Letter To A ‘Hindu’ Liberal Millennial

Disclaimer: This article is for anyone who identifies as a Hindu, or knows someone in their family who does so. If you’re from any other community or engage with other communities and feel that you need to address the same subject within your surroundings, please come forward. The article in no way is a solution to the barbarity that’s happening on the streets; it just caters to a dilemma many youngsters face when engaging with their very close family.

How To Deal With Islamophobia Among Close Family Members?

My Assertive Conscience

Like many of today’s ‘rational thinking, art studying’ millennials born in orthodox Hindu family setups, I, too, have found it difficult to align with most of the viewpoints my family uncles and even at times with my parents on so many subject matters. Most of the debates end up with “abhi tumhe duniyadari ka nahi pata” (You don’t know the practical/worldly wisdom), “tum nastik ban gaye ho” (You’ve become atheist), etc. etc. As a result, some of us prefer to do our things in hiding— being too afraid even to put forth what we believe in, and some argue with them till eternity (often all in vain) and decide to keep quiet and think of it as their harmless ignorance.

As people of India, we must try to disassociate Hinduism from one party.

However, looking at the way subtle (or not) hate-mongering is affecting lives, it becomes imperative to speak up and engage with the uncles and aunts at all costs—if not for being too political, at least for the sake of our conscience. Every time I have the thought of letting it be, or not having the podium high enough for my voice to matter, I remember John Greene saying in one of his crash course videos that the entire future course of our civilization depends upon how, in next hundred years or so, we deal with our own species’ hatred towards each other. And I tell myself, if not much, I should at least use my opinion to contribute to the advancement of our civilization’s future course.

Coming to the point, one of the areas where the political culture of communalism, caste, and pseudo-nationalism has affected the most is the inherent hate that breeds in the WhatsApp groups of uncles and their ‘duniyadaari’. What a few politicians (two!?) are appealing to when they take mind-boggling decisions of clear xenophobia and division, is this ‘hate’ that is breeding in our own backyards every day.

The hate which seems non-threatening, which says “we also have Muslim friends BUT…”; the hate which is based on assumptions and ignorance. However, it is this un-threatening ignorance, which provides the much-needed unseen pat on the back to the “fringe” who shoots bullets, or who lynches an Akhlaq and parades with a garland around his neck (well, Mr Jayant Sinha respects the rule of law, doesn’t he?)

Debate That Goes Kaboom!!

Often the debate around Islam and Muslims revolves around a particular portrayal that has seeped into the right-wing social circle. Now this ignorance is long survived (Brought up, if not born by the British—which certainly needs another blog) and can’t be eliminated easily. However, what is horrifying in today’s time is the sheer unwillingness to break away from ‘echo chambers‘ we have created within our social circles. The debates are authoritative of both sides’ “know-it-all” attitude and ego-clashes.

What this writing seeks to achieve is an acknowledgement that a breakaway from these soft ‘echo chambers’ won’t happen by hard confrontations but by finding common grounds. If one chamber portrays Islam as evil and every Muslim as a terrorist, the other chamber portrays old right-wing uncles and their illiterate sons who dwell on their hate-mongering ‘pride’ to humiliate minorities. We can’t change everyone in a day, but we can help set up some common ground rules for the debate to happen.

Art Of Finding The Common Ground

1. Make them question their core belief (but do not try to prove them wrong altogether.)

Argument: Islam is regressive.

Approach: Agree with them that the civil laws of Islam need criticism and reforms. Just like Hindu laws did. Remind them just because Hindus had practices like Sati, child marriage didn’t make all Hindus evil.

This makes an inherent connection with the social journey of both the communities and helps a little in breaking away from the alienation.

2. Use facts which make sense

Argument: Islam is ruthless and merciless. Muslim rulers invaded and killed their own families. They destroyed temples.

Approach: Tell them Muslims aren’t ruthless or merciless just because Aurangzeb killed his brothers. Ajatshatru did almost the same to his father, Bimbisara. Ashoka killed his brother too (or brothers: 99!?). And so did many other rulers. Rana Kumbha of Mewar was also killed by his son Udai Singh.

Although they won’t care yet remind them that there was no communal differentiation of people back then before Britishers made us think like that. Akbar’s best men were Hindus. Also, most often, temples were not destroyed as an act against religion, but as an act of victorious plunder. Hindu rulers did the same to their Hindu rivals.

The use of history is an effective tool, but it becomes an ego war. Justify your use of historical facts to convey that the rulers did it for their own comfort, just like today’s politicians. Do not make fun of them for their lack of knowledge of history or any other fact. Make them question it themselves. Their distrust towards the WhatsApp messages they receive is the biggest achievement you can get out of this.

3. Do not challenge their pride of being a Hindu, but disassociate their pride from one political party.

It’s our moral duty to ensure that the upcoming leadership does not resort to communal hatred as a weapon.

Use your knowledge of scriptures. Win their trust. Make them agree that whoever wants to kill someone is not a true Hindu. When they bring the argument of Mahabharat and how it’s okay put up shastra to protect one’s life, explain to them even when they fought, they fought with dignity and respect towards each other. Tell them the protection of one’s religion shouldn’t come at the cost of the humiliation of the other even when your enemy is Kauravas. Tell them Bhagavadgita teaches us that.

Since this is the most important argument to tackle, appeal to what makes them ‘rethink’ as you’d know better. Just try to disassociate Hinduism from one party. Explain to them the Hindu Pride is above BJP leaders, and make them believe that the great Hinduism can’t be tamed by politicians at their disposal.

4. Bust misconceptions as much as you can

Argument: Muslims have so many children, and they have multiplied since independence.

Approach: Tell them that the ‘population explosion”, and hence, the fertility rate is not associated with a community but poor socio-economic conditions. Use Census data. Show them the comparison between Kerala (around 52% Hindus and 26% Muslims) and Bihar (82% Hindus and 16% Muslims). Kerala has a fertility rate of 1.8, whereas Bihar has that of 3.3 (Census Data). Explain to them it’s the poor socio-economic conditions that lead to more population (not Muslims trying to outnumber Hindus). Tell them to look around to see that more often than not, people having more number of children are the poor, less educated and less fortunate ones.

Is It Enough?

Certainly not. They will still believe that Islam is ruthless and more violent and everything they believe in. You still might see their belief as bigotry whenever they take a stance in the next debate. And on top of that, all this might not be the way to go about it in your particular situation/family.

The whole point to get out of this is to not end up on terms with your close family members where facts are used to humiliate each other and not invoke thoughts. The point is not to act parochially and know-it-all. The point is to have maximum discussions, to end those discussions with a healthy laugh (even if the rebel in you doesn’t allow you to). And most importantly, do not underestimate the butterfly effect you, as a single person, is going to make.

The aim today is only to make a ground clear for debate where violence is not celebrated but condemned. Remember that the ultimate weapon is an electoral democracy. Even if your efforts don’t change their political ideologies, they sure will make them at least not vote for any party for the sole reason of religion. And since leadership is a demand and supply game, the upcoming leadership  will not resort to communal hatred as a weapon.

Hope we get out of this one day.

As Iqbal said it, “Sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain, abhi ishq ke imtihaan aur bhi hain.

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