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Sectarian secularism vitiates atmosphere

Sectarian secularism vitiates atmosphere

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 20, 2001

Even by the deplorable standards of public discourse in India, the cloying communalism of leftist Muslim academics and the utter falsehoods being propagated by their secular comrades are breathtaking. In the two months since the apocalyptic attack on the symbols of American military and economic power, the worldwide Islamic intellectual industry and its dhimmi clientele has been overactive trying to ensure that the confrontation with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden is not expanded into a drive against all terrorist organizations and nations harbouring them.

The nationalist consensus in India, reiterated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is that the war against terrorism must be broadened beyond "certain symbols or symptoms," and include sanctions on countries sheltering terrorist groups. An Indian success in this regard (still possible given the growing international realization that Islamic terrorism may escalate as Taliban crumbles), could find Pakistan in the dock. For India, there is an urgency in this regard as over thirty thousand people have died in Kashmir alone as a result of the activities of Pak-sponsored insurgents in the past twelve years, and the rest of the country is a virtual tinderbox on account of the ISI's deep penetration upto Kerala.

As any student of statecraft would know, the nationalist view is not a 'Hindu' vanity; it could legitimately be formulated by any state in India's place. Yet Muslim intellectuals have never been concerned with India's anxieties in this regard. Nor have they attempted in the past fifty years, and especially in the last decade as Hindus tried to shake off the successive oppressions of three millennarian traditions (Islam, Christian colonialism and Communism/Nehruvian socialism), to define their identity and aspirations in terms of this country and its people.

Even in the early years after Partition when the Muslim community was largely quietist, it secured a large measure of separatism as the price of electoral support to the Congress. Muslim intellectuals never introspected if this was healthy for the community; their role was of secular advocates for the community's orthodox and sectarian preferences. The growing Hindu discomfort with the Muslim insistence on living in secular India as a state-within-a-state only cemented the Muslim-Left alliance which, given its near-totalitarian domination of the media and academia, virtually drove the voice of the majority into the wilderness. As Dr. Koenraad Elst and other western observers have noted, Hindus are the only people denied the right of narration and representation in the country's intellectual fora as Indian secularism has an extremely sectarian connotation.

Given this ground reality, it is unacceptable when Muslim academics and their anti-Hindu comrades use the media to lash out at invisible critics on the specious plea that they are being 'forced' to condemn Pakistan and Taliban to prove their loyalty to the country, post-September 11. One writer claims India's twelve million Muslims are not a monolith as they speak different languages, follow diverse customs, vote for assorted parties, and because "powerful pluralist visions shape Muslim communities."

He does not explain these pluralist visions, but paradoxically urges us to accept the "emergence of a trans-national community" as a new phenomenon in the Muslim world. He does not say how this is different from the familiar ummah, but claims that it draws upon "the range of contemporary experiences not from one but different locations. Why, they ask, are their co-religionists victimised in Bosnia, Somalia, Chechnya, Palestine, and Iraq? These sites confirm them in the belief that something is fundamentally wrong with the world they live in. It is this contemporary reality, rather than any Islamic doctrine, which contributes to the collective reaction." Concluding airily that "political heroes are scarcely remembered.the martyrs, fighting on behalf of the oppressed souls, form part of a nation's memory," he demands to know if he passes the loyalty test allegedly put to him with tiresome regularity.

After brazenly affirming that the community has a 'national memory' unrelated to its Indian environment, Muslim spokespersons should realize that they are upholding an undifferentiated ummah with in-built hostility towards other faiths, cultures and civilizations. It may be noted that so-called liberal Muslims have never made common cause with progressive Hindus on any issue of national, or even sectarian, importance. There is no logical reason why modern educated Muslims should insist on a separate personal law that is demeaning to women, rather than a common civil code, under which Hindus have made great advances. Their commitment to Article 370 is inexplicable even in terms of the interests of Kashmiri Muslims. Similarly, their lack of interest in modern education for the rank and file of the community, which has been abandoned at the gates of madrasas, is a sad commentary on their notion of communal empowerment.

Muslim intellectuals have only reinforced separatism to the detriment of national unity. This is why fear of a 'second partition' always lurks below the surface of the Hindu psyche, and why aggressive illegal immigrations into Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and other states cause anxiety among Hindus.

Muslim intellectuals must explain why they do not share this concern. If there is a separate, pluralistic Islamic community in every country, why is it unable to bond with fellow countrymen on critical national issues? Since most Muslim intellectuals are also proclaimed-Marxists, why are they advocates of communal orthodoxy, when logically they should be free of the sectarian pull of faith (religion being the opium of the masses)? Hindu Marxists, after all, are avid Hindu-baiters.

Then, there are the activities of Pak-funded fundamentalists, in which hundreds have died. Some Muslim intellectuals have gained personal mileage attacking the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid. But there has been studied silence when non-Indian Muslims and other fanatics have targeted India. In August 2000, Osama bin Laden said, "waging jihad against India is an Islamic duty of the Muslim world. Kashmir issue cannot be resolved by any means other than jihad." In September 2000, Harkat ul Mujahideen general secretary Fazlur Rehman Khalil averred, "we are fighting not only for Kashmir but to hoist our flag in New Delhi. Our war will continue till restoration of Muslim rule in India" (Pioneer, 19 November 2001).

Yet Muslim intellectuals have been quick to make nasty digs at the proposed Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), which can effectively deal with such criminals. They have given communal colour to even organized crime, but do not want to invoke Islamic criminal law (Sharia) against it. This is not true of other communities. In recent times, Jains have figured among high-profile offenders detained by the law (Bharat Shah, Harshad Mehta), but the community has not felt obligated to defend them on a sectarian basis.

Above all, Muslim intellectuals must explain their shameful silence in the face of continuing atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh, when even Begum Khaleda Zia has admitted that they are still taking place. Muslim leaders should recognize that Indian society has lost patience with Islamic fundamentalism, and that the tide is turning internationally as well. Within the United States, despite politically correct noises by the White House, conservative strategists are reportedly insisting that Islam is hell-bent on destroying the west and the civilization of the non-believer (infidel). Morgan Norvel, a US Marine and author of a major work on Islamic terror, bluntly states, "it is a religious war - it is a war of Islam against us." It is for Muslims to prove that this is not so.

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