Wednesday, June 17, 2015

England and Islam ....... Hundred years ago

Below, just one of the 30+ essays from Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer, published in The Spectator, England of  a century ago.  This particular essay is at # XXV from his many other works published by the same newspaper and can be found at the Gutenberg Project archives.  Please note that the "Moslems of India" that he refers to and whom England favored over Hindus, are the same Moslems on whose behalf India was partitioned and Pakistan was carved out for the favored. 
England, the old Empire .... if you read through some of the essays you will get a feel for how the present day Empire of USA is going through the same thought processes that brought down the previous one. 

ENGLAND AND ISLAM  "The Spectator," August 23, 1913

Amidst the many important remarks made by Sir Edward Grey in his recent Parliamentary statement on the affairs of the Balkan Peninsula, none deserve greater attention than those which dealt with the duties and
responsibilities of England towards Mohammedans in general. It was, indeed, high time that some clear and authoritative declaration of principle on this important subject should be made by a Minister of the
Crown. We are constantly being reminded that King George V. is the greatest Mohammedan ruler in the world, that some seventy millions of
his subjects in India are Moslems, and that the inhabitants of Egypt are also, for the most part, followers of the Prophet of Arabia. It is not infrequently maintained that it is a duty incumbent on Great Britain to defend the interests and to secure the welfare of Moslems all over the world because a very large number of their co-religionists are British
subjects and reside in British territory. It is not at all surprising that this claim should be advanced, but it is manifestly one which
cannot be admitted without very great and important qualifications.  Moreover, it is one which, from a European point of view, represents a somewhat belated order of ideas. It is true that community of religion constitutes the main bond of union between Russia and the population of the Balkan Peninsula, but apart from the fact that no such community of religious thought exists between Christian England and Moslem or Hindu
India, it is to be noted that, generally speaking, the tie of a common creed, which played so important a part in European politics and diplomacy during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, has now been greatly weakened, even if it has not disappeared altogether. It has been supplanted almost everywhere by the bond of nationality. No practical politician would now argue that, if the Protestants of Holland or Sweden
had any special causes for complaint, a direct responsibility rested on their co-religionists in Germany or England to see that those grievances were redressed. No Roman Catholic nation would now advance a claim to
interfere in the affairs of Ireland on the ground that the majority of the population of that country are Roman Catholics.

This transformation of political thought and action has not yet taken place in the East. It may be, as some competent observers are disposed to think, that the principle of nationality is gaining ground in Eastern
countries, but it has certainly not as yet taken firm root. The bond which holds Moslem societies together is still religious rather than patriotic. Its binding strength has been greatly enhanced by two circumstances. One is that Mecca is to the Moslem far more than
Jerusalem is to the Christian or to the Jew. From Delhi to Zanzibar, from Constantinople to Java, every devout Moslem turns when he prays to what Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole aptly calls the "cradle of his creed." The other circumstance is that, although, as Mr. Hughes has said, "we have not seen a single work of authority, nor met with a single man of learning who has ever attempted to prove that the Sultans of Turkey are rightful Caliphs," at the same time the spiritual authority usurped by Selim I. is generally recognised throughout Islam, with the result not only that unity of thought has been engendered amongst Moslems, but also that religion has to a great extent been incorporated into politics, and identified with the maintenance of a special form of government in a portion of the Moslem world.

The growth of the principle of nationality in those eastern countries which are under western dominion might not inconceivably raise political issues of considerable magnitude, but in the discussions which have from time to time taken place on this subject the inconveniences and even danger caused by the universality of a non-national bond based on community of religion have perhaps been somewhat unduly neglected. These inconveniences have, however, always existed. That the policy which led
to the Crimean War and generally the prolonged tension which existed between England and Russia were due to the British connection with India is universally recognised. It would be difficult to differentiate the  causes of that tension, and to say how far it was, on the one hand, due to purely strategical considerations, or, on the other hand, to a desire to meet the wishes and satisfy the aspirations of the many millions of Moslems who are British subjects. Since, however, the general diplomatic
relations between England and Russia have, fortunately for both countries, been placed on a footing of more assured confidence and
friendship than any which have existed for a long time past, strategical considerations have greatly diminished in importance. The natural result has been that the alternative plea for regarding Near Eastern affairs from the point of view of Indian interests has acquired greater prominence. Those who have been closely in touch with the affairs of the Near East, and have watched the gradual decay of Turkey, have for some while past foreseen that the time was inevitably approaching when British statesmen and the British nation would be forced by the
necessities of the situation to give a definite answer to the question how far their diplomatic action in Europe would have to be governed by the alleged obligation to conciliate Moslem opinion in India. That
question received, to a certain limited extent, a practical answer when Bulgaria declared war on Turkey and when not a voice was raised in this country to urge that the policy which dictated the Crimean War should be rehabilitated.

The answer, however, is not yet complete. England is now apparently expected by many Moslems to separate herself from the Concert of Europe,and not impossibly to imperil the peace of the world, in order that the Turks should continue in occupation of Adrianople. The secretary of the Punjab Moslem League has informed us through the medium of the press
that unless this is done the efforts of the extreme Indian Nationalists to secure the sympathies of Mohammedans in India "will meet with growing success."

It was in reality to this challenge that Sir Edward Grey replied. His answer was decisive, and left no manner of doubt as to the policy which the British Government intends to pursue. It will almost certainly meet with well-nigh universal approval in this country. After explaining that the racial sentiments and religious feelings of Moslem subjects of the
Crown would be respected and have full scope, that British policy would never be one of intolerance or wanton and unprovoked aggression against a Mohammedan Power, and that the British Government would never join in
any outrage on Mohammedan feelings and sentiments in any part of the world, Sir Edward Grey added, "We cannot undertake the duty of
protecting Mohammedan Powers outside the British dominions from the consequences of their own action.... To suppose that we can undertake the protection of and are bound to regulate our European policy so as to
side with a Mussulman Power when that Mussulman Power rejects the advice given to it, that is not a claim we can admit."

These are wise words, and it is greatly to be hoped that not only the Moslems of Turkey, but also those inhabiting other countries, will read,mark, learn, and inwardly digest them. Notably, the Moslems of India should recognise that, with the collapse of Turkish power in Europe, a new order of things has arisen, that the change which the attitude of England towards Turkey has undergone is the necessary consequence of that collapse, and that it does not in the smallest degree connote unfriendliness to Islam. In fact, they must now endeavour to separate Islamism from politics. With the single exception of the occupation of Cyprus, which, as Lord Goschen very truly said at the time, "prevented
British Ambassadors from showing 'clean hands' to the Sultan in proof of the unselfishness of British action," the policy of England in the Near  East has been actuated, ever since the close of the Napoleonic wars, by a sincere and wholly disinterested desire to save Turkish statesmen from the consequences of their own folly. In this cause no effort has been
spared, even to the shedding of the best blood of England. All has been in vain. History does not relate a more striking instance of the truth of the old Latin saying that self-deception is the first step on the
road to ruin. Advice tendered in the best interests of the Ottoman Empire has been persistently rejected. The Turks, who have always been strangers in Europe, have shown conspicuous inability to comply with the
elementary requirements of European civilisation, and have at last failed to maintain that military efficiency which has, from the days when they crossed the Bosphorus, been the sole mainstay of their power and position. It is, as Sir Edward Grey pointed out, unreasonable to expect that we should now save them from the consequences of their own
action. Whether Moslems all over the world will or should still continue to regard the Sultan of Turkey as their spiritual head is a matter on which it would be presumptuous for a Christian to offer any opinion, but however this may be, Indian Moslems would do well to recognise the fact that circumstances, and not the hostility of Great Britain or of any
other foreign Power, have materially altered the position of the Sultan in so far as the world of politics and diplomacy is concerned. Whether the statesman in whose hands the destinies of Turkey now lie at once abandon Adrianople, or whether they continue to remain there for a time with the certainty that they will be sowing the seeds of further bloodshed in the near future, one thing is certain. It is that the days of Turkey as an European Power are numbered. Asia must henceforth be her
sphere of action.

That these truths should be unpalatable to Indian Moslems is but natural; neither is it possible to withhold some sympathy from them in the distress which they must now feel at the partial wreck of the most important Moslem State which the world has yet seen. But facts, however distasteful, have to be faced, and it would be truly deplorable if the non-recognition of those facts should lead our Moslem fellow-subjects in India to resent the action of the British Government and to adopt a line of conduct from which they have nothing to gain and everything to lose. But whatever that line of conduct may be, the duty of the British Government and nation is clear. Their European policy, whilst allowing all due weight to Indian interests and sentiment, must in the main be guided by general considerations based on the necessities of civilised  progress throughout the world, and on the interests and welfare of the British Empire as a whole. The idea that that policy should be diverted
from its course in order to subserve the cause of a single Moslem Power which has rejected British advice is, as Sir Edward Grey very rightly remarked, wholly inadmissible.

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