Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts

India does not have the option of blithely invading another country like Israel or the US; nor, if it could, would it be a very productive policy. The war against the sponsors of terrorism has to be a covert one; I hope that India is preparing to wage a covert war.

The world's problem is to be manage the terminal decline of an ideology that will not go quietly into the night. I do not rule out Islam producing something like puritan Christianity or some other productive ideology. But Islamdom is in the grip of a nihilistic ideology that can produce nothing. The main problem is to keep that sinking ship from drowning the rest of us as well. Apart from being a prime source of terrorism, the Islamic world is saved from irrelevance only by two facts. One is of chance, that they sit atop massive oil reserves in a world that has a petroleum-based economy. The second is one of negligence and foolishness of the great powers, in that an Islamic country has nuclear weapons.

Indians have a phobia about Islam, because of the last many hundred years of history. The key thing to remember is that military power rests on a basis of economic power. In the medieval world, the economic power of Islamdom rested on its control of trade routes. In that world, control of production meant control of the serfs. This too, Islamdom had. India could never reach equilibrium with the Muslim invaders, because of the great external power of Islamdom that would constantly reinvade. Once the Europeans had broken the Islamic monopoly on trade, by opening up sea routes, the decline of Islamdom as then constituted was almost inevitable.

Today, economic and military power rest on the mastery of technology, and in innovation; and the current ideology of Islam utterly stifles and deadens these in its societies. As I wrote above, without the petroleum and the bomb, people would be paying less attention to them than they do to sub-Saharan Africa. If the world can manage a transition to a post-petroleum economy, a transition also forced upon us for ecological reasons, then only one reason Islamdom would have any relevance is its ability to produce nuclear terror.

Yes, it will be a great tragedy if Islamists overrun Europe. However, in the long run, it will not change any balance of power, because Islamists cannot run Europe at its current level of sophistication. They will be even less successful than the Soviets. There will be great human misery, but it will not be the end of the world.

Finally, the world makes a big mistake in taking India-Pakistan issues as some local problem, and making equal-equal between the two sides. To me it is fairly clear that there is simple thread from the ideology behind the formation of Pakistan to 9/11 and beyond. It need not have happened that way, of course, e.g., if the superpowers had not made Afghanistan into a battleground of the Cold War, and in the process, overlooked Pakistani nuclear development. But instead of holding Pakistan together, the world should be engaged in dismantling it and limiting the power of its constituent parts. The bailing out of the Pakistani economy and rearming Pakistan as the American administration intends to do - the matter is currently in Congress - will hasten rather than delay or cancel the day of a JDAM (Jihadi Detonated Atomic Munition).


CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Islam is important in the modern world for at least one other reason. It is the second largest religion, with about 1.3 billion adherents, and it's one of the few religions that is growing at a significant rate. It also seems to have a lot of trouble adapting to the modern world, something that has proven difficult for other religions as well.

Secular government and religious tolerance has taken half a millenium to evolve in the West, and it is still under heavy attack.

It is still unclear whether Islam can make that transition or whether al Quaeda will get its war of civilizations.

I don't think that anyone should underestimate the influence of Saudi Wahabism in creating radical Islam though. The World's appetite for oil has been a major factor in the rise of radical Islam.

Arun said...

Billion is a large number, yes, the billion Chinese or billion Indians would be irrelevant too, except for having to live by their wits.

Anyway, this is one reason why I think this particular form of religion is doomed to irrelevance. This is how they treat one of their greatest modern sons.

Quote: The Ahmadis (or the Ahmadiyya) believe that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet as well as the promised messiah and mahdi of Islam. Amongst the Ahmadis themselves, the Qadiani group believes that Muhammad is the greatest, though not the last, of all prophets. They also believe that accepting Ghulam Ahmad's prophethood is essential for becoming a Muslim. The Lahori group does not go so far in its schism with mainstream Islam.

As Salam's star in the world of physics rose, his sect came under increasing attack by the orthodoxy in Pakistan. The Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim by the Pakistani government in 1974.

Shortly after Partition, the Ahmadiyya community had moved its headquarters from Qadian in India to Pakistan. Upon expulsion from Islam in Pakistan, the Ahmadis were persecuted with fierceness and their leaders exiled to London. As a minority religion, the Ahmadis remain the most reviled group in Pakistan. Their educational institutions have been nationalised, and as a minority religion they are barred from holding public meetings.

The Ahmadiyya (or Qadiani) problem in Islam is characteristic of schism in any religion that defines itself narrowly. The Ahmadiyya say that they are true Muslims, whereas the orthodox clerics claim that by abandoning one of the principal beliefs of Islam, the Ahmadis have established a new religion and they should not have the right to call themselves Muslim.

No doubt, Salam, as an observant religious Ahmadi Muslim, was aware of the ambiguity of his community's position. He responded to his expulsion from Islam by spending even more time in his pieties. This, his friends felt, was at a great cost to his physics.

He went around and used his great prestige and power for the sake of science in the Islamic world. But his enemies were nipping at his heels, and when he went to Pakistan after he had been awarded the Nobel prize, he was disallowed from entering the premises of any university.

For Salam his sorrows did not end with his excommunication. In Pakistan he is non-person. His name is not mentioned in textbooks. The popular press has concocted wild conspiracies of nuclear espionage against him.

His efforts in his waning years for the cause of science in Islamic countries came to naught. He had obtained pledges for a one-billion dollar fund, but when he and his coreligionists were banned from setting foot in Saudi Arabia, the sponsors withdrew.

Luke said...

Interesting post. I intend to show it around amongst my more informed acquaintences here in Tennessee. Linked to you from Lubos Motl's page. You should send your post to Steve Sailer at -- he would appreciate it, and might give an excerpt and link, hence a bigger audience.

Benjamin said...

Hi Arun,

I like what I see so far here. You might like my political website (which is a bit more than a blog). Here is the section on India:

I had some blogger blogs, but discontinued them.

Anonymous said...

Indians have a phobia about Islam because of Islams brutality and its blood soaked hands.

No other religion, not even Christianity has as much blood on its hands as Islam does- I support this contention with the genocide that occurred in India under invasion after invasion and the periodic cullings under the tyrants who ruled.

We in India have the worst choice of all- to live with the products of an imperialistic policy that took our own people and turned them into followers of a culture and belief system, whose guardians ensure that they can never identify totally with us. That an idolater is filthy, that he is somehow subhuman.

Given this, how does an Indian reconcile with Islam? How can I, in good faith have respect for a brutal Mohammad who was responsible for a faith that brutalized my ancestors and continues to attack my correlegionists and fellow citizens on account of their faith?

One wishes there was a time machine that one could take and simply ensure that this brutal man did not come about and set up such a violent and insular faith.

But we cant.

So we have to live with them.

My own belief and faith does not permit me to practise genocide upon them as they visited upon my country. Not even in the belief of self-preservation.

So what does one do, but wish that these fanatics realise the truth- that their Allah is not superior to my Bhagwan or God! And they live and let live.

Arun said...

I will reserve judgement until either this series of books are translated into English or I have learned German and have read them.

Anonymous said...

I fail to understand your point- are we to ignore the genocide perpetrated by Islam on Indians & pass it off trivially as a phobia?

Note this for instance from the South:

"In its brief existence in the southernmost tip of India, the Sultanate of Madura left behind historical records dripping with blood. Ibn Batuta was married to a daughter of the first Sultan Sayyid Ahsan Shah and describes the almost constant warfare that the Muslims engaged in with the Hindus. At one place the Sultan captured Hindu villagers hiding in a forest—all the male prisoners were impaled on wooden stakes, their women were tied by their hair to these stakes and killed before their eyes, and finally the children were hacked to pieces. In this condition the bodies were left to rot or to be eaten by animals and Ibn Batutah says that such hideous acts were committed again and again. After the conquest of Madura by Bukka, the Vijaynagar Princess Gangadevi visited the place and wrote, “The sweet odor of the sacrificial smoke and the chant of the Vedas have deserted the villages, which are now filled with the foul smell of roasted flesh and the fierce noise of the ruffianly Turushkas. The suburban gardens of Madura present a most painful sight; many of their beautiful cocoanut palms have been cut down; and on every side are seen rows of stakes where swing garlands of human skulls strung together.”

What you refer to as a phobia is a painful civilizational memory, of a culture which withstood a Muslim onslaught, with great pain & sacrifice.

Unless even modern day Muslims recognise how their current bigotry reflects that of their forebears, what hope is their of reconciliation?

Anonymous said...

To repeat the well abused cliche- we all have Muslim friends, a Salim from childhood or a neighbour- but the point remains. When a man turns to the Quran with vengeance, history bears out the bigotry that then ensues. As much as I would love to think otherwise, Kalam is an exception. Even the most secular of Indian Muslims shirks from admitting the bloody past of Islam in the Indian subcontinent. The prominent Mullahs- they revel in it. They say "oh those were different times", and then praise the Moghuls, the Sultans.

Arun (I take it thats your name), Hindu anger is a reaction to this phenomenon, and it will not just vanish. It is not an irrational fear, but a hard learnt lesson.

What happened in Malappurram was no different from what happened during Gandhis time. Times change, the more they remain the same.

Arun said...

I meant I'll reserve judgement on who has the overall bloodier record - Christianity or Islam. With respect to India alone, the answer is clear.

Arun said...

To one of the anonymous who wrote: "Arun (I take it that's your name)" - you write that as anonymous?

I'll just point out that this cultural memory of past Islamic horrors is mostly manufactured, in the sense that these are not stories passed from father to son, but rather rediscovered when people read books. Indians, thank god or whomever, are not so far like the Serbs, who are still fighting a 700 year old battle, or the subset of Muslims who are going over 1400 year old history.

I'll also point out that there were only two sets of invaders whose Indianization is problematic - the British and the Islamists. The British never really settled in India anyway. But what is common is that there was a powerful external empire that kept them replenished. The Indianization of Islam - so that it would become a live-and-let-live religion like any other in India - would be much further along, except that the Islamic world is still relevant because of petroleum.

Anonymous said...

"Arun (I take it that's your name)" - you write that as anonymous?"

Yes, since I didnt know whom I was addressing! If you are the owner of this blog, then fine- but I should know whom I am addressing shouldnt I? I didnt have the time to read all your other posts and figure out whom I was talking to, one of the bloggers responding to you, or the owner ...

"I'll just point out that this cultural memory of past Islamic horrors is mostly manufactured, in the sense that these are not stories passed from father to son, but rather rediscovered when people read books. Indians, thank god or whomever, are not so far like the Serbs, who are still fighting a 700 year old battle, or the subset of Muslims who are going over 1400 year old history."

Sorry, but this is what is so offensive to many Indians!

Does the Holocaust become "manufactured" because the present generation of Israelis did not get massacred?

Similarly, do the events that were perpetrated by the Aurangzebs, the Ghaznis suddenly disappear?

I have grandparents who remember the pogroms that went on in the Nizams time. They have historical accounts passed on of what Tipu did! My Punjabi friends, partition apart - a couple have relatives who have maintained a family history which includes, believe it or not people whom they "lost" all the way back to pre-British times.

Rare, perhaps, but they do exist.

What you fail to understand is that these memories, the anger remains- that is later "confirmed" when they read books / read an article that points them to something, which the Indian Govt has deliberately suppressed over the past fifty years..

Where do you think Gujarat came from? Why & how do you think that even moderate, literate Hindus wont budge an inch when it comes to Islam? Is this "irrational", manufactured anger perpetrated by a xenophobic RSS or whatever- or is it a natural consequence of a society that claws back whenever it sees itself under threat?

Hinduism is by its nature, somewhat insular. Dont mess with me, and I dont mess with you. Christianity & Islam are proselytizers- they seek to convert. That *itself* bewilders many Hindus who see it an ungracious attack on their belief system. That apart - there are the historical angles to the whole mess. We dont see Hindus or Buddhists clashing! Or even Sikhs & Hindus, today. What makes Islam different? But for its emphasis on a) having you join it, come what may & b) its past history of blood thirsty gore C) its insistence that it be separate & distinct from the "other".

If we can criticize a bunch of upper caste Rajputs beating up on poor dalits in some place in UP, as wrong - why is it that we become collectively silent over Islam & its continued excesses today?

"I'll also point out that there were only two sets of invaders whose Indianization is problematic - the British and the Islamists. The British never really settled in India anyway. But what is common is that there was a powerful external empire that kept them replenished. The Indianization of Islam - so that it would become a live-and-let-live religion like any other in India - would be much further along, except that the Islamic world is still relevant because of petroleum."

Arun, you are mistaken here - the issue is not of the proverbial "foreign hand" that keeps these invaders alive. Deoband is not kept alive by Saudi money alone- it is kept alive by hate & belief in Islamic superiority over the other faiths- which in turn flows from "there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet". In such a case, how can a devout Muslim not be conflicted over whether to take it literally or not? There will always be some who do. In contrast, do you know 25 year old Hindus who read the Manusmriti or even assign it any relevance in todays world? Perhaps when they are in their 40's-50's, they will read the Gita. Hinduism for them, is mostly visiting the temple and praying to their personal diety or one of the trinity. The problem is that the Quran itself is conflicted. And it is so, because Mohammad himself was no apostle of peace. Leaving even the bile out, the man slaughtered, committed perjury, raped and led a violent life. Now if I were an Islamist, I have a ready source of inspiration- the single most important one. In contrast, when the RSS (say) stresses on Ram, I can turn to Narayana (even he is Vishnu!)...this tolerance, this alternative "outlook" is missing in Islam. When & where it combines with others to be milder (Sufism), it also has the Deoband & co simultaneously..

Islam itself is fundamentally incompatible with Hinduism or others, in that sense..

As there can only be "One"..

Arun said...

To the anonymous who felt I had written something offensive to most Indians:

The Israelis will carefully preserve the memory of the Holocaust and seven generations from now, they will be still behaving like victims, and it will do them no good, as victimhood is one of the most self-demeaning things to a person. (Incidentally, victimhood is one thing Islamists play well).

Knowing it happened historically is one thing, carrying it around as a part of one's identity is another.

Gujarat didn't come from any historical anger - it came from a post-independence history of communal riots and was triggered by Godhra.

No one is "excessively silent" about Islam. Quite the opposite. Far too many people claim a knowledge and understanding they don't have.

Also, everyone in India considers their community to be superior to the rest, and yet people do get along. Without the foreign hand, Indian Muslims would be also there.