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Anti-Muslim Prejudices: Clearing The Historical Record Impartially [Part 2]

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By Karmanye Thadani: 

Having examined what this series is all about, let us straight away address the prejudices. The history after the advent of the Muslims, to the communal Hindus, simply means forced conversions and demolition of Hindu temples (which indeed did take place and I would assert that those Muslims or even Hindus denying or ignoring these occurrences are equally biased, but that’s besides the point), overlooking how Hindu rulers like Mihirakula and Pushyamitra Shunga persecuted Buddhists and destroyed their places of worship or how the Shaivites and Vaishnavites looted and/or destroyed each other’s temples or how there were Muslim rulers who gave royal grants to support temple-building (no, Akbar wasn’t the only one). In fact, even the Portuguese rulers in Goa forcibly converted Hindus to Christianity and demolished Hindu temples and in Europe too, Christians have indeed had a long history of persecuting Jews. Besides, in the Indian context, while there were indeed conversions to Islam by force and also because of the discrimination meted out to Hindus by the Muslim rulers, many conversions were also owing to the influence of Sufi saints and to emancipate oneself from the caste system. In any case, it does not make any sense to stigmatize today’s 150 million Indian Muslims for acts committed by some Muslim rulers (not Muslim people in general) centuries ago.

For these Hindus, Shivaji and Rana Pratap are not hailed just as brave warriors but as men who fought for a Hindu cause against the foreign Muslim invaders (even though Akbar and Aurangzeb had both adopted India as their home, and Muslim rulers with small kingdoms too resisted Mughal invasions). Little do they realize that both Shivaji and Rana Pratap had Muslims in large numbers in their armies and, in fact, in Shivaji’s case, the person who manned his artillery was a Muslim, and also that the Mughal army had a large number of Hindus (the attacks against Rana Pratap and Shivaji were respectively commanded by Man Singh and Jai Singh, both of whom were Rajputs). In fact, the very idea that the Muslims per se ruled India is erroneous, for many Hindus were nobles in the courts of Muslim rulers in the Mughal period and even in the Sultanate period under some rulers like Mohammed bin Tughlaq (and in the Arab world too, rulers like Salahadin gave Jews and Christians high positions of power), and there were Hindu rulers allying with the Muslim emperors, who were much better off than the average Muslim peasant.

Likewise, they would hardly acknowledge the contribution of nationalist Muslims (such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Asaf Ali, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Ashfaqullah Khan, Maulana Barkatullah, Mohammed Currim Chagla, Badruddin Tyabji and Shahnawaz Khan — and many of these were highly devout about their faith, and Maulana Azad is acknowledged as having been one of the greatest scholars of Islam in the world) in the freedom struggle and would only focus on the Muslim League, the communal party that partitioned the country, though there were elements within that party too that opposed the partition. In fact, this interview of Maulana Azad  is a must-read, in which in spite of his clearly visible jingoism about his faith (which he laudably did not conceal to appease Hindus), he praised Hindus as being open-minded to embrace schools of thought from the world over, such as Marxism, and rejected the idea that Hindus were basically intolerant and Muslims would be a vulnerable minority in independent India, especially if it is not partitioned, and more importantly, brilliantly prophesied that if Pakistan were to come into being, it would face secessionist movements, starting with one by Bengalis in East Pakistan that would definitely succeed and he went on to say that Pakistan would become a military dictatorship, a hub of religious extremism, and subservient to foreign powers, besides have hostile relations with India, costing the subcontinent dear, all of which has proved to be remarkably accurate!

Overlooking the well-articulated, systematic condemnations of terrorism sponsored by the certain elements in the government of Pakistan or assertions of the necessity of being loyal citizens of India by contemporary Indian Muslims (this video of Maulana Madani, an Indian Muslim, terribly embarrassing Musharraf  is a must-watch; also, essays by Hamid Dalwai, which can be found in Ramachandra Guha’s book Makers of Modern India, examining the rise and growth of Muslim communalism, are very interesting) or the fact that there are Indian Muslims liberal enough to marry Hindus or the fact that many Muslims in the Indian armed forces and police have died martyrs for India fighting Pakistani armed forces personnel and militants (many Indian Muslims have won gallantry awards, including Abdul Hamid who was given the Param Vir Chakra posthumously) or that today’s Indian Muslims include those who had fought for the cause of the independence of a united India as opposed to a partitioned one and their descendants proud of such ancestry, the communal Hindus, without any empirical basis, would like to label all or most Indian Muslims as Pakistanis at heart (they would often cite Indian Muslims loyal to the country as being exceptions to the general norm, but without any concrete evidence whatsoever).

That apart, as regards the partition riots, while there were indeed Muslims who brutally killed innocent Hindus and vice versa, there were people on both sides (and from the Muslim side, even among those who supported the creation of Pakistan) who tried to save the lives of innocent people of the other community, and this has been beautifully brought out by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in their well-known classic Freedom at Midnight and can be corroborated with many of the Hindus who fled from what is today Pakistan, including from my own family.

It is indeed true that there are Indian Muslims who do openly cheer for Pakistan in Indo-Pak cricket matches and even burst crackers on Pakistan’s victory but that doesn’t mean that the entire community can be stereotyped because of them and in fact, a Hindu friend of mine who studied at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for a year, told me that while those cheering for Pakistan were quite a vocal lot there, most Muslims cheered for India, and this was in a Muslim-majority setting where the apparently pro-India majority did not have to conceal its true feelings, and another friend of mine, who is an Assamese Hindu from Guwahati and who is very resentful of the Bangladeshi Muslim influx in his state, told me that on a train journey, he overheard a conversation between two Muslims from AMU bashing the students who cheer for Pakistan. I do not refrain from acknowledging extra-territorial loyalties of many Indian Muslims to a larger global Muslim fraternity, which is a rather anachronistic concept, and have condemned the same in another article on this very portal that can be accessed here but I have not been selective in my criticism and have criticized Indian Tamils and Indian Jews with extra-territorial loyalties too.

At times, when this argument of the contributions of Muslims to our military and paramilitary forces is advanced, some give the absurd rebuttal that the achievements of soldiers cannot be attributed to their religion, but that being obvious, the gist of the argument is basically that they are willing to fight their co-religionists for their country even at the cost of their lives and hence, can’t be dubbed traitors. Many Indian Muslims have refuted Pakistan’s claim of being a vanguard of Muslims as can be seen in this extremely well written article by an Indian Muslim.

It must also be mentioned that a good many ignorant Hindus actually mistake Islamic flags for Pakistani flags. Green flags with a white crescent and star are symbolic of Islam and when seen in India are often misunderstood by ignorant Hindus as Pakistani flags. The Pakistani flag also has an additional white strip to the left, which is meant to represent the Pakistani non-Muslims (for reference, kindly see this); this is not surprising, considering that Jinnah had perhaps conceived Pakistan to be a Muslim-majority secular state like Turkey (Advani had pointed this out, which cost him his post of BJP president!), and I have explored this in some depth in this research paper I co-authored with two friends which was presented at an international conference in LSE , and having said that, I must clarify that I am dead against the partition of India and consider it completely unjustified.

It must also be mentioned that in the contemporary scenario, Turkey isn’t the only Muslim-majority secular state, others including Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Bangladesh, many of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, Albania, Kosovo, Azerbaijan and Bosnia-Herzegovina, besides Indonesia declaring Hinduism and Christianity to also be state religions along with Islam, though this is not to say that a country being an Islamic state can by itself be equated with maltreatment of religious minorities in that particular country.

It may be noted that non-Talibanized Afghanistan and Bangladesh under the secular Awami League are indeed far better allies of India than Maoist Nepal (and the Maoists have indeed engaged in an interesting confluence of Hinduism and Marxism, citing scriptures in temples to promote certain Marxist ideas), in spite of the first two being Muslim-majority and third Hindu-majority.

Also, the saffron brigade often states as a part of its rhetoric that the secessionist movements in Muslim-majority Kashmir and Christian-majority north-eastern regions show that Muslims and Christians are not loyal citizens of India, overlooking Hindu-majority Assam and Sikh-majority Punjab.

A word about the controversy around some (certainly not all) Indian Muslims’ objection to Vande Mataram is due here. Islam (except non-mainstream, Sufi versions), like Judaism and Christianity (again except heterodox versions), prohibits bowing before or worshipping anyone other than the Almighty. Jews, Christians and Muslims generally do not bow before even their parents and they don’t worship natural forces like trees, the sun etc. or even their prophets or saints, as much as they respect them. Islam emphasizes love for the motherland (there is a quotation of Prophet Muhammad to this effect, and the Quran too subtly covers this), but a vandana or worship of the same is problematic for many of them (even Christians have objected to the same), though they have no problem with other patriotic slogans like Jai Hind or other patriotic songs; so, merely chanting one slogan or not cannot be the barometer of one’s loyalty to the country. Several Hindus like Madhuri Gupta have leaked out national secrets for purposes like money, while many Muslims have, as has been already mentioned, sacrificed their lives for the motherland. The controversy of surya namaskar in government schools in Madhya Pradesh is also as unnecessary and unwarranted.

There is also this wrong notion of only Muslims being a complaining minority but though there are indeed Muslims who unduly exaggerate their problems, there is no dearth of Sikhs (read Khalistani propaganda on the Internet and no, it’s not only by Sikhs residing outside India; only recently, on the anniversary of Operation Bluestar this year, some Sikhs residing in Punjab itself made demands for Khalistan and as mentioned earlier in this series, terror plots by Sikhs in India itself have been recently unearthed and foiled) or even Christians (quite a few of them present a rather exaggerated picture of anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists, which is actually very sporadic, as representative of their condition, which is far from true, and I encountered some of these in Orkut communities) doing the same.

The next article in this series shall examine in some detail whether certain beliefs and practices associated typically only with Muslims are actually exclusive to that community.

Part 1

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. He has co-authored two short books, namely ‘Onslaughts on Free Speech in India by Means of Unwarranted Film Bans’ and ‘Women and Sport in India and the World’. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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