An informal discussion among a small group of concerned citizens at the residence of a legal luminary in Delhi recently threw up several issues of import to the society and the nation. Dr Richard Jenkin, an American scholar, speaking briefly about his research on the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh expressed deep anguish and surprise over the mysterious silence of liberals and democrats over the genocide of Hindus in that country. Without going into detailed account of how Hindus are being persecuted, their women dishonoured and their forcible conversion, the scholar, who happens to be a Jew, wondered why neither the USA, EU nor UNO?that famously make forceful intervention against racialism anywhere in the world?have taken even a cursory notice of the decimation of Hindus in Bangladesh.
More surprisingly, Hindus too never raised the issue in a big way. Isn'tit shocking that the issue has not been raised at the international fora to focus global attention on the genocide committed by Islamists in Bangladesh in collaboration with their cohorts in Pakistan? Yes, Hindu nationalists do raise the threats from massive Bangladeshi infiltration. But no one after Dr SP Mukherjee, who resigned from the Nehru Government on this issue in 1950s, seems to have forcefully raised the issue of atrocities on Hindus in that country. And look at their plight. Population of Hindus has drastically reduced from 23.9 per cent in 1951 to a mere nine per cent, as of now. Dr Jenkin believes that radical Islam poses a grave threat to world peace and is at the root of global terrorism. He has no problem with liberal Muslims but would like the democrats all over the globe to join hands to defend humanity that is under attack from radical Islam.
A senior politician, who was the only one from his tribe present, found the distinction between radical and liberal Islam interesting but wondered?tongue firmly in cheeks?as to what would be left of Islam without radicalism. Islam, he argued, is not merely a religious faith; it is an ideology that has to be dealt with as such. His observations provoked a Muslim scholar to observe that radical Muslims constituted only a miniscule section of the community and that most of the practicing Muslims in India like her, represented ?real? Islam and loved their country. If that were so, isn'tit beyond comprehension that 96 per cent of practicing Muslims voted for Jinnah'sMuslim League in 1946 elections to the central assembly and supported Mohammed Ali Jinnah'sdemand for Pakistan ignoring passionate pleas of Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad – a practicing Muslim and an Islamic scholar ? for secular and undivided India. Her argument that the ?noble? concept of jehad had been misinterpreted by the international community to damn the Muslim community left most in the group unimpressed. She defined jehad as performing one'sduties faithfully and fighting one'sweaknesses. It has nothing to do with killing non-Muslims. Everyone must follow his faith ? ?I am a practicing Muslim and Dr Jenkin a practicing Jew? ? without denying one'sidentity as a human being. She reiterated that terror has no religion and no one should associate Islam with terror for it is a religion of peace.
A young social activist retorted that her assertions about ?real? Islam were akin to the argument made by Communists that what happened in Soviet Union was not ?true? Communism conceived by Marx but its ?wrong? interpretation by Russian leaders. Such arguments, she argued, are put forth to obfuscate the real issue. Why didn'tCommunist condemn ?wrong? Communism during 70 years of Communist rule in Soviet Union? If ?real? Islam is liberal and humanitarian, why there is no stable democracy in any Muslim country? Why minorities are denied human rights in Muslim countries?
In another context, Vir Sanghvi has argued in The Hindustan Times that Indians and Muslims are not the same people as claimed by ?well meaning but wooly-headed liberals?. Pakistan imposing sharia law, doing deals with Talibans, teaching hatred in madrasas, declaring jehad on the world and trying to kill innocent Sri Lankan cricketers is in sharp contrast with India what with the frenzy of rejoicing Indians in the wake of winning three Oscars by Indians?all of whom are perceived to be non-Hindus, one of them actually a recent convert to Islam – to say that we are not the same people. He is right and wrong. It is wrong to say we are not the same people as racially we belong to the same stock.
Most of the Muslims in the sub continent were Hindus who converted to Islam for one or the other reason now or a few generations earlier. They didn'tcome from middle-east or any other Muslim country. But Sanghvi is partially, only partially, right in claiming we are not the same because India is a secular country and Pakistan'sidentity is religious. He chose not to deal with the crucial issue namely as to why India ? a pre-dominantly Hindu country that was partitioned on the basis of the distorted concept of two nation theory and the premise that Hindus and Muslims can'tlive together ? chose secularism. He may find it a bit embarrassing and politically incorrect to admit that India is secular because it is predominantly a Hindu country.
Hindus and Muslims have different approaches and thought processes because of their collective consciousness built over religious teachings. Hindu faiths say every one has a right to choose his faith and that all paths leave to the same God. Islam and Christianity, on the other hand, tells their followers that only their path leads to the God and it is their duty to convert the entire humanity to their faith. It is where we are different. It is why we are different. India is different from Pakistan and Hindus are different from Muslims in their psyches.
Dr Zakir Naik, an Islamic evangelist, claims that even if a non-Muslim has harmed you, no Muslim is ordained by Islam to go and kill him. According to him Islam is the most misunderstood religion and jehad is the most misunderstood word. Holy war, he argues, is a Christian concept and not Islamic. He believes that partition was the worst thing that happened to the country. It would have been better for Muslims if there was no partition. They would have a greater clout in undivided India. He admits sections of young Muslims have been brainwashed with wrong information. The question is: Is the Muslim leadership making any effort to provide the correct information to the younger generation? Is there any effort to make the community appreciate that joining the national mainstream will serve the interests of the community and the country better? If the Muslims want to live in harmony with people of other faiths, why should they not stop demonising Hindu faiths as ?false?? Where are the ?real? Muslims, they are talking about? One is looking for ?real? Islam, if any.