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Edinburgh Review


No. 447


I. The Preaching of Islam. By Professor T. W. ARNOLD, C.I.E. Revised and enlarged edition. Constable. 1913.

2. Moral and Material Progress of India. Report for 1911-2. H. o. C. 220. 1913.

3. 'The Times' articles on Indian Mussulmans. April 19, October 7 and 31, November 8, 1913, and other dates.


URING the present winter special attention has been directed to Indian Moslem affairs by an acute crisis in the London Branch of the All-India Moslem League, the organisation which represents the political views of the community.

For more than two years past the Moslems of India, in common with their co-religionists in other countries, have been going through most painful experiences. The Turkish loss of sovereignty in Northern Africa and in the Balkans, the continued disintegration of Persia, the treatment of Indians in South Africa, and certain matters of Indian administration, have all deeply affected Indian Moslems. The resulting restlessness among them has led to much searching of heart among their best friends, while in some quarters exaggerated ideas have been entertained as to the effect of these events upon the hearty loyalty hitherto shown by the community to the British Crown.

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Lurid caricatures of the Moslem attitude, such as that drawn in The Times' of October 7 last by A Correspondent in India,' are to be deplored, since they tend to suspicion and estrangement on both sides. It might well be the duty of a writer anxious to awaken the British public from a fool's paradise to be strident in tone, if his note of alarm was based upon full knowledge and free from prejudice. But this correspondent puts himself out of court as a competent and fair-minded witness in the very first sentence of his communication. He says:

'It is probable that the Balkan war would not have greatly influenced the bulk of Indian Mahommedans had it not been for the efforts of the Pan-Islamic agitators and their organs in the Press.'

He does not produce, and I believe he cannot produce, a single quotation to show that there has been a Pan-Islamic agitation in the political sense which his words, taken in connexion with the general tone of his article, seem intended to convey. If he means only that the Moslem Press of India has made the troubles of Turkey a subject of constant lamentation and has strongly criticised the policy of the Concert of Europe in general and of Great Britain in particular in that connexion, I accept the statement, though I take grave exception to the deduction drawn and to the prejudicial form in which it is conveyed. This correspondent might just as reasonably argue that Mr. Lloyd George's land campaign would attract no attention from the agricultural voter if the Liberal Press of England did not keep the question in view; or that the problem of Ulster would be non-existent but for the newspaper notice it attracts. He mistakes cause for effect, and forgets that even a Press so new and crude as that of the Indian Moslems, like the Press of other countries, has to give its readers information on public matters in which they are most interested and must more or less reflect their attitude upon them.

The best answer to his suggestion that the Moslems would have felt no interest in the fate of Turkey if they had not been stirred up by agitators of doubtful loyalty is to be found in the clear-cut statement of the skilful publicist who is the Bombay correspondent of the same journal. Writing in 'The Times' of the 19th of April 1913, when Moslem feeling

was at its height and had not been mollified by the Turkish re-conquest of Adrianople, he said:

'Let there be no misunderstanding of the real attitude of Indian Mahommedan opinion towards Turkey. There is much discussion in Europe of the position of the Sultan as Khalif. The Indian Moslem does not recognise the Sultan as Khalif, and offers him no allegiance in that capacity. But he does look upon Turkey as the embodiment of the temporal power of Islam, and he has no desire to see Islam reduced to the position of Israel, a religion without temporal status. This feeling affects all classes.' . . . 'An old Mahommedan friend of mine, a graduate of an English university, assured me that when the news of the battle of Lulu Burgas arrived he felt that the only course for him was to commit suicide.'

'A Correspondent in India' contrasts the position now with that of 1897 and admits that there is insufficient ground for the view, then entertained in some quarters, that the great frontier rising was largely attributable to Moslem feeling on the Turco-Greek war. When, however, he goes on to say that internal India was hardly moved by that war, I deny his statement. Moslem India was not indifferent; far from it. It was the only topic of conversation or interest in Moslem society, and every mosque was illuminated throughout India, even in the small villages of the Deccan, to celebrate the success of the Turks. Nor does the 'Correspondent in India' take into consideration the great and rapid changes which these sixteen years have brought, including the spread of education among Indian Moslems and the much fuller and more speedy dissemination of foreign news. Moreover, the Ottoman trouble in 1897 was limited to its relations with Greece, and no other Mahommedan State was involved; whereas in the last two or three years the Moslem world has watched with grave misgiving and concern the supersession or control of Mussulman sovereignty by the intervention of Christian Powers in Morocco, in Tripoli, in the greater part of European Turkey, and in Persia. The cumulative effect of these continued losses of Moslem sovereignty on Indian Mahommedans has been reinforced by the spread of Western enlightenment among them.

It is idle for 'A Correspondent in India' to lament the passing of the day when the Moslem community, in its apathy and ignorance, did not concern itself with international politics-if indeed that day ever existed. The Hindus have no sentimental interests outside India, apart from those

provided by the emigration of co-religionists to other portions. of the Empire; their Mecca is Benares; their Holy Waters are those of the Ganges, not of the Euphrates or Tigris. In the days when they alone of the chief Indian communities interested themselves in public affairs it was natural that audible Indian opinion should be confined to the internal affairs of India and her relations with Great Britain. But the Mahommedans, newly awakened to national consciousness by the education England has given them, are not limited in their gaze by the vast ramparts of the Himalayas or by the waters of the Indian Ocean. There is between them and their fellow-believers in other lands an essential unity, which breaks through differences of sect and country, for it is not based on religious grounds alone. Carlyle somewhere says that all men of the English-speaking race are subjects of King Shakespeare, and in the same way all Mussulmans are subjects of the Arabian Nights.' They share the glorious heritage not only of the Koran (which they are taught in early childhood to read in the original Arabic) but of the history and philosophy of Arabia, the incomparable poetry of Persia, and the romances and legends of Egypt and Morocco and Spain. Drinking from these imperishable springs, Moslems, whether Turks, Persians, Arabs or Indians, and whether or not they have also come to the Western wells of knowledge, are bound together by a certain unity of thought, of sentiment, and of expression. The feeling of brotherhood thus engendered is not dammed up within the confines of devout faith. On the contrary, agnostics and atheists of Moslem origin have felt the Turkish and Persian misfortunes just as much as the most orthodox mullah. To ask why the Indian Mussulman, blest with a beneficent rule, should concern himself so much about international issues affecting co-religionists, is as futile as asking why men on the rack of torture cry out with physical pain. That the excitement has not been connected with the question of the Caliphate is shown by the fact that Shias have been moved by these emotions no less strongly than Sunnis. All sections of the Moslem world are moved by a deep sentiment, originally called into being by the Prophet's summons of all the faithful into one great brotherhood and welded through the centuries into a lasting bond by a common faith, a common literature, a common outlook, a common history.


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