Playing the "PC" Card

Gary M Tartakov tart at
Mon Dec 11 21:23:09 UTC 1995

I would like to reply to the issues about the Turkish and Afghan
invasions that I suggested were better called that than the Islamic
invasions they are usually called.  The issue is like current US news
reporting about Muslims, Croats and Serbs rather than Bosnians, Croats
and Serbs, or Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Catholics.  The
definitions are there to achieve political ends.  I donUt see a
religious issues at the heart of whatUs going on in the former
Yugoslavia today.  Religiously identified communities no doubt, but not
religious issues.  To suggest the opposite would be to suggest that
Orthodox Christians and Catholics all over the world have reasons to go
to war.  Which they donUt.  

>Were there are *no* "religious invasions"? 

>The Turkic and Afghan invasions into India differ qualitatively from
>European invasions of the Americas in one important respect. The
>knew a great deal about India, and could have invaded deep into Indian
>territory centuries before they were Muslims. But they don't seem to
>done that to any significant extent. But after they became Muslims,
>was a spurt of martial activity. What was the reason?

There certainly must have been a complex of reasons.  But the failure of
any serious success of conversion in the regions around Delhi, where
every invader immediately set up shop, suggests that conversion was not
a major one. IndiaUs major Islamic conversion occurred elsewhere and

>It is very difficult not to attribute the sudden rise in
>invasions by the Arabs and the Turks to the growth of Islam. 

I donUt say there was no connection.  I am saying this is not the only
issue or the most significant issue.  The invasions that ended in Sind
in the early 7th century were different.

Why bother with the difference, when the fact is the invaders were
Muslims and eventually a significantg part of the population did turn to
Islam?  Because treating the issue as religious invasion conceptualizes
the history as essentially one of religious competition, and that is not
only wrong, it is also an incitement to continuing religious strife.
India is not a Hindu paradise invaded by Muslims who contue to cause
disunity and backwardness.  It is a region where many sects were and are
prevelent, into which conquerors have brought yet other religiouns.  And
where Islam has, due to the success of both some of those conquerers and
of the genuinely religious people who accompanied them has spread

TodayUs Indian Muslims are not the descendents of the conquerors so much
as the descendents of those who converted because they found IslamUs
message more significant than the other alternatives that surrounded
them.  They are as Indian as any Brahman or Brahmanical Hindu.

>Mohammed of Ghazni
>certainly sold his repeated forays into India to his own clergy as
>being motivated by religion.

How such invasions were sold to the clergy may not explain well why his
booty-raids had no significant religious effects.  

In terms of the European invasion of the Americas
>the papacy certainly got into the act.
>It was organized religion supporting organized and not so organized
>in the case of Spain and Portugal invading America and also to a
>extent, India. The motivation to win souls for the "true religion" was
>a very important component in this case also. The records certainly
>show that religion played a very important, perhaps the most important
>part, in motivating these invasions.
>...Like it or not, differences in religion did and continue to play
roles in invasion. One only has to remember the recent Oklahoma city
bombings. The all-too-convenient Islamic threat was easily invoked
throughout the US and people were ready to go to war if a Muslim was 
found guilty.

A good example.  Religious antipathies played a very important in the
mistaken interpretations of the Oklahoma bombing, and no part, as far as
we can tell now, in the bombing.

My point is not that religion hasnUt played a major part in the
invasion, but that its part is misunderstood if we take it face value as
essentially a religious invasion intent upon conversion.  For a few,
indeed the invasions that brought Islam to India from the end of the
thirteenth century on may have had essentially religious significance,
but for the plundering warriors who lead the charge and did the
subsequent division of spoils and capture of much of India the goals
were material not spiritual.  Their religious beliefs and interests were
subordinated to their interest in power and pleasure.

I don't see anything different in the European conquest of the Americas.
They killed the natives for their land, they didn't worry more than
perfunctorily about their souls.  


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