Workshop presentation by Associate Professor Faridah Zaman: ‘Pan-Islamism in Postwar Europe’

OCGH Advisory Committee member Associate Professor Faridah Zaman (Sommerville, Oxford) recently presented at the ‘Cold War Islamisms International Workshop’ in Berlin, 15-16 March 2019. Convened by Dr Timothy Nunan at the Freie Universität Berlin, the workshop brought together scholars to consider the global causes and consequences of the new Islamist and pan-Islamist movements that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. For more about the conference, visit

Faridah Zaman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow at Somerville College. After completing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago from 2015-2018. Dr Zaman is a historian of the modern British Empire, South Asia, and global intellectual history. Currently, she has two main areas of research. The first is a study of the pan-Islamic thought of the so-called ‘Young Muhammadans’ in early twentieth-century British India. The second research area concerns history as an academic discipline in Britain from the late eighteenth century, and its relationship to the expansion and legitimization of empire. To date, she has also written on memory and nostalgia, heritage and imperial visual culture, and political visions of the future in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Faridah Zaman (Oxford), ‘Pan-Islamism in Postwar Europe’


In the history of anticolonial internationalism, Indian pan-Islamism occupies a vexed position. Its history prior to the First World War suggested it could be a friend to nascent anticolonial movements and be a vehicle for a critique of European imperialism; after the War, it was vocally supported by India’s most famous anticolonial leader, M. K. Gandhi, and mobilized Indian support in tandem with the first Non-Cooperation Movement. And yet, its most high-profile demonstration – the Indian Khilafat Movement – was a project that sought to defend the integrity of both the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate in the post-war settlement, a goal seemingly wildly out of kilter with the spirit of nationalist self-determination that pervaded discussions about the future of empire in this period. The Khilafat Movement sits uneasily, too, with socialist and communist projects of anticolonial internationalism in this period; no mainstream Khilafat leader, for instance, journeyed to the Baku Conference of 1920, which incited the Muslim world to revolution. While in 1918 the All-India Muslim League expressed cautious optimism about the prospect of a League of Nations, by the time the more radical League Against Imperialism was established in the late 1920s, what energies remained in the Khilafat Movement had already been diverted into Muslim World Congresses, a theatre dominated by internecine questions regarding the future leadership of the Muslim umma. In this paper, I revisit the immediate post-war period to seek to understand the nature of Indian pan-Islamism and to explore whether it was, indeed, resistant to an internationalist anticolonial spirit – one that could transcend anxiety about the future of the Caliphate. The paper will look at this juncture through the lens of the Indian Khilafat Delegation, which spent several months in Europe during 1920 lobbying statesmen for fairer treatment of the Ottoman Empire by the victorious powers. Tracing the delegation’s movements, the political and intellectual personalities they were in contact with, and the tenor of the discussions in which they were partaking, the paper highlights both how conversant Indian Khilafatists were with the political climate of post-war Europe and the world in general, but also how unlikely their desired alliances were. It suggests that they were overcome by a kind of cultural cosmopolitanism in this moment which, though inflected with radical potential, translated into what was ultimately an impoverished political vision of the world.