There is no “our” Islam to export

Let us examine the quote from Hans J. Morgenthau, Nitin Pai (henceforth, The Proposer of this idea) uses to base his proposal to export Islam from Hindusthan.

While all politics is necessarily pursuit of power, ideologies render involvement in that contest for power psychologically and morally acceptable to the actors and their audience. (Ideologies) are either ultimate goals of political action… or… pretexts and false fronts behind which the element of power, inherent in all politics, is concealed. They may fulfil one or the other function, or they may fulfil both at the same time.

—Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations

Morgenthau is saying without ideology, any pursuit of power is a base activity. It is ideology that makes such pursuit palatable to both, the pursuers of power and the people (masses) they seek power from and to wield over. Morgenthau is further telling us ideologies or ideological goals can either be ends in themselves or a front for sheer exercise of power. Players in the game may use ideology for one or both ends. Then the warning – “The nation that dispensed with ideologies and frankly stated it wanted power would… find itself at a great and perhaps decisive disadvantage in the struggle for power.”

Coming to the main article, the proposer starts off on the wrong foot. Keeping Morgenthau’s quote in mind, he tells us that Nazi Germany’s quest for lebensraum or living space in the east and the West’s ideological spearhead of freedom and democracy during the Cold War against communism are similar to Islam’s quest for power. The assumption is that Germany used Nazism as a cloak for land, the West used “freedom and democracy” to destroy Soviet communism and now, Muslims are using Islam in their quest for global power.

Although the use of ideology is common in all these campaigns, it is less than convincing to argue that some other ideology in their respective spaces and times would have suited these players all the same. In other words, Adolf Hitler’s prime motivation for space in the east was to populate it with the Master Race in addition to providing resources for its upkeep. He would not have been satisfied merely with additional land if it meant he should maintain all the Slavs as he would, the Germans. He wanted the land for Germans and people who would serve them.

Similarly, the West’s slogans of freedom and democracy for Soviet satellites in the East and elsewhere were primarily to ensure their own safety by constantly wearing the communists down and keeping them on the defensive.

The Islamic quest for power seems to be structured differently. There are Islamic States that are using Islam and Muslim populations worldwide as pressure points to weigh in on non-Muslim States and also to consolidate their own power over their restive and religious native populations; on the other hand this strategy has given rise to powerful organizations which first fed on such States to do their bidding and then saw merit in operating on their own for various reasons including the strong suspicion that these States were not really serious in their commitment to the Islamic cause. This last has made them dangerous enemies of the very States that reared them.

The serious error the proposer seems to be making is in assuming Islam to be just another religion that’s being used in the struggle for geopolitical power. That’s much like saying if there were enough Hindu States in the world, we would probably have similar results. If one believes that then one can believe most anything.

Muslim States and/or Muslim non-State organizations as rightly alluded to by the proposer, are using Islam and the power it commands to leverage influence and results in the Global theatre. They can do this because Islam lends itself easily to aggressive pursuits and domination over nations – Islamic or non-Islamic. More importantly, they are doing this because they are Muslims ruling or commanding Muslim populations either directly within their own spheres or indirectly in other spheres.

Supposing there is a unique version of Islam in Hindusthan –

Given this scenario, how exactly does the proposer think Hindusthan can export “its” version of Islam as a countervailing force against an Islam seeking political dominance? For Hindusthan’s version of Islam to gain prominence in the Muslim world, two things need to happen – 1. Hindusthan’s version of Islam also must seek political dominance or parity 2. Hindusthan as a State must be able to guarantee the political backing its version of Islam will necessarily seek to sustain itself. If Hindusthan’s version of Islam is not in the game either for dominance or parity, then it will likely lose credibility amongst Muslims. Both these above imperatives will make Hindusthan a de-facto Islamic State.

The proposer is sorely mistaken if he believes an international strategy can be divorced from domestic realities. That’s not how nations behave. Simply put, if Hindusthan wants to play an Islamic ball-game abroad, it has to don a green sweatshirt. The sheer logic of this situation will drive this country down the slippery slope of a politically legitimized Islamisation program. Now, the proposer seems to believe this situation can be circumvented because Hindusthan will promote a “syncretic” Islamic tradition as an alternative to Muslims across the world. The first thing one should imagine is its market value. Why would Muslims elsewhere opt for such a tradition that has not won for Muslims in Hindusthan, real power? That has only ensured they remain junior partners in power. What would pull Muslims elsewhere toward such an Islamic tradition originating in Hindusthan? That’s the most obvious question. Secondly and this is a common mistake liberals make, is to believe traditions can be transplanted from one country to another. Kind of like corporate best practices. Even such best practices have to strike roots in order to survive and bear fruit. However it seems to me that such a strategy will have ready takers amongst Muslims in Hindusthan since it will provide them an Allah-sent opportunity to project Hindusthan as Islam’s prodigal son come home. Is that an unfair assessment?

The proposer thinks Hindusthan has had a secular foreign policy and it should not actually allow a domestic secular policy to interfere with its foreign policy. I agree that Hindusthan has had a secular foreign policy for the simple reason that a secular-liberal polity is inherently designed to portray a minority friendly image even at the cost of the national majority. Therefore it is bound to pursue a domestic and foreign policy that is not perceived as going against the interests of its minorities. The two most glaring examples have been our attitude toward Israel and Islamic countries in general. So in that sense yes, we have pursued a secular foreign policy in tune with our domestic secular policy and no, I do not think we are confusing policies. Therefore, importantly, Hindusthan is in a big way already pursuing a foreign policy that’s Muslim friendly. I guess the challenge that remains is to fit this policy with Hindusthan’s Islamic values that would balance against the values of the triumvirate of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.

Sadly, the proposer fails to propose a suitable set of values to mull over.

Coming back to Hans Morgenthau, Hindusthan’s pursuit of geo-political power in the face of global Islamic intransigence must shroud itself in an ideology of a special “syncretic” Islam that’s on offer for Muslims the world over.

How and why should they accept the offer Mr. Nitin Pai?

– Namaste

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One Response

  1. This post was of course ridiculous. I haven’t forgiven Mr. Pai for this shoddy piece of PC garbage. He’s usually above such fracas. People love to posit “European” “American” and “Indian” Islams. There ain’t no such thing.

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