Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Hindu-Muslim divide

It's always amusing to see a discussion between Hindus and Pakistanis go awry as it descends into the usual hate-filled mud-slinging. Both sides operate with their unique perspectives on their history which results in much talking past each other.

From the most common Pakistani perspective, Muslims are the innocent victims of Hindu hate. They find it baffling why for no crime of theirs, they are constantly the victim of hate directed at them by Hindus. The perspective is formed from hearing about events like the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the regular riots and killings between Hindus and Muslims in India, the supposed persecution of Muslims by a Hindu army in Kashmir, the constant mention of discrimination against Muslims that makes its way to Pakistani newspapers. They find it a betrayal of sorts that after an Islamic rule of a thousand years, where Hindus were allowed to practice their religion (with some limitations), Hindus should hate and discriminate against them, and should feel themselves to be the rightful rulers over and superiors of all others in the subcontinent. In their view, Indian history or the history of any region in the world is one of conquests and counter conquests, so they don't understand why Muslim conquests should be singled out as a reason for hatred. The extremists among Muslims feel that the Ummah is the only Nation to identify with, that an Islamic society is the only right answer and that Islam needs to rule over India again, and that the kafirs need to be converted to the One True Faith.

From the most common Hindu perspective, Hindus are the innocent victims of Muslim hate. From being subjected to mass murder and conversion for centuries simply because they don't believe in Islam, derided as idolators, cow-worshippers, backward, caste-ridden and inferior to Muslims, to being victims of campaigns against them in Kashmir, they find the Muslims to be constantly looking to trouble them. The perspective is formed after learning about how brutally the Muslim conquerors of yore subjugated ancient Hindu kingdoms, killing hundreds of thousands in one day as part of their conquests, or of hearing Muslims glorify their rule which was extremely painful for Hindus, of experiencing ethnic cleansing at the hands of terrorists in Kashmir who emptied the valley of Hindus in the 90s with gun-backed calls of "Kashmir may rahna hai to Allah-u-Akbar kehna hai" among others, of hearing about how the Hindu populations in Islamic states are treated, of hearing about terrorist attacks constantly claimed by Muslim extremists as glorious victories against the "infidels". This view holds that India is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, diverse and ancient civilization whose potential success with a successful and prosperous Muslim minority negates the idea behind the creation of Partition and forces Pakistanis to try their best to bring it down, by constantly pointing out the faultlines in India's not-so-ideal present state of the achievement of the vision, be it riots, Kashmir or other situations, while simultaneously Pakistanis simultaneously live in a religiously exclusivist country and so are seen to have no locus-standi to speak about problems with equality or secularism in India. The extremists among Hindus want an India where only ethnic faiths flourish excluding such converting faiths such as Islam or Christianity which by their very nature deride other faiths in order to gain converts, a perfect Ram Rajya of prosperity, peace and justice. They find it unfair that Muslims in India demand equal or better treatment (as is constitutionally sanctioned) while Islamic societies around the world legally discriminate against non-Muslims, especially those who are seen to be idolators (freedom of belief be damned). After Muslims demanded and got Islamic states for themselves in the subcontinent, Hindus holding this view find it unfair that Muslims should continue to live in India enjoying government coddling in the form of quotas and Haj-subsidies, while simultaneously creating an Islamic society in the new states. They also think Muslims will constantlt attempt to take over India again, with the Muslim population in India acting as a fifth column to support the takeover.

With such contrary viewpoints, a discussion between the two, especially extremists of either variety is an exercise in frustration, though it makes for some amusement to others who prefer to understand the context behind each statement and the historical perception with which it was made. Unfortunately, there are very few of us, and even those that are, are given to occasional failures and frustration when the other person isn't operating with the same aim. So such dysfunctional discussions go on, and will go on in the foreseeable future, and amusement is my only recourse when I encounter them.


  1. I am amazed that you also beleive that there was a 1000 year rule of "muslims" in india. There was no such thing as anyone who has even read history in a very cursory way. India had huge muslim population and Muslim states and hindu states. It just happend that the biggest kigdom in india was muslim mughal dynasty. Otherwise all over the history there were alliances of muslims with hindus, against muslims and also against hindus. I am amazed how come you bought into this propoganda

  2. Hi Babar, no, I don't believe in the 1000 year rule story either :). I was describing a viewpoint held by some people.

    Even during the rule of the Mughal badshahs, they ruled in the manner of the British - Hindu kings and kingdoms paid them tribute but had control over their own lands. Only Sindh can be said to have been under Muslim rule for a thousand years, since Arabs landed there and brought Islam around 700 AD.