Posts Tagged ‘Nasir Khan’

Karl Marx on Religion

November 24, 2015


Karl  MarxMarx a photo


Dr Nasir Khan, November 24, 2015

Note: I am reproducing one section of Chapter 4 (pp. 146-153) from my book, Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings (1995). My aim is to present Marx’s ideas on religion in the context of his theory of alienation for a wider audience. For complete abbreviations and references, see the book (link provided at the end of this paper).

For Marx religion is primordially an active form of ideological alienation, where inverted world-consciousness and mystification become the essential elements of the alienative process. Marx’s writings show that he hardly ever thought it worthwhile to discuss theological formulations or religious dogmas. The question of religious consciousness for Marx was a matter of little interest. Karl Löwith writes: ‘By advancing towards the criticism of man’s material conditions, Marx does not simply leave behind the criticism of religion but rather assumes it on a new level; for though, on the basis of the social-political world, religion is but a false consciousness, the question has still to be answered: Why did this real world at all develop an inadequate consciousness?

If we assume with Feuerbach that the religious world is only a self-projection of the human world, one has to ask: Why do the latter project the first and create a religious superstructure? . . . It is not enough to state with Feuerbach that religion is a creation of man; this statement has to be qualified by the further insight that religion is the consciousness of that man who has not yet returned from his self-alienation and found himself at home in his worldly conditions’ (Löwith 1949, 48, 49).

Marx’s approach to religion in his early thinking can be seen in his letter of November 1842 to Arnold Ruge, where he says that ‘religion should be criticised in the framework of criticism of political conditions rather than that political conditions should be criticised in the framework of religion … for religion in itself is without content, it owes its being not to heaven but to the earth, and with the abolition of distorted reality, of which it is the theory, it will collapse of itself’ (CW1, 394-95). If religion is without any content, then the whole problematic of religion can be reduced to a particular mode of products and as such it is always a reflection of the material historical developments. In Anti-Dühring, Engels writes: ‘All religion, however, is nothing but the fantastic reflection in men’s minds of those external forces which control their daily life, a reflection in which the terrestrial forces assume the form of supernatural forces. In the beginnings of history, it was the forces of nature which were so reflected and which in the course of further evolution underwent the most manifold and varied personifications among the various peoples . . . But it is not long before, side by side with the forces of nature, social forces begin to be active — forces which confront man as equally alien and at first equally inexplicable, dominating him with the same apparent natural necessity as the forces of nature themselves’ (Engels 1978, 382-83). In this lucid exposition, Engels points to the roots of religion in the early phase of historical development of mankind. At this stage, the primitive man comes to the realisation of his helplessness when he is face to face with the gigantic and mighty forces of nature. His effort to appease these, leads to primitive nature worship. But at a later stage under the antagonistic class society, the exploited classes of society face to face with the social oppression, and in their helplessness give birth to and foster religion, the belief in a better life hereafter, the alleged reward for suffering on earth (see Foreword to Marx & Engels 1972, 8).

In this connection, Kostas Axelos, the French Marxist of Arguments group, sums up the Marxian position: ‘Being the expression of impotence and alienation, religion in turn, in its own modality, alienates man from his life and from his essential forces. Far from being some kind of index of the strength of human being, religion comes about only owing to man’s weakness, his frustrations, his dissatisfactions, his alienation. An abstraction from concrete conditions, religion is a product of the alienation of man on the level of both practice and theory. Mystery, far from implying a truth of its own, veils the truth of reality and masks its own mystification’ (Axelos 1976, 160). Within the sphere of developed productive forces under the institutionalized private ownership, ‘religion begins to express the alienation of man in relation to the products of his labour as the imaginary satisfaction of unsatisfied real drives. The non-development of productive forces determines the genesis of religion, and this later development determines its subsequent “evolution” ‘ (ibid. 159-160).

At the time of writing the Introduction, Marx’s conversion to the standpoint of theoretical communism takes place. In the beginning of the essay, he excellently summarises his views on religion. Marx is referring to the philosophical critique of religion and the religious alienation accomplished by the Young Hegelians from Strauss to Feuerbach when he says: ‘For Germany, the criticism of religion is in the main complete, and criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism’ (CW3, 175). There are possibly two main reasons for Marx’s viewing of religious criticism as the premise of all criticism. First, religion stood in the way of any political change in Germany by its adamant support of the Prussian state. It meant that any change in the political sphere was possible when the powerful support of religion to the status quo was removed. Secondly, religion per se represented the most extreme form of alienation, and it was at this point that secularisation had to start; religion was the pivotal point for the criticism of other forms of alienation (see McLellan 1972, 185).

Marx succinctly summarises the accomplishment of Feuerbach’s religious philosophy: ‘The profane existence of error is discredited after its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [speech for the altars and hearths] has been disproved. Man, who looked for a superhuman being in the fantastic reality of heaven and found nothing there but the reflection of himself, will no longer be disposed to find out but the semblance of himself, only an inhuman being, where he seeks and must seek his true reality’ (CW3, 175). Religion, in Marx’s view, was ‘the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again’ (CW3, 175). The intellectual climate in which the young Marx lived was dominated by the Young Hegelians’ atheistic critique of religion. In the beginning, he shared their viewpoint, but ‘he became disenchanted with their war of words. What eventually turned Marx against philosophical forms of atheism, as he understood them, was their failure to grasp the fact that religion has a justificatory function which resists philosophical critique’ (Myers 1981, 317).

A recurrent theme in Marx’s criticism is the transformational characteristic of religion. The social structure in the first place provides the basis for the inverted world of religion because it is in itself an inverted world. In this, he differs from Feuerbach. Marx does not simply reduce religious elements to any more fundamental elements: ‘The basis of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man . . . But man is no abstract being encamped outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, an inverted world-consciousness, because they are an inverted world’ (CW3, 175).

Marx in his evaluation of religion uses a series of illuminating metaphors to show the place of religion in an inverted world: ‘Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn compliment, its universal source of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realisation of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality’ (CW3, 175). Religion, on the one hand, expresses the real social distress, and on the other, it seeks to justify the social oppression. ‘The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma. Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people’ (CW3, 175). Presumably, Marx thought that taking drugs like opium helped to bring about a condition of illusions and hallucinations; it also proved as a palliative, a consolatory refuge from the heartlessness and hardships of the real world. Religion for Marx is a medium of social illusions. An alienated and alienating human existence calls for these illusions. The need for these illusions is not illusory; it is real. Marx in his much later work, Capital, describes religious world as ‘a reflex of the real world’ (Marx 1977, 83).

Marx’s description of religion in the Introduction has sometimes been seen to contain a positive evaluation of religion. However, this view can be attributed to a perfunctory understanding of Marx’s ideas. McLellan in his book, Marxism and Religion, rightly says that if it was so, then it was an extremely backhanded compliment: ‘Religion may well represent humanity’s feeble aspirations under adverse circumstances, but the whole tenor of the passage is that religion is metaphysically and sociologically misguided and that its disappearance is the pre-condition for any radical amelioration of social conditions’ (McLellan 1987, 13).

The way to overcome religious consciousness is therefore through the changing of the conditions, which provide a material base to inverted consciousness in society. ‘A strictly materialistic critique of religion consists neither in pure and simple rejection (Bauer) nor in mere humanisation (Feuerbach) but in the positive postulate to create conditions which deprive religion of all its source and motivation. The practical criticism of the existing society can alone supersede religious criticism’ (Löwith 1949, 49). Religious persecution and coercion as a political tool only serve to strengthen the chains of religion. The critique of religion, accordingly, addresses itself to the issues in the world that produce and keep religion.

The editors of Marx and Engels: On Religion point out that ‘Marx and Engels most resolutely denounced the attempts of the anarchists and Blanquists, Dühring and others to use coercive methods against religion. . . . They proved that the prohibition and persecution of religion can only intensify religious feeling. On the other hand, Marxism, contrary to bourgeois atheism with its abstract ideological propaganda and its narrow culturalism, shows that religion cannot be eliminated until the social and political conditions which foster it are abolished’ (Marx & Engels 1972, 9). The illusory consolation of religion cannot be remedied by the removal of religion: ‘To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of vale of tears, the halo of which is religion’ (CW3, 176).

Marx in the Introduction makes it abundantly clear that the criticism of religion is not a goal in itself. The criticism of religion is only a premise for every other kind of criticism; it is not more than that. The real aim in the exposure of religion is not that it tears up the imaginary flowers camouflaging the alienated life of the people, but rather that the people ‘shake off the chain and pluck the living flower’ (CW3, 176). It is essential, therefore, that the criticism of religion becomes a criticism of politics: ‘The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the holy form of human self-alienation has been unmasked, is to unmask self-alienation in its unholy forms. Thus, the criticism of heaven turns into the criticism of the earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics’ (CW3, 176).

In these formulations, Marx went beyond the Young Hegelians like D.F. Strauss, Bruno Bauer, Max Stirner, and Feuerbach, who criticised everything by making everything a matter of religious representation. ‘The total domination,’ writes Axelos, ‘was presupposed, and religious concepts dominated all realities and all ideas; so that, after first interpreting everything in a religious and theological way, these critical critics would attack that very domination as a usurpation of the true and natural life of man. They wanted to free man from their religious bonds. And yet, since they are the ones who viewed everything through religion, their negation of what held man in chains remained ideologically critical, abstract, theological in an anti-theological form, and simply long-winded’ (Axelos 1976, 161).

Marx’s critique of religion, on the other hand, focuses on the world from which it takes shape, and it is this malaise of alienation, which needs to be extirpated. He gives a materialist explanation to the religious consciousness. ‘Marx undertakes a critique of reality as it is and of the ideology that corresponds to it, a critique that would end by compelling the practical and revolutionary transformation of everything in existence. The battle is engaged not in the name of “philosophic truth” but in order to supersede alienation on a practical level and free both productive forces and men’ (ibid. 161).

Marx, in his early theory of alienation, views religion as a fantasy of the alienated man. ‘Religion rests on a want, a defect, a limitation. Its truth resides in practice, though religion itself, as religion, possesses no practice, just as it does not have a history of its own. Since practice, of which religion is always the sublimation, did not contain real truth, religion has been only the alienated expression of a real alienation and, of course, has contributed to the continuance of that alienation. Marx does not recognise any formative and basic role for religion . . . There is not even any question of the “divine” or the “sacred”; these are but products of the alienation of religious imagination, which is itself a by-product of alienated material production’ (ibid. 165). In Marx’s estimation, religion being a phenomenon of secondary importance merited no independent criticism. In his later works, the element of class ideology becomes his major concern.

Some writers have characterised Marxism as a religion, and have also questioned Marx’s atheism. Robert Tucker, for instance, writes: ‘The religious essence of Marxism is superficially obscured by Marx’s rejection of the traditional religions. This took the form of a repudiation of “religion” as such and espousal of “atheism”. Marx’s atheism, however, meant only a negation of the trans-mundane God of traditional Western religion. It did not mean the denial of a supreme being . . . Thus his atheism was a positive religious proposition. It rules out considerations of Marxism as a religious system of thought only if, with Marx, we equate the traditional religions with religion as such’ (Tucker 1972, 22; see also Reding 1961, 160). According to this approach, Marxism is to be analysed as a religious system within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and as such it can be assimilated in theology. Eberhard Jüngel in his book God as the Mystery of the World advocates this: ‘The Marxist critique of religion could much more easily be accepted by theology than that of Feuerbach, if the latter were not presupposed by the former. Certainly one can integrate critically the specific interest of Marx’s critique of religion into theology — and in some ways it must be done. But that is the current fashion anyway, so that there is scarcely too little being done along these lines theologically’ (Jüngel 1983, 341, footnote 43).

The positions taken by Tucker and Jüngel concerning Marx’s atheism in fact confuse the issue. Our point of departure in this matter is that Marx viewed religion, without any reservations, as a medium of social illusions, and that all the religious belief claims were false. Marx was a thoroughgoing atheist. In his writings from the earliest to the latest, there is no indication, explicit or implicit, admitting the existence of God. Marx absolutely rejects any idea of a transcendent God or a personal God (i.e. God in the human form); therefore, any religious belief claims like God becoming a human being or a human being becoming God, etc. are false and nonsensical linguistic aberrations and they are nothing more than that. Marx’s atheism cannot be reconciled with religious and theological presuppositions. The loud exclamations about God from the authoritarian pulpits cannot bring into being which is a non-being. Turner rightly suggests:

‘It simply will not do, as some Christian apologists maintain, that Marx was only a relative atheist, that he rejected only the God espoused by the Christians of his day, that this God (primarily the God of the nineteenth-century orthodox Lutheran establishments) is not the God of contemporary Christianity, or that as others suggest, his hostility to theism may have no purchase on that contemporary Christianity. Marx rejected not only particular forms of theism but also any reference whatever to a transcendent reality’ (Turner 1991, 322; see also Lobkowicz 1967, 303-35).

According to Marx, the history of the world is the creation of man through his labour, which is explicable solely with reference to man without the mediation of a divine being. In the EPM, for instance, Marx writes: ‘But since for the socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis. Since the real existence of man and nature — since man has become for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man has become practical, sensuous, perceptible — the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man — a question which implies the admission of the unreality of nature and of man — has become impossible in practice’ (EPM 100). This pronouncement leaves little room for any other interpretation of Marx except that there is no room for God in this world or anywhere else outside it.

Marx’s discussion of religion in the Introduction, shows that he was well acquainted with the Western religions and their various traditions. In OJQ and the Introduction, Marx, no doubt, has the contemporary dogmatic Lutheranism in Germany in his view, but he writes about religion in general and therein his rejection of it is absolute. For him atheism, as a negation of God was inseparable from humanism which postulates the existence of man through this negation.


Abbreviations used:

Introduction      ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
OJQ                      ‘On the Jewish Question’
EPM                   Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
CW 3                  Marx/Engels, Collected Works, Volume 3, Moscow, 1975


For downloading the book, click on the following:

Dr. Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

Book Review: Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (Khan)

October 17, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is a recent  review by Jacob J. Prahlow of my book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey.

This book can be downloaded by clicking on the following link.

— Nasir Khan, Editor


Book Review: Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms (Khan)

History is contested. Though far from a novel statement, we often need to be reminded that the past is not as clean and easy as our history textbooks make it out to be. This is especially true in matters of religious history and conflict, where seemingly everyone wants to contribute their two cents to hot button issues. Occasionally, however, someone will produce a historical narrative that—while outside the mainstream—remains valuable enough to warrant consideration. Nasir Khan’s Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms may be one such book.

In Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey (Oslo: Solum Forlag, 2006), Khan traces the history of Christianity and its interactions with Islam, admittedly writing from the perspective of a Muslim historian and political analyst. Weighing in at nearly five hundred pages, Khan’s tome-like work stands as one of the most thorough treatments of Islamic-Christian in recent decades. After three chapters on early Christianity and the pre-Islamic world, Khan devotes two sections to the rise of Islam and early doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam and two chapters on political influence and spread of Islam. Next come two chapters on the Crusades, a section on Islamic interaction with the Mongol empire, and three chapters on “shifting perceptions” of Islam and then rise of Enlightenment perspectives. Perceptions of Islam closes with two chapters on late-nineteenth and twentieth century interactions between Islam and Christianity.

There is much of value in this volume. In the first place, it is well written and easy to follow, something that cannot be said of every attempt at a historical survey. Khan does an especially admirable job providing a Muslim perspective on the history of Christianity, world history, and Muslim-Christian relations. Books that provide other ways of engaging history—even if they are ultimately disagreeable—are integral to properly engaging the complexities of the past. In this vein, Khan provides a good sense of Muslim interpretations of important events—the Crusades in particular—and how these events continue to shape Muslim perceptions of the West. Finally, he offers some solid reading in the general history of Middle East. Overall, there is much that students of history will find useful in Khan’s presentation.

However, much here also stands in need to critique. Two primary issues loom large throughout this volume: the assumption of modernity and its harshest critiques of Christianity without reciprocity toward Islam and a fundamentally faulty understanding of early Christianity. In the first place, Khan takes a thoroughly modernist approach to history—Marxist it seems, both in term of approach and the laudatory citation of Marx and Lenin. This historiography relies heavily upon considerably older scholarship, especially when it comes to discussing the ills of Christianity. Khan’s primary authorities when considering the history of Christianity are Voltaire, Thomas Paine, and Gibbon. Further, he relies on ‘First Quest’ Historical Jesus scholars—Wrede and Renan primarily—when talking about the historical Jesus. This would be problematic in itself, but Khan also almost entirely avoids similarly dated and perspectival criticisms of Islam. This approach to scholarship is simply not acceptable for something published as recently as 2006. Second, Khan’s chapters on early Christianity are filled with numerous inaccuracies, the most troubling of which is a flawed understanding of the Trinity. For a writer who consistently criticizes Christians for not coming to a proper understanding of Islam,[1] this is disappointing.

Overall, Khan’s work stands as something of a mixed bag. The most valuable use of Perspectives of Islam may be that it offers a good indication of “where we’re at” in terms of Muslim-Christian dialogue. Whereas many interfaith-minded authors seem to put the best face possible on any given situation, Khan gives what appears to be his honest opinion, no holds barred. In that sense, this book may serve as a valuable source for where Christians and Muslims need to seek further clarification and understanding. This book comes recommended for those thinking about Muslim-Christian dialogue, and those who already possess a solid foundation in the history of Christianity. For other readers, Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms should only serve as piecemeal source or an example of Muslim perspectives on the history of Christianity.

All opinions in this review belong solely to the reviewer.

[1] For one example of this, see page 329.

Democratic rule or theocratic rule for the Muslim people

October 26, 2014

Nasir Khan, October 26, 2014

Islam is a religion, a great religion, but it is not a political ideology for multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies of the present times. It contains some golden principles such as equality, fairness and justice that are applicable in politics because such universal principles are recognised as the pillars of democracy and open society. But that does not mean religion, any religion for that matter, can be an alternative to democratic form of government because this inevitably leads to the concentration of power and influence in the hands of some potentates and despots. This has been the case in the the Middle Ages where the Church dominated states and it became a symbol of tyrannical rule and oppressive practices. It is quite so in some Islamic countries where dynastic despots and oligarchs rule by using Islam for their own ends and state oppression.

It’s not difficult to see that different people have different interpretations of Islam. Historically, there has never been any unanimity of views in Islam on a range of issues. During the formative period of the Islamic Caliphate after 632 C.E. differing and mutually exclusive interpretation of Islamic state and Islamic rule had soon started to take shape when the community split along the Sunni-Shia lines. Such differences have multiplied over the course of fourteen centuries. Even within the Sunnis different schools of thought emerged and there is no way they can ever be reconciled. Nor, can the Sunni and Shia concepts of what constitutes Islamic ruler be reconciled because of the differing concepts that underlie Caliphate (Sunni) and Imamate (Shia).

When some people dare to give their opinions, which do not repeat the centuries-old stereotypes they are attacked for their heretical views by the orthodox and rigid literalists of traditions. They assume only they have the ‘true’ version of Islam; therefore, only they are the ones who can rightfully speak on behalf of God and Islam while all the others are groping in the darkness of ignorance and suffering from the malaise of modern Western ideas of democracy and human rights. However, it is essential to explain that democracy is a form of government in which the will of the population of a country is decisive in forming policies that advance the cause of the citizens in social, religious, economic and political matters. In a genuine democracy this will reflects the actual needs of the people but in a bogus democracy the form of democracy is used to further individual or particular interests while paying lip-service to the values of democracy.

Richard Daly and Nasir Khan on Israel and Palestine Issue

March 12, 2013

Editor’s remarks: Dr Richard Daly is an anthropologist who is active in writing and publishing. He wrote me a letter in which he raised some serious questions about my approach to Israel and Palestine. In response I wrote to him a letter in which I explained my views on the matter but without getting into any detailed discussion of our differing views. As mutually agreed,  I am publishing our exchanges on my websites and some other internet sites. In doing so we hope that our respective views will be useful to clarify the issues for readers, political actors and peace activists. Any private and personal information we exchanged has been deleted.

Nasir Khan, Editor

Richard Daly to Nasir Khan:

March 5, 2013,


[Text deleted.]

I am  fully with you on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, but I think you are wildly wrong on your commentary re Palestine and Israel. Too Islam-oriented. The focus cannot be on religion or physical violence. Too incendiary and full of hatred. It has to focus on Israel’s refusal to stop expansion and engage in peace.

I think we have to be pulling the world toward some kind of rational tolerance and peace in the region, and fanning flames of hatred –which does not have a shortage of the same–is counterproductive.

We have to stress not the bestiality of Israel, because all of us know how to be beasts when we are pushed into frenzies of intolerance, but to stress their leaders’ constant violation of the world’s desire for peace in the region, their violation of everything human by their armed occupation and expansion of Palestinian land.

I do not think the zionists have anything positive to contribute, but I do not think it reasonable or just, at this stage in the game, to drive Israelis into the sea. Israel has arrived. It cannot be pushed out, but nor should it be allowed to push out the long-term inhabitants on the basis of some Old Testament belief in ethnic primogeniture.

They must be led by world public opinion either to leave the country and make their mischief somewhere else, or work together with Palestinians to build a successful and peaceful country, an operation that could be a success if the whole world both criticizes and assists the process. How about calling for dismantling Israeli and Iranian nuclear installations, and, by the way, those of the big shots too.

Of course it cannot be done without a weakened and discredited late capitalism. Western capital is in crisis but that is another question. Pushing for a serious peace is a way of weakening capital and its aims even further, and giving some influence to the world’s peoples instead of to their so called leaders.

Your approach is shrill and incendiary and might one day contribute to massive communal violence rather than pressuring Israel and its backers  to make concessions for their own good, as well as for some degree of harmony is the powder keg that the region is. By all means, show the high walls, the roadblocks, the stunted Palestinian lives, the new towns on Palestinian farms, but many of your images — brutal acts to individuals — go beyond that and verge on hate literature, from my perspective.

I am sorry but I had to write this and I do not have time to become a blogger.

Nasir Khan to Richard Daly:

March 10, 2013

Hello Richard,

[Text deleted.]

You have set forth some of your ideas on the Israel-Palestine issue including some critical remarks towards my approach to Israel and Palestine. Even though I have some reservations about what you say, but nonetheless I fully appreciate your sombre thoughts that show your good-will and your concern for peace and a peaceful settlement of the conflict. In fact, I also desire the same and have yearned for such goals for almost half-a-century. When it comes to analysing the specifics of Israeli policies, which I will rather call Zionist policies and goals, then our views seem to diverge on some points because they are based on our different experiences, involvements, perceptions and presuppositions.

Contrary to what you assume about my position, I also stand for peace and toleration in the region and for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Meanwhile, the old Zionist lie perfectly tailored to misleading the world while they carried out their systematic  expansion for the last 6 decades has been to play the victim-card: Israeli Jews are under threat of being wiped out! This deception has duped many people everywhere, especially those whose ears are used to listening to the customary sermons of Judaeo-Christian common roots of the Western civilisation. Therefore, it was interesting to see you also repeating the favourite Zionist catch-phrase ‘to drive Israelis into the sea’!

Zionism has not been a religious organisation with a philanthropist outlook or mission. Its aims were and continue to be political: to expand, exploit and dominate. Not only within the Middle East but also far beyond. The strategy to extend the Zionist power and control is a story of success: the rulers of the United States and its Congress dance to the tunes of Zionist masters and lately Canada has joined their political chorus. Britain and France were their traditional supporters and they follow what Tel Aviv tells them to do. Earlier on, the way they managed to prevail over the British government to get the Balfour Declaration (1917) shows their strength and their methods. During the British Mandate (in other words, British colonial rule) over Palestine in the inter-war period, the British facilitated the task of the Zionists within Palestine.

The Jewish emigration to Palestine increased during and after the Second World War. The people of Palestine were ignored while their land was being taken by Jewish organisations who soon used terrorist methods to take control of the land. The British rulers, the patrons of Zionist cause, were not spared either. Now the next step was to get the British out of the way to take Palestine. Under Zionist terror, the British fled leaving behind a story of betrayal, apathy and deception.

But the old colonial master had opened the door for the European Zionists to create a new colonial-settler state of ‘Israel’. Now was the time to get UN to declare the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 by partitioning Palestine. More than 78% of Palestine to Israel, only 22% the rest to the ‘native’ population of Palestine! That was the partition by the imperialist powers towards which the USSR also acquiesced. The Zionists had their day. The Arabs of Palestine had been betrayed and left to organised Zionist terrorists who wasted no time to expel a large population from their land by terror and violence. The Nakba had started and since then it has chartered the course of the ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestine.

Obviously, I am quite aware that to offer an adequate reply to some of your critical comments I should present my views in much greater detail. But unfortunately I am unable to do so at this time. Instead, I will briefly reply to some of your direct questions.

Are my comments and outlook on Palestine and Israel ‘Islam-oriented’? I hope not, as far as I can see. To my mind it has been a political problem where the Zionists have taken over the land of the people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians, and expelled them from their land. They are the Palestinians who have been pushed out of their land, not the Israelis ‘into the sea’!

Since 1967 the further colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been going on unabated. The world has been watching and not able to do anything to stop Israel. Why? The Zionist power in the US and the rest of the Western world is the key to understanding this.

Numerous UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied land produced no result. The Israeli response has been one of total defiance and rejection of international law and international conventions with regard to their illegal settlements in the occupied territories and their treatment of the captive Palestinians. USA, Canada, etc. support Israel in all crimes against the people of Palestine. This is still going on. Now the question is how to respond to all this?

Well, we can play lip-service to the problem and say that peace will eventually prevail if we show only patience. I suggest, better still we keep our eyes closed and ears shut so that we don’t see or hear what is going on in the occupied Palestine. In that way, the angel of peace may appear on the horizon and pronounce the message of peace and justice and everything will turn fine! In fact, this is the attitude of the people who are neutral spectators of the tragedy within the occupied territories of Palestine. How the Palestinians are killed, beaten and terrorised by Israel has no meaning for such noble neutral onlookers. I was somewhat surprised that a well-read academic like you also comes with a prognosis that ‘focus should not be on religion and physical violence’.

But it is fair to ask why I support the Palestinians while so many other people including numerous political analysts, historian and journalists do not concentrate on their plight. Why I have sided and still do with the oppressed people of Palestine is not due to their religions, Islam and Christianity, but rather it is because of my awareness as a humanist to the great calamity that had fallen these people. We know that right-wing Jewish settlers who have been placed in various illegal settlements by the Israeli government in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are religious extremists and fanatics. It is the Zionists who use Jewish religion for their political agenda and misleading propaganda. This is something which I have tried to make clear. But I have never tried to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of religion, Islam and Christianity, versus Judaism. That will be too crude a position for a humanist like me to take! Neither, have I ever put forward Islam to define and defend the Palestinian cause. In my ideological and socio-political orientations, I have been a socialist, a non-compromising secularist and a humanist. As a matter of my humanist convictions, I do not play with religions or become a plaything of religions or religious people. Therefore to impute any religious label to my political work or views may be due to some misperception; this is quite easy because my Indo-Islamic cultural identity seems obvious.

Equally, it is vital to underscore that Israel has not been using physical violence and torture against the Palestinians for fun, but as a tool for its expansionist and colonising project. Such methods are brutal, barbarous and inhuman, and these are used routinely against other human beings. Should I ignore and not say what is happening in this regard? On the contrary, it is my duty as a human being to expose such cruel and inhuman violence against the people of Palestine. Obviously, the ‘Friends of Israel’ will rather have a lid on such information from leaking or displayed in the media. I am not against any religion or the followers of any religion or any mystic faith. But I am not a defender of Zionism, which as I mentioned earlier, is a political and not a religious movement. However, I am not the only one of the kind to think so, either.


On my blogs and other alternative websites that care to side with the oppressed and victimised people, I try to highlight the human rights issues in many countries including Palestine and Israel. Because it is by exposing the violence and terror of the Zionists of Israel can we show to the world what the Zionists are doing. If we don’t that, we are giving our tacit approval to such atrocities by our silence and indifference. This is more so in the case of politically-conscious people, the people who know what is happening but remain indifferent. In this regard, my position is unambiguous and my views are clearly goal-oriented: Israel should stop all such criminal activities against the people and the occupied land of Palestine.

It is well known what the Zionists in and outside Israel, AIPAC, and the Israeli Lobby in America, Canada, Britain, France and other European countries stand for. The US Government and the US Congress as the staunch backers of Israel and the Friends of Israel throughout the western hemisphere support the policies of Israel vis-a-vis the occupied people of Palestine. They give their full backing to Israel for its continued oppression and the colonisation of the rest of the West Bank and the gradual annexation of East Jerusalem by obliterating its Arab complexion. Thus new facts on the ground that Israel has been creating would decide the shape of things to come. Who can doubt that? This is a realistic assessment of the situation which the people of Palestine do not and cannot accept. We who sympathise with them continue to voice our support for their national rights and their protection from a brutal occupier. This oppression and violence is still going on and people are being killed, imprisoned, brutally beaten and humiliated.

The shrivelled tracts of land in the West Bank that were still owned by the Palestinians have been and are still being taken over by Israel for Jewish settlements, while confiscations and demolitions of the Palestinian homes take place in East Jerusalem and other places. It happens all the time, almost on daily basis. Western spectators and mass media have their own affiliations, sympathies and much apathy towards the plight of the Palestinian people. Contrary to what you say that my approach is ‘shrill and incendiary’ that may contribute to massive communal violence, I see the violence against the Palestinians a crime against humanity and war crimes. I am one of those who oppose the violence and brutalities of the occupying power. My task here is to inform others and highlight the issues so that Israel changes its expansionist and terrorist course and stops killing and destroying the Palestinians. As a historian, a blogger and a peace activist that’s all I can do in solidarity with a people who are more like the Red Indians of America of the previous centuries who were pushed by the European colonists out of their homes and hearths and have since those times being portrayed as incorrigible wild tribal people who were mostly put to death and their remaining descendants pushed to some barren reservations to live in social isolation, powerlessness and penury in the land which they once had owned as a free and independent people. The situation of Palestinians is not much different for that of the old generations of the Red Indians or First Nations of Canada.

In other words, my approach to the conflict is not much different from that of other peace activists who are working for peace and justice. Among such people I will also mention the names of some prominent Jewish writers and peace activists like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Richard Falk, Gilad Atzmon, Miko Peled, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, etc. My views and work in this area are in line with these upholders of  the Palestinians’ rights and they are meant to contribute to ending the conflict and putting an end to the enslavement, oppression and degradation of a people.

I still believe only one democratic and secular state solution in historic Palestine is the best solution to the conflict. In no way, a well-informed person will see my approach as amounting to ‘hate literature’ or inflammatory. As you know, the Jewish writers, historians and peace activists I mentioned are not the enemies of Israel. Indeed, they are aware of the harm Zionism has done to the cause of the Jewish people and the long-term dangers which Israel is creating for itself and other people of the region. These views are appropriate to end an oppressive control over the life and destiny of the people of Palestine. With such views, I completely agree. But if you or anyone else will also call what they write including my articles and comments as ‘hate literature’ and ‘incendiary’ then that is something which I find deeply regrettable.

In the end, I thank you for your frank views and criticism. That also shows your perspective in a complicated conflict, which is a positive thing for exploring the possibilities from various angles. In addition, I much appreciate honestly-held views of a friend and well-wisher like you.

Cordially yours


Richard Daly To Nasir Khan:

March 10, 2013


[Text deleted.]

As for the Palestine question, there is nothing in what you write that I disagree with. In fact the hegemonic presence of Zionism in Toronto is regularly brought to our attention by an activist friend who works with Jews for Justice in Palestine. She is up to her eyes in the lies, threats and obfuscations of Zionism every day, and is a firm anti imperialist but constantly meets hysteria from the Canadian media, state and almost all other Jewish organizations.

The only difference you and I may have is how to frame the huge injustice and huge oppression such that this hegemony will be increasingly isolated by masses of bloggers and face bookers etc. Just exposing crimes without trying to affect a positive response to the situation, It seems to me –just pointing out the vicious acts of Israeli/Zionist officials and soldiers and settlers has to be done is ways that encourage organized resistance and not just gut-hatred based on tribal alliances,that can lead to more violent retaliations (which is what Zionism needs in order to justify its very military existence and its expansion). They provoke and we respond with angry retaliations, and the cycle goes on, and the leaders of the world, the monopolists continue to conduct business as usual.

Thanks for the long and serious reply. I did not feel it was an argument that I wanted, at this point to take to the Facebook crowd, which is an audience I find generally very superficial and highly manipulated by market forces and a difficult forum for serious issues.


Remarks on the Sunni-Shia division in Islam

March 8, 2013

Nasir Khan,  March 8, 2013

The division of Islam into Shia and Sunni branches from the mid-seventh century was more due to political factors than with the fundamentals of the faith because they were the same for all people and power elites. Obviously, two rivals engaged in a struggle to gain upper-hand in political race cannot win unless they strike some compromise and avoid the conflict. This was possible but did not happen in the early phase of the growing polarisation that was taking place in the Muslim community (the Ummah).

One puritan group, the Kharajites, saw the developments with apprehension for the new faith and the Muslim community, which by now was large and was rapidly spreading in many regions. The Kharajite solution to stem the tide of power-politics that was damaging the new nation was a drastic one: liquidate the rival claimants to the Caliphate and save the faith and the Caliphate! Despite what they did, the problem did not vanish. One party had won and the other lost. Thus under the new political order, the hereditary principle to rule replaced the right to choose the ruler. Now the faith was not moulding political power but rather the political power that had much to do with the shape of society that was taking shape. During this period the Sunni-Shia division became more marked and the divide assumed the shape that is still with us.

Now the Sunni and Shia forms of divergent political thought about the office of the Caliph and Imam emerged. Afterwards theological differences also started to grow. Inevitably, the Sunni and Shia doctrinal differences became more pronounced and the differing schools of jurisprudence put their stamp on the growing disparity between the two groups. Therefore what started as a political struggle to succession to the highest office in the State eventually developed into two rival sects within Islam. Islam had split into two major branches. This split was permanent. It had far reaching effects on the development of Islamic power and civilisation.

What sort of relationship existed between the two branches when Islam became a world religion and Islamic Empire grew in size and power can be briefly put this way: The Sunni Islam became dominant but Shias were not isolated or victimised. The relations were mostly cordial and there was mutual accommodation and tolerance.

The intolerance towards the Shias and their victimisation in countries like Pakistan in these times is a tragic story of a tolerant faith that has been hijacked by some fanatic ignorant people in the name of their brand of a theology. This Takfiri theology is simple: Shias are not Muslims; therefore we have to convert them to Islam. If they do not convert to Islam, we have a duty to kill them! So these misguided hoodlums have a big task: to eradicate Shias in Pakistan who are about one-fourth of the population, almost 40-million.

However, we should keep in mind that these right-wing criminals and callous murderers are only a fringe element within Pakistan who are causing havoc. The vast majority of Sunni Muslims have nothing against the Shia Muslims and vice versa. Both of them look upon each other as brothers and accept each other’s right to follow Islam according to their own traditions and customs.

But in Iraq under President Bush American invaders and occupiers of the land fanned the sectarian divide and what we see now is not hidden from anyone. Thus the Takfiri assassins within Pakistan with links to other Islamic countries and American imperialism from outside contribute to the same goal by use of violence and terror: divide, crush and win! But these goals are ignoble and inhuman goals that all people of good-will across all sorts of political and religious identities and affiliations need to stand against. Religions, politics and ideologies should contribute to human welfare, happiness and peaceful existence, not vice versa.

Some Comments on Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

January 19, 2011

by Nasir Khan, January 19, 2011

Editor’s Note: Gorki wrote a comprehensive comment on my article ‘Resolving the Kashmir Conflict (Foreign Policy Journal, January 13, 2011 ) in which he offered his perspective and also raised some important questions. In reply, I have written the following remarks. For the sake of convenience, I have split his comment into a few parts followed by my reply:


Dr. Khan I find your article useful because it allows one to hear the views of the Kashmiris themselves regarding the Kashmir imbroglio.

On the face of it your statement “The best course left for India is to make a break with its previous policy, and accede to the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris. This will not weaken India; instead, it will show the strength of Indian democracy as well of the humane aspects of Indian cultural tradition…” sounds reasonable and taken in isolation such views even find many sympathetic listeners in India itself. However the Indians must keep other consideration in mind that cannot be considered imperialistic by any stretch of imagination.


Gorki , thank you for your balanced opinion on a number of points and the important questions you have raised in your comment. I will try to reply to some points.

My roots are in the Indian culture and I am deeply proud of our historical heritage. I am well aware of the Indian Civilisations stretching back to the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation, some five thousand years old. Merely because of the hostile Indo-Pak relations since the partition of India in 1947, the Kashmir Issue has been the main cause of tension between the two states, I have regarded both India and Pakistan as parts of the same body, the body being the subcontinent of India that holds diverse races, cultures and mores showing much diversity while geographically belonging to the same entity. We can compare the subcontinent’s position with the broad geographical areas identified with Europe. In Europe there have been many languages, diverse cultures, political and religious conflicts for well over two thousand years. Despite all that various nations and people of this continent identity themselves with Europe and its civilisations, old and new. In a similar way, as an individual I identity myself with the subcontinent. My regional identity with Kashmir and the historical connection I have with with Kashmir is only natural; it is the affinity of part with the whole. As such they are mutually interdependent, not exclusive of each other.


The reality is that the entire former British India is organically connected and anything that happens in one part has an echo elsewhere in the sub continent. For example when a sacred relic went missing for 17 days from the Hazrat Bal mosque in 1963; there was rioting all over India. Thus any action in or regarding Kashmir cannot be taken in isolation.

While self determination and independence by themselves are honourable goals, anyone arguing for self determination only for the Kashmiris of the valley would either have to argue on the basis of some kind of Kashmiri exceptionalism or else should be willing to accept similar demands for self determination from others such as the Sikhs in the Indian Punjab and the Baluch in Pakistan. Conceding any such demands then would risks major man made disasters like the ethnic cleansing and huge population displacements that occurred in the wake of the partition in 1947.


Here your formulation about the organic connection has the Spencerian undertones! We have histories of India and Indian states before the British came. When the British gradually took over different parts of India by force of arms or by their political skills (and tricks), our people and many of our rulers evinced little concern to what happened to small or big states who were being devoured by the East India Company. Some of them had treacherously sided with the Farangis against those Indian rulers who resisted the British. This is also our history.

The instance of the disappearance of a holy relic in Kashmir you cite has more to do with religious feelings and identities than with the organic connection throughout the subcontinent. Such relics can also be seen as having extra-territorial dimension and impact.

In fact, we have seen major political conflicts and killing of innocent people by the Indian state (and also by Pakistani army in the Northwest Pakistan at the bidding of the United Sates as a continuing policy of crushing and eliminating those who resist and oppose the American wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan). The vast majority of these countries has not shown much resolve to oppose the policies of their governments. But, a religious relic or what believers may call a ‘religious place’ is something different! That moves our masses, and they do what they think is serving their deities!! We know how the religious passions of ordinary people inflamed by rightist forces in India in which the Indian rulers were implicated, led to the destruction of the Babri mosque by the Hindu mobs and the killing of thousands of innocent Indian Muslims in Gujarat.

But what sort of policies a state formulates and implements has a direct bearing on the political developments of a country. The same is true in the case of India; a wise political lead by responsible politicians influences and shapes the political landscape.

Now the question of ‘Kashmiri exceptionalism’ if India and Pakistan hold plebiscite to meet the demands of the people of Jammu and Kashmir: I myself, do not regard the case of Jammu and Kashmir an exceptional one; but no doubt there is a historical context to it. The circumstances under which India extended its control over Jammu and Kashmir is much different from other princely states. At the end of the British rule in India and the partition of India by the imperial rulers, there were 562 princely states, big and small, over which the British held suzerainty or ‘paramountcy’ as in the case of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. We know how these princely states were incorporated into the two new states. How India extended its control over Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is relevant to the whole question of the Kashmir Issue. After the military conflict and the ceasefire mediated by the United Nations, both India and Pakistan agreed to hold plebiscite that would enable the people of J&K to determine their future. That promise still remains unfilled and the consequences of that denial have been catastrophic for India, Pakistan and especially the people of J&K.

The Kashmir Conflict continues to be the unfinished task of the 1947 partition. This conflict has not disappeared; neither will it go away because the bullet has so far overridden the ballot and common sense.


Letting Kashmir valley join Pakistan OTOH would in essence be conceding the two nation theory; again not without risks. As you rightly pointed out, India remains a home to some 130 million Muslims. Letting the Muslims of the valley to go join Pakistan would in no way enhance the security of the non-Kashmiri Muslims elsewhere in India and if anything would make them even more insecure and strengthen the very forces of Hindutva that you pointed out threaten India’s fragile communal amity. (Ironically this is exactly what happened to the Indian Muslims of UP and Bihar who had allowed themselves to be emotionally led into voting for the AIML’s election plank of a Pakistan in 1946 which then left them high and dry).

Even within the state of Jammu and Kashmir itself, there would be major upheavals in case the current structure is tampered with. What would happen to the minority Muslims in Jammu and Ladakh?
Also if one argues that Kashmir is a homeland for the Kashmiris then what happens to other non Kashmiri populations of the valley such as the Gujjars etc.? Where would their homeland be?


Here you raise some important questions and also some legitimate concerns. First, the ‘two nation theory’. In fact, the partition of India was on the basis of  the two nation theory. For the sake of argument, I will say that if the people of J&K join A or B country, or decide for some other option they should have the democratic right to do so. The organic linkage you seem to emphasise in case the Valley joins Pakistan is worthy of consideration, but what Kashmiri Muslims want is their right to determine their future and to gain freedom. What that freedom entails is the freedom from Indian rule. This is their wish and to crush their aspirations the Indian state has used more than half-a-million soldiers. They have killed more than one-hundred-thousand people. It is military occupation of a country where India has committed horrific war crimes.

Who contributed to such a perspective that shaped the political history of India and led to the division of India by the British? Well, an easy way for amateurs is to have a bogeyman to explain away the historical facts and blame the Muslim leadership for all that! Even before Mr Gandhi came to India from South Africa, one of the most prominent Indian politician at that time was Mr Jinnah, who was commonly known as the ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. He had the vision of a democratic, united India at the end of the British raj. But alas that was not to happen because this liberal, secularist lawyer was able to see the machinations of the Hindu leadership of the Indian National Congress and other Hindu militant organisations standing for the Ram raj and the Hindu domination of the whole sub-continent.

In my political work, at no time have I ever said what the people of J&K should stand for or how they should decide about their future. Neither have I ever advocated that the people of the Kashmir Valley should join Pakistan. That is something for the affected people to decide.

The Kashmiris’ demand and their struggle for Azaadi (freedom) is not directed against any other people, ethnic or religious minorities, who make up the population of their country. The people of J&K, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., have traditions of tolerance and inter-religious accommodation. In 1947, I was a six-year-old; I had seen how Hindus and Muslims had a shared and fraternal existence in our area. If the people of J&K are given a chance to live as free human beings and not under the terror of military power of India, then our age-old traditions of mutual respect and acceptance will reassert. That will be a good example for the Hindutva rightist forces that pose a great threat to the Indian democracy and religious minorities, Muslims being their major target.

I am also conscious of the dangers you rightly point to if the ‘current structure’ is changed. But I don’t suppose you offer your solution as the continued rejection of the demands of the Kashmiris because that safeguards some ‘ideal’ unity of India, knowing that India has carried out a militarist solution to crush the demands of the Kashmiri freedom movement. Simply put, it has been state terrorism by an occupying power. This short-sighted policy will fail in the long run as it has failed in the past.


You rightly mention that Kashmir is currently a big source of contention between India and Pakistan. However how certain can anybody be that this will not be the case if this issue is sorted out? Former Pakistani president, General Musharraf once said that India will remain Pakistan’s considered foe even if Kashmir issue is resolved. There are people with strong following in Pakistan who argue for waging a war on ‘Hindu India’ to conquer the Red Fort and restore the Mughal Empire. What of those?


If the main source of conflict between India and Pakistan is resolved according to the wishes of the people of J&K, then we expect the two neighbours will live amicably side by side and their bilateral relations and socio-cultural contacts will increase which will benefit all the people of the region. What Musharraf said is his view and it should not be taken too seriously. Apparently, the climate of hostility and mutual recriminations between India and Pakistan since the partition, people on the both sides have been fed on cheap propaganda. The nonsensical slogans to restore the Mughal Empire is the daydreaming of some Rip Van Winkles who are living in past, not in the twenty-first century.


I agree with you however that the current stifling atmosphere in Kashmir has to come to an end; human rights violations need to be investigated in a transparent manner and the culprits have to be vigorously prosecuted. Kashmiris need to feel that they control their political and economic destiny in their own hands. For this to happen however both the Indian state and the Kashmiri separatists have to demonstrate courage and pragmatic far sightedness.

The state has to take the above listed steps in the short run. In the long run it has not only to deliver on the economic measures promised previously but also to scrupulously avoid the mistakes of the past such as blatant rigging of elections as it did on the 80s in Kashmir and elsewhere in India.
For their part the Kashmiri separatists have to realize that the peaceful and constitutional methods of protest are in the best interest of all Kashmiris and the constitution is their best ally. India is not an empire; it is a Republic and a civic nation.
The constitution does not hold the rest of India in any special position over Kashmir; if anything it is the Kashmiris who hold a special place within the constitution.
Today if the separatists were to come to power via electoral politics, there is absolutely nothing that such a government could not do within the existing framework to better the life (or freedom) of an ordinary Kashmiri that it could do if they had complete ‘Azaadi”.


Some suggestions you make and the prognosis you offer are reasonable. If Kashmiris hold a special place in the Indian Constitution, then obviously Indian control over Kashmir was unlike any other princely state. That also shows that the Indian government had political considerations to accord special status to Kashmir within the Union. But what stops the Delhi government from acceding to the demands of the people of J&K to plebiscite? Why should a great power like India be so afraid to listen to the voice of the people instead of using state terror to crush them?

It is also possible that the vast majority may opt for India. Thus by a generous and courageous political move, India has the power to defuse the conflict for ever. If that happens, then those who stand for separation from India will lose and the consequences will pacify all sides. This can usher in a new era of improved inter-communal and regional relations. Religious fundamentalists and rightist forces on the both sides will not be able to exploit the religious sentiments of the people any longer. That will be a victory of the common sense over emotionalism and communal frenzy.


There is already a precedent of such a dramatic change in political struggle within India. In the 1980s many Sikh leaders were charged with sedition and jailed for demanding a Khalistan and burning copies of the Indian constitution as protest. Today, one of those former separatist is an all powerful Chief Minister in Punjab and there is no opposition because the remaining separatists cannot list a single point in which way the life of an average Sikh would be different in an independent Khalistan.

I do hope to hear form you.


In India there are still many regional and ethnic conflicts. I don’t think the Khalistan movement ever had any justifiable political stance and I am happy it reached its cul de sac. But we should be aware of the pitfall of equating Khalistan with the Kashmir Conflict.

Finally, it has been a pleasure to respond to your wise and erudite comment.

Cordially yours

Nasir Khan

Nasir Khan: Will Obama help Kashmiri struggle against Indian rule?

October 30, 2010

Response to Shahid Siddiqi’s analysis of India’s occupation of Kashmir

By Nasir Khan,  Axis of Logic, Oct 30, 2010

Response by Axis of Logic reader, Nasir Khan on Obama’s November Vist to India: Help Kashmiris gain their right to self-determination.

Mr Siddiqi, I am sure you know what Obama stands for. Please let me add a bit on this score. The whole world knows him as a staunch defender of the policies of Israel who is flanked by and pushed around by Zionists. He has also earned himself the distinction of being a true successor to George W. Bush since stepping in the White House because he has not only followed the war policies of Bush but also extended the war of aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is responsible for the almost daily killings of the Pakistanis by drone missile attacks. Let us keep in view the fact that his hands are sullied with the blood of hundreds of innocent Pakistanis and there is no end in sight to such savagery. Obama does not stand for: kill first and explain later. He has a freehand in killing by his advanced technological devices and as far as he is concerned that is the end of the matter. Why? Because he represents the power of American imperialism, military-industrial complex and the corporate interests. That also means there is no inhibition or restraint on what he does. The determining factor in all this is the global military power and influence of the United States.

Will Obama do anything to stop India from its inhuman atrocities and oppression in Kashmir and seek a solution to the Kashmir Issue? I think, we should come out of such make-believe world of illusions. He wouldn’t do anything of the sort. There are many reasons for that. At present American imperialism, India’s Hindutva leadership and the Zionist rulers of Israel are close strategic and military partners. The last thing on their agenda can be solving the Kashmir Issue. They have other considerations for the region and the Middle East!

As far as the present Pakistani rulers are concerned, they are pawns in the hands of the Washington rulers. They dance to the tunes of or the crack of the whip of the Pentagon and the State Department obediently. They have allowed the United States military to use Pakistani airport Shamsi and other military facilities to launch drone attacks on Pakistanis. In return for American money and to appease the Washington rulers, Pakistani army in Waziristan has been acting  as a mercenary force killing and destroying its own people. So American drones and Pakistan army supplement each other. They are making the world safe for democracy and advancing ‘American’ values!

Source: Axis of Logic

The Following  photos are reproduced from Shahid R. Siddiqi’s article ‘Obama’s November Vist to India: Help Kashmiris gain their right to self-determination.


Radical Historian George Barnsby 1919–2010

April 13, 2010

By Nasir Khan

Dr George Barnsby

Dr George Barnsby, who died on April 11 at the age of 91 in Wolverhampton, was a leading radical activist and historian of the working class movement in the Black Country. Born in London in a working class family, his father died when he was only three years old. Now his mother had the sole responsibility to take care of her two infant sons in dire circumstances. The vicissitudes of his early life made George aware that the ‘station in life’ of many people was determined by their social and economic status. He certainly was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

He left school at 15 and did some ordinary jobs. He showed little interest in politics at that time. However, around the age of eighteen he became a reader of Daily Worker. It was the period when Nazism had emerged as the dominant voice of militarism and in many countries in Europe and the United States fascist parties emerged. Their model was the German Nazi party and their hero Adolf Hitler. When the Second World War started the young George was called up in 1939. At that time, he was 20 years old. When he went to fight for his ‘king and country’ his worldly possessions were two suits and a bicycle. He recalls in his ‘Subversive – One Third of the Autobiography of a Communist’ that for obvious reasons some people had more interest in ‘our country’ than he did!

He was sent to Burma. He experienced there inhumanity of the war and destruction caused by the Japanese. His contact with India and Indians subject to the imperial Raj gave him a broad political insight and awareness of the role of colonialism and imperialism. The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 occurred under the British rule. It is estimated that around 3 million Indians died from starvation and malnutrition. The Bengal government reacted to the disaster with little efficiency, and refused to stop the flow of rice from Bengal. George was an eye-witness to the apathy of the British rulers towards their subjects. There was no shortage of food in the British quarters either. There are still some hard questions about the role and knowledge of the British Prime Minster Winston Churchill into the affair. For instance, when the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Lord Wavell requested him an urgent release of food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, ‘why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.’

The end of the Second World War saw the defeat of fascism and militarism in Germany and Japan. But no such harm came to the Spanish fascism under Franco. The Soviet Union and its Red Army in the Great Patriotic War had borne the brunt of the war on the Eastern Front. With the Allied victory, the army conscripts returned to their homes. In 1946, George was demobbed, receiving a gratuity of about £100. This sum he used to get further education. First, he matriculated from Regent Street Polytechnic before he went to the London School of Economics where he obtained a B.Sc. Honours degree there. From Birmingham University he gained an M.A. degree by writing ‘Social Conditions in the Black Country’ and then from the same university he earned a Ph.D. degree on his thesis ‘Working Class Movement in the Black Country 1750 to 1868′. His studies and committment to revolutionary Socialism that wanted to serve the interests of the working class had taken the central stage in his life. He was to struggle for these objectives for the rest of his life.

When he came to Wolverhampton in 1954, he became the secretary of the local Communist Party. This was the period when the Cold war was in full swing and in the United States anti-Communist crusade of McCarthyism had become the new credo of the Cold War allies in the West. In Britain, Communists were looked upon as traitors; they were spied upon and their telephones tapped. Obviously, George like other Communists was also regarded as subversive and he had to confront what came his way.

The range of his social, academic and political activities in the Black Country extends over vast areas. He wrote a number of histories and pamphlets on Socialism, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Housing and the Radicals in the Black Country.

One major area of communal activity was around Bilston College of Further Education. Some teachers of the College and governors realised that many working-class people were excluded from formal institutional education who formed unqualified work force with little basic skills. Among the excluded were a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minority communities, mainly Afro-Caribbean and Asian. George was an active educator and a leading voice in the new approach to uplifting the working class people and providing them with education that met their needs. This progressive approach in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society was to counterbalance the legacy of Enoch Powell and his followers.

When American President George W. Bush and his close ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, started their genocidal war of aggression against Iraq and the subsequent destruction of Iraq and Iraqis, George steadfastly opposed the imperial war. For him, the Anglo-American war in Iraq was a crime against humanity, a genocide, and its central figures the war criminals who need to be brought to justice. He focused on Bush and Blair and their allies, writing extensively on their policies on his website and informed the populace of the realities of the cover-up of their crimes and their incessant lies.

George Barnsby is survived by his wife Esme and two sons, William and Robert.

Peace prize or war prize to Obama?

October 10, 2009

Nasir Khan, October 10, 2009

According to the normal practice the Nobel Peace Prize is to be
awarded to someone who has contributed to the cause of peace. In
President Obama’s case, we see no such evidence. On the contrary,
since taking office he has escalated and extended the war of
aggression in Afghanistan which his predecessor Bush had started.

American pilotless drones target Pakistani territory and kill people
there with impunity. The ever-increasing death-toll of Afghans and
Pakistanis) at the hands of US-led occupation forces shows the reality of this president’s policies. Obama is following the criminal war policies of his immediate predecessor. From Gitmo to Iraq and to the Occupied Territories of the Palestinians his promises have been
futile; he has backed down on each of his policy statements he had
tossed around.

Except for his empty rhetoric, Obama has produced no concrete results; neither has he shown any consistent and steadfast line of action to pursue the goals for which people around the world had hoped for. His nuclear arms initiative is praiseworthy, but his warmongering does not entitle him to the peace prize. I suggest that this award should be called War Prize to President Obama. Those in the Nobel Committee who have chosen him for the award have made a joke of the term ‘peace’ once again.

Fiendebilder før og nå

March 6, 2009
Av Anne Hege Grung | Morgenbladet, Oslo

Nasir Khan ettersporer islamofobiens røtter i kristen dogmatikk.

Har teologiske dogmer politiske konsekvenser? Eksisterer det eller har det eksistert ulike grunnleggende dogmatiske grunnstrukturer i de forskjellige religionenes lære, som avgjør om de vil fungere som maktmiddel for herskesyke militære og politikere eller kan bli toleransens fanebærere? Nasir Khan gir heldigvis ikke noe entydig svar i sin nye bok, der han gjennomgår hva slags følger kristen dogmedannelse og ulike former for maktpolitikk basert på kristen retorikk og dogmatikk har hatt i forhold til synet på islam og på muslimer.Utgivelsen er utvilsomt et viktig bidrag inn til den offentlige diskurs om forholdet mellom kristendom, islam og Vesten. Khan, historiker og filosof, åpner boken med å gå gjennom kristen dogmehistorie i religionens første par hundre år og de første møtene og konfrontasjonene mellom kristendommen og islam i Midtøsten etter at islam ble etablert som den tredje monoteistiske religionen (eller den fjerde, hvis man inkluderer zoroastrene). Han fortsetter i de neste fjorten kapitlene med å skildre ulike historiske og idéhistoriske epoker i forhold til kristen-muslimske relasjoner. Blant dem er korsfarertiden, mongolenes angrep fra øst, europeisk opplysningstid og kolonialisme. Han avslutter med et kapittel om ulike kirkers nåværende teologiske holdninger til islam, som inkluderer kristen-muslimsk dialogarbeid og enkelte kirkers oppgjør med sin egen islamofobe historie.

Maktfråtseri. På mange måter er det røttene til den nåværende vestlige islamofobien som konstruksjon vi får servert. Tematisk og historisk dekker boken dermed et enormt bredt felt, og et av dens fortrinn er at konsentrasjonen ikke forsvinner underveis. Det som trekkes inn av materiale er relevant for å forklare hvorfor islam ble oppfattet og delvis konstruert som en trussel av kirkens ledere og de politiske herskere i vest. Dette gir helt nødvendige perspektiver på dagens diskurser både om de muslimske minoriteter i Europa og aggressiviteten som utøves fra USA og “Vesten” både verbalt og militært overfor deler av “Den muslimske verden”. Noe som oftest ikke kommer frem, er at dette fiendebildet i høy grad fungerte og fortsatt fungerer territorialt og ikke primært religiøst. Mange østlige kristne ble definert som kjettere, og dermed også politiske fiender. Boken gir historiske eksempler på dette. Det samme kan man si gjelder for dagens politiske situasjon i forholdet mellom USA, Europa og Midtøsten.

Å lese om den tidlige kristne dogmehistorien, skrevet fra et erklært muslimsk perspektiv, er forfriskende og interessant. Men først og fremst viser det hvor nødvendig det er å utøve religionskritikk fra ulike ståsteder: Mange av de politiske dimensjonene og konsekvensene dogmedannelsen fikk når det gjelder treenighetslæren og læren om Jesu doble natur (guddommelig og menneskelig), blir svært tydelige i denne fremstillingen. Khan trekker en parallell mellom det han mener er den kristne kirkes vei bort fra det menneskelige til et hensynsløst maktfråtseri på den ene siden, og at man (i Khans tolkning av historien) klart fremhever Kristi guddommelige natur fremfor den menneskelige på den annen side.

Felles problem. At religiøse dogmer og politikk og maktforhold kan påvirke hverandre gjensidig, er utvilsomt tilfellet, og bør være gjenstand for kritisk analyse. Men dersom man ønsker å gå inn på dette i et større perspektiv, kan det spekuleres over mange slike paralleller. For eksempel kan det hevdes at de monoteistiske religionene jødedom, kristendom og islam (selv om de, som Khan påpeker, er monoteistiske på forskjellige måter) både hver for seg og samlet kan virke kneblende på debatt og hindre utvikling av pluralisme og toleranse i et samfunn fordi de i sine dogmatiske systemer tradisjonelt sett er ekskluderende overfor andre troende, og ikke åpner for annet enn sin egen, egentlige sannhet. Boken viser hvor destruktivt dette er både politisk, sosialt – og religiøst. Når man graderer menneskeverd etter religiøs tilhørighet, gir det lett legitimitet til diskriminering, vold og krig i Guds navn.

Boken anbefales varmt, til tross for enkelte svakheter: Når temaet kjønnsroller i kristendom og islam gjennom historien kommer opp, blir dekningen noe skjev – i “favør” av islam ved at det problematiske koranverset 4,34 er utelukket, mens de mest kvinnediskriminerende Paulus-tekstene er tatt med. Khan lar det imidlertid skinne tydelig igjennom at han betrakter kvinnediskriminering som et felles problem for både kristne og muslimer.

Nasir Khan
Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms. A Historical Survey
488 sider. Solum.

Publisert 07. juli 2006