Saturday, August 1, 2015

Patricia Crone. Scholar of Islam

I was away on vacation so this is a bit late. But better late than never. (from friend Robin Khundkar)

Patricia Crone co-authored a controversial work on early Islam called "Hagarism - making of the Islamic World" which she later conceded had serious problems and with drew from publication, Never the less she was a serious scholar and respected by everyone including those who were critical of her conclusions. Below are remembrances of her as well as three outstanding essays she wrote for Open Democracy in the last decade.

May not be of interest to everyone but worth the time of folks interested in Early Islam


Patricia Crone: Memoir of a superb Islamic scholar
Judith Herrin
12 July 2015  
Open Democracy

The great historian of early Islam, Patricia Crone, died peacefully on July 11 after a long battle with cancer. This memoir by her friend and colleague was written earlier this year for a volume of essays in her honour and links to her outstanding essay on Mohammed published by openDemocracy.

This essay is the introduction to Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts, Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone, eds. B. Sadeghi, A. Q. Ahmed, A. Silverstein, and R. Hoyland (Brill 2015), xiv-xx, and is republished with thanks.

About the author
Judith Herrin is emeritus professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College, London. Her books include The Formation of Christendom, Women in Purple and Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

On the floor of Patricia Crone’s grand study that runs the entire depth of her house in Princeton, and looks out on her lovely garden, lies a very striking Persian carpet, most gloriously woven in red with white patterns on it. Her father had it in his office and I always imagined it had been a tribute by him to her brilliance. But no, he thought that all his four daughters should be fluent in at least two international languages and insisted on them going to finishing school in France and England. So after taking the “forprøve” or preliminary exam at Copenhagen University, Patricia had to go to Paris to learn French and then to London where she determined to get into a university as a pleasant and productive way of becoming fluent in English. She was accepted as an occasional student at King’s College London and followed a course in medieval European history, especially church-state relations. And when she discovered SOAS, where they offered exactly the kind of course she wanted and could not do in Denmark (History branch IV), she wrote to her father and asked him if he would pay for three more years in London. His generous agreement thus sponsored her association with Islamic history. At SOAS she learned Arabic, later adding Persian and Syriac, and got a First, which pleased her father, whom she describes as an academic manqué. She then went on to write her PhD on the maw­ālī in the Umayyad period under the supervision of Bernard Lewis, although he left for America before the thesis was examined in 1974. Then she was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at the Warburg Institute. And that is where we first met in the autumn of 1976.

Assassination attempts on senior Pakistani army officers

From Dr Hamid Hussein.

Marked for Death - Assassination Attempts on Senior Officers of Pakistan Army
Hamid Hussain

Since 2002, Pakistan army is involved in a rapidly evolving struggle against terrorism.  When the first shots of this new war were fired, Pakistan army was neither trained nor prepared for the conflict.  Confusion, complacency and utter incompetence at all levels gave an upper hand to the extremists all over the country.  First, the government lost the control of tribal areas followed by the loss of the large swaths of the settled division of Malakand.  Militants established themselves in tribal regions and from there launched forays into major cities.  They abducted, killed and bombed civilians and soldiers alike all over the country sending the whole nation into a deep depression.

Police and paramilitary forces faced the brunt of the militant onslaught.  Many soldiers and disproportionately large numbers of young officers of army were killed and wounded in clashes with militants.  Militants embarked on a deliberate course of targeting senior officers of security forces including army.  Many senior police, paramilitary and army officers were targeted by militants.  This was a multipronged strategy with objectives of eliminating individual officers to shake morale of officer corps and on psychological plane sending the signal to general public that security forces couldn’t protect them.

On June 10, 2004, the convoy of Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant General (later General and VCOAS) Ahsan Saleem Hayat came under attack that resulted in death of eight soldiers.  Ahsan’s driver and co-driver were shot killing co-driver on the spot while driver was seriously wounded and later died.  Driver’s foot remained on the accelerator and car kept moving but in a zigzag fashion.  Ahsan’s ADC seated behind the driver got hold of the steering wheel and got out of the ambush.  Attacker’s plan was to first detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stopping Ahsan’s car and then spray it with bullets to finish the job.  IED failed to explode and attackers hiding near the bridge opened fire killing several guards but Ahsan survived.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Do Colored People Exist if There Are No White People to Observe Them?

A post with that title, over at Unz. The final paragraph:
If Dara Shikoh had defeated Aurangzeb and the British had never brought India into their Empire, would history have been different? I would like to hope so, but I doubt so. Akbar had attempted to create a new religion, but it did not last beyond his life. By the 17th century what was becoming Hinduism, and Indian Islam, were already sufficiently developed that they were becoming cultural attractors. Not through cognitive bias, but the weight of inertia of their cultural history and precedent. The transition from Akbar, to Jahangir, to Shah Jahan, and finally Aurangzeb, is one from an individual who brooked the displeasure of Naqsbhandi shiekhs, to one who worked hand in hand with them. An alternative vision is one where the heirs of Akbar turn their back on their dreams of Fergana, and rely upon Rajputs to dominate their lands instead of a mix of Central Asians and native Indians, Hindu and Muslim. Perhaps the Mughals would have become indigenized enough that they would transform into that they would have become fully Indian in their religious identity. Ultimately the answers of history are more complex than can be dreamed in your post-colonial philosophy, and the white man is neither nor the devil, but a subaltern of historical forces.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

India: "Secular"? "Hindu"? or Both?

I had a longish exchange on twitter with a Hindutvadi friend and then just ordered all the tweets by time into this storify story. It's crude, but you get the drift. I am posting it here so that people can comment on it if they wish.
This is twitter, so one can only say so much in 140 characters. And much is assumed or taken for granted in the background. Please go easy :)

And of course, it is a discussion with some more or less Hindutvadi Indians. A discussion with postmarxist Indians would look very different.

The discussion started with reading this article , in which the writer tries to define Hinduism for a young man who is confused (and lives in South India, with it's peculiar history of this question). He classifies Hinduism as an "aggregate religion", hence my first tweet asking if "aggregate" will prevail or Christianity will?

Just in case you are wondering why the discussion starts with me asking whether Hinduism or Christianity will prevail (and not metioning Islam), I think the likely Abrahamic faith for most Hindus to convert to (if they convert) in this day and age is Christianity, not Islam. If you think differently, please comment.

And of course, Hindu and Secular are both in scare quotes, so all arguments about what IS Hinduism and what IS secularism are included in those quotes :)

Last but not the least, my comment about "those with superior asabiya and means will prevail" if the current system is wrecked is, of course, meant to hint that it's collapse will not necessarily (or even likely) lead to Ram-Rajya. Muslim and Sikh Asabiya and means will dominate the Northwest (at least). Something like that.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Charleston: A terrorist attack in America

There was a horrendous terrorist attack in Charleston last night. A White-supremacist terrorist walked into a historic Black church and shot 9 people in cold blood: Of course it was a terrorist attack. That seems an easy call.

Now I don't see much American news directly on the media (meaning I don't watch CNN or FOX or whatever, i get my news from Twitter and Facebook and from links put there by people) so I don't know if it is being described as such by them. Maybe not. Several friends on Twitter and FB have certainly complained that it is not being portrayed as a terrorist attack and only Muslim attacks get portrayed that way and why and so on. Well, I had an "off the cuff" response on FB to one such complaint and I am just posting it here so that I can link to this when it comes up again:

I get my news via twitter and FB and on twitter and FB I see many people (many of them conservative Americans..I follow a lot of educated conservatives) calling him a terrorist. In fact, whenever the issue has been raised, I have not seen a single person on my timeline trying to argue that he is not a terrorist. It seems an easy call in this case. And SOME media seems to be calling him a terrorist:

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At the same time, I dont agree with the notion that ALL mass casualty attacks should be labelled terrorism. I think the ones carried out for a cause, i.e. by people acting as members or free-lance supporters of specific political causes, should be called terrorism...some such attacks (or even many such attacks) are true nutcases and loner psychopaths whose cause, if any, is entirely in their head. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar... If a deranged Muslim attacks a school based on some psychotic (as in clinical psychosis) delusion and not as part of the (very real) international Jihadist cause, he too should not be labeled a terrorist and should be called a lone psychopath, etc.

On the other hand, If, (as in most attacks by Muslims in the West) the Muslim concerned is actually reasonably sane and is acting (no matter how foolishly) on behalf of international Jihad, then his actions can be called terrorism. Why not?

But as I said, I dont think of the name as being the biggest issue, though it is certainly an issue. In fact, it is one of my beefs with the postmarxist Western Left (defined very loosely) that they have been led (partly by people like Edward Said, partly because this sort of thing is just a feature of modern intellectual life, i.e. "a feature, not a bug" kind of situation; with the "left" having an unhealthy proportion of academics to real politicians, it was sort of bound to happen, etc etc..what came first, chicken or egg? endless arguments possible) into this blind alley where what is mostly fluff (what words were used, what tone was used, what was said in some novel by Jane Austen) is the biggest issue in society and much bigger and more substantive questions (specific historical background, organization, popular mobilization, TECHNOLOGY, correspondence of your theory of the world with historical, psychological, social or economic reality) are pushed down the list... It is a self-defeating strategy. In fact, it is so self-defeating that one can imagine a scenario (not literally true, but the imaginary scenario illustrates a point) where Mossad or the CIA decide that the best way to destroy their opponents is to get them to take every real issue (for example, racism) to some absurd and unreal level, so out of touch with reality that real fissures in your opponents camp and real historic opportunities are missed and the "activist" lives his life inside some bubble, with endless loops of arguments about semiotics and microaggressions and other bullshit...all the while, the real world and its far more consequential oppressions and injustices can carry on unconcerned. Probably no one planned it that way (intelligence agencies are rarely that intelligent) but something like that has happened (see this old post of mine to see what I mean in a slightly different context).

By the way, I do recognize that today is probably the worst day for me to say this sort of thing. With even a stuck clock being right once a day, this day happens to be the time when the stuck clock of the SJW brigade is (almost) right.
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Something like that.

PS: Anil Das on twitter raised the point that the designation is imporant in terms of what funds are available to combat that sort of crime. Terrorism gets more money than hate-crime. That may well be true, but that is NOT the point my friends were raising. IF they raised that point, they would be saying something of practical significance. My whole point is that too much of the time, it is NOT a practical issue (and even when it is, the practical aspect is not what triggered the social media concern).

The early FB post that triggered this discussion (this was before he had been identified)

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