'If the Sangh Parivar is honest it can co-exist with Muslims on the basis of the values that Islam and Hinduism share'
Raji Raouf in his article “We Muslims are mature, we can take criticism” (The Hindu, August 7, 2011) cautioned Muslims against getting ruffled by provocative articles such as the recent one written by Dr. Subramanian Swamy in DNA which, among other things, sought disenfranchisement of Muslims for racist reasons. But then, of late Indian Muslims have shown a remarkable sense of maturity, be it the Mecca Masjid, Ajmer or Malegaon blasts or, for that matter, any other issue wherein they were wrongfully targeted. There have been no calls from Muslim organisations “to take up arms and to let all hell loose” and this controverts the caricature of their immaturity painted by Mr. Raouf in his article.
This, of course, is not to deny the existence of extremist Muslim outfits, but only to point out that the moderates are gradually gaining the upper hand in the struggle against extremism which is also evident from the fact that Muslims have not resorted to any kind of retaliatory mudslinging against Hindus to express their dissent against Dr. Swamy's incendiary article. And if “minority bodies” such as the National Commission for Minorities have issued notices to Dr. Swamy they have acted well within their rights to charge him for violating the Indian law by calling for the denial of rights to Muslims guaranteed under our Constitution. Therefore, Mr. Raouf is not justified in saying that “Muslims are being taken for a ride” by the minority bodies.
If truth be spoken, it is not a question of Muslims or Hindus displaying maturity when ridiculed. Indeed, both communities enjoy a great rapport at the people-to-people level. The big question is whether the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed Sangh Parivar is willing to let these communities live in harmony. Unfortunately, the saffronites are displaying a kind of majoritarian masculinity that seems to suggest that it is below their dignity to treat Muslims as equal citizens of this country. Demolition of mosques is being justified on the ground that a mosque is less sacred than a temple, and hence it may be bulldozed to make way for a holier place, the temple. The sad part is that persons spreading such disinformation know full well that it has the potential to disturb communal amity.
It must be said that if the Sangh Parivar is honest it can co-exist with Muslims on the basis of the values that Islam and Hinduism share. For instance, in a verse which could be described as the bedrock of inter-faith harmony, the Koran says that if God did not check the mischiefmongers “there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques where the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure” (22:40). And it has been declared in the Bhagavad Gita that an absence of enmity for people (nirvairah sarvabhutesu), even though they might have done great harm, is one of the important virtues of the best of the devotees (XI-55).
Having said this, it may be misleading to see the communalism of Hindutva writers as purely a Hindu-Muslim problem. It actually concerns the entire nation, and could seriously affect its development if allowed to continue. It is common knowledge that poverty and backwardness in many African countries are mainly the result of continuous, violent, internal conflict. And nearer home, one of our own neighbours finds itself in deep trouble, financial and otherwise, for failing to contain sectarian violence, and in some cases promoting it as a matter of policy to further its vested interests.
The Sangh Parivar, therefore, must realise that by adhering to the Golwalkarian thought it is sowing the seeds of disharmony between Hindus and non-Hindus. It must understand that it would be unwise to continuously talk in terms of a Hindu Rashtra or a fantasised confrontation between Islam and Hinduism at a time when all our energies are required to be focussed on equitable distribution of the fruits of our nation's economic growth. In other words, it is time Hindutva ideologues gave up their anti-Muslim agenda and went beyond the idea of conflict resolution into the realm of conflict transformation, by which both communities join hands to work towards the larger goal of making India an epitome of peace, stability and progress.
(The author is secretary-general of the Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among Muslims. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)