Confronting Empire — Quotes from Eqbal Ahmed

The following are quotes pulled from Eqbal Ahmad’s Confronting Empire. I hope you find them as illuminating as I did.

Forward by Edward Said:

  • “Eqbal was shrewd and illusionless enough to realize that overturning societies for the sake of revolution only, without sufficient attention to the fact that human beings also love and create and celebrate and commemorate, is a callous, merely destructive practice that may be radical but is profoundly wrong.”
  • Gramsci: Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.
  • “This is part of the man’s rareness, knowing how to rescue the best available in a tradition without illusion or melodramatic self-dramatization.”
  • “Unrestrained were his capacity for understanding”

On Arab Nationalism:

  • “Eqbal reminded Arabs that Arabism, far from being a narrow-based nationalism, is quite unique in the history of nationalisms because it tried to connect itself beyond boundaries. It came close to imagining a universal community linked by word and sentiment alone…I know of no national movement which defined itself so broadly.”
  • “In fact, I’m still wishing that the Palestinians will find a way to live with Jews. Jews in particular, because they are no part of Palestine. That is why I believe that the only future for Palestine is Jewish and Palestinian multi-nationality.”

On Pakistani Nationalism:

  • “We rejected Western imperialism, but in the process we embraced Western nationalism lock, stock, and barrel.”

On Ghandi:

  • “He was an anti-imperialism opportunist who would do anything within the framework of his nonviolent philosophy that would mobilize the masses.”

On Nationalism:

  • “Nationalism tends to create emotions of exclusion and seperation based on difference and not commonality.”

On the State and Secularism:

  • “It’s not the business of the state to start correcting historical wrongs of a religious nature.”
  • “50 years later, and this may be the greatest achievement of Nehru and Gandi’s secular ideals, the Indian Muslims feels quite Indian…its very differnet from the Arabs in Israel and the occupied terrirotires…the indian Muslim feels that he’s Indian, and he’s going to bloody well stand up and fight for it…in fact, by and large, the ulema did not support hte pakistan movement. Ironic, but its true,. Just as the greatest jJudiac schoalrs in the 1920’s and 1930’s did not support he Zuinist movement.:

Quote of Churchill’s Racism:

  • “I have not become His majesty’s First-Mister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire to a half-naked Indian fakir.”

On Modernity:

  • “The Muslim people, or for that matter any people in the world, will not make a passage from a pre-industrial traditional culture and economy to a modern culture and economy without finding a linkage within, finding forms and relationships that are congruent between modernity and integrated tradition.”
  • “importance of having some congruence between American liberal traditions and our rhetoric and tactics”

On Political Consciousness:

  • “Fanon was a highly educated man. Malcom had no education. What struck me is that both attained their political consciousness through racial discrimination.”
  • “Truth has to be repeated. It doesn’t just become stale because it has been told once.”

On Context:

  • “the notion of jihad as ‘just struggle’ had not existed in the Muslim word since the tenth century until the United States revived it during its jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.”
  • “The Taliban, for example, are literally inqiue in Islamic hisotry in many respects.”
  • “The Aremenians were not killed for being Christian. THey were killed for being Armenian.”
  • “the us has spent billions in producing the Bin Laden of our time”
  • Franz Fanon says liberation is not merely changing one police man for another → independence is a process, revolution is process, decolonization is a process, victory is a process
  • “The Russo-Japanese war was the first war in a hundred years in which a non-Western army had thoroughly defeated a Western one.”

Defining his politics:

  • “Socialist and democratic. Those have been my two lasting commitments. By democratic, I mean genuine commitment to equality, freedom of association, critical thought, and the accountability of rulers to citizens. By socialism, I mean control of wealth by people rather than by the state or corporations.”
  • “Structure of Leninist thought, unlike that of Marx and Engles, is anti-democratic…the idea of the avant-garde is inherently anti-democratic

On Violence:

  • “the violence they were practicing was a violence of the oppressed, but it was not revolutionary violence. It fundamentally lacked the content of revolutionary violence. It had no mobilizing content…The PLO was not revolutionary organization. It was an organization of the oppressed, carrying on non-revolutionary tactics with a non-revolutionary program”