Islam is not a race

Update: A reader points out my example may not indicate what I assumed. Another reason why Twitter sucks: easy to misunderstand. The general point though stands.

End update

Over the past generation or so there has been a meme, “Africa Is Not a Country”, which reflects the reality that many well-meaning people don’t know much about Africa, to the point where they confuse a diverse continent for a country.

There is a similar reflex though which to me is redolent of the same intuitions and confusions: making Islam into a racial identity. This is particularly common among two groups:

– the type of people who have Greek statue images in their Twitter profiles

– the type of people who have pink-hair avatars and rainbows flags in their Twitter profiles

I won’t say much about the former.

But the latter is interesting and curious to me personally. Many in my immediate family are Muslims (e.g, parents, the vast majority of my cousins). I come from a line of ulems and Sufi mystics.  The law of the Hanafi tradition is deeply embedded in my family’s culture. Though never a big believer myself in the religion, I had a vaguely Muslim identity until my tweens, and know a bit about the religion intellectually.

To illustrate the phenomenon I’m talking about, recently an Asian American comedian made fun of Catholicism in a sacrilegious manner (I didn’t think it as very funny since it was derivative and unoriginal). In response, some people asked him to insult Islam. To this, he said “how bout you make fun of ISLAM?” (yikes) to straight up rampant racism (yikes).

In other words, engaging in blasphemy against Islam is racism to him (which is blasphemy to a progressive).

It has gotten to the point where progressives have accused me of being an anti-Muslim racist when I suggest that many Muslims are Creationists. Progressives are of course being stupid but note these progressives are often white secular types who in their lives don’t encounter believing Muslims. They have the idea of what Muslims represent to them. It’s about them, not Muslims.

Perhaps others have different experiences, but the way I was raised as a Muslim, the idea that Muslims are a race would be deeply offensive since Islam was presented as the most antiracist and egalitarian of religions. Believing Muslims assert they have a deep connection to the Ground of all Being, not that they are a corporeal identity-group. In contrast, many secular progressives are taking the far-right racialization of Muslims and enshrining it into their understanding of the religion, so that Islam, the belief-system, becomes a “protected class.”

Of course, the reality of what Muslims believe and how they live their life might not comport with progressive expectations, which seem to involve someone just like them, but with a headscarf on. From the perspective of an Islam-skeptic person though the lesson is clear: Islam is now the progressive party at prayer. Though real Muslims often have major issues with progressives and their modern cultural projects, progressives have embraced their idea of Islam and Muslims in the fight against the Greek statue profiles.

We live in a really strange world.

Addendum: As an atheist from a Muslim background I have looked dimly upon Muslims and the Islamic project for much of my life. But progressive revolutionary rhetoric and action have softened my heart toward the religion and the people. It turns out that religion is not the root of all evil.

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Sangat and Society: the Sikh remaking of the North Indian Public Sphere

[Author’s note: With the celebrations of Guru Nanak’s 550th Anniversary and the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor being in the news, this is an opportunity for discussing the importance of the Sikh message, not just from a religious perspective – for Sikhs – but for Indian history. This article places the founding of Kartarpur, and Guru Nanak’s message, in a historical context – juxtaposing it with Babur’s founding of the Mughal Empire.]

I. Turning of the Wheel: Baba Nanak and Babur

In 1519, Babur invaded India – ‘ever since coming to Kabul we had been thinking of a Hindustan campaign, but for one reason or another it had not been possible,’ he writes in the Baburnama (translated by William Thackston, see pp 270-280). For some time his armies had been campaigning on the frontiers of the Hindu Kush, but these campaigns had yielded ‘nothing of consequence to the soldiers’. So, he turned to Hindustan. In the next few months, despite dogged resistance by the Afghans, Gujjars and Jats of the upper reaches of the Jhelum and Chenab, northern Punjab was subjugated, and plundered, by Babur’s armies. Babur himself spent most of his days inebriated, contemplating the legacy of Timur and setting poems to rhythmic metres. While his next great invasion of Punjab would come few years from then, in this interregnum, Punjab burned.

Among the towns and villages devastated was the settlement of Sayyidpur.

It was not long after Babur’s march of death through Punjab that Guru Nanak returned home from his western voyages – to Mecca, through Baghdad, Masshad, Khurasan, to Kabul, Peshawar, and, finally, to Sayyidpur. To the house of a humble carpenter, Bhai Lalo (Janam Sakhi Parampara by Kirpal Singh, pp 138-140). Continue reading “Sangat and Society: the Sikh remaking of the North Indian Public Sphere”

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Why did so many BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) voted Tory?

Another amazing podcast from Veedu Vidz–heartthrob of England. {Sisters, he is already owned by Mimzy and unavailable. Sorry.}

Start watching from 25 minutes in. Some take-aways:

  • Chinese earn the most per hour of any group in Britain.
  • Indians earn the second most of any group in Britain. {Chinese continue to economically outperform Indians globally and in Britain.}
    • Do Chinese and Indians really earn more per hour than English Jews? I am skeptical. What is beyond all doubt is that British caucasians are massively academically and socio-economically under performing Jews, Chinese and Indians.
  • The sample sizes for Chinese and Indian Britons is too small to know how they voted for certain. But it is possible that Chinese, Indian, Sikh Buddhist Hindu and moderate muslim Indians voted against Jeremy Corbyn in part because of Corbyn’s close alliance with conservative Sunni and Islamist groups.
  • Before 2019, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Britons  use to heavily vote for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.
    • Brown Pundit favorite Sajid Javid has received a lot of abuse for being a muslim Tory.
  • Tory Priti Patel (who I just heard about for the first time) has also received a lot of abuse.
    • (Is part of the English anger at Priti Patel jealousy over the socio-economic success of Indians? Given how many Indian Britons vote Tory, how can it be because of that?)
    • Priti Patel wants a point based (merit based) immigration system. (Why is this controversial among caucasian English people?)
  • There is a great deal of diversity among the British muslim population
  • Veedu Vidz says that Boris Johnson is anti everyone who is not Boris Johnson.
  • 38 minutes in discusses deep anti Jewish bigotry on the part of English caucasians, the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn.
    • comes from the far left
    • comes from the far right
    • need to focus a lot more on muslim anti Jewish bigotry
  • 43 minutes in, many working class caucasian and BAME voters probably are voting Tory in part because they are so scared of being accused of racism by their representatives for asking questions.
  • 46 minutes in, Labour has lost its moral legitimacy on racism, bigotry and sectarianism. Labour and the BMP are the only two parties in English history to be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights commission for misconduct.
  • 58 minutes in, many poor and working class caucasian britons have suffered from globalization and have no privilege at all. Labour should stop accusing them of having non-existent privilege.
  • 60 minutes, many Labour try to blame the world’s social ills on Britain. (I am stunned that this still happens. England has been falling apart for generations and is in many ways more backwards than many of her former colonies. Talk about delusions of grandeur.)
  • 63 minutes in Veedu asks if Hindus have an advantage over muslims in Britain.

My questions:

  • I get why many Britons felt they could not vote for Corbyn and Labour. Why didn’t more vote Liberal Democrat?
  • Can anyone send me an exit poll with granular detail on 2019 UK voting patterns?

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Update 1:

Maajid Nawaz Gob-smacks Corbyn and says Corbyn beat Corbyn.

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Update 2:

Katie Hopkins is a Member of the Tory party and is trying hard to create an alliance between the UK and India (and presumably the Dharmic world more generally). The alliance would focus on resisting:

  • Globalism (which she mostly defines as post modernist wokeness, perhaps combined with pro business free markets to a lesser degree)
  • Islamism
  • Feminism (by which I think she means third wave woke post modernist intersectional femnism)

To simplify, I think she mostly means post modernism and Islamism. She appears to think the Europe will divide into Islamist hamlets and non Islamist hamlets. And that Europe and the world as a whole needs India’s and America’s help to survive.

Could the UK government pursue an alliance with India focused on post modernism and Islamism? Could this end any remaining Indian sensitivity about being colonized by the UK? Is this being facilitated by Indian Britons and perhaps muslim Indian Britons leaving the Labour party?

Sham Sharma has speculated that Indian Americans could wholesale flip to the Republican Party similar to the flip of Indian Britons between 2017 and 2019? Could this really happen?

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Update 3:

It is possible that British Asian, African, ethnic minority, poor and lower middle class European ancestry voters were scared about anti Jewish bigotry:

As a side note, the UK has very different issues than the USA. For example UK students perform far better in math than Americans. 13% scored 5 or higher in the 2018 OECD PISA test, compared to 8% of Americans.  Immigrants appear to slightly academically underperform non-immigrant Brits across reading, science and math, although mathematical performance  was not provided. The definition of “disadvantaged students” in the report was unclear.  Between 2009 and 2018 the number of immigrant students has risen from 11% to 20%. One third of immigrant students are “disadvantaged students.” Math results for England have been rising over time and girls sharply outscored boys in mathematics, science and reading.

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Update 4:

According to Nimco Ali (patriotic Briton who happens to have Somali muslim ancestry) most African Britons vote Tory. She is a leading campaigner against female genetic mutilation and says that Tory leaders, Tory moderate muslims and Tory Indians (Priti Patel ) are backing her. Nimco also fights for muslim woman to have the right not to wear the hijab, and again says that she gets support from many Tory leaders, Tory moderate muslims and Tory Indians (Priti Patel ). She is very aspirational. She says that in Britain the aspirational BAME are African Britons and Indian Britons. Both back the Tories. The less aspirational Britons are Pakistanis and they tend to support Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. I am guessing that Bangladeshis are in the middle.

I wonder why more African Britons don’t vote Liberal Democrat. My main man Maajid Nawaz is Liberal Democrat. I get why African Britons don’t like Jeremy Corbyn.

Nimco Ali says that Briton has recently prosecuted several muslim Britons for female genetic mutilation of children. Until recently no Briton was prosecuted for female genetic mutilation. About a tenth of mothers giving birth to children in many British hospitals have had FGM. Kudos to Boris Johnson, Brown Pundit favorite Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and other Britons for trying to end FGM!

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The CAB Battle – Who Is An Indian (Citizen)?

The feverish pitch over the Citizenship Amendment Bill has reached a crescendo. The Indian lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly passed it with it now reaching the upper house. Most likely, it will pass with the support of “neutral” parties pushing the bill over majority.

Safe But Betrayed: Pakistani Hindu Refugees in India
Pakistani Hindu Refugee Camp in Delhi. Formalization of CAB may aid these currently destitute conditions.

Under the CAB – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians (basically persecuted communities of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh) will receive asylum and an accelerated path to citizenship.

Critics label this bill as anti-Muslim and rhetoric from certain BJP members does not help in the  defense against this accusation.

But again consistent with the common theme of international coverage of India, we are missing context (or more accurately, outlets are leaving it out purposefully).

What’s A Partition?

Not the Beyoncé song. If you have an inkling of knowledge about subcontinental history, you know about the partition and the Two Nation Theory (TNT). TNT was proposed by an Islamist ideologue named Syed Ahmed Khan of Aligarh Muslim University in the late 1800s. Muhammed Ali Jinnah ran with the idea and eventually convinced enough Muslims to vote for partition (Hindus, Sikhs, etc… were not polled for their vote). In the midst of continued violence (much of it encouraged by Jinnah’s Muslim League), the Indian National Congress would acquiesce to partition. Massive violence followed with millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs dead.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan – First proponent of the Two Nation Theory

However, while Pakistan became an Islamic state, India remained secular (though its minority appeasement down the line really pushes that definition).

India had given up 1/3 of its land to satisfy (separatist) Muslims yet still had 9% of its population as Muslims post-partition. The Muslim population in India would grow to around 15% today while a trident of partition, Pakistani civil war, and persistent persecution would annihilate the Hindu population in Pakistan and Bangladesh (From 1941 to present, the land containing current day Bangladesh’s Hindu population dropped from 28% to 9% while Pakistan’s Hindu population dropped from 14% to 2%.)

It is the shadow of partition that looms large over the CAB.

The Entry Rules?

Defenders of the CAB say it gives refuge to persecuted minorities in true Indian tradition (Baghdadi Jews, Syrian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, and Tibetan Buddhists have all received refuge in India over thousands of years). However it brings to point the case of Islamic minorities (Shias, Ahmediyas, Ex-Muslims, etc…). Many of these minorities face horrid persecution in the Islamic subcontinental states. Why should India also turn them back?

Now is where the acceptance of partition arrives. CAB critics say by rejecting persecuted Muslims, India validates Jinnah and the TNT. I can honestly understand this perspective. Why should these Muslims pay for the sins and mistakes of their ancestors?

Portrait of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad – India’s first Education Minister and lauded Indian Muslim freedom fighter.

On the flip side, CAB supporters return with saying they are merely accepting realities. Threats of national security, demographic change, as well as a cold hard perspective that India owes nothing to those related to its partition (non-Indian Muslims) are valid reasoning no matter how un-PC they are. In addition, the CAB has no bearing on Indian Muslims.

Even deeper, CAB supporters see this as India fulfilling its duty as a refuge of Dharma in the case of Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs. The near complete obliteration of Dharmic religion from these lands is not forgotten and won’t be any time soon.

Perceptions

The legalese with regards to the bill seems iffy on its constitutionality. The Indian constitution bars discrimination based on religion within India. However it doesn’t bar discrimination with regards to non-Indian citizens.

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah (and probably next Prime Minister), has foreseen this. During a firebrand speech recently, Shah pointed out the litany of laws favoring minorities in India thereby showing a mirror to the Indian state’s institutional religious discrimination. This poses a major problem for the opposition. Add to the fact that the BJP has massive political capital after the Kashmir and Ram Mandir episodes, the centre possesses an insurmountable high ground over its opponents.

The dichotomy between the West’s seething hatred and doomsaying of Modi-Shah versus their ascension as India’s most powerful and popular political figures in decades is fascinating.

But what about a moral high ground?

Western media laments at how India has degenerated to fascism these days. Is this perception reality? Probably not in my opinion.

I think what irks many of these outlets is an assertive India that no longer looks for the approval of the West (or a deracinated brown sahib/a in their place).

What has caught my mind recently is how Western coverage of India is affecting perceptions of India abroad. While some saw Modi as an aberration of a “secular, democratic, and liberal” Indian ethos, now they are beginning to realize Modi and Hindutva are here to stay. Does that mean India will slide into fascism?

On the other hand, many domestic Modi supporters would say that Modi is fulfilling a “secular, democratic, and liberal” ethos that India lacked for so long under Congress rule! Of course in both of these scenarios, I am speaking of white collar middle class folks’ perspectives. Other demographics would say Modi is fulfilling his role as  a Hindu leader giving refuge to the persecuted Hindus in lost lands (this may honestly be the biggest vote catcher for the CAB and primary driver of the BJP’s push).

Then comes the thought – how will policy towards India be affected? While Western foreign policy hasn’t been egregiously affected by bipartisan slants, we are now entering a highly polarized era. The latest incarnation of Western right wing governments seem to favor India, but future demographics are hilariously skewed in favor of the left wing across a number of Western countries.

As the world becomes more globalized, it will be interesting how influential Western media outlets will be on the increasingly connected youth of developing nations including India (the caveat is India’s youth are more pro BJP than older generations). 

Yes, opinions can change as we age but it is fairly apparent that your average millennial takes the word of BBC/NYT/Wash Post as gospel.  We will have to see how a Western left wing government reacts to India, especially one whose constituency is in congruence with this “India = Fascist” narrative. Throwing in the wrench of India’s rising economic clout, these parties will have a bit of a conundrum.

Though it must be said, do that many Westerners even really care about India?

Official Indian justification and response to recent criticism from the USCRIF over the CAB

Find more about Indian, American, and Geopolitics at my blog – The Emissary. Thanks again to the Brown Pundits!

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India’s Islam

There are various images I could have chosen to represent Islam in India. One could use the Taj Mahal, the ruins of a temple, a mural of a bloody battlefield, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the beauty of Indo-Islamic art, and so many more images. Islam in India has had a long and complicated history. People have argued till tongues became swords over the impact of Islam on India and its relation to the people. Indeed, one could argue the most lasting impact of Islam on the subcontinent is its partitioning by Jinnah and his cohorts on that fateful day in 1947; when Mahatma Gandhi’s dream was ripped apart in a bloody separation of an ancient people.

But while this post will examine the past, I want to focus on the now and future of Islam in India. That is why I chose to have possibly the most beloved Indian in history, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, as the heading photo for this post. But we will talk more about him and what he encapsulates later; let’s take a look back at the sands of time.

(No) Remorse

Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi; Built From Ruins of a Hindu Temple (See Left Side)

I’ll be upfront and say I have an overall negative view on Islam’s past impact on India.

One of the most eminent historians ever, Will Durant, wrote this of the Islamic invasion of India:

“The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.” – The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage page 459.

History has witnessed monsters that have killed millions – Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, the Spanish conquistadors of America, etc… – but Durant singles out the hundreds of years long siege of Islam on India as the bloodiest of them all. Millions dead, raped, or forcibly converted. Temples, universities, and entire cities lay in ruin. An indigenous culture repressed and humiliated all because they believed in a different god.

While this image is grave, it’s not what I want you to leave with in regards to India’s Islam. Amongst the carnage and deep darkness that swept the subcontinent, there was light.

Din-I-Ilahi

A fusion of Indian, Arabian, and Persian art styles would give birth to they beauty of Indo-Islamic architecture

Islamic rule in India produced great art, literature, opulence, but most beautiful of all – syncretism, the trademark of India. Akbar was one of the first rulers who recognized the underlying similarities between Islam and Hinduism; so much so, that he integrated both religions into his own system – Din-I-Ilahi – or the Religion of God (original…I know).

The Varanasi poet and weaver, Kabir, won the hearts of both Hindus and Muslims. His poetry would be recited till this day as an epitaph to his spirit of spiritual harmony. His musings would change how religion was practiced across North India, including influencing a newly born religion – Sikhism. Guru Nanak would continue Kabir’s compare and contrasting of Hinduism and Islam, while providing his own unique philosophy.

Kabir in Discussion with People of Various Faiths

The Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh, even wrote a treatise on the similarities of Vedanta and Sufism in a book – Majma-ul-Bahrain (The Confluence of Seas). Dara would translate the Upanishads from Sanskrit into Persian as he was fascinated by the concepts found in this mystical and ancient book. Dara would become convinced that the Upanishads were the Kitab al-Maknun (The Hidden Book) mentioned in the Quran.

India had a habit of making foreigners and foreign ideas attain a saffron hue as time went on. The Dargahs, Qawwalis, saint veneration, and many cultural practices of Indian Islam would be completely alien to the rest of the Islamic world. Much of this was due to local spiritual influences that had been present for millennia. Religion turned grey as time went on with Hindus revering Sufi saints and Muslims seeking the blessings of Hindu sadhus.

Perhaps this was due to the old pluralism of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad Gita (Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains had already lived peacefully with each other). Or maybe due to the emphasis of oneness and the mysticism of the ever popular Sufis of the subcontinent. Either way, one has to acknowledge that pluralism indeed did succeed as India saw Hindus and Muslims live side by side and intermingle.

Reopened Wounds

Unfortunately the scars of the past would overshadow much of the syncretism that bloomed in India. During the fledgeling Indian independence movement, an intellectual named Syed Ahmed Khan (1817 – 1898) would propose the two nation theory – an idea that Hindus and Muslims were fundamentally different peoples who could not live side by side in a united India.

Years later, a pan-Indian nationalist would pen the beautiful poem “Sāre Jahān se Achchhā, Hindositān Hamārā” (Better than the entire world is our India) with lines such as “Religion does not teach us to bear animosity among ourselves; we are of Hind, our homeland is Hindustan.” He would then go to school for Islamic studies and return an avowed proponent of the Two Nation Theory and Islamist. His name was Muhammed Iqbal, and he would become a renowned poet, revolutionary, and ideological father of Pakistan.

Muslim nationalists such as Muhammed Ali Jinnah (founder of Pakistan) would seize Khan and Iqbal’s philosophy and go on to campaign for and eventually succeed in creating the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Jinnah would call for “Direct Action Day” on August 16, 1946, agitating Indian Muslims to force partition. Thousands of people would die in Calcutta as a result, and the demand for partition would be solidified. India was ripped apart a year later.

A large amount of Indian Muslims would end up staying in India. Their population would grow as the population of Hindus in Pakistan was decimated. Muslims would form a significant electoral block in India as the INC would slowly dole out appeasement to capture a loyal vote bank on one side while dividing Hindus by caste on the other side. It was a stunningly effective method leading to political dominance for 60 years.

Indian Muslims didn’t benefit greatly though, as much of their political voices and interests were captured by narrow minded and fanatical leaders who encouraged these rabid identity politics while enjoying power and wealth from their sponsors from the INC. Rajiv Gandhi’s minister famously exhorted that the Congress Party had no responsibility to reform Muslims, and “if they wanted to lie in the gutter, let them be.”

New Beginnings

For all of India’s faults, it is not Pakistan. Pakistan’s collapse into a bankrupt terror state that has annihilated and oppressed its minorities has contrasted with India. India’s minorities have grown in the percentage of population while also rising to the upper echelons of the highest political, intellectual, artistic, scientific, and indeed almost every single aspect of Indian society. That is not to say they do not face discrimination in India, but there should be no comparison anymore between which minorities have faired better in the subcontinent.

With Modi’s rise and the mainstreaming of Hindutva, eyes now rest on the fate and future of India’s Muslims.

Muslim Women Celebrating the Criminalization of Triple Talaq (Instant Divorce Applicable to Only Muslim Women) and Thanking Modi 

India will never rise unless its 200+ million Muslim population rises with it. I have praised many of Modi’s welfare programs as I believe they will reap compound interest on human capital. Much of that interest will accrue on the lower economic rungs of society; rungs which a large amount of Muslims populate. Economic empowerment is integral for India’s Muslims to prosper.

Perhaps the more controversial aspect of Muslim upliftment is cultural integration. Notions of “worship my god or you are condemned to eternal hell” are alien to the Indian ethos. Pluralism is the blood of India. Ideally, all Indians would celebrate each others festivals, holidays, commemorations together. Unfortunately, much of Muslim leadership still meanders in more conservative approaches towards Islam that don’t fit the millennia-old “Ekam Sat” principle discussed in a previous post. Essentially “Ekam Sat” should be a pan-Indian spiritual acceptance, as it forms the basis of Indian pluralism. Whether Muslims theologically justify this by claiming Indian gods/avatars were “prophets” of Allah or any other basis (Dara Shikoh had a number), this thought process is essential to the mainstreaming of Indian Islam.

Another aspect that must be confronted is a more realistic view of India’s Islamic rule. More and more today, that period of India’s history is being demonized (and in many cases rightly so), but too much vitriol is being directed towards today’s Muslims. On the other side, a section of elites (whether Muslim or not) seek to glorify Mughal/Islamic rule as an enlightened age that civilized native heathen Indians. The age’s positive contributions (art, literature, architecture, syncretism) should be celebrated, but the atrocities must be acknowledged and accepted. Exalted glorification of this era isn’t wise nor laudable these days. Just as the British Raj has been exposed, so should the brutal Islamic regimes prior to it be exposed.

A Familiar Echo

It’s at this point where Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), should be examined. Owaisi has always been a firebrand and extremely articulate politician and speaker. He has frequently engaged in Islamist rhetoric; though to give him credit, he doesn’t with baiters from across the border and proudly calls himself Indian. The recent problem with Owaisi though, is his disturbing calls for a pan-Islamic organizing in India.

Does this sound familiar?

But wait – what is wrong with calls for Muslim consolidation if people say it’s okay for Hindu consolidation (Hindutva)? The thing is, we’ve seen what Muslim consolidation has done in partition. The shadow of the subcontinental fissure still looms today. With the recent Ram Mandir verdict signaling a possible new era in India, Owaisi has become more and more outright in his mission to be a leader of India’s Muslims. Opening deposits in as many Muslim majority localities as he can, Owaisi seeks to dent a flailing Congress’s old and trusted vote bank, while the BJP watches with glee as Owaisi cannibalizes a rival.

Because of partition, most Indians will be allergic to Owaisi’s call. Whether one believes Muslim consolidation into a party is okay, necessary, egregious, or disgusting doesn’t matter electorally. What matters is that most Indians will have an overwhelmingly negative view of AIMIM and see this movement as Jinnah Part 2. If one believes Indian Muslims are already sidelined, wait till you see what happens if Owaisi gets his way.

India’s electoral future may mirror Israel’s current situation – A religious Hindu Party vs a secular Hindu Party with a number of smaller parties including a large, shunned Muslim Party just as the Arab parties are in Israel today. That is a death-knell for Indian Muslims as they will become pariahs electorally and their interests will be completely sidelined.

I don’t believe this will happen because of India’s pluralistic spirit, the current integration of Muslims, partition’s shadow, but also demographic pulls – Muslims are a large minority that have dividends in being catered to. But when discussing that spirit of India, we must also discuss Hindutva and Hindu consolidation. Isn’t it also a clear and present danger?

The answer lies in India’s past (Ekam Sat/pluralism) and how future Indians react to religion. For India to keep moving forward, I think it may have to reflect in its past, where religion becomes more composite and syncretic. The Dharmic religions have demonstrated this well enough; the gauntlet is now thrown to the other side and a fork in the road arrives. In a time of turbulence, will one choose the path of Aurangzeb or the path of Dara Shikoh?

Nūr-E-Dharma

When the Maratha King Shivaji rebelled against the Mughal Aurangzeb, Shivaji sent Aurangzeb a letter demanding him to stop his persecution of Hindus. Shivaji sought to reestablish Hindu rule in India but made it a point to be inclusive of Muslims; while Aurangzeb obsessed over a fanatical wish to convert the subcontinent to Islam by any means necessary.

Shivaji wrote:

“Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colors and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of God. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for God alone.” –Shivaji’s Letter to Aurangzeb April 2nd, 1679

Again, here we see a triumph of India’s pluralism in the face of fanaticism. And it is this thought process that may be the path forward for both Hindus and Muslims in India.

India’s Muslims are just as Indian as a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, etc… India is an officially secular state (though it could do with less appeasement and more universal civil code) and will be so in the foreseeable future. Bigots and extremists line the coats of each Indian political party. BJP’s extremists frequently attack today’s Muslims for the crimes of the past and constantly question their patriotism. This alienation will never do India well.

I have always thought that there was a clear “civilizational interest” for India’s civilization. Whether it is called “Dharma” or by another word; throughout India’s history, there have been pivotal moments that either furthered or distressed India. And this “Dharma” has been blind to religion.

Take an example of this: Would you consider the self-proclaimed Janeudhari Brahmin Hindu Rahul Gandhi more Dharmic than Muslim Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam? Or how about the “master Sanskrit shloka” speaker and queen of appeasement, Mamata Banerjee, being more pro-Indic civilization than the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh? Would the anti-Ram Mandir (or anti any Hindu interest) lawyer, Kapil Sibal, be more of service to India than the Kashmiri Indian soldier, Aurangzeb, who was brutally murdered by terrorists for serving in the Indian Army?

India’s interests are beyond religious labels. Muslims have become integral parts of the Indian state, society, and now civilization. Muslims need to be integrated economically and culturally for India to thrive. And India’s Muslims need better models and leaders than communalists who stoke identity politics, regressive practices, and an us versus them mentality concerning Hindus.

Copies of Kalam’s Final Book – Transcendence Detailing the similarities between Hinduism, Islam, and his relationship with his Guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj. 

Abdul Kalam perhaps represents this ideal Indian Muslim (and definitely an ideal Indian for all to emulate). One who devoutly worships Allah and practices his spirituality but also fully embraces the Indian values of Dharma, Ahimsa, and pluralism. Beyond his great service to the nation, Kalam’s fondness for Sanskrit, the Bhagavad Gita, Tamil poetry, playing the Veena, etc… endeared him to the entire Indian population. Kalam was a living breathing amalgamation of the Indian experiment, combining various spiritualities, cultures, and passions. Kalam continued Dara Shikoh’s view of Islam and Hinduism as two beautiful answers to the same question of life and spirituality. This is a mentality that both Hindus and Muslims should embrace. Easier said than done of course, but a worthy aim in the journey of India.

This is an updated post from The Emissary. Please visit our blog for more content and thanks to Brown Pundits for the repost!

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Post Modernism (d)

Five thousand years ago the greater Egyptian, Sumerian, Eastern (defined as pan Arya plus China) civilizations were very mathematically oriented.  Many caucasians appear to believe that these ancient civilizations were racist. Possibly because of this many caucasians believe that math is racist.

 

Another possible reason many caucasians appear to believe that math is racist is because they fear it might unfairly advantages “brown” people (Asians, Arabs, Latinos) and “brown” cultures (eastern philosophy including Toaism and Confucianism, native american religion) at the expense of caucasians in the new global artificial intelligence, neuroscience, genetics economy.

 

Could part of the anger against math come from fear that mathematics, science, technology, seeking the truth through thought, seeking the truth without thought might be haram or blasphemous? (Obviously most Abrahamics do not believe this and this is not a critique of Abrahamism.)

 

I believe that mathematics is part of art; and that it derives from beyond normal gross thought. From what in Sanskrit is called Buddhi, Vijnayamaya Kosha, Ananda Maya Kosha, Sukshma Sharira, Kaarana Sharira, the subtle heavens.

 

Perhaps the anger against mathematics is part of a deeper anger against the subtle heavens? If so, one possible way to look at this is that to transcend the subtle heavens (including mathematics) it might be helpful to love them and love our way through them. Or to love and respect the racist (subtle heavens–including mathematics) until we transcend the various subtleties of thought and feeling.

What are everyone’s thoughts?

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Post Modernism (c)

Post Modernism (b)

Post Modernism (a)

Intellectual Dark Web (a)

Intellectual Dark Web

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Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (g)?

There are few examples of nonmuslim sectarian mistreatment of muslims more glaring than the way nonmuslims have abysmally betrayed LBGTQ muslims. Nonmuslim LBTGTQ are celebrated by Xi Jinping, Trump, Modi, Lebron James and many others. Any mistreatment of LBGTQ nonmuslims correctly dominates news coverage around the world and leads to massive global pressure. But when it comes to muslim LBGTQ, nonmuslims become suddenly silent.

 

The above video details the severe persecution of Palestinian LGBTQ. Palestinian LGBTQ have long been attacked by Palestinians, the muslim world and nonmuslim world.

 

Where are PM Modi, President Xi Jinping, President Trump, Lebron James, PM Bibi Netanyahu, PM designate Gantz? Do Englishman and Englishwoman feel guilt for the enormous suffering they have inflicted upon Palestinian LBGTQ during English empire and ever since the end of English empire? This blood debt could be repaid by giving English permanent residence status to every Palestinian LBGTQ who passes a background check to weed out violent criminals and members of organized crime.

 

Not that muslims are doing any better when it comes to Palestinian LBGTQ rights. Global muslim leaders Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have you no tears and compassion for Palestinian LBGTQ? How will you be able to look up upon Allah after having betrayed Palestinian LBGTQ?

Continue reading “Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (g)?”

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Film Review: What Will People Say?

**Caution: Spoilers Ahead**

Image result for what will people say film

I was watching the film ‘What will people say’ (courtesy, Kanopy), an official selection at the Toronto film festival in 2018. It is a story familiar to anyone who grew up in Pakistan or in a desi family abroad. A young, second-generation Pakistani teenage girl (Nisha) in Norway wants to live her life like any other teenager in her peer group but is restricted by her parents. Like most rebellious teenagers anywhere in the world, she finds ways to do what she wants to do (go out partying with a friend in the middle of the night) but stops just shy of having physical relations with one of her guy friends. One such day, she gets caught by her father who finds one of her male Norwegian friends in her room and starts beating him and then turns his fury on her. A neighbor calls the police and Nisha is escorted to a safe place by Norway’s version of the CPS.

After spending a night at CPS, Nisha’s mother calls her to tell her that everything will be okay and that her father will pick her up from CPS in a few minutes. Nisha, being a teenager, falls for this trap. She ends up on a flight to Pakistan with her father. Her father leaves her at his sister’s house and returns to Norway the next day. Nisha tries to contact someone in Norway but she has no access to international calling or internet. Her first night, she tries to run away in the streets but comes back to find her aunt at the door telling her that the nearest airports in 350 Kilometers away. At another instance, she tries to send a message to one of her Norwegian friends via facebook through a net cafe but is caught and her Norwegian passport is burned. She spends eight months at that place. While she is there, she falls for one of her male cousins living in the same house.

One night, they are caught kissing at night by local police who beat him mercilessly and ask her to strip at gunpoint. The police then ask the guy to fondle her in front of them, all while taking photos of them. The couple is then dragged to their house and police demand money in exchange for deleting those photos. Nisha’s father is summoned from Norway by the Pakistani relatives and she is sent back. While Nisha’s father is in Pakistan, he spits at her face and then takes her in a taxi to the top of a mountain and orders her to jump from there. She tries to plead with him while he throttles her and tries to push her. He is unable to, and they end up back in Norway.

There is a family meal and her mother tells her that they are giving her a final chance. The prospect of her becoming a doctor is brought up and that it would be one way in which the honor of family can be redeemed. Some of the dialogues used by her mother upon her return are,

People don’t even invite is to weddings anymore.
I wish you were stillborn”.

Within a few days of her return, she comes back from school to find that there is a ‘match’ ready to happen. The boy (Adnan) is a doctor in Canada and from a Pakistani family. Adnan’s aunt is visiting Nisha’s house and he is present via Skype.

Her father muses out loud that she can study and later work once she is in Canada. The boy’s aunt says ‘No, there is no need for studies or work. Adnan earns plenty of money. She’ll later be busy enough with children and the house”.

Nisha’s mother agrees with this statement.

After a brief chat, the ‘match’ is finalized and they are officially “engaged”. Sweets are consumed by everybody present (they are Pakistani, after all). The boy’s aunt then says, “Nisha, we are doing it only for your wellbeing”. The following night, Nisha, who had been rooming with her younger sister, decides to run away from the house again. It is snowing outside and before she leaves, her younger sister (who is about 6-9 years old) wakes up and sees her leave but doesn’t say a word. Once she has climbed down from her third story apartment, she walks towards the street outside their apartment complex and looks back. Her father is standing in the window, looking at her. Their eyes meet for a few moments and then Nisha takes off in the snow, running far away from the house. The End.

I thought the movie was generally well-made. There is some exoticization of Pakistan, as one expects in most films for a primarily western audience. The narrow streets, old houses, mountains in the background and a dilapidated bus, with Khawaja-siras (transgender people) selling boiled eggs to passengers, the old school vegetable and fruit market, classrooms without whiteboards and households without domestic servants. I read later that the story is loosely based on the life of its director, Iram Haq.

The premise, as I said earlier, is familiar to a Pakistani or a Pakistani-origin person. The rank hypocrisy of Pakistani society, the guilt-trapping (Pakistani parents’ favorite sport), violence in the name of honor and efforts to ‘save face’ in the community are daily realities of a desi household. While honor killings get splashed as headlines (deservedly), there is a lot of ‘micro-violence’ that happens every day in a middle-class Pakistani household with young girls (I’m talking about a representative sample). Some of the statements that I have bolded and put in quotation marks in the synopsis are familiar tropes of Pakistani parents, once they find out that the human being they created is not a robot that they can program. The situation, however, is much more dire for girls than it is for boys. Particularly when it happens abroad. One of my mentors used to say that Pakistanis in the diaspora tend to be normal people until their daughters start growing up. If it were up to Pakistani parents, they would bottle up puberty of their children and throw it away in the trash, instead of dealing with it like people everywhere else.

I write this not just as a commentator but as a witness. Both of my sisters, at different times in their lives, were ‘disciplined’ when they developed an interest in men that my parents had not chosen for them to marry. Sister number one was a teenager and had a crush on one of her teachers (which is the most teenager thing that I can think of). The guy in question used to visit our house for coaching (a normal occurrence for our household, to be clear) and he belonged to a lower-middle-class background. Once the ‘crush’ was discovered, he was banished from our house and my sister was warned never to mention his name again, or there would be dire consequences. She was 16 at the time. Around the time that she turned 17, she was engaged to a cousin who was studying abroad at the time. She got married at 18 and has lived abroad ever since. She has always been an obedient and slightly-passive child and has done okay in life, despite the obvious disadvantage.

Sister number 2 has always been a more outwardly emotional and strong character. Her first ‘issue’ arose during teenage years when she was found talking too many times with one of the male cousins. She would also ‘dress up’ (as much as one could in a provincial Punjabi town) when she went to coaching centers in the city during her high school years. Later, when she was in college, she needed some help with coursework and an acquaintance who worked in that profession was asked to help. The acquaintance deputed one of his juniors to help my sister. Fast forwards a few years and they were romantically involved. My parents were having none of that. They tried to ‘arrange’ her marriage at different places but she would stage some sort of stunt (act cold/be sarcastic/or just being rude) to get out of it. She tried to kill herself at least twice during this period. She was probably physically beaten more than once as well (I was at boarding school between 2000-2006 and in med school for 5 years after that so I only heard these things second-hand). I had met the dude in question and found him to be okay, nothing too spectacular or bad. As the firstborn male, I held a certain role in the family so I first cajoled my mother (who hated the guy partially because he was 10-12 years older than my sister and partially because he came from a lower-middle-class family and my sister has always had ‘high’ ambitions) and later my father (who felt guilty for having introduced the couple in the first place) and sister number 2 finally got married to him.

Were my parents monsters or merely representing the middle class, small-town, religious morality that they themselves grew up in? I don’t know the answer to that question. They are otherwise very decent, educated, ‘honorable’, pious people and a neutral observer meeting them for the first time won’t be able to see anything wrong outwardly. The pathos inflicting my parents is not restricted to them, it is shared by everyone around them, most of the society is rotten. And it’s not getting any better with time.

P.S A book that deals with issues of ‘honor’ in the Pakistani diaspora, particularly in Britain, is ‘Maps for lost lovers’ by Nadeem Aslam. One can also glean some knowledge about this from certain portions of the movie ‘Blinded by the Light’.

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DoubleQuoting Myanmar and Assam..

It’s the first quote that carries the implication of genocide, but what of the rest?

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It’s not a joke, is it? Myanmar..

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”

In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.

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It’s not a joke, is it? Assam..

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.

It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.

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That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.

BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?

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Climate change: impact on the Hajj


The Hajj, Mecca

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Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels

Here’s the abstract:

The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

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That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible

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The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

Kumbh Mela:

Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

Arba’een:

Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

Papal Mass

Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

Makara Jyothi

India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

Bishwa Ijtema:

Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

[ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

Umrah:

Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

Kalachakra,:

Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group.

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The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Rome, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

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