian air-force. Continue reading “Complete Victory For Imran Khan”

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BrownCast Podcast episode 18: India and Pakistan; Confrontation in the Subcontinent

Image result for kashmir crisisAnother BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

In this episode Razib and Omar talk to Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Major Amin and Dr Hamid are familiar to our readers for their regular contributions on military history. In this episode we discuss the current India-Pakistan confrontation and what comes next. Events may have moved on even as this gets posted, but I am sure listeners will find it an interesting review of the military and political aspects of the crisis.

Postscript: I may have been too hasty in concluding that only one plane was lost that day. It seems that witness accounts and initial Pakistani claims all mention two aircraft. Pakistan says that was another Indian plane, Indians say it was a PAF F-16. Right now, all we can say is that Abhinandan’s MiG 21 crashed without a doubt.. what happened to the second plane and who was it? We don’t know yet for sure.

Note from Razib: I tried my best, but there were a few issues with the sound on this podcast. But since the substance is timely and hard to find elsewhere I think it’s worth it!

Image result for kashmir crisis

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