Mr Jinnah and Palestine (2005)

Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), one of the most honourable Muslim political leaders of the twentieth century, is generally considered a westernised liberal uninterested in pan-Islamic causes until late in his career, notably because of the influence of the poet-philosopher Iqbal in 1937-38. A hitherto unknown speech in London, reported in the Islamic News in June 1921 reveals a different picture. Far from being indifferent to the plight of the Ottoman caliphate after World War I, Jinnah makes the case for fair play and describes the statesmanship of the British PM of the day Lloyd George as “reaching the point of bankruptcy”.

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The Muslims of the sub-continent, having lost political authority in their own homeland, felt honour-bound to preserve the might of the Ottoman caliphate. The allies’ plans to dismember Ottoman lands – including Palestine, the jazirat ul Arab or peninsula Arabia and Mesopotamia – rendered the caliphate ineffectual. Historians have tended to focus on the role of the Jauhar Brothers and their ‘Khilafatist Movement’ as the voice of Indian public opinion. It was a movement that embarked on a confrontational strategy with the Raj – such as calling on Muslims to resign from government employment, the rejection of grants to run Muslim educational institutions and the return of honours and awards. There was even a call for hijra to Afghanistan, with disastrous consequences and much loss of life. The Jauhar Brothers at this stage had an alliance with Gandhi.

Jinnah did not subscribe to Khilafat Movement tactics. He believed these would cause division in Muslim ranks and lead to a breakdown of the law. In his view Gandhi’s “actual achievements were not as meritorious as it is popularly imagined” (A.G.Noorani)) – he had little confidence in Gandhi’s leadership on important political matters.

The Islamic News was a weekly paper published in London 1920-21 by the Islamic Information Bureau, 25 Ebury Street SW1. In August or September 1921 it was renamed ‘The Muslim Standard’. Amongst its supporters was the London-based Indian Muslim businessman, Nazimuttujar Haji M. Hashim Ispahani. The contents were mainly commentaries on the momentuous events of the day in the aftermath of the Paris Peace Conferences. The sympathies of the paper were pan-Islamic and in support of the Khilafist movement in India.

Further reading

A.G. Noorani’s article ‘Assessing Jinnah’