Short memories

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Several people have pointed me to the articles which quote a nationalist Japanese minister as stating, to the effect, that Arabs won’t trust blonde & blue-eyed Westerners, but have no historical aversion to East Asians. I found this kind of funny because of course the Sack of Baghdad was at the hands of the Mongols. Though the current post-colonial vogue is to attribute Arab failures to European exploitation, many scholars have long made the argument that the Mongol invasions dealt the Arabs a blow from which they never recovered (the Turks were ascendant from then on).1 It highlights the importance of history as propaganda and ideology to consider that the Crusades were relatively minor affairs compared to the later invasion of the Mongols, and yet the former loom far larger in the contemporary Arab mind.

1 – The Arab world had been in decline already during this period with the rise of Turkic warlords, but the Mongols snuffed out a late renaissance of the Caliphate in Baghdad.

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12 Comments

  1. Excellent point.  
     
    I would love to see Juan Cole’s response to this. While I like his blog in general, he really likes to bask in the victimhood of colonialism.

  2. When did the Crusades start looming large? 19th century, 20th?

  3. Mongols victimized Chinese and Japanese too. It’s a silly argument overall, but Muslims have few or no beefs with Chinese or Japanese and haven’t seen Mongol invaders in 700+ years (Tamerlane was Turko-Persian though he opportunistically claimed Mongol ancestry).

  4. Those damn liberals painting a huge target on the back of the west… /half serious 
     
    Would the colonized place such weight upon the injuries of colonialism if the west would flat out ignore those sentiments and laugh at them, instead of taking them seriously and having sympathetic political segments? Why would they use a victimization strategy that was noneffective? 
     
    The situation in Palestine is like a microcosm of this.

  5. I think that the Mongol damage was unevenly distributed. Eastern Iran was worst hit and may never have recovered. Central Asia was hit pretty hard, but recovered fully (Tamerlane, Ulugh Beg). Under the Mongols I think that Western Iran did OK, and there were some unprecedented things such as Rashid ad-din’s world history. By the end of the Mongol regime, though, orthodoxy was in control, and the Ottomans seem to have picked up on that.

  6. “When did the Crusades start looming large? 19th century, 20th?” 
     
    No, the 21st century. 
     
    “he really likes to bask in the victimhood of colonialism.” 
     
    As opposed to what? Basking in the sunshine of your love? 
     
    The true victims of colonialism are the poor imperialist nations who gave so much and got nothing in return. They should be seeking reparations for the wrong done to them by these silly natives.  
     
    We rescued these noble savages from the darkness and introduced them to the light of civilzation and they spit it right back into our land grabbing, plantation owning, slave whipping, women raping, treaty breaking faces. Talk about ungreatful.

  7. Perceptions of the past are defined by contemporary circumstances. Although the depradations of the European Crusaders pale in comparison to the cataclysm of Mongol invasion, the Mongols at present pose no threat to the Middle East or the Arab or Muslim world. Following their continent-spanning conquests, they (and the Turks) assimilated into the cultures of the nations they subdued – thus they posed no existential threat to the Muslim world following initial impact.

  8. “We rescued these noble savages from the darkness and introduced them to the light of civilzation and they spit it right back into our land grabbing, plantation owning, slave whipping, women raping, treaty breaking faces. “ 
     
    Well, the Arabs aren’t really *that* well-positioned to whine. Some arabs (I.e. non-saudi arabia) endured detached british and french semi-colonialism between 1920-1950 or so, replacing the Ottomans. Oh, and there’s that Israel thing…

  9. “Would the colonized place such weight upon the injuries of colonialism if the west would flat out ignore those sentiments and laugh at them” 
     
    Depends. If victimology is for internal use (I.e. to whip up domestic nationalist sentiment), it might work even better against a dismissive, hostile west. 
     
    For getting diplomatic and economic concessions, etc. though, western defensiveness is useful, of course.  
     
    As for the substance of the “injuries of colonialism”, well, that varies wildly. South American indians are probably the ones who should feel they were dealt the worst hand in the colonialism game.

  10. It is just a matter of degree.  
     
    I think Juan Cole attributes too much of the current problems in the middle east to colonialism. He is very rarely critical of current mid-east or Islamic leaders. 
     
    Now, he may be trying to balance out what he feels is an already tilted dialog, but I still think it hurts his credibility. 
     
    Nonetheless, his blog is an important voice.

  11. “It is just a matter of degree.” 
     
    Most things are.  
     
    “I think Juan Cole attributes too much of the current problems in the middle east to colonialism.” 
     
    Well, with continued Imperial Ottoman rule, many of the current problems would most likely not exist. They would have others instead…

  12. To me if you want to determine the impact of colonialism you need to look at similar countries that were or were not colonized. In Asia you have Thailand, in Africa you have Ethiopia and Liberia (well, maybe Liberia doesn’t count). I’m not an expert but both countries seem to have wound up similar enough to their neighbors that I would not consider colonialism to be that big of a factor in the problems such states have today. India and South Africa are counter examples were there was a lot of nation-building done by the colonizers that still have visible effects today.

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