Historical Roots of Inferiority Complex (II)

Jan 23rd, 2013 | By | Category: Latest, Religion, World

Colonial Invasion & State Structures. Loss of self-confidence in Muslims is justifiably related to defeats on the battlegrounds at the hands of west. But a military defeat is not enough to enslave hearts and minds, as it can be an impetus for revenge. Today Muslims are envious of West’s power, which proves the fact that the real challenge of west is not of materialism, but of intellectualism (which modernity certainly lacks in the true sense of the world).

However, what happened after the first phase of colonial invasion? How did colonials succeed in subduing large populations in vast areas? We’ve partial answers.

Realizing the danger that native “monkeys” might overrun them by sheer numbers, colonizers had to play the games of perceptions and mind control. They had to look big and strong. Few in numbers, they developed railway and laid communication systems to travel fast over the huge mass of land to subdue any possible mutiny, which did take place and successfully crushed. But the physical assets won’t do the job if the natives were enthusiastic and confident of their victory. Hence, that spirit of rebellion was decimated, and fear and inferiority complex were placed like time bombs beneath our (un)conscious. Self-confidence was shattered when Muslims’d see Tipu Sultan’s majestic dress being worn by peons of whites. Healthy, buildup, young officers constantly replaced older ones to give the illusion that all whites are brave and strong and can’t be messed with. These are just few of countless examples of this social-engineering.

We’ve to contextualize heroic things we attribute our colonial masters. Colonialism was about dispossession. In a paper on this very topic, Cole Harris summarizes colonists’ grand strategy of dispossession as following:

“The initial ability to dispossess rested primarily on physical power and the supporting infrastructure of the state; the momentum to dispossess derived from the interest of capital in profit and of settlers in forging new livelihoods; the legitimation of and moral justification for dispossession lay in a cultural discourse that located civilization and savagery and identified the land uses associated with each; and the management of dispossession rested with a set of disciplinary technologies of which maps, numbers, law, and the geography of resettlement itself were the most important…” (‘How Did Colonialism Dispossess? Comments from an Edge of Empire’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Mar., 2004), abstract)

Hence, administrative and other infrastructures, and all the technologies were means to loot and pillage, although in a more civilized or face-saving way.

Education: Colonists’ Most Favorite Vehicle (MFV)

While military and political subjugation of colonists broke the spirits of many, colonial education convinced many that modern West’s ventures in barbarism were for our own benefit. When defeat induced fears of a mightier foe, the education changed the victim’s heart. As Akbar Abadi said: ‘An easterner would cut off the head of the foe; a westerner would change his heart’. British justified their rule to their own people on the pretext of ‘civilizing’ natives. This was different from what was happening to Blacks in Africa. This comparison will make things more clear.

Blacks were made colonizers on the basis of their color. They were led to believe that their skin color reflects that of sin, ugliness. Black lies are unforgivable, white lies are ignored. They don’t have any right to exist. Be white or disappear was the attitude of their colonizers. Blacks even had dreams of being white. They craved for white color at any cost.

Our minds were made slaves. Our color is not such a problem to them. Our culture, religion, and thought endangered their existence. They worked to snatch our inheritance, our ilm from us. That is why they used education. They changed minds.

Economic-historian Atiyab Sultan writes that in the beginning of 19th century, colonization became more ‘pedagogic’ in India. Previously, Britishers were consolidating militarily and administratively. It was time to tend to education, which was primarily used to create a special kind of class of natives, loyal to them.

Liberals and utilitarians advocated ‘civilizing’ natives in the “universal image” of modern western man. There were 3 distinct groups in British parliament who lobbied for their own educational programs (with unmistakable similarities): Evangelicals, utilitarians, and uiberals. Evangelicals like Charles Grant believed Indians to be ‘race of men lamentably degenerate and base’; liberals like Macaulay fancied, “A single shelf of a good European library is worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”; and utilitarians like JS Mills considered Indian stock of knowledge to be ‘obscure and worthless’ (perhaps he did so without digesting a page of Indian literature). On the contrary, Dr Asad Zaman argues, “A single chapter on sacrifice in a book like Fazail e Amaal that teaches man to go against his nafs, is worth the whole literature of modern West.” Only Orientalists, Atiyab mentions, argued that colonial educational system in India should be according to indigenous sources and be taught according to indigenous views.

In a way summing up the educational policy, which was fiercely debated in English parliament, Atiyab further writes:

“Education was also a chief instrument in the creation of a colonial subject that would be a loyal and willing consumer of British knowledge and produce. Macaulay voiced this concern thus: ‘Indians should not be too ignorant or too poor to value and buy English manufactures’ (Basu 58.)  In a larger sense, the loyal subjects were needed for the calm preservation of empire, echoing the imperial policy of cultivating supportive local elites …”

It becomes clear that their educational institutions served colonists needs, not ours. This reminds of what Iqbal called the “un-Muslim character” colonial education produced. Also, that system was unfair to the masses as it sent few to higher service, leaving the rest impoverished. We should also add that this created an anti-native character in Indians at large, to which Hindus responded very well, boycotting foreign goods.

Triumph of Materialism. Hamza Yusuf (HY) notes that the colonists saw the global and historical link Muslims maintained due to their religious Tradition. Muslims had many global learning centers which played vital role in this regard and maintained some kind of visible unity (although the underlying unity of Ummah is still undeniable and, in fact, crucial to the venture of Islam). In order to destroy that unity among Muslims, colonists sought to destroy this ‘historical link’. And as per HY, they did so by injecting inferiority complex in Muslims regarding their lack of material progress. “It’s all documented how they did this,” he emphasizes. For instance, they’d compare paper to pre-modern tablet, which Muslims used for instruction. “Using a tablet is backward. Now we’ve paper!” This notion of backwardness is still on the lips of 75-80% (if not 100%) of Muslims, especially the educated class.

Eurocentrism. The roots of civilizational inferiority complex may also lie in the venom called euro-centrism, especially for uncritical bookish minds. These are more less two central tenets of this mythological, racist & historicist thesis: All civilizations must develop along the lines of West to achieve the idols of indefinite economic progress, civility and “enlightenment”; and that Europe is at the center of world stage, and that all other civilizations are mere supporting pillars, resource fields to it. But western civilization not the end of civilizations, argues Rene Guenon:

“So long as western people imagine that there only exists a single type of humanity, that there is only one ‘civilization’, at different stages of development, no mutual understanding will be possible. The truth is that there are many civilizations, developing along very different lines, and that, among these, that of the modern West is strangely exceptional, as some of its characteristics show.”

Further Guenon scrutinizes the true nature of this highly over-rated civilization, which dominates the world materially so far (we would concede to the objection that even its material dominance is soon to be surpassed):

“The civilization of the modern West appears in history a veritable anomaly: among all those which are known to us more or less completely, this civilization is the only one which has developed along purely material lines and this monstrous development, whose beginning coincides with the so-called Renaissance, has been accompanied, as indeed it was fated to be, with a corresponding intellectual regress; we say corresponding and not equivalent, because here are two orders of things between which there can be no common measure. This regress has reached such a point that the Westerners of today no longer know what pure intellect is; in fact they do not even suspect that anything of the kind can exist…”

Post-Pakistan: Continuation. Leadership produced by the British took over the country after the partition. They molded state policies and institutions in the image of their departed masters, more or less. Discussion of continuation of such structures is not relevant here. What’s important is that the inferiority complex of native Brown Sahibs’ turned into superiority complex that caused much harm.

After 1947 we witnessed exploitation of our Bengali brothers, which was at once racial and materialistic. It wasn’t religious extremism that separated two brothers, but the absence of spiritual training of the governing “elites”, in bureaucracy, politicians and army. We’ve accounts of how West Pakistani elites treated Bengalis as lower level race. Our false-elite was certainly a clone of their masters.

(In the next part, we’ll talk about in detail possible harmful effects of this complex in various aspects of our individual and national life.)

This article has been co-authored by Hira Shamim.

Proceed to the final part

..Link to Part I

Muhammad Umer Toor

About the author

Muhammad Umer Toor is a Sargodhian, aspiring to be an academic shaheen. He is learning German and Persian to pursue a multidisciplinary social science masters. Hira Shamim the coauthor of this article is a thinker and writer working towards a positive change in Pakistan

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  1. […] Proceed to Part II […]

  2. Greetings,

    Thank you for this post.

    I like your use of the term, “social engineering.” For me, I use the term, “conditioning,” as, almost, synonymous. It is indeed the technology which can be used (and is used) to enslave minds and weaken hearts. The colonial mind knows that this technology must be used in order to truly control others. Physical force alone is insufficient.

    Yes, there is a looting and pillaging methodology – used to gain footholds in foreign minds – which I can tell you, as a resident of the United States, is not understood by the typical US citizen. By “understood,” I mean that the typical American citizen is oblivous to it. It has been conditioning out of sight. Television, a major tool of social conditioning, contributes to keeping the typical American citizen doped, distracted, docile.

    The quote by Akbar Abadi that: “An easterner would cut off the head of the foe; a westerner would change his heart” is spot on. By cutting off a man’s head, you have ended his physical life. Change a man’s heart, however, and this will dovetail into controlling effects with the whole society.

    What happened to blacks in Africa occurred with Native Americans here. When the “washichu” (white man) arrived on this continent, there was, of course, physical subjegation. But the real, lasting subjegation was the changing of minds and weakening of hearts. This was effected by several means including, but not necessarily limited to: 1.) dissallowing Native Americans from speaking their native language, 2.) forcing them to give up their native religion, and adopt Christianity, 3.) forcing them to cut off their hair (which for traditional Native Americans was very significant, 4.) prohibiting them from dressing in native dress, while mandating white attire, and 5.). forcing them to attend white schools.

    I share the above, as the technology of manipulating minds and changing hearts, through social engineering, is not really that different from one culture to another.

    My interest, in all of this, involves the “how” of enabling the social organism to overcome this conditioning. I would argue that a big part of this “how” is manifesting here in your excellent posts. My concern, however, still is focused on practical work of enabling an awakening of the social consciousness of both the colonized mind and the colonizing mind.

    All good wishes,


  3. Very well written. Much thanks for providing a more clearer picture.

  4. @ Robert,

    Thanks a lot for such a constructive and detailed comment. The example of Native Americans added a lot.

    Change: I believe this is possible only after deep self-examination. I hope to study post-colonialism a lot in near future. If you can recommend books and articles please let me know.

  5. Greetings,

    What you are writing and sharing here is of great value. Thank you for your work on it.

    I’m actually devoting this portion of my life to studying, with new eyes, all of Iqbal’s writings (not only his poetry, but all his writings on social issues). I will certainly share with you whatever I find, anywhere or from anyone, of value.

    I look forward to reading through the entirety of your work.

    All good wishes,


  6. @ Robert

    Looking forward to your reflections on this subject.

    Part 3


    Best regards

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