Egypt and India, 1915

May 26 2015

It was easy for an Indian to be Panislamist in 1915, more difficult for an Arab. The Panislamism stirred up during the war by the Young Turks was at odds with Arab nationalism and Panarabism.

The Indian Moslem is misled by his own experience. In India Islam is a nationality. Its professors may have been Arab, Persian, Afghan or Mogul when they came as conquerors to the country, yet now they are one blood, bound together by the common menace of Hindu race-hatred. Conditions are different in the Ottoman Empire. The menace of the Unbeliever is here imperfectly realised, and national antagonisms find an arena within the “Bulwark of Islam.” Our educated Indian Panislamist should talk to an educated Panarab from Egypt, if he wishes to discover how Moslems of Arab speech feel towards the political ambitions of their Turkish co-religionists.

The Egyptian will agree with the Indian emphatically, that the rule of the European is a humiliation for Islam, and that British administration, however beneficial or even necessary it may be for the moment, [footnote: Though, except for the work of the irrigation engineers, he will have much less good to say of it than the Indian.] must be no more than a transitory phase in the long history of Egypt and India; but he will tell him that he has experienced one thing worse than British occupation, and that was the tyranny of the Turkish official class, which Great Britain ended just a generation ago. “It is only when I think what we suffered from the Turk,” he will conclude, “that I can find it in my heart to tolerate his British successor.”

There is, of course, an element of propaganda here, despite Toynbee’s explicit anti-imperialism even as he was doing official war work.

Egypt, Iran and Palestine had an especially bad experience with the British, but were never officially colonies.

See Sidney PeelBritish Administration and Irrigation in Egypt, Political Science Quarterly, Vol 20, No 3, September 1905, pp 513-534, at JSTOR here without charge or other restriction. Worth reading and by a grandson of Robert Peel.

India’s feeling of solidarity with Egypt is conveyed, in the language of the time, in the chapter called Egypt’s Fight for Freedom in Nehru’s answer to Wells, Glimpses of World History (1934).

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

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