In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States was still a largely unexplored territory and a columnist of that period, J.B.L. Soule, now long-forgotten, gave a bit of sound advice to young Americans. The advice was brief, but to the point. He wrote: ?Go west, young man?. Thousands went west, settled down in unknown territory and made America what it is today.
If today, one were to give any direction to one'sfellow Muslim countrymen it would be: Look Inward, Friend. For there is much to discover. This thought has been provoked by a very thoughtful article in Economic and Political Weekly (April 8) on Indian Muslims, Past, Present and Future, by J.S. Bandukwala.
Shri Bandukwala'sadvice to his fellow Muslims, unstated but obvious is that they should look inward and chalk a new path for themselves and come out of their shells and ?plunge into science and technology?. As he put it: ?To close our eyes to the future and live in a fantasy of a glorious past is an ideal concoction for social disaster.?
The trouble seems to be that Muslims in India today are still trying to re-live the thousand years when their co-religionists ruled most parts of India.
According to Shri Bandukwala ?religious association with the rulers gave the vast poor multitude a sense of empowerment. But the collapse of Muslim rule also brought with it a deep insecurity, for both the nobility and the poor Muslims. The response was to turn towards religion and equally a rejection of all symbols of the new rulers, including English, Science an Modernity.? Are Hindus to be blamed for this? It has become customary for Muslims?and their secularist misguides?to lay the blame for everything that has gone wrong with Muslims to Hindus. Even Bandukwala himself succumbs to this approach by saying that ?the Babri demolition and more important the Gujarat killings, have altered the world views of Muslims?. Let this be pointed out, though.
In a two-volume study of ancient Hindu temples, Messrs Ram Swarup, Arun Shourie et al gave a list of 2,000 mosques that were built on Hindu temples and the list, may it be added, was based not on hearsay but on books written by Muslim historians themselves and the inscriptions in mosques. No Muslim ruler had any business destroying temples whether in any part of India and least in Ayodhya, Banaras and Mathura.
Shri Bandukwala says that while in the first phase when Muslims from Arabia came to India their rigourous moral code won them many admirers. But when the second phase started around 1050 all those who came were ?raiders from Central Asia who loved the loot?. ?It is this phase? writes Shri Bandukwala, ?that arouses the passions of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?. But why shouldn'tit? Whatever benefits, if any, were bestowed on India during Islamic rule, it is, as Shapespeare put it, ?the evil that men do that lives after them?. Had Muslim leaders realised the hurt that Islamic rule had done to the Hindu psyche, they would have graciously agreed to the dismantling of the Babri masjid to be re-built elsewhere to let a temple of Shri Ram built on the vacated space. Their insistence on living in a world of fantasy would not permit them to be gracious and accommodating to hurt Hindu sentiments. Ayodhya led to Godhra and Godhra to riots. Muslims have yet to come to terms with reality. Instead of living in the present, Muslims everywhere continue to live in the past with disastrous consequences to themselves. Islamic self-assertion takes strange and often violent forms. Consider some of these reports: The children'swebsite Al Fateh, property of the Palestinian terrorist group ?Hamas?, demands the return of the Spanish city of Seville to Islamic rule because it was once part of Muslim Spain! Just over two years ago, al-Qaeda linked bombers killed 191 passengers and injured almost 1,000 in devastating train bombings in the Spanish capital and it was reported that the bombers had planned to carry out further attacks in Spain! It sounds ridiculous but just a few days after the Madrid explosions, the Spanish police found 12 kilograms of explosives near Toledo.
What is it that the Spaniards have done to Islam to get this treatment? In the second week of March this year, a Hindu temple was blasted in Indonesia. On April 5 Press Trust India reported that six Harkat-ul-Jehad al Islami (HUJI) terrorists, including the mastermind behind the Varanasi blasts, had hatched a conspiracy to blow up the two Hanuman temples in the city on Rama Navami. In Nalgonda in Karnataka, the district police have identified seven ISI activists, three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), nine Deendar Anjuman and two activists of Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) involved in terrorist activities.
On March 11, the Goa police arrested a terrorist reportedly hailing from Jammu and Kashmir who was in the possession of two kgs of RDX and hand grenades. Bhatkal, in coastal Karnataka which has a large Muslim population has been a centre of communal trouble since 1993 when an attack on a rath yatra was deliberately made leading to more than six months of communal violence.
According to the findings of justice K.Jagannath Shetty Commission of Inquiry the attack was pre-planned but despite instructions by the government, the district administration and the local police have failed in arresting ?suspected communal goondas?.
There were more disturbances in March/April this year. The standard approach of our secularists is that the VHP or the RSS is behind all this. There is no RSS in Spain or Indonesia or in Pakistan where two churches, a school and other public property were ransacked and torched by Muslim goondas. Islam is equated with mindless violence. The world will be a more peaceful place if Muslims forget that there ever existed an Ottoman or Mughal Empire and come to terms with reality. Writes Shri Bandukwala: ?Muslims must reach out to Hindus. Our words and deeds must never be such that they alienate Hindus. Their goodwill is essential as we struggle to give our community a place in the Indian sun.? But who will listen to the Bandukwalas? Bandukwala is against reservations. He wants Muslims to stand on their own feet. He says he is ?convinced most Hindus are good and secular at heart?.
Respect Hindu sentiments and then theirs will be the world to share with their Hindu compatriots. But this calls for statesmanship. But can we expect that from the mullahs and jehadists? The way to progress is not through madrasas but through Science and Technology. There hasn't been a single Muslim Nobel Prize winner. And that says a lot.