The “Ground Zero Mosque”: Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 2


by Jai
21st August, 2010 at 7:00 pm    

(This article is an immediate continuation of Part 1. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below).

Indian history and “the Sikh 9/11”

Firstly, during India’s “Great Mughal” era, the 6th Sikh Guru actually had a mosque built for the ordinary Muslims who had settled in the town he had founded in Punjab – despite the fact that his own father had been severely tortured over a period of several days upon the orders of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and ultimately died of his horrific injuries. In fact, that same mosque was very recently jointly renovated by Sikh and Muslim volunteers in India as part of a major restoration project. There are even mosques in Amritsar itself, the “holy city” of the Sikhs. It’s certainly a far cry from Newt Gingrich’s “no mosques until there are churches in Saudi Arabia” rhetoric, given that he’s effectively recommending that the United States should duplicate fundamentalist Wahhabi Saudi Arabian attitudes towards places of worship; furthermore, the notion of holding your own country’s citizens hostage to – and penalising them for – the actions of a foreign government because they happen to be affiliated with superficially the same religion (despite being from very different “denominations”) isn’t just irrational and barbaric, it’s also morally bankrupt.

The second example is more directly related to 9/11. By the mid-18th century, Mughal power was in the process of steadily diminishing, to the extent that large swathes of northwestern India had effectively fallen under the control of Ahmad Shah Durrani, the ruler of Afghanistan. Durrani had already attacked multiple major cities in northern India, and on 5th February 1762 he targetted the Sikhs who were attempting to retreat to the refuge of the desert. The slow-moving caravan of Sikhs consisted of 50,000 people, mostly non-combatants. The outnumbered Sikh soldiers surrounding them did their best to protect them from the onslaught; however, eventually the Afghans repeatedly broke through the cordon, and spent the day killing as many Sikhs as they could – men, women, children and the elderly.

At the time, the total Sikh population was much smaller than it is now; fewer than 100,000 people. The massacre described above is actually called the “Wadda Ghalughara“ by Sikhs, meaning the “Great Holocaust”, because the Afghans murdered 25-30,000 people — which means that, on a single day, up to nearly 1/3 of the entire Sikh population was wiped out, involving ten times the number of deaths as 9/11. And the atrocities didn’t stop there; after returning to the Punjabi capital of Lahore with 50 cartloads of Sikh heads and hundreds of Sikhs in chains, Durrani went to Amritsar. Using gunpowder explosives, Durrani’s soldiers blew up Sikhism’s most sacred shrine, which would later be known as the Golden Temple; furthermore, they also deliberately defiled the complex’s characteristic water pool by filling it with the carcasses of slaughtered animals.

Nevertheless, the Sikhs of that era didn’t use any of this as a justification to demonise or persecute Muslims who had absolutely nothing to do with any of these events, especially Muslims who were associated with Sufism. Not even when the Sikhs had sufficiently recovered for them to eventually end up ruling a very large area of northwestern India along with parts of Afghanistan itself under the Sikh Maharajah Ranjit Singh, by which time the religious complex in Amritsar had also been rebuilt. The practice of non-discriminatory, pluralistic ideals in the region was continued; Muslims were employed by Sikhs at the highest levels of both the military and the government, and they even fought alongside the Sikhs during the two extremely bloody Anglo-Sikh wars of aggression by Britain’s East India Company in the mid-19th century.

“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”

It is clear that some people, both here in Britain and in the United States, are either unable or unwilling to similarly take the moral high ground, not to mention making the effort to actually educate themselves about the scale of diversity within Islam and amongst Muslims themselves. As discussed in Part 1 of this article, it’s the equivalent of insisting that all Christians everywhere are exactly the same, to be indiscriminately subjected to the same notions of collective guilt and collective responsibility, and typified by (for example) the KKK or the kind of American Christians who are currently trying to organise a “Quran-burning day” on the anniversary of 9/11 this year…..Basically, the kind of views about Christians promoted by Al-Muhajiroun and indeed Al-Qaeda itself.

One should never pander to the most bigoted and ignorant elements of any religious group (whether Christians, Muslims, or anyone else), not only because it frequently involves catering to the lowest common denominator but also because you risk becoming the mirror image of the very people you claim to be opposed to. It’s also a stark contrast to the idealism and wisdom of the historical Americans responsible for the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Gettysburg Address, all of which I personally regard as amongst the greatest moral & intellectual accomplishments of mankind.

Whilst some people’s knee-jerk hostile reaction to the notion of anything connected with Muslims being located in the vicinity of Ground Zero is understandable, it is certainly not justifiable. Otherwise it raises the question of where that line of thinking should stop: No mosques in New York at all or even anywhere else in the United States, because their presence “pains people” and reminds them of 9/11 ? How about the presence of Muslims themselves in New York or the US as a whole ? How about anyone who is deemed to “look Muslim”, or any non-Christian places of worship which allegedly remind the offended party of mosques ? To quote another great man, namely the Dalai Lama, “Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”

The dangers of playing into Al-Qaeda’s hands

Regarding the claims that Cordoba House would be a painful reminder of an atrocity conducted “in the name of Islam”, there’s another way to look at this: Taking that stance would hand another propaganda victory to Al-Qaeda and similar Islamists who are making unilateral claims to represent Islam and speak for “all Muslims”. They also want ordinary Muslims to feel alienated from the rest of the population in countries where they are minorities, including American Muslims (who are actually amongst the most liberal, integrated and assimilated Muslims in the whole of the Western world). Rather than allowing Al-Qaeda to hijack Islam as a religion and the world’s entire Muslim population, a better way forward would be to support those Muslims who are actually forcefully opposed to them. The latter includes the Sufis involved in Cordoba House, because they are on “our” side and are hated by Al-Qaeda as much as the numerous other groups they are targetting.

The key point is to differentiate between moderate Muslims and the fanatical, militant Islamist variety. The former do not necessarily have anything whatsoever to do with the latter, and there are numerous modern-day & historical examples of them actively opposing the latter (eg. here, here, here, here and here) or being persecuted by them (or both). The type of behaviour being exhibited by some of America’s “conservative Right” and their supporters both in the US and overseas also plays right into Al-Qaeda’s hands, because they want their fanatical, psychopathic version of Islam to be regarded as the default, “true” version of the religion by the rest of the world. Furthermore, bigotry towards Sufi Muslims (who are actually viscerally hated by Islamist extremists) also inadvertently risks confirming Al-Qaeda’s propaganda-driven exaggerated claims about Muslims en masse being a persecuted group worldwide.

The people who stubbornly refuse to differentiate between ordinary Muslims (particularly Sufis) and genuine Islamist extremists are effectively doing Al-Qaeda’s dirty work for them.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Civil liberties,History,Muslim,Sikh,United States






55 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. sunny hundal

    Blog post:: The "Ground Zero Mosque": Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 2 http://bit.ly/da3wRz


  2. Kate B

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: The "Ground Zero Mosque": Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 2 http://bit.ly/da3wRz


  3. jan

    RT @hangbitch: RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: The "Ground Zero Mosque": Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 2 http://bit.ly/da3wRz


  4. DocRichard

    Sikh Guru had mosque built for ordinary Muslims – although his father had been tortured by Mughal emperor http://bit.ly/aoD5ts #groundzero


  5. H K SINGH

    Sikh Guru
    had mosque built for
    ordinary Muslims –
    although his father had
    been tortured by
    Mughal emperor http://bit.ly/aoD5ts




  1. Cronous — on 21st August, 2010 at 8:03 pm  

    The whole article is really off the mark. There are numerous references to supposed Sikh benevolence to Muslims (I am guessing that not wanting a mosque at/near ground zero is somehow equally as abhorrent as going around slaughtering people). The problem is that this assumes that people back then saw the aggressors from a religious dimension as opposed to an ethnic one. Recall that Mughals fought other Muslims just as much as non-Muslims and Durrani targeted the Mughal Empire at large, not only Sikhs specifically.

    “It is clear that some people, both here in Britain and in the United States, are either unable or unwilling to similarly take the moral high ground”

    People in the UK and US have been taking the moral high ground when it comes to migrants for decades. Both societies commitment to try to gives rights to minority faiths/ethnic groups is unmatched in virtually all other societies. What is there reward for such benevolence toward Muslims? Religious extremism, ethnocentrism, insularity, and a crass unwillingness to assimilate. Sorry but I think the people are tired of being understanding to communities that are blindingly intolerant themselves.

    “It’s also a stark contrast to the idealism and wisdom of the historical Americans responsible for the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Gettysburg Address, all of which I personally regard as amongst the greatest moral & intellectual accomplishments of mankind.”

    If you read many opinions of the authors of these documents (e.g. the Federalist papers) you would note that they also wanted that idealism tempered by reality. The framers certainly did not want their idealism to be used by the vanguard of retrograde and insular religious group.

  2. Paul — on 21st August, 2010 at 9:58 pm  

    This post, like the previous one, is intelligent and right on the mark. It’s always nice to be reminded that some people are actually thinking about this question. It’s too bad President Obama couldn’t stand up and say something like this, instead of dodging around the question. Thank you for the insights.

  3. me — on 21st August, 2010 at 10:36 pm  

    Cronous
    “People in the UK and US have been taking the moral high ground when it comes to migrants for decades. Both societies commitment to try to gives rights to minority faiths/ethnic groups is unmatched in virtually all other societies. What is there reward for such benevolence toward Muslims? Religious extremism, ethnocentrism, insularity, and a crass unwillingness to assimilate. Sorry but I think the people are tired of being understanding to communities that are blindingly intolerant themselves.”

    Muslims are in the UK and Europe precisely because European countries invaded Muslim countries. They made no attempt to assimiliate or understand local culture and indeed attempted to forced theirs on the pupulation. In the American context your comments about ” Religious extremism, ethnocentrism, insularity, and a crass unwillingness to assimilate” are comical. When did European immigrants to America ever do that with Native American culture?

  4. joe90 — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:00 am  

    post#1 coronus

    “People in the UK and US have been taking the moral high ground when it comes to migrants for decades. Both societies commitment to try to gives rights to minority faiths/ethnic groups is unmatched in virtually all other societies.”

    Actually your comments are way off the mark the athletic center building, which the right wing idiots are using as a political football “cordoba house” is named after the city of cordoba in moorish spain, what kind of society was it? a place where people of all religions flourished where tolerated and it became one of the most enlightened and advanced cities in the world.

  5. Cronous — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:01 am  

    @me

    “Muslims are in the UK and Europe precisely because European countries invaded Muslim countries.”

    Huh? There was no large scale permanent migration to Europe during colonialism, this only occurred during post-colonial times for economic reasons. What is even more funny is that these very same countries were invaded by Muslims in the first place and Muslims forced their culture and religion upon the natives.

    “They made no attempt to assimiliate or understand local culture and indeed attempted to forced theirs on the pupulation.”

    And guess what they are not there anymore. I guess it’s a fair deal, if you don’t assimilate you leave. Hopefully history repeats.

    “In the American context your comments about ” Religious extremism, ethnocentrism, insularity, and a crass unwillingness to assimilate” are comical.”

    Wrong. While this situation is less dire over here, much of the ethnocentrism, insularity, and extremism still exists among American Muslims.

  6. me — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:14 am  

    cronous

    “And guess what they are not there anymore. I guess it’s a fair deal, if you don’t assimilate you leave. Hopefully history repeats.”

    So which Muslim communties , particularly amongst the younger generation, dont for example speak the main language of the country? Why Im I writing this to you in English rather than Urdu/Punjabi etc?

    “Wrong. While this situation is less dire over here, much of the ethnocentrism, insularity, and extremism still exists among American Muslims.”

    Well done for completely misunderstanding the point about the irony of Americans telling newcomers to assimiliate/integrate.

  7. Cronous — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:19 am  

    @joe90

    “Actually your comments are way off the mark the athletic center building, which the right wing idiots are using as a political football “cordoba house” is named after the city of cordoba in moorish spain, what kind of society was it? a place where people of all religions flourished where tolerated and it became one of the most enlightened and advanced cities in the world.”

    A pretty laughable argument. Religious tolerance in Moorish Spain simply meant that Non-Muslims were allowed to have a different faith than Islam. However, Non-Muslims still had to pay the Jizya tax and enjoyed significantly fewer rights than Muslims. Yup they must be enlightened.

    P.S. It is a mosque not an athletic center. Many Churches house gyms, pools, and other community facilities along with a space to worship. That does not make them any less of a Church.

  8. me — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:23 am  

    Cronous
    “A pretty laughable argument. Religious tolerance in Moorish Spain simply meant that Non-Muslims were allowed to have a different faith than Islam. However, Non-Muslims still had to pay the Jizya tax and enjoyed significantly fewer rights than Muslims. Yup they must be enlightened.”

    True. Real religious tolerance in Spain came when the Muslims (and Jews) were expelled and we had the wonders of European Christian tolerance such as the Inquisition.

  9. Cronous — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:40 am  

    @me

    “So which Muslim communties , particularly amongst the younger generation, dont for example speak the main language of the country? Why Im I writing this to you in English rather than Urdu/Punjabi etc? “

    So the only standard for assimilation is now whether or not you speak the national language? Sorry but language is learned as a necessity to survive not a definitive statement that one has assimilated.

    “Well done for completely misunderstanding the point about the irony of Americans telling newcomers to assimiliate/integrate.”

    Probably because your statement at the very end is confusing at best. You state that it is comical in the context of American Muslims to assert religious extremism, insularity, etc.. Then you say when did European immigrants in America ever do that. Are you saying that European migrants to American were not insular or religiously extremist? (Personally don’t think European migrants were anymore religious or insular than anyone else in the world at that time).

  10. Cronous — on 22nd August, 2010 at 12:49 am  

    @me

    “True. Real religious tolerance in Spain came when the Muslims (and Jews) were expelled and we had the wonders of European Christian tolerance such as the Inquisition. “

    Yawn. I never have argued that the breadth of Christian history only included paragons of interfaith tolerance, so your statement is meaningless. I was only responding to joe90’s single example of Muslim tolerance to be false. Besides my point concerns immigration today not the issues that plagued 13th century Europe.

  11. Barbarossa — on 22nd August, 2010 at 3:55 am  

    How many Sikhs and Hindus lived in territory that became Pakistan in 1947 and how many now? These communities have been destroyed. I admire the Jai’s and the Gurus’ sentiment but looking at India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh their policies and approaches to muslims and islam have been a failure. We should follow the Spanish example…abandon islam or face expulsion. islam and freedom don’t mix.

  12. Ben — on 22nd August, 2010 at 5:59 am  

    “…“Actually your comments are way off the mark the athletic center building, which the right wing idiots are using as a political football “cordoba house” is named after the city of cordoba in moorish spain, what kind of society was it? a place where people of all religions flourished where tolerated and it became one of the most enlightened and advanced cities in the world.”…”

    In 1011, there was a massacre of Jews in Cordoba: which was followed by slaughters of Jews in other parts of Al Andalus, notably in Granada in 1066. The famous Jewish scholar, Maimonides originally lived in Cordoba in the early 12th century, until the Almohades dynasty took the city, and threatened to kill any Jews who did not leave or convert to Islam.

    Cordoba is an inappropriate symbol for inter-religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

  13. Jai — on 22nd August, 2010 at 9:52 am  

    Paul,

    This post, like the previous one, is intelligent and right on the mark. It’s always nice to be reminded that some people are actually thinking about this question. It’s too bad President Obama couldn’t stand up and say something like this, instead of dodging around the question. Thank you for the insights.

    Thank you, I really appreciate it. People need to read Part 1 and Part 2 in conjunction in order to fully understand the premise of the article, but I think I’ve managed to cover most of the necessary areas.

    Another fact which people need to bear in mind is that during the past decade, by far the largest number of victims of Islamist terrorism have been other Muslims. For example, Islamist militants have killed more than 10,000 ordinary Muslims in Pakistan since 2006 alone.

  14. Jai — on 22nd August, 2010 at 9:53 am  

    I’m going to leave Cronous’s comments up as his behaviour perfectly proves my point, but I will not allow anyone to exploit this thread as a platform for exactly the kind of anti-Muslim bigotry & propaganda which my article condemns. Especially if it involves the usual far-Right tactic of distortion, obfuscation, and initially pretending to superficially respond to a particular point but then going into irrelevant bigotted tangents.

    Any further comments by Cronous (or anyone else along similar lines) will therefore be deleted on sight. To those of you who replied to his remarks: I appreciate your efforts, but it’s a waste of time arguing with people who are only interested in self-servingly whipping up hatred.

  15. Jai — on 22nd August, 2010 at 9:54 am  

    As for the historical events which Cronous attempted to hijack, it’s worth remembering the following: Although the reasons for the conflicts mentioned were indeed often complex, Durrani also deliberately targetted Hindu holy cities such as Mathura, and his religious basis for destroying the main Sikh shrine in Amritsar and desecrating the water pool surrounding the central building is self-evident.

    Regarding the Mughals, Jahangir (in an uncharacteristic fit of ultraorthodox religious “piety”) did originally have a religious reason for his hostility towards the Sikh Guru Arjan Dev, as recorded in the emperor’s own memoirs, although he eventually found a political excuse to execute the Guru (those events are discussed in extensive detail via the URL in the first paragraph of the article above).

    Jahangir’s grandson, Emperor Aurangzeb, also had explicitly religious motivations for his decades-long persecution of Sikhs and Hindus, along with Muslims he regarded as “heretics” (which included his older brother, the crown prince Dara Shukoh, who was affiliated with the liberal Qadiri Sufi order and whom Aurangzeb eventually murdered in order to seize the throne), as can be read in the following article about Aurangzeb’s conflicts with the Sikhs in particular: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/6688

    However, generally such attitudes tended to be relatively uncommon as far the Mughal dynasty as a whole was concerned. There was obviously a minority of exceptions, but from the time of emperor Akbar the Great onwards, most of the Mughal emperors (and their immediate families) were affiliated with the most liberal interpretations of Sufism, and broadly continued the pluralistic, tolerant, and inclusive policies which Akbar had established.

  16. Jai — on 22nd August, 2010 at 10:19 am  

    How many Sikhs and Hindus lived in territory that became Pakistan in 1947 and how many now? These communities have been destroyed. I admire the Jai’s and the Gurus’ sentiment but looking at India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh their policies and approaches to muslims and islam have been a failure.

    On the contrary, Muslims in Punjab in particular were successfully living amicably alongside Sikhs and Hindus by the time of the reign of the Sikh Maharajah Ranjit Singh, and were fully integrated members of the civilian population, the military and the government (in fact, the region has a very long tradition of influential Sufis actively promoting religious pluralism & tolerance and opposing Islamist extremism); subsequent problems in that region were a direct consequence of British authorities deliberately implementing “divide and rule” policies for a century after the wars of aggression by the East India Company in the mid-19th century and the subsequent annexation of the territories formerly under Sikh rule.

    There is actually a mountain of fully-authenticated historical records from British imperial administrative sources confirming this, especially the nature of the “divide and rule” policies involved, and this has similarly been confirmed and exhaustively discussed by leading modern-day British historians as diverse as Niall Ferguson and William Dalrymple.

  17. Dalbir — on 22nd August, 2010 at 5:31 pm  

    Will certain people ever realise that their ancestors invading the lands of the darker hued was NOT the best thing that ever happened to the invaded?

    Seriously, the way some people go on is like such things were doing us wogs a great favour. Hang on…where have I come across that before?

    Oh yes – Iraq and Afghanistan…..those sparkling examples of successful western ‘intervention’.

  18. Cronous — on 22nd August, 2010 at 6:33 pm  

    [Deleted by Jai. See #14.]

  19. June — on 22nd August, 2010 at 7:14 pm  

    Muslims are in the UK and Europe precisely because European countries invaded Muslim countries.

    So there are nearly a million Morroccans in The Netherlands because Holland invaded and occupied Morrocco?

    I don’t recall Sweden invading and occupying The Mid-East, so why does the country have so many immigrants from the Mid-East?

    And since the Ottomans have invaded and occupy traditional Greek lands, do you then expect a flood of Greeks to move to Anatolia?

    Muslims are flooding into Europe because their home countries are abject failures that haven’t the economic dynamism that could provide some job opportunities. These countries are also running out of food and fresh water because of gross mismanagement and ocrruption, and so it becomes important that this overflow, this human surplus, be sent to live in the (always) more advanced Kuffur countries in order to relieve the strain.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/40435/the-politics-of-relief-aliens-in-their-own-land/

    To read the bleats of Muslims and Pakistanis on this thread about Western dsicrimination is an obscene joke.

  20. Laban — on 22nd August, 2010 at 8:27 pm  

    I thought Cronous was polite and quite interesting, as was Jai’s (initial) stuff. It’s great to learn about the subcontinent’s history from more than one source.

    Then Jai, faced with a politely argued critique, spits the dummy about ‘bigotry’ and ‘propaganda’. One man’s history is another man’s propaganda, Jai – witness the differing versions of Near Eastern history, bitterly argued between Jew and Arab, Turk and Armenian, over the last century – never mind the controversies over British history.

    Those in charge of the English history curriculum today (slavery, Mary Seacole, Sacco and Vanzetti, lynch mobs, the Shoah) consider the old, optimistic Whig histories to be propaganda, just as I consider the modern curriculum to be propaganda. But propaganda can still contain truths – that’s often how it becomes effective. But historians can still argue it out.

    Jai, many Brits are pretty poor on the history of the subcontinent. I know I am. Enlighten us – but allow free debate and argument – that’s how truth is derived – or the nearest approximation which is probably the best we can hope for.

    Re Sikh and Muslim, the Sikhs weren’t always so forgiving of past Muslim atrocity and oppression. British administrator and soldier James Abbott (of Abbottabad) in Hazara, 1846, quoted in Charles Allen’s ‘Soldier Sahibs’ :

    Abbott, who admired the Sikhs, made the point in his journals that the Sikhs had imposed these bans as retaliation for atrocities perpetrated by the (Muslim) Afghans.

    “(Muslim persecution of the Guru’s people) had converted his harmless followers into a nation of warriors filled with hatred of their oppressors … Any Moosulman praying in public was liable to be slain on the spot by any armed Sikh.. the calls to worship and attendance at the masjid were alike forbidden, while the slaying of a cow or bullock was punishable by death…

    This I mention not as adjudicating against the Sikhs, who were only retaliating the persecution they had received from Muhammedans, but as explaining the impossibility of speedily establishing confidence between the two Races”

  21. James — on 22nd August, 2010 at 9:56 pm  

    In fairness, the US government has been building ‘ground zeros’ near Iraqi mosques since March 2003.

  22. Dalbir — on 23rd August, 2010 at 9:55 am  

    Laban

    Abbott as remembered by Sikhs:

    A minor disaffection in August 1848 in a Sikh brigade stationed at Hazara, so excited Abbott that, without any authority, he took upon himself to suppress what he described as “the national rising of the Sikhs.” He incited the Hazara chiefs and the armed Muslim peasantry to destroy the Sikh brigade. He then raised Muslim levies and marched on Hazara to expel Chatar Singh, the governor. Abbott’s mercenary force surrounded the town. Commodore Canora, the Armenian artillery commander of the fortress, whom Abbott had won over, refused to move his batteries at Chatar Singh’s orders. At the orders of the Sikh governor, Canora was overpowered and killed. Abbott now demanded retribution, but Sir Frederick Currie, the Resident at Lahore, did not approve of the assumption of civil and military authority by his subordinate. Abbott, however, ignored the protestations from the Lahore residency and set up a jihad, crusade, against the Sikhs. His acts provoked the Hazara revolt which culminated in the second Anglo-Sikh war.

    From http://www.sikhcybermuseum.org.uk/People/Abbot.htm

    I don’t think we can take much of what was said by people like Abbott at face value myself. Like many ambitious westerners, even today, he had no problems with getting into bed with jihadis when it suited his agenda.

  23. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 10:48 am  

    I don’t think we can take much of what was said by people like Abbott at face value myself.

    Agreed. Considering that Muslims were not only the majority population in the territories under Sikh rule by that time, but were significantly represented in both the government and the military (including fighting alongside the Sikhs against the EIC during the Anglo-Sikh wars), it would be worthwhile taking Abbott’s claims about “bans” with a significant pinch of salt. Especially where Punjabi Muslims were concerned.

    The 19th century as a whole included widespread efforts on the part of the colonial authorities to falsify information in order to justify their own actions in India, as has been heavily documented by modern-day historians such as William Dalrymple in particular. Niall Ferguson has also written scathingly about the corrupting influence of colonialism on the perpetrators, especially when it came to the impact on their attitudes towards Indians.

  24. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 11:15 am  

    Dalbir,

    I’ve been meaning to recommend a history book to you, assuming that you haven’t read it already: “In the Master’s Presence: The Sikhs of Hazoor Sahib”:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Masters-Presence-Sikhs-Hazoor-Sahib/dp/0956016804

    It’s very well-written, exhaustively researched, and incredibly informative. It includes a considerable amount of detail about the British Raj as well as the Mughal period, obviously focusing on Sikh experiences in both cases (it goes without saying that the mid/late-18th century Misl period and Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s subsequent rule during the first half of the 19th century are also heavily covered).

    It also turns out that James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the central figure in “White Mughals” by William Dalrymple, played a pivotal role in facilitating positive relations between the Deccan’s Sikhs and the royal state of Hyderabad, which I’d previously been unaware of. Kirkpatrick really was a hero, although ultimately a tragic one.

  25. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 11:17 am  

    To read the bleats of Muslims and Pakistanis on this thread about Western dsicrimination is an obscene joke.

    Only one Muslim of Pakistani origin has commented on this thread. Neither myself nor Dalbir are from Muslim or Pakistani backgrounds.

  26. Dalbir — on 23rd August, 2010 at 11:39 am  

    I’ve got that book Jai,

    It was wonderfully written and put together in general. Really eye opening. Not that I entirely agree with Niddar’s take on Sikhism but hats off for the work nonetheless. I’m waiting for volume 2.

    The story of how Hazoori Sikhs held their own is as inspiring as it is generally unknown amongst Panjab rooted Sikhs. There is just so much for us diasporans to learn from that experience.

    I didn’t really pick up on Kirkpatrick myself. What was fascinating was claims the Maharajah Ranjit Singh was feeling around, to see if he could form some coalition to remove Brits from India.

    Looking at the actions of Brits with the benefit of hindsight (that Abbott fellow is a perfect example), he wasn’t wrong in doing so.

  27. Jai (Update) — on 23rd August, 2010 at 1:13 pm  

    UPDATE: The first paragraph of Part 1 of the article now also includes the following video clips:

    1. Fareed Zakaria on his GPS show on CNN, summarising Sufism, its connection to Imam Rauf & Park51/Cordoba House, and the reasons for Al-Qaeda’s hatred of Sufis.

    2. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC arguing against the escalating anti-Muslim bigotry, the manufactured controversy of the “Ground Zero Mosque”, and the implications for the United States if these attitudes are allowed to continue unchallenged.

  28. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 1:33 pm  

    Dalbir,

    re: #26

    I agree with your points. And if volume 2 is anywhere near as good as volume 1 then it’ll be absolutely superb.

    Kirkpatrick was actually mentioned a few times in the book (check the Index at the back of the book to find out where he’s discussed) and did indeed play a key role in assisting positive Sikh-Hyderabad relations. It was a pleasant surprise to find that out, as I was already familiar with him from “White Mughals”. Unfortunately he ultimately ended up being another casualty of the deteriorating British attitudes during the period and the associated imperial policies, all of which have been comprehensively detailed by Dalrymple.

  29. Punjabi — on 23rd August, 2010 at 1:45 pm  

    [Deleted by Jai]

  30. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 1:51 pm  

    “Punjabi”,

    Since you appear to be pasting your extracts from unreferenced online sources, please provide full URL links.

  31. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 2:08 pm  

    Actually, further to my comment #30, I’ll provide the answer myself.

    “Punjabi” was quoting directly from a rabidly anti-Indian website, the Pakistan-based Jammu & Kashmir National Students Federation; the organisation involved is also a militant socialist group. Furthermore, the extracts are also available in full on the Marxist.com website (one of the organisation’s supporters), as could be confirmed by Googling any of the paragraphs he’d copied & pasted verbatim. I think it’s safe to say that the historical accuracy of those assertions is therefore highly suspect, to say the least.

    I’m certainly not going to allow anyone to paste information from those kinds of dubious sources, and have therefore deleted “Punjabi’s” comment.

    Looks like some people are continuing to attempt their “divide and rule” propaganda techniques. Further comments on this thread by “Punjabi” (whom I’m willing to bet is not actually Punjabi at all) will be summarily deleted.

  32. punjabi — on 23rd August, 2010 at 3:04 pm  

    This guy “Jai” is a joke. He demands links for what I posted then when I provide them deletes them ! He isnt willing to hear anything that goes against his rose colored view of the evil tyrant Ranjit Singh and complains of others historical accuracy whilst using dubious Sikh hagiography!

  33. Dalbir — on 23rd August, 2010 at 4:01 pm  

    He isnt willing to hear anything that goes against his rose colored view of the evil tyrant Ranjit Singh

    As tyrants in that region go (and boy there have been a few that have passed through!), Maharajaha Ranjit Singh was an unbelievably enlightened soul.

    Hell, even till this very day some Muslims laud his achievements. Fact is, he put Panjab on the map in his lifetime, something all Panjabis regardless of religion could be proud of. The fact that Panjabis managed to piss all that away after his demise is another story, but we did have the devils themselves to contend with in the form of the EIC, who I now understand to be the very fathers of whiteism itself(or to put it in Panjabi – gorayism dey panchod baap salaay), thanks to Darymple.

    Incidentally, a book on the man by a Muslim fan.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emperor-Five-Rivers-Ranjit-Maharaja/dp/1848857543/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1282575113&sr=1-1

  34. earwicga — on 23rd August, 2010 at 4:41 pm  

    punjabi – you must have posted the links to another blog as there is nothing in ‘trash’ (where your comments should automatically go) or ‘spam’ from you backing up your previous comment.

  35. Cronous — on 23rd August, 2010 at 5:20 pm  

    [Deleted by Jai. See #14.]

  36. Cronous — on 23rd August, 2010 at 6:18 pm  

    [Deleted by Jai. See #14.]

  37. Jai — on 23rd August, 2010 at 6:30 pm  

    Earwicga, the link wasn’t originally in #29 but “Punjabi” edited the comment to include the link after I wrote #30.

    I subsequently explained in #31 what kind of website the link was connected to — trust me, it’s definitely not something that the editorial team should want to be displayed on PP, given the fact that it’s explicitly connected to militant anti-Indian organisations based in Pakistan and traffic to that website is no doubt also actively monitored by British intelligence services engaged in anti-extremism operations.

    If “Punjabi” submits any further posts on this thread then I won’t just edit them to remove the contents as per #29, I’ll delete them completely.

  38. earwicga — on 23rd August, 2010 at 6:44 pm  

    Thanks for explaining Jai. How sneeky of ‘punjabi to edit a comment after it had been responded to.

  39. Laban — on 23rd August, 2010 at 8:02 pm  

    Jai – I don’t think you’ve got the hang of this ‘blogging’ thing.

    Someone posts saying that group X are all evil and should be killed – no problem – chop the post – even if group X are white ;-)

    Someone posts taking issue with you on matters of fact, let it stand and either argue against it or ignore it.

    Dalbir – Abbott would be remembered that way by Sikhs. As I understand it, the 1848 ‘minor disaffection’ was in fact an attempt by Chatar Singh to link up with Dewan Mulraj’s forces following the killing of Lts Anderson and Vans Agnew in Multan.

    “The 19th century as a whole included widespread efforts on the part of the colonial authorities to falsify information”

    Can’t comment on that as a general truth one way or the other, but James Abbott’s journal was his own diary and has never been published (Charles Allen got hold of a copy for his book). When he described the mistreatment of Muslims by Sikhs in Hazara, he had no reason not to tell the truth (and at the end of the Second Sikh War, Abbott was thanked by both Houses of Parliament – then sent to run a gunpowder factory in Calcutta – effectively sacked. They thought he’d gone native – and he may have done. He spent his entire savings on a farewell feast for the Hazarawals that lasted three days).

    And on a more general note, the idea of all the Brit soldiers and administrators as arms of some kind of monolithic Imperial propaganda machine is nonsense. Most of those Brits involved in the Second Sikh War at the sharp end (Abbott, Herbert Edwardes, Henry Daly, John Nicolson) were in violent disagreement with British government policy vis a vis the Sikh uprising and with Sir Frederick Currie as Acting Resident of the Punjab.

  40. Dalbir — on 23rd August, 2010 at 8:27 pm  

    Abbott would be remembered that way by Sikhs.

    Not at all. He was the typically duplicitous type that characterised a lot of the people associated with Britain who ended up around Panjab at this time. We now know that people were being encouraged to be this way from the top ranks of the EIC.

    In anycase, I could as easily say ‘Oh x would be remembered like that by the British” or “y would be remembered like that by the Muslims” etc.

    And on a more general note, the idea of all the Brit soldiers and administrators as arms of some kind of monolithic Imperial propaganda machine is nonsense.

    No it isn’t. Those people generally toed the official line, at least in appearance. Plus we now know that they were pretty much compelled to behave in particular ways through the ‘organisational culture’ around them. One of the few that wasn’t a natural born liar was Cunningham, and he paid for his honesty. The simple truth is that the company/British had their greedy eyes on Panjab’s wealth from the very beginning. Besides they did have a hefty amount of ‘form’ for disempowering and pilfering from other people way before they met the Sikhs, no?

  41. Jai — on 24th August, 2010 at 12:38 pm  

    Very well said, Dalbir. Once again, I agree completely — and the issues you’ve discussed are a matter of heavily-documented British historical record, confirmed by a number of acclaimed modern British historians who are amongst the global leaders in their field and in some cases are from the opposite ends of the political spectrum.

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

    The following involve accounts by other Europeans in relation to Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s attitudes towards the territory’s Muslim population:

    (Online source: http://www.allaboutsikhs.com/sikhism-articles/the-sikh-rule-and-ranjit-singh.html )

    Historical source: Osborne, W.G. (Military Secretary to the Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland), The Court and Camp of Ranjit Singh, published in 1840 :

    “Except in actual open warfare he [Maharajah Ranjit Singh] has never been known to take life, though his own has been attempted more than once, and his reign will be found freer from any striking acts of cruelty and oppression than those of many more civilised monarchs.

    …..Ranjit Singh ruled his kingdom according to the Sikh tenets. All the important positions were given to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, entirely based on merit. Even his main advisors were three famous Muslim brothers: Fakir Aziz-ud-Din, his foreign minister; Fakir Nur-ud-Din, his home minister; Fakir Imam-ud-Din, his custodian of the arsenals. Forty-six senior Army officers and two top ranking Generals were Muslims. One General was French and score of military officers were Europeans. In police and civil services he has about one hundred Muslim officers alone. Hindus too, used to hold many key positions in Sarkar-e-Khalsa. Ranjit Singh was secular through-and-through.

    Since he had lost his one eye in childhood, due to small pox, he used to remark jokingly about himself that, “God willed that as a true Sikh I should look upon all religions with one eye”.”

    Historical source: Hugel, Baron Charles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_von_H%C3%BCgel), original writings titled Kashmir and the Realm of the Sikhs, translated, abridged & annotated by Thomas B. Jervis as Travels in Kashmir and the Panjab [sic], containing a Particular Account of the Government and Character of the Sikhs, published in 1845 :

    “Ranjit Singh’s employment policy reflected the basic liberal and humanitarian teaching of Sikhism. The highest posts in his Government were as open to Muslims as to the Sikhs and the Hindus. Fakir Aziz-ud-Din was his most trusted minister. Fakir-ud-Din was the Governor of Lahore and was one of the closest confidants of the Maharaja. There were many Muslims occupying high positions as Governors of Provinces and forts, and commanders of the armies. Muslims on their part proved worthy of the trust. Poet Shah Mohammed shed tears over the fall of the Sikh kingdom.”

    Historical source: Lawrence H.M.L. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Montgomery_Lawrence ), Adventures of An Officer in Punjab, Vol. I, published in 1846, pp.30-31 :

    No wonder the Muslim Generals of the Maharaja were responsible for carrying his flag across the Punjab borders. In this connection observations made by Sir Henry Lawrence are noteworthy : “Members of the deposed ruling families may be seen in Delhi and Kabul in a state of penury; but in the Punjab there is not to be seen a single ruling family whose territories may have been conquered by Ranjit Singh and which may have been left unprovided by him. Not only the Sikh ruling houses, but those of other faiths, too were provided for by him with equal munificence.”

    Historical source: Captain William Murray, East India Company, (Asst. Political Agent at Ludhiana, Dy. Superintendent of Sikh and Hill Affairs and later Political Agent at Ambala during 1815-31), History of The Punjab, Vol.II, completed in 1830, p. 175 :

    “Ranjit Singh has been likened to Mehmet Ali and to Napoleon.There are some points in which he resembles both; but estimating his character with reference to his circumstances and positions, he is perhaps a more remarkable man than either.There was no ferocity in his disposition and he never punished a criminal with death even under circumstances of aggravated offence. Humanity indeed, or rather tenderness for life, was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is no instance of his having wantonly imbused his hand in blood.”

  42. Jai — on 24th August, 2010 at 12:57 pm  

    Writings about the egalitarian, non-sectarian nature of Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s rule by Pakistani Muslim authors, including the religious freedom given to Muslims:

    Waheeduddin, Fakir Syed, The Real Ranjit Singh, published in Karachi in 1965 (via the AllaboutSikhs website mentioned in #41):

    On the other hand, the concept of kingship at once raises the idea of despotic and unjust rule. It is, perhaps, in this context that Fakir Syed Waheeduddin has quoted two orders of Ranjit Singh to ensure justice among the people and the application of secular laws of each community to its members through courts presided over by persons of the community concerned. These orders emphasise two things. First that equality before the law and equity in its administration were the fundamental criteria of Ranjit Singh’s administration. Second that because of the actual humane manner in which justice was administered, it was never felt necessary by him to give the extreme punishment of death so as to secure respect for the law. And, in this respect, he ensured the sanctity of this principle by not punishing with death even those who had attempted to kill him. We give below the two orders issued by Ranjit Singh.

    1. “Sincere Well-wisher, Fakir Nuruddin Ji, May you be happy.

    It is hereby decreed by His Highness with the utmost emphasis that no person in the city should practise highhandedness and oppression on the people. Indeed, if even His Highness himself should issue an inappropriate order against any residence of Lahore. it should be clearly brought to the notice of His Highness so that it may be amended. Protector of Bravery Malwa Singh should always be advised to dispense justice in accordance with legitimate right and without the slightest oppression and, further-more, he should be advised to pass orders in consultation with the Panches and Judges of the city and in accordance with the Shastars and the Quran, as pertinent to the faith of the parties; for such is our pleasure. And should any person fail to act in accordance with your advice or instructions, you should send him a formal letter so that it may serve as a proof on the strength of which His Highness may punish him for disobedience.

    The following is directly from the Pakistani Government’s own website:

    Source: http://www.heritage.gov.pk/html_Pages/sikh.htm

    Charat Singh died in 1774 and was succeeded by his son, Mahan Singh, who in turn fathered the most brilliant leader in the history of the Punjab: Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was this remarkable leader who united the whole Punjab under one flag. His rule stretched from the banks of the Jamuna to the Khyber and from Kashmir to Multan. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the most powerful of all the Sikh Rulers and ruled over for complete 40 years. After his death in 1840 the Sikh Empire was divided into small principalities looked after by several Sikh Jagirdars. This weak situation provided a good opportunity to the British of East India Company to put an end to the Sikh strong hold in the Punjab in 1849.

  43. Jai — on 24th August, 2010 at 1:27 pm  

    “The 19th century as a whole included widespread efforts on the part of the colonial authorities to falsify information”

    Can’t comment on that as a general truth one way or the other,

    Appropriate initial reading material on the Raj by internationally-acclaimed modern-day historians:

    White Mughals, William Dalrymple;
    The Last Mughal, William Dalrymple;
    Empire, Niall Ferguson;
    The Blood Never Dried, John Newsinger.

    Jai, many Brits are pretty poor on the history of the subcontinent. I know I am. Enlighten us

    Appropriate initial reading material, in addition to the books above:

    Maharajah Ranjit Singh, the Anglo-Sikh Wars and their aftermath — The Maharajah’s Box, Christy Campbell (formerly a defence correspondent who has reported from active war zones).

    Mughal era –
    A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time, Diana & Michael Preston;
    The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, Stephen F. Dale.

    Classical era & Mughal/medieval era, focusing on the north of the subcontinent – Empires of the Indus, Alice Albinia.

    European trading & diplomatic contact with India during the classical, medieval and colonial eras — A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, Dr William J. Bernstein.

    European contact with India during the classical era –
    The Fall of the West: The Death of the Roman Superpower, Dr Adrian Goldsworthy;
    Antony and Cleopatra, Dr Adrian Goldsworthy;
    Alexander the Great, Robin Lane Fox.

    Chinese contact with India during the classical and medieval eras — China: A History, John Keay.

    One-volume overviews of Indian history –
    India: A History, John Keay;
    The Story of India, Michael Wood;
    Lonely Planet: India;
    Lonely Planet: Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra.

  44. sofia — on 24th August, 2010 at 1:52 pm  

    Jai I wish you taught history

  45. Jai — on 26th August, 2010 at 9:31 am  

    Thanks Sofia.

  46. Robert — on 2nd September, 2010 at 3:44 pm  

    The main point is, that being aware of how this is painful and insensitive to victims, to try to go ahead and force the issue to build in this place when there are amole funds and plenty of other places to build that would be non offensive, speaks volumes for the intent. I personally know of no one who, becoming aware they would offend in this way, would not offer willingly to change the location along with a heartfelt apology. It’s not even like anyone was unaware this would offend. If I were a moderate Muslim, I would be completely ashamed of these people and anyone else who hasn’t stood up to expose and out all terrorists, extremists, and those who are supporting and financing them. Anyone of ANY so called religion who would think of these people as anything less than sub human, murdering, zombie bastards must be either clueless or insane.

  47. Robert — on 2nd September, 2010 at 3:49 pm  

    Anyone of ANY so called religion who would think of these people as anything less than sub human, murdering, zombie bastards must be either clueless or insane.

    Should read “terrorists and supporters” instead of “these people” to clarify this does not include moderate Muslims.

  48. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd September, 2010 at 4:52 pm  

    Er, Robert, but the people who want to build this community centre reasonably far away from ground zero ARE moderate muslims and NOT murdering zombie bastards, so point: mute

  49. Don — on 2nd September, 2010 at 5:24 pm  

    Sofia,

    Jai has taught me, at least, a fair amount of history.

    Kismet,

    Moot.

  50. Kismet Hardy — on 8th September, 2010 at 10:24 am  

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.