The ‘Heroic Self-denial’ of ‘Christian Rulers’

  • Alex Padamsee


It has been suggested that Steel’s Indian ‘Mahommedan’ is essentially a secular entity. That secularity is achieved, in part, through a series of negative comparisons to the category ‘Mahommedanism’. Indeed, as one by one other forms of description (geographical, racial, social) are exploded, it is the rapid accumulation of these negative signs — the accretion of customs ‘repugnant’ to the ‘whole teaching of Islam’, an alienated ‘social comity’ (‘riddled […] with Hinduism’) — that performs the initial narrative task of definition.2 In this way, ‘Mahommedanism’ as a deconstructive category (literally separating ‘Indian’ and ‘Mohammedan’) paradoxically becomes the means by which the narrative as description continues to function. The portrait that evolves out of this paradox, centred on the relationship — antagonistic, incommensurate — between the two terms, Indian and ‘Mohammedan’, is thus necessarily characterised by the notion of degeneration. The apparent bathos of Steel’s concluding comment that the ‘Mahommedan is not at his best in India’ is misleading precisely because not being at his best is what the ‘Mahommedan’ in India is all about.


Nineteenth Century Religious Identity Colonial State British Rule Official Community 
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© Alex Padamsee 2005

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  • Alex Padamsee

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