What Motivated Arab Scholars To Translate and Preserve Greek Works-By Peter Anderson

“What drove the political class of Abbasid society to support this enormous and difficult undertaking? Part of the explanation is no doubt the sheer utility of the scientific corpus: key texts in disciplines such as engineering and medicine had obvious practical application. But this doesn’t tell us why translators were paid handsomely to render, say, Aristotle’s Metaphysics or Plotinus’ Enneads into Arabic. Research by leading scholars of the Greek-Arabic translation movement, especially by Dimitri Gutas in Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (1998), has suggested that the motives were in fact deeply political. The caliphs wanted to establish their own cultural hegemony, in competition with Persian culture and also with the neighbouring Byzantines. The Abbasids wanted to show that they could carry on Hellenic culture better than the Greek-speaking Byzantines, benighted as they were by the irrationalities of Christian theology.”

Muslim intellectuals also saw resources in the Greek texts for defending, and better understanding, their own religion. One of the earliest to embrace this possibility was al-Kindī, traditionally designated as the first philosopher to write in Arabic (he died around 870CE). A well-heeled Muslim who moved in court circles, al-Kindī oversaw the activity of Christian scholars who could render Greek into Arabic. The results were mixed. The circle’s version of Aristotle’s Metaphysics can be almost incomprehensible at times (to be fair, one could say this of the Greek Metaphysics too), while their ‘translation’ of the writings of Plotinus often takes the form of a free paraphrase with new, added material.

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Socrates- What Kind Of Citizen Was He ?(Should One Obey The System Even If It Is Corrupt? )

Interesting article by Josiah Ober on Socrates and what his death meant for a civic citizen.(f,sheikh) Conventional wisdom sees Socrates as a martyr for free speech, but he accepted his death sentence for a different cause.  

Some 2,400 years ago, in 399 BCE, Athens put Socrates on trial. The charge was impiety, and the trial took place in the People’s Court. Socrates, already 70 years old, had long been a prominent philosopher and a notorious public intellectual. Meletus, the prosecutor, alleged that Socrates had broken Athenian law by failing to observe the state gods, by introducing new gods, and by corrupting the youth.

Meletus, as prosecutor, and Socrates, as defendant, delivered timed speeches before a jury of 501 of their fellow citizens. Meletus’ prosecution speech is lost. Two versions of Socrates’ defence speech, one recorded by Plato and the other by a clever polymath named Xenophon, are preserved. A majority of jurors (about 280) voted Socrates guilty, and he was executed by hemlock poisoning.

There is no dispute about the basic facts of the trial of Socrates. It is less obvious why Athenians found Socrates guilty, and what it might mean today. People who believe in both democracy and the rule of law ought to be very interested in this trial. If the takeaway is either that democracy, as direct self-government by the people, is fatally prone to repress dissent, or that those who dissent against democracy must be regarded as oligarchic traitors, then we are left with a grim choice between democracy and intellectual freedom.

But that is the wrong way to view Socrates’ trial. Rather, the question it answers concerns civic obligation and commitment. The People’s Court convicted Socrates because he refused to accept that a norm of personal responsibility for the effects of public speech applied to his philosophical project. Socrates accepted the guilty verdict as binding, and drank thehemlock, because he acknowledged the authority of the court and the laws under which he was tried. And he did so even though he believed that the jury had made a fundamental mistake in interpreting the law.Click for full article.

https://aeon.co/essays/the-civic-drama-of-socrates-trial?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=efc57348d4-Daily_Newsletter_20_September_20169_20_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-efc57348d4-69109725

The Left in Pakistan-3-1971 Debacle

 Author: Syed Ehtisham     

      Indra moves to Dacca, Bhutto  in West-Wali Khan offers to negotiate to Keep Pak one, Bhutto lets Mujib leave in a hurry.

The Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was the daughter of the first Prime Minister of India. Pundit Nehru. The latter was an idealist and one of the founding fathers of Independent India. Undivided India was an article of faith for him and others leaders of independence movement.

Indra Gandhi skillfully presented India’s case, dwelling rather more on human misery of unprecedented scale than on the crushing economic burden of having to look after millions of refugees.

Pakistan, ruled by an unelected, brutal and dissolute General, sent a foreign office bureaucrat who had difficulty getting an appointment with mid-level officials.

On return from a highly successful tour, Indra renewed her ultimatum to Pakistan.

Admiral Ahsan, the Governor dealt with civilian administration. Ahsan renewed his offer to mediate. He could work out an arrangement under which Pakistan Army could get out intact, with out being humiliated. Pakistan would become a con-federation. It would keep the country in one piece. The international community supported the plan. India fell in line, though reluctantly. They would lose the opportunity to undo Pakistan.

The military cabal vetoed the proposal.  Bhutto endorsed the veto.

Pakistani generals, in total denial of reality[xxxi], deluded themselves into thinking that by initiating a conflict on the western border they would get international intervention-cease fire etc. Bhutto had lavished compliments on them for coming up with this brilliant idea.

Indian Government gave a final ultimatum to Pakistan to withdraw her forces from East Bengal voluntarily and immediately. The ultimatum was rejected by Pakistan.

Indian army went into action on its border with East Pakistan. Pakistani army with drew, after a token resistance to “defensible” strong points. But they destroyed all infra structure, crops, boats, cars, buses, bridges, public buildings, industrial plants, schools and hospitals. It was a campaign of wanton and malicious vengeance. The butcher had already run away, leaving a hapless General Niazi to hold the crumbling fort (It is hardly credible but according Akbar S. Ahmad, a senior Pakistani civil servant at the time, when he visited the military HQ in Dacca, he was told of a Niazi plan. He did not what it was and said. Niazi frowned at him as one would to a very poorly informed person. He was told by an aide that the plan was to win a corridor from Dacca through India to Lahore).

At this point Yahya decided to open hostilities on the Western border. Pakistan air force planes bombed some Indian airports. They actually went as far as Agra right in the belly of India. The hoped and preyed for international intervention did not materialize.

Lahore was with in easy grasp of India. All their army had to do was to walk in. Nixon-Kissinger warned India off West Pakistan. Nixon announced that he had ordered the USA pacific fleet to move towards East Pakistan. It was a shot across Indra’s sails. It worked or as some would have it she had other ideas[xxxii].. Only the Chinese government, in an eerie replay of a similar claim during 1965 India Pakistan war, accused the Indian border forces of abducting a few cows and goats. They could not do any more. India, as on the previous occasion, hastily offered immediate restitution.

Pakistan army’s resistance crumbled in the East and the West. On the eastern side they would soon abandon even the pretence of putting up a fight. Many senior officers fled in helicopters pushing women and children off the planes*. (US forces were to emulate Pakistanis in their flight from Vietnam, except that American service men pushed Vietnamese and not their own country women and children off the steps of the plane). But the day before surrender, they rounded up and shot in cold blood, all the educated people they could lay their hands on in Dhaka[xxxiii].

Mukti Bahini guerillas would have torn all 90,000 Pakistani military and civilian personnel and family members to shreds. But the Indian army expeditiously threw a protective cordon around them and hastily moved them to POW camps in India.

Parvez Hoodbhoy-Zia’s generation is everywhere today in Pakistan. A moderate Muslim majority country has become one where the majority of citizens want Islam to play a key role in politics. The effects of indoctrination are clearly visible. Even as the sharia-seeking Taliban were busy blowing up girls and boys schools (over 950, to date), a survey by World Public Opinion.Org in 2008 found that 54% of Pakistanis wanted strict application of sharia while 25% wanted it in some more dilute form. Totaling 79%, this was the largest percentage in the four countries surveyed (Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia).

Bhutto had taken over a country universally despised for the genocide in East Pakistan. He faced immense problems. India had captured large swathes of territory in the west too. 90,000 of his countrymen, soldiers, their kin and civil servants with their families were in India. The government of BD was demanding the surrender of the butcher of Bengal, now the army chief of Pakistan, plus scores of army men from among the POWs.. If push came to shove Pakistan would have had to give up the butcher.

All Bhutto had in hand was Mujib in a Pakistani jail. He was certainly not in a position to touch the President of BD. Had he done so, Indra’s hand would have been forced. She would have had to attack West Pakistan, free Mujib and try Bhutto as a war criminal. Why Indra did not let the BD government conduct war crimes trials is a mystery. Hitler’s entourage were hanged and awarded long jail terms for lesser crimes.

I visited Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi a few months after the Pakistan army had surrendered in Dhaka. A state of total gloom pervaded the atmosphere. Even the elite were on the edge. They were still in complete denial.  Bhutto in their eyes was the savior.

I embarked on a twenty-four hour-long journey from Karachi to Lahore on a railway train. I have seen more cheerful funeral processions.

I was in Lahore on the day Bhutto addressed a public meeting as the president and chief martial law administrator[xxxiv] of Pakistan. He had carted the whole diplomatic corps from Islamabad for the occasion and had ridden a carriage pulled by eight white horses, relic of the raj, slowly through the streets of Lahore to the meeting ground. People did line the streets of the route. But they were not up to the effort to greet him with full-throated “Zindabad”, long live slogans.

Bhutto had one incontestable talent. He could put up a show. His detractors had called him a “Madari”; a juggler. He made a vehement speech interspersed with his antics. The only time the crowd responded lustily was when he swore an obscenity.

I next visited Rawalpindi, the seat of army GHQ.  This city was teeming with relatives and friends of POW’s held in India. Few received any news through Red Cross and other such agencies. They openly castigated the senior army officers who had run away leaving their juniors to face the bloodthirsty Bengali freedom fighters.

The news that I was visiting from the UK spread soon and my host was swamped by requests to see me. They gave me letters to mail from London and requested me to call the Red Cross, UNO and embassies in London. They were clutching at straws.

Army had appointed Bhutto as the foreign minister, and sent him to NY to defend Pakistan’s case in the UN Security council. His grandstanding did not do any good to any one except himself. He was playing to the domestic audience; he tore up the draft resolution demanding immediate cease-fire.

Before returning to Pakistan he quietly called on Nixon and his staff and the secretary of state and presumably obtained their clearance and blessings to supplant the army high command. Nothing would quite explain the arrogance with which he demanded and the ease with which the army high command complied with his demands. He was handed over total control of the Government. He styled himself Chief Martial Administer cum President of the country.  He had driven into the President house in a plain car and driven out in a vehicle bedecked with national, presidential and CMLA flags.

Indra had apparently decided to solve the Pakistan “problem” once and for all. She had held her hand when told that China would defend West Pakistan if attacked and the USA would not rush to her assistance as it did in 1961 when Chinese troops had walked across the border.

Indra had neutralized the threat of all out Chinese intervention by the disinterred and freshly signed thirty years treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. Soviets had wanted it and draft had been ready since 1969, but Indians had demurred. China could not take on Russia.

Nixon and Kissinger could not countenance complete annihilation of Pakistan. India would become too powerful. They needed a counter poise and exerted tremendous pressure on Indra to keep her from over running West Pakistan too.  But why would she listen to them? She could have neutralized any overt threat from them by the simple expedient of offering Russians access to a warm water seaport.

Bhutto had taken over a country universally despised for the genocide in East Pakistan. Its people were groaning under the twin burdens of low esteem and terrible guilt complex. India had captured large swathes of territory in the west too. 90,000 of his countrymen, soldiers, their kin and civil servants with their families were in India. The government of BD was demanding the surrender of the butcher of Bengal, now the army chief of Pakistan, plus scores of army men from among the POWs.

Indra had not shown her hand. No body knew if she would have any qualms in sending the men to BD for the trials. If push came to shove Pakistan would have had to give up the butcher.

All Bhutto had in hand was Mujib in a Pakistani jail. He was certainly not in a position to touch the President of BD. Had he done so; Indra’s hand would have been forced. She would have had to attack West Pakistan, free Mujib and try Bhutto as a war criminal.

Why Indra did not let the BD government conduct war crimes trials is a mystery. Hitler’s entourage were hanged and awarded long jail terms for lesser crimes. Astute observers speculated that she did not want Pakistan army cleaned of bad blood. If she had deliberately planned to under mine the country she went about it in no uncertain manner.

On my return to England, I found Pakistanis in the depth of despair here too. Some religious, older East Pakistanis joined in grieving over a lost dream. Even the jingoist immigrants from the martial race were subdued.

Once he had all the levers of power securely in his hands, Bhutto negotiated skillfully for release of the POWs, and return of the Pakistan territory, India had captured.       Indra received him graciously, as befitted a magnanimous victor. The only concession he made was to agree that Kashmir dispute was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, and not an International issue as had been hitherto accepted by the world bodies. International intervention had failed to produce any solution any way.

Indra did not humiliate him to the extent that he would lose all credibility in residual Pakistan. He could be replaced by a bunch of raving fanatics. She wanted a stable though weak state at her border. India was obliged to feed 90,000 POWs and keeping them secure. It was not an inconsiderable consideration. But when all is said and done, Indra behaved like a statesman, stateswoman if you will.

Mujib was still in a prison in West Pakistan. Bhutto grandiloquently declared that if Mujeeb agreed to a reunified Pakistan, he would order the latter’s release from the jail and hand over reins of power to him as the Prime Minister of All Pakistan. Wali Khan, a veteran politician, scion of the famous Khan family of NWFP, offered to visit Mujeeb in jail and convince him to take over from Bhutto. I am paraphrasing an article by Wali Khan that I read in a Pakistani magazine that Bhutto thanked the Khan for the offer, but the next thing he heard was that Mujib was put on a special and secret PIA flight early one morning to London!! Wali Khan claimed that Bhutto was so scared that Mujib would accept the offer, and displace him that he lost no time in sending the man away