by Lala Lajpat Rai

PART 8 -- [Pan-Islamism and its bankruptcy]

[A] Add to this the Fatwa of the Ulemas that India being a "Dar­ul-Harab" (a place of war), every good Muslim ought to leave it and migrate to a Muslim country. We know by this time how the Hijrat movement ended; how much money was wasted over it and how much misery was wrought thereby. The best commentary on it was witnessed by me at Constantinople./17/ On the third or fourth day of my stay there, I met two young Indian Muslims walking in the street. They accosted me first. When I asked them how they fared in Constantinople, one of them burst out almost in tears and said that if he ever returned to India, he would give out a bit of his mind to tell his Muslim countrymen how mischievous was the teaching that India was "Dar-ul-Harab" (a place of war) and how false the idea that the whole world was the home of the Muslims. That boy was one of the Mahajarins of 1921. He had travelled all over Muslim Asia from Afghanistan through Turkistan to Russia, and then back to Angora and Constantinople. His experience was so bitter, and his condition was so pitiable, that he denounced Pan-Islamism in rather strong terms.

That was what I learned from other Indian Muslims also whom I met in Turkey and Egypt, and this is natural enough. A Bengali Muslim in Egypt denounced the Khilafat movement in such strong terms that I cannot reproduce his language. Blood is thicker than water, as they say. No part of the Muslim world except Egypt is excessively rich and prosperous. Everywhere the governments have to look after their people, and the latter have to eke out their means of subsistence. How can they be expected to provide for foreigners, even though the latter are Muslims? The Amir of Kabul was perfectly justified in asking the Mahajarins to leave his [[201]] country. Later on he was forced, perhaps, for diplomatic reasons, to ask some professedly anti-British Muslims to leave his territories. Similarly it is idle to expect the Turks to help the Indian Muslim Mahajarin when there is so much poverty in their own land.

[B] The fact is that my visit to Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, has completely disillusioned me about pan-Islamism. I found it nowhere. Every country is busy with its own home problems, and they are sufficiently complicated and troublesome to keep them engaged all the time. Turkey is suffering from the after­effects of a devastating war. The war has denuded the country of a great number of its male working hands, and this is one of the reasons that have forced their hands to abolish the Purdah system, and trust to their womanhood to produce food for them. The problem of expatriating Christians from Turkey and receiving the Muslims in exchange from Greece is a huge problem on their hands. The problem of safeguarding against internal enemies (Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, etc.) is sufficiently serious. Internal and external fears compel them to keep an efficient army equipped on up-to-date lines. All this means a great financial strain. Over and above this, they are not quite united among themselves. As in other countries, so in Turkey, there are parties who think differently in politics. The abolition of the Khilafat and the expulsion of the Khalifa and other members of the royal family was a desperate step which they had to take in the interests of the present constitution. They are making a most noble effort to consolidate their power, to reform their administration, and to raise their country to a first class position in the councils of Europe.

[C] Under the circumstances, even those who do not see eye to eye with Mustafa Kamal and his party in matters religious and political, and who resented the abolition of the Khilafat, are opposed, out of patriotic motives to the reopening of the question, at least for some time to come. From my study of the conditions in Turkey (short and cursory as it was), I could only conclude that from first to last the Turks were intense nationalists. At the present moment their only concern is their country, which they want to preserve, manage and rule in the interests of the Turks. The Turks seemed to me to be a noble people, clean in their appearance and clean in their [[202]] dealings with others. Their dress and their manner of living is almost wholly European, except that the men wear the fez.

About their religion, indeed, I know nothing, but anyone who has his eyes open can read the writing on the wall. There does not appear to be much of religionism in Turkey. They have abolished Purdah. I saw lady clerks working in the Post Office and other public offices without a veil. I saw thousands [of women] dressed in European dress with a Turkish over-mantle going about in public streets, and walking in public gardens without any veil. To me their dress seemed perfectly decent, which combined in a most appropriate manner the fashions of the East and the West. The Turks have issued strict regulations which aim at restricting polygamy to a very large extent, if not abolishing it altogether. I saw most drastic regulations being enforced against the use of any but the Turkish language. There are also very strict rules, subject to exceptions, against enlisting non-Turks in the army. I observed no prejudice against music, either vocal or instrumental. Even dancing is indulged in higher circles. I was sorry to see rather a general use of wine.

[D] In short I saw nothing, either in Constantinople or in other towns of Asia Minor, which could show that the Turks were in any sense of the term more religious than the rest of the natives of Europe. Everywhere I saw signs of social and national distinctions and preferments. My impressions were confirmed by the Indian Muslim residents of Constantinople who met me. I was agreeably surprised to find that in the Al-azhar University the quarters reserved for the residence of Indian students were called Rawaq.i-Hanud (i.e. a Boarding-House for Hindus). In Syria and. Palestine also, the problem which absorbs the Muslim community is how to regain or maintain their freedom.

In Palestine the Muslims are in an overwhelming majority over the Jews. Christian Europe is creating a strong and well protected Ulster in Palestine, which leaves almost no hope of the Muslims ever regaining their lost position of supremacy. Everywhere one sees well-built and well-equipped colonies of Jews springing up, with their own highly efficient educational and philanthropic institutions, and with their equally efficient industrial concerns. They are fast buying lands of Muslims and Christians. Money is pouring in [[203]] from America and Europe. The only "disconcerting" feature is that it is only the poorer class of the Jews and the oppressed members of the race that are emigrating to Palestine for permanent settlement. In Syria the Christians form a very important part of the population. In neither [of these] countries is there any communal rivalry or jealousy between the Muslims and the Christians.

[E] I am afraid Indian Muslims are more Pan-Islamic and exclusive than the Muslims of any other country on the face of the globe, and that fact alone makes the creation of a united India more difficult than would otherwise be the case. I am inclined to think that in this respect at least, Sir Syed's policy was sounder than that of the Khilafatists. He did not believe in a religious Khilafat. He did not accept the Sultan of Turkey as a Khalifa, and he was opposed to the Muslims of India devoting much attention to the affairs of Turkey or other Muslim countries.


/17/ Lala Lajpat Rai visited Constantinople on his return from England in August 1924.

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