Questions for Ourselves

By Anjum Altaf

— Does God love everybody?

— Yes.

— Are you sure?

— Of course.

— Then why do YOU hate so many? Are you bigger that God (NB)? Has God (NB) created some just so you can indulge your passion for hating? Has God (NB) told you there are some you can hate even though He loves them? Is your God (NB) the head of a political party?

I haven’t come up with this. It’s how I read Mr. Bloom in the chapter identified as Cyclops in Ulysses.

Look at it yourself (lines 1480-1520 here) if you don’t believe me:

“God loves everybody” and aren’t we told to “love your neighbours”? And if I listened to God and loved my neighbour and my neighbour loved his/her neighbour wouldn’t we end with “universal love” which is “the opposite of hatred,” of “insult and hatred” which is “not life for men and women”?

— So, tell me, why are you going around disobeying God spreading insult and hatred?

“What about sanctimonious Cromwell and his ironsides that put the women and children of Drogheda to the sword with the bible text God is love pasted round the mouth of his cannon?”

There is your God loving everybody and telling you to love your neighbour and there you are asking around about your neighbour’s zaat and going into paroxysms of hate if it turns out different from yours.

— Did God (NB) tell you to ask your neighbour’s zaat when He told you to love your neighbour? Or God didn’t tell you that but you know better what He (NB) really wanted to tell you?

— Is this line of argument making any sense to you?

Fastforward from Bloomsday (June 16, 1904 – the one day on which all the action in Ulysses takes place in Dublin) to LUMSday (anyoneday, 2014, in Lahore).

What do I find?

Students going about their business. What’s going on inside their hearts who’s to say — wallahu’alam bissawab. I don’t see them hating anyone overtly but they are not loving anybody either. They are not acting on the commandment love thy neighbour. No one is reading Bulleh Shah. There is no circle of love or even of understanding spreading outwards.

At best they are indifferent to each other within the campus. I suppose that is the most one can expect in Lahore in 2014.

But they are also indifferent to the hatred seething outside the campus that is threatening to bring down the protective walls within which they carry on being indifferent.

There is no wave of love pushing outwards. There is a wave of hatred pushing inwards meeting little resistance.

How long can the walls hold?

Anjum Altaf is dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

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  • Anjum Altaf
    Posted at 07:43h, 08 August Reply

    A reader has contributed this conversation with the Dalai Lama about rules for behavior:

    And here is Ghalib expressing the same idea in a different way: It is faithfulness not faith that matters.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 22:58h, 08 August Reply

    But the issue was never about faith and spirituality. The issue is about political control and social capital. Typically, when XYZ says that they are Hindu/Muslim/Sikh etc they say that we claim this heritage and base our self worth on this history. A lot of this is simply the result of a written history, and the resultant construction of identities on these histories.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 20:43h, 09 August

      Vikram, I largely agree with you that most “religious” conflicts are about politics rather than faith. However, some conflict does arise from religion itself. For example, Islam talks a lot about Allah being all-merciful yet there are also a lot of passages in the Koran about what horrible things will happen to kaffirs and the need for “holy war”. Christianity also has a lot of stuff about the horrible fate that awaits the heathen. So there does seem to be a contradiction between “love your neighbor as yourself” and holy wars or crusades.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 10:57h, 10 August

      Kabir: The point, I believe, is that there are political imperatives that exploit religious/doctrinal differences. If one reads the history of the first crusade this will be quite clear. Without the political intermediation, one would not be able to explain long absences of conflict. After all, the passages you refer to in the Quran and Bible have been ever present. Yet, the conflict is not perpetual. So, the key question is what triggers conflict – and most of the time that can be traced to the political domain.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 17:04h, 10 August

      I absolutely agree with you that conflicts are triggered in the political domain and then religion is used to justify them. But, there remains the tension in the scriptures themselves regarding mercy/love and punishing the infidels. For example, in Islam, the Quran contains passages saying that “there is no compulsion in religion” and others extolling the need for “jihad”. So one can find support for any position one wants from tolerance and compassion to vengeance. Which aspects of the religion one chooses to emphasize depends on one’s preexisting agenda.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 14:56h, 23 August

      Kabir: This may be useful for the discussion:

      “The relationship between religion, interpretation, identity and politics can be complex.”

      This is a different angle on the same theme:–interpreting-the-prophets-legacy-by-jonathan-a-c-brown-book-review-9654383.html

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 05:37h, 13 August

      Vikram: But this is not what Mohan Bhagwat is saying. He seems to be saying that I claim my heritage and base my self-worth on its history but I want you to base your self-worth on the same history. I am not sure how this is to be interpreted:

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:36h, 14 August

      SA, I am not sure either. I dont have a good understanding of the RSS, but I feel that the grand plan here might be to change the nature of the debate regarding Islam in India and putting pressure on communities like Sayyids and Iranis that directly trace their origins outside India and display relatively less syncretism that the lower caste Muslim communities. It will backfire spectacularly.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 22:50h, 15 August

      Indonesian Muslims use the five Pandavas to illustrate the five pillars of Islam, can they be said to be Hindus as well ?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 15:04h, 16 August

      Vikram: I am not sure how to relate to this question. People have to say for themselves whether they are X or Y or Z. It doesn’t make sense for others to be making that determination.

      These words of Sahir Ludhianvi came to mind:

      तू हिन्दू बनेगा न मुसलमान बनेगा
      تو ہندو بنےگا نہ مسلمان بنےگا
      You’ll become neither Hindu nor Muslim
      इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
      انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
      You are the child of a human; you’ll become a human
      (as opposed to being labeled as Hindu or Muslim)

      अच्छा है अभी तक तेरा कुछ नाम नहीं है
      اچھا ہے ابھی تک تیرا کچھ نام نہیں ہے
      Good that ’til now you have no name

      तुझको किसी मज़हब से कोई काम नहीं है
      تجھ کو کسی مذہب سے کوئی کام نہیں ہے
      You have no dealing with any religion

      जिस इल्म ने इंसानों को तक़सीम किया है
      جس علم نے انسانوں کو تقسیم کیا ہے
      The knowledge which has divided humans

      उस इल्म का तुझ पर कोई इलज़ाम नहीं है
      اس علم کا تجھ پر کوئی الزام نہیں ہے
      That knowledge will not burden you
      (with accusations)

      तू बदले हुए वक़्त की पहचान बनेगा
      تو بدلے ہوئے وقت کی پہچان بنےگا
      You will be the face of the changing times

      इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
      انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
      You are the child of a human; you’ll become a human

      मालिक ने हर इंसान को इंसान बनाया
      مالک نے ہر انسان کو انسان بنایا
      God made each a human

      हम ने उसे हिन्दू या मुसलमान बनाया
      ہم نے اسے ہندو یا مسلمان بنایا
      We made each a Hindu or a Muslim

      क़ुदरत ने तो बख्शी थी हमें एक ही धरती
      قدرت نے تو بخشی تھی ہمیں ایک ہی دھرتی
      Nature allocated one earth to us

      हम ने कहीं भारत कहीं ईरान बनाया
      ہم نے کہیں بھارت کہیں ایران بنایا
      Whereas we have created India and Iran

      जो तोड़ दे हर बांध वह तूफ़ान बनेगा
      جو توڑ دے ہر باندھ وہ طوفان بنےگا
      The one who breaks each lock will become a storm

      इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
      انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
      You are the child of a human; you’ll become a human

      नफ़रत जो सिखाए वह धर्म तेरा नहीं है
      نفرت جو سکھاے وہ دھرم تیرا نہیں ہے
      The religion that teaches hatred is not yours

      इंसान को जो रौंदे वह क़दम तेरा नहीं है
      انسان کو جو روندے وہ قدم تیرا نہیں ہے
      The step/foot that tramples humanity is not yours

      क़ुरआन न हो जिस में वह मंदिर नहीं है तेरा
      قرآن نہ ہو جس میں مندر نہیں ہے تیرا
      The temple without a Qur’an is not your temple

      गीता न हो जिस में वह हरम तेरा नहीं है
      گیتا نہ ہو جس میں وہ حرم تیرا نہیں ہے
      The mosque without a Gita is not your mosque

      तू अमन का और सुलह का अरमान बनेगा
      تو امن اور صلح کا ارمان بنےگا
      You will become hope for peace and reconciliation

      इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
      انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
      You are the child of a human; you’ll become a human

      ये दीन के ताजर ये वतन बेचने वाले
      یے دین کے تاجر یے وطن بیچنے والے
      These traders of religion; these who sell the country

      इंसानों की लाशों के कफ़न बेचने वाले
      انسانوں کی لاشوں کے کفن بیچنے والے
      These who sell the shroud off of corpses

      ये महलों में बैठे हुए क़ातिल ये लुटेरे
      یے مہلوں میں بیٹھے ہوے قاتل یے لٹیرے
      These murderers and thieves sitting in palaces

      काँटों के एवज रूह ए चमन बेचने वाले
      کانٹوں کے ایوز روحِ چمن بیچنے والے
      These who sell thorns instead of flowers

      तू इन के लिए मौत का ऐलान बनेगा
      تو ان کے لئے موت کا اعلان بنےگا
      You will become their death knell

      इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
      انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
      You are the child of a human; you’ll become a human

      Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi
      Transcription & Translation by Nikhil Nandigam

    • Vikram
      Posted at 04:00h, 17 August

      SA, that is not what I was after. Indonesian Muslims can apparently be Hindus and Muslims at the same time, but it seems that many South Asian Muslims cant. Even if they acknowledge Hinduism, it is in terms of a ‘past’ or a ‘heritage’, not a lived reality. Why is this ?

      I am not saying they should, only asking why it is this way.

      Regarding X, Y and Z, these are exactly the categories that one needs to get away from. But that wont happen if one simply adopts Ludhianvi’s point of view, which is actually trying to create yet another category.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 06:54h, 17 August

      Vkiram: I think the explanation is simple. There is only a cultural dimension in Indonesia without any political overlay – Muslims have nothing to fear from Hindus and there is no mileage in inciting difference. In India, the situation is completely different with the politics dominant, huge gains from inciting violence, and the RSS pushing Muslims to repudiate cultural specificities. One can’t expect the response of a beleagured minority to be the same as that of a relaxed majority.

      I read Sahir Ludhianvi differently – not trying to create another category but urging people to rise above parochial loyalties to realize their common humanity.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 21:35h, 11 August Reply

    Kabir, although the Jain religion takes non-violence more seriously than any other that I know of, even Jain scriptures allow for Himsa in ‘self-defence’. The interpretation of scriptures is much more important. For example, the US Constitution contained the most clear articulation of human equality any where on the planet, but it took two hundred years, a bloody civil war and many years of struggle for it to be interpreted in a more inclusive way.

    In the sub-continent, the Bhagavad Gita taken quite literally is a book about war, but Gandhi interpreted it very differently to form a philosophical basis for non-violent struggle. A large number of Indians were convinced by his arguments in Hind Swaraj. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan did much the same, but with the Koran in the Pashtun areas. The Qissa Khwani Bazaar massacre is a great example.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 03:26h, 12 August

      Vikram, I agree completely. But we still face the problem that for every tolerant and inclusive interpretation of scripture there will be another interpretation that is violent and hostile. How does one get beyond simply countering one scriptural passage with another?

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 05:21h, 13 August

      Kabir: Every sentence in a scared text is not independent and to be interpreted without reference to its context. On the contrary, most are hedged with ifs and buts. Therefore it is not unusual for a commandment to be reversed in conditions that have changed. This is true in modern legal codes as well. For example, you are expected not to kill but may do so in self-defense. People who pick and choose stray sentences are either ignorant or mischief makers.

      The bigger issue is of course whether sacred texts have to be interpreted and observed literally. Many scared texts have instructions on how slaves are to be treated but that does not suggest the owning of slaves is something that can be practiced today. This again reiterates the fact that all interpretation is sensitive to context.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 15:32h, 13 August

      South Asian, I agree about interpretation being sensitive to context. But it seems to me that it is usually the right-wing that has more more facility with quoting scripture to make their arguments. As a secular individual, I cannot beat a religious person at their own game–I simply don’t know enough scripture to quote back at them. Also, how useful is simply trading quotes? If someone advocates “jihad”, I could of course counter with “To you is your religion and to me is my religion”. But this would not really go far in changing anyone’s mind. How can secular liberal progressive individuals shift the debate so that it is more favorable to us?

    • Vikram
      Posted at 19:40h, 14 August

      Kabir, we already have the example of Gandhi and Badshah Khan before us, Faisal Devji has covered this quite thoroughly,

      Usually, it is the extremists who have a shallow scriptural knowledge.

      Also, categories such as ‘secular liberal progressive’ are vacuous and self serving.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 11:59h, 24 August

      Kabir: This is a tough question which is why no one, including myself, replied to it. I guess one strategy might be to pick out some really far out examples from the text to make the point that it is just not possible to accept literal interpretations any more. This is similar to what Kenan Malik suggests:

      “Every year I give a lecture to a group of theology students – would-be Anglican priests, as it happens – on “Why I am an atheist”. Part of the talk is about values. And every year I get the same response: that without God, one can simply pick and choose about which values one accepts and which one doesn’t.

      My response is to say: “Yes, that’s true. But it is true also of believers.” I point out to my students that in the Bible, Leviticus sanctifies slavery. It tells us that adulterers “shall be put to death”. According to Exodus, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. And so on. Few modern day Christians would accept these norms. Others they would. In other words, they pick and choose.” –

      Or one an refuse to engage on that terrain at all and suggest that we examine these issues from the perspective of science. I am trying to figure out if two people from different religions can find a way to engage in a dialogue. If yes, the same mechanism can be used by secular and religious people within the same religion.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 19:37h, 17 August Reply

    “One can’t expect the response of a beleagured minority to be the same as that of a relaxed majority.”

    Arent Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh ‘relaxed majorities’ ? Them becoming so has only led them further away from Hindus.

    Also, the type of syncretism Indonesian Muslims display far predates the modern Indonesian nation state. The claim is that their syncretism is stronger and not reliant on them being politically dominant. There are Muslims in Hindu majority Bali that follow the same traditions despite being an overwhelming minority locally.

    The key here might be that Indonesian Muslims, in the main, did not trace their cultural and even genealogical origins to Iran or Arabia. They accepted Islam and absorbed practices from various cultures but did not change the underlying roots of the civilization.

    The situation in India is more complex.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 14:58h, 18 August


      I think that the particular history of Pakistan–being formed through a violent Partition from Hindu-majority India and believing in the idea that Pakistan is the “anti-India”– is what makes Pakistani Muslims reluctant to claim their Hindu heritage. The nation is identified with Islam, so much so that people often assume that all Pakistanis are Muslim, despite the fact that “Pakistani” is a nationality, not an ethnicity or religion. As for tracing their genealogical origins to Arabia, I think this is also a result of Pakistan not identifying with India or South Asia. It is a historical fact that most Pakistanis are descended from Hindu converts, yet the ideological nature of the state is such that people want to deny this history.

      I am curious why you feel it is important for South Asian Muslims to identify as Hindu as well? For one thing, my understanding of Islam is such that you cannot believe in the unity of Allah while at the same time believing in the many Hindu gods. More importantly, it seems to me that as long as people respect each others’ religions, their self-identification is not so important.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 06:37h, 19 August

      “I am curious why you feel it is important for South Asian Muslims to identify as Hindu as well?”

      Not just Vikram, whole lot of Hindus think that way to feed their ego. Inherent in that desire is smug belief that their belief system is superior. I think to an outsider Hindu belief system appears some kind of gross tribalism covered in glitzy wrapping. So why would anyone want to associate with their Hindu roots?

      Btw their is serious misunderstanding about many Gods Hindus worship …. Many ‘Devta’ but only one Ishwar, since English language doesn’t have a word for ‘Devta’ therefore this confusion… Devta are like Angels who have some powers but not enough to qualify as God.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 15:10h, 19 August


      I am inclined to give Vikram the benefit of the doubt. Based on his history on this blog, I don’t think that he considers Hinduism superior to any other religion. Rather, I think he believes that it is important for South Asian Muslims to accept and claim their pre-Islamic heritage–claiming this heritage would lead to better communal relations. My comment was just an explanation of why Pakistanis, in particular, would not want to claim this heritage. Our nation’s entire identity is based on the two nation theory and being the “anti-India”. Therefore even the most liberal of Pakistanis are not that comfortable with their Hindu past. Also, I don’t think it is so important for Pakistani Muslims to identify as Hindu as well, as long as we are comfortable with our past and respect Hindus as well as other minorities.

      On the one God vs. many gods issue: I am aware that all the different avatars are supposed to be manifestations of one God. But the common understanding is that there is only one God in Islam while this is not the case in Hinduism. So it would seem difficult for someone to be both Muslim and Hindu.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 04:40h, 20 August

      Vikram: I would like to make two points in this regard. First, in my view, your comment reinforces the premise of this blog – that South Asia is a unit which has to be analyzed in that perspective at least when historical matters are under discussion. The fact that some Englishmen drew arbitrary lines in the sand is not just distracting it can also lead to serious misunderstandings.

      In the matter we are discussing, the misunderstanding is to think of Muslims in Pakistan as a relaxed majority. This country-by-country perspective yields numbers without context. Pakistan was born of an anti-India/anti-Hindu rhetoric and that sentiment has been nurtured ever since to justify the original decision. Pakistani Muslims are hardly relaxed – they are amongst the more paranoid of the earth.

      If one were to look for more organic divisions to understand attitudes, one might consider that Islam came to India first in Malabar via trade (as it did later in Indonesia) and the Muslims of the region retained many of their pre-Muslim traditions. This syncretism was not disturbed almost till the Moplah riots of 1921 triggered by the politics of the Khilafat Movement.

      The same was the case of the castes that converted to Islam in Gujarat (e.g. Lohanas) who retained not just many pre-Islamic customs but even their traditional system of inheritance. Syncretism was pervasive in India till electoral politics was introduced by the British around the 1870s which made numbers important and triggered the re-conversion drives. This has been described in detail in the book by Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik (In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia) that has been cited many times on this blog. Traces of the syncretism are alive to this day as documented in this post on the blog:
      The even more recent provocation of communal relations in Mewat was discussed in the commentary on the post.

      This leads to the second point that attitudes cannot be appraised independently of the history of which they form a part. The histories of colonialism in India and Indonesia are very different in this regard. There was no need to use the same divide-and-rule strategy in Indonesia as there was in India simply because there were no religious minorities in the former large enough to be propped up as credible counterweights to the majority.

      It is not the Indonesian Muslims who have done something special that Indian Muslims have been unable to do – it is just that history placed them in a different scenario where there was no politics around religious majorities and minorities. It was the same Indonesian Muslims who were involved in the horrible massacres of the ethnic Chinese in the 1960s and of serious human rights violations later in Irian Jaya and East Timor. As ever, it is politics that drives passions which manifest themselves in different ways in different places.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 15:01h, 24 August

      SA, yes politics is important, but it is not the only thing, because everything is not simply about rational interests. Constructions of the self matter as well.

      Consider the example of Rajput women who would commit ‘jauhar’ (willingly in most cases), or Brahmin/Rajput family’s that compel their children to stay unmarried rather than marry outside. There are other communities (and individuals) that respond very differently to the same socio-political situation.

      The key point about Kerala is not that its communal harmony and syncretism was disturbed (which is inevitable) but that it restored itself quickly after the terrible atrocities of the Moplah massacres. And they havent broken down since then. I will say the same is true for Bengal. There were terrible riots even after the partition one (Barisal for example) and violence against Hindus continues in Bangladesh, but this has barely affected the inter communal harmony in West Bengal. The same is true for Orissa, Tamil Nadu and to a great extent Karnataka as well (all states where there have been no left governments). I will claim that the same is true for Sindh in Pakistan as well.

      This has not been the case in Punjab and UP. Their inter religious harmony has not proved resilient. The fact that Pakistani Punjabis and Karachi’s Urdu speakers continue to be paranoid says that the colonial intervention and minority status matter little. They are unsettled because they (along with many ashraf Muslims of UP, Hyderabad) see themselves as rightful masters of the subcontinent. Towards the ending stages of the partition saga, Ambedkar, in great disappointment noted that Jinnah and the League were always more interested in dealing with the upper caste Hindus than being a genuine minority front.

      There is no reason for Pakistanis to be paranoid. India has never claimed any of its territory. They are paranoid because their elite is using them as a bulwark for their own ridiculous ambitions. Their elite want ‘equivalence’ with the upper caste Hindus of India. The syncretism was there among the Ashraf Muslims of these areas, till they were politically dominant, it was the kind of syncretism predicated on being the dominant ethnic group. Once this power balance was removed, this syncretism collapsed and the irrational political response continues to affect the poorer Muslim communities whose syncretism was more robust.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 19:09h, 24 August

      “There is no reason for Pakistanis to be paranoid. India has never claimed any of its territory.”

      This is not quite true. India does lay claim to “POK”, which Pakistanis consider to belong to Pakistan. The Kashmir dispute is the main reason for the Pakistani Army’s outsized influence on foreign policy, which is one reason that the Army is not really interested in resolving this issue.

      Also, many in Pakistan consider that India played an important role in the secession of East Pakistan. Regardless of the role of the West Pakistani establishment in not alleviating the legitimate grievances of the East Pakistanis, there would most likely have been no independent Bangladesh without the active help of India. Many in Pakistan continue to blame India for the “fall of Dhaka”.

      As for Pakistanis seeing themselves as “rightful masters of the subcontinent”, I think you greatly exaggerate the number of people who believe in “Ghazwa-e-Hind”. Reconquering Delhi is a fringe view in Pakistan, just as “Akhand Bharat” is a fringe view in India. If there is any “Indian” territory that Pakistan wants to conquer, it is Jammu and Kashmir.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 17:41h, 31 August

      Kabir, if the Pakistani establishment’s actions were limited to sparring over Kashmir, and even supporting the Kashmir insurgency, I might have still agreed with you.

      But their actions go far beyond that. Their could not have been a clearer example than that of Ajmal Kasab. The fact that the ISI operates terror cells in India and Afghanistan tells everyone what the Pakistani elite’s worldview is, regardless of what a few dissenters might try and claim. There is no territorial conflict between India and Pakistan over Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Yet Pakistan supports terror groups operating in these cities in the name of protecting India’s Muslims. Pakistan is the one giving safe harbour to Dawood Ibrahim.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 01:36h, 18 August Reply

    SA, it is empty to say humanity should be shared. Everybody already has that and shares that. What needs to be shared is a story. This is why what the Indonesians are doing is so powerful. I am not saying Hindus and Muslims dont do this in India, but there is a great deal of variation in attitudes.

  • hackback
    Posted at 17:48h, 23 August Reply

    Reblogged this on Hasan's Abode and commented:

  • Kabir Mohan
    Posted at 19:55h, 31 August Reply


    I don’t think that the Mumbai attacks had anything to do with “Ghazwa-e-Hind” or with “protecting India’s Muslims”. They certainly have to do with a strategy of trying to “break India by a thousand cuts”– a strategy which I don’t think anyone can deny that the Pak Army has followed in the past (and is perhaps still following).

    But this is still very different than Pakistanis seeing themselves as “masters of the subcontinent” or aiming to reconquer Delhi, which is what you were arguing. I stand by my argument that most Pakistanis and even the establishment really have no interest in controlling Delhi just as most Indians don’t dream of regaining control of Lahore.

    As for Pakistan supporting terror groups in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, that of course cannot be justified in any manner. However, many Pakistanis would claim that India covertly supports the Baloch nationalists. I’m not in a position to verify any of these claims, but the accusation can be made by the other side as well.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 06:20h, 01 September

      Kabir, what then is the reason for the Pak Army following this strategy of ‘bleeding India by a thousand cuts’ ?

      In any case, this saga is not going to end until one side becomes overwhelmingly powerful and the other side simply cannot compete anymore.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 15:24h, 01 September


      I think that the Pak Army follows this strategy because they perceive India to be their ideological and existential enemy. According to this logic, the weaker you can make your “enemy”, the better.

      As an alternative to your last statement, I offer this: This saga will end when both sides (particularly the Pakistan Army) decide that peace and good relations are better than brinksmanship. In order to change this view of the Pak Army (or simply weaken it), India would have to show good faith in resolving the Kashmir dispute in a diplomatic fashion to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. I firmly believe that solving this dispute would immensely weaken the Pak Army’s raison d’etre that “India is our permanent enemy”. Unfortunately, as PM Modi’s latest move to cancel the Foreign Secretary level talks over such a weak excuse that Pakistan is talking to “separatists” (which they have always done prior to talks with India) shows, this is not likely to happen.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 17:08h, 01 September

      Kabir, then the question is why does the Pakistan Army perceive India to be their existential and ideological enemy ? After all, the Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan armies dont think so, despite regular sparring over some issues.

      And why do Pakistanis, especially the military feel that Ajmal Kasab’s rampaging through Mumbai’s streets is part of resolving the Kashmir issue ?

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 19:59h, 01 September

      Vikram, I would guess because the Pakistan Army’s thinking (and PakNationalism more broadly) is based on the two nation theory. Christine Fair argued in her talk that, for Pakistan, the Kashmir issue is not merely territorial but also ideological. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka do not have the same kinds of ideological issues with India, at least as far as I am aware.

      I don’t think that Pakistanis in general think that the Mumbai attacks were part of resolving the Kashmir issue. We have to remember that the attacks were planned by a terrorist group (with support from the ISI). I would be very surprised to find any sensible Pakistani defending them.

  • Vikram
    Posted at 00:45h, 04 September Reply

    Kabir, Christine Fair also mentioned the Pakistani elite’s determination to overturn the territorial status quo. To Indians, that is the far more relevant issue. And this desire to overturn the status quo cannot stem from an ideological conflict, because, from India’s point of view, their is no ideological ‘conflict’ as far as we are concerned.

    See the reactions of Pakistani Muslims after Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 war, (Phase Four)

    The same pattern repeated after Kargil.

    This is clearly an issue of identity, which for the Ashraf Muslims of Pakistan (and some in India as well) is tied deeply to a historical memory of political dominance. The upper caste Hindu counter memory is of (imaginary) persecution. Of course both, especially the latter are not really true or even meaningful.

    But the Ashraf Muslim construction of its past has proved far more devastating to the low caste Muslims and themselves than the upper caste Hindu construction. It is not that Hindus and other religions cannot exist in that construction, but they can only exist as subordinates.

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 17:55h, 04 September

      Vikram, as far as I am aware “overturning the territorial status quo” means Pakistan gaining control of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no other piece of Indian territory that Pakistanis lay claim to. And as far as Pakistan is concerned, J&K is not “Indian” territory, it is a disputed area as agreed by the international community. As for the “ideological conflict” issue, it doesn’t matter if India doesn’t consider there to be one, because for the Pakistani establishment, the whole existence of Pakistan is based on the TNT and the struggle against “Hindu India”. I would personally agree with many Indians that, post the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, the TNT is dead. If a Muslim majority area conceived as part of Pakistan decided to break away after 25 years based on ethnic and linguistic issues, it shows that the whole idea of Pakistan as a homeland for the “Muslim nation” was deeply flawed.

      I don’t agree with this being about “Ashraf Muslims” vs. others (I don’t really want to get into all this “Muslim vs. non-Muslims issues” or the caste system among Muslims, except to say that as far as Islam is concerned, all believers are equal in the eyes of Allah and there is no corresponding caste system as in Hinduism). I agree with you that this is an issue of identity, but I would frame it as being a question of the identity of the Pakistani state itself. Should our country continue to be defined as the “anti-India” or can we now accept that, whatever the rationale behind Pakistan’s creation (something that Pakistanis continue to vociferously debate), we now exist as a separate country and work to forge a Pakistani nationality and identity that is based on being part of South Asia and not enmity with India? That, I think, is the most crucial issue for Pakistanis.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 00:14h, 06 September

      Kabir, your views about caste are in complete contradiction to your statement about Pakistan being a part of South Asia. Few serious scholars would concur with how you have put the issue across.

      The Dalit Muslims of South Asia dont agree with you either,

      And this really is the crux of the issue. Ashraf Muslim denial when confronted with the reality of caste. Ashraf Muslim chest thumping when it comes to the fiction of ‘1000 years of Muslim rule’. Ashraf Muslim hyperbole on the subject of Hindu ‘domination’.

      Who do you think constituted the Muslim League and constitute the Pakistani state ?

    • Kabir Mohan
      Posted at 17:19h, 06 September

      Vikram, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. I don’t deny that there is a class system among Muslims. I simply wouldn’t call it a “caste” system. Caste, to my mind, implies an immutable hierarchy. No matter how rich a shudra became, he would still be considered a shudra. In Pakistan, in contrast, the issue is one of economic class. If someone from a lower socioeconomic strata manged to amass a lot of money, he would then belong to the wealthy class, and not many people would remind him of his “lower class” origins. In addition, caste is not a part of Islamic teachings. All believers are considered equal in the eyes of Allah. This partly explains why many lower-caste Hindus converted to Islam–it allowed them to escape the caste hierarchy. This is not to say, that there are not cultural elements of “caste” discrimination among South Asian Muslims.

      As for the Muslim League, there is no denying that it was primarily made up of feudal landlords and upper-middle class Muslims. And of course, the Pakistani establishment continues to be made up of these same groups.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 15:18h, 11 September

      Kabir, the prevalence of caste among Pakistani Muslims has been well documented by Pakistani activists and sociologists,

      “When questioned, however, if caste is a problem, most Pakistanis will disagree. Many will argue, quite heatedly, that it’s a problem only for Hindus across the border. Using circular reasoning, they will insist that the caste-system is not Islamic and since the majority of us are Muslims, therefore, there is no caste problem in Pakistan. The caste system practiced by the Muslims of north India is based on three tiers: ashraaf, ajlaaf and arzal.

      Public denial is so ingrained and widespread that there is no official legislation that acknowledges and addresses caste-based discrimination. ”

      The ‘immutable hierarchy’ of caste is based on genealogical considerations, the concept of ‘zaat’ or ‘nasl’ rather than any religious scriptures. The Jats (whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh) never accepted Brahminical Hinduism but remain staunchly casteist.

      The reason you see caste much more vividly in the Indian arena is because of the longer period of democratic governance. This has given castes the political space to mobilize, for both progressive (UP electing a Dalit CM) and regressive (Jat domination in Punjab and Haryana) ends.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 00:25h, 06 September

      Btw, I find your comment regarding Islam and Hinduism similar to that of this Sikh gentleman from a village in Punjab, who after being forced to give up his oppressive behavior by Dalit activism 500 years after Nanak, promptly proceeds to declare untouchability a ‘Brahminical’ concept.

  • Anil Kala
    Posted at 02:24h, 07 September Reply

    About Islamic terrorism it occurs to me that assuming West is your enemy then will it not be easier and God friendly to beat them with progress superior to their’s instead of striking a few hundred or sometimes a couple of thousand innocents dead. After all Islam produced some outstanding scholars and innovators; they have the money and means to do it all over again; excel in business and invent things that would usher in prosperity and there you have the West beaten square. … .. This going back in time to medieval practices is rank escapism. I also think that the terrorism in this scale cannot flourish unless it has tacit approval of common people.

    • sanpatel90
      Posted at 04:25h, 09 September

      It is more difficult to do something constructive. It is easier to demolish a whole city by throwing a bomb on it rather than building a clean, developed city. Regarding terrorism, it is the West that started this. They created a bunch of brainwashed, hypocrites in the beginning. Now these bunch of people have gathered momentum and it is now chain reaction. West had a role in forming Taliban in Afghanistan. West also destroyed Iraq on the excuse of Weapon of mass destruction. They also removed Quaddaffi by bombing Libya and now Libya is going to be next Islamic state. They openly armed Syrians rebels to overthrow Assad. West had a role in arming Islamic State fighters. Still West is talking about arming moderates of Syrians and is reluctant to act against IS till they overthrow Assad. So, it is the West that has to learn a lesson. What is happening in Syria, Libya has started reaching Nigeria, Somalia. One day they may reach even Pakistan. World war II was fought because of racial supremacy claimed by Germans. Next world war may happen because of religious supremacy claimed by someone.

    • Anil Kala
      Posted at 15:51h, 09 September

      My point is even though terrorism makes powerful headlines and gives high to terrorists but makes little political gains. West has reached a state of equilibrium where loss due to terrorism is acceptable price…….. If you look around, the terrorists are killing many more their own than the perceived enemy. It doesn’t matter who created terrorism the end result is that it is consuming Muslim world and if any body is in denial it is these terrorists alone.

    • Anjum Altaf
      Posted at 23:30h, 20 September

      Anil: The problem I have with this argument is that Islam is neither in a fight nor in competition with the West so that it feels no compulsion to beat the West by producing scholars like it did in the past. There are some groups in Muslim countries who hold grievances against the governments of some (not all) Western countries. These groups are using a religious idiom to justify their fight and motivate their fighters. There are other groups in Muslim countries who are moving to the same places and excelling in science and innovation while keeping their religion a strictly personal matter. The focus should not be on religion but on the use of religion. When we do that we immediately have to think of who is using it and for what purpose. A few hundred years Christianity was used to colonize the world. One could argue that Christianity should have shown its superiority to heathens in nicer ways but that would not be a very fruitful line of argument.

      Also, terrorism may or may not have the tacit approval of people (that is an empirical question to which I do not have an answer) but I think that it is conceptually possible for it to flourish without approval. Rape, theft, and corruption flourish on a grand scale but one does not automatically conclude that they have the tacit approval of common people.

  • Kabir Mohan
    Posted at 23:16h, 11 September Reply

    Vikram, I am not denying that Pakistani Muslims practice what you call “caste discrimination”. Like I said above, this is a South Asian cultural practice. Obviously, Indian Muslims were influenced by the caste system that they saw around them. But at the same time, it is a fact that there is no official religious sanction for this in the Quran unlike the religious sanction given to the Hindu caste system by the Laws of Manu.

    Also,no one that I have met in Pakistan ever talks about being “Ashraf”. However, Indians are still quite conscious of being Brahmin etc.

    There is definitely a strong class system in Pakistan and to my mind, it is a far greater problem than “caste discrimination”. But this is now becoming a debate about semantics.

    • Vikram
      Posted at 13:57h, 16 September

      Kabir, the ‘laws of Manu’ cannot be compared to the Quran. The Manusmriti is part of the Smriti literature, which means ‘that which is remembered’. It is perhaps comparable to the Hanafi/Salafi jurisprudence in Islam. The Hindu texts comparable to the Quran are the Shruti texts, which means ‘divinely revealed’.

      Virtually every matrimonial ad I have seen put up by Indian Muslims mentions the caste as ‘Syed’, ‘Shaikh’ or ‘Jat’. Nobody says Ashraf just like not many Hindus identify as Dvijas (twice borns) which include the privileged Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya castes.

  • lalzarathustra
    Posted at 21:52h, 19 September Reply

    Thanks for reminding us Luminites that “[t]here is a wave of hatred pushing inwards meeting little resistance.”
    Also, thanks a lot igniting a debate on Ahmadi Question!

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