Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Bokhari Brothers and Lionell Fielden

December 25, 2016
This summer on a visit to the grave of Patras Bokhari, I spent some quite time at his grave.  I reflected about the lives of two Bokhari brothers and an amazing character of his times Lionell Fielden.  This piece was the outcome of that exercise.   Good time to pay tribute on the death anniversary month of December of AS Bokhari and birth anniversary month of January of ZA Bokhari. 

Bokhari Brothers
Hamid Hussain

Ahmed Shah Bokhari and Zulfiqar Ali Bokhari were scions of Peshawar.  Both brothers were very talented, had multiple interests and excelled in their chosen fields.  Bokhari brothers are associated with the history of broadcasting in India. 

Radio service in India was started in July 1927 as a private and amateur venture when Bombay radio station was established.  This was the birth of Indian Broadcasting Company (IBC) about seven months after establishment of British Broadcasting Company (BBC).  This private venture ended in a failure and company was liquidated in 1930. 

In August 1935, Lionell Fielden arrived in India on loan from BBC to start Indian broadcasting.  When radio arrived in India, no one knew about the importance of this new invention. In 1935, Marconi Company offered a radio transmitter and fifty radio sets to Indian government but no one was interested in it.  Central government asked provincial governments if anyone was interested in the offer.  Governor of North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.) Sir Ralph Griffith accepted the offer.  He chose a young recent Oxford graduate Muhammad Aslam Khan Khattak in-charge of this project.  Later, Fielden organized Indian broadcasting on a professional level and soon radio became the main instrument of information and entertainment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

PIA's Black Goat Sacrifice

Genesis 8:21. And the LORD smelled a sweet smell; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

A few days ago a PIA ATR-42 aircraft crashed while on a routine flight; as a result, all ATR aircraft were grounded while PIA carried out some tests and made sure they were good to fly. Having conducted whatever testing PIA engineering considered necessary (and I have no doubt they did whatever testing is standard in the industry; they are a well established airline with many competent engineers), they resumed flight operations. But the engineering department at Islamabad international airport felt they should take some extra precautions before they sent off their first flight. They decided to sacrifice a black goat to ask for Allah's blessings on this occasion. Pictures of this (necessarily blood-stained) ceremony went viral on the internet and excited considerable interest.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Is Islam the rock on which the liberal order broke?

(Triggered by this article about "Global Democracy in Danger")

Back in 1992, Fukuyama wrote his (much maligned, frequently misunderstood) book about the End of History and had this to say:

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such.... That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

People jumped on Fukuyama for all sorts of reasons, but I don't remember any broad feeling that the Western liberal project had failed. Its most visible Western critics at that time tended to be postmarxists and postmodernists, whose entire existence (from their university appointments to every detail of their lives) was itself an appendage of Western liberal democracy and had no meaning or safe existence outside of that system; and whose real-life ability to bring down Western liberalism was insignificant (i.e., if and when it falls, it will not fall to these clowns).

Another kind of opposition came from the "Confucian authoritarians" (or postmarxist fascists, or whatever you want to call them) in China (and in smal but influential exemplars, like Singapore). But while these groups had power and economic success, they had no great legitimizing ideology. They are may appear to be winning as long as they provide more and more goods to more and more of their people. But even while they do so, these same people are watching "Friends", picking up liberal memes and dreaming of making Shanghai "better than Manhattan". It is hard to them as a coherent alternative ideology. It was far more common (even WITHIN those systems) to think of them as authoritarian way stations on the long winding road to Western style "mature" liberal democracy and capitalism.

Some Right-wing opposition did come from people who rejected Western liberalism more deeply on religious or cultural-nationalist grounds. But currents like Great Russian Fascism or scattered illiberal Western ideologies (from the "almost inside the Overton Window" Pat Buchanan to Christian identity folks and a few hundred actual fascists) tended to be fringe affairs, or at least they were treated as such by most public intellectuals and the media. Triumphant liberal ideology had internal divisions and weaknesses (including the above-mentioned defection of many university trained intellectuals to postmodern/postcolonial/critical theory crap) and lacunae, but apparently, no serious competitor; The way of thinking that puts humanity, rationality, freedom and the free individual at the center of the world; and which includes memes (not necessarily unique to it, not necessarily derived from first principles, but aggregating in a recognizable meme-complex) like legal equality, secularism, democracy and human rights, was so dominant, it was taken for granted.  These were the legitimizing ideas that all modern states at least paid lip service to. Democratic socialism is just a variant of this dominant post-enlightenment meme complex; even Marxist socialism is a variant of the same complex (Marxist revolutionaries, for example, idealized the same memes of equality, liberty and rights, but claimed that mainstream liberal Democracy failed to match its ideals and was a sham, a betrayal of these very ideals, and so on).

The place where this whole meme-complex really hit a solid rock was in the Islamic world. It was not immediately apparent that this was so. Many Western post-enlightenment ideals were popular among the Westernized intellectuals of the postcolonial Muslim world. But the grip (and even the personal commitment) of these intellectuals was shallow. This was not easily visible to liberal contemporaries (and of course, to Muslim liberals themselves; it is doubtful whether someone like Jinnah ever really understood the illiberal nature of his demand for Pakistan for example). The difference between Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals,whether in the third world or the first, if it was noticed at all, was seen as one of degree; i.e. Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals both had older loyalties, ideas and identities that belied their liberal ideals, and any apparent difference was a difference of degree...but as it is easier to see now, the difference of degree was always in the same direction, and in fact, it was significant enough that it could be described as a qualitative difference; not just a quantitative one. But this was not the common intellectual view (and exceptions like Samuel Huntington just proved the rule, with their "problematic" status in mainstream discourse)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lt Gen SK Sinha

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain

Lieutenant General ® Srinivas Kumar Sinha (January 1926 – 17 November 2016)
Hamid Hussain

Lieutenant General ® Srinivas Kumar (S. K.) Sinha passed away on 17 November 2016.  He was member of a generation of Indian officers who joined Indian army during the Raj. He spent a long and successful army career and after retirement spent three decades writing about military affairs.