My feelings for the multi-headed and ever-reverse-evolving beast called the Indian National Interest alias Takshashila alias…whatever its next avatar…have similarly evolved over the past 5-6 years. In the reverse. Currently, I feel infinite pity. It could change depending on what shape they’ll take tomorrow. From proclaiming that they stand “strongly” for the Indian National Interest, they’ve plumbed the depths of whitewashing cruel historical records and falsifying historical truths, a project that invariably needs the aid of falsehood and ignorance or both.
The latest exhibit purportedly makes a “case for Indian Islam.”
This “case” is an elaborate exercise in extraordinary deception. The author of the piece, a certain Neil Padukone who also writes for Huffington Post gets it not only wrong on almost every count but indulges in generous sleights of hand and twisting of historical facts.
According to Neil, the reason for conflict in the Islamic world and the export of Islamic terror to other nations has to do with powerful Shia and Sunni nations (Iran and Saudi Arabia) “putting forth messianic narratives of Islamic revivalism.” Typical of such pieces, Neil puts on the demagogue’s hat and proclaims that these two nations misinterpret the “essence of Sunni and Shia Islam.” This would be fine had Neil spared a few words to enlighten the unwashed masses about the actual essence of Sunni and Shia Islam. But he doesn’t and so we aren’t obliged to take his word for it. Did it ever occur to Neil that both Saudi and Iran do practice the correct interpretation of these two Islamic sects?
Indeed, as medieval Indian history shows us, it doesn’t matter which sect ruled: non-Muslims aka Hindus were always persecuted and horribly so. And every bloodthirsty, idol-breaking and infidel-hating Sultan who ruled here believed that this persecution was his sacred religious duty, one that earned him a glorious place in heaven. But how does Neil view this historical fact?
There was, of course, disorder when Islam came to the Indian Subcontinent from Persia in the 1200s. Geopolitical conflict between warring Hindu and Muslim kingdoms spilled into local religious strife, which continued into the twentieth century in the form of political division, communal rioting, and violent militancy.
Just one word to sum up nearly 1000 years of genocide on a colossal scale and uninterrupted oppression of Hindus: disorder. As we notice, he doesn’t even get his history right. Islamic armies tried to breach India’s borders on the coast, first at Thana in Maharashtra and at Broach (Bharuch) in Gujarat during the reign of Caliph Umar (634-44 AD). It was only during the time of Mohammed Bin Qasim that Sindh including Multan fell in 712 AD. The 1200 AD that Neil says is when Islamic kings were able to take decisive control of Delhi. This isn’t the same as saying that Islam came to the subcontinent in the 1200s.
The other assertion is even more devious. The “warring Hindu and Muslim kingdoms” phenomenon occurred because Hindus were fighting to recover and/or defend the kingdoms they had lost to alien invaders. Indeed almost every single war that a Hindu king fought against a Muslim king after Delhi was wrested was in the nature of defence. Perhaps inadvertently, Neil correctly nails the problem of the Hindu-Muslim riots that have broken out in our own time: Hindus have preserved the civilizational memory of what their ancestors had undergone. And as we notice, there’s no dearth of both Muslim leaders and their secular eggers-on who continue to provoke and encourage unprovoked acts of aggression against Hindus.
But characterizing this horrid historical record as a mere disorder serves an evil purpose. It’s the much-needed foundation to spout the same nonsense that we’re so familiar with:
. though there was divergence between Hindus and Muslims and even Sunnis and Shi’as in the subcontinent, they have historically negotiated an inclusive syncretism that enables anekta mein ekta- unity in diversity. Through interaction with local traditions in India, Islam gave rise to a syncretic, uniquely subcontinental culture of philosophical exchange.
Calling the irreconcilable difference between a predatory cult and a highly evolved religion as a mere “divergence” is like saying that a lion and a cow can live in harmony because the only difference between them is diet. Let it be said that there was no “inclusive syncretism (sic)” at any point in India’s encounters with Islam. What syncretism can you hope to expect from a people who were victims of barbaric genocide, whose women were raped en masse, who were sold as slaves in large numbers, whose temples were destroyed, and whose entire way of living was erased for good in several cases?
Neil’s moronic syncretic assertion is also a glowing testimony to his reasoning faculties. Throughout Islam’s 800-year long dominance of India, Hindus were Zimmis (Dhimmis) with no rights, i.e. they were slightly better than outright slaves. What kind of syncretism can these people “negotiate” with their rulers? And why would these all-powerful Sultans even listen to such “negotiations” when they had absolute power to kill or forcibly convert such negotiating zimmis?
The syncretic bile that Neil spouts was given by Nehru. And like the man himself, it wasn’t original. It was an ugly improvisation over Gandhi who force-fitted a non-existent Hindu-Muslim unity by proposing his ill-informed theory of sarva dharma samabhava. Indeed, the “interaction with local traditions” that Neil mentions owes to an entirely different reason. It’s mainly because most Muslims in India happen to be the descendants of Hindus who were forcibly or fearfully converted to Islam. And every culture—unless it’s completely annihilated—retains some of its civilizational/cultural memory. Second—it’s related to the first—it was Hinduism’s innate tempering quality that made Islam in India unique in the world. And every Muslim king whose fanaticism managed to overcome this tempering has unfailingly shown what a faithful follower he was: Aurangzeb is the best example of this. But then Neil Padukone’s shamelessness in whitewashing the disorder is boundless. As wrong as his syncretic pipedream is, and even when he grudgingly admits that historically, Islam in India has been unique, he attributes this uniqueness to some unknown “local traditions” instead of speaking the truth—that it was Hindu traditions that softened Islam’s murderous core a wee bit.
From here, it’s free for all for Neil offers us his version of the Marxist falsehood that Hinduism underwent a “profound evolution (sic)” after it mingled with Islam.
Before Islam, Hinduism professed that common people need an intermediary to God, and that the only person who could enter a temple to facilitate that relationship was the priest or Brahmin. Islam, however, introduced the idea that the rapport between man and god was personal; that all are equal in worship.
This is a stellar piece of profound ignorance, the sort that calls the night day and vice versa. If anything, a foundational tenet of Hinduism is that you are free to worship or not worship, that you are free to have any God of your own making, and that how or what you worship isn’t important as much as and as long as you understand the final goal of all worship, and that the final goal happens to be Self-realization, and not an idle or motivated supplication to some God. What can be more personal than this?
But Neil’s assertion is also the final proof that he’s an ignoramus extraordinaire as far as Hinduism and Islam are concerned: it’s amazing how he expounds with such confidence that Hindus worshipped Gods only by entering temples and that a Brahmin/Priest was an intermediary! I challenge Neil Padukone to mention exactly one sect, one sadhu, one sanyasin, and/or one Hindu philosophical school of thought that says that a Brahmin or a Priest is required for self-realization. Just one.
On the other side, if anything, Islam mandates that you cannot meet God even after your death, even after you die doing all the pious things that it lays down. Your hope at best is to invoke him through an intermediary, the Prophet Mohammed. This Prophet’s words are supposedly made for all Time and true till Eternity. They are supposed to be taken at face value, and questioning them automatically invites death. Even more amazingly, this same Prophet has declared that he’s the only Prophet. He has defined Islam’s God and warned everybody including the Faithful that this is an extremely jealous God. Sure, the rapport is personal. But Mr. Neil, why don’t you try and dare a Muslim with this: “Say the following aloud in a Mosque at prayer time the next time a Mullah reproaches that the way you do Namaaz: Mr. Mullah, my rapport with Allah is personal, why don’t you let me do Namaaz the way I think is right?”
But even if we do accept Neil’s half-baked point that all are equal in worship, what exactly is the object of worship in Islam, and what is the ultimate goal of such worship?
But Neil calls this aberrant “analysis” as an
…intellectual challenge from Islam reformed Hinduism and produced the Bhakti movement, which argued that Hindus of all castes could worship in their own mandirs, conduct their own pujas, and practice religion, the way they wished; it brought about the more equitable realities of modern Hindu worship.
How do people like Neil get away with this kind of arrant nonsense? The bogey of “Islam reformed Hinduism” is a straight lift, a variation of the Koranic concept of Jahiliyah, which states that until Islam came, there was only darkness in the world. This is applied by every benevolent Mullah even today where non-Muslims question the validity of Islam as a religion of peace: “my friend, your mind is clouded by darkness and ignorance. That’s why you talk unfairly about Islam. Once you accept Islam, the light of divine guidance will show you the truth.”
But then it clarifies my doubts about Neil’s knowledge of Indian history and Hinduism: he knows zilch. The origins of the Bhakti movement have a lot to do with what happened when Muslim kings held absolute sway: they not only destroyed temples but prohibited Hindus from worshipping in public. The temples that survived weren’t allowed to be repaired. Worship in them was forbidden. Hindus couldn’t celebrate their festivals in public and couldn’t wear auspicious marks like the Tilak on their forehead. And even within the privacy of their own homes, they couldn’t blow conches, couldn’t ring bells, and couldn’t chant mantras loudly. It is under these circumstances that wandering sadhus, saints, et al devised the Bhakti movement as a means of preserving their ancient religion. The Bhakti movement was primarily an effective response to the challenge thrown by intolerant Muslim rulers and only secondarily, related to caste. Which caste did one of the paragons of the Bhakti movement, the Muslim Kabir belong to, Mr. Neil Padukone? And what does that tell you about Kabir’s guru, Swami Ramananda, Mr. Neil?
But then Neil’s march of ignorance is unstoppable for any talk of syncretism must mention Sufism. And true to the obscurantist tradition of concealing the horrific record of Sufis in India, he too whitewashes this record by painting it as a mystical tradition of worshipping the graves of saints, etc. But here’s the other side:
Sufis believe in Shariat, besides Tariqat and Marifat. Adherence to Shariat makes them as good or as bad Muslims as the others. There are no secular Sufis. An Alim and Sufi like Amir Khusrau denounced Hindus in these words: “The whole country, by means of the sword of holy warriors, has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire. Had not the Law granted exemption from death by the payment of poll-tax the very name of Hind[us], root and branch, would have been extinguished”, or “the Turks, whenever they please, can seize, buy, or sell any Hindus.”… Khusrau and [the historian] Barani were disciples of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya…a great Sufi of the Chishti order. Chishtias are the most accommodative of the Sufi orders. Suhrawardis and Naqshbandis are Sufis of a different kind. Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Walliullah were Sufis of this second sort. The latter considered Mahmud of Ghazni the greatest Muslim after the pious Caliphs. He invited Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade India to destroy the power of the Hindus. And he is considered by Muslims as a leading light of Islamic philosophy. Many Sufis participated in Jihad against non-Muslims. Maxwell Eaton’s book has been banned by the Indian “secular” government because it gives a glimpse into the activities of the “sufi warriors”. “Even Shaikh Muinuddin Chishti’s picture of tolerance is replaced by a portrait of him as a warrior of Islam.”
Indeed, in the early days of Islamic conquest of India, Sufis acted as the advance party who set up camp here and acted as informants to the potential conquerors abroad. A quick glance at their historical activities in and around Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Bareilly, and later in as far off places as Gulbarga is enough to reveal the true character and impact of Sufism.
All this is a mere disorder, Mr. Neil?
Neil also makes a big deal of the Nawabi culture (he doesn’t explain how this is related to Sufism but let that be) and touts as its achievements the fact that both “Hindus and Muslims greeted one another in the Persian greeting “Khuda Hafiz,” wrote in the same scripts, and spoke the same Hindustani language.” These are things to be proud of? Why? And why is “Khuda Hafiz” such a big deal and “Namaste” isn’t? And if these Nawabs were such amazing syncretic synthesizers, why didn’t they order their citizens to adopt the Sanskrit “Namaste?” Now that would be true syncretism. But they didn’t. And hence the said syncretism you fraudulently claim didn’t exist, on this count either. In truth, an accurate estimation of the Nawabi culture is pretty much the same as the Sultanate culture—a life that involved compulsive and never ending debauchery.
After waxing so eloquently, deceptively on a non-existent syncretism, Neil borrows yet another tired trick from the Marxist bag: that the British are responsible for Hindu-Muslim tensions today. Here’s how he spins it:
…the syncretic, Pan-Subcontinental Islamic narrative that did exist was weakened when the region was divided into religious sectors in 1947. Fundamentalist Muslims in Pakistan and extremist Hindus in India tried to define their new national identities in opposition to what had been.
Forget the rest. Can Neil show one instance of said narrative that he claims existed until 1947? Just one. We aren’t talking about the Gandhi-concocted narrative. If this were true, why did Muslims side with the British against the Hindus to sabotage the freedom struggle? If this were true, why did incidents like the Moplah massacre of Hindus occur? Just one instance, Neil.
Once he establishes this, it’s easy to inject in the world-famous “Muslims are victims” poison. Of course, once Muslims become victims, Right wing Hindus become the ones victimizing them.
…along with demands from right-wing Hindus that Muslims in India behave as ‘Hindu’ Muslims-weakened the self-confidence of the remaining Indian Muslims, who came to fear exerting their own Islamic identities. Muslims seeking employment went so far as to adopt Hindu names in order to gain acceptance by the mainstream.
And what about the self-confident behaviour of Muslims who force Hindus out of entire localities once they become numerically strong, Mr. Neil? And exactly what kind of a victim is someone like that fanatical Islamist thug Owaisi, whom your own Takshashila once courted over a fine Hyderabadi dinner? Do your syncretic glasses permit you to take a look at the kind and the number of attacks he has organized against Hindus? Apparently not because, according to you, “the state of Indian Islam has been held back by Hindu chauvinism.” That kind of explains the temple desecrations and the relentless ongoing attacks against Hindus in Uttar Pradesh. It also provides a fine way to justify the highly communal Sachar Report by approvingly calling it a “structural injustice” against Muslims.
And now it’s time for some secularist prescriptions from Neil. Nothing you haven’t heard before. Nor will you stop hearing in future. This market is still flourishing and is in no danger of weakening anytime soon. Sample these:
Names like Khan, Azim, Mirza, Kalam, and Hussein excel in Indian art, business, sports, science, and politics. And institutions like Chishti, Barelvi, Jamia Millia Islamia, and Aga Khan have contributed to the uplifting of millions in the country and beyond. Yet in one of the most consequential geopolitical and ideological tussles over the soul of Islam that is taking place in Arab streets, subcontinental Muslims, who have a centuries-old legacy of religious pluralism and decades of experience with electoral democracy, have almost no voice [.] Indian Muslims must comfortably reclaim their subcontinental Islamic identity without relinquishing their national character…A big step forward is that the psychological baggage of partition is slowly being overcome, with the ageing of the partition generation as well as a burgeoning détente and era of conciliation with Pakistan… that hybrid identities prevail and Islam easily coexists with other economic, social, and political values. In other words, it demonstrates that syncretic Indian Islam is alive and well.
But Neil perhaps doesn’t realize the irony of his closing statement where he advocates that
As the Islamic world contends with challenges of development, democratisation, pluralism, and political upheaval, Muslims around the world ought to remember the legacy of subcontinental Islam.
Why does the world have a problem with Islam? And why does Islam become a problem wherever it begins to gain numerical strength (i.e. in non-Muslim nations)? And why does only the Islamic world contend with said challenges? And by writing as such, does Neil admit that Islam does have a problem with the concepts of democracy and pluralism? And why were economic and governance-related problems the only problems that non-Muslim countries faced until the Islamic problem cropped up?
And what exactly is the legacy of subcontinental Islam that Muslims must remember? The legacy of alien invasion, plunder and rape? The legacy of centuries-long genocide and all-round oppression of non-Muslims? The legacy of destroying temples? The legacy of slave-taking and slave-trading? The legacy of castrating men by the thousands? The legacy of sabotaging the freedom struggle? The legacy of demanding a separate Muslim homeland by splitting a united country? The continuing legacy of demanding a separate law for Muslims? Unless Neil is unaware, countries like Israel have embarked on a deep study of precisely this legacy so that it may throw some light on how they need to deal with the Islamic problem.
Neil Padukone has, like every other apologist of Islam, been thoroughly dishonest when he tries to make the case for Islam in India. Because only by being dishonest can you make this case. There is simply no other way. And Neil does a real shoddy job of being dishonest. I’m almost tempted to use Napoleon’s “never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” to Neil hadn’t his deceit been this obvious. But he’s dishonest and incompetent. The historical record is both heavily and voluminously loaded against Islam in India. And it’s just not India. Islam has left a trail of comprehensive destruction wherever it has gone and has replaced it with nothing of equal or even near-equal value. The record of most of these once-flourishing civilizations destroyed by Islamic armies hasn’t survived. India—Hinduism has lived to tell the tale. A tale that the likes of Neil falsify for God knows what reasons.
Neil Padukone, do you have no shame at all?