Indian Icons Whose Perspective Of Muslims And Islam Will Shock You

By Saif Khan:

If you happen to be a staunch secular Indian then it is but obvious that you happen to be wary of the growing tide of Islamophobia in the country. India, as a civilization, has always been synonymous to openness and multiculturalism. But another aspect of the Indian civilization has been grossly under-represented is the fierce bigotry, which Islam and Muslims have had to face in this land since the 19th century. Equating Islam with violence and barbarism is something which is not nascent.


The late great Edward Said had stated in an interview to the Time Magazine in 1979 that some 60,000 books had been written so far disparaging Islam and Muslims. To many, Islam appears to be a religion of hate and what is baffling is that this is one prejudiced mindset which is not only shared by millions of educated Indians but also some iconic figures in our history who have now assumed a larger than life figure and have been placed above criticism. This has led to a natural inclination among non Muslims to think that Islam essentially preaches hatred, Muslims are taught to kill non Muslims in the Quran, they happen to be extremely aggressive and Muhammad was a fanatic who spread his religion at the tip of the sword.

vivekanandaThe great saffron saint, Vivekananda, stated in the World Parliament of Religions that he hails from a civilization which holds all religions as true but astonishingly, the same Vivekananda while answering a few questions of the Editor of Prabuddha Bharat said, “Every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more.” Vivekananda did not even hold Prophet Muhammad in high regards. He said, “He (Muhammad) was not a trained yogi and did not know the reason of what he was doing. Think of what good Muhammad did to the world and think of the great evil which has been done through his fanaticism.” Vivekananda’s perception about Islam can be judged from his comments about the Quran. Vivekananda stated that the Quran advises Muslims to kill the Non Muslims if they did not become Muslims.

tagorRabindranath Tagore is a household name in India but he too had some extremely unfortunate notions about Islam (as well as Christianity) which earn him a place in this list of Islamophobic Indians. In a letter written to Sri Kalidas Nag, Tagore stated, “There are two religions on the Earth which have distinct enmity against all other religions. These two are Christianity and Islam. They are not satisfied with just observing their own religions but are determined to destroy all other religions. That’s why the only way to make peace with them is to embrace their religion.” Tagore’s flawed analogy if repeated by a political leader today would earn him the title of being ‘communal’.

Dr BR Ambedkar, the Father of the Indian Constitution, is generally remembered for his no holds barred attacks on Brahmanism but he also made some exceptionally negative comments about Islam in his book “Pakisan or the DrAmbedkarPartition of India”. He wrote, “To the Muslims, a Hindu (and any Non-Muslim) is a Kafir. A Kafir (Non-Believer in Islam) is not worthy of respect. He is a low born and without status. That is why a country ruled by the Kafir (Non-Muslim) is a ‘Dar ul Harb’ (i.e. the Land of War) to a Muslim, which must be conquered, by any means for the Muslims and turned into ‘Dar ul Islam’ (i.e., Land of Muslims alone). Given this, not further evidence seems necessary to prove that the Muslims will not obey a Hindu (or for that matter any Non-Muslim) government.” Dr Ambedkar also wrote, “Those who are outside the corporation (of Islam) there is nothing but contempt and enmity.” Unfortunately, Dr Ambedkar could not see through the most obvious stereotype about Islam and died in a state of Islamophobia.

sardar patelSardar Patel, the Iron Man of India, was a known Muslim basher and had a habit of making communally charged and insensitive comments. When the Direct Action Day led to the now infamous Calcutta killings, Sardar Patel wrote a letter to C Rajagopalachari in which he said, “A good lesson for the League because I hear that the proportion of Muslims who have suffered death is much larger (than the Hindus).” Mr Patel frequently questioned the patriotism of Muslims and during one of the debates in the Constituent Assembly, he advised those who were demanding reservations for Muslims to go and live in Pakistan.

Jawaharlal nehruIndia’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was largely a secularist but he too cannot be absolved of Islamophobia. In his book, The Discovery of India, while discussing about Crusades, Nehru labeled Islam and Christianity as “aggressive religions”. He also stated that by the time the Turks and Mongols had taken over the mantle of Islam from the Arabs, “Islam had become a more rigid faith suited more to military conquests rather than the conquests of the mind.” Nehru held the opinion that, “The Muslims who came to India from outside brought no new technique or political or economic structure. Inspite of religious belief in the brotherhood of Islam, they were class bound and feudal in outlook.”

mahatma gandhiMahatma Gandhi, The Father of the Nation and the one who raised the slogan of “Sarva Dharma Sambhava” was also a bit ill informed about Muslims. Although he consistently praised the Prophet but his writings do not indicate much fondness for the Muslim community. In an article titled, “What May Hindus do”, Gandhi wrote, “Though the majority of Musslamans of India and the Hindus belong to the same ‘stock’, the religious environment has made them different. I believe and I have noticed too that thought transforms man’s features as well as character. The Sikhs are the most recent illustration of this fact. The Mussalaman being generally in a minority has as a class developed in a bully. Moreover, being heir to fresh traditions he exhibits the virility of a comparatively new system of life.”

Though, in my opinion, non violence has a predominant place in the Quran, the thirteen hundred years of imperialistic expansion has made the Musslamans fighters as a body. They are therefore aggressive. Bullying is the natural excrescence of an aggressive spirit. The Hindu has an ages old civilization. He is essentially non violent. His civilization has passed through the experiences that the two recent ones are still passing through. If Hinduism was ever imperialistic in the modern sense of the term, it has outlived its imperialism and has either deliberately or as a matter of course given it up. Predominance of the non violent spirit has restricted the use of arms to a small minority which must always be subordinate to a civil power highly spiritual, learned and selfless. The Hindus as a body are therefore not equipped for fighting. But not having retained their spiritual training, they have forgotten the use of an effective substitute for arms and not knowing their use nor having an aptitude for them, they have become docile to the point of timidity and cowardice. This vice is therefore a natural excrescence of gentleness.” Gandhi’s words are indicative of his views. While on one hand he lays heavy praise and kind criticism on the Hindus, on the other hand, he labels the Muslims as having “an aggressive spirit”, accuses them of having “as a class developed into a bully” and says they are “fighters as a body”.

The objective behind bringing to light the bigoted opinions of such icons is to fuel introspection. There is a general tendency among people to hold Muslims responsible for each and everything which goes wrong be it partition or terrorism. And when the Muslims begin to defend themselves, they are accused of “self-ghettoization” and portraying themselves as “victims”. It’s time that the Indian society sheds silly stereotypes about Islam. The Quran does not sanction violence against Non Muslims. Instead it states that, “There is no compulsion in religion” and “To you, your religion; to me, mine.” It is in India’s self interest that it realizes the mistakes which it has committed in construing Islam and accepts Muslims as patriotic citizens of the land without any skepticism.

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  1. Achilles Rasquinha 3 years ago

    Very well written Saif, eye-opening. Being xenophobic is although natural, but we’re a race which emphasize more on acceptance and sharing brotherhood.

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  2. jack 3 years ago

    This post isn’t surprising, since there’s clearly something is going on to label everyone who criticize Islam as Islamophobe. I don’t know whether these personalities are/were indeed possessing a hatred towards Islam, since the author is quoting only some parts of their sayings(except Mr. Patel, he clearly does sound like one!!). But I personally think that Muslims are indeed very peaceloving and good people. That is because most of them don’t know what their Holy book teaches them. Yes, it’s ironic but most of the muslims read Quran in Arabic, with no idea what those words actually mean, like the old Hindu culture where knowledge was limited to only a certain sect. And also because people are generally peaceloving, so they tend to ignore the things that makes them violent similar to the Christians who tends to ignore the violent teachings of the Bible. But still, let’s face it Muslims are Good not because Quran asks them to be but because they are human and as i said humans are peaceloving creatures.

    So, I would like to say…
    Don’t hate someone for just being a Muslim. That is so unjust and disgusting for a human being. Don’t you see how cool Amir khan is?

    And like every other old fashioned fiction Quran also have got some things wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are all wrong or the wrong things are practiced too seriously always to call it a dangerous religion.

    And to the author: don’t quote quran. Quran itself abrogates what it says when it says There’s no compulsion. I would quote a website(apparently it is a extremists website but still the material is ok)
    Muhammad preached “No compulsion in religion.”
    (Qur’an, Verse 2:256)

    The Muslim Game:

    Muslims quote verse 2:256 from the Qur’an to prove what a tolerant religion Islam is. The verse reads in part, “Let there be no compulsion in religion; truth stands out clearly from error…”

    The Truth:

    The Muslim who offers this verse may or may not understand that it is from one of the earliest Suras (or chapters) from the Medinan period. It was “revealed” at a time when the Muslims had just arrived in Medina after being chased out of Mecca. They needed to stay in the good graces of the stronger tribes around them, many of which were Jewish. It was around this time, for example, that Muhammad decided to have his followers change the direction of their prayer from Mecca to Jerusalem.

    But Muslims today pray toward Mecca. The reason for this is that Muhammad issued a later command that abrogated (or nullified) the first. In fact, abrogation is a very important principle to keep in mind when interpreting the Qur’an – and verse 2:256 in particular – because later verses (in chronological terms) are said to abrogate any earlier ones that may be in contradiction (Qur’an 2:106, 16:101).

    Muhammad’s message was far closer to peace and tolerance during his early years at Mecca, when he didn’t have an army and was trying to pattern his new religion after Christianity. This changed dramatically after he attained the power to conquer, which he eventually used with impunity to bring other tribes into the Muslim fold. Contrast verse 2:256 with Suras 9 and 5, which were the last “revealed,” and it is easy to see why Islam has been anything but a religion of peace from the time of Muhammad to the present day.
    There is some evidence that verse 2:256 may not have been intended for Muslims at all, but is instead meant to be a warning to other religions concerning their treatment of Muslims. Verse 193 of the same Sura instructs Muslims to “fight with them (non-Muslims) until there is no more persecution and religion is only for Allah.” This reinforces the narcissistic nature of Islam, which places Muslims above non-Muslims, and applies a very different value and standard of treatment to both groups.

    Though most Muslims today reject the practice of outright forcing others into changing their religion, forced conversion has been a part of Islamic history since Muhammad first picked up a sword. As he is recorded in many places as saying, “I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah…” (See Bukhari 2:24)

    Muhammad put his words into practice. When he marched into Mecca with an army, one of his very first tasks was to destroy idols at the Kaaba, which had been devoutly worshipped by the Arabs for centuries. By eliminating these objects of worship, he destroyed the religion of the people and supplanted it with his own. Later, he ordered that Jews and Christians who would not convert to Islam be expelled from Arabia. Does forcing others to choose between their homes or their faith sound like “no compulsion in religion?”

    According to Muslim historians, Muhammad eventually ordered people to attend prayers at the mosque to the point of burning alive those who didn’t comply. He also ordered that children who reached a certain age be beaten if they refused to pray.

    Interestingly, even the same contemporary Muslims who quote 2:256 usually believe in Islamic teachings that sound very much like religious compulsion. These would be the laws punishing apostasy by death (or imprisonment, for females), and the institutionalized discrimination against religious minorities under Islamic rule that is sometimes referred to as “dhimmiitude.”

    Islamic law explicitly prohibits non-Muslims from sharing their faith and even includes the extortion of money from them in the form of a tax called the jizya. Those who refuse to pay this arbitrary amount are put to death. If this isn’t compulsion, then what is?

    AND AT LAST: to clarify that I am not some kind of Muslim hating religious zealot I would say that the Truth Does’t Hurt, Lying does. Knowing the truth, and being skeptical about one’s religion rather than following it blindly can make you a better person. I myself is an Atheist and the one I love most in the world is an wonderful Muslim girl. with love for all of the humanity……….

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  3. Sahil Chatta 3 years ago

    Oh please cut the crap.The imperialist side of the religions mentioned above does’nt need any proof.Its well documented in history.So i believe the mindsets of the people who expressed such a thought that Islam & Christanity disregarded the existence of other equal religions is totally justified!Maybe not as much in the modern times, but in the past religion was the basis of most political & territorial conquest and Christanity & Islam led the race!
    -With all due respect to the secularists here…

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  4. zeya.mukhtar 3 years ago

    A very well researched and a well written article.An intelligent and informed commentary on the issues of today.very well articulated.

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  5. zeya.mukhtar 3 years ago

    A very well researched and informative article ,an intelligent and informed commentary on the issues of today.good reading.

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  6. Ritesh Anan 3 years ago

    @Saif Khan – I wish I could write , ‘ with all due respect’ but couldn’t bring myself even remotely close to it. Point by point you have come up with explanations about how the great Indian Icons had ‘Islamophobia’. Did you ever considered what they have said. Have you read the whole book written by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar??
    Just tell me this isn’t it written in Koran – That ask all non-believers to come to the faith (Islam) with love kindness, if they don’t agree then use force
    Isn’t it written in Koran to kill the non-believers( everyone except who follows Islam)
    do you want me to write exact verses??
    The whole medieval history is laden with facts of plunder atrocities and Jihad waged by Islamic rebels and the whole modern history, from afghanistan to egypt to Syria are examples of what Islam is doing.
    And no I am no right-wing ‘hindutva’ fanatic , just a true secular unlike you mr. writer whose whole write up just shows his bias.
    What happened with the 11% Hindus in Pakistan after partition- now hardly 0.02%?? In Bangladesh 23%- now 9%>>>>India is a Hindu majority country but still secular in truest sense of word>>but still Indian Muslims have a problem —Why isn’t it being ruled by draconian sharia law??
    Do you even know what phobia means???- when used in the context of clinical psychology, a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed
    What happened with Hindus in Pakistan, Bangladesh >>minorities in other Islamic state, 9/11, countless terrorism attacks aren’t they reason enough to show the “danger” possessed.
    Tell me Mr. writer how many inventions, knowledge, technology of modern world can you count that has been given by the Islamic world??
    Just count the number of innocents killed.
    The problem with Islam(Muslims) is they can never be liberal or secular themselves like you– but they want everyone else to be liberal, just they won’t be- and I am not saying this>>ever heard of Tarek Fatah??
    So go on pointing finger on slightest thing you find, instead of reforming yourselves and asking question what brought you here— arn’t people of other faiths human and have a right to live??I am pretty sure even if every voice on this world cries, it won’t deter you people till every ‘non-believer’ is killed

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  7. Shaiq Nazir 3 years ago

    and to all who want to know what islamic scholars gave the world: search for its contributions in 16th century, where nyone who wanted to know abt science had to know Arabic.

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  8. Pingback: Vivekananda, Tagore, Gandhi and Nehru were Not Islamophobic: A Reply to My Friend Saif Ahmad Khan | The Indian Economist

  9. Aditi Thakker 3 years ago

    Its amazing how you have quoted a few of these people out of context. Just to make it equal, you should have written about Indian Muslim Iconic figures, who have expressed their views on Hindus/Christians/Parsis/Jews/Sikhs/Buddhists too. Its all about being secular no?

    Personally, I don’t really care who comments what about which religion. Ultimately religion is just a way to control a population, and get them to hate others.

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  10. Rahul 3 years ago

    Maybe this is what they said.(Although the author is by no means an authority and he has cited no authoritative resources). The question is, how do you prove these notions wrong? By killing in India,Somalia,Nigeria?

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  11. I cannot help but somewhat agree to the general opinion that Muslims are likened to terrorists, thanks to Osama BL. On the other hand, I am tempted to ask.. “Is meta-cognition the same as Nirvana?” or even, “Is orgasm a brief experience of Samadhi?” In the age of Android enabled didactics, we can easily claim to know everything just because we can rattle off some jargon. “Man shall not know the coming and belief shall be not till the work is done” says Sri Aurobindo.

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  12. vk 3 years ago

    fr the frst time m on this site… and this is the last… I dnt want my blood boiling any more time… bye tc….

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  13. happy.n 3 years ago

    Heyy YKA, How about getting rid of this following social network sharing panel. Its Damn irritating.
    How about something from this side, it stays at a place and doesn’t keep following you when you are scrolling down like an irritating 3 year old:

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  14. Roads 2 years ago

    Damn you forgot many many others.. I can help with that if you want.. Just reply me on my email? That you would already know by my comment.

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  15. . 2 years ago

    See thats the thing ! Why Equate Islam with Arabs !! Yes Arabs are a great civillization But YOU ARE INDIANS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  16. Sumit 2 years ago

    Whats wrong in what they said? Look at what non-Muslims have to face in Saudi, Iran, and every other place, where non-Muslims are denied even fundamental human rights. Why do you demand that no one criticize you, but you choose to aggressively turn anti-secular and deny even equal treatment to non-Muslims in many Muslim-majority countries? Muslims cannot escape their responsibility to answer this question.

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  17. india 1 year ago

    Yes, all the great leaders were wrong!! Only religion of peace is correct.

    The quoran doesn’t sanction violence, but it is the only book that is quoted by terrorists.

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  18. india 1 year ago

    The arabic numerals that you are proud of, was called hindi numeral by the arabs.

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  19. Chetan 1 month ago

    See the bigotry in Islamic literature for Ex-Muslim:

    Apostasy in Islam :

    He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief– on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.

    — Quran 16:106

    Hadith :

    Some hadith refer to punishments for apostasy.[21][40] For example, in the two Sahihs, the most trusted books in Islam after Quran, punishments for apostasy are described:[41][42]

    Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”

    — Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:17, see also Sahih Muslim, 16:4152, Sahih Muslim, 16:4154, Sahih Muslim, 20:4490
    Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’

    — Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:260
    A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu’adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu’adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle.

    — Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:89:271

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  20. Homo sapeins 4 weeks ago

    Mr Writer that is not Islamophobia ,it is true critical appraisal of that religion,
    but i think these people should not have confined their appraisal not only to Islam but Hinduism,Sikhism,Judaism,Christianty should also be praised or critisized!!!

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