A Matter Of Faith
The Supreme Court has given “the last chance” to the Hindus and Muslims to have a negotiated settlement of the vexed Ayodhya issue. In fact, that is what any right-thinking person will want. But unfortunately, that has not happened all these years since the dispute arose. And it is extremely unlikely that it will happen in future, whatever the country’s highest court may say.
The point here is that Hindus believe the disputed spot to be the place where Lord Ram, one of the trinity, the supreme Gods for them, had taken birth as a human being in one of his ten incarnations. Many Muslim leaders and their sympathisers in the academia and media challenge this and describe the story as a myth.
They say that the mosque that was built by Babur and destroyed in 1992 must be rebuilt. Where is then a scope for compromise?
Here are some facts involving the Hindus and Muslims in India. At the risk of being branded as communal by our so-called secular establishment, the fact remains that in this country, whenever there is any talk of compromise, it has virtually meant that the Hindus must give concessions. The Hindus have had to reconcile with the Partition of the country. The Hindus, as per the laws made by our Parliament, have to live with the broken and shrunken temples at Varanasi (that of Lord Shiva) and Mathura (that of Lord Krishna) that share the walls with two bigger mosques built by the then Muslim rulers. The argument given here is that the then Muslim rulers did not damage these temples with a communal motive and that their acts need to be seen as a “political measure” of imposing their authority and power.
I have no problem with maintaining the status quo because in a secular and democratic country, the communities must not waste their precious time and labour to set right the historical wrongs. After all, Muslims are fellow citizens. They are an integral part of the country with equal rights. But the problem all these years has been the unpleasant fact that unlike the Hindus, the Muslims, particularly their leaders, have hesitated to display any compromising attitude on any issue. The self-appointed Muslim leaders often demand “more than equal” rights. In fact, by showing their broad-mindedness, the Muslims could have turned the Ayodhya dispute into a great opportunity for Hindu-Muslim bonhomie and solidarity. After all, the disputed site was not a practicing mosque. The Muslim leaders could have joined the Hindus in respecting their faith through a Ram temple and could have built a magnificent mosque in a nearby place. It is just the case of respecting one single temple and this will be assuaging like nothing else the Hindu grudge that thousands of their temples had been destroyed or defaced by the Muslims throughout the history.
But the Muslim leaders will have nothing of it. However, I am sure that ordinary Muslims, who have always been taken for granted by their leaders, will never mind such a grand gesture. Unfortunately, their leaders will never allow them to do so. And in doing that the Muslim leaders, it must be emphasised , are less interested in promoting Islam as a great religion but more obsessed with asserting their political power.
In other words, it is not the real Islam but “political Islam” that is the issue. But then “political Islam” is an issue all over the world these days. It is “political Islam” that is giving Islam a bad name everywhere. I doubt whether the great Prophet Muhammad ever would have asked his followers to support the erection of a worship center near a spot in New York that saw the killings of hundreds of innocent people by a group of fanatic and misguided Muslims on September 11, 2001, thereby hurting the sentiments of thousands of Americans. I doubt whether Prophet Muhammad would have ever approved of his followers to cause riots all over the world just because of a political cartoon. I doubt whether Prophet Muhammad would have ever tolerated all those who in his name are misinterpreting the great Islam and appealing the Muslims all over the world to “fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war, and continue doing this until Islam reigns supreme” and “die fighting in jihad that is actually the best thing that can happen to a person, given the rewards that martyrs receive in Paradise”. And I refuse to believe that Prophet Muhammad would ever have supported those Muslims who have committed over 15,000 terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001.
Of course, it could be argued that “extremists” have been behind all the above actions and that most Muslims are peaceful moderates. I do not doubt that. But the question is: why is it that these peaceful moderates are not encouraging new leaders to emerge out of their ranks who will protest when a woman is lashed in Saudi Arabia for being raped? Where are the moderate Muslims when one sees in Sudan a woman being put in jail for naming a teddy bear “Muhammad”? Where are they when a Bangladeshi women’s rights advocate, Taslima Nasrin, has a bounty put on her head? Where are they when fanatics cut the hand of a professor in Kerala just because a question-paper that he had set was “thought” offensive to Islam?
In this context, I must point out a recent e-mail written by Dr Emanuel Tanya, a well-known and well-respected German psychiatrist that is doing rounds in the intellectual circles all over. I am producing below its excerpts:
A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’
Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:
Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.
Coming back to the Ayodhya dispute, will the peaceful and silent majority of Muslims rise up and force its leaders to show the courage and magnanimity by facilitating the construction of a Ram temple at a spot which millions of Hindus believe to be the Lord’s birth place, the same way they believe Prophet Muhammad to be the representative of Almighty Allah?
By Prakash Nanda