Monday, July 18, 2016

The Decline (and Attempted Rise) of the Sunnis in the Middle East

Israeli scholar Martin Kramer has written an interesting essay about the decline (and attempted rise) of  the Sunni Islamic position and aspirations in the middle east (excerpts at the end of this post). The first (and longer) section of the essay is well worth reading because it (to quote comrade Hamid Dabashi) "jolts our historical imagination and suddenly places it on the right, though deeply repressed, axis". Almost for the first time in a popular Western essay (though not at all the first time in an Islamist essay), Kramer looks at the last 100 years of Middle Eastern history in a way that almost every Islamist will recognize in some form, i.e. as a story of the decline and fall of Sunni Islamic power and then of attempts to restore that power. The Ottoman Sultanate was a decrepit and declining power for centuries before it fell, but even in 1914 it was a power that could field armies that could fight (sometimes with great tenacity and surprising success) in conventional warfare against the dominant European powers of the age. This was certainly not true of any other Muslim power (or for that matter, any non-European power not named Japan) at that time and had not been true for over a hundred years. Within the Sunni Islamic universe, it was a symbol of Islamic civilizations continued presence at the table of world history.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mangal Pandey. Truth and Fiction

Mangal Panday – Film, Fiction & Facts
Hamid Hussain
Mangal Panday – The Rising is a big budget Indian film and good research has been done about the history of this incident. Generally, a lot of cinematic license is used in most historical films but Mangal Panday has kept core historical facts intact. As expected, a lot of additional fictional material has been added to make it interesting. Films are essentially about entertainment and not substitutes for history books. There is quite a large body of written material available on the events of 1857. Colonial literature, post independence nationalist literature and leftist writers provide different interpretations of the events of 1857 uprising. I’ll limit myself only to the historical context.

Monday, July 11, 2016

British "other ranks" in the Indian army

From Dr Hamid Hussain

July 10, 2016
A query from someone whose great grand-father served in 54th Foot as private and spent a long time in India sent me on another journey of military archeology. There is not much known about life of British Other Ranks (BORs) in India and I tried to shed some light on the subject.
Dear Sir;
 It was an interesting journey of military archeology.  It started with 54th Foot but opened another door.  I have written a lot about Raj army and done work on Indian and British officers but never thought about British Other Ranks (BORs). This was new area and I tried to incorporate this subject in the story of 54th.
 Our chap William Lewis may have seen some important events during his stay in India.  He may have been with the regiment when it was rushed to Ludhiana in 1872 during major trouble caused by kooka sect of Sikhs and may be witness to one of the last case of blowing from guns.  He may have also seen the terrible deaths in the regiment from cholera epidemics.  Most importantly, he may be participant in the last parade of the regiment as 54th probably in Cherat when it said goodbye to its old colors in 1881 when 54th Foot was linked with 39th Foot to become Dorsetshire Regiment.  I hope the following piece will give some satisfaction to your friend with family connection to 54th Foot.
 Warm Regards,
The Flamers – 54th Regiment of Foot
Hamid Hussain

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Civilizational Unity of India

This article (excepts at end of this post) is a good summary of the (relatively reasonable Hindutvadi) arguments for regarding India as one civilizational and cultural whole (at least in historical time). i.e. you don't have to share the author's Hindutvadi beliefs to accept a lot of his arguments for the civilizational and cultural unity of India.
Of course, nation states may come and go and even civilizational boundaries can and do change; Tunisia and Libya used to be pretty Roman and now they are pretty Arab. Shit happens. One would not be likely to lose much money betting on Xinjiang being very Chinese for centuries to come. Han migration alone will take care of that. But still, there is a civilizational and cultural unity of India and that is not such a bad basis for a nation-state... It is certainly better than many other UN member nations have these days (hint hint..)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Dhaka Attackers; BD elite and NYT are "shocked" by their origins..

The New York Times has a piece about the backgrounds of some of the young men who carried out the horrific massacre in Dhaka on Friday.

It seems that some of the attackers came from very exclusive private schools and top universities, and were born in upper-middle class families. This should be absolutely unsurprising to anyone who follows the news without excessive ideological filtering, since Islamist terrorists (and terrorists in all other revolutionary and millennarian movements in history for that matter) have come from all social strata. The attraction that violent revolutionary ideologies hold for young educated people in particular is well established; from Saint Just to Osama Bin Laden, young men with high ideals have been drawn to such endeavors. Joseph Conrad would not find these people surprising in the least, but since late-decadent Western civilization is now crawling with "intellectuals" who are more likely to disdain Conrad than read him, they manage to get surprised rather regularly by such things.

As our Indian friends like to say, "hota hai" (it happens).