057_Global13_Arena_V5

Global 13

Arena Books Engaging Asia’s best brains notes that al-Afghani was consistent in his tions about democracy, autocracy, capital- From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt anti-imperialism, although he flirted with ism and socialism, as well as about the need Against the West and the Remaking of Asia different forms of political Islam through for a common front among China’s many Pankaj Mishra, Allen Lane, London, 2012, the changing allegiances he was obliged ethnic minorities. 356pp, ISBN 9781846144783 to make. “He advocated both nationalism The third public intellectual Mishra and pan-Islamism; he lamented the intoler- singles out is Rabindranath Tagore, the The life stories of three very different ance of Islam; he evoked its great glories Nobel prize-winning poet who despite Asian intellectuals are here recounted in the past; he called for Muslim unity; he being warmly welcomed into the draw- and placed in the context of their extraor- also asked Muslims to work with Hindus, ing rooms of the West remained an anti- dinary times between the 1850s and the Christians and Jews, and claimed that ra- imperialist to the end. 1940s. Among their most striking com- tionality was intrinsic to Islam.” By retelling the lives and thoughts of mon features were the extensive travels Despite this inconsistency, al-Afghani these three remarkable men, Mishra clev- they undertook and their resultant cos- was convinced that Muslims could move erly revitalises the historical events that mopolitanism. Most importantly, from being subjects of history shaped them and throws fresh light on however, each of them chose to into its makers, and believed in the upheavals of the late imperial era, not speak out against the encroach- the importance of their acquiring least the rise of Japan and the communist ment of Western political and science, education and military revolution in China. However, it remains economic hegemony and called power. hard to discern the reasons for entitling the for different forms of resistance. A similarly prophetic role was book From the Ruins of Empire when it Throughout its different phases, carved out in China by Liang dedicates so many pages to describing the the British Empire could hardly Qichao, whose experiences of British Empire at its height rather than its have encountered anyone quite Japan and especially the USA in disintegration. But it could equally refer to like the Persian-born Jamal al-Din the early years of the 20th century the ancient Asian empires for which these al-Afghani, whose self-appointed politi- made him determined that China should three intellectuals were engaged in an on- cal campaigning work took him to India, shake off its humiliations. He was one of going search for effective successors. Afghanistan, Turkey and Egypt in the several public intellectuals of his day, and second half of the 19th century. Mishra he was not afraid of asking difficult ques- Richard Synge, Consultant Editor, Global An activist’s route to power ensuing disruption at venues where the particularly fascinating. Outside In teams played proved to be a highly effec- The account of the Northern Ireland Peter Hain, Biteback Publishing, London, tive strategy, heralding the beginning of the settlement, in which Hain was instrumen- 2012, 464pp, ISBN 9781849544108 apartheid nation’s isolation in the global tal, includes his much-publicised critical sports arena – a bitter pill for sports-loving remarks about Judge (now Lord Justice) “This is the story of an ‘outsider’ turned South Africans to swallow. Girvan’s handling of a ju- ‘insider’: anti-apartheid militant to cabi- The success of the STST dicial review in Belfast in net minister,” so says Peter Hain in the campaign could be meas- 2006. Outraged by the of- book’s preface. Intended to be “readable ured in the efforts made by fending passage, the North- rather than erudite”, his memoirs are in the South African security ern Irish judiciary responded any case compelling. services to discredit Hain. by bringing contempt of Beginning with his early years in South Astonishingly, an attempt court proceedings against Africa – which were, he says, “a mixture was made to frame him for both author and publisher. of excitement, stress and shock” – Hain bank robbery. And he faced Hain refused to change his recalls that his parents were activists in the first of many tussles with comments but did write a the fight against apartheid, and that the the British judiciary when clarification (included at the family was almost constantly harassed he was tried for conspiracy; end of the paperback edi- by the South African Bureau of State Se- the establishment, he says, tion) in which he explains curity (BOSS). By 1966, it had become was outraged at the chaos he had not intended to ques- impossible for Hain’s father to find work brought to its beloved sport. tion Lord Justice Girvan’s and the family left for Britain. It is ironic that such a radical start should capabilities as a judge. The prosecution His account of anti-apartheid activism in lead to Hain’s becoming a minister in Tony was subsequently withdrawn, in what late 1960s and early 1970s Britain, makes Blair’s cabinet, some of whose controver- was hailed as a victory for free speech by for riveting reading. As chairman of the sial policies like student fees and the inva- Hain’s publisher Biteback. ‘Stop The Seventy Tour’ (STST), Hain sion of Iraq were to change Britain forever. organised protests targeting visiting rugby This makes the descriptions of the behind- Hannah Cochrane, freelance writer and and cricket teams from South Africa. The the-scenes machinations of government researcher globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l57


Global 13
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