Saturday, 18 May 2013

Pakistan, Islam and Hindu nationalism

Many Pakistanis tend to believe that their ancestors are foreigners who conquered India and ruled it for centuries. But the reality is that they were natives brutalised from 8th century onwards by Arab, Turk and Mongol invasions. Most of them converted to Islam at the point of the sword or to avoid persecution. Later, Sufism played an important part in harmonising Islamic religion within Indian cultural context. There is no problem if Pakistanis seek guidance from the teachings of Prophet Muhammad in their private lives and worship Allah as the only God. But to distort the entire history of India, breed hatred and violence against non-Muslims and minority Muslim sects, and dream of establishing another Mughalastan in India is not at all acceptable.

Obviously, the people in the north-western part of Indian subcontinent have greater population with similar genes to those of the Persians, just as in north-east India, people have similar genes to the Burmese and Tibetans. There has always been migrations, interbreeding and exchange of ideas among civilisations. This is a healthy process and clearly, the peripheries would be the most affected. So, does it justify that you glorify your own conquerors and hate your brethren because they did not succumb to their persecution and retained their ancient religion? Islam gives spiritual solace and a higher purpose to many Pakistanis. There is no problem. But why demonise the 'other'?

India has similar number, if not more Muslims than Pakistan. It does not persecute any sect within Islam, whether Sunni, Shia or Ahmadi (unlike many Islamic countries). As soon as someone says this, people are ready to point out to the Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots. Hindu nationalism is a reaction to Gandhi's appeasement policies (even Jinnah left the Congress in 1920 after it accepted Gandhi's support to the Khilafat Movement), partition of India and Nehruvian secularism. The first event was staged under the leadership of L.K. Advani, so that BJP could consolidate the Hindu votes and come to power. However, BJP failed to win enough support and when it formed a coalition government, it refused to build a Ram temple on the site of the demolished mosque. The second event was used by Narendra Modi to strengthen his position is Gujarat. But after that he has won the support of the Gujarati Muslims through his development agenda.  

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