Culture Bypass: A New Paradigm – 2

From A’daabKhuda HafizAllah Hafiz – How cultural expressions are transformed?

By Ahmed Kamran

In Part-1 of this discussion we briefly traced how a highly tolerant Indo-Persian culture, a Ganga-Jamni Tehzib, emerged in India over many centuries of interaction between a Muslim Persian empire and a rich Indian civilization before the advent of European powers in India and the spread of their influence in our intellectual and cultural life. Let’s now see how particularly the Muslim thought process in this Ganga-Jamni culture responded to the disrupting influences of the English ascendency.

None of the Muslim invaders or rulers of India, starting from Mehmud Ghaznavi and Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori and the first permanent Muslim kingdom of Qutubuddin Aibak in Delhi down to Aurnagzeb Alamgir and his weak and inept successors, was in fact really interested in establishing an Islamic state as it had been conceptualized by many Muslim scholars following the model of the first Islamic state founded in Medina in early 7th century by the prophet of Islam and his immediate successors. However elusive this model of the state in realpolitik might be, it has continued to lure Muslims as a panacea of all economic and social ills and deprivations. All Muslim rulers, including Aurangzeb (notwithstanding the rather exaggerated halo of a religiously pious ruler or a hated zealot out for spreading Islam at the point of a sword that has been erroneously created around his historical personality by many historians, depending upon their personal perspective), were, in effect, no more or less Muslim as any other king or emperor of the medieval ages was a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu.

Undoubtedly, depending upon their personal or key advisers’ assessment of prevailing political situation and the balance of forces, each one of them used various policy levers at their disposal, including orthodox religion or alternatively a liberal dispensation, to consolidate and strengthen their power and sway. Although not an exact parallel but quite a few similarities could be drawn between Aurangzeb and the military dictator of Pakistan General Ziaul Haq. In their own times both skillfully used the orthodox Islam for furthering their political agendas. No wonder, if judged by the standards of their own religious rhetoric, both were riddled with extreme contradictions in their political conduct and affairs of the state. Neither was Akbar a humanist or an all sugar-and-honey benevolent ruler. If we fall into the trap of believing the public images built around these rulers while evaluating their historical role and the harmful effects and damages that their manipulation of the religious lever has caused to the society, we are likely to lose our objectivity of perspective. I do not wish to completely preclude the role played by, and the impact of, the personal bent of mind and the belief system of an individual ruler, especially in an autocratic society. My intention is only to underline the fact that in the long run this role is less important and it largely remains confined to non-critical areas and to the limits dictated by the larger political considerations.

Mostly faced with a deteriorating political situation around him, the Indian Muslim always harked back to the original form of an ideal Muslim state, a true caliphate. It is like having a yearning for Ramrajya among Hindus or a Jesus’s ‘Kingdom of God’ among Christians. There is a strong common belief among most religious people, including many Muslims, that one day a religious reformer or a Mehdi would arrive who will exterminate all evil and inequalities from the world and would usher in a new kingdom of God. Further, the Muslims believe that with this the whole world will be converted to Islam. But the really disturbing part is that many Muslims believe it is their religious obligation to fight for the establishment of this ultimate caliphate, the kingdom of God. Muslim history is replete with innumerable failed religious and political movements for the establishment of a caliphate around many so-called self-proclaimed Mehdis or religious reformers of their times in Arabia, Persia, and India.

Shah Waliullah Muhaddis of Madarsa-e-Rahimia, founded by his father Shah Abdul Rahim in Delhi, was one of the most eminent Sunni Muslim religious scholars, a Sufi and a rather puritan reformer of Islamic faith in India during 18th century. He was also instrumental in inviting Afghan king Ahmed Shah Abdali for invading India and containing the rising influence of Marhattas who had become de-facto rulers of Delhi at the expense of Muslims. Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded Punjab and Northern India, defeated the Marhattas at Panipat and plundered India in 1748 and again in 1756. After Shah Waliullah’s death in 1762, his young son Shah Abdul Aziz took over his grandfather’s seminary. The Marhatta forces were finally crushed by the British General Gerard Lake in 1803 when he entered Delhi and took over its control, retaining a nominal presence of a Mughal king stripped off all his powers and confined to the Red Fort only.

With the swift rise and victory of European powers, the political power structures of the local ruling elite of India completely collapsed. Pockets of deep frustration and moroseness in the Muslim world in the face of rapid decline from the splendors of the glorious past and looking at the corruption of the spineless Muslim elite gave rise to a stirring for going back to the fundamentals of the Islam and reviving the simplicity of early Muslim state in Medina. Shah Waliullah in India and later Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab of Nejd in Hejaz built and developed these concepts that were initially compiled by Imam Ibne Taymia in Iraq in early 14th century. Experiencing the searing pain of a rapid fall of the Muslims lot compared with the political and technological rise of the British, Indian Islam produced two responses:

First, an aggressive and immediate reaction was for passionate jihad against the infidels. Politically, people can be galvanized to fight and lay down their lives for an ideal. This was initiated by Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz by preparing the ground and issuing the first formal Fatwa declaring India a Dar al Harb instead of a Dar al Islam. The declaration of a country as Dar al Harb means no Juma and Eid prayers can be offered in that country, and enjoins upon all Muslims to either declare a Jihad against its rulers or else leave the country.

Second, a more patient and defensive response was for reorganization and re-tooling of Muslims by imparting them modern western knowledge for meeting the new challenge. This campaign was led by Syed Ahmed Khan (later Sir), who had been, incidentally, a student of Maulana Mamluk Ali at Delhi College, a former senior teacher and a product of Madarsa-e-Rahimia before it was demolished.

Syed Ahmed Barailvi, briefly enrolled as a student of Shah Abdul Aziz in Madarsa-e-Rahimia, was the first to take upon himself the task of raising the flag of Islamic Jihad against infidel rulers. With the blessings of his teacher and after obtaining brief guerilla military training with Pindari Amir Khan in Rajisthan, Syed Ahmed Barailvi with his volunteers set out in 1826 for the north western border Pukhtun areas and made Nowshehra as his first base for the Jihad operations against Sikh rule, ostensibly as a first step towards an eventual jihad against the British. Shah Abdul Aziz’s nephew Maulana Shah Ismail, and his son-in-law, Maulana Abdul Hayi, also joined him in this Jihad. Barring a few successes in some initial tactical raids, the rag-tag jihad campaign failed miserably. Same was the fate of a series of few other limited scale militant attempts like the rebellion of Teetu Mir and Faraizi movement of Maulana Shariatullah and his son, Muhammad Mohsin, known as Dhudu Mian, in Bengal culminating in the great, but again a failed, uprising of 1857.

The Jihad efforts of Syed Ahmed Barialvi and others were poorly organized. Various bands of these Jihad volunteers (modern day terrorists) intoxicated with the ideals of setting up a puritan caliphate in the liberated lands made parts of Pukhtun lands as their base and launched an armed struggle. This Jihad, for all practical purpose, became a fight against Ranjeet Singh’s Sikh armies as the Jihad’s base areas were straddling between kingdoms of Ranjeet Singh in the east and Amir Dost Muhammad Khan Barakzai of Afghanistan on the west. Barakzai rulers in Kabul being engaged in their own struggle against British military interventions in their hilly kingdom were natural allies for the Indian Jihadis. (It is hard missing the amazing and striking similarity between events of those days and what is happening today between Afghan Taliban, US and NATO forces, and the Pakistani Taliban in those very areas.) Naively oblivious to the cultural and religious sensibilities of the local population (Pukhtuns were mostly Hanafi Sunnis and the doctrinaire Ahle Hadith Hindustani Jihadis had morphed into something more closer to Wahabis, shunning all manifestations of non-Arab cultural and religious traditions (like visitations to the graves, offering fatiha, holding Mila’ad and other localized but popular traditions), they quickly ended up in antagonizing the local elders and the influential Maliks and Khans. Understandably, the local support for Jihadis quickly evaporated and turned into hostility. Left alone, the Jihadis soon met a humiliating defeat at Balakot in 1831 at the hands of a well trained Sikh army under the command of French general Ventura who had the experience of fighting bigger wars under Napoleon in Europe. With the debacle at Balakot and the death of Syed Ahmed Barailvi and Shah Ismail, and having most of other leadership migrated to Arabia, the militant nationalist ulema shifted further away from Shah Waliullah’s ‘middle course’ and closer to hard line Wahabi interpretations of Islamic jurisprudence.

Similarly, although heroically fought on a much wider scale but very poorly organized and ill equipped, the uprising of the 1857 was simply no match for the well trained and experienced British army. Only a handful of the British army officers stationed at that time in India, quickly recovering from their initial setbacks, reorganized themselves with needed maturity and using a local army raised in Punjab easily regained control of the whole of northern India even before the first reinforcement contingent hurriedly dispatched from England could land at the shores of India.

With a full Mongol-like destruction and razing to the ground of almost all of Delhi and the remnants of past Mughal glory by the British, most of the records and historical evidences relating to the 1857 uprising are apparently lost forever but still there are scattered evidences that indicate planned attempts by few religious circles at organizing a jihad before the actual uprising and that a network of many influential former students of Madarsa-e-Rahimia was clearly at work during the great uprising.

A series of crushing defeats on the path of aggressive jihad against the foreign occupiers produced a different response especially in the aftermath of the failed uprising of 1857. The utter helplessness among Muslims of India gave rise to a reasoning that advocated temporary reconciliation with the British and acquiring important European knowledge tools together with traditional sources and disciplines of oriental knowledge for preparing the nation for meeting the great challenge. The actual efforts for putting these ideas into practice also fell into two divergent streams, apparently opposite to each other but trying to achieve similar stated objectives.

One was founding of a traditional school imparting religious education together with basic elements of modern scientific knowledge (Deoband), and the other was a Cambridge-like school providing modern education together with basic elements of traditional religious education (MAO College, Aligarh).

Madarsa-e-Rahimia of Delhi was razed to the ground by the British in 1858 after they reoccupied Delhi. Many of its key leaders migrated to Arabia. However, a few of them (Maulana Rashid Ahmed Gangohi, Maulana Qasim Nanautvi, and Sufi Abid Hussain of Deoband were among them), quietly established a seminary known as Darul Uloom on the lines of Madarsa-e-Rahimia in a sleepy obscure town of Deoband, UP, in 1867. Though, carefully avoiding a direct confrontation with the British rulers, Darul Uloom Deoband played an important role in nurturing anti-British sentiments among the Muslim intelligentsia. In course of time, it acquired international repute, attracting students and scholars from other Muslim and Arab countries. No funds were accepted from the British government and no donors were permitted to interfere in the affairs of the college at any cost. Maulana Qasim Nanautvi, Maulana Muhammad Yaqub, and Maulvi Syed Ahmed Dehlavi were initial architects of Darul Uloom. Maulana Mehmudul Hasan, the first student to enroll at Darul Uloom at its inception, was appointed the principal of school in 1890. Later, Maulana Mehmudul Hasan played an important role in the freedom movement of India; he was arrested by the British and was interned in Malta. Among his distinguished pupils were Muft Kifayatullah of Delhi, Maulana Ashraf Ali of Thana Bhawan (writer of Baheshti Zevar), and Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani (who later played an important role in the Muslim League’s Pakistan Movement and the adoption of famous ‘Objectives Resolution’ in Pakistan’s early legislative work after its founding in 1947). Two sister institutions of Madarsas on similar lines were set up at Saharanpur and Muradabad. Other notable centres of Muslim learning radiating their influence on Muslim intelligentsia were Farangi Mahal (Lukhnow) specializing in Islamic Fiqh, Khairabad specially focusing on teachings of rational sciences, and Delhi mainly devoted to Quranic studies and Hadith.

A parallel Islamic institution was founded by Maulvi Naqi Ali Kahn in Barailley who did not support the aggressive character of the Deoband school emphasizing on purely Arabic traditions to the exclusion of even benign Indian customs and local traditions. This Madarsa developed into a famous institution in the time of Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan. Another Madarsa on similar lines was set up by Maulvi Naeemuddin in Muradabad and another one in Badayun by Maulvi Abdul Qadir. This alternate school of thought was later known as Ahli Sunnat wal Jamaat, or more commonly as Brailvi school.

Another conscious attempt to synthesize Islam with modern knowledge and to build a bridge between the old and new ideas during the late 19th century while seeking to avoid the accusation of servile submission to the foreign culture was the movement of Nadwat-ul-Ulema started at Madarsa Faiz-i-Islam in Kanpur in 1894. It attempted to bring a wider spectrum of Muslim ulema, (from Hanafi, Ahli Hadith, and Shia schools of thought) on one platform. It was led by Mufti Lutfullah of Aligarh and Syed Sulaiman Nadvi of Patna, Bihar. Nadwa with its journal Al-Nadwa and the sister organization of Dar-ul-Musanifin at Azamgarh had prominent luminaries associated with it like Maulana Habib ur Rehman, Maulana Shibli Naumani and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, besides Syed Sulaiman Nadvi.

On the other hand, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advocated a strong case for modern scientific education among Muslims with the stated objectives of ‘eradicating from the minds of the Muslims their prejudices against western education’, to set up an educational institution to impart teachings of Islam along with Western sciences, and ‘make the Muslims politically conscious’. He established Scientific Society in 1864 for translating European books in Urdu, started his own organ The Aligarh Institute Gazette published both in Urdu and English in 1866, commenced another Urdu journal Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq in 1870, addressing mainly to Muslim intelligentsia and, eventually established Mohammaden Anglo-Oriental College (Later Muslim University) as an elementary school at Aligarh in May 1875 with only 11 students enrolled in the first year.

Although acknowledging himself as a ‘Wahabi’ in his personal beliefs, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan worked enthusiastically against the political ideas of the Deoband Ulemas who were quite close to Wahabi beliefs, though, slightly different in some details. Sir Syed Ahmed was a man of apparent contradictions: from an image of an outrightly loyal British agent betraying the cause of national independence and openly siding with the colonial oppressors on the one hand, to an image of a great strategist and visionary who as a faithful Muslim selflessly worked for saving his people from total destruction, and brilliantly provided them with modern tools to rise again from the ashes and regain their confidence and self-prestige. We need to correctly place his role in the historical map of India of the last couple of centuries. The impact of Sir Syed’s educational movement on the political and cultural life of an Indian Muslim in the late 19th and 20th century also needs to be evaluated.

To be continued in Part-3



  • Vinod
    Posted at 02:50h, 04 September Reply

    I’m always amazed that in the analysis of muslim revivalist movements the Tabligh movement gets a consipicuous miss-out.

    If I recall correctly Barbara Metcalf starts out with the very same lamentation on her paper on Tabligh – the way analysts simply turn a blind eye to it.

    Tabligh is perhaps the largest muslim movement in the muslims world today with its center in Nizamuddin, Delhi. The strength of the movement lies in the commitment of its followers and its principled simplicity and apolitical stand. In the momentum that it has gained it has attracted the attention of the secret services of most governments. And in its social impact, no movement has arguably come close to it. If you ever see a muslim who sports a constant and permanent religious garb, the chances are s/he has been influenced by the Tabligh movement.

  • Kamran
    Posted at 06:58h, 04 September Reply

    Vinod: You are right. Tabligh Movement usually gets ignored. Perhaps, because most of the analysts generally remain confined to the visible political impacts of the Islamic movements. As stated in the brief introduction of the Part-1, I had originally planned to conclude this discussion on ‘Culture Bypass’ in 3 parts. But it has expanded and will conclude in 4-5 parts. Though by no means I could claim it to be fully comprehensive treatise on the fairly complex subject, the Tabligh movement will be covered briefly in Part-4 of the Cultural Bypass. The discussion, however, may not expand to the overall analysis of the Muslim revivalist movements or the spread of Islam as such but will remain confined to our main theme of the subject i.e. the impact of these movements in putting us on a different culture path, particularly in today’s Pakistan and its diaspora. The discussion about the the political and religious revivalist movements is only incidental to provide the historical background.

  • Anil Kala
    Posted at 15:15h, 07 September Reply

    It is really annoying that there are numerous problems besetting the world; hunger, poverty, malnutrition, child labor, education etc yet Islam hijacks the spotlight and a dumb world obliges.

    Does anyone know the cost of keeping Islamic world in humor?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 18:46h, 07 September

      Anil: I agree with you that the situation is farcical but with some qualifications:

      1. Hunger, poverty, malnutrition, child labor, etc. have been with us for centuries. They were not addressed even when Islam had not hijacked the spotlight. The country with the most serious malnutrition in the world is and has been India. It could be quite comforting to pin the responsibility for that on Islam hijacking the spotlight but I am not sure if that would pass any tests of evidence.

      2. Why has Islam hijacked the spotlight when some gruesome acts are carried out by Muslims? Who is making that connection? I have linked this column by Stanley Fish earlier and it remains relevant with reference to your pointer to the dumb world.

      3. The Islamic world just happens to be sitting on a lot of oil by a quirk of fate and that accident has triggered a lot of acts that have not exactly been intended to keep the Islamic world in good humor.

      So, while I agree that Islam has hijacked the spotlight and a dumb world has obliged, the connection to the other issues is quite tenuous.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 05:12h, 08 September


      1. Times have changed. I don’t see why we should dwell in past. If the problems were not addressed in past doesn’t mean that they will not be addressed now. If the centre stage is vacated a lot of space will be available for these dire issues. History does not repeat everything, mostly runs along with changed paradigm.

      2. It is not a question of few people causing commotion but the uniform frenzy Muslims display that takes the spotlight. Consider the leisurely demolition of Bamiyan Buddha to extract maximum glee under the arc light for entire world and the muted reaction of the world and contrast it with an obscure artist making cartoons in an obscure magazine of Prophet and the Muslims going berserk all over the world. This victim-hood syndrome has gone too far, after all the world isn’t fair to everyone not just the Muslims!

      3. It is a gross mistake and too simplistic to assume that the world is greedy about Arab oil. In fact the situation is quite the other way round. Muslims are unable to handle the prosperity accruing from the oil, in addition feel quite insecure to protect their oil assets therefore behave irrationally and in touchy fashion.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:13h, 08 September

      Anil: I find it difficult to agree with your points:

      1. One can always point to something that is occupying center stage and precluding attention to the dire issues. When societies wish to address the central issues they do so without hiding behind weak excuses.

      2. The phenomenon of a set of people going berserk at a certain time is not unusual. One can begin with the sectarian conflicts of Christianity and proceed through the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the destruction of temples in China during the cultural revolution, the razing of the Babri Mosque in India and the furore over MF Hussain, to the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the long perspective all these are moments of madness that outlive their madness.

      3. Your assertion is contrary to the experience of history. There has always been conflict over scarce and very valuable resources in which powerful outsiders have exploited weak owners. One could point to the expropriation of American Indian lands and the virtual extermination of the tribes, the entire colonial encounter in Africa, and the ongoing conflict over mineral resources in the forest lands of India. To argue that all the victims were unable to handle their prosperity and were touchy and irrational because of insecurity would be a real stretch and difficult to sustain with evidence. Oil is an extremely critical global resource and there is no reason for it to be an exception. The 1953 CIA coup in Iran, for example, was not a benign accident.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 06:44h, 09 September

      While I concede that link to Islam taking centre-stage and resolution of other dire problem is rather tenuous one but I am not willing to accept that Arab oil is the bone of contention.

      Nobody is denying that scarce resources become source of friction but does that friction spill over as an assault on religion? CIA does this kind of think to everyone not just the Muslims nations. You can’t say that CIA does it because the nation is Muslim ditto for Business conglomerates. Their greed does not make distinction between Muslim and non-Muslims nations. My worry is the hysterical response coming form common folks. An all pervading persecution complex is the source of the drift Muslims are taking to isolate themselves from others.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 01:38h, 10 September

      Anil: I feel that you are right in your assertion but wrong in your inference. Let us discuss further.

      You are right that those seeking to appropriate resources don’t care about the religion of its owners. But every conflict gets polarized along the most salient fault line. When the US was exploiting Latin America, there was strong resentment that became visible in the “Yanqui Go Home” movement. This conflict could not get polarized along religious lines because both sides were Christians. In South Africa, where Europeans appropriated mineral resources, the conflict also could not be polarized along religious lines for the same reason; instead, it was polarized along color.

      In the Middle East, the most obvious fault line was religion especially given the backdrop of the Crusades. You might remember the gut reaction of Bush to 9/11 when he employed the imagery of the Crusades. In a conflict, the weaker side inevitably falls back on the one constant in its life. For the Muslim world, this was Islam and it is the blatant exploitation and manipulation of the Muslim world (again not because it was Muslim but because it was accidentally sitting on a vital resource) that turned Islam into a political weapon and a fundamentalist force. This is not to defend this evolution but only to explain it.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 04:23h, 10 September

      I can’t believe this double standard, SA!

      I remember while discussion the plundering of Somnath Temple by Mehmood of Ghazni you were at tremendous pain to explain that it was not perceived by local population as an assault on religion. Now you are making a complete volte face on similar assault on an asset being perceived by local population as an assault on religion.

      Which logic is correct?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 08:58h, 10 September

      Anil: If it can be established that an unconscious double standard is in play it would need to be highlighted, critiqued and corrected. Let me offer an explanation.

      It is not for me to attribute sentiments or motives to local populations. The discussion in the context of Mahmud was to highlight the danger of historical ignorance, to postulate past sentiments based on the reality of today. The appropriate methodology was to examine contemporaneous records. One such meticulous examination was by Romilla Thapar in her book Somanatha where she establishes how the local population reacted to the sacking – the reaction was not channeled along religious lines. This analysis could very well be wrong but one would need other scholars with the international credibility of Romilla Thapar to contradict her assertions with equally meticulous contemporaneous evidence.

      In the case of the Middle East too, it is not for me to decide what the nature of the response is. However, these events are recent enough for us to make better evaluations. I am not saying that assault on assets is being seen as an assault on religion. I am asserting that the resistance to neo-imperialism is now being channeled along religious lines. This has not emerged overnight – other modes of resistance were tried earlier but failed to deliver, e.g., Arab Socialism, elite liberalism and populist democracy . Religion is emerging as the last resort of the dispossessed who have not benefited from the wealth of their countries. One can trace the growth of organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Mullahs in Iran to follow the logic of this evolution – they did not emerge full-blown out of nowhere. Rather, the followed upon the failures of preceding forms of resistance some of which were deliberately undermined by external forces and replaced with pliant puppets.

      I am not saying this is good or bad or right or wrong. I am making a claim that this is how it has happened. I am quite open to this analysis being proved incorrect by alternative analyses or explanations. It is alright to start with an assertion but one has to end with an explanation that can be discussed and critiqued. For example, it is alright to assert that the bizarre response of Muslims is due to the irrationality of their religion. But one would have to explain why this irrationality has manifested itself in this heightened form at this particular time in history. What were the external and internal factors that triggered it? What were the factors that nurtured it? What were the factors that exacerbated it, etc.

  • kamran
    Posted at 08:54h, 09 September Reply


    You are right, it is not a happy situation. However, by your own admission, one thing is established: the Muslim world has hijacked the world’s centre stage by storm. Perhaps, one reason is precisely this; instead of facing the issue patiently we have been pushing it aside non-chalantly. Unfortunately, our frustration bordering on anger will not help it. It is only exacerbating it.

    Secondly, turning our heads from the annoying Muslim world and focusing on other more pressing and real issues like hunger, poverty, and diseases ignoring will not make the Muslim world vanish as much as we want, in the same way as our attention to the issues relating to the Muslims of South Asia will not make the hunger, poverty and disease disappear from this region, not to speak of the whole world. To constructively resolve a problem we have no alternative but to address it with patience by analyzing its past (history) and formulating a strategy for the future. If our actions do not solve the problem we must revisit the issue, rethink, learn lessons, and re-strategize our actions.

    Another clear lesson we learn from history is that our desires and mere wishes do not make problems disappear. The collective desires of a vast majority of the world for the last many thousands of years have obviously not solved the problems of hunger, poverty and disease from a large part of the world. Evidently, the society’s who have successfully eliminated these scourges from their midst (at least, in a large measure) had at one point of time addressed these issues comprehensively, and consistently adopted sustained measures for overcoming these problems. Others who have failed in their solutions are still plagued with these social ills. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are striking examples of both policy and execution failures in this regard.

    Whether we like it or not, the primacy of the Muslim world today is ordained by the natural geography. It is not a fallacy, it is real. It’s not easy for any serious observer to brush aside the following cold facts:

    1. Oil runs like blood in world’s economic lifelines. Oil meets 40% of world’s energy needs and 90% of its transport needs. The Hubbert’s Curve for the world’s oil production clearly shows it has already peaked and the reserves are depleting fast. Europe’s oil imports are estimated to increase from 50% to 75% by 2011 and to 90% by 2025. Holland’s gas & North Sea oil is rapidly depleting. Natural gas is now the fastest growing energy source that is temporarily replacing oil. Its consumption is estimated to increase by 70 % from 2002 to 2025.

    2. We are not only using oil & gas in our factories and transport we are also ‘eating’ it! The fertilizers are made of natural gas and hydrocarbons. China, India, and Indonesia all use large amounts of fertilizers. 40 years of cheap oil & gas (1962-2002) helped double the world population from 3 billion to over 6 billion.

    3. US oil production is continuously on the decline since 1970’s and its Imports are rising. US has a proven domestic oil reserve base of around 30 GB (Giga Barrels), and consumes about 6.5 GB per year i.e. its reserves are sufficient for less than five years. US’s imperial crisis is structural and real.

    4. We have already consumed about 50% of the natural endowment of oil & gas on this planet. Now about 50% of the world’s total remaining oil reserves are available in the Persian Gulf region in the Middle East. All are Muslim countries – the largest reserves being in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. Today, Europe’s most of the gas supplies are transported from Kazakhstan by pipelines via Russia or Turkey and from North Africa via Trans-Mediterranean pipelines. The control (and denial of it to others) of the oil & gas reserves of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia and their access routes are the primary bones of contention in the Eurasian politics. It is the pivot on which, in a large measure, even the politics of Africa and other regions also revolves.

    As much as we need to separately address and find workable solutions for the problems of hunger, poverty and disease, we must find solution for the present problems relating to the dangerous sense of real or perceived isolation of the Muslims of South Asia and Afghanistan. So don’t get tired and exasperated. I’m afraid our failure in addressing this issue successfully is bound to make this dumb world continuing to humour the hijacker’s of the Muslim world for a long time.

  • Arun Pillai
    Posted at 03:27h, 10 September Reply

    I do not think it is right to name the problem as being simply that of oil. What would you make of a book like Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower” which is about 9/11? I am not saying he has the full answer either but the full answer lies in the combination of external and internal factors. Abstractly put, the logical form is “p and q implies r.” You need both p (external factors) and q (internal factors) to bring about r (the current situation).

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 09:21h, 10 September

      Arun: I agree with you entirely. As I have suggested in my reply to Anil, the post-WW2 history of Iran provides a very good identification of p, q and r for that particular case.

  • Arun Pillai
    Posted at 03:54h, 10 September Reply

    I do not see too many actions like this publicized in the world:

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 08:32h, 10 September

      Arun: That is perhaps because there are not too many reactions like this. The national response to 9/11 was very destructive. Indeed a much better response for global peace and security would have encouraged people to think along the lines mentioned in the article. This would have required a lot more open discussion of the possible reasons for the insane act itself but such analysis was actually discouraged at the time and the few who tried were intimidated. Our blog offered one explanation last year to start a discussion: September Eleven.

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