Across the Bay

Friday, August 05, 2005

Arabist Islam

One of the many stupid observations Juan Cole made after the London attacks was how the perpetrators could not have been South Asian because of the Arabist references (what Cole called "diction") in the statement issued after the bombings.

At the time (and in one of my much earlier posts), I contested this dogmatism, and pointed out what I called (Pan-)Arabist Islam. I made reference to V. S. Naipaul's Among the Believers for examples in South East Asian Muslim circles. (Cole later had the audacity to write this: "If you try to 'profile' the terrorist using such social markers as class or ethnicity, maybe even religious background, you will go badly astray." I guess he was channeling his own experience.)

The other day I came across the following interview in Prospect Magazine with a South Asian British Islamist. He had this to say:

So far afield in this case, that for many second-generation British Pakistanis, the desert culture of the Arabs held more appeal than either British or subcontinental culture. Three times removed from a durable sense of identity, the energised extra-national worldview of radical Islam became one available identity for second-generation Pakistanis. The few who took it did so with the convert's zeal: plus Arabe que les Arabes.
no nation matters save the Islamic nation and its Arab culture. Butt spoke passionately about Arabia and wants to go there. "I believe the Arabic language will give me that key to have access to those things I don't have access to at the moment." Again, that yearning for Islam to fill the gaps in his own identity.

Then today I was checking out one of my favorite magazines, Reason, and spotted this interview with Salman Rushdie. This statement stood out, and it added another confirmation to what I've been trying to highlight:

For example, the kind of Islam that is being forced on Kashmir is very much a kind of Arabist Islam, which is alien to Kashmir.

There you have it. Once again, you see the problems with this rigid dogmatism displayed by Cole. So much for expertise.