Religion

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.

Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity

Noise pollution is a menace in India. The honking, the loudspeakers, the marriage drums and the constant noise of flowing traffic that starts early in the morning and continues late into the night. In principle any reasonable person would agree with Sonu Nigam and Suchitra Krishnamurthy that using loudspeakers for Azaan at unearthly hours is unacceptable.

Use of loudspeakers in public spaces should be strictly regulated at any time of the day. It is important to cultivate respect for quiet surroundings. Some countries like Australia wont allow flights to land in their major cities during night hours. A good uninterrupted sleep is vital for healthy functioning of mind and body.

Most people are in their third phase (delta phase) of their sleep at dawn. Unless the sound is too loud it is quite unlikely that a person in the third phase of sleep could be woken up by any noise coming from a distance. However if this sleep cycle is broken due to any reason then you cant blame the person for being edgy and annoyed throughout the day.

It is unlikely that Sonu Nigam or Suchitra Krishnamurthy live anywhere close to a mosque. Sonu Nigam posted a recording of Azaan he could hear from a distance in early hours of the morning. While this Azan may be loud enough to disturb those living in the vicinity of the mosque(mainly Muslims) it is nearly not loud enough to disturb anyone who lives at a distance especially someone who is in the delta phase of his sleep.

Half-celebs creeping out of the woodwork to oppose Azaan has less to do with a desire to seek quiet surroundings and more to do with the exponential rise of anti Muslim bigotry that is fast becoming a hallmark of Indian society since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014. This is evident because they are singling out Azaan as one source of discomfort that is worthy of their attention and condemnation.

They call it imposed religiosity. And I agree with them on a broader principle. Religion cannot be an excuse to invade someone’s personal space. Religion cannot be an excuse to cause discomfort to the masses.

Air quality Index (AQI) is used to measure the quality of the air. AQI in the range of 200-300 is considered very unhealthy. AQI in the range of 300-500 is considered hazardous and most countries would issue a public health warning much before the air quality breaches that mark. During the Diwali season parts of Delhi record an AQI of 500. This poisonous air invades everyone’s personal space regardless of their religious affiliation. There is reduced visibility on the roads due to heavy smog resulting in vehicle accidents. Thousands of people are hospitalized for burns due to firecrackers and there are hundreds of calls to the fire brigade to respond to Diwali related fires at properties. All this at taxpayers expense. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

In 2015 there were 197 crematoriums in Bombay. Only 11 out of 197 were electric crematoriums. All others use wood to cremate the dead. Most of these crematoriums are situated amidst densely populated areas. There has been no attempt or desire on the part of Hindus to  modernize these crematoriums. The smell of burning human flesh lingers in the area for hours depending on number of people cremated everyday. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

Every year millions of idols are immersed in the water systems of India as a part of Ganesh Utsav and Durga Puja rituals. A good number of these idols are made out of ‘Plaster of Paris’ which can takes years to dissolve in water. The idols are painted with chemicals that contain heavy metals like lead, iron, copper and mercury. These chemicals don’t dissolve at all and eventually end up in the soil that is used to grow crops and vegetables. Decline in quality of food affects every Indian irrespective of religious affiliation. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

People all across India light bonfire to celebrate the festival of Holi. This adds to the air pollution but more importantly it leads to increased deforestation. The colors used in Holi often contain toxic chemicals like copper sulfate and lead oxide. These chemicals again end up in water systems and eventually in the food we consume. Shopkeepers use large plastic sheets to protect their shops from dye based colors that ruin the shutters and signboard. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity .

Hundreds and thousands of cremations take place on the bank of river Ganges everyday. If the cremation does not burn the body completely, the remains are dumped into the river. Many poor families who cant afford cremations simply dump the body in the river. The bodies flow downstream creating a apocalyptic scene where decomposing bodies end up on the banks only to be eaten by dogs. River Ganges is a national asset and a country that claims to be secular should protect it from imposed religiosity.

Now let us come back to to the issue of noise. It is not uncommon during Hindu festivals to have huge loudspeakers playing very loud music late at night. Most of which has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Then there are Devi Jagran Jagrata or rhythmic chants that carry on throughout the night on loudspeakers mounted on the top of Hindu Temples.  Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

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During major Hindu festivals, Pandals are installed blocking busy streets. Whole sections of the towns are closed down. There are hundreds of Yatras all across India where devotees block major roads and use public transport for free. Recently a Hindu guru was allowed to destroy a national asset like the Yamuna plains because he wanted to teach people the art of living. Hundreds and thousands of Crores of tax payers money is spent on organizing Hindu festivals all across India. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

It beggars belief that people who are hardly concerned about declining food quality, destruction of water ways, rising air pollution and disruption of normal life due to religious festivals would oppose Azaan merely because they want to make their surroundings more livable. The growing chorus against the Azaan led by half-celebs is not rooted in the desire to make India a better place for its inhabitants. They simply don’t want to be reminded of the fact that they share “their” country with Muslims. Azaan keeps reminding them of the Muslims around them.

Muslims can and Muslims should do away with Azaan on loudspeakers especially during hours that can disturb people’s sleep. And all right minded Hindus would agree that protecting the land and waterways of India is way more important than protecting aspects of their religion, tradition or culture.

What About Saudi Arabia?

Let us first put things into perspective. The native population of Saudi Arabia is around 20 million. The population of Bombay is 20 million. The population of the biggest State of India Uttar Pradesh is 200 million, which is ten times the native population of Saudi Arabia.

It is estimated that there are 1.6 BILLION Muslims scattered all over the world. The total population of Saudi Arabia is merely 1.25% of the global Muslim population.

Of course Saudi Arabia is home to two of the three holiest sites in Islam. The ritual of Haj existed even before the time of Prophet Muhammad. Muslims are not exactly going to Saudi Arabia for Haj, they are going to Mecca and Medina which at this point of time happen to be a part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Is Saudi Arabia the Vatican of Islam? Much of the perception in the West and of course among Hindu liberals is based on their understanding of Christianity. They try to find parallels between religions. If Catholics have the Vatican then Muslims have Saudi Arabia. The heart of Islam. However this is not true. The primary learning hub for Muslims have kept shifting through the history of Islam. At one point it was Baghdad, at another time it was Cairo and yet at another time it was Persia. Even the subcontinent produced some of the most influential scholars and schools of Islam.

Islam has been a very successful ideology which is followed by every fourth person in the world across races, tribes and nations. Today there isn’t any single center for learning. There are many centers each competing for the mind of Muslims.

Saudi Arabia is not a flag bearer of Islam. No Muslim country is. Saudi Arabia is a nation state with its own citizenship laws. A Muslim wont automatically become a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Indian PM Narendra Modi described India as the natural home for Hindus, Israel grants citizenship to Jews from all over the world. Saudi association with the global Muslim community is limited to the ritual of Haj. Apart from that Saudi Arabia has its regional associations, regional power struggles and regional aspirations.

Saudi Arabia does not take a confrontational attitude even with nation states that are extremely hostile towards their Muslim population. Narendra Modi, who is accused of being complicit in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 received highest civilian award from the Saudi Government. Saudi Arabia puts its national interest ahead of everything else. Saudis do what any nation state would do to further its national interests.

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PM Narendra Modi receiving highest civilian award from Saudi King

The West had keen interest in Saudi Arabia because the West needed oil. Even today the West in general and US in particular closely allies with Saudi Arabia to exert influence in the region. Many liberals in the West accuse Saudi Arabia of exporting Islamic extremism but ignore the fact it is their own Governments that are arming Saudi Arabia. Either the West is complicit with Saudis in exporting Islamic extremism or the liberals are simply demonizing Saudi Arabia because of the age old stereotypes that they have constructed about the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is a conservative country. For example no other Muslim country has restrictions on female drivers. Saudi Arabia is also a very fast urbanizing society. In the past two decades the country has made good progress in empowering women. Saudi women have better access to healthcare, literacy rate is 100%, there is record rise in female workforce participation, new laws against domestic violence have been introduced and there has been a weakening of guardianship laws. Saudi women even have 20% seats reserved in their national parliament.

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Saudi Arabia is the favorite punching bag for Islamophobes and Liberals alike. Of course Saudi Arabia, like any other country in the world, has many flaws. Of course they can do better on empowering their women, of course they can do better on empowering their citizens via democracy, of course they can stop public hanging of criminals. Capital punishment is not unique to Saudi Arabia. China, India and US all have the provision for capital punishment. In fact India is notorious for killing thousands of people every year inside its jails without a trial. China can do more to promote democracy. US can abolish death penalty. There is nothing uniquely bad about Saudi Arabia, a comparatively tiny population, to be singled out for constant criticism.

This constant criticism of Saudi Arabia has less to do with human rights or gender parity concerns and more to do with anti Muslim bigotry. You will often hear from people that Islam does not allow women to drive. The fact is that only Saudi Arabia does not allow women to drive. 98% of Muslim women around the world have no restrictions on driving. When Saudis eventually allow their women to drive, and that time is not too far, the saddest people on the planet would be the anti Muslim bigots. They don’t really care about any Muslim, women and children included. Most would take quiet pleasure in seeing Muslim women and children suffer.

The other group of people who excessively criticize Saudi Arabia are those who have sectarian loyalties. And there is no dearth of Muslims who would selectively target Iran on the basis of their own sectarian loyalties. Indian Muslims should be careful. Liberals are not criticizing Saudi Arabia, their target is the Indian Muslim.

Saudi Arabia is just a convenient straw-man argument. They want to bully you. Do not get bullied. Bully them back with questions regarding their own country, their own religion. India fares far worse than Saudi Arabia on almost every gender and social indicator. Check UN’s gender index. Check UN’s human development index.

If they can bully you for what happens in a country thousands of miles away then surely you can hold them to account for what happens in India. If they can hold Islam and all Muslims accountable for a country where 1.25% of all Muslims live then surely you can hold Hinduism and all Hindus accountable for what happens in India where 95% of all Hindus live.

As Kenneth J. Long observed in his Book ‘Contemporary Anti Muslim Politics, Aggressions and Exclusions’:

“It is fascinating that Westerners generally fail to consider comparisons of Muslim postcolonial societies  to comparable non-Muslim ones. Hindu-dominated India for example generally fares far worse than its Muslim counterparts when it comes to issues of gender equality. India’s rape rate is far worse, female foeticide is a much bigger problem, female literacy is at least as prevalent, and female membership in governance is equally underrepresented; all without much victimization by foreign intervention in the last handful of decades.”   ~ Kenneth J. Long

Lastly, as a Muslim it is OK to have concerns related to Saudi Arabia, you may even have serious differences with what they believe in. It is OK to discuss these issues within the privacy of your trusted circles. Do not throw fellow Muslims to the vultures because after they are done with so called “wahabis” they are coming for you.

Not Your Hindustani Musalman

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A Muslim poet has written a poem that supposedly explains that there are all kinds of Muslims in India and it is not fair to see them through a narrow stereotypical lens as is often the case. They belong to different sects, different professions and they have different outlook towards life. I believe the poet has done a commendable job in expressing his views in a manner that is soothing to the ears. The poet is also gentle in his mannerisms and he comes across as a very decent human being.

From the contents of the poem it is clear that this poem is addressed to Hindus. You don’t need to convince Muslims that they are just as diverse as the wider Indian community. They know it already. They live in that diversity. This poem is an appeal to Hindus who have developed selective amnesia towards the existence of Muslims in India. The poem appeals to them that they should try and expand the horizons of their perception so they stop seeing Muslims from their narrow stereotypical lenses.

Like everything else this poem also exists in a context. India is going through a phase where crude religious nationalism is at its peak. Minority Muslims are expected to behave in way that conforms with the new standards being set for them by Hindu nationalists who are now in power. A good Muslim is a thankful Muslim, a good Muslim does not conform with the ideals of his faith but with the ideals set by the majoritarian forces.

In this context  this poem appears to present a picture where a typical Indian Muslim believes that Mandir and other places of worship are just as holy as his own place of worship. Of course everyone would love that sentiment. It is a good feeling to see people accept every faith as their own. But is this picture anywhere close to reality? No it isn’t. A typical Indian Muslim, like almost every other Muslim in the world believes that idol worship is among the greatest of sins.  However a statistically negligible minority of Muslims may be worshiping idols in a Mandir, there may even be this diversity among Muslims but it is so rare that it is statistically negligible.

And the same applies for Muslims who consume alcohol. While you may have come across “many” Muslims in your elite circles who drink, compared to the total number of Muslims in India such Muslims make a tiny, statistically negligible minority.

The main concern with the poem is that fact that it highlights those kinds of Muslims that are a tiny minority, probably because such Muslims are more acceptable to Hindus, while ignoring the typical Indian Muslims who reject any form of idol worship and never consume alcohol. A more generous interpretation of the poem could be that the poet only wants to talk about exceptional Muslims so the exceptions automatically prove the rule. But given the context and era in which this poem is written, this poem comes across as an attempt to redefine Indian Muslim in a way that is more acceptable to Hindus.

Citizenship is a non negotiable concept. A person cant be stateless. A person has to belong. It is the most fundamental right. Even the worst criminals in the world have a country to which they belong. They don’t become stateless on account of their criminal behavior. While this may not be the intent of the poet, this poem inadvertently ends up defining an Indian Muslim. Any Muslim who does not fit into this narrow definition is not a Hindustani. What is the identify of such a Muslim? Are they not Hindustani Muslims?

Indian Muslims have lived in India forever. They are not Arabs. Indian Muslims have been living on the Indian land for just as long as anyone else. Before Hindus knew Muslims as Muslims they knew them as their own brothers and sisters. Why should there be a need to explain to Hindus the nature of Muslim society? If after 1400 years of existence of Islam in India, a Muslim feels the need to explain to a Hindu something as basic as existence of diversity among Indian Muslims then it is reasonable to assume that Hindu India has isolated itself from India’s Muslim minority.

Some people like the poem because they saw it as a definition of a Good Muslim, others liked it because they saw it as an attempt by the poet to reach out to the Hindu community. What is a poem worth if it does not speak in multitudes. That said, how many people would have liked the poem if it had highlighted some uncomfortable facts about the treatment of Muslims in India? Very few. Sociopolitical poetry should drag us out of our comfort zones so we start looking at the world in a way that is more just and fair.

Here is a another poem. This poem wont make any headlines. But this will make you think about the Hindustani Muslim.

Not your Hindustani Musalman
By Abul Kalam Azad

Urine settles on the pores
Of my detained tongue
As Azaan sneaks in through the holes
Under the prison walls

I am the Muslim
Whose clock freezes
Under piles of terror charges,
Whose ears go numb
With echoes from third-degree chambers

My bones are fodder
To the bricks of Dadri,
My foetus is the crown
On the spears of Gujarat,
My palms are the raised pillows
To the bent heads of Hashimpura

I am the Muslim
Whose breath hangs
On a black wire
Curling like a snake
Around the loudspeakers
Of neighborhood temples

My feet never touched the lips of Ganga
for I was eating beef with the Asuras’,
My eyes never read the Gita
for they kept looking for the thumbs of Ekalavyas’

I am the Muslim
Whose fist raises
When untouchable fingers break
Between the Manusmriti’s pages

My lover goes missing
Among the thickets of corpses
Without names or stories
Under the womb of Jhelum

I am the Muslim
Whose window sills carry
The scent of gunpowder
Fom occupied nights

Three headed flags
Thrust their saffron fangs
Upon my lips
To mimic its anthems

I am the Muslim
Who shakes in fright
Clutching his beard
When a stranger bombs
Faraway planets

I am the tenant
Every owner evicts

I am the refugee
Every border rejects

I am not your Hindustani Musalman,
For it’s a door I am forced to knock,
The one that is never opened

I am not your Hindustani Musalman,
For I am killed
For not being one

I am not your Hindustani Musalman
I am not your Hindustani Musalman

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Where does India stand as compared to countries with Muslim majority?

Annoyed by the regressive attitude of some Indians, the Savarna Liberal thundered “Do we want to become like Saudi Arabia?” This has become a liberal tradition. Pick a random Muslim country and present it as the worst case scenario. India is supposed to guard its higher values so it does not turn into a hell hole like some random Islamic country. In this blog I will try and see where Muslim countries stand as compared India which is of course a country with a progressive and liberal outlook.

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Female Parliamentarians of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s male to female ratio at birth is same as that of United States, Australia, Norway or UK. India’s male to female ratio is among the worst in the world. Only two other countries have done worse than India. There are 50 million fewer females in India as compared to males. This skewed ratio is a result rampant female foeticide. The biggest female genocide in the history of humanity is happening in India. But let us ignore this for a while and pretend that India is significantly better than any random Muslim country.

India is the only country in the world where half of its population does not have access to toilets. The first known toilets were built in 2800 BC. In few weeks we will be in 2017 AD. Just by this measure India becomes the most socially backward society in the world. All major Muslim countries have been able to provide toilets to their citizens. Recently Bangladesh declared that it has ended open defecation. But perhaps there may be other things that make India significantly better than Muslim countries?

Only 12% of seats are held by women in the Indian parliament. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Somalia all have a higher proportion of seats held by women in their parliaments as compared to India. On UN’s gender index India is behind all major Muslim countries including Bangladesh and Pakistan.  A child born in India is far more likely to be malnourished than a child born in Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia all have better literacy rate for females as compared to India.  In spite of being the most conservative countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran have achieved cent percent literacy among females. While India has a seen a massive 10% decline in female workforce participation in the past decade Saudi Arabia is seeing a record increase. A recent report on honor killings in India has documented an 800 percent rise in such cases.So not only are these countries better for women today, these countries are continuously improving as India regresses.

Bangladesh is the only major Muslim majority country in the world that has a worse record on child marriage as compared to India. Even in India a girl born in a Hindu family is more likely to become a child bride as compared to a girl born in a Muslim family.

Now let us have a look at some other issues like capital punishment. India is a progressive country that applies capital punishment in the rarest of the rare case but a barbaric country like Saudi Arabia regularly beheads people for crimes and dissent. It appears we finally found an issue on which India is better than Saudi Arabia. But wait, India has killed 11,820 people in police custody in five years. These people are often killed as a result of extreme torture inside lockups. Hardly any police officer is brought to justice for these killings. In fact in some cases policemen have been rewarded for killing people in fake encounters. It is safe to assume that Indian state carries out these murders as a matter of policy.

Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim countries have blasphemy laws. Surely India can’t be as regressive as Muslim countries.  India is a free society where freedom of expression is a protected value. However I am not sure why India regularly jails people for “hurting religious sentiments”. A Muslim cleric was arrested and beaten in court for a mild criticism of a Hindu festival. A Muslim preacher is facing charge of promoting enmity between communities because in his opinion Mecca is holier than Amritsar.

There is a constant pressure on minorities in India to adopt a Uniform Civil Code which is simply a euphemism for Uniform Hindu Code (like beef ban). Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia allow customary laws for their Hindu population without continuously hounding them for reforms or trying to impose Sharia over them. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia have taken tough measures against Islamist extremism with a number of Islamist extremists either killed in army action or hanged after due process. India has never hanged a Hindu terrorist since Godse. Even the most dreaded Hindu terrorist Maya Kodnani is out on bail even after getting convicted in the murder of 96 men, women and children. Indian jails are full of Muslim, Dalits and tribals. The brutalization of minorities in India is among the worst in the world outside of war zones.

In most parts of India beef is banned because of a Hindu religious law that gives a holy status to the cow. People who are arrested on the charges of eating or selling beef are either tortured in jails or are simple killed by Hindu militias. In most parts of the Muslim world there is no restriction on minorities if they want to consume alcohol or pork. Some Muslim farmers in Morocco supply pigs to the European market. Malaysia is famous for its pork delicacies. There are pork shops in UAE. There are only a handful of Muslim countries that ban pork and alcohol for non Muslims. Perhaps only Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) is an arm of US department of State that performs security assessments of cities overseas. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE all fall under the low risk category while  Indian cities like Delhi and Bombay are classified as Medium risk cities with a cautionary note about sexual attacks on women.

For a moment let us ignore all this and focus on the real issue of Saudis exporting extremism to countries like India. In a special investigation conducted by NDTV on the foreign funding of Madrasas (Islamic Schools) it was revealed that Saudi Arabia only contributed Rs 4.5 Cr since 2013. A good part of this is sent by Indian Muslims working in Saudi Arabia but let us ignore that for the sake of argument. India has a population of around 170 million Muslims. So Saudi Arabia is investing $ 0.001 per Muslim per year in India to spread their version of Islam. Either this is the best return on investment ever recorded or savarna liberals don’t know what they are talking about.

But please don’t be disappointed after reading this. Let us be happy thinking that women still can’t drive in Saudi Arabia. 99% of women in India don’t have access to a car while 100% women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive a car. This should be considered the sole point on which we can say with utmost confidence that India is far better place than Saudi Arabia to be a woman.

All the facts mentioned in this blog are easily verifiable.This of course does not mean that Muslim majority countries are Utopias, far from it. There is a lot of progress to be made on gender justice, women empowerment and education. Progressive Muslims in these Muslim countries are working on these issues and perhaps that is the reason they don’t get the time to obsess with Hinduism or India. They are too busy fixing their own society to be bothered about others. Hope Savarna Liberals stop sniffing the cocaine of superiority complex and start working towards the betterment of India and Hindu society.

Quran and the common criticism of Islam

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While there is a lot of criticism of Islam available online there are some controversial issues that get more attention than others. In this blog I try to understand those controversial issues from the Quranic perspective. This article is not a testimony of what Islam and Muslims are, nor is this an attempt to present an apologia for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam or in the name of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

Apostasy

There is no verse in the Quran that says that people who quit Islam should be punished or harmed. There are verses in the Quran that say there is no compulsion in matters of religion (2:256). Then Quran goes further to make a case against forcing religion on people. “If your God had willed he would have created everyone a believer, will you then force religion on people?” it asks (10:99). So the “Islamic” problem of punishment for apostasy has an Islamic solution.

Blasphemy

There is no concept of punishment for blasphemy in the Quran. On the contrary Quran says Muslims should disassociate with people who mock their faith so they don’t become like those who indulge in such acts (4:140). Then Quran goes further and stops Muslims from mocking the religious leaders and gods of other faiths. (6:108)

Child Marriage

Quran prescribes marriage between adults who have a sound mind. Quran also forbids from marrying women against their will. (4:6)

Divorce

Quran prescribes a long negotiated settlement between the husband and the wife after appointing one lawyer for the man and one lawyer for the woman. (4:35)

Polygamy

Quran allows polygamy recommends monogamy (4:3 and 4:129). There was no way earlier tribes could have survived without the concept of polygamy when a large proportion of men died in wars. Polygamy allowed widows and their children another chance to become a part of family as family was the most important unit of tribal culture.

Female Genital Mutilation

There is absolutely nothing in the Quran that sanctions female genital mutilation. FGM is mainly practiced in some African countries both by Muslims and non Muslims. There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions this practice.

Circumcision

There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions male circumcision. Circumcision for males comes from an ancient Jewish practice that Muslims adopted. Today both Jews and Muslims follow this practice. So it may not be in the Quran but since Jews practice it and since it is not prohibited in the Quran then it means that circumcision can be considered as a practice sanctioned by Islam.

Female infanticide

Quran explicitly forbids female infanticide.(17:31, 81:8-9)

Violence against non believers

Quran asks Muslims to be fully equitable towards those non believers who peacefully live with Muslims (60:8). Quran allows Muslims to form marriage bonds with Christians and Jews (5:5). The idea that Quran has a general sanction to fight or kill non believers is baseless. Quran sanctions Muslims to fight those who threaten their nation state. This is a common modern law. If you try to challenge Indian state then Indian state will fight against you. If you try to fight any state in the modern world the state will fight against you. So Quran sanctions a just war and says that hostilities must cease when the enemy offers peace. Quran forbids killing of innocents saying that killing one innocent is like killing entire humanity (5:32).

Jizya (Tax on non believers)

Since Quran says that Zakat (charity) is compulsory on Muslims (9:60,2:177) it recommends that Jizya could be collected from non Muslims. Millions of Hindus have worked in the middle east, forget about paying Jizya they are not even required to pay any tax. Since Zakat is not being charged by the state there is no point of imposing Jizya either. So why cant Zakat be charged from non Muslims? For the simple reason that Zakat is a Islamic ritual while Jizya is tax imposed by the state hence imposing Zakat on non Muslims would be forcing an aspect of Islam on non believers. This is not permissible.

Slavery

Quran says freeing slaves from bondage is true righteousness (2:177,9:60,5:89). During those days there was no concept of nation providing security, it was the responsibility of the tribes and clans to guarantee security of the people. The people who lost the war were taken captives and then they were kept as slaves forever.Tribes guaranteed security to the captives in return for their services.

Quran allowed marriage between captives and victors (4:25). The eventual aim was to free all captives after war.  The earliest converts to Islam like Bilal were African slaves freed by Mohammed. In fact Quran bans trading in usury (3:130) because the unending cycle of interest eventually resulted in slavery. People borrowed money from the loan sharks and when they could not return the interest they were forced to become bonded labor. Mohammed banned this in the seventh century. India banned the practice of bonded labor in 1976.

Niqab

There is no verse in the Quran that asks Muslim women to cover their face, however there is a verse that prescribes covering of head and bosom (24:31). Quran also prescribes men to dress modestly (33:35). Also asks people not to walk with arrogance and pride (17:37). Also asks people not to eat more than what is required (20:81,7:31). Basically ask Muslims to be moderate in whatever they do.

Alcohol and Gambling

Quran prohibits Muslims from consuming alcohol and playing game of chance.(2:219-220)

Diversity

Quran does not give racial or cultural superiority to Arabs. Quran acknowledges cultural diversity in the world and asks people to learn from each other (49:13).

Science

While Quran endorses the concept of past miracles it definitely puts an end to the concept of miracles (6:109). There is nothing in the Quran that asks Muslims to do something that would harm their well being. In fact Quran even allows Muslims to eat pork in times of peril (2:173). Quran asks Muslims to go and explore the world (29:20). So there is nothing as such in the Quran that stops Muslims from exploring Science. In fact early Islam had many Muslim scientists.

72 Virgins

There is no verse in the Quran that talks about 72 virgins.

Stoning

There is no verse in the Quran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for any crime.