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Respect For Other Religions

Respect For Other Religions

Anees Jillani
April 6, 2000
Title: Respect For Other Religions
Author: Anees Jillani
Publication: Jung
Date: April 6, 2000

There lives even now a Hindu owner of a middle-sized Hotel in New Delhi who has a Muslim wife. She was married at the time of partition, was abducted, raped but later rescued by the armed forces. Her Muslim husband who had by then migrated to Pakistan was contacted by organisations handling repatriation of such women but he refused to take her back. She was lucky that she came across her present husband while living at one of the rehabilitation centers in early 1948. The young Hindu businessman married her and rescued her from the centre. He insisted that she could retain her religion. Wife of a prominent Pakistani was similarly abducted during partition. Many years later, she came into contact with a Pakistani who had gone to a tailor's shop in Delhi. Working almost as a slave and without any access to the outside world, she stitched her husband's name on a piece of cloth and secretly gave to the Pakistani. The latter managed to contact the husband in Pakistan but the husband, who had by then remarried, refused to have anything to do with her wife.

Karan Thapar, a conspicuous Indian Journalist, who recently interviewed General Musharraf on Door Darshan and who was given the general's tie for praising it, narrated another interesting experience in one of his columns. He was watching an open-air theater about the Kargil war (Indians have nothing better to do than harp on this theme for the past one year now) when he started hearing two Indian jawans disapproving of a scene. Two Pakistani jawans had been captured by the Indians and after a thorough interrogation, they were shown as criticising Pakistan, its leadership, and its military. The Indian jawans sitting in the audience, who themselves had participated in the Kargil war, told Thapar that such a thing can never happen. Jawans even of an enemy can never criticise their own country, military and its leadership. The Indian media, and even some of the senior Indian army personnel, can routinely be seen praising the valiant performance of some of our soldiers during the Kargil war.

The moral of the story from the above three anecdotes is that not all Hindu Indians are rascals and villains; and not all Pakistani Muslims are angels going straight to heaven via Lahore. Both India and Pakistan are big nations in terms of their populations; and thus comprise all sorts of people. If India has produced Bal Thakeray, then it also has Nirmala Deshpande who led a 36-member women peace mission to Pakistan from March 25 to 31. We all know of similar contrasts in our country. What, however, distinguishes Pakistan from India in this respect is the presence of a Muslim community almost the size of Pakistan living within India. It simply cannot be ignored in a democratic-cum-secular setup. I first visited India in 1985 and found quite a few Muslims still cheering the Pakistani cricket team in a match against India. Not anymore. When asked now about their plight in a Hindu-dominated India, they say that they are fine; worry about your own self. Most of them are more perturbed about the state of mohajirs in Karachi than Hindu-Muslim riots in India.

This is, of course, not to say that India is a perfect example of secular model in the comity of nations. Far from it. It is a country where forces preaching Hindutva are in power and where the Babri mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992. However, what goes to the Indian system's credit is the fact that the same Hindutva forces had to tone down their rhetoric and even their agenda to remain in power and win elections; construction of Ram mandir is no longer on NDA's (National Democratic Alliance's, of which BJP is a constituent) agenda and manifesto. The Indian premier himself called the day of destruction of the mosque the saddest day of his life and there are criminal cases pending against none other than the home minister himself for being involved in the destruction.

Since we have a selective memory, few would recall that some Pakistanis demolished many temples as a reaction to the mosque demolition. Have you heard of any Pakistani ever arrested for destroying those temples or attacking the Hindus? There is a BJP government in power in the state of Gujarat that permitted its civil servants to join Kuppahali S Sudarshan-led RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh); the state government justified its action on the ground that RSS is not a political but a cultural outfit. This permission led to such an uproar in the Lok Sabha and such condemnation by the print media that the BJP eventually bowed to public pressure and withdrew the authorisation on March 8, 2000. The above anomalies may not be written or talked about in Pakistan but the world community is not deaf, nor is it dumb. They see India as a Third World country attempting to maintain democracy and secularism; they all wish it well because this is the system that most of them also subscribe to. On the other hand, ours is a country which is gradually shifting into the hands of mullahs who talk of Islamic bombs and missiles and who wish to rule the whole world. What an irony because, at present, they cannot even rule themselves. They see India as a country where even the minority communities surpass the population of their own nations and then there is Pakistan where even a single conversion of a Hindu or a Christian is reported in all the major dailies, including the English ones.

We can no longer have it both ways. We cannot aspire to be a fortress of Islam and wish Clinton and Tony Blair to be our best friends. If we want to be Green Fortress, then we will have to content ourselves with Afghanistan's Mulla Omar and survive like Afghanistan. No one in the world is asking us to change our religions. Islam, in fact, is the second largest belief in many of the countries. All that the world asks us to do is to respect other faiths as well. It is not good enough to say that minorities enjoy full protection of the state. The minorities in Pakistan cannot vote with us; they cannot be elected with us; they cannot become ministers; they are almost non-existent in our armed forces and civil service and the judiciary.

Most important of all, we wish all of them ideally to convert to Islam for their spiritual salvation. I am not so worried about theirs as our own religion because our scale of corruption increases manifold just before Eid during the holiest of holy days in Islam.

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