Osama vs Gandhi
March 26, 2004 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Osama vs Gandhi. Alas not Celebrity Deathmatch but an interesting discussion of worldviews from the latest Prospect.
posted by biffa (9 comments total)
Interesting link. Thanks, biffa.
posted by homunculus at 4:38 PM on March 26, 2004

Quite a nice bit of writing. One of "Gandhi's" quotes stuck out as especially insightful, even outside the context of the piece:

"And by asking the Islamic state to impose them on its subjects, you deny the latter their basic religious freedom. This is the surest way to corrupt both your religion and the state and to arrest the moral and spiritual growth of your people. A truly religious person wants to live by the values and beliefs of his religion. If the state has to enforce them on him, then clearly his religion has ceased to have any meaning for him. A religiously based state is a sacrilege, an insult to God and to the human soul. "
posted by aubin at 8:50 PM on March 26, 2004

Now if only we could get the people with the power to read that piece.
posted by cheaily at 11:39 PM on March 26, 2004

I have to say that the writer has either purposefully or mistakenly entirely misrepresented Ghandi's views on the Palestinian question. Ghandi was opposed findamentally to a Jewish state in Palestine, and was mildly opposed to a "bi-national state" which the author here claims he supported. Furthermore, Ghandi refused to outright condemn the violence that was just beginning at that time, saying:

"I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they had chosen the way of non- violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an unwarrantable of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in the face of overwhelming odds."

Obviously Ghandi's principals were strong, but his sympathies were clearly with native peoples, and he did not understand the need for a Jewish homeland. At the time he was considered an enemy of Zionism, even though he did have many Jewish friends in South Africa. Doing a little web surfing will find that at one time, he was reviled by the Zionist leadership in Palestine.

Of course, if Ghandi were alive today there is not doubt he would be a supporter of peace and of a peaceful settlement, and perhaps even as the writer suggest, a bi-national state. But I couldn't help but believe that the author was taking liberties with the historical record, even as he lifted the opening lines of his section on Israel from Ghandi's letter from where the above quote was taken. Great post though, interesting idea and execution.
posted by cell divide at 12:47 AM on March 27, 2004

this needs to be read by more people.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 1:31 AM on March 27, 2004

cell divide:

One of the more common misunderstandings of Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence is that he did not, in theory, condemn physical violence completely. According to him, it is better to be violent while resisting evil than to not resist evil at all. More effective and truthful than violence, of course, is satyagraha, but Gandhi recognized that not all people had developed the personal strength to offer satyagraha. Cowardice, not violence, was seen as the worst moral transgression.

This is combined with the principle of swadeshi (lit. "from one's own country"), which holds that problems which are local in nature must be worked on at a local level. The Holocaust was a European affair, and it is more in accordance with swadeshi to truely resolve the issue of European racism than to complete Hitler's intended ethnic cleansing and offer Jews lasting security in a fortress-country engaging in near-constant combat with its neighbors. This is not to say that Israel has no claim to existence - they are there now, and we must deal with the world as it is, not as it was - but that the foundation of Israel as a response to the Holocaust is a less than perfect solution.

So Gandhi's "failure" to condemn Arab->Jew violence at the time - before the creation of Israel, mind you - cannot be seen as a failure given a more detailed and nuanced reading of his philosophy. Given his stance on the India/Pakistan division, a split of historical Palestine into Israel and Palestine would have struck him as nothing less than abhorrent and an inclusive, civil nation with safeguards for minorities would have been his solution.

As a student of nonviolence (quite literally), I'm always a bit nervous when people speak for Gandhi. His philosophy and actions span decades, are deeply rooted in Vedic religion, and are incredibly nuanced. These nuances can easily escape the casual reader, which then leads itself to misdirected critiques (e.g., "pacifism as pathology").

That said, this article was an incredibly refreshing read, in part due to the fact that they gave bin Laden a voice instead of having him simply hate freedom, and also because a solution was proposed which doesn't involve hate.

posted by Coda at 11:57 AM on March 27, 2004

Coda, not sure where you read in my words that it was failure for Ghandi to support the Palestinians. What I meant to say was something similar to your post-- not that Israel is established, Ghandi would surely advocate a peaceful solution, but at the time he was clearly opposed to the Jewish state, something the author of the piece seems to have missed/obscured entirely.
posted by cell divide at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2004

Bukhara and Tashkent are countries?
clearly "Gandhi" has some news.

besides that.. to me, a well-meant piece but very naive.
primarily because it presumes "osama" is interested in a dialogue with "gandhi". In the entire piece it provides not a shred of evidence for why this would ever be so in real life.

and, "gandhi" in no way challenges the questions of power (w/statements like "The Americans have to be checked in"), merely rehashing a typical Guardian-style narrative of the "weak" and the "strong".

not a scholar of gandhi by any measure but i would hope that he was more multidimensional in his political analysis than this piece seeks to present.
posted by bokononito at 5:08 PM on March 27, 2004

Coda's understanding of Gandhian philosophy is very admirable and even more so is his articulate description of the way Gandhian philosophy is normally interpreted.
Coda I bow to thee...
posted by nish01 at 12:40 AM on March 28, 2004

« Older Best. Baby. Site. Ever.   |   Ralph Nader: The Unchallenged Hero of Muslims Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments