History Matters: A Discussion

I have greatly learned, and thoroughly enjoyed, a series of discussion on Judith Bennett’s History Matters. The response from Judith Bennett (and, what a response!) also includes links to the discussion before. Go read. I promise you, that you will learn. If only we had more SAists running blogs, I would love to do the same online symposia on Wendy Doniger’s book. What about it DK? Rohit? Anyone? Bueller?

This Sufi Business

Doug Feith, who is certainly prosecutable, had an op-ed in NYT yesterday. The most revealing thing about it was the title, Radio Free Swat. Vietnam is, after all, the proper framework.

This Sufi-fights-Taliban meme needs some serious pushback. Nicholas Schmidle and Will Dalrymple have also written recently along these lines. The argument is certainly a valid reading of Islamic traditions in South Asia and there is much to recommend in it. I agree with it in historical terms. But, the problem is that this conflates apples with grenades. The “Taliban” are not arguing on theological grounds and blowing up Rahman Baba’s shrine is not a religious act. It is political violence. And as such, it is determined to intervene in the social fabric of the region. Going from this to arguing that Baba Rahman documentaries will turn the tide against armed militant is just freakin’ loopy. The power of shutting down music stores and forcing artists to flee does not come from espousing some particular understanding of the role of music in Islam. It comes from the Klashnikovs and the warlords who distribute them. The civilian populations of Swat or Uch do not need convincing that Rahman Baba or Bhittai are tolerant and nice. They need a state that can protect them, and their monuments, from guns. So, let’s not make this some Sufi vs Taliban romance.

Manawan, Lahore 3/30

Ten or more terrorists attacked the Police Training School in Manawan, Lahore at 7:30 am. Over 8 policemen killed; nearly 100 injured. 1 or 4 of the attackers have been apprehended, and the rest killed. The gun-battle lasted for 8 hours? Details are sketchy and you should look elsewhere for real-time information.

As many are pointing out, there are obvious operational echoes to Bombay as well as the SriLankan team attack.

Lahore is, now, a battleground city.

Holi Holi Hai

I failed to note holi here. But this set of big pictures and a fortuitous scan (courtesy of Alam Sahib) gives me an excellent excuse to post this Mughal painting from 1625 and widely credited to Govardhan. It shows, first of all, the various activities associated with Holi. And I love the drunk Jahangir being carried to the bed.

Just a Thought IV

Now, as the Obama administration completes its review of strategy toward the region this week, his sudden ascent has raised an urgent question: Can Mr. Sharif, 59, a populist politician close to Islamic parties, be a reliable partner?
– Jane Perlez, “U.S. Weighs Sharif as Partner in Pakistan” , New York Times, March 24, 2009.

Here is an idea, Obama administration (and NYT), why don’t we just declare Pakistan a proper client-state and just send them a governor-general. Kinda like we had it going with Puerto Rico. We already done invaded it. No?

Pakistan Day 2009

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On March 23rd, Pakistan celebrates “Pakistan Day” to commemorate the Muslim League session in Lahore in 1940 at which Muhammad Ali Jinnah most crisply articulated a “Muslims are a nation’ ideology. I want to highlight some sections for you. Look, for example, that Jinnah builds upon twinned arguments: First that Muslims as a community had politically divergent goals and their historical specificity was inarguable. It was a strictly communitarian reading of history that forcefully argued away all notions of co-habitation, without once citing an example. Take a look:
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