Last year in England, we marked the 60th anniversary of the voluntary granting of independence to India and Pakistan; it was also the year in which our military began to leave Iraq. Soon, the last of the British troops will march out of Basra with their band dolefully playing “The World Turned Upside Down.”
Iraq has bad associations for the British. We were badly defeated at Kut-al-Amara, halfway between Basra and Baghdad, during World War I, and the Turkish victors treated their British and Indian prisoners abominably. Any Christian Armenian will tell you exactly how the Muslim Turks behaved when they held the upper hand. After World War I, Britain ruled Mesopotamia under a League of Nations mandate until the early 1930’s. Sunnis and Shiites united against the British in the rebellion of 1920. In World War II, a coup in Iraq put pro-Nazi elements in charge, and there were pogroms against the Jews. The British had to drive them out by force for fear that Nazi reinforcements would arrive through Germany’s French ally, Vichy-controlled Syria. Later, the British had to use Kurdish troops to protect the Jews in Baghdad from mob violence. After the failure of the Franco-British military intervention in Suez in 1956 (resulting from American opposition), similar nationalist elements in the Iraqi military staged another coup in 1958 and killed the king and the pro-British monarchist politicians.
In short, we have bad memories of Iraq and of U.S. policy in the region. If Prime Minister Tony Blair had not shamelessly lied to us about weapons of mass destruction, there would have been no support here for the Anglo-American neocon invasion.
We also have bad memories of the partition of Imperial India into India and Pakistan in 1947, when half a million were murdered and 14 million had to flee their homes. The British Empire had provided India with an unusually lengthy period of peace and stability. Past imperial British rule is the main reason that India became and remains the only lasting parliamentary democracy in a region marked by dictatorships and bitter ethnic and religious clashes. Indeed, the British failed the Indian subcontinent not by their mode of ruling it but by leaving too quickly. The partition of the country between secular-but-Hindu-majority India and explicitly Islamic Pakistan was a disaster. British policy there was shameful, though Britain was in such a weakened position after World War II that she could do but little to stop the conflict. She had already been unable to contain the well-organized Muslim rioters who, with the full support of local Muslim League politicians, viciously attacked Calcutta’s Hindus in 1946. Nonetheless, the feeble and anti-imperial Labour government in London and its royal stooge, the Viceroy Mountbatten, were much to blame.
The British media’s coverage of the anniversary of partition included much liberal hand-wringing, as if this had been a case of divide and rule and not, as it really was, quit and divide. What has been conspicuously absent is any attempt to place the blame where it belongs—on the Muslims who insisted on seceding to form a purely Muslim state. The tabloid press in Britain is critical of the Muslims, but the government and the broadcasters go out of their way to appease them—partly out of fear of more Muslim terrorism in Britain, and partly because of the politically correct doctrine that you must not upset a querulous minority, however much it is in the wrong. The broadcasters regularly and gratuitously insult Christians, but they always appease the Muslims.
The line taken on the 60th anniversary of partition was that both sides were in some measure to blame. Of course, all the interviews with Hindus and Sikhs shown were either with militant Sikhs who recounted how much they had enjoyed using their swords to kill their Muslim neighbors or with Hindu and Sikh secular liberals who were happy to accept all of the blame. The Muslims, by contrast, were interviewed only as victims, and there were no Muslim apologies. But then, when have Muslims ever apologized for anything?
One question was never asked: Why was Pakistan ever created, when the Hindus wanted a united, politically secular India? The answer is that Muslims are unwilling to live as a minority in a plural or secular society. They are convinced of their own superiority in all things and stubbornly refuse to adjust. Rather than seeking to secure equal rights and opportunities, when the British began to introduce liberal democracy in India, the Muslims opted for segregation. First, they insisted on dividing the country into a patchwork of tiny ghettos and cantons according to local religious allegiance; then, they demanded a separate state defined entirely in terms of religion. This should have served as a warning to the governments of Europe as to how Muslim immigrants would behave in the years to come.
Likewise, no one asks why it is that, in non-Western countries as diverse as the Philippines, Thailand, Nigeria, and Sudan, Muslims take up arms against a non-Muslim majority or a substantial neighbor. Because Muslims are intolerant and discriminate against non-Muslim minorities when they are in control, as in Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, they cannot understand that others are capable of better behavior. Muslims make bad minorities because they make tyrannical majorities. The problem is not just that they think theirs is the only true religion and other religions are either wicked idolatry (such as Hinduism) or inferior (such as Christianity or Judaism), for many true believers in other religions also think that way. The difference is that Muslims make this belief the cornerstone of their politics and of their social interaction with others. Not all Muslims do this, and there are some Christians and Hindus who do, but that is beside the point. The majority of Muslims have a strong tendency in that direction, whereas it is a political outlook that most Christians and Hindus have abandoned. That is why most of the people in the world who live in stable democracies have a religious tradition that is Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist. When totalitarianism has come to Christian countries such as Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, the regimes have been secular and hostile toward religion.
By contrast, there are very few stable, democratic Muslim countries, and it is farcical of liberals and neocons to think they can change this situation by means of political pressure, exhortation, or the withholding of economic and military assistance. They are fools; their worst foolishness so far has been the Iraq war, which is why the British have now decided to cut and run. The best that can be hoped for in any Muslim country is a relatively mild autocracy that does not make Islam its central ideology and which does not have ambitions to expand. Atatürk, the shah, Sadat, the Gulf sheiks, the sultan of Oman, and other traditional, autocratic, or military rulers must be accepted. When neocons connive at their overthrow, they invite something worse, something fanatically Islamic and oppressive. Benazir Bhutto was protected by President Musharraf, who was willing to compromise with her party, but she was murdered by Islamic militants. If the Americans and the British press clumsily for democracy in Pakistan the way they did in Iran under the shah, it will end in an Islamic tyranny far worse than the previous autocratic government. Ayatollah Khomeini was Jimmy Carter’s legacy.
The very idea of Pakistan was a mistake. The country existed in two segments that were thousands of miles apart—one in the west, and the other in Bengal. The people had nothing in common except their religion. Whereas India, a very diverse country in terms of religions, languages, and castes, has—if at times creakily—held together, Pakistan, in its first incarnation, ended in a very nasty civil war, with the Bangladeshis rising up against their oppressors from West Pakistan. In the end, the Indian army had to intervene to liberate Bangladesh, partly because the Pakistani air force was attacking Bengali guerrillas hiding across the border in India, and partly because a large part of the Bengali Hindu minority living in Bangladesh were being driven out into West Bengal in India. It was partition-style violence all over again, and it was entirely caused by Muslims. The Hindus were blameless.
The British media never reminded us that entire communities of Hindus living in areas of Pakistan such as Sind, who would have remained as loyal if not entirely happy citizens of Pakistan, were wantonly driven out, so that very few Hindus remain in (West) Pakistan. In 1947, they were nearly one quarter of the population; today, a mere two percent. By contrast, there are still 150 million Muslims living in India, making up 15 percent of the population, and they have the same rights and opportunities as other Indian citizens, including Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsees as well as Hindus. The Muslims are often not trusted in India and do not get their share of government jobs, but this is because many of them are still loyal to Pakistan. Indeed, when I was in India in 1973-74 after the liberation of Bangladesh by the Indian army, Delhi Muslims told me that they had wanted Pakistan to win. Hindus in Muslim countries merely want to be left alone and to succeed economically. India’s Muslims can only dream of the days when their ancestors came to India as conquerors, or converted and collaborated with the conqueror. They cannot get used to a world in which they no longer rule; it was difficult enough for the Muslims to accept government by the British, who, in their policy of indirect rule, left many local Muslim princes in place, but it is anathema to them to live in a country where the dominant majority consists of Hindus, whom they regard as idol-worshiping kafirs. Yet there is considerable illegal migration from Muslim Bangladesh to Kolkata (Calcutta) in Indian Bengal. As with illegal Muslim migrants to Britain, they want to have all the social and economic benefits of a society that they could not create or sustain themselves. For all their grumbling and protesting and self-imposed segregation, very few Muslims ever leave India or Britain to live in Pakistan or Bangladesh.
Not surprisingly, there have been very few Muslim-Hindu clashes in West Pakistan, largely because there are no Hindus left. Centuries before the British came to rule India, the Muslims had slaughtered many of India’s Hindus who failed to convert. This, in turn, gave rise to Sikhism, a warrior religion dedicated to resisting Muslim aggression. It is hardly surprising that the Sikhs were strongly involved in the fighting in the Punjab at the time of partition. The British broadcasters were careful to make note of Sikh violence against Muslims, but they failed to recall that Muslim mobs accosted Sikhs, setting fire to their beards.
The Muslim-Hindu clashes in India under the British and in the Republic of India tend to follow a pattern. The Muslims deliberately provoke the Hindus—they cast stones at a Hindu religious procession, or they fortify a mosque and tell the Hindus they intend to slaughter a cow. Massive fighting ensues. Then, in the end, the Muslims suffer greater losses because the Hindus are more numerous. At this point, the British broadcasters play to their Muslim audience at home by condemning the Hindu “aggressor,” much as they do when the well-organized Israelis retaliate against an act of Palestinian terrorism. The Muslims do not control British broadcasting, but they might as well. What is never reported either on television or in the British press is that these clashes in India are often followed by arson and vandalism against Hindu temples in Britain. The perpetrators are rarely caught (though, in one case, a Muslim was prosecuted), and the pretense is kept up that native “racists” may have done it. The statistical correlation of communal clashes in India being closely followed by attacks in Britain indicates that the Muslims were responsible, just as they often attack Jews and synagogues not just in Britain but throughout Western Europe. They have even started to vandalize Christian churches in the north of England. These nasty truths are kept secret and even denied in the name of “good community relations”—that combination of pusillanimity and political correctness that has paralysed Europe.
We can now see how the reporting of the past is conditioned by the biases and cowardice of the present. Britain’s loyal and peaceable Hindu and Sikh minorities get more than their fair share of the blame for what has happened in India—then and now—whereas the Muslims, who complain incessantly about negative stories in the newspapers about their doings at home and abroad, are treated far better than they deserve. The presentation of Indian history is shaped by the terrorism that has intensified in Britain since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Hence, British forces are pulling out of their sector around Basra, ceding control not to democratic forces but to Shiite militias. It won’t do us much good at home, however, since the British Muslims are nearly all Sunnis who have a history of attacking Shiites in the Indian subcontinent. When the Shiites in Iraq start killing the Sunnis again, the British Muslims will blame us for leaving, just as they blamed us for going in in the first place. For British Muslims, even Muslim sectarian violence is somehow the fault of the British and the Americans; then again, in light of the neocons’ naive assumption that such sectarian violence was not inevitable, they may have a point. In Britain, liberals and neocons alike, who have completely abandoned their own religions and historic traditions, are quite unable to understand, let alone deal with, a group such as the Muslims, who cling to theirs with an irrational ferocity.
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