Toxic Effects of Inferiority Complex (III)

Jan 25th, 2013 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan, World

In South Africa there are two million whites against almost thirteen million native people, and it has never occurred to a single black to consider himself superior to a member of the white minority.Frantz Fanon

The feeling of inferiority of the colonized is the correlative to the European’s feeling of superiority. Let us have the courage to say it outright: It is the racist who creates his inferior.Frantz Fanon

(First quote of Fanon really shook our spines to the core. This thought has never occurred to us! We must confess. Ask yourself. The second one is a ‘proven’ psychological fact.)

There’s an undeniable existence of self-hatred, self-pity and total disregard for our Way (cultural and above all religious) present in many of us, especially those dazzled by all things ‘western’. Another term for this disease is Occidentosis. Speaking of which Jalal Al-i Ahmed writes in his famous Occidentosis: A Plague from West:

“Under [occidentosis] we are like strangers to ourselves, in our food and dress, our homes, our manners, our publications, and, most dangerous, our culture. We try to educate ourselves in the European style and strive to solve every problem as the Europeans would.”

Jalal has comprehensively summarized negative effects of westernization in various aspects of our individual and collectives lives which we’ll attempt to examine as following.

Aftershocks: 150+ Years of Psychic Downfall

1. Psychological Illness. Inferiority Complex is a psychological problem, to begin with. It’s a disorder arising from the conflict between the desire to be noticed and the fear of being humiliated, characterized by aggressiveness or withdrawal into oneself. It engenders the survival of distinct value systems and identities.

It could be learned through observation, or a subject could be induced with it (we recommend self-examination first). It’s a deadly weapon in the hands of a skillful occupier or one fed with superiority complex; even a suicidal technique that subjugated societies/individuals may like to impose on itself, sometimes. It can destroy glorious sanctities, making us un-objective and profane. British used this weapon quite exceedingly and successfully, who else can come to our mind? And, they had totally studied the types of it too; Frantz Fanon documents in his book Black Skin, White Masks. Wherever they needed to use force to inject it, they didn’t hesitate; like their colleague Frenchmen operating ruthlessly in Africa. Blacks were played with on the terms of their appearance. But, in Asia, they relentlessly used mind control tactics, along with coercion, to crush South Asians.

Due to that long historical process, loyalty and admiration of westerners is deeply embedded in many minds. Utter one critical word about the excesses of westerners and it will severely provoke west-worshiping extremists. One of their knee-jerk reactions is: “How dare you criticize them? Look at yourself,” they’ll remind you with contempt. “West might have its share of evils, but we’ve no right to criticize them.” “Who gave you the right to deny us our right of criticism?” we might ask humbly (only in English though). It only shows the shallowness and poverty of Brown Sahibs, who do not stop complaining about their not being taken seriously anymore. Have they taken the down-trodden, poor, “backward” natives more or less seriously than discarded western ideologies or its new imported gadgets & fashions?

2. Linguistic Prejudice. We South Asians have not given up our obsession with that foreign language and culture yet, let alone respond to deeper intellectual challenges of that godless civilization. Had English language been given due attention – no matter how little compared to our languages and culture – we would not have felt a need to talk about it. But, imagine the pain an Urdu-medium child in Punjab has to go through when he misspells an English word (phonetically) in front of insecure urban dwellers. Is this not Satan’s work in man’s garb? It’s remarkable, how a few of us armed with useless knowledge of this language and western manners can abuse, yield and ridicule our own brethren, and yet get away with it!

For instance, a private TV channel went after Members of Punjab Assembly (MPAs), questioning their mastery of English. Is being good at English a requirement to lead a Punjabi province? They ridiculed and harassed whoever said, a) they’d rather reply in Urdu, or, b) couldn’t speak well like a parrot.  Their assumption was: s/he who can flawlessly speak English is truly knowledgeable, and capable of maintaining peace and prosperity in Pakistan. This is obviously false, yet we all in some degree accept this subconsciously, and feel embraced when we find ourselves or our leaders bad at it. Take the example of Hussain Haqqani, one of the proficient practitioners of English, who has authored books in it. Journalist Woodward reported him equating Pakistan to a prostitute and calling us “rug sellers,” to Amerikanos. Haqqani’s job was to trade Pakistan’s resources and sovereignty for a few dollars.

Recall how much we laugh at someone named Meera – sadly. Calling McDonald as M-C-Donald is creativity, not dumbness, in a society that cannot spell correctly and fully a complex sentence in their national language.

2. Rise of Mono-culturalism. Culture is defined by collective customs, habits, styles, dresses and attitudes of people in geographical, ethnic and/or national context. Diversity is the spice of life; and Allah created these differences to let us celebrate our identities and see beauty in various forms. Monoculture of modern west destroys this diversity and beauty of forms. Moreover, the real problem is the difference between monoculture of west and native cultures: it’s that of quantity and quality. Appearances and cleverness are two hallmarks of modern man, while their inside is really dark, noted Allama Iqbal. Ours, including all native Oriental and Occidental cultures, is based on quality and content.

The outward awe of western power produces an unintelligent admiration for their culture. Consequently, it produces a psychopathic hatred of local cultural forms and manifestation. Salman Rushdie is a prime example of this self-hatred. Initially, due to deep-seated inferiority complex, he used to ridicule his family, culture and country to vent frustrations. In an article on Rushdie Affair, Dr A. Zaman writes:

“Rushdie has a tremendous hatred for Muslims … Desperate for acceptance into English society in his youth, he was denied it because of his race and culture. A common response to this childhood trauma is intense hatred for one’s own race/culture/religion.”

Imran Khan has comprehensively shown how the fake-elite class disregards its mother tongue and culture, in his book Pakistan: A Personal History. In an article published on this very site, Selective Islam, he also shows how colonial experience destroyed a sense of pride in one’s own culture and religion in English-speaking class. Leaders are most important people in a society, because people imitate them. In this light, our leaders are not ours because they totally copy occupiers from the west, for no greater good or reason. This realization transformed Imran Khan into a proud desi, which is visible from his priorities and habits; although he admires deeper aspects of western civilization, like that of rule of law, justice, etc.

The bottom-line is that we have to differentiate between real enemies and real friends. Appearances shouldn’t matter. If an illiterate, uncultured villager is patriotic, then he’s far better than a snobbish, inferiority complex-ridden, west-worshipping PhD or high ranking general. How can they act in our best interest, when their worldview, likes and dislikes only mirror that of their masters?

4. Spiritual disease. In short, inferiority complex – which shouldn’t be reduced to being a linguistic or cultural issue – is not just a psychological disorder, but primarily is a spiritual disease. Psychology might suggest solutions which can boost self-confidence or self-esteem. However, its side effects can be more severe; it might induce too much narcissism and egoism, two of the leading ailments of the modern man.

This inferiority complex made us do absurd things. We threw away our priceless culture, knowledge, our (spiritual) attire just to please our masters; our modernized fellows would even question the very existence of these treasures. This stopped us from freeing ourselves from the falsehood, idols that reside in our hearts. Idols of power and technology are what we worship today. Our tongues do not tire of taking One God’s name yet Lat and Manat reside and perpetuate in our hearts.

Iqbal says: “The fetters are not on feet, but on the heart and soul; this is indeed a very intriguing situation.”

5. Intellectual Regress. Most importantly, inferiority complex continues to cause most damage when it comes to thinking independently and Islamically. This causes a lot of friction to the project of Islamization of knowledge. (We’ve been amazed how many times leading Islamic thinkers have pointed out that a sense of inferiority vis-à-vis west led many educated Muslims to surrender wholeheartedly (or apologetically) to western modes of thinking and action – so much so that adjective modernized/westernized has to be supplied when speaking of such Muslims.)

Late 19th century and early 20th century, the intellectual response to west by Muslim “intelligentsia” was at best apologetic and defensive towards modernity. Re-interpretation of Islam by our so-called reformists was shaped Western ideas, because they could not think independently. Here, we also witness this disease of IC and occidentiosis. Dr Basit Koshul in a survey of encounter of modernity with Islam writes:

“[Early westernized Muslims] totally disregarded any reference to an Islamic framework in the course of their interaction with Western thought. Of more pressing concern to us are the attempts consciously designed to keep Islamic teachings meaningful in the face of the western onslaught. It will be shown in the following analysis that even this “religious” response to the Western challenge has been profoundly shaped by Western ideas.”

Dr Burhan Ahmed Faruqi in his Minhaaj-ul-Quran (not to be confused with that religious organization), argues: colonial invasion and setup created two classes of mind-set with distinct world-views: a Traditional Islamic mindset that traced its roots to divine revelation of Islam; and a modernized mindset trained in modern educational systems, which felt more at home with all things with western. Modernized Muslims ascended to the ranks of power and ruled Muslims masses with aspirations to westernize their countries in totality. Traditional Islam and its political elite lost its sway with the replacement of Shariah Law with Roman or English or French law and government systems; although cultural aspects of Muslim societies continued to survive, albeit with constant losing battles with the monoculture of West. Leadership was transferred to modernized-Muslims who were completely hopeless of Quran as a source of minhaaj, a way of solving problems both at individual and societal levels. With their utter hopelessness in Qur’anic worldview, modernized Muslims looked up to knowledge produced by human capacity as a way of solving all of their problems.

The point we’re trying to make is this: Muslims have lost confidence in their own intellectual tradition because a) they do no ‘think enough and clearly’ from Islamic point view; b) reason why they don’t think Islamically, it’s because they’re hopeless of Qur’an as a source or guide to our challenges, as per Dr Burhan. (It’s our belief (through experience) that if enough thought is given to Islamic thought, and things are seen from Islamic point of view, one’s belief in the authenticity of Islamic tradition would reach the point of certitude, if not divorced from spiritual practices.)

5.b. Misadventures in Social Sciences. Summarizing his paper on Origin of Social Sciecnes in West, Dr Zaman writes:

On the whole, Muslims have accepted Western claims that both social sciences and physical sciences are equally fact and logic based, and “positive” descriptions of reality. In fact, Western formulations of social sciences hide ethical and social commitments to secular views which conflict the Islamic views. Widespread acceptance by Muslims of these false claims to factuality and objectivity has prevented the development of genuine Islamic alternatives, and has been a serious obstacle to progress in the project of ‘Islamization of Knowledge’.”

5.c. Way of thinking. Inferiority complex vis-à-vis west has given rise to pre-Islamic jahili ways of thinking. This also includes tribalism (or nationalism). But above all we have more or less stopped looking at things the way our Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) taught us to do. We’ll explain that by a simple example. Once, a wealthy and powerful person went by. Prophet asked his companions about what they thought of him. They replied he was a very successful, wealthy and powerful person. He had prestige and honour among people such that if he asked someone in marriage for his offspring, no one would refuse. Then, a very poor and weak Muslim went by. Prophet asked them their thoughts about this poor fellow. Everybody said that this guy was not worth a dime. He was nobody in people’s eyes. Then, Prophet taught them to reverse their thinking. That poor guy was an extremely pious Muslim who prayed tahajjudd and all. Prophet taught them that the pious Muslims, albeit poor, was more honorable and worthy of respect than someone merely possessing worldly power, wealth and prestige.

Because we no more value Taqwa, devotion and love for God, we end up being hopeless of Islamic piety. This also explains our love for dunya and worldly prestige.

5.d. Educational Myopia. As we have already noted in our previous two articles that colonial education produced westernized minds with un-Muslim character and mind. Apart from that, colonial education harmed our creativity as well. Dr Farid A. Malik, a professor, notes that colonial education produced pen-pushers (bureaucracy) and trigger-pushers (army). Punjab perhaps had largest share of these ‘hollow men’. Atiyab notes in her paper that colonial education promoted on rote-learning, whereas in previous times this was not the case.

Our education is based upon Qur’an, which teaches through nature and history. History is an important basis of humanity, and a dynamic which is continuously shaping future, affecting and is affected by each of our choices. It is very often scoffed upon by European thought. The relation to past which is very important for collective growth is always ignored in modern thought and Western education, certainly in economics. On the other hands, European thought also turn history into historicism; latter argues that all sources of morality and knowledge must be derived from history and not theory or a text. Islam begins with a foundational text (Qur’an) and then asks people to intellect through the revelation.

5.e. Blunders in Human Psychology. Technically speaking, our accepting Freud and Jung’s psychological ideas universally as ‘scientific’ results in total displacement of religion from humanities. A problem with the latter is: It separates thought from intuition which is a dangerous phenomenon in human history. Thought without intuition is ripped off of its solemnity, innocence and positive creativity. Thought tucked into the vast wings of intuition works miracles. It becomes infinite and transit human experience into something humane. Anti-spiritual forces are blind to their own limitations, yet they so vehemently deny what lies beyond them.

7. Delusions of Racial Inferiority. We might like it or not but there’s an aspect of racial inferiority too. We often feel it vis-à-vis Nordics (Northern & Atlantic Europeans). Unfortunately, we did not come across enough literature examining this reality (or its non-existence). If you know such works, please share references or online sources. But, it is through observation we can confirm it.

In Europe, Darwinism and (flawed) racial intelligence tests try to uphold colonial dogma: all humans are equal, but races are better than others. We might add: yes, some nations are better in some areas than others, but it’s a matter of history and Divine Grace (or is ‘accidental’, to a skeptic). Africans didn’t produce Taj Mahal or Mozarts, but they produced saints, and in the eyes of the Absolute this is most important, argued Frithjof Schuon.

There is inequality in the world, but it’s like diversity which has undeniable unity to it. Study of genetics shows how similar humans are in an archetypical sense, which means that we collectively are one, but potentials are inherent in all, but are distribute by forces of history and free will. Free will exists, because there is a criterion of superiority: piety. There cannot be two criteria, unless one divorces knowledge from sacred (as Qur’an says, Are those who know equal to those who don’t?).

Hence, at racial level, only history matters. Nordics were notorious for being barbaric, least likely to be cultured, notes G. H. Estabrooks in his paper That Question of Racial Inferiority. We should ponder on this, and also on the fact that no single race or nation has monopoly over human productions and achievements.

Many scholars have shown the poverty of Europeans’ self-declaration of civility and superiority over others. It’s a self-delusion of the rich, at best. Let’s talk at a very practical level: ‘it’s a simple observation that if you teach a kid from remotest areas of the world, he will learn making computers and all the technology in no time’. Today, western technical and social science universities are dominated by people from corners of the globe, and not just by one race. Only a simpleton today would still believe in the falsehood of absolute superiority of certain races over the other. Pakistanis are famous in North America for saving lives (as doctors) and producing fancy toys (as engineers), for instance. Geniuses in poor countries are being wasted. In a recent global IQ test survey, Pakistanis were ranked 4th for their intelligence in the world, despite lacking all required resources. Not that we ever doubted the extraordinary abilities of our countrymen, but it’s good to see racists rising above their prejudices.

Those who become something are imported by West, leaving their homelands in that vicious circle of deprivation and poverty – for which only the fleeing natives are to be blamed.


There’s no conclusion to it, unless our article changes us and our reader to any extent. But, we’d like to close this part with an advice from a French-English Muslim thinker, Sidi Hassan Charles Gai Eaton:

“Muslims in general … have an ambivalent attitude to the West. On the one hand there is bitterness and resentment induced by the history of colonialism and now by the brute fact of Western hegemony; on the other hand there are feelings of admiration and envy. And yet admiration … should be tempered by caution. No race, no people, no human group can be good at everything. It is therefore always a question of priorities. If we can only be successful in a few aspects of this life, a choice has to be made.” (Source: Roots of Western Culture.)

This article is co-authored by Hira Shamim

Links to Part I and Part II

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. Greetings,

    Thank you for this exceptional 3rd part.

    I very much like the paragraph:

    “The bottom-line is that we have to differentiate between real enemies and real friends. Appearances shouldn’t matter. If an illiterate, uncultured villager is patriotic, then he’s far better than a snobbish, inferiority complex-ridden, west-worshipping PhD or high ranking general. How can they act in our best interest, when their worldview, likes and dislikes only mirror that of their masters?”

    This is an observation that also applies to the citizens here in American society (though they would deny it). Just as others from cultures outside the the west might venerate the west, for those here in the west, it is common for them to venerate the highly educated in their own society, and to feel “less than” them. This idea has essentially been exported abroad.

    Iqbal’s quote about fetters is spot on. This is one reason – among many others – that I very much like him.

    I like how you’ve communicated that an inferiority complex can manifest as nationalism. Iqbal has written that the object of religion to create a meaningful social entity so that life can be uplifted, stable, noble, and progress accordingly. If religion is discarded, in favor of imitating something other (e.g., the west), then the social entity would likely disintegrate. Your series of posts depicts the outcomes of this disintegration.

    Your series of posts brings up a deep implication of how worldviews and mindsets are exported and successfully inculcated into other minds, displacing other worldviews and mindsets. A question is, then: How does one reach a pre-inculcation awareness without, at the same time, merely retreating into a past which would only involve empty imitation (this being not really any better than the imitation of the west).

    I hope that this series of posts can make it in front of the eyes of many readers.

    All good wishes,


  2. Poisonous effects of colonialism, a much better and scholarly essay:

    ‘Breaking Chains of Modernity’

    ‘This essay is excerpted from his forthcoming book titled Decolonizing the Heart in an Upside Down World.’

  3. JazakAllah al khayr for your thoughtful comment. Those were very kind words.

    I believe the discussion has just begun. The disease is very deep and subtle. First and last step is contemplation and action, at the same time. Constant effort is needed. Just as ‘negligence is the cardinal sin in Islam’ so just we need to fight it like we fight satan.

    Inferiority complex is just one problem. The real problem is the end is not being able to intellect according to Revelation. Parvez Manzoor has forcefully and with clarity discussed this flaw of modern and post-modern way of thinking: the former fails to fulfill its promise of knowing the Truth and Absolute, and the latter completely destroys it.

    Inferiority complex in orientals is not really the only reason for our failure to turn things around and lead the world. As Iqbal says: Complain is with you not with the West (that you’ve accepted its mental slavery). As frithjof schuon said that East is sleeping over treasures!

  4. * Parvez Manzoor’s essay:

  5. Greetings,

    Thank you very much for these additional comments, and for the links. I look forward to following up further.

    All good wishes,


  6. As I said, while we were writing this article over 2 weeks and even before it, we’re struck by the recurrence of this complex that Orientals tend to have in intellectual domain. Many leading thinkers of contemporary world, philosophers, economists, scientists, etc., have alluded to this complex. Today I was reading a paper by Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr (bio: on how to do comparative philosophy. In this I came across the central point of our article, he writes:

    “The Western students of Oriental doctrines have usually tried to reduce these doctrines to “profane” philosophy; and modernized Orientals, often burdened by a half-hidden inferiority complex,h ave tried to give respectability to the same doctrines and to “elevate” them by giving them the honor of being in harmony with the thought of whichever Western philosopher was in vogue.”

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