Ertugrul is badass

I watched a few episodes of Ertugrul and it’s pretty good. I would prefer less of a Marvel-comics style character…Ertugrul and his alps basically are just killing machines who never get injured while taking down dozens of Christian knights. But it is good for what it intends to be, a dramatic rendering of the origins of the Ottoman mythology.

What’s the Indian equivalent? I assume a Shijavi TV series, but is there something with good production values?

Intellectual Brown Web

Sarah Haider, Shadi Hamid, myself and Murtaza Hussain recorded an impromptu podcast that we titled the “Intellectual Brown Web.” These are basically people I know well (I am good friends with both Sarah and Shadi) or who got involved in Twitter threads repeatedly (Murtaza). But there is no “Hindo-origin person.” Since I don’t give a shit about representation or affirmative action I don’t care too much…but this got me thinking, what based Hindu Americans would you have on? I know plenty of based Hindus from India…but most Hindu Indian Americans are Rho Khanna at the most based.

I mean think about this: why the fuck am I having to write long pieces about how the anti-caste discrimination stuff is bullshit? I’m just a tech entrepreneur who isn’t even from a Hindu background. Suhag at HAF does stuff and others, but where are the big hitters? Instead you have public Hindu Americans proudly pushing this stuff.

Note: there are plenty of based Hindu Americans who are doctors, engineers and business people. They just aren’t public people. Which is fine, but if you don’t speak for yourself, at some point Razib Khan is going to get tired of doing so.

Down with eggs?

I don’t have a big personal issue with vegetarians, though I really enjoy ribeye and you’ll take shrimp from my dead hands. My daughter has been a vegetarian since she was five due to ethical concerns about animal cruelty.

But every now and then I hear that BJP-aligned governments or officials are removing eggs from school meal programs due to cultural sensitivities. I get that, but is there a good argument from this from a utilitarian/nutritional angle? Children at critical ages need protein and fat, and perhaps I’m wrong, but India still seems to have a lot of nutritional issues in a lot of is population. These kids are the future, and honestly, this seems like the cultural forces are shooting society in the face.

If Marin county or the Irvine School District unveiled this I wouldn’t care. With enough money and care you can design a vegan diet with balance and supplementation to be healthy. But this requires care and execution, and I see many American with lots of money who don’t pull it off well judging by their physique and fatigue.

What’s the deal? It’s true that the Chinese eat everything, but sometimes I wonder if the Indians eat nothing.

(this matters to all of us because a massive number of working age people in the next few decade are going to be Indian, and we need them to be as healthy as possible)


One of the things that has saddened and frustrated me on this weblog over the last 12 years has been the tendency of brown people, Indian subcontinentals, South Asians, etc. to engage in differentiation. As a geneticist, I am aware of differences, and I accept and admit it candidly to an extent that is rare in an open manner in the West. Also, some ribbing and joking is normal, and I am not offended.

But Pakistanis vs. Indians, Southies vs. Northies, Bangladeshis vs. Indians. High caste vs. low caste, vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian.

Our cultural differences are striking. Our diversity of form, belief and practice is mind-blogging. But we come from the same roots. The rest of the world looks at us, and recognizes the kinship. We? Not so much. Muslims claim Arab or Iranian heritage. Jats and northwest Indians distinguish themselves from the lower and dark races. Southerners express contempt for the barbarism of BIMARU. BIMARU claims that they are the font of culture. And so forth.

This is not to end with a resounding assertion. But sometimes, I wonder if the silent majority is not like this, and we hear the prattling of the minority?

What is Islamophobia?

One of the problems with “traditional” familial and cultural systems is the level of depravity they can mask. This is not a “slam dunk” argument against them, but it is a real thing. The suppression of the evidence of clear sexual abuse in a certain community in the UK in the service of preventing negative stereotypes seems to be a case where the lives and misery of young girls in these communities are not accounted for in the same way as those from more mainstream subcultures. You can see exactly how Rotherham happened, though in that case, the girls targeted were explicit outgroups.

(this not even an explicitly communal point, as Hindu women have routinely complained about the “perverted uncle” problem in joint-families)

A confused post-Empire

Truss learns the hard way that Britain isn’t America:

If anti-Americanism was bad, look what its opposite has done. Britain is in trouble because its elite is so engrossed with the US as to confuse it for their own nation. The UK does not issue the world’s reserve currency. It does not have near-limitless demand for its sovereign debt. It can’t, as US Republicans sometimes do, cut taxes on the hunch that lawmakers of the future will trim public spending. Reaganism was a good idea. Reaganism without the dollar isn’t. If UK premier Liz Truss has a programme, though, that is its four-word expression.

So much of what Britain has done and thought in recent years makes sense if you assume it is a country of 330mn people with $20tn annual output. The idea that it could ever look the EU in the eye as an adversarial negotiator, for instance. Or the decision to grow picky about Chinese inward investment at the same time as forfeiting the European market. Or the bet that Washington was going to entertain a meaningful bilateral trade deal. Superpowers get to behave with such presumption.

(if you go to google news, look up the piece, and use incognito mode, you should be able to read it for free)

This is basically what Ed West told me in our podcast. Britain has been culturally swallowed by America and American affairs, and that’s not good for the UK’s social and economic development because the natives don’t pay enough attention to their real station and situation in the world.

For the Right: they need to get over Empire and Britain’s role in the world. Contra James bond they’re a medium-sized nation living off a history of geopolitical relevance. For the Left: get over colonialism. The ghosts of Ninevah haunt the old ruins.

Book Review: India, Bharat and Pakistan – a Not so Gentle Reminder

Lawyer and author J Sai Deepak is back with the book of his India that is Bharat Quadrology. I had reviewed his first book India that is Bharat almost a year back – you can find my review here.

The Summary: 

J Sai Deepak’s second book dissects the time from the fall of the Mughal empire to the Khilafat movement relying heavily on the tools developed in the first book and a vast number of primary sources. The author also investigates the trail of the Islamic doctrine consolidated during the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri (compiled on orders of Aurangzeb) back to the 13th century Islamic scholar Taymiyyah and Syed Ahmad Sirhindi (a contemporary of Mughal Emperor Akbar).

The two figures covered in detail among the post Mughal Ulema are Shah Wahiullah Dehlawi and Syed Ahmad Baraelvi – the two giants who have shaped the Islamic revivalism in the 18th century. The establishment of Wahhabi power center in Northwest of Punjab, establishment of the various schools of Islam in North India – Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-i-Hadith, Ali-garh and the British crackdown of Wahhabism are all discussed in sufficient detail before jumping off to Syed Ahmad Khan and the modern genesis of the two-nation theory. The author then covers all the important events from the Partition of Bengal to the Khilafat movement – relying heavily on primary sources. The book ends with a summary of the Khilafat riots – especially the Mopla massacre.

My 2 Annas:

It took me 3 weeks to complete the first section of the book. I completed the rest of the book in 2 days. I think this statement itself is a review in a nutshell. If I had to give a one phrase review for book 1 it would be “Overstated yet immensely Consequential“, if I have to do the same for book 2 it would be “About time or Oh My Gods“. This is not to say I don’t have disagreements with the book – especially some of author’s conclusions, but the overwhelming thrust of the book is something I strongly agree with.

Firstly, the book busts all the popular notions of two-nation theory and it being solely a creation of the British. The author effectively traces the modern origins of the two-nation theory to Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh movement at the very least. The book also covers some of the lesser-known events from the 19th century – the Wahhabi movement and the conflict in the Northwestern frontier province. The book makes it abundantly clear that Islamic revivalism was less a reaction to Colonialism and more a reaction to Hindu and Sikh resurgence. The fact that both the British and Muslims saw each other as closer religiously and hence more acceptable/worthy instead of the “Hindu” is driven through via a vast number of primary sources. 

The common trope among the secular (even Hindutva discourse) about the Syncretic nature of Sufis is addressed (though I felt the author didn’t fully go into this question).

Location 528

Pan-Islamism and its proponents – especially Al-Afghani are also covered in the book.

Secondly, the book also goes into origins and progress of “Moderate Nationalism” under Indian National Congress right up to the ascendency of the “Mahatma”. I had expected the author to be slightly unfair to the Indian National congress and especially the role of Gandhiji but to my surprise he hasn’t. Though some conclusions may seem a tad unfair at times but because the author relies heavily on primary references the “judgement” is moderated. Most importantly the support of Khilafat which is put firmly on the shoulders of Gandhiji in Hindutva circles, is clearly shown to be a mainstream view of Indian National Congress years before ascendency of Gandhiji, absolving Gandhiji of some of the blame.

The inability of the “Indian nationalism led by Hindus” in dealing the Islamic exceptionalism both before and during the period of “Hindu-Muslim” harmony is on display in the book. The author compares “Coloniality” of the Hindus to the “Rootedness” and “Intransigence” of Muslims for these defeats. Whereas there can be no doubt that Muslim “Intransigence” was important, I find the blame laid on “Coloniality” not watertight.

Take example of Jawaharlal Nehru and Kemal Pasha “Attaturk”. Both were modernizers who tried to jettison the past of their respective countries. What separated them both wasn’t any rootedness or lack of deracination – but a personal attribute, namely political ruthlessness, incidentally something Mohammad Ali Jinnah shared. Kemal Pasha not only broke the tradition of the Khalifa but also forced the Roman alphabet overnight on the Turks. Similarly, in India the two heads who had the most clear-eyed vision of the thread of Islamic exceptionalism were Dr Ambedkar and Veer Savarkar (both “Modernists”). I would instead put the blame on Hindu naivete which is an unfortunate byproduct of Hindu Pluralism – we simply never understood the other. Most of our ReConquistadors (with notable exceptions) did not pursue Reconversions.

Another thing I found mildly irritating in the book (continued from book one) – is the use of the term Middle eastern coloniality/consciousness. Ironically the term “Middle Eastern” itself reeks of its Western Colonial origins. I would have used the term Islamic or Arabic instead, but this is sematic disagreement which doesn’t matter much.

a Not so Gentle Reminder:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results“.

The disagreements with the author’s conclusions notwithstanding, the book is a not so Gentle Reminder for the India that is Bharat. In retrospect, the compromises Bharatiya nationalism offered, from accepting disproportionate Muslim representation to supporting the fanatical Khilafat movement, may have worked against the Indian civilization itself. While it may be unfair to excessively blame the Bharatiya leaders from the past, it’s imperative to call out those who are flirting with the same approach in the 21st century (incidentally my position a few years ago). Essentially the Hindu leadership made a Faustian bargain and sold their brains. Though Swatyantraveer Savarkar is almost absent from the book, he cast a long shadow in my mind while I read the book.

Another popular trope I felt the author could have busted was the trope that Islamic intransigence in India is largely the legacy of “it having been spread by the sword”. The Mopla carnage was undertaken by descendants of Arab traders who came without any major conflict. Maybe violent intransigence and exclusivity is a feature not a bug.

The book becomes unputdownable after the Lucknow Pact, as the Hindu-Muslim unity discussed here which didn’t even last a decade remains as relevant today as ever. The riots covered in the end of the book – especially the Mopla carnage is almost unbearable to read reminding the reader of Kashmir. The letter by Annie Beasant to Gandhiji stands out. The book also brings into focus some of the lesser-known riots like Kohat. Incidentally the trigger for the Kohat ethnic cleansing was blasphemy, a topic which continues to remain as relevant as ever.

As I write this review a century after Mopla Riots, raids are conducted on Popular Front of India members while the PFI supporters can call for Hartals with partial success in Malabar coast. If the first book was a red pill in a blue jacket (Akshay Alladi (@akshayalladi) / Twitter), this is a केसरी (Saffron) pill in a green jacket.

I have skipped over many topics from the book in this review for brevity, but I would urge the reader of this post to buy and read this book in its entirety and engage with the uncomfortable facts it lays down infront of us.

The book ends with the following quote

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The above line becomes even more relevant especially give the way history is taught in India. I would end this review with a quote (in one of its many forms) most people reading this review would recognize.

अश्वत्थामा हतः इति, नरो वा कुंजरोवा !

The truth still matters

On Twitter I ran into a peculiar argument about vegetarianism and Brahmanism:

This is just factually wrong from what I know. The standard narrative I was taught is that the shift toward vegetarianism was driven by non-Brahmin-led religious movements, in particular the Sramanic sects like Jainism and Buddhism (that seem to have had a Kshatriya and Vaishya “class” base). Rather, post-Vedic Brahmanic ritualism was changed by the influence of these movements, with the Brahmin caste becoming followers and expositors. This probably aligns with the idea that much of late Indian Buddhism was actually incorporated into Advaita, so the idea that Buddhism is a “daughter” religion of Hinduism is actually not correct.

Now, it is totally true that today militant vegetarianism is often correlated with upper castes and is instrumentalized in an exclusionary manner.  But that is the endpoint and operationalization of vegetarianism, not its root. The original commenter was making a political and rhetorical point, so truth was pretty irrelevant. But those of us who value truth need to periodically bring up pedantic aspects because otherwise the lie becomes truth, and that is true perversion.

Brown Pundits