I heard about this book from a Palo Alto entrepreneur. I read the book Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary. The style of writing is unbiased for most portion and biased whenever it is expected. This book gives a good idea on the endless wars that the west Asia has seen the history and some facts. I would have loved to see more references per page.
Supposedly, there is a historical gap that the western education misses. The book tries to fill in as much as the author can. I could revive my memories of school history (Kerala Syllabus), where we learned about independence movement in many countries including Algeria, Libya, Kenya and so on. After reading this book I really appreciate the effort they have put in making the history textbooks in Kerala syllabus. Interestingly a Q&A session including Dr.Shashi Tharoor’s bashing of British and the intentional hiding of British school system about their previous history was eye opening.
At the same time Holocaust is covered in schools in Germany. Tamim ends the book telling us everyone had a hand on Holocaust, and the Great Game only extended its reach. In USA how many schools teach about native American culture and tradition ? How is it done in the west Asia ?
The book shines light on why Turkey, Iraq and Israel where not covered much ground in my school history textbooks because of its complexity. There are instances of history narrated by Tamim that is questionable and open to opinions. However, the fair amount of references throughout the book along with the ‘anticipatory bail’ in the preface about the book being more subjective that just boring factual statements. Hence it is ‘Hi-Story’. Very interesting perspectives on the crusades are available in Al-Jazeera’s specials. Together with Wikipedia these three resources provide for a nice pass time adding historical curiosity. I like the style of writing, there is glorification of Islam. Some facts are mentioned here are there. They may or may not be tied to Islam as such. The books reaches a logical conclusion in the last few pages. Where it truly states why Islam can be considered in the league of religion (strong), polity (good connection) or culture (weakly connected). Putting itself in an orbit beyond certain misinterpretations. I would still go by what I understood in the Mahatma Gandhi’s chapter (गान्धिजि का मत) read in my 9th standard (equivalent to 9th grade in the USA) – ‘Everyone has opinion (मत), and opinion(मत) is another word for religion’. In Malayalam language caste (മതം) is derived from the same root word. Reading between the lines and adding to the well know multitude of symbolism that represent God in the Indian tradition (often called Hinduism) which in turn represented the number of people present at that time of formation of scriptures ( 33 million gods in Hinduism represented 33 million people at the time as per Dr. N Gopalakrishnan), it appears as if indeed it is true. There may be a single god (or none or many) based on the many ways and opinions a mind likes to think and ponder about. Religion was used as a tool to divide people and loot forever rather than as a tool to realize human potential (as suggested by Jaggi Vasudev).
I used to wonder how these countries in west Asia ( sometimes called as Middle East, while Tamim calls it Middle World) were formed. Especially Jordan and Syria because I could not place them in linguistic/cultural difference basket. It was also nice to know how Lebanon was formed. Another of my musings was this question ” Was there ever a case were instead of splitting countries, some countries came and joined together to form a bigger country” . Emirs formed UAE to stand together. India was formed by merger of many small countries. The answer in the book about United Arab Republic(UAR) and how the countries which also liked to join, but did not, but follow similar flags was nice to read. In many new independent countries formed when the colonization era was getting over, the sense of national identity and the sense of a nation itself seemed to be distant for a common man. The books tells about the first implementation of democracy and how it related to a common man in Afghanistan. Tamim openly says about the Great Game, Cold wars, many wars over cultural, linguistic, economic and nationalist ideologies in addition to religious. It puts forth very bluntly that whatever the Islamic rulers tried to achieve involved war and death. Nothing to be proud of. In this light Tamim actually missed out Nizam of Hyderabad and to include Tipu Sultan of Mysore. Their stories may be smaller compared to the Mughals but equally violent ?! Coming from Kerala we get to talk about how the Gods helped to protect the Tiru-Kochi (nation) from Tipu. And Tiru-Kochi lasted 7 years unlike UAR which lasted for 3 years. I am sure that Tamim must have missed some more Islamic rulers ( Indonesia ?) and others and focussed on the west Asian scene.
I have heard that certain tribes in Africa do not have restriction imposed by national boundaries. Something similar exists in different nations created by an ‘Independence movement’ leading to national identity, constitution, flag, anthem and a constitutional head. People easily move between Bhutan, Nepal, India. I guess similar cases exist between Afghanistan and Pakistan via the land of Pashtuns. Random lines on the map created by people who do not know about the land, the culture or language have lead to border tensions in many places. Be it artificial boundaries or natural boundaries of terrain or water. How are national boundaries created ? Who made it a law that every habitable land on earth should be part of nations ? Why should there be nations and national identity ? How many wars were fought over petty disputes on boundaries, resource division and allocation ? Identity crisis could be one major societal aspect that the boundaries may seem to solve. Can the boundary makers be absolved of the consequences of their fancy markings on the globe ? ever ?
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