Abstract

This study has sought to question the notion of the Indian Muslim as a ‘get-at-able’ point of orientation in colonialist discourse. In the process it has attempted to provide a more coherent and nuanced account for the consolidation in colonialist discourse by the early twentieth century of essentialised descriptions of Indo-Muslim antagonism towards the British Indian state, and of their irremediable isolation on the outer margins of Indian society. In doing so, I have also tried to interpret the less apprehended, but nevertheless marked, element of paradox that had by then come to structure this discourse. These three constituents — alienness, antagonism and paradox — have been traced back to their genesis in the perception of ‘conspiracy’ in 1857–59, a perception through which Indian Muslims emerged for the first time in British eyes as an integrated pan-Indian entity. The concentration by historians on the British need for a simple narrative of events, coupled with a predictable eruption of ‘mussulmanophobia’, fails to address adequately the radical discontinuity this remarkable phenomenon figured with previous colonialist praxis. Nor do these explanations account for its longevity and appeal, eluding the official factual refutations available from 1859 onwards; and reappearing in grossly inflated forms such as the ‘Wahabi’ trials of the 1860s.

Keywords

Stake Clarification Ethos Concession Reformer 

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Notes

  1. 9.
    Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 13.
    The concept of the ‘charismatic community’ in nineteenth-century Indo-Islamic thought is discussed in Francis Robinson, ‘Nation Formation: the Brass Thesis and Muslim Separatism’, in Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 15 (3) (November 1977); and Robinson, ‘Islam and Muslim Separatism’ in D Taylor and M Yapp (eds) Political Identity in South Asia (London: SOAS, 1979), pp. 78–112.Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    See in particular, Ram Babu Saksena, A History of Urdu Literature (Allahbad: Ram Narain Lal, 1927).Google Scholar
  4. Muhammad Sadiq, A History of Urdu Literature (Delhi: Oxford University Press, repr. 1995; 1964). For a critique of these works, see Pritchett, Nets.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    The sense indicated here is that used by Benedict Anderson in regard to the role of imagination in shaping nationalist communities. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983).Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Causes of the Indian Revolt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, repr. 2000; 1873), p. 35.Google Scholar
  7. 29.
    Edward W Said, Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World (London: Vintage, repr. 1997; 1981), pp. xxiv-xxxvi.Google Scholar
  8. Joel Beinin and Joe Stork (eds) Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report (London: I B Tauris, 1997), chapter 3.Google Scholar
  9. 30.
    Bernard Lewis, ‘The Roots of Muslim Rage’, The Atlantic Monthly 266 (September 1990).Google Scholar
  10. Samuel P Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996). For critical discussions of these strategies of representation, see the Introduction to the 1997 edition of Said’s Covering; and Beinin and Stork, Political, pp. 3–25.Google Scholar

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© Alex Padamsee 2005

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  • Alex Padamsee

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