Ali at Imperial College, London in November 2003
21 October 1943 |
Lahore, Punjab, British India
|Alma mater||University of the Punjab
Exeter College, Oxford
|Literary movement||New Left|
The Enlightenment attacked religion – Christianity, mainly – for two reasons: that it was a set of ideological delusions, and that it was a system of institutional oppression, with immense powers of persecution and intolerance.
I was in my mid-teens when someone gave me a copy of 'Pears Encyclopaedia of Myth and Legends' as a birthday present. It sat on my shelves for many months before I looked at it. When I did, I couldn't stop reading it.
In the Seventies, we still had dreams and hopes of Utopia, but by the end of the decade, the world had shifted to the right.
Scandinavia was awash with Maoism in the '70s. Sweden had Maoist groups with a combined membership and periphery of several thousand members, but it was Norway where Maoism became a genuine popular force and hegemonic in the culture.
In January 1961, the United States severed diplomatic relations in response to Cuban nationalisation of U.S.-owned sugar plantations, banks and businesses.
The Lumiere brothers first exhibited moving pictures in Paris in 1896. A year later, there was a private showing at the Yildiz palace in Istanbul.
I didn't know a thing about Oxford and had never been to Britain. My father suggested it because in 1939 he had been about to take up a place at Wadham College, but the war broke out, and he joined the Army instead.
Young women and men who joined the far-left groups did so for the best of reasons. They wanted to change the world. Many fought against the stifling atmosphere in many groups.
When I arrived to study at Oxford in October 1963, the bohemian style was black plastic or leather jackets for women and black leather or navy donkey jackets for men. I stuck to cavalry twills and a duffle coat, at least for a few months.
In 1962, President Kennedy expanded an earlier trade embargo put in place by a predecessor, President Eisenhower, to a total economic blockade, which pushed the Cubans further in Moscow's direction.
I think democracy is on the decline in the West. Ruling parties are the same: neo-liberalism at home and wars abroad.
The genealogy of fictional characters can become an obsession, like train-spotting, and should be firmly resisted.
The only continent where social movements have led to political parties that have pushed through serious social and political reforms is in South America.
I was never totally what we would now call 'politically correct,' even in my most militant phase. I always liked good food, good wines. I suppose it was because I had total confidence in myself.
I don't regret what I did in the Sixties. I was young and took myself terribly seriously. In the Seventies, I spent too much time in inner-party factional disputes.
For India, the links with the United States/Israel are the centrepiece of its foreign policy.
An act of unilateral nuclear disarmament by a European power would have a much more lasting impact than all the sanctions under consideration. Sanctions, as we know from the example of Iraq, always affect the least powerful citizens the most.
In some ways, the '60s were a reaction to the '50s and the intensity of the Cold War.
The weakness in traditional Scottish nationalism lay in its own inability to grasp that identity could not be the only factor in the march to independence.
I am an atheist and do not know the meaning of the 'religious pain' that is felt by believers of every cast when what they believe in is insulted.
The Greek city-states politicised citizen and subject, creating institutions that were way ahead of anything in China or India. The politicians of antiquity exercised a political and military, if not economic, hegemony on the culture as a whole. The idea of democracy was first born and practised here.
In times of crisis, the incumbent suffers. And the bigger the crisis, the greater the punishment inflicted on those in power unless they do something that makes a change.
I do not accept the right of big powers to change governments as and when it affects their interests.
Exploiters and manipulators have always used religion self-righteously to further their own selfish ends.
It is as difficult to define or classify Islamic cinema as it would be a Christian, Jewish or Buddhist one.
We were constantly appealing for funds from readers when I edited 'The Black Dwarf' in 1968-69.
A storm swept the world in 1968. It started in Vietnam, then blew across Asia, crossing the sea and the mountains to Europe and beyond. A brutal war waged by the U.S. against a poor southeast Asian country was seen every night on television.
The patchwork political landscape of the Arab world – the client monarchies, degenerated nationalist dictatorships, and the imperial petrol stations known as the Gulf states – was the outcome of an intensive experience of Anglo-French colonialism.
I am fully aware of the concept of political revolutions. After all, that is what we hoped might happen in the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe, but what actually happened was capitalist restoration.
The human voice deployed to recite the Vedas and later aid the temple dancers was paramount before any instruments emerged.
There are, of course, deeply sincere people of religion in different parts of the world who genuinely fight on the side of the poor, but they are usually in conflict with organised religion themselves.
There is no real agreement among scholars as to whether Homer and Hesiod were contemporaries or whether Homer came a hundred or so years later or earlier. How could there be, given that both poets recited and sang in an oral culture.
The hostility between India and Pakistan has become a habit to which both the elites have become addicted. Any attempt towards a rational solution to real problems is denounced by chauvinists on both sides.
I am not insulted by billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews believing there is a God and praying to this nonexistent deity on a regular basis.
The only decent daily paper of record in France is the online 'Mediapart,' which exposes graft and corruption in high places and is feared by the establishment.
An independent Scotland could be far more internationalist and would benefit a great deal from links to both Scandinavia and states in other continents.
The cinematic language and interior destiny of each Iranian film-maker is different. The international influences on them vary from Rossellini to Fellini, Akira Kurosawa to Hou Hsiao-hsien, but there is a strong sense of solidarity.
Scotland's political identity was destroyed, and a huge Scottish emigration to North America followed the brutal Highland clearances. These included every layer of Scottish society, not just the remnants of the defeated clans.
'Theogony' should be read before the great Homeric epics because it gives an account of the cosmology that is taken for granted by Homer. It does for paganism what the Old Testament attempted to do for monotheism.
Socially, the Cuban revolution created an education system and health service that remain the envy of much of the neo-liberal world.
In the calculus of western interests, there is no suffering, whatever its scale, which cannot be justified. Chechens, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis are of little importance.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is a long-standing joke, its chairmen replaced with every change of government.
As a political current, Maoism was always weak in Britain, confined largely to students from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Poland, after the First World War, was beset by chaos, disorder, and a foolish incursion by the Red Army, which helped to produce the ultra-nationalist military dictatorship of General Pilsudski.
Independence is the only way Scotland can realise its full political and cultural potential in the 21st century.
As long as the Pentagon bankrolls the Pakistan army to fight its wars, and NATO troops remain in Afghanistan, there will be quarrels, charges of infidelity, a reduction in the household allowance, perhaps a separation – but a divorce? Never.
As a candidate, Obama projected himself as a new Reagan, above narrow party politics. He wanted to please all but has ended up annoying many.
To dissociate politicians from capitalists is slightly disingenuous, to put it mildly. U.S. lawmakers are competitive and auction themselves to the highest bidder via the lobby system.
When Pakistan was carved out of India's rib in 1947, it was assumed by some that Bollywood's Muslim stars would defect to the new state and thus boost the Lahore film industry. But Lollywood did not happen.
Those who really value Ukrainian sovereignty should opt for real independence and a positive neutrality: neither a plaything of the West nor Moscow.
I am, in general, favourable to activism and social movements and hostile to graft and corruption.
Indian classical music was born when time barely existed. It developed further within the structures of royal courts and a system of patronage where the ruler or the feudal master determined all.
Political pundits in Delhi and Islamabad have berated the West for its relativism and double-standards. After all why should Britain have a nuclear arsenal but not India? It is a reasonable question.
The origins of Indian classical music, not unlike their western counterparts, lie in the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures of 2,000 years ago.
Western enthusiasm for democracy stops when those opposed to its policies are elected to office.
Ralph Miliband was a socialist intellectual of great integrity. He belonged to a generation of socialists formed by the Russian revolution and the Second World War, a generation that dominated left-wing politics for almost a century.