Rebuttal

Yes, It Makes No Sense To Compare Religious Majoritarianism In India And Pakistan

 

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Of course Pakistan is not an ideal place to be a minority. This piece is no defense of Pakistan’s record on minority rights. Pakistan can and should do much better. Now that we have cleared this bit, let us compare the situation of minorities in India with the situation of minorities in Pakistan. I write this piece as rebuttal to an essay written by one Sadanand Dhume.

In his piece Dhume has expressed concern over the direction in which India is going with respect to minority rights. However his argument still revolves around the notion that India may have its shortcomings but it makes no sense to compare an inherently pluralistic society like India to an inherently intolerant and monolithic society like Pakistan.

Dhume refers to Pakistan’s Shia population as a minority and I accept that categorization. Shias make up to 15% of the Pakistani population. 2% are Hindus and 1% are others. The population makeup of minority and majority populations in India and Pakistan is very similar.

Now let us examine some of the claims made by Dhume:

Among many other absurd theories peddled by Hindutva ideologues there is a popular myth that Hindu population of West Pakistan at the time of Partition was around 22% which came down to 2% due to slow ethnic cleansing carried out by the State of Pakistan over 70 years.

Dhume writes:

In undivided British India, in 1941, the areas that constitute today’s Pakistan were about 78% Muslim; the rest of the people were Hindu, Sikh and Christian. Today Pakistan is 97% Muslim…By contrast, in India the Hindu majority has declined gently from 85% of the population in 1951 to a shade under 80% today. In short, religious minorities have shrunk dramatically in one country while growing over time in the other.

Fact Check

There were in fact 17% non Muslims in West Pakistan and 83% Muslims. At the time of Partition most of them moved to India and less than 2% were left in Pakistan. So Pakistan started with a 2% Hindu population. Indian Punjab had over 30% Muslims and after the Partition only 2% Muslims remained on the Indian side of  Punjab. This was a population exchange. Not ethnic cleansing as is often argued by Hindu extremists. Today the Hindu population share of Pakistan is slightly higher than what they started with just after the partition. For a detailed research on the subject please refer to this blog.

Dhume is however right about the increase in the population share of Muslims in India. He is wrong when he puts this fact as evidence of Muslims’ well-being in India. There are three reasons due to which Muslim population has grown faster than Hindu population in India.

  1. Most Muslims are poor. People in the lower income bracket have more children. In Dhume’s own country, USA, a third of all families (33%) are classified as low income families. 44% of all children in US come from these families.
  2. Muslims have a lower rate of female foeticide as compared to Hindus.
  3. Due to certain unhygienic practices, Hindus have higher infant mortality rate. Muslim children in India are 17 percent more likely to survive infancy than Hindus

Even Pakistan’s Hindu population has grown at a faster rate as compared to their national average because most Hindus in Pakistan belong to lower income groups.

Dhume went on to make a rather bizarre claim. He reckons that minorities in India are treated better than minorities in Pakistan because Indian cricket team wears a “neutral blue” outfit rather than wearing a Saffron colored Hindu outfit. Sometimes appearances can be deceptive, still Dhume does not come across as a person who would believe North Korea is more democratic than USA just because North Korea calls itself ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’.

Beyond this point I write on Muslims are really treated in India. It is a long and harrowing read.

A recent study published by PEW ranked India fourth after Syria, Iraq and Nigeria in a list of countries where social hostilities involving religion is very high.  Here I list a number of issues faced by Muslims in India that are not faced by Hindus in Pakistan being a minority.

Hindus in Pakistan do not face massacres and mass rapes like Muslims face in India on a regular basis. Nellie, Bhagalpur, Mumbai, Gujarat, Muzzafarnagar are just few of the many examples that can be found in recent history. To constantly live with the feeling that one day, due to some event not connected to you, a mob will attack your house, rape and kill you and your family is a miserable way to live.

Hindus in Pakistan are not constantly held responsible for the crimes done by Hindus in other parts of the world. Muslims in India are answerable for any crime committed by a Muslim anywhere in the world.

India exerts constant pressure on its Muslim minority to prove loyalty to the Nation via majoritarian themes. Allegiance to the national anthem or the national flag is not good enough. A Muslim has to deify the nation into Bharat Mata and Sing hymns for the deity. Vande Mataram or else…

In India Hindutva extremists openly call for the rape of Muslim women, even ask people to dig out dead Muslim women from their graves and rape them, such people are rewarded by the masses during elections.

There is no pressure from the Pakistani society to take away the rights granted to Hindus under the Hindu Personal Law. In India there is massive pressure from the Hindu society to bring in Uniform Civil Code that will dissolve the Muslim Personal Law and ask Muslims to abide by the customs that Hindus deem correct for them.

Pakistan does not put restrictions on the dietary habit of Hindus and other Non Muslim citizens of Pakistan. A Non Muslim citizen of Pakistan is free to consume alcohol and eat pork. In India beef is banned in many states because beef is consumed mainly by Muslims and Dalits.

The politics of Pakistan is not focused on Hindus. You will hardly find any talk shows on Pakistani channels discussing Hindu matters. The Hindu society of Pakistan is not constantly under pressure from the media or the politicians. In India almost every issue can be linked to the Muslim minority. Hindu majority of India is obsessed with Muslim issues. Even the population explosion of India is blamed on 14% Muslims and not on 80% Hindus of India.

Muslims in India are regularly jailed for years (sometimes for decades) on terrorism charges fabricated by the police. Eventually they are released by the courts due to lack of evidence but are never compensated for the decades lost in prison.

There are hundreds and thousands of internally displaced Muslims in India who have lost everything during majoritarian mob violence, these people settle in slums. The Govt provides no assistance in their resettlement.

Every few days a new video emerges in India where a Hindu mob is seen lynching a Muslim man, where a Hindu mob appears to unleash brutal violence against Muslim families including women, children, elderly and the disabled.

There are hundreds and thousands of Hindu extremists on Indian social media who threaten and abuse Indian Muslims in the most vile and vulgar ways.

As Aakar Patel puts it:

That is the main thing that would have disturbed me as a Muslim, I think. Having lived through the reality and understood it, one would then be confronted with this relentless, middle-class Hindu focus on Muslims as the problem. See any story in The Times Of India and go through the comments written by readers. I have been writing in Pakistan’s papers longer continuously than any other Indian and I assure you that either they are editing their nastiness out of reader comments, or we Indians have some truly vile people in our midst and they are not a small minority.

In Pakistan those who attack minorities are seen as terrorist. In India the media uses terms like ‘activist’ or ‘vigilante’ or in one case ‘animal rights group’ to describe people who brutally lynch innocents on the streets of India, record their act on camera and proudly post it on social media for everyone to see.

On the creation of Pakistan Dhume writes:

Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 for an explicitly communal reason: as a separate homeland for Muslims based on the belief that Indian Muslims constituted a distinct nation, and that Hindus and Muslims could not live together in peace as compatriots.

Savarkar and Golwalkar are considered to be the most eminent ideologues of the Hindutva ideology that rules over India today. Both Savarkar and Golwalkar through their extensive writings supported the Nazi action against Jews. Golwalkwar wanted to carry out a holocaust against Indian Muslims. He even prepared a district-wise plan for the extermination of Muslims.

The two nation theory and the idea of a homogeneous Hindu Rashtra was first peddled by Hindus. The Muslim leadership remained divided over the idea of Pakistan. In fact most Muslims rejected the idea of Pakistan and chose to live in an India which they believed would remain pluralistic and secular.

Finally I would like to agree with Dhume that it is borderline ludicrous to compare India with Pakistan on minority rights. In fact it is ludicrous to compare India with any other country on minority rights.

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim And The Liberal Jamaat

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I write this blog as a response to an article written by Anand Ranganathan in relation to a recent incident where a wife of Muslim cricketer was hounded by conservative Muslims for publishing a picture on social media while dressed in “unIslamic clothing”.

On the hypocrisy of the Muslim Liberal

The argument made by Ranganathan is this: Those who trolled Shami for posting a picture with his wife are Good Muslims because they were only “following the orders of the Quran”. Those Muslims who confronted the trolls were Bad Muslims because they were going against the prescriptions of the Quran. Ranganathan goes ahead and posts few verses from the Quran that prescribe a modest dress code for believing women. Ranganathan accuses the liberal Muslim of either trying to hide the “bad verses” from the Quran or trying to hide behind the excuse of bad interpretation when there is not much room for interpreting an obvious verse in a different way.

I broadly agree with Rangnathan that liberal Muslims try to misrepresent Quranic teachings or try their best to fit it into the morality prescribed by the liberal world view. It does not stop there, a liberal Muslim is so protective of his hypocrisy that anyone confronting his world view with the more obvious interpretation of the Quran will be quickly declared an Islamist, literalist or an Islamophobe depending on the situation. On this count Ranganathan has rightly called out the duplicity and hypocrisy of the liberal Muslim. More on this in the closing section.

On selective reading of the Quran

Selective reading of the Quran is not limited to liberals. Even the most conservative Muslims have used this technique to present their world view as the Quranic world view. For example the concept of abrogation of Quranic verses is well established among traditionalists. Other Muslims disagree.

And selective reading of the Quran is not only limited to Muslims, it is widely used by critics of Islam including Ranganathan. While Quran prescribes a modest dress code for believing men and women it also warns against public shaming of individuals.

Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not. Quran 24:19

If a reasonable person like Ranganathan reads the Quran in its entirety, as per his own prescription, he will come to a conclusion that public shaming of individuals as done to Shami and his wife goes against the prescription of the Quran. However Ranganathan is absolutely right when he points to the fact that a modest dress code is prescribed by the Quran itself. Liberal Muslims should accept this fact instead of trying to give it a liberal spin.

On the survival of Islam

The second important point made by Ranganathan is rather curious. He argues that for Islam to survive it needs the cushioning of the liberal Muslim (Bad Muslim) who shields Islam from condemnation by misrepresenting Islam as a liberal religion.

Islam is one of the most successful ideologies in the world. Western condemnation of Islam is not recent. The criticism of Islam is as old as Islam itself. Today every fourth person in the world identifies as a Muslim. By 2050 some estimates say that every third person in the world would identify as a Muslim.

So far no Muslim society has witnessed any major exodus of Muslims from Islam. A religion that survived Mongol invasions, relentless crusades, Communist era bans, Kemalism and the uninterrupted Western and Liberal obsession would need the cover of some hypocrites to guarantee its survival?

Islam is an independent ecosystem which is likely to survive irrespective of what liberals think about it. If History is anything to go by then Islam will outlast liberalism itself. Turkey is a good example. Kemalism is dead. Eighteenth century luminaries like Voltaire were scathing in their condemnation of Islam. Are there more Muslims in the twenty first century or less?  This idea that survival of Islam relies on the craftiness of hypocrite liberal Muslims is rather amusing to say the least.

That said, the argument about Islam’s resilience is not an argument for Islam being the truth, rather it is just an argument about its resilience. It is what it is.

On Zakir Naik

Going further Ranganathan presents Zakir Naik as the true Muslim who makes liberal Muslims uncomfortable because he honestly presents Islam as it is. Let us examine this argument. Naik has argued against Instant Triple Talaq and he has argued for mosque entry for women. Ironically Zakir Naik is arguing for many things that liberals argue for. Like any other Muslim, sometimes Naik gets it right, sometimes he gets it wrong. Even Ranganathan got it wrong when he claimed that stoning is punishment prescribed in the Quran.

There is not a single verse in the Quran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for anything. Yet Zakir Naik argued in favor of the punishment. There is not a single verse in the Quran that prescribes death penalty for apostasy. Yet Zakir Naik once argued for it but later corrected his view.

I am not entirely sure why Ranganathan presented Zakir Naik as the example of the “good Muslim”. If following the Quran makes one a good Muslim as Ranganathan argues then what Zakir Naik says is irrelevant because the scale of goodness or badness of a Muslim is the Quran.

On Punishment for Adultery

Ranganathan has pointed to the severe punishment  prescribed in the Quran for cheating on the spouse. Modern India has punishment for adultery enshrined in the law. There are at least sixteen states in the US where you can land in jail for cheating on your spouse. Even from the liberal perspective cheating on spouse cannot be prescribed as a good value. But should there be severe punishment for cheating on the spouse? The societies that put a high premium on the value of family structure would say yes, the societies that do not put a high value on family structure would say no.

The moral scale of a society varies all across the world. That said, you will rarely hear of a Muslim man or a woman getting lashes for adultery. Either Muslims make very loyal partners due to fear of punishment or this punishment is not very common. I cant say for sure.

From the point of view of the liberal Sharia, Ranganathan is right in criticizing a severe punishment for adultery as a liberal society does not put a very high premium on family structure. A liberal society favors individualism over group values.

On The Way Out

From what I understood after reading a rather confusing last part of the the article, a good Muslim is in fact a bad human being. Because a good Muslim lacks empathy, kindness, remorse and reconciliation. This is strange because all the verses of the Quran (except one) start with the declaration of compassion and mercy as Godly qualities. There are many verses in the Quran that declare forgiveness as a Godly quality. Quran says that forgiveness is better than retribution. Quran emphasizes on the need to be patient. As per Quran only remorse and repentance from bad deeds can get your sins forgiven. And then there is a special emphasis on kindness. In fact to be kind is called true righteousness. More than any ritual, Quran says that it is important to be kind.

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah fearing – 2:177

Charity is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. So I don’t quite understand how a good Muslim would necessarily be a bad human being. Yes there are parts of the Quran that would be extremely troubling for a liberal. Islam is not a pacifist religion. In certain narrow conditions it prescribes war and violence. In other conditions it prescribes tolerance, compassion and equity with non believers. Islam also leans towards patriarchy, another fact that would be very troubling for a liberal.

It is also not necessary for Muslims to follow every harsh diktat mentioned in the Quran. And it does not make them a bad Muslims. For example, millions of Hindus have worked in Muslim countries over several decades and none of them were charged Jizya. Forget about Jizya they were not even charged taxes that are normally charged in India and Western countries.

Is Islam a good religion or a bad religion is for an individual to decide. I do not believe that Islam is an inherently evil religion or that a follower of Islam can only necessarily be a bad human being.

Is a liberal Muslim an Islamophobe?

Ranganathan argues that a liberal Muslim is in fact an Islamophobe who fears Islam and is afraid to discuss Quran in its entirety. I believe that is not the case. A liberal Muslim is more scared of the Liberal Jamaat and its judgemental character than being scared of the Quran.

One could argue that the Liberal Jamaat is just as intolerant or dogmatic as the religious Jamaat. Some Muslims find it extremely difficult to be accepted by their liberal peers while being Muslim. These Muslims try their best to force-fit Islam into the liberal world view because if they don’t then their intolerant liberal peers will label them as Islamist. As Ranganathan’s article argues, A good Muslim is in fact a bad human being. In such conditions I would not judge liberal Muslim too harshly because they are just trying to survive in an extremely intolerant society.

 

 

 

 

The Hijab Flag

A person who claims to be a liberal says that millions of parents who make their girls wear a hijab are child abusers and need to be called out. Now these allegations have become too common so I decided to understand and respond to them. There are four types of child abuse:

  1. Physical AbuseUntitledsss
  2. Sexual Abuse
  3. Emotional Abuse
  4. Neglect

I tried my best to understand how making children wear a hijab fits into the definition of child abuse but failed. At this point I was under the impression that the gentleman is repeating the New Atheist claim that teaching religion to children is child abuse (of course it isn’t).

So just to be clear I confronted the gentleman with the example of Sikhs. After all Sikhs too make their children wear a turban from a very early age. This hit a Untitledsssraw nerve. In an angry invective laden tweet Shantanu made it clear that he had no issues with Sikhs making their children wear a religious headgear and the Sikh religious headgear for children is somehow not comparable to the Muslim headgear for children which he has declared as child abuse.

Then Shantanu goes on to say that Adults have the agency and free will to choose and kids don’t. At this moment I was confused. Apparently Sikh kids have the agency and free will to choose a turban and a Sikh lifestyle but Muslim kids don’t. Strange!

I try my best to understand what the other person is trying to say. Perhaps Shantanu is not so good at communicating his ideas, perhaps he wants to say that he has no issues with parents choosing a religious headgear for children as long as it is done for the right reasons. Sikhs do it for the right reasons and Muslims do it for the wrong reasons.

Shantanu did not say how Sikhs do it for the right reasons but he knows exactly why the Muslims do it for the wrong reasons. “To protect their modesty” he says. This also adds a new dimension to the debate. Presumably Shantanu cant read Arabic, has never read the Quran in Arabic or in English, nor has he taken any interest in learning about the history or origins of Islam, yet he is suddenly qualified to issue a sweeping fatwa on why Muslim women wear a hijab (Or are rather forced by Muslim men to wear a hijab).

Shantanu pulled out the most worn out Islamophobic trick ever. Islamophobes have little idea about what Islam is so they create their own caricature of Islam out of thin air. A caricature that they can easily mock. Not only is this caricature of Islam the truest form of Islam, they claim, but every Muslim who follows it is also an extremist.

So in the caricature created by Shantanu Muslims see Hijab as some kind of Kryptonite that will save the Muslim girls from bad men. Looking at his ignorance about Islam I tried to explain to Shantanu that Sikhs and Muslims make their children wear religious headgear for the exact same reasons. Sikhs emulate their Gurus and follow the path shown by them. Similarly Muslims emulate their Gurus and follow the path shown by them.

Hijab is not a something that came with Mohammed in Arabia of the seventh century. The history of hijab is perhaps as old as the history of the Jewish tribes. Even today the devout Jewish women wear the Jewish hijab called Kisui Rosh or the kerchief. In Christian traditions, Mary the mother of Jesus Christ is depicted as a hijab clad woman. The fact that Jewish women wore some kind of a Hijab is uncontested. Mohammed in the seventh century introduced and invited Arabs to worship the God of Jews and the God of Christians. Along with that came many Jewish customs for example; Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork, they do male circumcision, Muslim and Jewish men wear skull caps, Muslims eat halal meat which is based on Jewish Kosher meat; and many such similarities. Hijab came as part of a package to Arabs. In Islam, Mary the mother of Jesus enjoys the status of being the most exalted. Devout Muslim women try to follow into her footsteps.

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Kisui Rosh, The Jewish Hijab

So wearing of a hijab is primarily not a matter of modesty, it is a matter of piety. And of course there may be many other reasons to why Muslim women wear the hijab. Pious Sikhs make their children wear a religious headgear so do pious Muslims. They are simply following the tenets of their faith which is their fundamental right. And if the argument is that parents should not be allowed to teach religion to their kids then it opens a Pandora’s box. Why stop at religion? Should parents be allowed to teach specific food choices, movie choices, clothes, school, type of education? It is open ended.

Now the question is why did Jewish women start wearing the hijab? I don’t know. Why do Muslim men wear a skull cap? Why does the pope wear a skull cap? Why did Hindus start idol worship? I can’t answer any of these questions. If we take this path of rationally evaluating faith while ignoring human emotions and spirituality then we will end up where extremist atheist end up and that is a point where they believe all religious people are deluded and they automatically have the moral authority to talk at them and harass them. The only thing that is liberal about some self proclaimed liberals today is their ability to liberally make assumptions about other cultures.

There is nothing new about supremacists getting annoyed about how children are brought up in other cultures. This is exactly what led to several stolen generations in Australia where children were snatched from their aboriginal mothers and handed over to the Church and Government run institutions, all in the name of “protecting children from abusive parenting”. The issue of stolen generations still evokes strong emotions so much so that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a teary apology to the parents and kids of the stolen generation.

Thanks to bigots in the liberal garb we are now at a point where conservatism is on the rise. These people neither have the power nor the patience nor the academic reading of the subject to convince anyone to leave the hijab but collectively they have turned the hijab into a Muslim flag of defiance. It is apparent that these people are not looking for a dialogue with the Muslim community, they are merely interested in harassment. Why else would anyone start a dialogue by branding millions of parents as child abusers?

What should have been a purely social issue is now a political issue. Especially in the West. Muslim women know about the dangers they face while wearing a hijab on a public transport yet they wear it as if they are trying to make a point. It is these women who will also pass on the hijab flag to the next generation irrespective of what Muslim men or supremacist bigots think about the Hijab.

PS: I have absolutely no issues with Sikhs imparting religious education to their kids. The Sikh example was used to expose the double standards and selective targeting of Muslims by supremacists in the liberal garb. Don’t be surprised if they go after the Sikhs in near future. They pick the flavor of bigotry depending on the news cycle.

Takedown and Rest

Controversy erupted on social media after DNA took down Rana Ayyub’s article critical of the government. Responding to this criticism the editor of DNA decided to blog an explanation which I found rather amusing and decided to do a spoof on it. Unlikely, but if the editor ever reads this spoof, I hope it is taken in a good spirit. I hold no ill feelings towards the editor.

This spoof contains the original text of the explanation along with the satirical addition in italic font. So here we go.


Takedown and Rest

There has been a fair amount of traffic on my twitter TL on an article that was taken down in the DNA. People have, rightly, asked for an explanation. And since this issue has gone viral on the internet let me write something to confuse you.

Fact checking, misrepresentation of facts etc all good excuses/explanation to give when u pull down an article. However, they all sound rather silly – especially given that you have published it. Since you have already noticed that I call these excuses good in the first line and silly in the next, this will help me set the tone for the rest of this good-silly explanation.

Sometimes silence is better than a hastily cobbled together justification. And, everything doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theory. Nor does everything have to be high drama. Sometimes there are simpler explanations. Only this time I have none.

I could say editorial prerogative. But, that would be arrogance and since I am trying to do damage control here it won’t be wise to look arrogant (Damage Control 101 hehe).

I could blame the author, but that would be cowardice. (Actually I just blamed the author without looking like a coward *Lulz*) 

I could blame the government or my ‘bosses’ but that would be a lie. And if I speak the truth I won’t have a job because that will totally destroy the credibility of the website. Also notice how I wrote ‘bosses’ in quotes, this is to give you an impression that we don’t have a boss culture at DNA, we are all friends (Until you formally join us as an employee *Hehe*) .

I could say I didn’t know it went up, but that would be cop out and also a lie because in the next paragraph I am going to admit that I read the article before it went online *chuckles*.

Fact remains, I should have caught onto something that was in the piece, but I didn’t. I did exactly what I have ranted about, and outraged about for the last decade – that is in the need for speed, the desire to be first, to put out a piece, I didn’t look at it with the attention that it deserved. It was not a breaking news story which could have waited for few days, this was an opinion column which had to be published with utmost urgency.  Being an editor is a busy job because of which I hardly get any time for editing.

We have run far more scathing pieces by the author on Mr.Shah and they are still on-line. If I pulled down this one, it was for a good reason, and that reason is not fear. At this point I know you are very curious to know what the real reason is but I won’t tell you just yet because like I mentioned earlier in this good-silly explanation, not everything has to be high drama.

I can understand readers ire on this, and appreciate the author’s anger – i would have felt the same way if i was in her place. If I had the time on the day to make a call and sort it out, I would have. Unfortunately, I didn’t.  I was in a very long conference, where our phones were tucked safely away in our bags. Which is also the reason why I couldn’t respond to newslaundry. Nowadays it is common practice for senior editors to remain incommunicado for the whole working day because there are obviously others who can approve news that goes online and if something goes wrong, I have a blog.

Now to something else  – when other TV editors/websites write about this, they obviously suffer from selective amnesia.  they have pulled out, pulled back, changed tack on issues. Was it fear, favor or fickleness? Or all three – that made them do this? Did I just list all the possible reasons for the disappearance of a piece from a news website? *Hehe* Please ignore.

And I am not even going into other areas of breach of ethics such as the cash for votes sting, or Radia tapes (hehe I just did exactly that and took the moral high ground too), I am simply looking at spiked stories, and stories that disappeared. As journalists we are supposed to look after each other. I won’t write anything when they screw up and I expect the same from them. What they have done breaches every aspect of professional journalism.

Seriously, I can appreciate reader ire, I can’t figure the hypocrisy of other media professionals. They know exactly what they had suppressed in their entire career. Am sure if you follow any good news monitoring website you will know some of what has been taken off, what they have changed tack on, and where they have spiked their own stories. I have followed such good news monitoring website for ages but never said a word because I understand what professional journalism is. The primary duty of any journalist is to protect the mistakes of fellow journalists and I will never compromise on this principle.  

I have not responded to this on twitter as  there are no 140 character explanations for things like this. Hence, this blog. But I wont tweet a link to this blog because there are some nasty trolls out there who may write a spoof on my carefully crafted good-silly explanation. Better to be safe than to be sorry *Hehe*.   

And finally, far as the TOI piece  is concerned – cute, very cute. Must be the first time that the ToI has run a piece naming a competitor without routing it through medianet. I just have one thing to tell TOI, watch your back. The favor shall be returned.

– Your Truly,

Editor DNA (Do Not Admit)

V S Naipaul, The prejudiced genius

Views about the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal was constructed in the seventeenth century by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. While the Taj Mahal remains one of the most admired piece of building architecture in the whole world, the fact remains that it is nothing more than a glorified tomb. Over the years there have been many who have described the Taj Mahal as “the greatest symbol of love” and there have also been many who have described it as a “symbol of decadence”.

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul describes the Taj Mahal as wasteful and decadent. There is nothing new in this criticism. Such views have existed from the time the Taj Mahal came into existence. In fact, Shahjahan’s son and successor, Aurangzeb, who is known for his orthodox Islamic views, was totally against the construction of such structures. Aurangzeb desired in his will that no more than eight rupees were to be spent on his tomb.

It would be intellectually dishonest to label Mr. Naipaul’s views on the Taj Mahal as bigotry or prejudice.  Of course the Taj Mahal was wasteful when it was constructed but today it attracts tourists from all over the world.

Support for Hindu extremism

Commenting on  the destruction of the Babri Mosque by Hindu extremists, Naipaul said  “Ayodhya is a sort of passion, Any passion is to be encouraged. Passion leads to creativity.” This was extremely shocking to come from a person of the stature of  Mr. Naipaul considering the fact that thousands of Indians had died in the riots that followed in the immediate aftermath of the Babri mosque demolition and thousands more died in the unrelenting terrorist bombings that followed the riots.

Mr. Naipaul’s support for Hindu extremism does not end with the praise of the Babri mosque demolition, he also expressed support for the RSS and the VHP on the anti-Muslim 2002 Gujarat pogrom. For this, Mr. Salman Rushdie described Mr. Naipaul as “a fellow traveller of fascism and (that he) disgraces the Nobel award”.

Endorsing concocted history

Not surprisingly, Mr. Naipaul also endorses the skewed view of the history that is promoted by the Hindu extremists where everything is either black or white. According to this view the “Great Hindu Civilisation” was “invaded and destroyed by Islam” and many Hindus forcefully converted.

It is a well documented fact that the subcontinent consisted of many “Hindu Kingdoms” that invaded each other to expand their territories. There was no concept of pan-Hinduism, people swore  their loyalty to the King. Apart from these internal conflicts between the Hindu Kingdoms, there were invasions from the Persians and the Greeks that pre-dates Islam.

The seventh century saw the rapid rise of Islam, most regions to the west of subcontinent became Muslim. These regions also saw great technological advancements in ship building and war machinery. Little wonder that that the technologically superior armies invaded the technologically inferior armies of the subcontinent with great success. The battles continued with different Muslim Kings fighting each other just like the Hindu Kings fought each other. It was about empires, not religion.

Even in the modern world we see countries that are technologically advanced invading the technologically inferior countries to establish control over the region and to increase their wealth. This has been the case with humanity since time immemorial.

Instead of looking at these invasions as the natural result of technological advancements of one empire over the other, Mr. Naipaul echoes the views propagated by Hindu extremists that these invasions only took place for the forceful conversion of Hindus to Islam.

Hinduism in Asia

The Hindu civilisation extended from the far reaches of Indonesia to the borders of Persia. Mr. Naipaul acknowledges the fact that Indonesia and Malaysia were in fact regions where people followed Hinduism and Buddhism before embracing Islam. But he fails to acknowledge the fact that these countries were never invaded. His limited knowledge of Islam vs Hinduism is based on the skewed understanding of sub-continental history and not the history of the Hindu civilisation as a whole.

Islam in India

Just like the Indonesians, almost all the Muslims of India are the descendants of Hindus. It is believed that the people from Malabar coast who came in contact with the Arab traders were the first Indians to embrace Islam. But the majority of the conversions took place a result of the expansion of Muslim empires. Some Muslim invaders didn’t come with just the weapons, they also brought thinkers and philosophers who created a unique fusion of the Hinduism and Islam called Sufism. This made the transition easy for those who wanted to get out of punishing caste hierarchies. Some were coerced and forced to accept Islam and some converted only because their King had embraced Islam.

Mr. Naipaul fails to acknowledge these complexities and aligns himself with Hindu extremists who promote a biased version of history in order to polarise the society.

Prejudice trashing genius

There is little doubt that Mr. Naipaul is one of the greatest writers of our era. He has indeed made a great contribution towards arts and literature but his alignment with the extremist elements hurts his credibility. Mr. Girish Karnad was right in his criticism of Mr. Naipaul because great men should expect great scrutiny.