by Kurshid Alam (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 5, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1443)
For Muslims, the honour of the Prophet (pbuh) is more cherished than their own lives. This is what was witnessed last month in the reaction of Muslims after two leading figures of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India uttered insulting remarks against the Prophet (pbuh) and his wife Aisha (ra). This led to widespread protests not only in India but also in other parts of the world.
While India has a long history of anti-Muslim bigotry resulting in violence against hapless Muslims, the two individuals at the centre of the latest outrage, Nurup Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, are not fringe figures in the BJP. Ms. Sharma was the party spokesperson while Jindal managed its media affairs in Delhi. Given their positions, it would be reasonable to expect that they would be more careful in their utterances to not offend the sentiments of India’s 200 million Muslims and two billion Muslim worldwide.
Why this is not the case? BJP leader and current prime minister Narendra Modi is a Hindu fanatic. He emerged from the bowels of the Hindu fascist outfit, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He rose to power by spreading anti-Muslim hatred. While anti-Muslim sentiment has always existed in India, Modi has taken it to dangerous levels. He has stoked the Hindus’ worst instincts resulting in murderous attacks on Muslims.
The blasphemous remarks by Sharma and Jindal on television also outraged some Muslim governments. Indian ambassadors in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman and others were summoned to express the host countries’ displeasure. Supermarkets in Kuwait removed Indian products from shelves. Following these developments, the two officials were suspended because India’s economic interests were seen as being threatened, especially in the Middle East.
Protests by Muslims in India were brutally suppressed. In Ranchi, Jharkhand state, two Muslim teenagers were shot dead by police on June 10. One teenager, 19-year-old Sahil Ansari, was shot in the back rupturing his kidney. He was not even part of the protests and was walking home from work when the police shot him. People should not be shot and killed for merely expressing their sentiments against blasphemous insults to their revered personalities.
In Allahabad (now renamed Prayagraj as part of the Hinduization of India) in Uttar Pradesh state, more than 300 people were arrested on June 12 for protesting against the blasphemous remarks. Videos showing police brutality were widely shared on social media platforms, according to an Al Jazeera report.
One family was particularly targeted. The house of student leader Afreen Fatima was raided and her father, Mohammad Javed, was arrested. He was accused of “masterminding the protests”. Her mother and sister were also arrested. The police later came to arrest Afreen but she was able to resist. “The police then cordoned off our house,” she told Al Jazeera. Later, the police demolished her house in the style of the zionists in Occupied Palestine. Several other houses belonging to Muslims were also demolished.
Welcome to Indian ‘democracy’.
Neither the blasphemous statements nor Islamophobia in India are isolated incidents. As Somdeep Sen points out in his Analysis piece in Al Jazeera, “Islamophobia has always been a central feature of the ideology of Hindu nationalist factions in India. Established in 1925, the Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has led the charge of making India a Hindu land. The founder and first chief of the RSS Keshav Baliram Hedgewar proclaimed that ‘Hindu culture’ is the ‘life-breath’ of the country. Therefore, he added, that if India ‘is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture’. Here, the opposition to this vision especially among India’s Muslims was considered by RSS leaders to reflect ‘Muslim arrogance and insolence’.
Blasphemous statements insulting the Prophet (pbuh) and his wife Aisha (ra) by Sharma and Jindal merely reflect the long-nurtured and now growing anti-Muslim sentiment in India. This is stoked as part of official policy of the BJP regime headed by Modi. Even before he became prime minister in 2014, Modi had gained notoriety for anti-Muslim bigotry.
In February 2002, as chief minister of Gujarat state, Modi prevented the police from rescuing Muslims that resulted in more than 2,000 being hacked to death. Others were burned alive. Women were raped and children bayonetted to death. Muslims’ pleas for help and protection went unheeded.
In one particularly gruesome episode, a Muslim member of India’s parliament belonging to the Congress Party, Ehsan Jafri was hacked to death by a Hindu mob. It is reported that when he phoned Modi for help, the latter told him, “Are you still alive?”
This is not surprising.
The fascist outfit of Hindu zealots, RSS, from which Modi emerged, has for decades terrorized Muslims in India. It has more than six million members that receive military-style training. The Hindutva ideology peddled by Modi and his ilk want an exclusivist Hindu state in which there is no room for religious minorities, especially Muslims.
The Hindu fascists have repeatedly perpetrated massacres against Muslims using false pretexts. Cow vigilantes attack and kill Muslims because the latter eat beef. Hindus worship the cow and call it ‘mother’. They worship all kinds of other gods including monkeys and of course, the elephant god-head. Hindus have three million gods, all man-made with many myths woven around them. They are welcome to worship whatever they want but why should Muslims be targeted because of their primitive belief system based on superstition?
Cow vigilantes accuse Muslims of slaughtering cows for meat consumption and sale. True, Muslims eat beef but Indian beef exports amount to $4 billion annually. Most slaughter houses in India are owned by Hindus, not Muslims, yet only the latter are targeted.
There are also disputes over mosques which the Hindus allege are built on lands where formerly Hindu temples existed. There is no historical or archaeological evidence for such claims but Hindu fascists are not constrained by legality or truth. They accuse Muslims of being ‘aliens’ in India even though Muslims ruled the country for more than 1,000 years. Muslims built such monuments as the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world, as well as the Red Fort in Delhi. One of the leading space and missile scientists of India was Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam (d. 2015).
Far from acknowledging the Muslims’ contribution to Indian history, society and development, the Hindu fascists have made it their life’s mission to target and kill them. Hindu priests organize ‘Religious Parliaments’ in which they issue blood-curdling calls to followers to arm themselves and exterminate the Muslims. Leading figures of the BJP attend such events.
One such ‘religious parliament’ was held last December by Hindu fascists and publicly called for the genocide of Muslims. Members of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) were in attendance. No action was taken against these Hindus openly calling for the murder of Muslims. It is, therefore, not surprisingly that Muslims are attacked and murdered and even the police do not prevent such slaughter. They often join the attackers.
Even Bollywood celebrities like Akshay Kumar have joined the anti-Muslim frenzy. He peddles the canard perpetuated by Hindu groups that Indian education system is more focussed on Mughal emperors and do not cover Hindu kings adequately. Other Hindu actors are also part of this campaign including Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini.
Akshay Kumar’s allegation overlooks two crucial points. What is taught about Mughal emperors is grossly distorted. When the US academic, Professor Audrey Truschke of Rutgers University in New Jersey, wrote a book on the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb dispelling many of the Hindu distortions about him, she received death threats from Hindu fascists. Her daughter was threatened with rape. They even tried but failed to get her expelled from her teaching post. Professor Truschke is forced to move under armed guard even in her own university!
While Akshay Kumar wants the history of Hindu rulers to be taught in schools, he ignores the fact that they were mainly localized rulers. Again, there is much myth-making woven into their history, something that comes naturally to the superstitious Hindus.
It is also important to bear in mind that India has never had fixed borders. Its present borders are the legacy of British colonialism. It was only during Mughal rule that India expanded its borders far and wide. While the Hindu fascists accept these expanded borders and even harp on them for their ‘greater India’ project, they reject Mughal history!
The Hindutva ideology is based on Nazism and its leading lights have praised Hitler’s policy against the Jews. Interestingly, the zionist regime in Occupied Palestine has close relations with the Hindu fascists in India. It says a lot about the two racist ideologies.
Mosques are also targeted in India. The most famous case was that of the sixteenth century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. It was destroyed in December 1992 under the spurious pretext that the Hindu god, Ram, was born in its spot and that there used to be a temple there. There are two other locations in India that claim that Ram was born there. Surely, even a Hindu god cannot be born in several places simultaneously.
There are more than 200 million Muslims in India. The Hindu fascists have given the Muslims a stark choice: convert to Hinduism or face death.
The question facing Muslims worldwide is: what is to be done with India? Mere protests will not force the Hindu fascists to abandon their racist, anti-human policies. Muslim governments especially in the Middle East can take practical steps to stop the genocide of Muslims and the blasphemous insults hurled at the revered personalities of Islam.
There are at least 12 million Indian workers in the Middle East. They remit tens of billions of dollars annually to India. Governments in the Middle East should serve notice that unless India ends its genocidal policy against Muslims, these workers would be sent home.
Further, regimes like those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE each plan to invest $100 billion in India’s economy. They should abandon such plans. Kuwaiti supermarkets should not only continue the boycott of India products, other countries should join such a campaign.
This will send a clear message to India that the genocide of Muslims or insults to the noble Prophet (pbuh) will not be tolerated, ever.