"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Westerners for Islam; Blunt's Thoughts on Imperialism

Notes and reflections on Peace Be Upon You: The Story of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Coexistence by Zachary Karabell

Yesterday I introduced you to a Muslim reformer Muhammad Abduh. Since there was more to share from that chapter, I broke those notes into two parts. Here is the second part.

Abduh's friend in the Western world was Wilfrid Blunt, an Englishman "who devoted his life to fighting against imperialism and to defending Islam to a skeptical English public."  Although he was in the ruling class, he was out of the mainstream.  He and his wife were not content in England so they lived ten years riding their horses in parts of Africa and Arabia.  Apparently they loved hot, dry desert rather than cool, wet England!  Blunt found the Bedouin traits the most democratic and where "'liberty, equality, and fraternity are more than a name.'"   He insisted that Europeans were "culturally deficient" to the Arabs not the other way around.

Lady Anne Blunt

Blunt argued against England's new interventionist policy which changed from the former where you intervened only when absolutely necessary to the new:  intervening everywhere!  Blunt "believed that imperialism was not just wreaking havoc on the globe but destroying England and its cherished liberalism."  If a country "used brute force to control the destiny of others [soon it would] be incapable of nurturing the values of democracy and liberty in its own citizens."  (pg. 233)

I found the brief account of William Marmaduke Pickthall very interesting. He was another one who fell in love with all things desert/Arab/Muslim when he traveled to the northern end of the Suez Canal in order to learn Arabic.  While reading Arabian Nights in Arabic, he was struck with the "'joyousness of that life compared with anything [he] had seen in Europe'" despite the "'decay and poverty'" of the Near Eastern world. (pg. 235)

William Marmaduke Pickthall converted to Islam

A few last things from this chapter:

1.  By the end of the 19th century, "Europeans had exported not only technology but ideas, and the belief in progress had taken root almost everywhere."

2.  Abduh believed "the notion of 'progress' ... was embedded in [the culture of the Arab/Muslim world]," and "one of the strengths of classical Muslim states was their ability to evolve."  (pg. 239)

3.  The British were occupying Egypt at this time and often treated the natives like children.  Karabell says the Egyptians were often "repelled by these patronizing attitudes. ... Who were the British, they mused, to lecture us about religious tolerance and liberty when Copts, Muslims, and Jews had lived side by side for fourteen hundred years...?  Who were they to tell Egypt about civilization when the inhabitants of the Nile Valley had created a society thousands of years before the English had even learned to write?  [Hahahahahaha! I thought that was so funny!] Admiration for what Europe could offer sat side by side with indignation about what Europeans often did offer."  (pg. 241)

The chapter ends with the author sharing the prevailing attitude of both the European and Muslim worlds. For Europe, "that war and disease would disappear in the twentieth century," and for the Muslim, "that the twentieth century would see an end to imperialism and the revival of Muslim societies." 

How well do you think these dreams were realized in the 20th century?



Lat said...

I've read about Abduh when reading about Muslim thinkers and truly he had his side of truth.Liked the part of Egyptians and their writing :)

How far did war and disease disappear in Europe? Well,I can't say it's fully achieved depending if we are thinking of war in the specific sense like combat,meaning in a outward form.Even though Europe is not involve like that, I believe there's always some kind of war that she have to go thru',even diseases.People aren't free from it.The root causes for these happening,I feel, is still ripe and therefore shouldn't count the chicks before they are hatched! I feel the same way towards the Muslim nations too.

Suroor said...

"the twentieth century would see an end to imperialism and the revival of Muslim societies."

I see a contradiction and hypocrisy here - how would a revival of Muslim societies be any different from imperialism? Any state that rule and wants absolute power whether it be the West or the Muslim societies IS imperialistic, isn't it?

Susanne said...

Lat, thanks for your thorough comment! I'm glad you liked the part about the Egyptians and their writing. That amused me and I even told my mom about it. :D

Susanne said...

Suroor, good point. I guess we all have our dreams of being in control, huh? :)