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Muhammad Ali Jauhar

Muhammad Ali Jauhar (1878-1931) was tried and imprisoned for attempting to stop the First World War (1914-18).

When war broke out in 1914, Britain wanted the Ottoman Empire to fight on its side and the London Times wrote a leading article to this effect. As a subject of the British Empire, Jauhar could not openly ask the Turks to stay away from war but he offered a balanced advice weighing the pros and cons of war in a 40-column leading article in his English daily, Comrade, on September 26, 1914. The newspaper was banned, Jauhar was detained for most of the duration of the war and the article was never allowed to be reprinted during the British Raj.

The following is an excerpt from the historical article, which was reprinted for the first time in an anthology edited by Dr. Afzal Iqbal in 1987.

The Choice of the Turks

    1. [Introductory]
    2. Strassburg and Salonika
    3. What does Salonika say?
    4. Turkey's "Riechland"
    5. The opportunities of the Turks
    6. The warners
    7. The Turks and Russia
    8. The Turks and France
    9. Turkey, England and Egypt
    10. A problem of law and morality
    11. What should the Turks do?
    12. Caution
    13. What must we do?
    14. The test of conscience and of courage
    15. No bribes!


We are not unappreciative of the temptations and trials of the Turks; but even here a word of caution must be uttered. They must not be lured by the blandishments of those opposed to England and her Allies. They must remember that “War is Deceit.” We desire from the bottom of our heart that this may be the last of the wars, and that human intelligence and human sense of justice may never know such constantly recurring eclipses. But we are bound to admit that as things are today there are some things worse than war. We shall not, therefore, pretend to believe that the Turks must have peace at any price. They must beware of entering into a quarrel, but once in it they must not come out of it till the claims both of honor and self-interest are satisfied. God knows they will have enough occasions to fight, for they have to contend against numerous army corps of prejudice and passion. That is all the more reason that they should fight only their own battles and not those of another. At present the fear is that they may be led into the firing line in a quarrel only outwardly their own. The Turks are not wanting in gratitude. In fact, few nations could equal the Turk in those characteristics which have extorted for him even from his enemies the title of “The Only Gentleman in Eastern Europe.” To quote the old Arab saying mentioned by Gibbon, their women know not how to grant favors and their men know not how to refuse. Every Indian whom we know who has had any relations with them is loud in praises of their courtesy, which is as natural to the peasant as to the price. But if courtesy is one of their qualities, they also possess the defects of that great quality. In matters of business they are imposed upon, and often imposed upon knowing that they are being imposed upon. Now nothing is a more serious business than war in which a nation can destroy in a month in the way of life, energies and resources what it had taken a generation to build. The Turk knows not what fear is, but life can be valueless only to those in the lowest scale of humanity. It is a rich treasure and a divine gift which we are not permitted by our Maker to squander. We must learn in war even more than in peace the importance and value of economy in human life. As regards material resources the Turks have never had even so much as could balance their peace requirements. All these considerations point in the way in the direction of peace. This is not all. Almost every other great nation of Europe has had peace for a generation or more. Even Russia with her immense resources did not find herself equal to a second world war three years after her first in which she had to fight only a small island kingdom. She has launched this new enterprise no less than a decade after her last war. France, Austria and Germany have each enjoyed nearly half a century of peace. England has not fought in a continental war for a century, and her little war against two little peasant states of South Africa, which was enough to prostrate her for many years after, was fought no less than fifteen years ago. Servia [Serbia] and Montenegro alone are fighting soon after their last war. But only a child could believe that they are paying their own way. Turkey must therefore proclaim a moratorium against her warlike instincts and her clamant revenge. But if she cannot do so, and must enter this terrible business, let her make sure that the quarrel is her own, that her good nature and courtesy are not being imposed upon, and that she is not hatching a cuckoo’s egg believing all the time that it is her own. We cannot withhold our admiration from the German nation that is facing the odds against itself with such courage and determination and we sometimes find it hard to repress the expression of disgust against the campaign of vilification that is being carried on with greater vigor and persistence than is deserved by German action, harsh and ruthless though they undoubtedly are. We have not even once heard the phrase “military exigencies” applied in that case, although the war is now nearly two months old, whereas Italy was tried in the very first month of her war on much graver charges of brutality, discharged and declared to leave the court of Europe’s humanity without a stain on her character. A thousand advocates had rushed to plead her cause unasked and had put forward the solitary plea of “military exigencies.” The foremost among them was once our own Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts, whose testimonial an eminent Mussalman published in his quarrel with his community. The Germans do not seem to have spared the living and have rendered thousands of them homeless. But they have yet some way to go down the ladder of inhumanity before they could descend to the plane on which the dead are robbed of their last resting place. Lest any one should suspect us of being isolated in having these views and expressing them in order to excite others, let us assure him in advance that he is woefully misled if he believes that a vast majority of Indians think otherwise. Had the country not been demoralized by the constant condemnation of unpalatable truths and the repeated rewarding of cheap lies, everyone in India would be confessing such admiration and sympathy openly. But admiration and sympathy are one thing, making the cause of Germany our own is another. If any cause can be ours it is the British, and if Germany counts on us she is grievously mistaken. It would be bad business for Turkey also to lavish on Germany the lives and energies and resources that she needs for her own quarrels and that Germany never spared for her when she was beset by still greater perils. We do not wish to be cynical, and selfishness has not yet come to be regarded as by us as a virtue. But self-preservation is the first law of nature, and nature is inexorable and ruthless in punishing disobedience to her Decalogue. Germany has done nothing yet for the Turks to deserve the sacrifice of a single Anatol, much less a street riot in single town or village of India by Moslem sympathizers of Turkey with a view to embarrass their own Governments. This is what we had felt impelled to tell that level-headed Turkish statesman, Taleat Bey, in private, and through him that astute diplomat, His Highness Prince Said Halim, and that soul-inspiring soldier, Damad Enver Pasha. This is what we said to the Turkish nation publicly in brief on a recent occasion. This is what we say today in greater detail and without the least effort at disguise. We ask forgiveness for inflicting what are after all truisms and platitudes on a nation no less gifted than most of those that have been lecturing her in season and out. We do not in the least mean to insult the intelligence of Turkey, and to convince her of it we frankly confess that whether her choice is peace or war, the consequences will be hers and not ours. Hence she must exercise her own judgment and surrender it to none. If she chooses badly the suffering will be entirely hers, though the sorrow will be ours also. It was not because we believe that she is incapable of weighing these elementary considerations that we have said all we have said. It was merely to satisfy the promptings of our own heart, for it beats in unison with the Turks’. If after balancing all considerations they decide for peace, we pray that it may, as it should, prove profitable to them. If, however, they decide for war, we shall mingle our prayers with theirs and ask for divine protection. But if, by some evil chance, they engage in hostilities against our own Government, we shall ask them to pray for us also, for they can hardly imagine the mental anguish and the heart-pangs that will be ours. We shall be torn between two passions, or rather the same passion will be warring with itself within us. When in a household the parents fall out, whichever of them may be at fault the children are bound to suffer. That will be out plight, and we shall deserve all the sympathy that we may secure.

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Source: Writings and Speeches of Maulana Mohamed Ali (1944/1987) by Dr. Afzal Iqbal. Islamic Book Foundation, Lahore

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