Would the potential of a Sharukh Khan or a Salman Khan have found expression in Pakistan?
Photo : Sharukh Khan
I wish to make a clarion call to Indians to learn more about their ancestral culture and history so that they would not be duped by imperialist forces that are actively pursuing global conquest and expansion. Indians must heed the sufferings of their brethren across the globe- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Caribbean-and not continue being willing pawns in this global power game.
Islam, Christianity and Judaism are Semitic faiths. They are exclusivist and do not recognise other belief systems as genuine. This has been the genesis of the intolerance that prevails in the Middle-east. The god of the Judaism is a jealous god who does not share power with other gods. Not surprisingly Jews were credited the chosen people while others were considered Gentiles.
When Christianity was born 2018 years ago, the Christians labelled the Jews ‘Christ killers’ to justify their persecution and extermination. The killing of Jews in Hitler’s Germany was only a highlight of a norm in Christendom. The characters of Scrooge and Shylock in western literature were part of the campaign to discredit and spread hatred of Jews. This is the modus operandi of exclusivist faiths. The Jews were now victims of the aggressions that they had unleashed against others in the past.
The Muslims followed the tradition of the Jew and Christians and declared Mohammed the final messenger of God. While Islam accepts the previous messengers, it views the contents of the Quran as the final revelation, thus making the previous Prophets and their revelations irrelevant. Islam command to Muslim is to expand the umah (body of followers) and to use even wars to do so. Those who are not Muslims are labelled unbelievers or kaffirs. The duty of Muslims is to conquer the land of the kaffirs (Dar ul Harb) or unbelievers and convert it to the land of believers (Dar ul Islam).
Indians did not readily embrace Islam as fundamentalist Muslims would like to have us believe. Islamic scholars have perpetuated the lie that the conversion was done through the Sufis. This may be true but the numbers were few. The reality is that the vast majority of converts were given a choice between Islam and death. When Hindus could not pay taxes they were given the option to convert to free them from the burden of taxation. Others converted to benefit from the largesse of the state and to retain ownership of their properties and employment in the courts and state bureaucracy.
Indians did not surrender willingly to the Islamic invaders. Unlike the conquest of Persia, Eygpt and North Africa that was achieved within 20 to 30 years, the Islamic wars in India was fought for more than 1000 years. V.S. Naipaul described Islamic ‘conquests’ as incursions. The first invasion was in Sindh Province in the 8th century. The fighting went on for many years and after the defeat and mass conversion, the new converts reverted to their Hindu way of life. It took greater re-enforcement of soldiers from the west to finally subdue Sindh.
The story is told of Muhammad of Ghori who led an army to defeat Pritiviraj Chauhan in north western India but failed. Pritviraj defeated Muhammad of Ghori and set him free amidst protest by his mother and wife. Muhammad of Ghori returned with a larger army, defeated Pritvijraj, put him in chain and blinded him before taking his life.
Pritviraj had appealed to Jaichand, his father-in-law, to lend his army but the latter, consumed with petty grudges, refused. Had Jaichand acceded to Pritviraj’s request the history of Islam in India might have taken another course.
Hindu Kings and their armies fought the Islamic hordes fearlessly. If there was any reign of peace it was only when the Indians had the upper hand. Fearing the Indians would annihilate them, the Muslims negotiated for peace. It was never the generosity of Islamic rule that preserve Indian identity as some would like to have us believe. Even Akbar had to be circumspect in his relations with Hindus.
Nevertheless, the Islamic conquest of South Asia was successful mainly in those parts of India that were heavily influenced by Buddhism- Afghanistan, Northwest Frontier Province, Bihar, Bengal and UP. Buddhism, unlike Hinduism, was not integrated into the social life of the people, while at the same time focusing on Moksha or salvation. In Hinduism there was a role for the warrior caste to bear arms in defence of his land from marauding hordes.
The excesses of Muslims in their haste to spread the Islamic way of life showed no mercy on the native people. Buddhist societies, after dismantling the caste system, had no warrior caste to defend the society and so were easily conquered and subdued. Places like North West Frontier, Afghanistan, Uttar Pradesh and other territories along the foothills of the Himalayas including Kashmir were terrorised and converted by the sword. Buddhists retreated to the mountain tops such a Bhutan, Darjeeling and Tibet to survive and practice the Buddhist way of life. The mayhem and onslaught of the Muslim invasion were so extreme that large sections of the population retreated to the forest. Today forest dwellers form 25% of the population of India.
Indian Muslims are the beneficiaries of Hindu tolerance. The Indian Muslim is the only Islamic community in the world who have exercised their franchise to elect a government for the past 60 years uninterrupted. Not even in Pakistan, Indonesia or the Middle-east that right to self-determination has been given self-expression. Even in Kashmir the Muslims have been allowed to vote in both state and general elections!
The power of the franchise was recently demonstrated when the Muslim women of UP bargained with the BJP to give their votes in exchange for the removal of “triple talak” that had allowed a Muslim husband to divorce his wife by the repetition of ‘I divorce , I divorce, I divorce.” The Indian government has amended the constitution, thus making triple talak illegal. The passage of this bill is viewed as progressive by Indian women.
The response of the Myanmar’s military to the Rohingyas of Rakhine region of Myanmar is extreme because of a latent fear of the potential threat that Islam poses to the Buddhist way of life. While the Rohingyas are poor and suffering, their ties with an imperialist religion put their lives at risk. What is worse is that it appears the Islamic world has abandoned them in favour of Palestinians. The Bengali Muslims have not learned from the lessons of 1971!
Indian Muslims have failed to develop their full potential in Pakistan. What has become of Noor Jahan? She was a popular playback singer in the Indian film industry who migrated to Pakistan and her career was finished! Had Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari migrated, their talent would have died. And what would have befallen the melody of Mohammed Rafi and the music of Naushad had they migrated? Would the potential of a Sharukh Khan or a Salman Khan have found expression in Pakistan?
The plight of the Kashmiri Pandits has to be addressed. Driven from the Kashmir Valley by militant extremists riled by the late Benazir Bhutto, the Kasmiri Pandits are refugees in their own land where they have lived for more than 5,000 years. The Kashmiri Muslims have done to the Pandits what the Muslim invaders have done to them 800 years ago!
Indian Muslims have to guard against Wahabism, an extremist interpretation of Islam that ignores the pluralistic nature of the modern world. Such a philosophy makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Muslims to live in a cosmopolitan world where diversity is celebrated.