Kaplan on the Other Muslims

Kaplan has a new article out in the LA Times. I have a related on thought on this that I will be publishing very soon.

Eastern Islam and the ‘clash of civilizations’

Islam has been an American obsession for at least a decade. The 9/11 attacks and the intractable violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — however much we have been the cause of it — have left us bewildered and terrified by this seemingly austere and martial faith.

Islam was spread quickly by the sword from Arabia westward across North Africa, the history books tell us, and is supposedly prone to the extremities of thought to which deserts give rise. But there is a whole other side to Islamic history that has been obscured, even as it illuminates a key strategic geography of the 21st century. While we in the United States have concentrated on the western half of the Islamic world in the Middle Eastern deserts, there is an eastern half in the green forests and jungles of the tropics where global energy routes and merchant sea traffic now intersect.

Islam is only partly a desert religion; it is just as much a seafaring faith, the harbinger not of narrow soldierly thought but of a cosmopolitanism spread by sophisticated merchants over the centuries in the Far Eastern seas. The legendary Sinbad the Sailor was an Arab from Oman based in Basra, in what is now Iraq. His Homeric voyages of the 8th through the 10th centuries encompassed East Africa, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea, testimony to the maritime reach of Islam across the longitudes as far as East Asia.

Whereas 20% of Muslims live in the Middle East, 60% are in Asia, according to the Pew Research Center. The Arab world plus Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan — the geographical summation of our own wars and trepidations — comprises 632 million Muslims. But in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines, there are an additional 565 million Muslims. And as the burgeoning middle-class fleshpots of East Asia require increasing amounts of oil and natural gas from the Middle East, China has been aggressively courting the eastern Islamic world, which sits astride the main sea lanes of communication to the Middle East.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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4 Responses to Kaplan on the Other Muslims

  1. Michael says:

    Found this interview on Foreign Policy’s website:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/27/robert_kaplans_journey_to_the_new_center_of_the_universe

    Mr Kaplan mentions in passing a school of thought in India called new-Curzonism. Care to explain, oh suspiciously similar named one?

  2. bdh says:

    Kaplan…bad writing as always…a few examples:

    “The legendary Sinbad the Sailor was an Arab from Oman based in Basra, in what is now Iraq. His Homeric voyages of the 8th through the 10th centuries encompassed East Africa, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea, testimony to the maritime reach of Islam across the longitudes as far as East Asia.”

    So, would that be the fictional sailor used as a reference, err, a “testimony to,” to show how seafaring a group of real people are?? “His Homeric voyages” – huh?
    Two centuries…one fictional dude? Evidence of a great seafaring class? Why not!

    =======

    WTF does this even mean:

    “Whereas 20% of Muslims live in the Middle East, 60% are in Asia, according to the Pew Research Center. ”

    So, is the Middle East no longer part of Asia? Sorry, missed that. If that is true, can I now also assume Russia is part of Europe – good news! That will make those European World Cup qualifiers with Russia in them a little less confusing!
    ========

    Then there is this:
    “The Arab world plus Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan — the geographical summation of our own wars and trepidations — comprises 632 million Muslims. But in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines, there are an additional 565 million Muslims”

    WTF is this all about? The “Arab world plus…” Huh? Arab world? Another continent? I’m going to assume that it is not yet a continent. Does this Arab world include Somalia? What about Indonesia? Someone help me! OK, nevermind, I’ll just play along. So, to make sure I have it straight, it is the Arab world plus Iran, Afgan., and Pakistan (I guess we now know that the “Arab world” does not include Iran, Afgan., nor Pakistan) vs. Asia. So, for those counting, that is: The Arab world i) that does not include Iran, Afgan., and Pakistan ii)the Arab world is not a continent iii)the Arab world PLUS some countries that are not in the Middle East but are part of a continent Now compare it to some, but not all, of the countries in a continent, Asia, and come up with numbers and a comparision that only furthers to muddy the waters: 600+ million in non-continent Arab world and some other countries vs. 500+ million in some countries in part of Asia….

  3. AlanL says:

    … not to mention the utterly insane notion that modern Egyptian or Mesopotomian politics can be explained by the Arabs having built a civilization ex nihilo in areas that lacked previously existing high culture. Is he actually unaware of what had been going on in these places for the four millennia or so prior to Islam?

  4. kurt9 says:

    “Who will win the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslim East Asia — the extremist Saudis or the materialistic Chinese? We should be rooting for the Chinese.”

    No shit, Sherlock