विवेक सम्मत नैतिकता का एक तक़ाज़ा यह होता है की वह सब पर एक-सी लागू होती है। और नैतिकता मूलतः विवेक सम्मत ही हो सकती है, ईश्वरीय नैतिकता तो सौदा या/और भय पर आधारित होती है। तो विवेकशील नैतिकता ना तो हवा के साथ रुख बदलती है नाही अपने स्वार्थ के लिए मुड़कर दोहरी होती है। ऐसी गिरगिटी नैतिकता तो वास्तव में अनैतिक होने का प्रमाण है। हमारे देश में इस समय मोटे तौर पर दो धड़े एक ऊग्र विचारधारतमक युद्ध में रत रहे हैं। इन में एक को हम हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादी कहेंगे, क्यों की वे सब चीजों में हिन्दू-दृष्टि का बोलबाला चाहते हैं। यह ठीक है कि उनमें कुछ लोग भारतीय संस्कृति पर अधिक बल देते हैं और विचारधारतमक रूप से खुले हैं। पर इस धड़े के केंद्र में इस समय हिन्दू-दृष्टि का बोलबाला चाहने वाले ही हैं। दूसरे धड़े को हम कथित-उदारवादी कहेंगे, क्यों कि वे उदारवाद का मुखौटा लगा कर, उदारवाद की भाषा में बात करते हैं। पर वास्तव में मूलतः भारतीयता और हिन्दू विरोधी हैं। उन्हें लगता है कि देश में सही राजनैतिक और वैज्ञानिक चिंतन के विकास के लिए, समानता और सब के साथ न्याय के लिए, हिन्दू और भारतीयता को गरियाना जरूरी है।
नूपुर शर्मा और मुहम्मद ज़ुबैर का किस्सा इन दोनों के नैतिकता के मुखौटों को तार-तार कर देता है। इन दोनों की नैतिकता न सब पर एक जैसी लागू होती है नाही विवेक का सम्मान करती है। इसे ठीक से समझने के लिए हम इस किस्से को कुछ विस्तार से देखते हैं। पर पहले मैं यह सपष्ट करदूं कि मेरे विचार से ना तो नूपुर शर्मा के कथन और नवीन जिंदल के ट्वीट पर बवाल होना चाहिए ना ही मुहम्मद ज़ुबैर को गिरफ्तार करना चाहिए। एक लोकतन्त्र में लोगों को अपनी बात कहने की और अपने विचार रखने की इतनी आजादी जरूरी है।
नूपुर शर्मा और नवीन जिंदल
अब तक सब जानते हैं कि ज्ञानवापी मस्जिद में मिले बेलनाकार पत्थर को लेकर शिवलिंग है या फव्वारा की जोरदार बहस चल रही थी। इसी बहस में शिव और शिवलिंग पर सैकड़ों टिप्पणियां हो रही थी, जो अभद्र थीं और हिंदुओं को चिड़ाने के लिए थीं। (एक बार फिर: इस के बावजूद यह अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्र दे दायरे में था।) एक टेलीविज़न बहस (या वितंडा?) में एक श्री रहमानी की इसी तरह की चिड़ाने वाली टिप्पणियों के जवाब में नूपुर शर्मा ने यह कहा: “अरे आप छोड़ो तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े … and earth is flat जो कुरान में … लिखा है बताएगा, उसका मज़ाक उड़ाना शुरू करदूं? छह साल की बच्ची से ब्याह करके नौ साल में you are having sex with her, किसने? प्रोफेट मुहम्मद ने। बोलना शुरू करदूं मैं? Earth is flat according to Quran 88.20, बकवास ना कीजिये उड़ते हुए घोड़े पर बैठ कर फुर्र होजाइए फुर्र।”
जब इस बात पर अखबारों और सामाजिक-माध्यमों पर बवंडर उठगया तो नवीन जिंदल ने ट्वीट किया: “नबी के दुलारो से पूछना चाहता हूँ कि तुम्हारा नबी 53 वर्ष की आयु में 6 वर्ष की छोटी बच्ची आयशा के साथ शादी करता है फिर 56 वर्ष की आयु में 9 वर्ष की आयशा के साथ संबंध बनाता है … क्या यह संबंध बलात्कार की श्रेणी में नहीं आता..?”
मैंने अपने 7 जून 2022 की ब्लॉग पोस्ट में विस्तार से लिखा है कि नूपुर ने जो कहा वह कुरान और हदीस में लिखा हुआ है और सैकड़ों मुसलमान मौलाना कहते हैं। और नवीन जिंदल का सवाल जायज है। पर इस पर बवाल हुआ, दर्जनों शहरों में हजारों मूसलमानों ने प्रदर्शन किए, कुछ जगह एक तरफा हिंसा हुई, और भारत पर अंतरराष्ट्रीय दबाव बना जिसके सामने यह कमजोर राष्ट्र झुक गया।
इस सारे किस्से में हमारे कथित-उदारवादी लगातार नूपुर और नवीन को दोषी मान रहे थे, इन प्रदर्शनों को या तो जायज ठहरा रहे थे या उन पर चुप थे। अंतरराष्ट्रीय दबाव पर बेशर्मी से अपने ही देश की कमजोरी और बेइज्जती पर बगलें बाजा रहे थे और हंस रहे थे। मुहम्मद ज़ुबैर की तारीफ कर रहे थे, इस मुद्दे के अंतरराष्ट्रीयकरण में पहल के लिए। दूसरी तरफ हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादी नूपुर और नवीन को निर्दोष मान रहे थे और मुहम्मद ज़ुबैर को दंगा भड़काने वाला कह रहे थे। अर्थात: हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादी नूपुर और नवीन की अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता का पक्ष ले रहे थे और कथित-उदारवादी उन की अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता का विरोध कर रहे थे।
अब एक चार साल पुराने ट्वीट के आधार पर मुहम्मद ज़ुबैर को गिरफ्तार कर लिए गया है। वह ट्वीट यह है:
कथित-उदारवादी प्रचार उपकारण ‘द वायर’ के अनुसार यह तस्वीर 1983 की एक फिल्म “किसी से ना कहना” से है, और ज़ुबैर का यह ट्वीट 2018 का है।
इस में एक देखने की बात यह है कि तस्वीर तो 1983 की फिल्म से है, पर ज़ुबैर की टिप्पणी “Before 2014: Honeymoon Hotel, After 2014: Hanuman Hotel. #SansakaariHotel” उस फिल्म से नहीं है। यह इस तस्वीर का जो हिन्दू संस्कारों की बात कराते हैं उनपर और भारतीय जनता पार्टी की राजनीति पर कटाक्ष है। और निश्चित रूप से उन हिंदुओं को चिड़ाने के लिए है जिनको ज़ुबैर संस्कारी हिन्दू समझता है।
अब पूरा कथित-उदारवादी मीडिया और तंत्र (हाँ, यह एक सुव्यवस्थित तंत्र है) बवंडर मचा रहा है कि यह सरकार फासिस्ट है, की ज़ुबैर की गिरफ्तारी गलत है, कि अभिव्यक्ती की स्वतन्त्रता की हत्या हो रही है। ये इनके हर बात पर लगाने वाले आम नारे हैं। इन्हें फासिस्ट, घ्रणा, हत्या के अलावा और कोई शब्द जैसे आते ही ना हों।
ज़ुबैर के ऐसे दर्जनों ट्वीट्स थे जिन में वह हिन्दू विचारों और देवताओं पर कटाक्ष कर रहा है, उन का मखौल उड़ा रहा है। मैंने अपने ऊपर इंगित ब्लॉग पोस्ट में यह लिखा था: “We all know that there was a storm of jokes and insulting comments on Shiva and Shivaling recently. When Ratan Lal was arrested (he should not have been arrested) all liberals rose in protest. And he was released. Now, all liberals want Nupur Sharma arrested, because this time it is Muhammad and not Shivaling. I will not be surprised if Hindus soon discover blasphemy. That would be a bad day for India and Indian democracy, but we can not deny that the Islamic idea of blasphemy gives an advantage to the bullying element in the Muslim population. The fundamentalist element in Hindu population will soon fashion such a weapon. Presently, so called liberal journalists can happily share insulting cartoons on Shivaling and at the same time pretend hurt when someone speaks truth about Muhammad. This kinds of double standards fuel animosity.”
एक रफ-सा हिन्दी अनुवाद: “हम सब जानते हैं कि हाल ही में शिवलिंग पर मज़ाक़ों और अपमानजनक टिप्पणियों का एक तूफान सा चला है। जब रतन लाल को गिरफ्तार किया गया (उसे गिरफ्तार नहीं करना चाहिए था) तो सब उदारवादी उस के समर्थन में उठ खड़े हुए थे। और उसे छोड़ दिया गया। अब सब उदारवादी नूपुर की गिरफ्तारी चाहते हैं, क्यों कि इस बार यह मामला मुहम्मद का है, शिवलिंग का नहीं। मुझे कोई आश्चर्य नहीं होगा यदि बहुत जल्द हिन्दू भी ईशनिन्दा की धारणा अपना लें। वह भारत और भारतीय लोकतन्त्र के लिए बहुत बुरा दिन होगा। पर हम इस बात से इंकार नहीं कर सकते ही इस्लाम में ईशनिन्दा की अवधारणा मुसलमानों में जो डराने-धमकाने वाले लोग हैं उनको यह विचार हुड़दंग का मौका देता है। हिंदुओं में कट्टरपंथी लोग भी बहुत जल्दी ऐसा ही हथियार खोज लेंगे। अभी तो कथित उदारवादी पत्रकार मजे में शिवलिंग का अपमान करने वाले कार्टून साझा कर सकते हैं, और साथ ही जब कोई मुहम्मद के बारे में सच भी कह दे तो भावनाएं आहत होने का नाटक कर सकते हैं। ये दोहरे मापदंड शत्रुता को बढ़ावा देते हैं।”
अब देखिये फिर से कथित उदारवादियों का दोहरा चरित्र सब के सामने है। ये ज़ुबैर की गिरफ्तारी को फ़ासिज़्म बता रहे हैं और नूपुर की गिरफ्तारी की मांग कर रहे हैं।
मेरे विचार से न नूपुर को गिरफ्तार किया जाना चाहिए ना ही ज़ुबैर को। वैसे ज़ुबैर का सिर कटने का खतरा नहीं है, किसी ने न तो ईनाम रखा है, ना धमकी दी है, ना ही दंगे किए हैं। पर सरकार ने भी अपना दोहरा चरित्र इस में दिखाया है। मैं दोनों की गिरफ्तारी के विरुद्ध हूँ, पर एक को गिरफ्तार करना और दूसरे को नहीं, यह दोगलापन है। हालांकि इस के लिए नूपुर की गिरफ्तारी की मांग उलटी दिशा में जाना है, मांग ज़ुबैर को रिहा करने की होनी चाहिए। मैं यह भी मानता हूँ की धार्मिक भावनाएं भड़काने के इस नाटक को यहाँ तक पहुंचाने में मुख्य दोषी कथित उदारवादी हैं। ये लगातार दशकों से हिन्दू मान्यताओं और देवताओं पर अपमानजनक टिप्पणियों का साथ देते रहे हैं और इस्लाम और मुहम्मद पर टिप्पणियों का विरोध करते रहे हैं। अब हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादी भी अपनी मान्यताओं और देवताओं के अपमान पर वैसे ही विरोध जताने लगे हैं जैसे मुस्लिम। हमें सोचना चाहिए, इन दोनों लोगों के दोहरे चरित्र की आलोचना करनी चाहिए। अभी तक हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादी धार्मिक भावनाओं को ले कर बड़े प्रदर्शन और दंगे नहीं करने लगे हैं, मुसलमानों की तरह। यदि हमने कथित-उदारवादियों और मुसलमानों को नहीं रोका तो हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादियों को नहीं रोक पाएंगे।
ज़ुबैर को रिहा करना चाहिए, उस पर मुकदमा नहीं चलना चाहिए।
नूपुर शर्मा की गिरफ्तारी की मांग नहीं करनी चाहिए, उस पर मुकदमा नहीं चलना चाहिए।
नूपुर और नवीन को मुसलमान अतिवादियों से सुरक्षा देनी चाहिए, धमकी देने वालों को कानून के अनुसार गिरफ्तार करना चाहिए।
कथित-उदारवादी ढोंगियों और हिन्दू-वर्चश्ववादियों की सभी निष्पक्ष भारतीय नागरिकों को निंदा करनी चाहिए।
Subir Shukla (a well-known educational consultant and old friend) asked a question on the twitter: “With schools opening after the summer break, what would you like to see teachers/schools NOT do? And what SHOULD they do?” This is a quick response to this question. Since this response is ‘quick’ and I do not have much time, it will sound to be somewhat forthright and impatient, but that is only because of lack of time, believe me. 😊
This is what, to start with at the first sight, the schools/teachers and the system should do, it includes both NOT as well as SHOIULD do:
Stop harping on ill-defined ideas like learning-loss and learning recovery
Pay attention to learning that helps development of mind, stop worrying about coming at par with class
Restructure the school
Restructure, not reduce, the curriculum
Ban quick-fix doctors from education system
A little explanation of all these recommendations seems to be in order, therefore, attempted below.
1. Stop harping on ill-defined ideas like learning-loss and learning recovery
Both concepts (learning-loss and learning recovery) are ill defined and unhelpful. Learning-loss can be understood (i) as loss of time and opportunity for learning, (ii) children forgetting what they had learned before the schools closed.
Forgetting some of what children have already learnt is part and parcel of education process, it happens all the time. Revision may be necessary even in the normal course of school. Now since the unavailability of school was much longer therefor this forgetting of concepts, procedures, habits, and information may be much more. But one, children’s minds had not stopped making sense of their lives, therefore, have been maturing normally, all other things being equal. Thus, they will have greater capability to make sense of what they earlier learned only half understood. And two, what they had actually learnt will leave a trace of familiarity in their minds, that will help remembering and understanding it better quickly now. Third, conceptual understanding grows in our minds unknown to us. The mind keeps making connections with what we have learnt with our total repertoire of conceptual wealth. This process never stops. Therefore, together with forgetting of some factual bits of information this enriching of conceptual connections should also have happened. Because of these three factors in the hands of a good, hardworking teacher who knows his job, it should not be a huge problem.
The loss of time and opportunity is real and can not be done away, but this is a loss only if one is deeply given to intense competition. What a child C should have learnt at age x, if she learns at age x+1 or 2, what is the big harm? It becomes disturbing only when you compare this child with other children of her age who have gone far ahead, and this fact will put this child in a disadvantage in comparison to other children of her age with better opportunities. This is a chronic problem of Indian education with or without closing of school for long time. The opportunities and cultural capital distribution is extremely unequal. Yes, this closure of school will aggravate it, but if one forgets about competing and focuses on the development of child’s mind, it may not seem such a big issue. I know more than ten people who entered school late, passed their secondary 2 or 3 years after other children of their age and are very successful and good people today.
2. Pay attention to learning that helps development of mind, stop worrying about coming at par with class
Not all mugging up and collection of disconnected bits of information helps development of mind. Only that learning which integrates with the well-established conceptual structures, becomes ready part of the thinking processes, acquires internal justification due to logical connections, and used in decision making helps. The mugged-up bits only form a burden on the mind and make it incapable of justification, certainly, clear thinking and sound judgment for which one may be able to take a stand and act upon it boldly.
The army of the so-called school management experts, accelerated learning experts and quick-fix doctors simply regurgitate half digested words and their actions on the ground have been consistently unsuccessful in last at the least 40 years. Sorry to say this so bluntly, but I often doubt if their words have any meanings in their own heads or are just empty sounds to produce a favorable response from the audience.
Quick-fix methods of bringing children at par will not help in development of mind and conviction. Rigorous conceptual understanding with adequate time and self-exertion are the necessary ingredients for that. Therefore, abandon ‘quick-fix’ and ‘bringing at par’ attempts which are ways of squandering scarce resources by people who know very little of education. Start patiently from the solid foundation of understanding, skills and habits children have and built patiently on that. The creation will turn out to be more beautiful, more strong and immensely more valuable to the children individually, and to us all socially.
3. Restructure the school
What I have said above brings us to the question: then how shall we proceed in order to give adequate time and opportunity to learn and exert herself to each child? They have lost time and now have to cover the syllabus in a short time to come at par with their class, so what can be done?
This line of thinking is illogical, straight jacketed and closes options for devising thoughtful workable solutions. Therefore, dismantle the structure of the school, at the least for three years, as a measure of finding emergency solutions. Abolish classes, grades or standards; whatever you call them. Let children learn from where they are and with their own pace, but demand hard-work, rigor and give adequate guidance.
After dismantling grades have a thoughtful assessment of children’s abilities (come out of the infatuation with this false goddess called ‘learning’) in language, mathematics, making sense of the world, necessary school subjects, clear thinking, use of memory, self-confidence and habits of applying themselves to a task. This could be spread over a week. On the basis of this assessment re-reorganize the school in vertical learning groups where children can progress with their own pace, help each other and can learn to learn on with their own efforts. Forget about pass-fail and examinations and start keeping detailed and meticulous progress records.
4. Restructure, not reduce, the curriculum
Reducing the curriculum to come up to the age-appropriate class is nothing more than a scheme of free distribution of certificates. What helps in life and makes one capable to finding one’s place in the society is not a piece of paper but the capabilities one develops and growth of mind, that is reason, repertoire of conceptual knowledge, convictions, self-confidence and habits of working hard. After dismantling the stifling structure of the school one can organize the curriculum in a learning and development-curve rather than steps (classes) to be used for pass-fail. A thoughtful teacher having an idea of epistemic and temporal priorities of concepts and conceptual structures can easily reorganize the existing curriculum in a developmental curve on which children can progress with ease.
The system and teachers will exert themselves to find good, appropriate and workable ways of tackling the problem only if the easier, more or less effortless, but unproductive ways are not available. There is a virtual army of foundations, expert NGOs, newly created consultancies and so on which all claim to have found fool-proof quick method to solve entrenched educational problems. They usually hire any Tom, Dick and Harry; train them either on the job or in about two and a half days; declare them to be experts; and let them loose on the poor teachers and schools. These non-serious (I am resisting the urge to call them charlatans, please note, am not calling them so) people should be rigorously examined and be allowed only if they have something of value to offer. Otherwise banned.
If we do not have clarity of mind or resources or courage to take such tough measures, we are just making pretentious noises and our children will continue to suffer.
27th June 2022
Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore.
Secretary, Digantar, Jaipur.
The views expressed here are entirely mine (Rohit), neither of my organizations endorses or is responsible for them.
This is a rejoinder to Prof. Tahir Mahmood’s article “The Past and Prejudice” published in The Indian Express on 14th June 2022. Professor Mahmood is a respected scholar of law and an Ex-member of The Law Commission of India. The article is written in good faith and as far as I can understand with genuine wish for peace and harmony in the country. And still I am writing a rejoinder to it, not because I do not want peace and harmony, but because I believe peace and harmony requires much more than goodwill and good heart in some people. You can celebrate Eid and Diwali together in a spirit of mutual good-will, but that sentiment may be so fragile that a single utterance may blow it to pieces. Unless this mutual goodwill is based on recognition of truth, reason and clear understanding of limits to which it could be stretched; peace and harmony based on it will always be precarious. If we still do not understand it after more than hundred year of public debates on harmony and constant riots, we must be making some fundamental mistake in our thinking and judgment, or we must be scared of recognizing something too disturbing. I am writing this rejoinder to point out what we might be missing in our thinking, and believe unless we pay attention to these points, our goodwill is neither genuine nor of practical value.
One more preliminary before I go on to the substantial task of this rejoinder. I can not write in brief and make my intended point clearly at the same time, thus, am very bad in writing journalistic publishable articles. At the same time the academic style bores me, therefore, what I write is also not academic. This is a conversational peace written in common sense style, which often may sound unnecessarily lengthy. Still I hope that at the least a few people will read it to the end.
In writing his very lucid and goodwill piece Prof. Mahmood makes four arguments, as far as I could understand. They can be listed as follows:
We should not indulge in religious polemics of bygone days,
Muhammad is widely respected by very wise and knowledgeable people,
We have national and international laws against hurting others’ religious feelings,
We believe in universal tolerance and that all religions are true.
I have taken the liberty of changing the order of these points as they occur in the article. Prof. Mahmood’s argument is that since these four points are worth accepting, or are accepted, making derogatory statement against religious figures, and especially against Muhammad, should be strictly avoided. I will take these claims one by one and try to show what is the problem in accepting some of them and why critical analysis of religious figures is necessary even if some of these claims are accepted. In the process I will quote Prof. Mahmood extensively to avoid confusing and misinterpretation, in all quotes emphasis and italics are mine.
1. We should not indulge in religious polemics of bygone days
Ordinarily it is very good and sane advise and I will accept it whole heatedly. But there is a serious problem in this moral norm.
Alluding to Nupur Sharma’s comments on TV Prof. Mahmood writes: “But then, where did they find those stories about the Prophet? What they have said about the Prophet must have been based on hearsay, but that hearsay emanated from some thoughtless statements in old Urdu books, including some by Muslim writers. Of course, these statements have been forcefully refuted by latter-day researchers on Islam. But why would unprincipled critics bother to research the truth?
Several stories from old religious books — of all communities indeed — may not be compatible with modern concepts of human rights and gender justice. However, ours is not the age for indulgence in religious polemics of the bygone days. We are citizens of a modern nation whose Constitution is secular and subjects us to a fundamental duty – “to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India.” We must live by these ideals and stop looking for controversial elements in outdated religious literature for fighting each other, to the detriment of national interest.”
There are several problems in these statements hidden underneath the obviously sane and goodwill message. I will take up only a few of them. One, Prof. Mahmood says that what Ms. Nupur Sharma said are based on “hearsay” are written on “old Urdu books”, and “forcefully refuted”. Ms. Sharma (i) referred to flying horse on which Muhammad himself claimed to have visited the haven in one night, (ii) reference in Quran to flat earth, (iii) Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha at 6 and consummation of marriage at 9 years of her age. I have written about all of them here. The first one has references in Quran and there are several Hadith detailing the whole story. The second has reference in the Quran, though possibility of a different interpretation exists. The third has many Hadith which all corroborate these ages.
Would Prof. Mahmood openly agree that Quran and Hadith collections are “hearsay”? They are not in old Urdu books, but in Islamic scriptures, originally Arabic. Quran is the fountainhead of Islamic thought and hadith is explanation of the Quran by deeds and words of Muhammad himself. Yes, there are researchers who try to refute the marriage age, but the traditional Islamic scholars and general Muslim public has not accepted that refutation and stick to the hadith.
Prof. Mahmood is right in pointing out that there is much in religious books of all communities that is not compatible with modern ethics and with our constitution. He is also rightly points out that we should live according to the ideals of the constitution. But he does not notice that the need to discuss, criticize and debunk all obscurantist religious literature arises precisely to be able to live by the constitution and keep the constitution rational, secular and liberal. Let me give a few examples.
Today there is ban on cow slaughter in many Indian states. Imagine an atheist Indian citizen who believes that this ban is undue restriction on the food choice of citizens, and argues against this ban. A believing Hindu comes up with the argument that we should respect sentiments of Hindus attached with cow, and that Hindus never ate beef. Our atheist, of course, can argue that as per our constitution religious feelings of any community are not enough to restrict choices of other citizens. But he may also like to counter the part of the argument that Hindus never ate or recommended beef eating by quoting from Upanishads1. It would be legitimate, useful and even necessary; and of course a constitutional right of our atheist. Thus, a discussion on Vedas and Upanishads may be necessitated in an argument on freedom of choice of food for constitutionally living Indian citizens.
Let’s take another example. The idea of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is constantly opposed by Muslims in the name of following their religion. UCC like beef-ban is a public issue of concern for all citizens. In opposing UCC Muslims clerics and ordinary Muslims often claim that many provisions in it are likely to be against Sharia and quote from Quran, hadith and Islamic law books to support their argument. I would argue that in such situation, which is a reality, it becomes necessary for Indian citizens arguing to show that what is written in Quran and Hadith, like much in Upanioshads and Vedas, is actually retrograde and can not be accepted today. For example rights of women, gay, and other differently sexually oriented people as well as the issues of polygamy.
What I am arguing is that the obscurantist ideas in old religious scriptures impact our lives today, and therefore, have to be discussed and criticized, opposed and debunked today. Freedom of expression as far as criticism of Muhammad and Quran is concerned is another such issue. It has motivated dozens of murders in the memory of living people. If one bans criticizing religious scriptures then one is depriving citizens of their right to argue their point fairly and freely; and giving undue advantage to obscurantist and anti-constitutional ideas.
2. Muhammad is widely respected by very wise and knowledgeable people
This is an argument from authority, and one can give examples of equally good scholars, if not politicians, who criticized Muhammad. One can mention Voltaire or even Vivekananda2, for example. But the real argument I want to make is that historical personalities and great leaders of humanity may have many good qualities and may be seen as reformers; and at the same time may have very bad acts and sayings in their account. Unless Prof. Mahmood rejects all hadith, one is likely to fund much in there which does show Muhammad in very reprehensible light. The story behind verses of Chapter 66 of The Quran, itself is nondigestible for a modern mind. In addition one can see Sunan Ibn Majah 18533, Sahih al-Bukhari 24784, Sunan an-Nasa’i 40645, Sunan Abi Dawud 4506 and many more which will not allow a modern person to take statements in appreciation of Muhammad on trust, even if they come from as highly respected personalities as Gandhi. Therefore, argument on authority do not take us too far.
Prof. Mahmood claims “I am, however, not a religious person and look at the Prophet not as a miracle-performing superhuman figure, as many Muslims do, but as a revolutionary social reformer who in the words of eminent Indian jurist late Laxmi Mall Singhvi was “a thousand years ahead of his time”.” Well, then let us understand properly that no reformer and revolutionary is above criticism and no one demands “sar tan se juda” for criticizing and even insulting a revolutionary reformer. But more importantly this “a thousand years ahead of his time” argument crops up too often and it is seriously flowed. Even if one accepts for the sake of argument that Muhammad was 1000 years ahead of his time and was a great reformer, we can not forget that he also freezes that reform at his own time by declaring that he is the seal of prophets7. Even the interpretation of Quran is frozen in the seventh century by as authentic an interpreter as Ibn Kathir. He says that Quran should be explained first by Quran itself, second by Hadith, third by the saying of the companions, and fourth by the second generation Muslims. Thus effectively being guided by people who were all dead by end of seventh or maximum by mid-eighth century. And then “Whoever explains the Quran with his opinion or by what he has no knowledge of, then let him assume his seat ion the fire”.8 Thus, arresting this revolution, if it ever was, in the eighth century.
3. We have national and international laws against hurting others religious feelings
To my mind this is the strongest argument Prof. Mahmood is advancing. However, the history of riots, agitations, threats, announcement of bounties and murders makes one very suspicious about it. This is a story of continuous attack on freedom of expression from old times, the space is closing. And unless this pressure to close the space is resisted, it will demand more and more. Prof. Mahmood rightly notes that a “new section (295A) was added” to existing laws “in 1927 to lay down penalties for “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” In its background was an incident of defamatory outburst against Islam and its founder.” But forgets to note that Rangila Rasul was published as a reaction to “Sitaka Chhinala”9; and that the Published Mahashy Rajpal was murdered. And the murderer was declared a hero of Islam by such important people as Iqbal. The support of the highest leaders of Muslim community to such murders, to my mind, was the cause behind the “notorious fact that many prominent Hindus who had offended the religious susceptibilities of the Muslims either by their writings or by their part in the Shudhi movement have been murdered by some fanatic Musalmans.”10 I would like to quote somewhat extensively from Dr. Ambedkar to show that the problem is bigger than we think and the triggers for violence are too extensive to deal with the laws without making Hindus more or less mute on Islamic issues. Please see the names and triggers for killing four people between December 1923 and September 1934, roughly 11 years: “First to suffer was Swami Shradhanand, who was shot by Abdul Rashid on 23rd December 1926 when he was lying in his sick bed. This was followed by the murder of Lala Nanakchand, a prominent Arya Samajist of Delhi. Rajpal, the author (sic) of the Rangila Rasool, was stabbed by Ilamdin on 6th April 1929 while he was sitting in his shop. Nathuramal Sharma was murdered by Abdul Qayum in September 1934. It was an act of great daring. For Sharma was stabbed to death in the Court of the Judicial Commissioner of Sind where he was seated awaiting the hearing of his appeal against his conviction under Section 195, I. P. C, for the publication of a pamphlet on the history of Islam. Khanna, the Secretary of the Hindu Sabha, was severely assaulted in 1938 by the Mahomedans after the Session of the Hindu Maha Sabha held in Ahmedabad and very narrowly escaped death.”
The next para is important: “This is, of course, a very short list and could be easily expanded. But whether the number of prominent Hindus killed by fanatic Muslims is large or small matters little. What matters is the attitude of those who count towards these murderers. The murderers paid the penalty of law where law is enforced. The leading Moslems, however, never condemned these criminals.” This is the problem, and it can not be solved only by law or by preaching others to respect Mohammad. It can only be solved by unconditional condemnation of such violence by serious and thinking Muslims.
4. We believe in universal tolerance and that all religions are true
Tolerance is great and important. Prof. Mahmood quotes Swami Vivekananda “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” This seems to be directed to Hindus, as Vivekananda is “proud to belong to” that religion. As I said tolerance is important, but can tolerance always be one sided? There are umpteen number of obscene pictures on the social media depicting Sita and Parvati, Krishna, Durga and Mahishasur. Derogatory pictures of Ram, Krishna and almost every Hindu god. There is plenty of literature which openly and often rightly criticizes Ram and Krishna for various deed of their mythical lives. There may be some idiotic tweets against all this, but there is no violent agitation; maximum one sees attempts to take such people to court, which is a constitutional right of all citizens. So there is plenty of tolerance there.
But when it comes to say something on Muhammad the country burns or someone gets murdered. Prof. Mahmood says “The anguish of the Muslim masses on the condemnable incidents of insult to their Prophet is understandable, yet its violent expression also tarnishes his fair name. Such a reaction to his denigration by a few misinformed individuals cannot be justified on the touchstone of what is known in law as the “choice of evil defence”.”
The “anguish” is “understandable”, but “violent expression also tarnishes his fair name”. One wonders whether it is only a matter of tarnishing “his fair name” or the lives, respect for freedom of expression of others, fear in the society and belligerence is also involved? And is it a matter of “a few misinformed individuals” or a very substantial section of the Muslim population? The slogans for beheading Ms. Sharma, earlier protests and violence on 10th June 2022 does not seem to square with this assessment of “a few misinformed individuals”
Considering all religions true is again a problematic statement, even if from Swami Vivekananda. First, it seems the other way round to me, they all seem to be false rather then true to me. But let’s pass that. There is hardly a Muslim who would say that Quran might be wrong. Or if there is something in Quran that does not fit with the idea that all religions are true should be ignored or discarded. Or that Quran can be figuratively interpreted to square with the idea of all religions are true. If these three assumptions are true, then I suggest a little survey. Open The Quran randomly at any place. You will have two pages in front of you. Count how many times the Quran declares all other religions false and prescribed punishment for those who do not accept the one true religion—Islam, in these two pages. My guess is you will find on an average 4 instances of calling all others religions false and prescribing very severe punishment for non-believers. I wonder how Prof. Mahmood square his recommendation of accepting all religions as true in face of this Quranic fact? Being an open-minded professor of law he may be able to say that in spite of Quran, all religions are true; but how many Muslims will be able to accept that? Then, is this a simple rhetoric or an advice to Hindus alone? The point I am making is that this advice can work only if all believe in this. It cannot be demanded from Hindus alone.
Professor Mahmood’s article is only a good-hearted attempt at moving towards peace and harmony without building proper foundations for this. Glossing over the contemporary truths of our society will never help us go past the present day social rift. I see even very modern, very well educated, advocate of scientific attitude Indians (Hindus and Muslims both) demanding arrest of Nupur Sharma. The government may be partial and biased, it may show promptness in arresting Ratan Lal and may avoid taking action on Ms. Sharma; but liberal citizens should rather argue for their freedom of expression rather than demanding arrest. Those who argued for Hussain’s freedom to paint what he wanted, who argued for Ratan Lal not to be arrested; are now suddenly asking Ms. Sharma to be arrested. This is plain and simple hypocrisy and double standard. If we continue on this path, at the first stage, there shall be thousands for whom demands of arrest will be raised, as there are thousands making fun of Hindu gods. And at the next stage, it will be impossible to say anything about religion in this country. That will cripple democracy and kill all democratic discourse. This is also very amusing to see that the people who never tire preaching dissent would like to kill all dissenters as soon as they show dissenting views regarding Islam.
14th June 2022
Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore.
Secretary, Digantar, Jaipur.
The views expressed in this article are strictly personal, and neither of the organizations I am working for endorses them.
1“He who wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delight- ful words, would study all the Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in’ years, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son.” Brihad-Aranyak Upanishad 6:4:18, page 940. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad, Translated by Swami Madhavananda, Published by Advaita Ashrama, Almora, 1950.
2“Think of the good Mohammed did to the world, and think of the great evil that has been done through his fanaticism! Millions massacred through his teachings, mothers bereft of their children, children made orphans, whole countries destroyed, millions upon millions of people killed!” Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, Brentano’s, New York, 1920, page 79.
3“Abdullah bin Abu Awfa said “When Muadh bin Jabal came from Sham, he prostrated to the Prophet who said: ‘What is this, O Muadh?’ He said: ‘I went to Sham and saw them prostrating to their bishops and patricians and I wanted to do that for you.’ The messenger of Allah said: ‘Do not do that. If I were to command anyone to prostrate to anyone other than Allah, I would have commanded women to prostrate to their husbands. By the One in Whose Hand is the soul of Muhammad! No woman can fulfill her duty towards Allah until she fulfills her duty towards her husband. If he asks her (for intimacy) even if she is on her camel saddle, she should not refuse.’”
4Narrated `Abdullah bin Mas`ud: The Prophet (ﷺ) entered Mecca and (at that time) there were three hundred-and-sixty idols around the Ka`ba. He started stabbing the idols with a stick he had in his hand and reciting: “Truth (Islam) has come and Falsehood (disbelief) has vanished”.”
5“’Ali came to some people of Az-Zutt, who worshipped idols, and burned them. Ibn ‘Abbas said: “But the Messenger of Allah [SAW] said: ‘Whoever changes his religion, kill him.’”
6“Narrated Uthman ibn Abul’As: The Prophet (nay peace be upon him) commanded him to build a mosque at Ta’if where the idols were placed.”
7Quran 33:40. “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. And Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything.”
8Tafsir Ibn Kathir, translated by Shaykh Safiur-Rahmqan Al-Mubarakpuri, published by Darussalam, Riyadh. Page 29-33
9“Rangila Rasul was written in reply to Sitaka Chhinala—a pamphlet written by a Muslim alleging that Sita, wife of Rama, the hero of Ramayana, was a prostitute.” B.R. Ambedkar, page 169, Pakistan or Partition of India, published by Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, New Delhi.
My long article in The New Leam, published on 13th June 2022. On temple destruction, whitewash history and possible way forward.
In some rural areas of Rajasthan there is a saying, a rough Hindi rendering of which is: “zabra maare bhii aur rone bhi naa de.” (The one who is powerful beats you and does not even allow to cry out in pain.) This rustic saying poignantly captures the brutality of raw power. When the powerful hurts you, and there is no remedy to counter or stop him, the only recourse you have is to make the pain and humiliation bearable by crying, wailing, weeping. But the brutality of power comes into final play when it does not allow you even to cry, wail, weep your pain out. The pain then simmers inside you and gives rise to psychological scares which, those who have not gone through this experience cannot even begin to understand. The outsider focuses on the physical hurt of beating; the mental torture and humiliation is considered secondary and of lesser consequence. Such outsider investigators or analysts of the beating received by the weak become knowing (often) or unknowing accomplices of the perpetrator of an atrocity. This analysis becomes the second psychological ‘beating’, and in case the one who has been beaten does not even have the intellectual and epistemic resources to counter this psychological beating, the original atrocity plays out all over again for him, this time at the level of the mind and emotions. This is amply reflected by another saying in the aforementioned rustic area: “tan ka ghaav to bhar jaaye, man ka naa bhare”. (A wound on the body heals, but the one inflicted on the mind/heart does not.)
This, in a nutshell, is how a section of Hindu population1 feels about their temple destruction. The section of Hindu population who feel this way was always there, but too minuscule in size, this section is now growing with leaps and bounds. The Muslim invaders came and destroyed temples in thousands. The Hindus were powerless, and therefore, could not stop this bigoted barbarity. Back then they might have wailed in pain, but the political power which perpetrated this atrocity would perhaps have enjoyed rather than addressed this pain. So, the tears dried up. The wound went deep into the heart and stayed there. After Independence, a theory of historiography was adopted which used a rich repertoire of strategies to blame all ills on Hindus and whitewashed the crimes of Muslim kings relentlessly. The old wound, not yet healed, was deepened by this blatant intellectual atrocity. The reins of education, political power and media narrative were all in the hands of people who believed that recognition of Muslim kings’ atrocities will create animosity between the two most populous religious communities in India, the Hindus and Muslims. A much more painful wound was inflicted in the form of Partition, this time, not by Muslim kings but the common Muslim population. This was raw, and the political and intellectual leaders thought that official recognition of past atrocities will make this wound fester for all times. Thus, whitewashing of history and obfuscation of the real cause of partition became a necessity in their project of building a unified nation, characterized by ‘unity in diversity’. They, perhaps, acted in good faith, but their strategy was wrong. They should have been wiser, and known that unity or harmony built on falsehood is like building a massive fort without foundation on a sand-dune. A simple gust of wind may expose its foundations and make it crumble.
According to the afore mentioned section of Hindu population this is precisely what happened. Irked by continuous vilification of Hindu-dharma and denial of historical atrocities, some Hindus refused to submit to the strictly controlled intellectual and academic order that the politically, economically and intellectually powerful elite had created in the form of control on education and the media. They started digging historical evidence and challenging the whitewash project on the basis of documented history. Any false narrative requires selective use of evidence and specious theories of interpretation. The theories are artifacts made of ideas, and they can grow into a yarn of interpretation to a large extent but still, they necessarily do require some credible facts at pivotal points. The historians built several such strategies to bolster the whitewash project.
And then the Information Technology (IT) hit them between the eyes. The whitewash narrative was sustained on an academic technique and some well-conceived strategies. To understand the academic technique, let us suppose that you read an historian Z claiming that Aurangzeb was a great respecter of Hindu temples, and he protected more temples than he destroyed. The historian Z will give reference, in true academic tradition, of the source as the writings of Y. The historian Y in turn will give a reference to X, and so on. Now imagine a common person with reasonable intellect and independent thinking. This person would like to make up her own mind rather than going by the authority of Z. She will look for the writings of Y, then of X, and so on. But this commonsense person is not part of the elite club to which the libraries and archival material is readily available, and also has other cares in life. Therefore, at some stage she will get tired and stop somewhere in the chain. The narrative created by Z will thus stand even if it creates unease in some inquisitive and independent minds. That is where the IT bomb exploded.
These westerners, with substantial help from Indians as well, put a lot of archival material and books, pirated and/or legal, on the internet. Most of this growing corpus became freely available. Some became available for buying at reasonable price. Now our inquisitive commoner with an independent mind could trace the references all the way from Z to A and decide for herself. Of course, it is painstaking, tedious and time consuming. But it can be done. May be for one or two missing links one has to request a friend to whom the costly archives are available. These common people started digging for references and found that many of these move in circles without ever reaching primary credible sources. This dented the narrative but did not cause it to collapse. Some of this turned out to be cherry picking: the historian under investigation might have taken what supported his narrative and left out what went against it, in the same source, nay, often on the same page of the same source! This seriously discredited the narrative. As said above, specious theories used as strategies can support the narrative only if they also have some anchor or pivot in terms of deemed facts supported by a primary source. If you hit at these pivotal points, then it is like a bull’s eye. It hurts. Now suppose a narrative stands on hundred such pivots. One does not need to dismantle all those hundred pivots – may be a dozen carefully chosen ones will cause it to collapse. This is precisely what happened to the whitewash narrative, and now it has collapsed.
Let me use another rustic saying here: “samundar sookhata hai to bhii keechad to bachataa hii hai”. (Even when an ocean dries up, it leaves behind sludge.) As mentioned above, a narrative requires theories as well. A thick obfuscating hangover of the theories remains as ‘sludge’ even when the pivots of facts are seriously damaged. And the whitewashers keep on using it, if not to convince, at the very least to obfuscate and confuse their opponents and the masses. At present, we are at this stage in our public discourse. Therefore, let us have a critical look at some of the prominent strategies used in this false narrative.
The most prominent strategies used in the current discourse for denial of atrocities by Muslim rulers can be listed as follows:
S1: Selective use of Persian and Arabic sources
S2: Attributing destruction of temples primarily to political motives
S3: Claiming protection or support for temples by Muslim rulers
S4: Claiming destruction of places of worship as a non-Islamic tradition in Indian history
S1: Selective use and interpretation of Persian and Arabic sources
“During this month of Ramzan abounding in miracles, the Emperor as the promoter of justice and overthrower of mischief, as a knower of truth and destroyer of oppression, as the zephyr2 of the garden of victory and the reviver of the faith of the Prophet, issued orders for the demolition of the temple situated in Mathura, famous as the Dehra of Kesho Rai. In a short time by the great exertions of his officers, the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished, and in its site a lofty mosque was built at the expenditure of a large sum. This temple of folly was built by that gross idiot Birsingh Deo Bundela. Before his accession to the throne, the Emperor Jahangir was displeased with Shaikh Abul Fazl. This infidel became a royal favorite by slaying him, and after Jahangir’s accession was rewarded for this service with the permission to build the temple, which he did at an expense of thirty-three lakhs of rupees.
Praised be the august God of the faith of Islam, that in the auspicious reign of this destroyer of infidelity and turbulence, such a wonderful and seemingly impossible work was successfully accomplished. On seeing this instance of the strength of the Emperor’s faith and the grandeur of his devotion to God, the proud Rajas were stifled, and in amazement they stood like images facing the wall. The idols, large and small, set with costly jewels, which had been set up in the temple, were brought to Agra, and buried under the steps of the mosque of the Begam Sahib, in order to be continually trodden upon. The name of Mathura was changed. to Islamabad.”3
This narration gives us the fact of the matter that the Mathura temple was destroyed by the orders of Aurangzeb, a mosque was erected in its place, the idols were buried under steps of a mosque, etc. But it also expresses feelings of disdain for temples (‘temple of folly’), Hindu faith (‘infidelity’), desire to eradicate the Hindu faith and to insult it. Also, pride in Islam and the emperor as the destroyer of infidelity and reviver of the Islamic faith.
What our historians do with such narrations is (i) usually, but not always, accept the fact of destruction, but (ii) discount the bigotry and call it formulaic or exaggeration. We will return to it after quoting one more passage.
There is a Shiva temple near Sikar in Rajasthan, locally known as Harshnath Temple, according to local belief this quote also relates to its destruction along with several other temples.
“Darab Khan who had been sent with a strong force to punish the Rajputs of Khandela and to demolish the great temple of the place, attacked the place on the 8th March / 5th Safar, and slew the three hundred and odd men who had made a bold defence, not one of them escaping alive. The temples of Khandela and Sanula and all other temples in the neighborhood were demolished.” (ibid, page 107)
In this kind of narration, our historians will say that (iii) “all other temples in the neighborhood were demolished” is an exaggeration. Thus, the Persian and Arabic sources are used selectively, and their bigotry, religious zeal and the number of temples destroyed are called exaggeration to soften the impact. But this strategy raises a few questions, answers to which I have not come across (I may be ignorant of them and will consider them when known to me). The primary questions are: (i) Why did the court or contemporary historian bring in the religious motive so prominently, if it was not there? (ii) Why did he bring in hatred for Hindus and Hindu-dharma? And (iii) why did he exaggerate the numbers? We will leave these questions for the moment and will consider them with the second strategy.
S2: Attributing destruction of temples to political motives and exorcising the act of religious bigotry
Most of our prominent historians argue that ‘there might have been some religious angle’ but the primary reasons for the destruction of temples were loot (in the case of Ghazni) and punishing political opponents or rebels. Richard Eaton writes in detail on this, and most others seem to echo him. His contention is that temple destruction was mostly on the frontiers of Muslim conquests, and some in the interior after power was established. The interior is supposed to be motivated to punish the opponents or rebels. Eaton gives a theory that the legitimacy of the Hindu kings was associated with the deity of their kingdom. The real source of power was supposed to be the deity and the king was only a representative of the deity, and had the deity’s protection and ‘ashirvad’. The destruction of the temple of the deity was a symbolic act to communicate that your deity is not capable of protecting you or has abandoned you and not willing to protect. The theory sounds plausible, and may have some grain of truth in it. But this theory makes it even harder to answer the three questions listed above – that is, why bring in the religious motive on the part of the Muslim kings, hatred for Hindus and exaggeration?
Let us now try to imagine some logical answers to these questions. One possibility is that the historians writing in Persian and Arabic were themselves religious bigots and brought in these elements to satisfy their own fantasies. But many of them were courtiers and Islamic scholars with huge influence on policies and governance. This will imply that the rule of the Muslim kings was guided by unjust and bigoted courtiers and scholars, and thereby reflect badly on the character of Islam rule. Therefore, our historians are unwilling to admit this. The second possibility is that the rulers themselves were bigoted and were also motivated by religious sentiments. This will reflect badly on the kings, and we will therefore not be able to prove them to be just rulers. The third possibility that it was done to please the Islamic ummah in the Middle East and the Khalifas of the time. In such a case, the charter of Islam will be proved to be very intolerant, and so, this possibility too cannot be accepted in most cases; though in the case of Mahmud Ghazani this is accepted. The fourth possibility is that it was to please other courtiers in high and powerful positions in the court. But this again will be proof that the rule was unjust and in the hands of religious zealots. The final possibility could be that it was to please the Muslim population. But this would be the worst of all, for this would mean that the common Muslim of those times was a religiously motivated Hindu-hater. This one obviously is the worst. Therefore, none of these possibilities seem to be acceptable to our historians in their whitewash project. But one of these possibilities must be true, otherwise the religious hatred expressed in these narrations remains unexplained. Perhaps, the truth is a complex mixture of all these possible motives.
But let us, for the sake of argument, accept that temple destruction was for the political reasons, and not motivated by religious feelings. Does it in any way make it better and less painful for the victims? This would mean that one subject’s religion is being degraded and attacked for his political activities while another is punished only politically, without involving religion. Does this make the king any less cruel and bigoted? To my mind it does not. Thus, the hatred for Hindus, intolerance for Hindu-dharma and disrespect for temples cannot be wished away. The reports may be exaggerated but the sentiment and core facts remain. This strategy can work only for the gullible.
S3: Claiming protection or support for temples by Muslim rulers
Recently one so-called historian of Aurangzeb claimed that he protected more temples than destroyed. There are also claims that Tipu Sultan and other Muslim rulers supported Hindu temples. It might be true; I think it is true. But one must see the extent of this support – the question is, how many? One also has to compare this number with the numbers involved in the destruction of temples. This strategy cannot be used to prove the goodwill – or even tolerance – of the rulers in question towards Hindus because if political motives are used to exorcise the act of destruction based on bigotry, then the claim of benevolence also goes out of the window. But the bigger problem with this strategy is that the list of temples supported or protected is either not provided, and only unsubstantiated claims are made, or the list falls too short in comparison with the list of temples’ destruction. The issue with protection to temple also begs the question: protected from whom? Their own Muslim officials? Can a king claim credit for protecting his subjects’ honour and places of worship from his own officials and courtiers?
S4: Claiming destruction of places of worship as a non-Islamic tradition in Indian history
To my mind this is the most obnoxious of all the four strategies. Eaton states “Therefore, when Indo-Muslim commanders or rulers looted the consecrated images of defeated opponents and carried them off to their own capitals as war trophies, they were in a sense conforming to customary rules of Indian politics.”4 This is the kind of historians we respect! Does this also explain the Islamic practice of destroying others’ places of worship from Kaba to Hagia Sofia to the Mosque of Job? But we can leave that aside and concentrate on the Indian temples.
On what evidence does Eaton make such a claim? Eaton gives a long list of temple desecration and carrying off with them the images of the deity by the victorious kings, as a symbol of the deity leaving the defeated king. However, there is a difference – the Hindu kings, almost always, either consecrated or placed the idols with respect in their own temples, as a sign of the deity now favoring the victorious king. This is actually an implementation of Eaton’s above-mentioned theory that the deity is the real sovereign and the king’s sovereignty is just a reflection of the deity. But this does not involve insult to the deity, to Hindus and to Hindu faith. Nor does it involve gloating over the fact that the infidelity is destroyed. Nor trampling of the idols under foot. Eaton’s own accepted fact that the Muslim kings invariably destroyed the idols, insulted them by placing under the steps of mosques, and the Hindu kings though looted the idols but consecrated or placed with respect in their own temples, gives a lie to his explanation. The motive in one is deliberate insult to the people and their religion, in the other is it a political act of declaring that the protection of the deity is not enjoyed by the new victorious king, without insulting either the deity or the people’s faith.
But Eaton also gives at the least one example of destruction of an image of a deity by Hindu troops. The example is of the destruction of an image ‘supposed to be’ of “Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state-deity of Lalitaditya’s kingdom in Kashmir” by “Bengali troops”. Eaton gives no clear reference, but since all his list seems to be based on Richard Davis, it is reasonable to assume that this example of image destruction is also based on the same source. Davis gives the story based on Kalhan’s Rajataringiti. It is an interesting story. The part of the story concerned with my argument goes as follows: “Once, after making a promise of safe conduct to the king of Gauda (Bengal), and offering as surety (madhyastha, literally, “intermediary”) on his pledge the image of Visnu Parihasakesava, Lalitaditya treacherously ordered the ruler assassinated. Such a brazen act clearly departed from all standards of proper royal conduct, and called for revenge. As we might expect by now, the reprisal was directed not at the perpetrator of the deed but at its intermediary. A troop of the murdered king’s dedicated attendants snuck into Kashmir, posing as pilgrims…”.5 Here the deity was pledged as surety and intermediary, and the king who worshiped that deity acted treacherously. And it was an act of specific revenge. Also, it was an act of the loyal troops of the assassinated king. All other looting of images is to respectfully reinstate them in temples in the capital cities of the victorious kings. They all were motivated by politics, and it was the kingdom under attack, not the religion or deity. In destruction of temples by Muslim rulers it was also the religion of infidels and their idols, as shown by the two quotes above. A historian who does not understand this difference is not worth his/her salt. And a historian who understands this but hides the fact and makes false parallels is not honest, and is playing mischief.
Another hole in Eaton’s thesis is the number of temples destroyed. The quote about Khandela, a small village in Sikar district in Rajasthan, shows destruction of all the temples in the neighborhood. All the temples in the neighborhood were unlikely to be politically significant. The Khandela Rajputs themselves were small fry who could muster only 300 villagers to defend their temples – they were no sovereigns. This attack seems to have happened in Bahadur Singh’s6 reign, who was dropped even from the list of mansabdars. Their legitimacy actually depended on the emperor’s own recognition. This was clearly an act of vengeance taken out on their religion for the maximum hurt psychologically.
Another part of this thesis is that the Hindu kings (the one mentioned the most often is Pushyamitra Shung), also destroyed Buddhist and Jain temples. In a recent article, Prof. Yogendra Yadav7 claims, “There are umpteen examples of the destruction of Hindu temples by Hindu invaders and of Jain temples and Buddhist viharas by Hindu kings.” This is said too often. But no one gives a list and primary sources to prove the claim – one is supposed to take the claim as true on face value. The only name that surfaces again and again is Pushyamitra Shung, on the authority of Ashokavdana. It is worth quoting at length from Professor Romila Thapar on this issue.
“The idea of Puṣyamitra being violently anti-Buddhist has often been stated, but archaeological evidence suggests the contrary. Buddhist literature relates that Puṣyamitra wishing to gain notoriety decided that even a wicked action could be excused provided it made him well known. When questioning people as to why Aśoka gained fame, he was told that it was due to Aśoka having built 84,000 stūpas for Buddhism. Whereupon Puṣyamitra decided that he would gain fame by destroying these 84,000 stūpas. Yet, an archaeological study of the stūpa at Sanchi proves that it was enlarged and encased in its present covering during the Suṅga period. The Aśokan pillar near it appears to have been wilfully destroyed, but this event may have occurred at a much later date. It is more than likely that the Aśokāvadāna legend is a Buddhist version of Puṣyamitra’s attack on the Mauryas, and reflects the fact that, with the declining influence of Buddhism at the imperial court, Buddhist monuments and institutions would naturally receive less royal attention. Moreover the source itself in this instance being Buddhist, it would naturally exaggerate the wickedness of anti-Buddhists.”8
Thus, this claim can hardly be supported on the basis of this source. In addition, there are many more historians who think this claim is false. Also, Ashokavadana repeats similar stories for Ashoka and Pushyamitra regarding killing of Ajivikas in the case of Ashoka and Buddhists in the case of Pushyamitra. The format of the stories, offering a dinar for a head of the Ajivika (Ashoka) and Buddhist (Shunga) etc. is identical. This is highly unlikely.
If the analysis above is of any worth, then these four strategies may be good enough for obfuscation and browbeating the gullible, but hardly epistemically worthwhile historiography tools. But our historians never tire of using them and are still throwing such challenges to others. This is all the more true particularly of their ‘chelas’ who bring up these strategies whenever one talks about Muslim rulers’ destruction of Hindu and Jain temples.
Tan ka ghaav to bhar jaye, par man ka naa bhare
These are the people who have kept this man ka ghav festering for the last seventy five years. As I said above, this intellectual browbeating and obfuscation becomes a standard intellectual example of ‘zabra mare bhi, aur rone bhi naa de’, because if you mention these atrocities as a Hindu you are immediately dubbed as communal, immediately labeled rather than attempting to understand the substantive part of the argument, and finding a solution.
But can there be a solution? I believe yes, there can be. And I don’t think that the solution is reclaiming the mosques as temples. It seems to me that mosques should remain mosques. Prof. Yadav says a similar thing, but his reasons for preferring to arrive at an agreement are to my mind wrong and outright insulting. Before I come to my reasons for the same, I first would like to comment on Prof. Yadav’s flimsy and insulting reasons.
In the above-mentioned article in The Print he accepts that temples were destroyed for religious reasons by Muslim rulers, and that historical wrongs should be addressed but thinks that the case for the restoration of temples should further meet four conditions. He writes that it would make a good case for restoration “provided four additional conditions are met. One, this is the only major historical wrong that we need to address today. Two, there is a clear identifiable successor or inheritor of the victim and the perpetrator present before us. Three, the harm caused by the historical wrong continues to put the ‘victim’ community at a disadvantage, and four, the proposed action — restoration of temples in this instance — would redress historically inherited injustice and help society bring closure to that memory.” And then comes to the conclusion that “The case for temple restoration fails all these four tests.”
I believe he is wrong in all four cases. He dismisses the first by saying that: 1. “There are umpteen examples of the destruction of Hindu temples by Hindu invaders and of Jain temples and Buddhist viharas by Hindu kings”. This is an unproven claim. There is no case of as clear evidence as we have in the case of hundreds of Hindu temples destroyed by Muslim kings. As argued above, this is nothing but whataboutry. 2. “Besides, a number of mosques were demolished during Partition in India, just as temples were demolished across the border.” These are two very different cases, one was destruction of temples by a political power, the other in a situation of riots. The mosques destroyed or turned into temples were mostly abandoned ones.
His reason for dismissal of the second condition is summarised in the tag line of the article “By what logic do we see Muslims of today as the Mughals’ descendants?” I cannot resist the temptation of some rhetorical fun on this: “Well, we do not see the Muslims of today as Mughals’ or other Muslim rulers’ descendants. But then Prof. Yadav, by what logic do the Muslims of today claim ownership of Gyanvapi Mosque and umpteen other mosques which are built on the destroyed temples?” But more seriously, Prof. Yadav himself accused the present day BJP and RSS people of what he considered lapses on the part of RSS in the 1930s and 40s in one of his videos. Regarding the nationalism of BJP and RSS he says “राष्ट्रवाद में तो इनका, एक कतरा खून भी इन लोगों ने कभी नहीं दिया। अंग्रेजों की दलाली इनमें से कई लोगों जो इनके वारिस हैं, उनमें से कई लोगों ने की.” (To nationalism they did not contribute even a single drop of blood. Many people whose inheritance they carry were touts/brokers of the Britishers.) By what logic Prof. Yadav accuses the present-day BJP-RSS people for imagined or real treachery of the RSS people in 1940s? Are they biological descendants of those people? Well, we do understand that the communities of ideological and religious lineage are not formed on a biological basis but by adherence to institutions, ideas and principles. The communities of the present day Hindus and Muslims are also formed in the same way. If the Hindus of today feel that the destruction of temples was a civilisational attack on them, and have proof of the economic, psychological and cultural damage, then they have to be listened to. If the Muslims inherit the ownership to these converted Mosques, which are symbols of bigotry, and are hurt even by the idea of parting with them in the face of clear evidence; then, well, even if it hurts, they are also condoning the barbarity and bigotry. You cannot enjoy the fruits of barbarity and bigotry and at the same time claim to be completely distanced from it.
The third condition he dismisses with a cavalier attitude saying “Third, it would stretch credulity to claim that the destruction of temples placed the entire Hindu community in a relationship of enduring disadvantage vis-à-vis the whole Muslim community, a disadvantage that persists even after some 500 years.” Why is it necessary for the entire Hindu community to be disadvantaged with respect to the whole Muslim community? Is the disadvantage only economic and political? As I have argued above, how do you calculate the psychological damage to a civilisation due to a festering wound? What about every Hindu visitor, if s/he is a religious one, to Qutub complex seeing pillars of a Hindu temple supporting the dome of a Mosque deliberately named “Might of Islam”? That become hoodwinking when the wrongdoing is not even accepted.
The path to settlement
First, I would like to quote Dr. Ambedkar on the difference between ‘settlement’ and ‘appeasement’. “It seems to me that the Congress has failed to realize two things. The first thing which the Congress has failed to realize is that there is a difference between appeasement and settlement, and that the difference is an essential one. Appeasement means buying off the aggressor by conniving at his acts of murder, rape, arson and loot against innocent persons who happen for the moment to be the victims of his displeasure. On the other hand, settlement means laying down the bounds which neither party to it can transgress. Appeasement sets no limits to the demands and aspirations of the aggressor. Settlement does. The second thing the Congress has failed to realize is that the policy of concession has increased Muslim aggressiveness, and what is worse, Muslims interpret these concessions as a sign of defeatism on the part of the Hindus and the absence of the will to resist.”9
The quote is from an era when riots were rife and Muslim crowds were two steps ahead of Hindus in “murder, rape, arson and loot”. When reading it today we have to leave these words out and focus on “On the other hand, settlement means laying down the bounds which neither party to it can transgress. Appeasement sets no limits to the demands and aspirations of the aggressor. Settlement does.” Today, Hindus and Muslims perhaps both want appeasement. Thus, we need a settlement which sets “limits to the demands and aspirations”.
Therefore, the first step for me is to appeal to Hindus to decide clearly on their demands and aspirations in this regard. I am focusing on the Temple-Mosque issues alone. I do not think Hindus should demand restoration of destroyed and converted temples. My reasons are entirely different from Prof. Yadav’s reasons. And many would disagree with me on this count – the liberals will call me biased, if not outright a Hindu fundamentalist. But I will go ahead in listing them.
My fundamental principles and guide in this thinking:
I believe that the Hindus are smarting more under the psychological pain of the denial of recognition of the attack on their religion and civilization, through destruction of temples and converting them into mosques. Their pain of actual physical destruction and loss is a lesser pain compared to this psychological hurt.
I believe that the paramount concern is a democracy with equal rights to all citizens which cherishes diversity. This obviously implies peaceful cooperative living together of all religious and other communities.
The second above is the aim to my mind. But one cannot properly achieve this aim without first addressing and resolving this issue and healing the psychological part of the Hindu hurt. Therefore, this healing becomes a necessary first step. I am aware that there are other pains in society – for example, the treatment of Dalits within the Hindu fold, aggressive conversion drive by Christians, and so on. But as I said, this particular article is focused only on one issue.
Keeping these two principles in mind I don’t think it would be good for democracy and peaceful cooperation between communities if Hindus insist on restoration of their lost temples. And here in my mind the fear is not that Muslims will resent and will continue the animosity. That is there, but the real issue in my mind is different. I consider the conversion and destruction of temples a barbaric and religiously bigoted act. Whatever the historians and pleaders for understanding those bigots in their own times and within their own culture may say, in today’s terms they were barbaric and bigoted. They lived in times and with a particular mindset where tolerance of the other as an equal was difficult. I have said above that the Muslim community today, by clinging to these converted mosques, simultaneously also approved of the bigotry of those kings. Similarly, if the Hindus take back these temples (it may not even be possible for all) against the wishes of Muslims, they will become bigoted and intolerant of the other. In spite of every one vilifying the majority community the world over, I believe democracy, civil liberties and secularism are sustained by the majority community, that is Hindus, in this country. If they become bigoted and intolerant—which seems to be the direction they are moving in today – this country cannot remain a secular democracy guaranteeing civil liberties and equal right to all. That is why Hindus have to restrain themselves willingly and with understanding. Once this much is settled, I would propose the following.
The ownership of the mosques should remain as it is today. No handing over, or changing the character of the places of worship. We are no more barbarians even if some are pushing us to be.
The Muslim community, and particularly the Islamists, have to learn not to throw these acts of bigotry in the face of their Hindu compatriots as heroic acts and stop taking pride in them. And in those who committed them.
All such mosques should always remain under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India. Their ownership should remain with the Muslim community as it is today, but they should not be able to change these structures in a manner that the evidence of their history gets destroyed. Therefore, every change, addition, renovation, restoration should happen strictly in the supervision of ASI and with its clear written approval with maps and all.
Every such property (mosques, idgahs etc.) should have a board prominently displayed in front of each gate of its premises giving a brief but clear history of the place. Who built the original structure, when, who changed/destroyed, when, in whose ownership it is today, et al.
This should be done once and then the chapter closed.
A simpler way could be that once the historically ascertained facts about prominent temples and mosques are established and agreed upon, the leaders of both communities should sit together and come to an agreement that some of them which are considered of crucial importance may be peacefully handed over to the Hindus. But that kind of magnanimity does not seem to be possible in Islamic thought, as far as I understand it; even if many individual Muslims want such a solution, it perhaps will never materialize.
A rhetorical whataboutery is often raised whenever one talks about destruction of temples by Muslim kings: what about the Buddhist monasteries and stupas destroyed by Hindu kings? Well, if (1) we have sufficient evidence of particular monasteries and stupas which are in the possession of Hindus today, and (2) if there are Buddhist claimants to them, then (3) the Hindus should voluntarily and peacefully hand them over to Buddhists. If the Hindus are adamant and do not agree, then the same treatment should be meted out to them as well so far as the question of handing over mosques to them is concerned.
27th May 2022
Professor, School of Education, Azim Premji University, Bangalore.
Secretary, Digantar, Jaipur.
Views expressed in the article are strictly personal and do not represent those of the organizations I am affiliated with.
1In this article wherever I say “Hindus” I mean a section of Hindu population which feels this way. I am aware all Hindus do not feel like this and do not have this opinion.
There is a storm of Islamic outrage on comments by two BJP leaders, now suspended and expelled from the party. In India there are death threats, announcement of bounties to kill them, protests and riot situations created in opposition to their statements. Internationally many Islamic nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have expressed their condemnation of the remarks and pressurized India to take action against the two. All this perfectly fits into the age-old tradition to use threats, pressure, violence and even murders to protect Muhammad from any criticism. We need to understand this tradition and the harm it causes to society. But before that let us see what exactly Ms. Nupur Sharma and Mr. Navin Jindal said which resulted in such a storm.
The full video of the Times Now debate (it is more of wrangling, not really a debate) is unavailable. Though to my mind it is absolutely necessary to understand Nupur Sharma’s comments in the context, but due to unavailability I am depending on a 23 second clip which went viral and is available presently. The exact words of Nupur Sharma as far as I could pickup in the noise are as follows:
“अरे आप छोड़ो तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े ……(असपष्ट मैं समझ नहीं पाया) जो कुरान में आगे लिखा है बताएगा, उसका मज़ाक उड़ाना शुरू करदूं? छह साल की बच्ची से ब्याह करके नौ साल में you are having sex with her, किसने? प्रोफेट मुहम्मद ने। बोलना शुरू करदूं मैं? Earth is flat according to Quran 88.20, बकवास ना कीजिये उड़ते हुए घोड़े पर बैठ कर फुर्र होजाइए फुर्र।”
A few things are quite clear from this:
The background makes it clear that the wrangling was about the object found in Gyanvapi masjid vajukhanaa, whether its is a piece of a fountain or Shivling.
The opponent (Rahmani?) seems to have either claimed that its is a piece of fountain or may have referred to some joke about Shivling.
The style in which Nupur Sharma is speaking is aggressive and uncivilized.
She is clearly referring to some joke or derogatory comment made on Shivaling, that is why a challenge “majak udaanaa shuru karadun”.
To understand it properly we do need the comment to which she is responding. But that is not available.
She mentions three items from Quran and Hadith:
The flying horse (Buraq) on which Muhammad claimed to have flown to Jerusalem and to the heaven and back in a single night. It is important to note that Muhammad himself claimed this.
Muhammad marrying Ayesha at the age of 6 and consummating the marriage at 9, to which Nupur refers as having sex.
A reference in Quran (88.20) which some people interpret as saying that the earth is flat.
Ms. Sharma’s references are correct. Regarding the night journey to the heaven on “a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey” with “step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal’s sight”, one can see Hadith number 3887 in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, page number 132. Translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, published by Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, Riyadh – Saudi Arabia, 1997. Or alternatively here http://cmje.usc.edu/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/058-sbt.php This is an interesting and completely unbelievable by modern mind story, I recommend reading it.
For Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage to Muhammad one can see the following, narrated by Aishah herself:
“5134. Narrated Aishah; that the Prophet; wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: “I have been informed that Aishah remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).” However, there is a dispute in this, as some Islamic scholars argue that she was 19 when the marriage was consummated. But there are at the least two authentic Hadis which say that she was 9 years of age. “Consummation of marriage” means “The completion of marriage by sexual intercourse”. Therefore, in spite of her wrangling style, what Ms. Sharma said was correct.
Regarding flat earth she gives verse 88.20. One can confirm this in any translation of Quran. The chapter 88 of the Quran starts with what torture non-believers will face after death, and what pleasures await the believers. Then relevant verses came as the great works of Allah, so that people can believe in what Muhammad says in the name of Allah. “88.17. Do they not look at the camels, how they are created? 18.And at the heaven, how it is raised? 19.And at the mountains, how they are rooted (and fixed firm)? 20. And at the earth, how it is outspread? 21.So remind them (O Muhammad) – you are only one who reminds.” Again, Ms. Sharma was not wrong, even if there could be a debate on the interpretation.
As I said earlier, it is clear from what she says that it was a counter to her opponent who might have said something about the Shivaling, and she was challenging that “should she” also start ridiculing these things in his scriptures? To me this context is important.
The tweet by Mr. Navin Kumar Jindal that cost him his primary membership of his party BJP and enraged Muslims world over and Indian liberals is given verbatim below, unedited with his own spelling mistakes:
“नबी के दुलारो से पूछना चाहता हूँ कि तुम्हारा नबी 53 वर्ष की आयु में 6 वर्ष की छोटी बच्ची आयशा के साथ शादी करता है फिर 56 वर्ष की आयु में 9 वर्ष की आयशा के साथ संबंध बनाता है … क्या यह संबंध बलात्कार की श्रेणी में नहीं आता..?”
We need to think about it carefully. One may feel that it is irrelevant question today asked in an insulting manner. Personally, I do not think the question is irrelevant. A few days back I listened to an audio recording of a conversation between Ex-Muslim Sahil and a young Maulana, who claimed to be educated at Deoband. Sahil asked the Maulana age of his father, to which the Maulana replied, after a bit of hesitation, that he is 51 years old. Then over a long drawn dialogue Sahil asked the Maulana that if his father today wants to marry a girl of 6 years with plans to consummate marriage at 9, and if the girl’s parents have no objection, then would the Maulana allow his father to marry the girl without any objection? The Maulana replied yes. What doe this conversation show? To me, it shows that since Muhammad’s life is supposed to be ideal life for a Muslim, what Muhammad did in sixth and early seventh century Arabis is acceptable in twenty-first century world, and especially in India, at the least to many Maulanas and their followers. This makes this question relevant for today.
Now, I have come across unsubstantiated statements that Sita was also 6 years of age at the time of her marriage with Ram, and that Rukmini was 9 years when Krishna abducted her. Well, it may or may not be so, but has no impact on the question we are considering. This is possible that in ancient times in India as well as in Arabia and many other cultures girls were married to older men at the age of 6 and marriages were consummated at 9 or so. Also, admitted that in those cultures there may not have been the idea of ‘consensual sex’ with one’s wife. Therefore, the idea of rape may not have been applicable then in such cases.
But today the age of consensus is 18 in India, and even if there is ‘consensus’ at 9, the act will be considered a rape. There was no concept of human rights in many ancient cultures. And there was slavery. Can we today ask the questions about violation of human rights of slaves in ancient Rome, Arabia and India? Of course, you can say that those societies did not think in this manner, but can we discuss the issue in modern terminology today? Even if those societies did not think in those terms, can we defend these acts of those societies today? If no, why can not we ask similar questions about Islamic practices and Muhammad?
But no, you can not ask questions of Muhammad’s doings and sayings. If you do, you are threatened by ‘सर तन से जुदा”. This has been the method of maintaining respect (?) for Muhammad for centuries. We have records in India of at the least a hundred years.
Recently, we have seen two murders in connection with supposed to be insult to Muhammad. Kamalesh Tiwari of Lakhnow, and Kishan Boliya in Dhandhuka taluka Gujarat. There was a riot in Bangalore in which three people died. There was riot in Kanpur a few days back. Our side India there is a riot situation in London on a film, though this is not regarding Muhammad. There were wide spread riots in Sweden. Before that we all know the stories of Satanic Verses, Danish cartoons, Charlie Hebdo, Samual Paty, and so on.
Islam wants to maintain its ‘reputation’ of a ‘religion of peace’ on the threat of violence and murders. There are many Muslims today who are opposing this attitude of the Maulanas and masses instigated by the Maulanas. But they are too few and can not effectively counter this belligerence and violent threat, constantly looming over the freedom of thought and expression.
There are people in India, so called liberals, who propound theories that criticism of Islam should come only from inside Islam, non-Muslims should say nothing on this. This is unacceptable. First, if Muslims preach the merits of their religion openly and publicly, this itself gives a right to everyone to question and critique it. Two, if Islamic practices effect other citizens’ lives in whatever manner, they have a right to critique and criticise and ask questions.
There is an established trend that Indian government and Indian citizens (irrespective of their religion) quickly give in when faced with violence in the name of Muhammad and Islam. Each time this happens the fear in the society increases, less and less people speak up against bad practices and ideas, the bullies become more and more confident and aggressive, and their dominance of public discourse takes more ominous forms. Our wise political commentators do not realise that thousand such micro aggressions every day keep the communal cauldron boiling. They also do not realise that Hindus are learning the trick fast.
We all know that there was a storm of jokes and insulting comments on Shiva and Shivaling recently. When Ratan Lal was arrested (he should not have been arrested) all liberals rose in protest. And he was released. Now, all liberals want Nupur Sharma arrested, because this time it is Muhammad and not Shivaling. I will not be surprised if Hindus soon discover blasphemy. That would be a bad day for India and Indian democracy, but we can not deny that the Islamic idea of blasphemy given an advantage to the bullying element in the Muslim population. The fundamentalist element in Hindu population will soon fashion such a weapon. Presently, so called liberal journalists can happily share insulting cartoons on Shivaling and at the same time pretend hurt when someone speaks truth about Muhammad. This kinds of double standards fuel animosity.
I will paraphrase what Hamid Dalwai said fifty years back: If you can not stand against Muslim intolerance and communalism, you will see Hindu intolerance and communalism increasing by leaps and bounds. The current fiasco on pretended insult to Muhammad in the country and internationally, has increased votes for BJP in millions, as a perceptive young Muslim commentator said.