By M.V. Kamath
Indian Muslims: Where have they gone wrong? by Rafiq Zakaria, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai; pp 565; Rs 495.00
To say that Dr Rafiq Zakaria is one of the staunchest of nationalist Muslims is to under-rate his contribution to the integration of his country; as an Indian to the last drop of his blood, he has braved the wrath of many of his co-religionists in publicly opposing the two-nation theory and the creation of Pakistan. He has never minced words. He has been sorely unhappy over the growing distance between Hindus and Muslims and over the years he has written extensively on the subject of what went wrong.
This volume is an edited collection of all his articles, talks and papers and deserves the fullest attention of all Indian citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation. For all one knows, this is the first full attempt to analyse what went wrong in Hindu-Muslim relations and why Dr Zakaria'sanalysis may not necessarily earn him kudos from Hindu community. There may even be some who will question his line of reasoning. On some issues he may be challenged both by his own co-religionists as well as by Hindus. He may be charged on occasions with suppressing the truth and suggesting what is false as its replacement. But knowing him as one does, that would be coincidental. At one stage Zakaria asks why should today'sMuslims be held responsible for what their ancestors generations past had done? And why should one forget the contribution that Islam has made to enrich India'scultural heritage? To that Shakespeare gave an answer centuries ago. ?The evil that men do?, he wrote, ?lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones?. So it was with Caesar; so it has been with Muslim rulers in India.
What people remember with anger in their hearts is the demolition of temples, the efforts at conversion and the evil deeds perpetrated not only by the rulers but also by their ardent followers at lower levels. Babar may not have been responsible for the demolition of a temple in Ayodhya but Mir Baqir was. Dr Zakaria says that what rulers like Ghazni Mohammad, Allauddin Khilji or Aurangzeb did hundreds of years ago should be judged ?in the context of what used to happen all over the world in the Medieval Ages?. Hindus may well ask: ?Did Hindu rulers go abroad to demolish mosques and impose their religion on others forcibly??
He has advice to give to his co-religionists which makes a lot of sense. He wants them to shed their old habits, give up their worn-out attitudes and asks them to think over such matters as family planning, divorce laws, the question of Babri Masjid and even joining in the singing of Vande Mataram.
Dr Zakaria quotes chapter and verse to show that Islam does not encourage the destruction of idols, nor does the Quran permit the destruction of the places of worship of other religions. It is nobody'scase that the Quran is anti-Hindu. It is not what the Quran says but what the followers of the Quran did that has been the subject of much Hindu angst. It is true that Islamic religious leaders from the Chief Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the Rector of Al Azhar University of Cairo to the pontiffs of Malaysia and Indonesia have all condemned the ?horrendous bombing? of the World Trade Centre Towers and the Pentagon, but the fact remains that those who did it are associated with Islam and the perpetrators of that folly, even if Dr Zakaria calls them ?deranged and unbalanced persons?, have won the acclaim of a large number of Muslims. What is the explanation?
One explanation Dr Zakaria gives is that ?these days Islam has been distorted by Muslims themselves? and that Islam's?noble values are openly violated by its own votaries for selfish purposes?. So how should Hindus react to that? There are many questions that Dr Zakaria needs to answer which he still might, depending on how this book has been received. The most touching thing about this work is its obvious fairness. Dr Zakaria is critical of Veer Savarkar but he also concedes that in his youth, Savarkar was ?a fearless fighter against the British and went through the severest hardships at their hands?. His assessment of why Savarkar felt that Muslims ?were the cause of the degradation of Hindus? merits better analysis.
Too often Dr Zakaria raises an issue but fails to go full-throat at it. If he does not spare his co-religionists, he does not hesitate to pin blame on Hindus where it is called for. In the matter of Partition, he conceded that Jinnah was the main culprit but adds: ?Were Nehru and Patel less guilty? They should have preferred civil war to the shameful surrender which has done the greatest harm to generations of both Hindus and Muslims?. That is more easily said. Under Abraham Lincoln the United States might have preferred a civil war to continued acceptance of Black slavery but a civil war in India in 1945-47 would have ruined the sub-continent for decades. Dr Zakaria'scriticism of Nehru and Patel is justified but then one wishes he had given the historical background to their decision; they had to make a choice. It became a question of being damned if one accepted Partition and damned if one did not. For all one knows there was a certain inevitability about Partition and may it be added here that Partition may yet become undone as globalisation becomes a reality.
Dr Zakaria insists that he is ?a passionate believer in Hindu-Muslim unity?; that he is. He has advice to give to his co-religionists which makes a lot of sense. He wants them to shed their old habits, give up their worn-out attitudes and asks them to think over such matters as family planning, divorce laws, the question of Babri Masjid and even joining in the singing of Vande Mataram.
The book is divided into twelve sections, each one of them requiring deep study. They deal with the role of Muslims in the freedom struggle, shattering of Hindu-Muslim relations, the break-up of Pakistan, Indian Muslims after Partition, the causes of communal discord, Indian Muslims and Hindutva, need for change in Muslim outlook, problems of Indian Muslims and an important section on how to face the future. Dr Zakaria has tried to present as clear a picture of what Hindu-Muslim relations were in the past, are today and should be in the future, sincerely, straightforwardly and guilelessly. What he has written comes straight from the heart and for that very reason is to be highly respected. It should be prescribed reading not only for politicians and policy-makers but for students as well.
One may take exception to certain conclusions that Dr Zakaria arrives at?as on Hindutva?but it is precisely because of that that he should get the widest readership in India at all levels. His views call for wide debate and discussion, not only because they are well-formulated but because underlying everything, Dr Zakaria'sfaith in the ultimate unity and integrity of India makes it mandatory.