Shared war experiences


by guest
11th October, 2011 at 9:47 am    

This is a guest post by Haroon Ravat.

Many observers trace the origin and development of the English Defence League to a poppy-burning publicity stunt staged by the group Muslims Against Crusaders (MAC) at last year’s Armistice Day commemorations. For many British Muslims like myself, the actions of MAC left us in a precarious situation with the tabloid press intent on providing front page publicity to a fanatical fringe and strengthening the EDL argument that we are a minority of fifth-columnists who cannot be trusted in relation to our loyalties to Britain. Muslims who adopted a principled anti-interventionist attitude towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also felt that they could no longer articulate their position without being connected somehow to the opinions of Anjum Chaudhry’s band of merry but troubled men.

The recent murders of Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir forced a much needed realignment in public opinion towards Britain’s largest and arguably most visible minority. Brutally run over whilst protecting local shops from looters, the principle of laying down your life in order to protect the innocent was thought to be an archaic concept from bygone eras of conquest and marauding tribes. However, within a moment of tragedy the boys recovered for many thousands of British Muslims the true meaning of the word ‘jihad’, which means ‘to struggle’ in Arabic from the nihilists of Al-Qaida.

Many Britons may be surprised to hear that shedding blood in the defence of Blighty is actually a time-honoured tradition within the Indo-Pakistani Muslim communities. Jahan Mahmood is a community and military historian that has pieced together dozens of accounts of individual heroism and thousands of photographs and other archive material. Over 4 million volunteers signed up to serve within the ranks of the British Indian Army over two World Wars. Proportionately Sikhs provided the largest fighting group. However Muslims from what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contributed by far the largest numbers of commonwealth troops in key campaigns within North Africa, Italy and the Far East.

Jahan’s study, conducted largely amongst young British Pakistanis within Birmingham unveiled some interesting facts. Many of their parents and grandparents originated from many of the same village and tribal areas that provided the bulk of frontline troops. Infact Shahzad Ali’s and Abdul Musavir’s families originate from a region of Pakistan that provided some of the largest numbers of volunteers for the British Indian Army.

An extensive project that has led him from archives at the Imperial War Museum and the British Army Museum to attics and basements within inner-city Birmingham. He has unearthed a wealth of material that is proving invaluable in reconnecting young Asian Britons to their military past. By illustrating how these brave young men, some only 15 years old when they left their families and their villages to fight in far-off lands for Britain he is providing a strong counter-narrative to the messages frequently put out by both Islamists and the far-right that we were always destined to live parallel lives.
Khudadad Khan was born in Jhelum, Punjab Province of modern-day Pakistan and was the first South Asian recipient of the Victoria Cross. His Baloch (Baluch) regiment heroically defended Allied position in a large scale German offensive at the First Battle of Ypres, a major offensive near Belgium in Oct 1914. After all of his comrades were wounded or killed, Khan continued to man his machine gun battery until reinforcements arrived. Jahan’s work in schools and community centres led to a chance encounter with Khudadad Khan’s grandson.

We also celebrate the story of Ali Haider, a Sepoy within 6th Royal Battalion 13th Frontier Force Rifles. On 9th April 1945 Haider charged and single-handedly took out two heavily fortified german posts whilst badly wounded. His actions allowed the crossing of the River Senio critical in Allied plans to capture Italy. Haider came from the village of Kohat, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.
But by far one of the most moving stories of Muslim gallantry and heroism is the life and death of Noor Inayat Khan, Britain’s one and only Spy Princess. Heralding from Indian royalty, Noor’s father was Hazrat Inayat Khan a sufi muslim preacher. Her mother Ora Meena Baker was an American from New Mexico. Working in dangerous conditions as a wireless radio operator behind enemy lines in occupied France, Noor or ‘Nora Baker’ was betrayed to the Germans and was executed at Dachau concentration camp in 1944. There is now a campaign under way to establish a permanent memorial in her honour at Gordon Square, spearheaded by Indian writer and biographer Shrabani Basu.

Today there are over 600 Muslims on active service within today’s British Armed Forces. The fact that many hundreds of thousands of “Indians” fought voluntarily for the freedom of Britain at a time when they were denied their own freedom remains one of the strongest arguments for defending multiculturalism. Remembering the sacrifices made by all communities – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh can serve to be a unifying factor for broken Britain. The Shared History Project, may provide the answer to many of our present problems, for more information please visit www.britainsmuslimsoldiers.com It may help to provide an alternative point of reference in defining what multiculturalism and what being British is actually all about away from an exclusivist Anglo-Saxon paradigm of the EDL or of an endemically Islamophobic Christian power bloc depicted by groups such as MAC. By exploring facets of our shared past we can also impart important lessons about democracy, liberty and tolerance for all of our future generations.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Shared war experiences http://t.co/41xKmeBp


  2. sean kenny

    Nice piece on the war experiences of subcontinental Muslims fighting in the British army. http://t.co/HlaWqx2K


  3. Catherine Baker

    'Shedding blood in defence of Blighty is time-honoured w/in the Indo-Pakistani Muslim communities' Multicult'lism & war http://t.co/gYMK7Dwg


  4. Doug Beattie

    'Shedding blood in defence of Blighty is time-honoured w/in the Indo-Pakistani Muslim communities' Multicult'lism & war http://t.co/gYMK7Dwg


  5. Sam Malone

    “Indians” fought voluntarily for the freedom of Britain at a time when they were denied their own freedom" http://t.co/WEzIPR8l #EDL


  6. Rhys Davies

    Shared war experiences http://t.co/oUzC2vdL There are over 600 Muslims on active service within British Armed Forces #EDL #Islamophobia


  7. Nemesis Republic

    RT @bboyblue: Shared war experiences http://t.co/1fkBXTPm There are over 600 Muslims on active service withi… (cont) http://t.co/IbvPAmoZ


  8. BileWatch

    Shared war experiences http://t.co/oUzC2vdL There are over 600 Muslims on active service within British Armed Forces #EDL #Islamophobia




  1. Kismet Hardy — on 11th October, 2011 at 11:23 am  

    Yay. Let’s all celebrate young men taking to arms

  2. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 11:39 am  

    By all means work to shed the carefully constructed ignorance of our collective history, but as Kismet alludes to waving the military banner as a measure of solidarity amongst Britian’s varied communities and cultures is not the way.

    And the continued militarisation of the civil space in Britain is deeply disturbing, as it makes subsequent invasions all the easier to sell.

  3. liam murray — on 11th October, 2011 at 1:36 pm  

    a well-written sobering analysis mr ravat

  4. Boyo — on 11th October, 2011 at 4:56 pm  

    I think Picklers (1) and (2) have got it entirely wrong.

    History forged in conflict provides the cornerstone for community. Any community’s identity is ultimately a story of survival through arms – be it Sikh, Muslim or British – to deny, or discourage, this narrative is naive.

    The story of the British Indian Army is a tremendously positive one and a narrative which can help forge a shared identity.

    This kind of history embeds a pride in national identity that can act as the lens through which the rest can be seen (I can almost see Refresh’s sneer). If one only keeps emphasising the negative – slavery, exploitation – is it any wonder people grow up not feeling as if they belong?

  5. Optimist — on 11th October, 2011 at 5:13 pm  

    Boyo -

    When the racists took hold it did not help the Jews one bit in Germany.

    “A higher percentage of German Jews fought in World War I than that of any other ethnic, religious or political group in Germany; some 12,000 died for their country.[14][15] Ironically, it was a Jewish lieutenant, Hugo Gutmann, who awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, to a 29-year-old corporal named Adolf Hitler. After Hitler came to power, Gutmann was incarcerated by the Gestapo, but was later released and moved to Brussels, subsequently escaping to the USA after the war began[16][17].”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Germany

  6. damon — on 11th October, 2011 at 5:19 pm  

    I disagree Boyo. You’re presuming too much. You’re presuming that the British army have always been involved in righteous conflict. Sometimes they have, and more often they haven’t. World war one was pointless slaughter, but the sacrifice of the 36th (Ulster) Division is still celebrated in Northern Ireland in wall murals. They proclaim how ‘loyal’ the Unionist people were, and how willing they were to sacrifice themselves so pointlessly for the empire.
    I see them and think they’re a bit pathetic.
    http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/11325031.jpg

  7. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 5:36 pm  

    Deleted – a duplication.

  8. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 5:42 pm  

    Boyo,

    If you read the OP again you will see that it is a call on the general populace to reject the bigotry being cooked up by the far-right, and reminds them of their own history, which had been painstakingly engineered to place them back into a position of supremacy, after WWII.

    Another obvious example, to add to Damon’s (cue: the sneer) is the almost total erasing of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi-Germany – even to the extent of taking-in some of the Nazis at the onset of the cold war.

  9. Jai — on 11th October, 2011 at 5:42 pm  

    Haroon Ravat,

    Very good article; excellent points throughout. Thank you for writing this.

  10. Don — on 11th October, 2011 at 6:11 pm  

    I’ve recently finished reading ‘The Glass Palace’ by Amitav Ghosh (a present from my daughter, I’ll be starting on ‘Sea of Poppies’ soon. She reckons she has my next few birthdays sorted) The latter part of the book has some fascinating reflections on the issue. Anyone else read it?

    Refresh,

    the almost total erasing of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi-Germany

    Really? Everyone I know is thoroughly aware of the Soviet role. Do you mean in the immediate aftermath?

  11. Optimist — on 11th October, 2011 at 6:54 pm  

    I agree with the sentiments behind this article as the role played by the ‘Indians’ in the two world wars has not been recognised fully in this country. Also, sometimes the racists of the BNP and the EDL have tried to overplay the role of the Sikh soldiers in those wars, while, for obvious reasons, they have tried to ignore the role of the Muslim soldiers. So, from that point of view it’s a very positive article that tries to set the record straight.

    However, I have two issues on this matter, first, whether such role ( by ‘Indians’ ) was a positive one, which helped India’s liberation from the British rule, and, second, whether we should not be looking at the contributions that the Asians have made in the working class struggles of this country and see those as the glue that has strengthened the community cohesion.

    On the first issue, during my last argument with my father, who passed away when I was seventeen, I told him that I would have been more proud of him if he had joined the Indian National Army rather than joining the Sikh regiment of the British Indian Army ( I have regretted that argument ever since as it upset him most.)

    Like the relatives of many Punjabis living in this country, my father and his two younger brothers had fought in WWII; two of them, including my father, in Burma and one in the Middle East and Europe. One of their uncles had fought in WWI in the Middle East.

    However, I believe that the Indians joining the British Indian Army only helped to prolong the British rule over India. Also the role played by the Sikhs during the ‘First War of Independence ( the Mutinee )’ in 1857 was a very regressive one.

    But the Asians have played a tremendous role in the working class struggles of this country during the last 50 years and we should be celebrating that. They not only lead some of the major struggles like the ‘Imperial Typewriters’, ‘Grunwicks’, ‘Chix’, ‘Hillingdon Hospital’ and ‘Gate Gourmet’, to name a few, but they also supported many others like the great miners strike. Also, the ‘Right to Work’ marchers and ‘Peoples Marches for Jobs’ were often fed in various Sikh temples on their way from Scotland to London.

    I think we need to emphasise that unity more if we are going to defeat the racists.

  12. Don — on 11th October, 2011 at 7:04 pm  

    Optimist,

    Good point.

  13. Jai — on 11th October, 2011 at 8:25 pm  

    Optimist,

    I agree with the sentiments behind this article as the role played by the ‘Indians’ in the two world wars has not been recognised fully in this country. Also, sometimes the racists of the BNP and the EDL have tried to overplay the role of the Sikh soldiers in those wars, while, for obvious reasons, they have tried to ignore the role of the Muslim soldiers. So, from that point of view it’s a very positive article that tries to set the record straight.

    Agreed on all points.

    However, I have two issues on this matter, first, whether such role ( by ‘Indians’ ) was a positive one, which helped India’s liberation from the British rule,…..

    …..On the first issue, during my last argument with my father, who passed away when I was seventeen, I told him that I would have been more proud of him if he had joined the Indian National Army rather than joining the Sikh regiment of the British Indian Army

    There have already been numerous PP discussions about this subject in the past (mostly on the comments threads rather than main articles), but in a nutshell, joining the INA would have been an extremely bad idea because it involved becoming allies with some very, very nasty people and was a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”. The principle of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” isn’t always justified, and it certainly wasn’t in this instance.

    As I mentioned, the subject has already been exhaustively debated on PP so I’m not personally going to get involved in any further discussions about it on this particular thread, but you can do a search of PP’s archives if you’re interested in the course that previous debates took. Suffice to say that they comprehensively covered all the relevant angles.

    However, I believe that the Indians joining the British Indian Army only helped to prolong the British rule over India.

    I guess it depends on which timeframe you’re referring to. There were numerous reasons for Indians joining the Allied effort in WW2 — and 2.5 million of them did so, let’s not forget — but I believe that the British colonial authorities at the time had promised independence to India upon victory over the Axis powers if Indians supported the Allies. As it turned out, the scale of the war effort required to defeat the Axis powers meant that the British colonial authorities eventually no longer had the resources to hold onto India, plus the Quit India movement was also in full swing, so the “promise of independence” was ultimately a moot point anyway.

    Also the role played by the Sikhs during the ‘First War of Independence ( the Mutinee )’ in 1857 was a very regressive one.

    Correct, although it’s worth bearing in mind that, to all intents and purposes, the “real Khalsa” had already died by the time the two Anglo-Sikh Wars a few years earlier were over.

    Apart from the miners’ strike, I wasn’t aware of the “major working class struggles” you’ve mentioned (partly because I’m not from a working class background, and also because – based on your descriptions of your father’s involvement in WW2 — I’m clearly much younger than you), but it is certainly heartening to hear that Asians have been heavily involved in such activities across the country. Examples of such unity (irrespective of class) do indeed need to be highlighted to a much greater extent.

  14. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:19 pm  

    Don,

    I was referring to the period of the cold war where the USSR was THE enemy and had to be defeated on all counts, militarily (proxy wars), culturally (believe it or not through denims & burgers*, avant garde art, The Beatles etc.), diplomatically and politically. That required a constant stream of anti-Soviet propaganda here and abroad, which in turn demanded playing down of the heroic coming together of people from around the world to finish off the Nazis.

    *consumerism

  15. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:21 pm  

    World War 1 was a disaster with a disastrous outcome, reverbrations of which included WWII and the carve up of the Middle East.

  16. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:25 pm  

    I also don’t believe it was in anyone’s interest to have joined the INA, it was the right thing to take on the Nazis. Should they have won, India would never have seen off colonialism.

  17. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:28 pm  

    ‘On the first issue, during my last argument with my father, who passed away when I was seventeen, I told him that I would have been more proud of him if he had joined the Indian National Army rather than joining the Sikh regiment of the British Indian Army ( I have regretted that argument ever since as it upset him most.)’

    Its sad you should feel such regrets to this day. One thing is for certain, if your relationship with your father allowed you to have such deep arguments then I should think he would have been proud to have a son who was prepared to speak his mind.

  18. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:35 pm  

    And finally you make a very important point regarding the class struggle. The fading, to some extent, of the trade union movement is of great regret to me, it had a huge impact in many social campaigns such as racism and equality in general.

    Some of those that carry the banner of British Values would have in the past been carrying the Union Jack through black and asian areas; now are very happy to find equality and humanitarianism make an effective cudgel.

  19. Boyo — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:48 pm  

    @ 5, 6 and 8 I perhaps did not make my position clear enough – I had not really intended to claim that the British army was only a force for good or had single-handedly defeated the Hun ;-) simply that its history – our shared history – laid the foundations for our shared present and future. It is in this context that it is positive, whether it was doing the “right” thing or not.

    However I disagree with the view for example, that the British Raj was an intrinsically “bad” thing, in which “Indians” should have been ashamed to be involved – ironically it exemplifies a very Occidental view of history, projecting the idea of a nation state etc upon a historical process. One may as well moan about the illegal Saxon invasion of England which led to our laws and language. Better surely to accentuate the positive…

  20. Don — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:49 pm  

    Refresh,
    #18 I completely agree with the first paragraph.

    I’m not sure I understand the second. equality and humanitarianism make an effective cudgel.?

  21. Optimist — on 11th October, 2011 at 9:54 pm  

    Jai -

    “There have already been numerous PP discussions about this subject in the past (mostly on the comments threads rather than main articles), but in a nutshell, joining the INA would have been an extremely bad idea because it involved becoming allies with some very, very nasty people and was a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”. The principle of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” isn’t always justified, and it certainly wasn’t in this instance.”

    I was not aware that this had already been discussed in PP and I agree with your analysis. As I said I had that argument with my father a long time ago – and I put this in to be ‘provoctive’ !

    I do believe that if the Nazis, Fascists (Italian & Japanese ) had won then India might have been in even a worse position.

    So, once the war had started I think it was good that all people joined in to defeat them.

    However, it was an imperialist war which could have been avoided if working people of England, Germany etc had come together and seen what their rulers were up to.

    Anyway, that’s for another time!

    But the Grunwicks strike, when some 60 Asian workers, mainly women, went on strike, thousands of white workers, mainly miners, came to support them on the picket line. In my experience that was the first time I noticed that crude racism was beginning to dissolve away.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grunwick_dispute

  22. Optimist — on 11th October, 2011 at 10:04 pm  

    Refresh @16,17,18

    Thanks for your kind comments.

  23. Refresh — on 11th October, 2011 at 11:31 pm  

    Don,

    You are right, it verges on the nonsensical. What I meant to say was that there are people from the right and far-right who are attempting to speak the language and ethics of humanitarianism in furthering their own bigoted goals.

  24. Boyo — on 12th October, 2011 at 6:59 am  

    Here’s an article in today’s Grauniad i think is alright on analysis but short on answers…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/11/britain-model-unhappy-family

    “A shared radical history” – in your dreams…

    As I’ve said before, for all their short-comings, the French and US systems appear a more effective response to cohesion than the British. Post-looting, British society appears to be moving in the direction of the US, without the ideological benefits.

  25. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 9:29 am  

    Amazing naivety and ignorance on display here and from the usual suspects as well.

    Britain has done harm in centuries past but have been a force for good in much of the 20th century and 21st century.

    And unfortunately, the world we live in having the ability to enforce something is absolutely necessary – and two things surprise me the most:

    1) the argument we should just talk to the terrorists and come to a compromise – what sort of compromise are we looking at? Should Britain agree to a Sharia state – and agree that irrespective of human rights violations and mass killing – we should look the other way like Russia and China. So the argument from the dodgy left are: while we fight for human rights for foreign criminals in this country we should forget about human rights everywhere else – or no we should always compalin about some Patriot Act in the US but have no problems Saddam gassing thousands of Kurds.

    After all, Muslim leaders should have the right to kill their Muslim citizens – how dare we intervene but when you intervene against Milosevic then its okay.

    2) Many opposed to the military pride or its power to unite people are often clouded by a dodgy religious “veil of ignorance” – and it is really scary when lefty magazines hire political editors who view politics as part of a religious paradigm.

    They also tend to forget that the British armed forces have done more good than harm despite how it was used in centuries past.

    But in the 20th and the 21st century – it has been a force for good. Did digraceful behaviour take place – unfortunately yes – but they were very few and far between in number.

    Abu Ghraib is a disgraceful footnote but its a footnote. The British armed forces are somewhere people of all religion, class, creed and education work towards a common goal -

    No wonder many so called lefties and liberals especially those with a religious cloak around their thinking do not like that….especially those who define terrorists as good and bad – like israeli armed forces bad but Hamas and Hezbollah backed by Iran – good forces.

    And these are supposedly lefty – no wonder the country wants to be centrist and vote for the least lefty bloke in the room.

  26. damon — on 12th October, 2011 at 12:25 pm  

    Praising the role played by colonial troops in world wars is not something to do too blithely I think.
    We know that people will join armies without giving it much thought, for a whole number of reasons. Just as farmers and their sons flocked to join both sides in the American civil war, millions of people getting involved in WW1 and lining up on a host of different sides is hardly something to see as progressive.
    I think that Muhammad Ali showed the way to go when he refused to fight in Vietnam. Lenin was quite principled on WW1 I think. Not supporting his own country.

    Indian troops were used at the end of WW2 to help suppress popular uprisings in Indonesia and Vietnam, to make them safe for the returning European colonalists.

  27. Kismet Hardy — on 12th October, 2011 at 1:42 pm  

    Shamit, pour pansies over liberals all you like, you’re still just a horrible little warmonger

  28. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 4:54 pm  

    Kismet -

    No wonder – you find the real world a tad more complicated than your fantasy world.

    And define war monger – if anything aside from being Chamberlain is war monger then I would rather be a war monger and ensure thousands of girls can go to school and women can practice their profession.

    I would rather be a war monger than have Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons on his own people and murder without any accoutnability.

    Is it wrong to pursue terrorists – I don’t think so. And all these posturing about lets talk – what should be the framework of talks with the Taliban or the LeT or the Haqqani network.

    Funny, I don’t see these iddiots talking about how Iran proactively tries to destabilise Middle East and openly provides support to Hamas and Hezbollah – who have been declared terrorist organisations by the UN.

    As usual name calling and preaching to the choir without any effective argument that would persuade a single persion beside those who are the members of the delusional church of lefties powered by their religious belief.

    Its not about wanting a war – its about trying to do trhe right thing when you can. but that would elude you.

    ******************************

    AND MORE IMPORTANTLY:

    The bond created by the armed forces and their service to the country is much preferable than Britain becoming a “Community” of communities each within their own – and teach in schools in the UK how jews are bad (watch panaroma) -

    In my opinion and I believe vast majority of the people in this country would choose the patriotism displayed by the armed forces than the narrow scrwed up vision marred by historical baggage where everything is seen through the prism of racism and religion.

  29. Boyo — on 12th October, 2011 at 5:05 pm  

    @26 “Lenin was quite principled on WW1 I think”

    What i want to know is where he stands on MW3…

  30. Optimist — on 12th October, 2011 at 5:22 pm  
  31. damon — on 12th October, 2011 at 5:59 pm  

    @29 ”What i want to know is where he stands on MW3…”

    What’s MW3? My point was more about how…

    ….the Second International fell apart during World War I, in 1916, as the separate national parties that composed it did not maintain a unified front against the war, instead generally supporting their respective nations’ role.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_International

    That said, I’m quite pro army in some ways, but they do abandon all the soldiers who are left to spend the rest of their lives with missing limbs – and for nothing really in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  32. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 6:03 pm  

    Majority of the people are also for bringing back the capital punishment and if the right questions are asked then the majority of the people would want us out of Europe.

    And right now 76% of people (if polls are to be believed) think Human Rights Act should be changed.

    So putting a question like do you support the war in Afghanistan or not – most people would answer no.

    But if you ask the same sample whether they think the the government should go after terrorists – most people would answer yes.

    Most people would also support using drones again if you phrase the question as do you support the government taking actions in distant lands to protect London or the entire UK – again most people would say yes.

    So the polls are irrelevant at best – we have a system of governance where a democratically elected government commanding a majority in the House of Commons makes decisions.

    And lets take a sample of say 10 people – and say it is 70-30. you change two minds its 50 – 50 – if you change four minds its a landslide.

    But lets say the government tomorrow says okay we bow to public opinion – what happens when Afghanistan becomes an appendage of ISI and goes back to becoming the graduate school of terrorism – then wouldn’t the same people argue the government failed in its responsibility to protect us.

    You think Pakistan and its military-terrorist nexus is going to go away from destabilising the region and exporting terrorism.

    Again who is being naive here?

    *********************************

  33. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 6:06 pm  

    I would really like to know how we tackle terrorists and their sponsors without using force in the short term – We all know the long term answers but not pursuing terrorists with all our might would make those groups and their sponsors such as the ISI and Iran stronger.

    So lets hear some solutions besides “We are the World” – let’s hear some pragmatic alternatives not this idealistic claptrap with little regard to reality.

    So what should we do? especially when the only language terrorists under stand is strength – the only time Hezbollah apologised to the people of Lebanon was when they could not finsh what they started and hid behind Lebanese civilians and claimed victory on the blood of those they claim to protect. Oh I haven’t heard the sane voices say anything about Hezbollah (which is supposed to be banned) claiming its above the law and does not recognise the UN tribunal on Harriri

    Pathetic – but probably their cheerleaders are far worse.

  34. damon — on 12th October, 2011 at 6:40 pm  

    Shamit, it might be clearer if you outlined what armed interventions you support and those you wouldn’t.
    Invade Iran for example? Syria, Cuba, Congo?
    Should Britain have joined the American war in Vietnam?

  35. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 6:58 pm  

    “Shamit, it might be clearer if you outlined what armed interventions you support and those you wouldn’t.
    Invade Iran for example? Syria, Cuba, Congo?”

    What a typical Damon move.

    Could I please have some immediate solution to the problems caused by terrorist and their sponsors aside from using force?

    And who do we talk to? what do we compromise on? What should we agree on? As usual no answer but typical avoiding the question and trying to go back into a vicious cycle.

    **************************

    By the way damon, the cold war was probably worse than any world war in terms of ruining lives in the developing world which was used as a proxy for the superpowers…. that context is gone Damon … so come back to reality dude.

  36. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 7:03 pm  

    What so much intellect and so much lectures – and not even one suggestion on how we tackle the immediate problem – I am disappointed. But actually it reinforces my opinion

  37. Haroon — on 12th October, 2011 at 7:52 pm  

    Thank you for your comments – both the kind and not-so-kind ones.

    The point behind my article is not to glorify war nor to do a PR job for the British Army, but to dispel the notion that Muslims and other minorities are some sort of disruptive invasive species. We have been around for a very long time:
    http://www.amazon.com/Islam-Britain-1558-1685-Nabil-Matar/dp/0521622336
    and continue to contribute, hopefully for the better a great deal to this green and pleasant land.

  38. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 8:07 pm  

    Haroon – for whatever it is worth, I think the article was very well written. Thank you for that.

  39. damon — on 12th October, 2011 at 10:17 pm  

    It’s a fair enough argument Haroon, but where does that leave us who can’t show those positive links to this country from decades past? My Irish grandfather took up arms against the British state 90 years ago.
    I don’t think that makes me any less British.
    People of overseas origin who have old family links to the British armed forces is surely only a small minority.

  40. Shamit — on 12th October, 2011 at 10:57 pm  

    Still more meandering by Damon as expected without responding to any queries.

    Will the other intellectual giants here have a go at answering my questions?

    Hmmmmmmmm……..

  41. damon — on 12th October, 2011 at 11:25 pm  

    Well Shamit, I don’t think we should be dropping drone bombs on semis in Birmingham.
    What you do about international terrorism and hostile states is a big subject. A bit off topic for here, but I’m not averse to using the military when it’s needed.
    When that is though is the thing that takes a lot of good judgement. I don’t think NATO have been getting it right in Afghanistan, but I’m no expert.

  42. Boyo — on 13th October, 2011 at 6:52 am  

    “So lets hear some solutions besides “We are the World…”” LOL

    Haven’t heard of MW3 Damon? You are so out of the loop bro…

    Thanks for the article Haroon – you’re not to blame if the others don’t get it. Paradoxically the trend of “Empire shame” be it on the left or right (when we woz great) appears to have led to a kind of suppression of its positive aspects too.

    Instead of banging on about why we are all different, the future would perhaps be better served by celebrating what we have in common.

  43. Ravi Naik — on 13th October, 2011 at 9:56 am  

    I would rather be a war monger than have Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons on his own people and murder without any accoutnability.

    Still stuck in the 2007 mindset? So, you would rather have 100,000 civilian deaths, Al Qaeda infiltrated, unstable Iraq in order to bring Saddam Hussein accountable for 5000+ deaths? This is such a grotesque argument that I would think you are being sarcastic if I didn’t know you were such a Blair fan.

  44. Kismet Hardy — on 13th October, 2011 at 12:50 pm  

    Shamit,

    Wars happen because people like you believe war is for the greater good. A simpleton I may be, and certainly an idealist, which I’m sure makes you feel smug in the knowledge that this defines you as a realist.

    Well, here’s the reality of things: neither you nor I can change the world.

    But, and do get yourself a sick bucket while I hoist my hippy flag, we can change the world around us. And this means I can project my passion for peace and harmony to those around me, while I daresay those around you regard you as an intolerant, quarrelsome old toad…

    There’s always a better option than to fight to the death.

  45. damon — on 13th October, 2011 at 2:41 pm  

    Many of their parents and grandparents originated from many of the same village and tribal areas that provided the bulk of frontline troops.

    There’s nothing wrong with people learning some history, and the information is there for anyone who wants to look at it. That’s what should be highlighted to those ignorant people who try to cause aggravation between communities.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TU1dQK-j-4

    But still, their stupid objection (so they say) is more against this kind of thing.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2tnfAFYQS0

    And that’s not the best environment for any dialogue to take place either.

  46. Shamit — on 13th October, 2011 at 4:07 pm  

    More lectures but no alternatives – what should be the immediate strategy if we pull out from afghanistan or stop pursuing terrorists with drones?

    Can we have some answers aside – no more 9-9-9 responses. The world is a complex place deserving a bit more well thought out responses.

    Kismet – I actullay like you and I do not think you are an old toad.

    But just wanted to point out that major changes have always been brought about by few dedicated individuals – not claiming that I have the ability to be in their class – but I do think it is responsible to use your intellect and at least try to understand the world.

    The “threat” has to be big for Obama to be more hawkish than Bush and also do not forget Pakistan is a nuclear state which has little or no control over its armed forces and terrorist networks. Now you do the scenario planning. Well that is if you can look beyond the ideological purdah.

    ********************

    Ravi NaiK –

    Welcome back as usual nothing new from you either – or didn’t moveon.org send out a new memo to update your thinking.

    dude did you miss the libyan intervention -

    War is not desired by anyone – and we did not seek neither did we provoke this continued challenge to the very way our society is structured and we live.

    And we have a responsibility to protect where we can the human rights of innocent civilians against brutal dictatorships. Yes we cannot do everything but that does not mean we do not do anything.

    But as always you remain clueless and given your chain of thought by some blog or group. And obviously no bloody answer – pathetic.

    *****************************

    Would love to have some answers please? Can we get on with it or are you going to continue to get dodgy slippery ineffective evasive tactics

    ******

  47. Optimist — on 13th October, 2011 at 5:48 pm  

    Shamit @32 -

    Many of those questions that you suggest were coverd as shown below, and the majority were still against.

    Do you only agree with the surveys that provide the results that you favour ? Just asking …

    “October 2011 United Kingdom: The majority 57% of Britons want all of their soldiers in Afghanistan brought home immediately. The majority 71% of Britons think the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, an increase of 11% from June, and the majority 60% said the war was not worth the deaths of British soldiers – The head of the British military, General Sir David Richards, stated that the United Kingdom was in Afghanistan for its “own rather selfish national security”.

    The majority 62% of Britons disagree that having British military forces in Afghanistan makes Britain a safer place – in fact, the majority 58% of Britons say their country’s military intervention in Afghanistan actually increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack at home. The ITV News poll was conducted by ComRes.[16]

  48. Shamit — on 13th October, 2011 at 6:54 pm  

    Optimist -

    While polls are important for elections – governing by polls is not usually a good idea for various reasons. Even then polling can be disingenuous – but here are some reasons why polls should not be trusted.

    Top of my list is that the electorate or the sample simply do not have the same information as those who are elected to make policy decisions.

    So, the level of threat posing this country or the US is simply a guessing game.

    Second, “the majority 58% of Britons say their country’s military intervention in Afghanistan actually increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack at home.” – this is bollocks on various grounds.

    First because again people do not have the adequate information and are in no position to calculate the opportunity cost of the invasion.

    Second, it is even more scary that any country should change its strategic foreign or defence policy based on threats of violence by a minority of a minority.

    Third, if foreign policy failures or successes encourage/discourage one to blow up their fellow citizens than the thrust of the above piece is even more important. Because if shows that the idea of Britain being a “community” of communities instead of a cohesive whole has failed.

    ******************

    Now I have answered all the questions that have been posed and reacted with reason as much as I can but instead of any responses to my key question “what is the solution on tackling terrorism and letting south asia go to hell if we pull out now – how do you do it.

    COme on folks – no drones: no boots: on the gound no covert killing squads and now tell me how do you tackle the threat? Or is everyone simply going to be nice to each other…

    SO any ideas or am I going to get some more evasive questions….

    I guess the solutions are not written by any of the self loathing lot who claim to have popular support but then surprisingly the electorate goes the other way:

    example Lib Dem Vote in 2010 general election and AV referendum
    *************************

    God this is sad.

  49. Ravi Naik — on 13th October, 2011 at 8:27 pm  

    War is not desired by anyone – and we did not seek neither did we provoke this continued challenge to the very way our society is structured and we live. And we have a responsibility to protect where we can the human rights of innocent civilians against brutal dictatorships. Yes we cannot do everything but that does not mean we do not do anything.

    I am not against the war or torture in the fight against terrorism because all you need is love and all that – it is because it does not work, it creates a false sense of security while making things much worse and quite frankly, only a moron would defend the Iraq war after so much damage it has made. To say we need to do war to protect human beings after 100 thousand civilians have died is just pathetic.

    I have no problems with gathering intelligence, and I have no problems with terrorists like Osama Bin Laden being killed as a result of such operations. I do have a problem with bombs being thrown at people, with families being destroyed and children being burned.

    But then again I am not a warmonger.

  50. Don — on 13th October, 2011 at 10:51 pm  

    Shamit,

    I agree that the population at large does not have access to the information available to policy makers, but I see that as part of the problem. Very specific intelligence operations aside, a democracy should have access to the information which drives large policy decisions. Otherwise democracy becomes just a snow job.
    And when the population at large is deliberately misled about the information it becomes a stone cold betrayal of democracy. And, yes, I’m looking at Tony.

    When we invaded Afghanistan I was cautiously supportive. I was cautious partly because history has taught us some pretty clear lessons and one of them is ‘Do not invade Afghanistan. This never ends well.’ But I was supportive because there was a clear threat, a hideous regime, widespread international support and a massive amount of resources which could be deployed to rebuild the country, develop the infra-structure, provide full employment and perhaps create an example of what international cooperation can do to rebuild a shattered state.

    Looking back, that was only moderately stupid. Ten years ago I knew less about how the world wags than I do now. I was still an adult, I should have known better, but it seemed plausible at the time.

    Then came Iraq and ‘Operation Taking the Piss.’ As far as the Bush administration was concerned it was clear that nation building was for pussies. They were there to kick ass.

    Should we just pull out of Afghanistan? No. Not because we are making ourselves more secure by being there (we aren’t, in my opinion) but because we have encouraged those Afghan people who aspire to something like freedom, education, a different possibility, to make themselves known after decades of hiding. And then we are going to hang them out to dry. We will negotiate some sort of withdrawal and leave the teachers and the women’s rights activists and the artists and the fledging democrats twisting in the wind.

    And meanwhile we’ll send drones. Truth is, Shamit, if anyone dropped a drone and killed my family I would be an implacable enemy and would decline to consider the strategic exigencies that justified it. I’d take a gun from anyone who offered one and I’d go looking for drone pilots. I wouldn’t need an ideology or a religion for that.

    I’m not offering answers about how we protect ourselves against terrorists because I don’t see it as a problem. Or at least one that can be solved. The genie was out of the bottle at the opening of the last century. With mass produced high explosives terrorism is possible and that is a policing issue. Today the field is dominated by Islamists and we need to deal with that. Not so long ago it was Irish republicans, the rest of Europe was rife with various terrorist outrages. They are not an existentialist threat, they don’t touch on how we live our lives. Yes, people die in terrorist atrocities, but you won’t stop that by devastating other countries.

    Terrorism is something we can live with. Because we have to.

    Damn, bed time.

  51. douglas clark — on 13th October, 2011 at 11:41 pm  

    Don,

    Very specific intelligence operations aside, a democracy should have access to the information which drives large policy decisions. Otherwise democracy becomes just a snow job.

    I think that is entirely true.

    I don’t know about you but my piste is overflowing :-)

  52. Shamit — on 14th October, 2011 at 8:45 am  

    Excellent points Don – there is much I agree with.

    I would respond to you in detail later but today and I would also deal with the village idiot who has wrote words like war and torture and contradicting himself.

    But Don your thoughts are much appreciated. – Thank you.

  53. fugstar — on 14th October, 2011 at 4:01 pm  

    british imperialism cause a large part of the starvation of countless engalis in the 1943 Famine of Bengal.

    Madhusrii Mukherji points this out in well furnished detail that even Max Hastings reviewed as uncomfortable, but true.

    So screw this valourisation of imperial service junk.

    A big UP YOURS to exclusive World War 2 reward rights for being here.

    and a big high five to retrofitting britain’s self image regarding its role in world war 2, its contributions on the coloured and the so-called blitz spirit delusion.

    Once our publics get their heads around these beasts, they will be ready for the present and the future.

    there is little difference between the germans in their nazi period and the british in the same period, they just applied colonial methods to white people. rascist eugenic ideas prevailed and the most cruel decision making took place. Subas Chandra Bose was justified.

    Playing up brown services to empire really doesnt rest well on my skull. I dislike this entire line of acceptance seeking.

    We shared an experience of World War 2 all right, britain scorched the earth, burnt boats, grain, and denied us shipping food.

    not even the germans refused humanitarian shipments of aid to the greeks. but that what britain did, Bose has rice ready for delivery.

    Meanwhile Britain was buying up rice for its army, inflating the price and stockpiling for demobilisation.

    Very shared experience.

    Reparations and Restitution is the dignified position for the brown man.

  54. Boyo — on 14th October, 2011 at 5:17 pm  

    @ 53, strictly speaking… half right. Which is why i thought it was important to emphasise the historical process as opposed to the rights and wrongs. If you wanna speak imperialism Fugstar, I’m sure the Dalits and “tribal peoples” have a story to tell too.

  55. damon — on 14th October, 2011 at 5:20 pm  

    I agree with Fugstar’s general point. Fair play to the bravery of people involved in conflict and fighting fascism, but colonial troops were just that. Pawns used by all sides in these wider world wars.
    The Italians used colonial troops in North Africa. The USSR conscripted millions of men who must have known little about the causes they were fighting for, and the Nazis recruited locally from the people they had conquered in different places.

    Also, according to that documentary I linked to above, Churchill (early in the war anyway) distrusted the loyalty of Indian soldiers and opposed a large Indian Army. 28 VCs were won by the Indian Army in WW2, but if you go down that road with people in Britain today, they can also come back and show how much equivocation there was, then and now, as to which side was the right side for Indain nationalists to be on during the war. According to that documentary, the three INA leaders who were going to be tried for treason, were seen as national heroes in India.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_VjnK–TGU

    Its a fair enough subject for discussion, I just wouldn’t use that argument myself.

  56. Campbell H — on 14th October, 2011 at 7:46 pm  

    “Should Britain agree to a Sharia state” – yes! Surrrender, immediately, or else the omnipotent Muslim five percent, jihadi fanatics one and all, will slaughter you all in a crazed Holy War with their incredible high tech weapons of mass destruction and onion bhajis.

    Nice article by the way. Unfortunately some of the comments have been, well, informative, but perhaps not in the manner the writers actually had in mind.

  57. jamal — on 15th October, 2011 at 9:43 pm  

    shamit @46

    Never read such complete rubbish since the fictitious WMD reports on the threat from iraqi weapons

    kind of scare tactics we see aimed at the dimmest of Sun newspaper reader’s , america is also a nuclear state and has used them twice no one else has, lets scare everyone that pakistan, iran and all the bogeymen we don’t like are going to kill us, pathetic indeed!

  58. Optimist — on 17th October, 2011 at 4:38 pm  

    fugstar @53 –

    Agreed with most of your points and it could be said that while Hitler killed 6 million Jews, Churchill killed 5 million Indians. That’s the number who died during British imperialists created famine in Bengal which is well depicted by Satyajit Ray, one of the greatest movie makers (deceased ), in the movie, ‘Distant Thunder’.

    http://open.salon.com/blog/smithbarney/2009/02/19/favorite_movie_satyajit_rays_distant_thunder

    I know there was a lot of support for Subas Chandra Bose and the INA and that’s why General Mohan Singh and his comrades were let off lightly by the British. However, I still believe, as I said above @21, that if the Axis powers had won then India would have been even worse off.

    But one point is often overlooked. At the risk of boring the reader with anecdotes about my father ( @ 11 above ) who also fought in Kashmir against the newly created Pakistani army; he used to say that fighting against the Pakistani soldiers, who only months earlier were part of the Indian army, really broke his heart. He said that there was open talk in the army at the time that the army should have acted earlier and stopped the politicians from dividing the country. The army should have supported the Navy mutiny in 1946, kicked out the British and kept the country united.

    Even the writer of the article in the foillowing link says, “The most significant factor of this mutiny, with hind-sight, came to be that Hindus and Muslims united to resist the British, even at a time that saw the peak of the movement for Pakistan.”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Indian_Navy_Mutiny

    However, I dislike military dictatorships and they have been disastrous for Pakistan. But given the carnage of the partition that was to follow and all the problems ever since, may be an interim military dictatorship may not have been a bad idea.

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