HATE-MONGER? Why do Muslims abuse non-Muslims by calling them ‘kafirs’?
The entry of Dr Zakir Naik, India’s most talked-about preacher of Islam, has been banned by the governments of Great Britain and Canada in the last fortnight. Predictably, the decision of the British and Canadian governments has evoked mixed reactions all over the world, though most have welcomed it. Those who have opposed the decision include Islamic fundamentalists and the so-called human rights activists.
Naik is the founder and president of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organisation which also owns and broadcasts the free-to-air global Peace TV channel from Mumbai. Incidentally, the Peace TV is not legal in India. But because of its popularity among Muslims, the ruling UPA coalition government has feared taking any action against it, lest its “secular” image would be tarnished, not to speak of the possible dents in its Muslim vote bank.
Forty-four-year-old Naik, who is a trained medical doctor, proclaims himself to be a hardcore Islamic fundamentalist. In fact, he has been denied entry into United Kingdom and Canada owing to his alleged soft approach on Islamic terrorism. It is not suggested that Naik is directly involved in terrorism, but following known terrorists have reportedly been inspired by his preachings:
Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan—American arrested last year for planning suicide attacks on the New York subway,
Rahil Sheikh, accused of involvement in a series of train bombings in Mumbai in 2006, and
Kafeel Ahmed, the Bengaluru man fatally injured in a failed suicide attack on Glasgow airport in 2007.
Naik, no doubt, has millions of supporters, but he has an equal number of critics too, both among the Muslims and non-Muslims. He is believed to be a notorious hate-monger. He supports Osama bin Laden, calls George Bush the greatest terrorist in the world and lampoons all other religions vocally.
Khushwant Singh, the prominent Indian journalist, argues that Naik’s pronouncements are “juvenile” and that “they seldom rise above the level of undergraduate college debates, where contestants vie with each other to score brownie points”. Lucknow-based cleric Kalbe Jawad argues that “Naik is bringing a bad name to Muslims. Such people should be condemned and socially boycotted” and claimed that Naik was being financed by the Wahabi sect that supposedly perpetrates violence in the name of Islam and expressed the need for an inquiry into how Naik was running a TV channel on his own and where he received the funds from. Another Lucknow cleric Naib Imam Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali claimed that Naik had “mugged up some verses from the Koran and pretends to be an Islamic scholar”.
We are presenting here some of the views preached by Naik from his Peace TV in a question-answer format as well as a perceptive essay on him by a distinguished journalist….
‘Kafir’ is derived from the word ‘kufr’, which means to conceal or to reject. In Islamic terminology, ‘kafir’ means one who conceals or rejects the truth of Islam and a person who rejects Islam is in English called a ‘non-Muslim’.
If any non-Muslim considers the word ‘kafir’ i.e. ‘non-Muslim’ an abuse, he may choose to accept Islam and then we will stop referring to him as or call him a kafir, i.e. a non-Muslim.
Why are non-Muslims not allowed in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah?
It is true that non-Muslims are not allowed in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, by law. The following points will serve to elucidate the possible reasoning behind such a restriction.
I am a citizen of India. Yet, I am not permitted to enter certain restricted areas like the cantonment. In every country there are certain areas where a common citizen of that country cannot enter. Only a citizen who is enrolled in the military or those who are connected with the defence of the country are allowed in the cantonment area. Similarly Islam is a universal religion for the entire world and for all human beings. The cantonment areas of Islam are the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Here only those who believe in Islam and are involved in the defence of Islam, i.e. the Muslims, are allowed.
It would be illogical for a common citizen to object against the restriction on entering a cantonment area. Similarly, it is not appropriate for non-Muslims to object against the restriction on non-Muslims against entering Makkah and Madinah.
All religions teach men to be righteous, then why follow only Islam?
All religions basically exhort mankind to be righteous and eschew evil. But Islam goes beyond that. It guides us towards practical ways of achieving righteousness and eliminating evil from our individual and collective lives. Islam takes into account human nature and the complexities of human society. Islam is guidance from the Creator Himself. Therefore, Islam is also called the Deen-ul-Fitrah (the natural religion of man).
Example—Islam commands us to shun robbery and also prescribes method of eleminating robbery.
- Islam prescribes method of eliminating robbery
All major religions teach that theft is an evil act. Islam teaches the same. So what is the difference between Islam and the other religions? The difference lies in the fact that Islam, besides teaching that robbing is evil, shows a practical way of creating a social structure in which people will not rob.
- Islam prescribes zakaat
Islam prescribes a system of zakaat (obligatory annual charity). Islamic law prescribes that every person who has a saving that exceeds the nisaab level, i.e. more than 85 grams of gold, should give 2.5 per cent of that saving every lunar year in charity. If every rich person in the world gave zakaat sincerely, poverty will be eradicated from this world. Not a single human being would die of hunger.
- Chopping off the hands as punishment for robbery
Islam prescribes chopping off the hands of the convicted robber. The glorious Qur’an says in Surah Maidah: “As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way
of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power, full of wisdom.” [ Al-Qur’an 5:38] The non-Muslim may say, “Chopping off the hands in this 20th century! Islam is a barbaric and ruthless religion.”
- Results achieved when Islamic Shariah Implemented
America is supposed to be one of the most advanced countries in the world. Unfortunately, it also has one of the highest rates of crime, theft, and robbery. Suppose the Islamic Shariah is implemented in America, i.e. every rich person gives zakaat (2.5 per cent of his savings in charity above 85 grams of gold every lunar year), and every convicted robber has his or her hands chopped off as a punishment. Will the rate of theft and robbery in America increase, remain same or decrease? Naturally it will decrease. Moreover the existence of such a stringent law would discourage many a potential robber.
I agree that the amount of theft that takes place in the world today is so tremendous that if you chop off the hands of all the thieves, there will be tens of thousands of people whose hands will be chopped off. The point here is that the moment you implement this law the rate of theft will decline immediately. The potential robber would give it a serious thought before jeopardizing his limbs. The mere thought of the punishment itself will discourage majority of the robbers. There will barely be a few who would rob. Hence only a few person’s hands would be chopped off but millions would live peacefully without fear of being robbed.
Islamic Shariah is therefore practical, and achieves results.
Islam has practical solutions for the problems of mankind
Islam is the best way of life because its teachings are not doctrinaire rhetoric but practical solutions for the problems of mankind. Islam achieves results both at the individual and at collective levels. Islam is the best way of life because it is a practical, universal religion not confined to any ethnic group or nationality.
Water is called by different names in different languages God is called by different names as Allah, Ram or Jesus; is it not one and the same?
- To Allah belongs the most beautiful names.
The glorious Qur’an says in surah isra chapter 17 verse 110: “Say, ‘call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon him, (it is well): for to him belong the most beautiful names.'” [al-Qur’an 17:110]
You can call Allah by any name, but it should be a beautiful name, should not conjure up a mental picture, and should have qualities that only Allah possesses.
- Water can be called by differnt names in different languages but something else besides water cannot be called water in another language.
You can call water by various names in different languages, like water in English, paani in Hindi, tanni in Tamil, mai in Arabic, apah in Sanskrit, jal in shudh Hindi, jal or paani in Gujarati, pandi in Marathi, neer in Kannad, neeru in Telugu, vellam in Malayalam, etc. If a person tells me that his friend has advised that everyday early in the morning he should have one glass of paani, but he is unable to drink it because when he drinks it, he feels like vomiting. On enquiry he says that the paani stinks and it is yellowish in colour. Later I realise that what he is referring to as paani is not water but urine. Thus you can call water by different names having the same meaning but you cannot call other things as water or paani.
People may think that the example is not realistic and I agree with them because even an ignorant person knows the difference between water and urine. He will have to be a fool to call urine ‘water’. Similarly, when any person who knows the correct concept of God, sees people worshipping false Gods, he naturally wonders how a person cannot differentiate between a true God and false Gods.
- Purity of gold is not verified by calling it by different names in different languages but rubbing it against a touchstone.
In the same way, gold can be called sona in Hindi, gold in English, dhahaba in Arabic. In spite of knowing all these different names for gold, if a person wants to sell you his gold jewellery and says this is 24 carat pure sona, you will not blindly believe, without verifying it with a goldsmith. The goldsmith confirms whether it is gold or not with the help of a touchstone. The yellow glittering jewellery may not be gold, because all that glitters is not gold.
- Surah ikhlas is the touchstone of theology.
Similarly, any person or candidate who is called God cannot be accepted as the true God without verifying him with the touchstone. The touchstone of theology, that is study of God, is surah ikhlas chapter 112 of the holy qur’an which says: “Say, ‘he is Allah, the one and only; Allah, the eternal, absolute; he begetteth not nor is he begotten; and there is none like unto him.”’ [al-Qur’an 112:1-4]
- Any candidate who passes the acid test can be called God.
Any candidate who claims to be God and fits in this four-line definition, passes the acid test, is entitled to be called God and worshipped as God.
Suppose a lunatic says that Muhammad (pbuh) is God, (god forbid). Let’s put him to the test of surah ikhlas.
- “kul hu allah hu ahad” say he is Allah, the one and only; is Muhammad (pbuh) one and only? No! He was not the only messenger. There were many other messengers.
- “Allah hus samad” Allah, the eternal, absolute; we know that Muhammad (pbuh) had to undergo many hardships. Though he was the mightiest messenger of God, he died at the age of 63 and was buried in Madeenah.
III. “lam ya lid wa lam yulad” he begetteth not nor is he begotten; we know that he was born in Makkah and his parents were Abdullah and Aaminah. He even had several children e.g. Fatimah, Ibrahim (may Allah be pleased with them), etc.
- “wa lam ya kullahu kufuwan ahad” and there is none like unto him.
Though all the Muslims love and revere the Prophet (pbuh) and are supposed to follow each and every of his commandments, you will not find a single Muslim in the whole world, who in his senses will ever say that Muhammad (pbuh) is God. The Islamic creed is, “la illaha illallah muhammadur rasoolullah”, which means that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah. This is repeated five times a day during the call for prayer, so that the Muslims are reminded daily that although they respect and obey him, he is only a messenger and servant of God, and not God himself.
- Verify the Gods you worship.
Now that we have explained to you how to use the touchstone of theology, it is the duty of everyone to verify with this touchstone, whether the Gods that they worship are true or false.
Are Ram and Krishna prophets of God? If according to Islam, messengers or prophets were sent to each and every nation of the world, then which prophet was sent to India? Can we consider Ram and Krishna to be messengers of God?
- Prophets sent to every nation
- The glorious Qur’an mentions in surah fatir, chapter 35 verse 24: “…And there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).” [al-Qur’an 35:24]
- A similar message is repeated in surah rad, chapter 13 verse 7: “…And to every people a guide.” [al-Qur’an 13:7]
- Stories only of some prophets narrated in the Qur’an
- Allah (swt) says in surah nisa, chapter 4 verse 164 “of some messengers we have already told thee the story; of others we have not.” [al-Qur’an 4:164]
- A similar message is repeated in surah ghafir chapter 40 verse 78 “we did aforetime send messengers before thee: of them there are some whose story we have related to thee, and some whose story we have not related to thee. . .” [al’Qur’an 40:78]
- Twenty-five prophets of God are mentioned by name in the Qur’an
by name, only 25 prophets of God are mentioned in the Qur’an e.g. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammed (pbut)
- More than 1,24,000 prophets of God
According to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), there were more than 1,24,000 prophets sent to this world.
- All previous prophets sent only for their people
All the prophets that came before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were only sent for their own people and were to be followed only for a particular period of time. Surah ali imran, chapter 3 verse 49 “and (appoint him) a messenger to the children of israel, …” [al-Qur’an 3:49]
- Muhammad (pbuh), the last messenger of God
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last and final messenger of almighty God. It is mentioned in surah ahzab, chapter 33 verse 40: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the messenger of Allah, and the seal of the prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” [al-Qur’an 33:40]
- Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), sent for whole humankind
since Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last and final messenger, he was not sent only for the Muslims or the Arabs, but he was sent for the whole of humankind.
It is mentioned in surah anbiya, chapter 21 verse 107: “We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures.” [al’Qur’an 21:107]
A similar message is repeated in surah saba, chapter 34 verse 28: “We have not sent thee but as a universal (messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” [al Qur’an 34:28]
It is mentioned in sahih bukhari, volume 1, book of salaah, chapter 56 hadith no. 429 Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah: Allah’s messenger said, “every prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind.”
- Which prophet was sent to India?
Regarding the question of which prophet of God was sent to India, and can we consider Ram or Krishna to be prophets of God, there is no text in the Qur’an or sahih hadith mentioning the name of the prophet that was sent to India. Since the names of Ram and Krishna are nowhere to be found in the Qur’an and sahih hadith, one cannot say for sure whether they were prophets of God or not. Some Muslims, especially certain Muslim politicians who try to appease the Hindus, say Ram alai-his-salaam, i.e. Ram, may peace be on him. This is totally wrong, since there is no authentic proof from the Qur’an and sahih hadith that he was a prophet of God. However, a person may say that perhaps they may have been the prophets of God.
- Even if Ram and Krishna were prophets, today we have to follow the last Prophet of God, i.e. Muhammad (pbuh)
Even if Ram and Krishna were prophets of God, they were only meant for people of that time and were to be followed only for that particular period of time. Today, all the human beings throughout the world, including India should only follow the last and final Prophet and messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Even if the Vedas and the other scriptures were the revelations from God, they were only meant for people of that time and were to be followed only for that particular period of time. Today all human beings throughout the world including India should only follow the last and final revelation of God, i.e. the Qur’an. Moreover since all the previous revelations were not meant to be followed for eternity, almighty God did not preserve them in their original form. There is not a single religious scripture of any of the major religions which claims to be the word of God and has maintained its pure original text and is free from alteration, adulteration and interpolation. Since the glorious Qur’an is to be followed for eternity, Allah (swt) has taken upon himself to maintain its original purity and guard it from corruption. Allah says in glorious Qur’an, surah hijr chapter 15 verse 9: “We have, without doubt, sent down the message; and we will assuredly guard it (from corruption).”
THE TROUBLE WITH DR ZAKIR NAIK
If you’re looking for a snapshot of India’s hapless response to radical Islam, then look no further than Bombay-based cleric DrZakir Naik. In India, the 44-year-old Dr Naika medical doctor by training and a televangelist by vocationis a widely respected figure, feted by newspapers and gushed over by television anchors. The British, however, want no part of him. On Friday, the newly elected Conservative-led government announced that it would not allow Dr Naik to enter Britain to deliver a series of lectures. According to Home Secretary Theresa May, the televangelist has made “numerous comments” that are evidence of his “unacceptable behavior.”
The good doctor’s views run the gamut from nutty to vile, so it’s hard to pinpoint which of them has landed him in trouble. For instance, though Dr Naik has condemned terrorism, at times he also appears to condone it. “If he [Osama bin Laden] is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him,” he said in a widely watched 2007 YouTube diatribe. “If he is terrorising the terrorists, if he is terrorising America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
Dr Naik recommends the death penalty for homosexuals and for apostasy from the faith, which he likens to wartime treason. He calls for India to be ruled by the medieval tenets of Shariah law. He supports a ban on the construction of non-Muslim places of worship in Muslim lands and the Taliban’s bombing of the Bamiyan Buddhas. He says revealing clothes make Western women “more susceptible to rape.” Not surprisingly, Dr Naik believes that Jews “control America” and are the “strongest in enmity to Muslims.”
Of course, every faith has its share of cranks; and, arguably, India has more than its share. But it’s impossible to relegate Dr Naik to Indian Islam’s fringe. Earlier this year, the Indian Express listed him as the country’s 89th most powerful person, ahead of Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, eminent lawyer and former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, and former Indian Premier League cricket commissioner Lalit Modi. Dr Naik’s satellite TV channel, Peace TV, claims a global viewership of up to 50 million people in 125 countries. On YouTube, a search for Dr Naik turns up more than 36,000 hits.
Nobody accuses Dr Naik of direct involvement in terrorism, but those reportedly drawn to his message include Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American arrested last year for planning suicide attacks on the New York subway; Rahil Sheikh, accused of involvement in a series of train bombings in Bombay in 2006; and Kafeel Ahmed, the Bangalore man fatally injured in a failed suicide attack on Glasgow airport in 2007.
Nonetheless, when the doctor appears on a mainstream Indian news channel, his interviewers tend to be deferential. Senior journalist and presenter Shekhar Gupta breathlessly introduced his guest last year as a “rock star of televangelism” who teaches “modern Islam” and “his own interpretation of all the faiths around the world.” A handful of journalists among them Praveen Swami of The Hindu, and the grand old man of Indian letters, Khushwant Singh have questioned Dr Naik’s views, but most take his carefully crafted image of moderation at face value.
At first glance, it’s easy to understand why. Unlike the foaming mullah of caricature, Dr Naik eschews traditional clothing for a suit and tie. His background as a doctor and his often gentle demeanor set him apart, as does his preaching in English. Unlike traditional clerics, Dr Naik quotes freely from non-Muslim scripture, including the Bible and the Vedas. (You have to pay attention to realise that invariably this is either to disparage other faiths, or to interpret them in line with his version of Islam.) The depth of Dr Naik’s learning is easily apparent.
But this doesn’t fully explain Dr Naik’s escape from criticism. It helps that Indians appear to have trouble distinguishing between free speech and hate speech. In a Western democracy, demanding the murder of homosexuals and the second-class treatment of non-Muslims would likely attract public censure or a law suit. In India, it goes unchallenged as long as it has a religious imprimatur. However, create a book or a painting that ruffles religious sentiment, as the writer Taslima Nasreen and the painter M. F. Husain both discovered, and either the government or a mob of pious vigilantes will strive to muzzle you.
In general, India accords extra deference to allegedly holy men of all stripes unlike, say, France, which strives to keep religion out of the public square. Taxpayers subsidize the Haj pilgrimage for pious Muslims and a similar, albeit much less expensive, journey for Hindus to a sacred lake in Tibet. This reflexive deference effectively grants the likes of Dr Naik along with all manner of Hindu and Christian charlatans protection against the kind of robust scrutiny he would face in most other democracies.
Finally, unlike Hindu bigots, such as the World Hindu Council’s Praveen Togadia, whose fiercest critics tend to be fellow Hindus, radical Muslims go largely unchallenged. The vast majority of Indian Muslims remain moderate, but their leaders are often fundamentalists and the community has done a poor job of policing its own ranks. Moreover, most of India’s purportedly secular intelligentsia remains loath to criticise Islam, even in its most radical form, lest this be interpreted as sympathy for Hindu nationalism.
Unless this changes, unless Indians find the ability to criticise a radical Islamic preacher such as Dr Naik as robustly as they would his Hindu equivalent, the idea of Indian secularism will remain deeply flawed.
Source: Wall Street Journal
The writer is columnist for WSJ.com
By Sadanad Dhume
TERRORISM AND ISLAM
Historical Roots And Contemporary Threat
Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components. The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.
Islamization begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their religious privileges.
When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well.
Here’s how it works:
As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given country, they will be for the most part be regarded as a peace-loving minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:
- United States—Muslim 0.7%
- Australia—Muslim 1.5%
- Canada—Muslim 1.9%
- China—Muslim 1.8%
- Italy—Muslim 1.5%
- Norway—Muslim 1.8%
At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs. This is happening in:
- Denmark—Muslim 2%
- Germany—Muslim 3.7%
- United Kingdom—Muslim 2.7%
- Spain—Muslim 4%
- Thailand—Muslim 4.6%
From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves—along with threats for failure to comply. This is occurring in:
- France—Muslim 8%
- Sweden—Muslim 5%
- Switzerland—Muslim 4.3%
- The Netherlands—Muslim 5.5%
- Trinidad & Tobago—Muslim5.8%
At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.
When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam , with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam. Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections, in:
- Guyana—Muslim 10%
- India—Muslim 13.4%
- Israel—Muslim 16%
- Kenya—Muslim 10%
- Russia—Muslim 15%
After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in:
- Ethiopia—Muslim 32.8%
At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:
- Bosnia—Muslim 40%
- Chad—Muslim 53.1%
- Lebanon—Muslim 59.7%
From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of nonbelievers of all other religions (including nonconforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:
- Albania—Muslim 70%
- Malaysia—Muslim 60.4%
- Qatar—Muslim 77.5%
- Sudan—Muslim 70%
After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is ongoing in:
- Bangladesh—Muslim 83%
- Egypt—Muslim 90%
- Gaza—Muslim 98.7%
- Indonesia—Muslim 86.1%
- Iran—Muslim 98%
- Iraq—Muslim 97%
- Jordan—Muslim 92%
- Morocco—Muslim 98.7%
- Pakistan—Muslim 97%
- Palestine—Muslim 99%
- Syria—Muslim 90%
- Tajikistan—Muslim 90%
- Turkey—Muslim 99.8%
- United Arab Emirates—Muslim 96%
100% will usher in the peace of ‘Dar-es-Salaam’—the Islamic House of Peace. Here there’s supposed to be peace, because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and the Koran is the only word, such as in:
- Afghanistan—Muslim 100%
- Saudi Arabia—Muslim 100%
- Somalia—Muslim 100%
- Yemen—Muslim 100%
Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.
Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; the tribe against the world, and all of us against the infidel.—Leon Uris, ‘The Haj’
It is important to understand that in some countries, with well under 100% Muslim populations, such as France, the minority Muslim populations live in ghettos, within which they are 100% Muslim, and within which they live by Sharia Law. The national police do not even enter these ghettos. There are no national courts, nor schools, nor non-Muslim religious facilities. In such situations, Muslims do not integrate into the community at large. The children attend madrasses. They learn only the Koran. To even associate with an infidel is a crime punishable with death. Therefore, in some areas of certain nations, Muslim Imams and extremists exercise more power than the national average would indicate.
Today’s 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world’s population. But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers.. Muslims will exceed 50% of the world’s population by the end of this century.
Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond’s book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat
ISLAM AND PLURALISM
In this post-9/11 world characterised by a burgeoning clash of civilisations, multiculturalism and tolerance of religious diversity is under threat practically everywhere in the world. It has virtually ceased to exist in large parts of South Asia. In Pakistan, for instance, a near civil war is raging among religious, sectarian, ethnic and linguistic groups. Poor Pakistanis don’t even feel secure to go to mosques to pray. How does India then thrive in relative peace in the midst of this chaos, despite having the second largest population in the world, an astounding variety of religions, cultures, ethnicities and languages and dialects? [Indian constitution, for instance, recognises 22 languages and the country is home to at least 844 major dialects.] This question has staggered political scientists and sociologists around the world in recent times.
Just look at the top people in India’s political and economic life. The Prime Minister hails from the Sikh community which constitutes barely two to three per cent of India’s billion plus population. He is in his second five-year term as Prime Minister. The head of the ruling party and arguably the most powerful politician in the country is a Christian. Christians are numerically an even smaller community than Sikhs. Until a year or so ago, the head of state was a Muslim, that is from a community that constitutes nearly 13 per cent of the population. Even after retirement President Abdul Kalam probably remains the most respected and popular elder statesman India has ever had. Even now the Vice-President of India is a Muslim. The one of the wealthiest person in India is a Muslim technocrat. Seven out of top ten most popular actors in the Indian film industry are Muslim, not to speak of an assortment of artistes, musicians, singers, etc. So on and so forth.
One can go on giving examples of the respect common Indians have for the religious, cultural and linguistic diversity of their country. One and a half centuries of the notorious Divide and Rule policy pursued by our colonial masters did certainly make a dent in our national unity after all, the country did get divided and saw horrendous scenes of communal violence that was completely alien to our experience before the British arrived on the scene. And yet, even today, you cannot go to the shrine of any Sufi saint anywhere in India and not notice that the majority of devotees there are non-Muslims, reflecting the full religious diversity of India. Indian Constitution, of course, gives every Indian citizen perfect equality. It recognises religious diversity in the fullest sense, making India the only non-Muslim majority country that allows Muslims to organise their personal life in accordance with their religious personal laws.
To gain a perspective of how staggering these Indian achievements are, let us compare the situation with the one prevailing in Pakistan, which was part of our own nation and the same multi-religious, multi-cultural milieu till only 60 years ago. Let me quote from a recent article by a top Pakistani journalist, Kamila Hyat. She writes: “All of us who have attended school in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan were taught at one point or the other that the white strip that runs down the flag stood for non-Muslims who make up an estimated three per cent or so of the population. Now it seems this white is to be washed over with a shade of green that denies the existence of diversity in the country and closes the door of opportunity for citizens who practise a different faith. We may as well change our flag and give up the pretence that there is any space for minorities in our state.”
Then Ms. Hyat goes on to give specific instances of the Pakistani state’s intolerance. One of the most insidious doings of the recent 18th Amendment to the Pakistan constitution, for instance, has been to seal off the office of Prime Minister to non-Muslims by declaring that the post will be held by a Muslim. The presidency has, since 1956, already been reserved for Muslims alone. Any attempt to roll back this position, she says, would bring an outcry from the religious parties and other groups that back them. No political party has in recent years displayed the moral courage necessary to take on such groups. Indeed, already, on internet discussion forums, while an encouraging number of voices have spoken out against the measure, others have argued that it is justified for an ‘Islamic’ state to have only a Muslim at its head.
She goes on: “The message that the latest change sends out is a dangerous one. It comes at a time when we see at periodic intervals orgies of violence that involve the burning of houses belonging to non-Muslims or the torture of members of minority groups, often after charges of blasphemy have been brought. We have seen lynching carried out in public on these grounds. All around us we see in fact a kind of ‘cleansing’ on the basis of religion that should leave us ashamed. Hindus from Sindh sometimes even from communities where they had lived in peaceful harmony with their Muslim neighbours for years have been forced to flee to escape forced conversions or the kidnapping of their daughters. The few Sikh families who still lived in the tribal areas have been driven out of their homes by the Taliban following the imposition of ‘jaziya’ taxation on them. Christians have, since the 1980s, begun disappearing to escape discrimination; the names on school registers even at missionary-run institutions in Lahore reflect the change and the monolithic nature of the society we live in.
“The attitudes that have created this are for a large part the product of state policies. The laws against Ahmadis, the separate electorate for minorities and the ‘Islamisation’ policies have all encouraged social and economic discrimination. Opportunities available to non-Muslims have closed down. Employers are less likely to grant them jobs or offer promotions; schools deny them admission. The Basant festival has been labelled as being ‘Hindu’ and, therefore, undesirable. Even the simple act of flying a kite has been given a religious overture. There can be little doubt this has been a factor in the ban on Basant and the sport of kite-flying that has led to the fluttering paper shapes vanishing from the skies over Lahore, a city that once observed the only secular festival on our calendar with unrivalled passion.
“There is evidence too that the unpleasant process of creating a kind of sterile uniformity by rooting out diversity is growing. Muslim sects have confronted the wrath of those who hold they are non-Muslim. The mass killing of Shias in Karachi on two separate occasions as they marked Muharrum is just one example of this. Other groups have faced threats of many kinds. Some indeed, to protect themselves and their children, have chosen to disguise identity. Other groups, such as the small number of Jews who once lived in Karachi, have simply left the country.
The process is an immensely dangerous one. It has already created divisions that in the past simply did not exist. The result has been growing social unease.”
We are all, of course, familiar with the result of this growing social unrest. Scores of people are dying on an average practically every day in Pakistan. So the question acquires even more potency: Where does India derive its strength? How do Indians so fully accept people from other communities, religions, ethnicities, languages, regions, etc. so fully, in positions of power and as their icons in various fields?
To understand this one has to go to the very roots of Indian way of life, our dharma, that is now known as Hindu religion but it was always a conglomeration of religions, philosophies, including atheism and agnosticism. Yes, atheism was as much an integral part of Hindu dharma as was faith in one God or a multiplicity of gods or any particular deity which may have had a following in only one small locality. So one Hindu family could have had a couple of devout believers in one God or several gods or atheists or agnostics, all living together under the same roof, their beliefs causing no hindrance in their lives together. In different parts of India too there were different religions, different scriptures, and people from different parts used to travel carrying their beliefs with them and sharing them with one another.
So when beliefs like Islam or Christianity or Judaism came from foreign lands, they hardly faced any problem in being accepted. In any case the Hindu or more correctly the Indian considered the whole world as a family, a kutumb. One of the cardinal principles of Hindu philosophy was that there are many ways to the God and ultimately they all lead to the same divine truth. So while Islam’s encounter with some other religions was quite violent, Hinduism provided it with a fertile ground for growth. Islam was first introduced to India during Prophet Mohammad’s life itself by traders travelling between India’s Southern coast and Arabia. It was later taken to the masses by Sufi saints like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and Hazrat Nizamuddin. Hindus of all denomination visit and pray at the shrines of these and thousands of other Muslim saints with the same reverence as do Muslims. A number of Sufi saints spent their life-time in India, spreading Islam’s message of peace. Prophet Mohammad, too, is believed to have felt attraction for India.
Even the very first Muslim to conquer parts of India—Sind and Multan in 711AD—Mohammad bin Qasim, accorded the Hindus the special status of Ahl-e-Kitab (People bearing Divine Books) that was by then meant for Christians and Jews alone, realising that the Hindu scriptures were clear testimony to the fact that they were revealed to earlier prophets that the Holy Quran talks about and asks Muslims to treat with same respect as Prophet Mohammad and believe in their prophethood as an essential part of their faith. Later emperors, particularly the Mughals adopted a secular system of governance, according the highest places in the governments, including the position of finance ministers and army chiefs to Hindus. Even the Central Asian bandits who invaded and looted India, desecrating some temples in the process, could not disturb the milieu of religious tolerance and acceptance of Islam.
But this largely harmonious living came first under threat from the British policy of Divide and Rule. While this policy had been going on since 1800, it was formalised later. In a note dated May 14, 1858, to the Governor-General Lord Elphinstone, governor of Bombay advocated the continuation of the policy of divide and rule. He stated: “Divide et impera was the old Roman motto and it should be ours”. Sir John Wood, another ardent colonialist, in a letter to Governor-General Elgin said in plain words, “We have maintained our power by playing off one party against the other and we must continue to do so”.
Pursuing this policy the British divided the province of Bengal in 1905 and created a new province with a Muslim majority. Then to isolate the Muslim community from the Hindus, Muslims were granted separate electorates and this right was incorporated in the Indian Councils Act of 1909. This was the beginning of what later took the form of confrontation and alienation between Hindus and Muslims.
The British also spawned and nurtured groups among both communities that promoted exclusivist tendencies. This eventually led to partition of India between Hindu-majority and Muslim majority lands. But while Muslim majority Pakistan almost immediately declared itself an Islamic republic, closing many doors and creating many problems for its religious minorities, Hindu-majority India chose to continue pursuing its age-old philosophy of integration and acceptance of all religions as different paths to the same God and thus as equally valid.
In recent decades, however, the challenges to Indian unity have grown. Some Hindutva groups, the legacy of the colonial era, have gained in strength, partly as a result of growing fundamentalism among Muslims under the influence of a world-wide movement spreading the Wahhabi radicalism. But the main challenge to Indian national unity today comes from neighbouring Pakistan which has been creating and promoting terrorist groups with the specific purpose of destabilising India. There is not the slightest reason to doubt the known fact now that Pakistani terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba are particularly after damaging the Muslim community in India.
The very idea of Indian Muslims living peacefully and marching towards prosperity in multi-cultural India with the same confidence as other Indians strikes at the very root of Pakistan’s existential philosophy. The very existence of a prosperous Muslim community in India destroys the Two-Nation Theory on which the state of Pakistan is based. The very fact that Muslims in India not only live peacefully among themselves but also in harmony with a variety of other religious, linguistic, ethnic communities while Muslims in Pakistan are deeply divided among themselves and constantly at each others’ throats is a profoundly destabilising factor for the very existence of Pakistan. That Pakistan’s Muslim, Sindhis, Baluchis, Pathans, Saraikis, and indeed Mohajirs would love to join the Indian mainstream, given half a chance, cannot possibly be lost on the Pakistani establishment that has spawned these terrorist organisations to further its dubious strategic imperatives. The Muslims of India, by their very existence, more so on account of their peaceful and prosperous co-existence, are an existential threat to Pakistan. One can only hope that wise counsel will prevail and Pakistan would desist from following such policies.
In any case, Indians have shown great resilience and have become quite adept in facing challenges to their unity and secularism for long decades. They would continue to present a model of peaceful and prosperous plural co-existence to the world, possibly to be emulated by some who are looking for a solution to their problems of reconciling multiple diversities.
The author is Editor, New Age Islam
By Sultan Shahin