Is Islamic goodwill for Hindus possible?
Date : October 14, 1996
Hindus today are often asked to express goodwill for Islam and help minority Muslims in India, who often fell oppressed under the Hindu majority rule. However Hindus are also minorities in various Islamic countries. There-fore the complementary question must arise, is there any Islamic goodwill for Hindus, particularly in Islamic countries? To look at Hindu-Muslim relations only within the borders of India where Hindus are a majority can be misleading. The entire context of these relations throughout the world and historically must be examined.
Hindus traditionally are tolerant people and have provid-ed a refuge for many religious refugees, like the Parsis, the Syrian Christians and the Jews. India is the only country that never oppressed the Jews. Even today there are a number of Islamicsects like the Ahmadiyas, the Bohras and the Sufis, and other religious movements originating from Islamic countries like the Bahais, which may not be tolerated in Islamic countries including Pakistan, and exist and flourish in India. In fact there is a greater diversity of Islamic sects in India than in any Islamic country today because of the religious tolerance traditional to Hindu-majority India. When Muslims lived under Hindu rule in pre-Independence India they were not obstructed from practicing their religion, sub-ject to forced conversion, religious taxes, or prevented from building mosques. The same is true of Muslims in India today. They are allowed to practice their religion without interference from Hindus.
Muslims, on the other hand, do not have such a history of tolerance starting with the first chaliphs of Islam who set out organised armies to conquer the world and marched to the very borders of India. During the period of Islamic rule in India most Hindu temples in the country were destroyed, including many that were rebuilt during that period. Hindus had to witness the ongoing destruction of their most holy places because of Muslim intolerance of other religions. The number of temples destroyed runs in thousands and it is difficult to find even a handful of temples in India that were not either destroyed ro defaced by the Muslims. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Hindus were killed in wars and genocide or turned into slaves. this included many religious leaders like various Sikh and Hindu Gurus whom the Muslims executed. Hindus exdured forced conversion and a heavy religious tax to convert them.
Yet this oppression for Hindus has not ended. Even after the Partition of India in favour of the Muslims, the Hindus left over in Pakistan and Bangladesh have suffered terribly. They have no real political or economical influence and the law seldom protects them. This problem of Islamic intolerance of Hindus goes for beyond the borders of the Indian subcontinent. Strictly Islamic countries, like Saudi Arabia, do not allow any other religions to exist within their border. No Hindu temple can be built in such Islamic countries by the Hindus who work there. You will not find any Hindu temples in Mecca or other Islamic holy cities. Hindus who have gone to work in the Gulf countries are not allowed to practice their religion in public, or bring any of their Hindu holy books with them. Even in India today Muslims do not tolerate and often attack the Hindu religious processions that may go through or near their neighbourhood. This is a holdover right from the Islamic period in India when Hindus were prevented from publicly expressing their religion in Muslim predominant communities.
Saudi Arabia insists that India sends only a Muslim ambassador and the Government of India meekly complies, not even raising protest! How would Islamic countries, in which Hindus are a minority, respond if the Government of India insisted that they sent only Hindu ambassadors? Certainly it would not be tolerated. Most instance of Muslim goodwill to Hindus occur in countries like Indonesia which were only recently and partially Islamized. It is not owing to Islam, which is intolerant in its heartland, but owing to the prior Hindu culture of the people. The more Islamic these countries become this tolerance is likely to decrease.
Today with growing global communication and the awakening of oppressed groups throughout the world, Hindu criticism of Islam is increasing. Hindu intellectuals are question-ing Islam not only historically but also spiritually, particularly its actions in India relative to Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. The Hindu influenced political parties routinely complain against appeasement of the Muslim minority in India.
That Hindus may criticize other religions may be surprising to those who know the history of tolerance in Hinduism. It may cause them to think that Hindus are becoming intolerant. However, the other side of the issue must also be examined. That Hindus are becoming critical of Islam may not be so surprising to those who know of the ongoing oppression of Hindus by Muslims.
Hindus today are awakening to an understanding of the thousand years of oppression they underwent during nearly a thousand years of foreign rule by the Muslims and the Europeans. Their religion and culture was constantly under siege throughout the period. When Hindus today criticize the British rule of India and its efforts to Christinize India, it is generally regarded as understandable. However when Hindus criticize the Islamic period which was similarly a foreign rule and far more brutal than the British period, with a more determined attempt at conversion, it may be labelled as Hindu intolerance of Islam (suggesting that there is Islamic tolerance of Hinduism, which has yet to be demonstrated). But if British rule and Chritian intolerance of Hindus can be questioned, so can, similar action done by Muslims.
Just as blacks and women are, making an issue of their historical oppression, seeking an acknowledg-ment of it, and trying to correct it, so are Hindus. This is perfectly reasonable and modern, not fundamentalist and backward for them to do so. There is probably no other religious or political group in the world that has been slower to protest its historical mistreatment than have the Hindus. Hindus are the least organised socially and politically of all religious groups. The fact is that Musli8ms have routinely treated Hindus badly and this trend has continued. Not merely as Hindus but as human beings, Hindus have a right to draw the line.
Long oppressed groups, like the Blacks in America, may react with anger or even violence when they awaken to the fact of their oppression and seek some rectification of historical wrongs. Hindus today similarly are becoming more aggressive. Should this become exvessive it would be regrettable, but it is not without justification and does not mean their basic reaction is wrong. Hindus now are no longer willing to meekly accept domination and abuse by
Muslims in the name of communal harmoney. This is just another human community no longer of its human rights. It is about time that Hindus have taken this stance and it can only help other oppressed groups gain their legitimate rights as well.
The question is how will Muslims react to this trend? Will they recognize the legitimate anger of the Hindus against them, take some resposibility for the problem,
and seek to correct it? Or will they rect with hostility and refuse to acknowledge the history of violence that Muslims have without doubt peroetrated against Hindus? Will they take the opportunity to create oeace or will they inflame Hindus further by ignoring the mistakes done in the name of their religion? Muslis throughout the world are quick to condemn any oppression of Muslims which occurs in any part of the world. Should they be surprised or feel that it is wrong if Hindus begin to adopt such attitudes and start challenging the oppression of Hindus by Muslims?
In Hindu-Muslim dialogue since the time of Gandhi has generally been a matter of Hindus trying to please or accommodate Muslims. This led to the Partition of India in favour of the Muslims and the allowance of Muslim personal law for Muslims in India (but not, we might add, Hindu personal law for Hindus in Pakistan). The question is seldom asked what are Muslims willing to concede to Hindus in order to create peace with them? Perhaps because Muslims are a minority in India it is not considered what they should give but only what they should receive. However there must be reciprocity for there to be trust. And the Hindu-Muslim issue is not limited to India but to all lands where these two faiths meet. If Muslims throughout the world are intolerance of Hinduism, how can Indian Muslims expect Hindus in India not to be suspricious of them?
Muslims sometimes complain that they are discriminated against in India, and that they are not represented in the government. They must also consider the plight of Hindus in Muslim countries. How many Hindu political leaders have there been in Pakistan and Bangladesh? I
believe the answer is zero, even though, at least in Bangladesh the percentage of minority Hindus is on par with that of Muslims in India. There have, however, been Muslim President, Members of Parliament, chief ministers of State and cabinet minister of India has increased since Partition while the Hindu population of Pakistan and Bangladesh has dramatically decreased.
Clearly Muslims in India are treated much better than Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Gulf countries. There are no Hindu prayers or songs allowed on Pakistani prayers and songs which can be found on Indian television. Pakistan history books still vaunt Islamic leaders like Mahmud of Ghazni and Aurangzeb, who destroyed temples and killed Hindus on a grand scale, as great and pious Muslims and great Pakistanis.
The treatment of Muslims in India cannot be devorced from the treatment of Hindus in Islamic countries. if Muslims in India want to be treated better, they must make efforts to get Hindus treated better in Islamic countries, who are much more likely to listen to their protests than those of Hindus. Muslims cannot rightfully expect better treatment from Hindus if they do not consider the plight of Hindus as will. There must be a concern for discrimination against all human beings, regardless of their religion, not looking out for Muslims and ignoring the plight of non-Muslims.
The further question arises, if Muslims want the goodwill of Hindus what are they willing to offer in order to receive it? Do Muslims think that they should have the goodwill of Hindus without offering anythink to the Hindus in return? Can they really think that their his-tory merits the trust and affection of Hindus? While Muslims may feel offended by Hindus, they should remember that in their history they have done little to consider the feelings of Hindus or help them out. It is they who have historically been aggressively attacking Hindus, not Hindus who have sent armies into their countries in order to convert them.
Hindus do have an historical right to critize Islam, which continues to target them and malign their religion.
Muslims routinely condemn Hindus as idol-worshippers, which is hardly an accurate, much less a sensitive rendering of Hinduism, which is a vast religion containig all avenues of human spirituality from devotional worship of images to yogic meditation.
Muslims in India recently had a great opportunity to redress the wrongs of history by giving the disputed Beburi structure back to the Hindus. It would have created much goodwill between the communities and proved to Hindus that Muslims in India, unlike most Muslims throughout the world, were not anti-Hindu. After all, Muslims had not worshipped in the Baburi monument for over fifty years and it never was one of their main holy sites. What did they have to lose by giving it back? It was built on the main hill in the Hindu sacred city of Ayodhya to humiliate the Hindus, not to peacefully worship God. However out of their pride and intolerance the Muslims have not taken advantage of this opportunity. They are unwilling to recognize the validity of Hindu complaints against them, which makes their own complaints against the Hindus lack any credibility.
Many Muslims and other have argued that Hindu temples were not destroyed out of religious reasons but from political motivation. Therefore the blame for this destruction is not with the Islamic religion, which is one of peace, but with political leaders who are prone to violence in order to hold power whatever their religious background. If this is the case Muslims should be happy to return such Hindu sacred sites as Kashi and Mathura. Mosques on these two sites of well known Hindu temples were built only three centuries ago by the tyrant Aurang-zeb, who killed his own brother, imprisoned his own father, and murdered Sufis as well as Hindu and Sikh leaders. If Islam as a religion is not responsible for the destruction of these Hindu temples but the arrogance of such as Aurangzeb, Muslims should not cling to such monuments as sacred. Otherwise Muslims are in fact saying that the destruction of temples and their replacement with mosques has a religions sanction, which is to equate their religion with such tyrants.
Yet this condition is hardly hopless. there is much that Muslims can do to gain the trust of Hindus, who are a peaceful and tolerant people. But this issue is mainly in the hands of the Muslims. Hindus cannot make peace with Muslims who are unwilling to give up their oppression of Hindus or their targeting for conversion. Muslims should be willing to consider doing the following if they are sincere about peace with the Hindus.
(1) Muslim leaders should make an official apology for the massive destruction of temples and killing of Hindus that was common under their rule in India and by their invading armies. One can use the example of the Christians apologizing to the American Indians or the Blacks for similar discrimination and oppression.
(2) Muslims should give back to the Hindus Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura mosques that were built by Babur and Aurangazeb on Ramjanmabhoomi, the Kashi Vishwanath Shiva temple and Krishnajanmabhoomi, just as they did not try to hold on the Somnath after Partition of India. This could be a peace offering for all the Hindu temples destroyed by Muslims through history.
(3) Muslims should invite Hindu swamis and religious leaders to speak at their mosques to explain to the Muslims masses what Hinduism really teaches. In the same way Hindus should invite Islamic leaders to speak at their temples. Muslim countries should allow Hindus to preach and build temples, particularly for Hindu workers in those countries. They should also invite Hindus to talk and preach their religion in orther to dispel Isla-mic misunderstandings about Hinduism.
(4) Muslims should be willing to accept Hindu names for God like ishvara as good as Allah. Hindus should also accpet Allah as a name of God as many of them already do.
(5) Muslims should be willing to accept the great teachers of India-based religions as divinely inspired, including those of recent centuries like Sikh Gurus or Ramakrishna, just as Hindus honour many Sufis and Islamic saints.
(6) Indian Muslims should complain to Muslim countries that discriminate against Hindus. They should criticize Pakistan and Bangladesh for the destruction of Hindu temples that has gone on there in recent times.
Of course it is doubtful whether this will occur any-time soon, even on one of these points. If this is the case, Muslims should ask themselves, if they are unwilling to make such gestures of goodwill to the Hindus why should they expect Hindus to respect and honour them in return?
You cannot repeatedly trample on a person and his culture and then expect him to help you when you are in need.
Muslims, who claim to follow the will of God, think clearly on the history of Islam, and how members of your religion have mistreated Hindus and denigrated their religion. Think of how your religious leaders portray the Hindu religion even today. Would you be quick to embrace a group who treated you in the same way?