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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As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-

A degree of uncertainty surrounds the origin of the English word “saffron“. It might stem from the 12th-century Old French term safran, which comes from the Latin word safranum, from the Arabic za’farān,[13] which comes from the Persian word zarparan meaning “flower with golden petals”.[14]
As an aside I pilfered this interesting piece from Kabir’s facebook

Continue reading “As India Saffronises, 9 Questions on her Za’faran sister (IranZamin) with Professor Foltz-“

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Why Pakistan is Middle Eastern

The arguments around the broader regional framework Pakistan lies in have often centered on cultural/aesthetic similarities or pure geography. Here, I will argue that Pakistan lies in the Middle East using scientific metrics that describe human behavior.

Regional comparisons of this kind have to account for other explanatory variables. For example, comparing Pakistan, where the urban population is less than 40%, to countries like Turkey or Iran, where it is nearly 80% can be confounding. Also, these countries are much richer than Pakistan, in part due to their more urbanized and industrialized economies. Finally, these countries are not based on the plains around large rivers.

Luckily, there is a comparator which is similar to Pakistan in these control variables: Egypt. It is a predominantly rural country, with a per capita income not much higher than that of Pakistan.

We consider Hofstede’s six cultural dimensions. Hofstede gives countries scores along the following metrics: power distance, individualism, masculinity, individualism, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation and indulgence. Higher numbers indicate a society and culture more oriented towards these values, and lower ones vice versa.

The figure below shows the scores of Egypt (blue), India (violet) and Pakistan (green) on various metrics. We see that along the metrics of individualism, uncertainty avoidance and indulgence, Egypt and Pakistan align very well with each other, but are very different from India. On power distance, Pakistan differs from India and Egypt, on long term orientation, Egypt differs from India and Pakistan, while they score similarly on the masculinity metric.

We see that Indian society is more individualistic and has higher tolerance for uncertainty and risk taking than Egypt and Pakistan. It is also much more indulgent.

From: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/

Hofstede attributes India’s scores on individualism and uncertainty to Hindu philosophy. The caste system is certainly an important factor on India’s power distance score. On the other hand, the shared religion of Pakistan and Egypt decisively shapes values regarding individual autonomy, risk aversion and indulgence.

There are other similarities as well. The preeminent minority group in both Pakistan and Egypt are Christians. However, Egyptian Copts are a stronger group with links to the West, but the Pakistani Christians are former Hindu Dalits, who converted during the British rule to unshackle caste chains. In terms of marriage customs, both Pakistan and Egypt see predominantly cousin marriages.

They key difference between Pakistan and Egypt is that Pakistan’s elite speaks English and has a vocal diaspora in Anglo countries. The longer and deeper historical imprint left by Britain has decisively shaped Pakistan, indeed much of the country was settled as canal colonies during British rule. Such a deep British imprint is not seen in Egypt, where the elite was originally Francophone, but an increasing switch to English is underway.

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This is why Pakistan is a shit country-

Continue reading “This is why Pakistan is a shit country-“

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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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Why I hate the Hijab

The Hijab is a part of the Middle Eastern-Levantine cultural matrix so I don’t  have a problem when I see Arab women wear it . But it’s risible when Desi Muslims try to flaunt what is essentially an alien garment. If one wants to be modest why not just wear a salwar kameez and elegantly drape the dupatta?

After I ranted to V about yet another uppity Hijabi (the offending lady in question had secured herself a booth for 4 people in a crowded cafe); V made a profound remark.

V didn’t mind the Hijab per se; women should be allowed to wear what they want. However what she found to be so strange about the Muslim hijabi activists in the West is that they had no sympathy for their Iranian sisters who are dying for the right to dress as they please.

Continue reading “Why I hate the Hijab”

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How serious is the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India ?

Writing in the journal India Review, Korean scholar Heewon Kim says,

This article reviews the approaches used to understand the BJP-led NDA government’s policies toward religious minorities and argues that far from marking a radical departure, there are more continuities than discontinuities in these policies with previous administrations.

For all kinds of keyboard internet warriors, this conclusion would come as a disappointment. But it is only the boring conclusion to a truly banal argument.

There seems to be an understanding among many that Hindu-Muslim conflict is primordial, immemorial and ultimately irreconcilable. Partition is seen as incontrovertible proof of this view.

I would like to offer another perspective. In my view, taking into context the entire history of the twentieth century, the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India is rather benign, mainly due to the low real stakes in this conflict. I base this view on my readings of Russian, Chinese and Mexican history, especially the scale and intensity of armed conflict seen in inter group rivalries within those countries.

The forces of industrialization and democratization unleashed by England starting from 18th century proved immensely destabilizing to all world civilizations. This period saw extremely volatile political competition between groups harboring competing, irreconcilable visions for the future of various countries. In Russia, China and Mexico, this competition took the form of conservatives (usually capitalists), versus radicals (usually leftists). In the Muslim world, such competition has appeared in the form of secular regimes being pitted against Islamist movements, and increasingly, sectarian conflicts amongst various conservative movements.

The stakes for both sides in these conflicts were extremely high, and no accommodation with the opposing group was sought. This is evident from the sheer scale of warfare seen in these conflicts. The death tolls in each country ran into the multi millions, with decades of devastation.

Italian Trulli

Such high levels of conflict are not seen amongst Hindus and Muslims in India. The real stakes in Hindu-Muslim arguments are simply too low to militarize the conflict. On the table in other world conflicts, were programs of massive wealth transfer via land reform, extreme and eternal concentration of political power and utter suppression of language and religion. In contrast, Hindus and Muslims mostly argue about long dead kings, culinary choices and obscure theological points.

The simple truth is that even the establishment of a Hindu state will not alter the ground realities for India’s Muslims. Nepal was a Hindu monarchy for many decades, and its 5% Muslim population showed no interest in challenging the regime. Interestingly, the eventual overthrow of Nepal’s Hindu monarchy was carried out by a leftist movement (comprised of Hindus) in a civil war, much like the pattern seen in Russia, China and Mexico.

In many ways, India’s immense diversity and the sheer scale of its minority population, has restricted conflict to elite sparring rather than total war, which has very much been the norm across the world. But it has also prevented a genuine confrontation between the masses and the elites, the often mentioned lack of a revolution in Indian society. For a left vs right conflict in India, Hindu would need to fight Hindu. But the very presence of the Muslim seems to have softened any edge in this conflict.

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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….

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Muslims and Islamophobia

I have realized this long ago and said this often in private but I feel this needs to be said more and more in public. Muslims care more about Islam than Muslims and that’s why they are inseperably attached to the term Islamophobia and cannot adopt a more appropriate term. This is also a primary reason why both Islamophobia and Muslimophobia are rising inexorably.

The Christchurch killer and his inspiration Brevik, both showed in their manifestos that how interconnected the global medium is and how America sits at the very commanding center of this globalized interconnected minds. Reading and watching some of the most famous Muslim discourse-makers in the aftermath of the shooting, it seems clear to me that beneath all the outrage about Trump, White Nationalism, far-right etc etc, what they really want to do is ban criticism of Islam. They may spew tons of words about Trump, White Nationalism, far-right but what they really hate with every core of their being are New Atheists and Ex-Muslims. I have no doubt that Mehdi Hasan eats, sleeps and breathes thinking worst things about Sam Harris. In Britain probably Majjid Nawaz would be a close rival of Sam Harris in terms of being object of hatred by media Muslims.

The saddest thing is that their efforts are all going down the drain at all corners except amng the wokes. Even after a great tragedy like Christchurch, very few joined their bandwagon to stop criticism of Islam. People like Majjid Nawaz and ex-Muslims will keep getting more and more attention. The right, not just far right, are unashamable through cudgel of atrocities. They will hurl back their grievances, big and small. A tragedy like Christchurch barely gives a short pause now in attacking both Islam and Muslims.

The center is confused, it may invite Mehdi Hasan time to time, but it understands uncomfortably that there is something very askew in this guy. Nodding along boilerplate rants doesn’t mean that very mixed thoughts about Islam and Muslims are not going on in the heads of people at the center. Even in this age of wokeness, the center knows how central is freedom of criticism of ideas to liberalism. Nobody in the center believes that Islam is in any way better than Christianity. After the buldozing Christianity faced in modernity, few would want Islam to be treated any differently. That is not just fair.

The term Islamophobia is exacerbating Muslimophobia. Protection of ideas at this day and age is very very costly. Muslims are paying the cost of protecting Islam. All decent people want to protect people, most decent people do not want to protect ideas.  Just wait till the next San Bernadino or Nice attack happen. Neither ideas nor people will be spared.

 

 

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The Belgian neutrality is over; India’s next steps on Kashmir

Jesus Christ- just wow.

The Fifth column speaks:

The only winner in all of this is of course China. Finally a sensible commentator on Twitter:

India should cede the Muslim part of Kashmir but then accept that TNT is the “correct ideology” for South Asia.

Whereupon it should administer loyalty oaths to its entire Muslim population (the oath should be in such a manner than no practising Muslim can actually accept so should include some Hindu deities). 100million Muslims cross the border to Pakistan & Bangladesh; India will be left with the Khans the glamorous types of Muslims.

India can then look forward to beating China becoming a first world country. Indians must accept that they have lost the wings of India permanently (thankfully the South was saved by  the Vijaynagar dynasty) but instead embrace it’s Hindu Civilisational identity.

Modi has unfortunately lost the election with this humiliation; India will enter a period of darkness with Congress and the Italians. Hopefully the Hindu Right will evolve a new leader that can understand how the Nehruvian settlement is India’s true enemy.

Without Nehru; India would have been at 12,000 per capita, 95% Hindu and a prosperous autocracy.

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