Saturday, February 09, 2013

Haji Browne and the origin of Pan-Islamism

Having finished this work, I was surprised to learn that he claims himself to be the originator of the Pan-Islamic concept which he presented in an article in India most likely in the late 19th century.  He provides little biographical information, so we deduce what we can from the book.

Browne uses many Biblical images, so it is safe to assume that he had a Christian schooling but converted to Islam.  I generally view westerners who do such as being rather confused about Christianity, not really making the conversion to Islam, and probably having embraced a lot of confused modernist gibberish before making the switch.  At the end of the work, this is finally evident in its full glory:

"As Spencer has shown, the social and political history of mankind is the history of an evolution. Whether created in the image of God, or slowly developed from some primitive amorphous atom, so far as we can trace our origin, man has been moving, on the whole steadily, though with many[380] halts and set-backs, towards perfection. As yet our civilisation—the highest point yet reached—is but a miserable makeshift for that we should aim at. Let us hope that when the present agitation shall have died out Englishmen and Egyptians will find it possible to join hands in an effort for the mutual attainment of something better." - Bonaparte in Egypt and the Egyptians of Today, by Haji Browne (1907).

It is this atheist intellectualoid drivel that is likely his true upbringing.

The narrative regarding Napoleon highlights a decree that is made early on regarding the French rule:  That the French came in the name of the Turks, that they are favorable to Islam, that Islam is to be respected, and that the goal of the French is to provide liberty, equality and brotherhood to the people of Egypt.  Or else.  They then proceeded to destroy the Turkish government, to systematically desecrate the sacred and instituted a modern monster state of rules that were more burdensome than the Turks.  Eventually the English defeat the French, but Browne tries to spin this into some heroic effort of the Egyptians.

A theme that Browne shares in common with myself is the wondering of how modern technological conveniences can be compatible with religion.  Like the easy availability of internet porn.  It is the vices that the West distributes in the East that are most disturbing.

For those interested in Pan-Islam, here is most of what he says:

"The yearly increasing facility of travelling in the East and the growth of the Arabic and Indian Mahomedan Press, have naturally tended to help forward the efforts of the more enlightened Moslems in various lands who were first stirred to movement by the discussion in the European Press, and to-day wherever Islam exists there is a Pan-Islamic party, generally small, but always having as its leaders the most enlightened and most advanced men. Under the guidance of these men Pan-Islamism is essentially a defensive and not an aggressive movement—one for the elevation of the people, and therefore an intellectual and peace-promoting and not a military or war-provoking one. That a few of the most ignorant of the people should attach some hazy idea of Moslem conquest to their conception of Pan-Islamism is but natural, but[326] to assume that because their vague, ill-formed, and wholly undigested thoughts now and then find expression in the columns of irresponsible journals, run for the most part by men of no position, education, or influence, these are to be taken as the true exponents of Moslem thought is absurd. Instead of being a danger to Europe or civilisation Pan-Islamism is a movement that should have the support of every lover of peace and civilisation, and the fact that it is making progress in Egypt is but a proof that the Egyptians have awakened to a sense of the only way in which the best and truest interests of their country and their religion can be served. If the world at large is ever to see that higher and truer civilisation of which it is capable, the Powers must abandon that lust of conquest that is but a drag on all true progress, they must cease to look upon the interest of each as a claim to which the interests of all others must yield, and combine to seek the benefit of all. The more nearly that ideal is reached the more important will it be that Islam should be prepared to take its fitting place in the grand scheme of regeneration. That it should do so it must follow now and for ever the ideas that are the mainspring of Pan-Islamism."

With this high-minded introduction, we still have the enlightened westerners who believe this to be the case.  Those of us who are unenlightened and cynical view it as just as disingenuous as Napoleon's decree.  Al Qaeda has a certain claim to the label of Pan-Islamism also.


Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

If you ask a Muslim about Christians converting to Islam, he will tell you that it is a natural process because Islam is the Ultimate Testament; it is the maturity of religions (first Judaism, then Christianity, and lastly Islam)...being ultra-obsessed with monotheism; they exclude all others.

Well, Pan-Islamism is far from being peaceful, and its proponents use their intelligence to manipulate the masses as we can see now. But it's ok...when people convert to a religion, they tend to see it in pink and peace.

Egypt...yeah, it did a lot with its Pan-Islamism...I will tweak an awesome Hip Hop song (I think it is by Chris Brown) by saying "Look at it now! Look at it now! has no paper!"

Great post.


Looney said...

Browne notes how disingenuous Napoleon's proclamation was ... that Napoleon was doing nearly the exact opposite of everything he said he was doing. Maybe Islam learned duplicity from the French?

The New Testament book of Galatians is dedicated to those who try to convert to Islam. Mohammed was answered by Paul before he was born!

Max Coutinho said...


"Maybe Islam learned duplicity from the French?"

You know it did...

I find Saul/Paul to be a bit of a radical himself; but I prefer him over least he didn't write about politics and then called it "religion".