Should Zakir Naik be ‘stopped’?

July 9, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

There is a debate in the media whether Zakir Nail should be ‘stopped’. It is not clear what stopped means here: is it banned? Or should not be allowed? Or should be countered through argument? There also seem to be a hashtag #StopZakirNaik. I tried to see on this what people are saying. But found it too much in snippets which require a history of following to make sense of it. Therefore, it was useless for me.

Zakir Naik, for those who do not know, is an Islamic preacher. His supporters (and he himself) also call him a scholar of comparative religions. One of the terrorists killed in Dhaka restaurant attach it seems was a fan of Zakir Naik, and Bangladesh is investigating if he was inspired by him. The debate has started in this context.

To just get a glimpse I looked at a few snippets of news items and also watched Arnab Goswami’s cheekh-chillahat which he calls ‘debate’, a gross insult to the term and human intelligence. In this programme the anchor as well as many other participants wanted to “stop Zakir Nair”; there are also some who are against “stopping” him. Whatever stopping might mean.

Some of the charges that I could find on the internet against Zakir Naik are listed below:

  1. His organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is registered under FCRA, it takes foreign funds and is involved in religious conversions.
  2. Zakir Naik runs a TV Chanel called Peace TV which does not have licence, and is banned, still cable operators show Piece TV.
  3. He ridicules other religions.
  4. He claims that Islam is the only true religion, all other religions are false.
  5. He supported Osama Bin Laden and still supports terrorism.
  6. Many terrorists are inspired by him.
  7. He justified ISIS terrorists using female captives as sex slaves.
  8. He converts people to Islam and shows that on TV and in videos on his site.

The first two are issues of following the law of the land. If organisations taking foreign funds under FCRA are not allowed to use those funds for conversion and political activity, then IRF should be investigated and the law should take its course, as the saying goes. Similarly if he is still airing programme on Piece TV in spite of it being banned, he should be punished according to the law.

Zakir Niak does ridicule other religions and openly says that Islam if the only true religions, and Allah is the only true God. But so says the Islamic theology, including Quran. The protestations that Islam does not consider itself the only true religion are all wrong, it does. But so does Christianity. It is only Indic religions which don’t make this claim. One does not know how long they will remain open to the idea of एकं सद्विप्राह बहुदा वदन्ति. Zakir Naik is being only true to Islam when he says that there is only one true God, Allah; and only one true religion, Islam.

This is also true that he ridicules other religions. One can take two attitudes to it: one, if his ridicule crosses the boundary of relevant law he should be prosecuted, why ask straight for the ban? If that is what is meant by “stopping”. But a more liberal stand would be that ridiculing religions is a right of all citizens. Many of them, including Islam, have plenty of things fit to ridicule, and oppose.

His support for Islamic terrorism is somewhat circuitous, but it is there. Even his explanation in the media to absolve himself proves that. There is a clip in which he says that he supports Osama Bin Laden as the twin tower was an “inside” job by America and Osama is only terrorising the terrorist. His explanation: “This clipping, yes it is me saying it but it is out of context. I said a terrorist is a person who terrorises someone. I also gave an example that a policeman terrorises a robber. So, for a robber a policeman is a terrorist. In this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the anti-social element.” This is a spacious argument, and also shows the level of Dr. Naik’s logical acumen. America according to him is terrorising Muslims, therefore, Muslims should terrorise America. One hears similar arguments about India. It is simply a more ganwaroo version of the relatively sophisticated argument Indian intellectuals use all the time: that Islamic terrorism is a creation of structural injustice, that it is an expression of Muslim rage against injustices mated out to them. Poor Dr. Naik does not have that sophisticated language and those spacious theories to buttress his claim. This idea cannot be defeated by banning. Nor is it justified to ban such claims, they have to be examined and defeated in a fair public debate.

One does not know how far the claim that many terrorists are inspired by him is true. But as long as he does not directly abet, add and train terrorists it would be unfair to ban his speeches simply because some terrorists were his fans and said that they were inspired by him. A Hindu terrorist may be inspired by Gita (I know no such example of anyone saying this, but it is theoretically possible), and scores of terrorists actually say that they are inspired by the Quran. Would one ban Quran for that? Would one start a campaign to ban Gita if tomorrow someone says that he is inspired by Gits to commit a terrorist act? This is as good a logic as Zakir Naik uses.

He does justify ISIS terrorists making captured women sex slaves. But he justifies it on the basis of Quran. Chapter 23 of Quran begins with describing how the believers should behave and “who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise)” 23.11. In this description it says: “And those who guard their chastity (i.e. Private parts, from illegal sexual activity). Excerpt from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hand possesses, –for then they are free from blame”. (Verses 5 and 6). Maulana Azad claims that it is only after marrying the slave women. But then why mention them separately? After marriage they are “wives”? Dr. Naik also claims that the Quran’s treatment of slaves and prisoners of war is much superior to the UN charter.

In India one has the right to preach one’s religion and to convert people to it; as long as no force (and perhaps material enticement) is involved. Unless one proves that he used force or enticement (in case it is illegal, I am not sure) or cheating one cannot ban his conversions, even if they are shown on TV. Yes, in investigation can be started if what he shows on the TV is only a stage-managed drama (it looks like that) or real conversion. If it is found that it is only a drama, then he can be prosecuted for cheating people.

Zakir Nair’s arguments and logic

One example of his logic I have already given above, the policemen being a terrorist for a robber, etc. will just give one more, one can collect hundreds in his videos. Someone asked him that he preaches his religion and converts people to it freely in India, and most of the democracies allow this. But the Muslim majority countries do not allow preaching of other religions in their domains, what does he say on this? His answer is a classic of stupidity. In about 15 minutes circuitous laffajji what he says is this: In a classroom when a teacher teaching mathematics allows only one answer to 2+2, and that is 4. He does not allow it to be “5” or “3” or anything else. Because it is certain and it is the only truth. In a country once Islam is established no other religion can be allowed and the country has now achieved the truth. Allowing anything else will be deviating from the truth. This is exact meaning of that he said but not exact words. This shows the man’s quality of mind and level of understanding. He is not even honest. When the same question was asked after his video lecture in Oxford union all he sad is that yes, some countries do not allow, but it is their matter. He did not have a courage to repeat what he openly says in Bombay in a video lecture being transmitted to Oxford.

He is most famous for quoting from scriptures of religions other than Islam. Mostly to show that Muhamman is mentioned of predicted in Vedad, and other religious books. Actually all his quotes, verse numbers including the order in which he rattles them out come from only one book “Muhammad in World Scriptures”. It is written by an Ahmadia Muslim Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, and was first published in Urdu in 1936. The only credit Dr. Naik can take for these quotes is that of cramming it very well and rattling it very fast. None of the quotes actually support what he is trying to prove, this is only a trick for cheat gullible public.

But in spite of all this the most that can be demanded by the public is an investigation into his illegal actions related to his TV channel, his use of foreign funds and if he has any direct link with the terrorists. Banning his lectures or arresting him (on the charges and evidence that is in public domain, as far as I know) would be an attack on freedom of speech, and against the right to preach one’s religions. Zakir Naik’s views are ill-argued, bigoted, and obnoxious. His ‘scholarship’ is just a pretention. Zakir Naik is a bad news for humanity. But curtailing his freedom of expression would be a worst news for democracy and for humanity. Therefore, such people have to be allowed and youngsters have to be helped in seeing through their ill argued proclamations.


Only my truth will prevail

April 30, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

Prime Minster Narendra Modi thundered in the Lok Sabha on 27th November 2015 that his government has only one scripture and that is The Constitution of India; and then defined his idea of India by chanting eighteen mantras that include santyameva jaite (सत्यमेव जयते) and eakam sad viprah bahuda vadanti (एकं सद् विप्रा: बहुधा वदन्ति). Noble sentiments indeed.

On the other side Dinanath Batra of Wendy Doniger fame has written to HRD Minister Smriti Irani to get the Bipan Chandra’s book India’s Struggle for Independence “banned, recalled from everywhere and destroyed.” In this connection the MHRD Minister has said, “If I am to be called intolerant to ensure that Bhagat Singh is not called a terrorist, then that is the tag I will proudly wear.” Another part of the same government, an HRD Ministry official told The Hindu, “As of now, the Ministry has just forwarded a similar complaint by Bhagat Singh’s family members to Delhi University.” Which mean that the attempts of removal of the book from reference list are on.

The ban-culture

Banning books is nothing new in India, every one, it seems, likes to ban books which they do not like and cannot intellectually counter. The history banning books formally is at the least a century old. But more recently the demand for banning books or punishing people who express views that can be considered offensive by any stretch of imagination is being raised much more frequently.

And at the same time we keep on hearing slogans like satyameva jaite nanritam and ekam sad-viprah bahuda vadanti. The first one is from Manduka Upanishad and proclaims that the truth alone conquers, not falsehood. If one goes by the context where it is said, it sounds like a statement of a law of nature; only the discussion seems to be on the moral nature of the universe, rather than the physical. However, those who chant it and  simultaneously also demands bans on books and views do not seem to be convinced of this law of nature, therefore, want to actively ensure victory for their own kind of truth. Which goes against the second slogan.

Ekam sad-viprah bahuda vadanti is from the Rig Veda and explains that what different sages call Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, etc. are different names used for the same ultimate reality. It allows differences of perception at the surface reading. But one can also argue that the reality may not only be seen differently by different people, but the true nature of it may always remain contested.

It seems the MHRD Minister is either going against these mantras or she and the PM understand them differently. They seem to be saying that “BJP and its supporters’ interpretation is the only true interpretation and that their truth will prevail”. It is quite clear that the true meaning of these mantras and BJP government’s behaviour are at odds with each other. That however seems to be the case in almost every idea they pick up from Indian cultural history; their understanding of such ideas is almost always at variance with common Indian, be the idea ‘Hinduism’ or India itself or the greatness of Guru Dronacharya.

Controversies of this nature are being raised with a certain regularity which indicates a game plan to force people to accept their interpretation of Indian history, mythology, culture, nationalism and limits of freedom of expression. That which is counter to it should be banned or coved down by making the atmosphere unsafe through vigilante gangs. This is a systematic attempt to close the space for dialogue and descent.

The RSS-BJP seem to be increasingly recognising that religious card cannot be properly used while one is in the government. Therefore, they are bringing in the nationalism. But this nationalism is modelled on religion. This move of modelling nationalism on religion gives double advantage: their own religion can be made the basis of it and it can be made too sacrosanct to critique and question. Even if the intellectuals don’t accept this, it does not matter as long as common public does. Therefore, losing the intellectual debate is of no consequence, as far as electoral politics goes.

Education and ban-culture

A few years back ABVP activists objected to an essay by Ramanujan titled “Three Hundred Ramayanas” and finally the University of Delhi removed the essay from the course it was being taught in. In Rajasthan there was a controversy on relative space given to Akbar and Maharana Pratap in school history books. Now the issue is that Bipin Chandra’s book should be removed from the reference list in syllabus of a University of Delhi course. In the first case it was a mythological character who was supposed to be protected from insulting remarks, in the second it was a medieval Hindu hero, and finally it is an undisputed national icon. This movement has kept the idea of imposing their own interpretation intact while the characters have moved from limited to wider appeal.

Religion was always out of bounds of free discussion in our educational institutions. The education system never seems to have understood that a critical and unbiased understanding of history and dogmas of a faith helps understand the mind-set and behaviour, up to an extent, of adherents of that faith. We have conducted our education so far in a manner that most of the educated people are ignorant of religious dogmas, their historical fallout and their influence on the minds of the believers. All an educated Indian can parrot is “all religions say the same thing”, “no religion teaches animosity towards others”, “all religions teach love for humanity” and so on. These are inane slogans and create a completely false impression of religions in students’ minds. Actually, it is not at all hard to argue on the basis of religious dogmas, history and behaviour of believers that almost all religions are deeply divisive and bread animosity either in a passive latent form that can be used at any time by the religious leaders or of active violent variety. Even if this perception of religion is totally mistaken, it should be examined in the open. However, we only condemn such views outright and shy away from any serious debate on them. As a result many of the educated people behave in a schizophrenic manner: they have a public view and a private view on religion, which are at variance with each other; and deal with the resultant prick of conscience through self-deception and sophistry.

Now the interpretations of history are being made into the same kind of sacrosanct pronouncements. The attempt is to cast all historical characters in black and white. The richness, complexity, ambiguity and multyvocality within each historical character and event is being reduces to a formulaic good/bad binary. Thus blunting the tools of thinking, which is an antithesis of education.

Who is a terrorist?

This question is thrown at people with alarming regularity by those who want to produce arguments in favour of the current day personalities who are considered terrorist by common people. Politically it may be difficult to arrive at a consensus on definition of terrorism, but conceptually it does not sound to be such a big problem. Terrorism can be defined as a political ideology of using violence, indiscriminately to target even innocent people, to create terror in the minds of general public to achieve political goals. Anyone who believes, preaches and indulges in acts of perpetrating terror for this purpose is a terrorist. It does not matter whether his goals are justified or not, whether the historical processes that produced such an ideology are justified or not. The intention of spreading terror in the public by indiscriminate killing is enough to call it terrorism. Of course, in attempts to understand the causes and solving the problem of terrorism injustices perpetrated on the people whom the terrorist want to defend have to be taken into consideration; but that does not need to blur the concept. Terrorism in this sense may be seen as justified by some; but that does not mean that it is not terrorism.

On the other hand there could be an ideology of violent resistance, which does not want to terrorise the public, but only the perpetrators of perceived injustice, and does not kill innocents but only those who are directly involved in perpetrating injustice. It seems to me it is not appropriate to call such an ideology terrorism; not to call its practitioners and adherents terrorists.

If one accepts this definition then Bhagat Singh cannot be called a terrorist. As he is on record as being against spreading terror in the public, actually they wanted to create a favourable opinion of themselves in the public. They consciously avoided killing innocent people, even innocent Britishers were not their targets. They usually selected particular individuals who they thought had committed some act of grave injustice. This can be called violent resistance or armed resistance, but not terrorism. Therefore, calling Bhagat Singh a terrorist is somewhat unjustified. However, that does not justify banning books and writings which describe him as a terrorist.


The current NDA government is using double speak to confound people. On one side it chants slogans like ‘ekam sad-viprah bahuda vadanti’ and ‘satyameva jayate’ and on the other they want to ban books, want to be intolerant, by their ow admission, to some views and stifle debate and dissent.

Whether freedom of expression and space for dissent is allowed or not can be determined only when the views that the government detests but the constitution allows are not throttled. One can say nothing about freedom to dissent as long as all expressed views are in agreement with the government. And this government does not want to allow views it does not like in the public space and in education. So far they seem to be thinking of bans and their supporters are threatening to go to the courts; but they are indirectly also sending messages to their vigilante groups to attacking people whom the government does not like.

The double speak of the government needs to be exposed and the ban attempts need to be resisted. If they cannot refute arguments and views at an intellectual level then they should improve their capabilities rather using threats and state power.


Double standards in understanding communalism?

April 11, 2014

Rohit Dhankar

[This one was send as a rejoinder to an article published in The Hindu. Their response is “as a policy we don’t carry rejoinder to opinion pieces. If there are factual inaccuracies we will be happy to correct them. Thanks for writing.” I am not a regular writer for newspapers, so can easily understand the lack of tightness in language and even argument; but it is strange that rejoinders to ‘opinion’ pieces are not published!]

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi recently has expressed a communal mind-set that believes that appeal to en-block voting to Muslims is ‘secular’ and a similar appeal to Hindus is communal. The general principle here is that Hindu communalism is communalism proper; and Muslim communalism, if not secular, is certainly a reaction. This thinking has been exhibited time and again by almost all so-called ‘secular’ parties. Is this mind-set and skewed logic limited to crafty politicians like Mrs. Gandhi? Unfortunately, by no means, Indian intelligential is the biggest and strongest up-holder of this un-defendable principle. To understand how subtly they built it into their thinking and writing let us analyse a recently published article by Praveen Swami. Mr. Swami wrote an article in The Hindu, on 1st April 14, titled “Second Rise of Indian Jihad”. (Here I must add that in past Mr. Swami has written fine and very balanced insightful pieces, the present analysis is only for the mentioned article; not on his all writings.) Its concluding wisdom is summarised by Mr. Swami as: “Each bombing the Indian Mujahideen carries out is a medium for a political message enmeshed with India’s dystopic communal landscape: that democratic politics cannot defend India’s Muslims.” This complex sentence needs simpler unpacking, to go beyond its impressiveness and deliberate scholarship. Let’s make some sense out of it:
1. Each bombing of Indian Mujahedeen is a medium for a political message. It is not senseless violence, and it is not important in-itself. It should be ‘read’ as a ‘medium’, like email is a medium for a message, bombing is a medium for a political message.
2. This message is caught in the landscape of human misery created by communalism. So the bombing is not irrational act of some sick religious bigotry. It is a rational act aimed at ending the human misery caused by communal violence.
3. The message itself is “that democratic politics cannot defend Indian Muslims”. And this message is acceptable to Indian intelligentsia of which Mr. Swami is a noted member.

This is a classic case of absolving Islamic terrorism of all moral responsibility and condoning it. Always someone else is responsible, the poor Islamist terrorist simply acts out of misery to end it. S/he is not a perpetrator of violence, s/he is only resisting violence inflicted on her. S/he is justified to do so as a human being. The ‘other’ who has instigated, nay forced him/her into it, should be blamed, and should be held responsible to stop this violence.

This conclusion occurs in the last paragraph of Mr. Swami’s piece with a nashihat to Indian politicians: “but it is time for politicians to act to heal our fractured nation.” This is strange that material quoted in Mr. Swami’s article to arrive at this fantastic conclusion goes squarely against it and lends itself to a very different conclusion. It is an exercise in mental dexterity to find a logic so that the quoted material may support Mr. Swami’s conclusion.

Let’s look at the key landmarks in Mr. Swami’s logic, I am paraphrasing parts from his article below.
Mr. swami tells us that the cadres of Indian jihad “are inheritors of a long political tradition”. That the bombings of 2008 September in Delhi, according to their perpetrators were carried “in the memory of two most eminent Mujahids of India: Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismail Shaheed (may Allah bestow His Mercy upon them) who had raised the glorious banner of Jihad against the disbelievers.” It is notable that the jihad of Syed Ahmed and Shah Ismail was “against the disbelievers” and was carried out in early part of the 19th century, against Sikh Army, in Swat valley. Against what grievances and to alleviate what misery, apart from existence of disbelievers on God’s earth, Mr. Swami must know.

Mr. Swami quotes Yoginder Sikand approvingly: “that Islam alone was the solution to the problems of not just the Muslims of India, but of all Indians and, indeed, of the whole world.” “Islam alone” is notable, nothing else can solve the problems. Compare it with a Bombay based popular preacher Dr. Zakir Naik who says that Islam is a religion of peace and peace will come when all accept Islam. The interpretation being that peace can come only if all accept Islam. Till then if there is no peace, it is responsibility of those infidels who do not accept the only true faith.

Another important information and a chain in his logic that Mr. swami provides us is that “Ranchi resident Haider Ali, …, raised volunteers … for the bombing of the revered Buddhist shrine at Bodh Gaya last year, as an act of vengeance for communal violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.” (Emphasis added) One starts thinking what the Buddhist shrine in Bodh Gaya had to do with communal violence in Myanmar? But that is a question only a small minded communal person can ask, as all opinion makers in India know that Muslims of the world; according to Islamist’s mind, even if a common peace loving Muslim does not believe that; are a unified umma and any act against the umma can be avenged by killing any non-believer in the world. So, of course, Mr. Swami wants us to believe that Bombing in Bodh Gaya was a legitimate “medium for a political message”, which Indian politicians and citizens should heed, and ‘heel’.

According to Mr. Swami “[T]he recruits” for the jihad “include young people, their minds fired by Internet Islamism, as well as veterans once linked to the proscribed Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).” One needs only ten minutes on the net to see the true face of Internet Islamism. It is daily preached by Zakir Naik, ‘Islam if the only true religion, all others will go to hell. Those who do not accept Islam are the real cause of violence in the world’. SIMI was established in 1977 and, among other things “SIMI maintains that concepts of secularism, democracy and nationalism, keystones of Indian Constitution, are antithetical to Islam. They aim to restore the supremacy of Islam through the resurrection of the khilafat, emphasis on the Muslim ummah and the waging of jihad.” And all this to solve all the problems of the world by the only true faith. Which violence perpetrated on Muslims would Mr. Swami site for this?

The article is opened with a very revealing quote by an al-Qaeda ideologue Asim Umar: “[Y]ou who have ruled India for eight hundred years, you who lit the flame of the one true God in the darkness of polytheism: how can you remain in your slumber when the Muslims of the world are awakening?….. If the youth of the Muslim world have joined the battlefields with the slogan ‘Sharia or Martyrdom,’ and put their lives at stake to establish the Caliphate, how can you lag behind them? Why is there no storm in your ocean”. And suggests that some among the Indian Muslim youth are inspired by this kind of appeals.

And in the face of all this mentioned in the same article Mr. Swami, in his infinite wisdom, concludes that this zeal for bombing is “driven by communal events”, obviously by Hindus against Muslims! To quote: “The renewal of a jihadist constituency within India shouldn’t be a surprise: the rise of Mr. Modi, and the Hindu nationalist tendencies that he represents, has unleashed existential anxieties among large numbers of Indian Muslims.” Therefore, the ‘Hindu nationalist tendencies’ are to blame. Which communal violence was being avenged by jihad of Syed Ahmed in early 19th century? Why his jihad was more morally acceptable than anything else going on at that time? Why Islamists today are justified to glorify this jihad against “disbelievers” while other religious bigots would be wrong to do the same? Would avenging Somnath not be justified by the same logic?

It is important to understand this logic. What are the assumptions that Mr. Swami has necessarily to accept if he wants to come to his wise conclusion: “that democratic politics cannot defend Indian Muslims” and bombing is a political message to that effect incited by violence against Muslims? He necessarily has to accept that:
1. The bigoted miniscule fringe in Islam has the right based on their tradition to wage jihad against disbelievers.
2. The violence that happens in this jihad, even if not acceptable, is sympathetically understandable.
3. But the communal violence against this jihad is the cause of fresh rounds of jihad, and therefore, should be condemned.

Are these assumptions acceptable to silent Indian majority? Would people like Mr. Swami openly defend these assumptions or they will simply keep on using them un-articulated but in a clever manner? Is Mr. Swami aware that accepting his logic provides very sound arguments for Hindutva brigade? The logic in a nutshell can be expressed as:
• Since Mahmud Ghazni the Islam has been attacking Hinduism in various ways.
• At the least since Maulana Shirhindi’s reaction of separation from Hindus as a reaction to Akbar’s Deen-e-ilahi the idea of keeping clear of Hindus and if possible subjugating them was available to some Muslims.
• The jihad waged by Syed Ahmed in early 19th century was a part of the same pattern and tradition of annihilating all disbelievers.
• Sir Syed Ahmed khan’s two nation theory was directed against Hindus and finally divided the nation. It was part of the same pattern to make the whole world accept Islam or not to live in harmony with others.
• The modern day proclamations of likes of Zakir Naik are manifestations of the same tendencies.
• Islamist bombing is driven by this idea and wherever Muslims see a political conflict (a natural occurring in any democratic polity) they will invoke religion and rather than peaceful democratic negotiations will start bombing.
• Therefore, Hindus are under direct attack of this Islamisation project. If they want to save themselves—the existential anxiety—they have to unite and counter this violence. If they do not have expertise in bombing, let them have large scale communal violence.
• Therefore, they can be condoned and need healing, recommended by Mr. Swami.

Are we ready to accept this logic? Obviously not, it is all poisonous and product of a sick mind. Then why not the jihadi logic also a product of a sick mind? Why jihadi violence should be condoned, why others should be held responsible for this, why others should be charged with the responsibility of healing this sickness? Why should it not be pointed out that all this logic of revenge is wrong and the perpetrators are responsible; they should heal themselves of this skewed mind-set?
This kind of always available condoning and explaining-away the jihadi acts will strengthen a similar logic in Hindu communalists. And there is a difference in ‘explanation’ and ‘explaining away’; the above mentioned trend of opinion making does not ‘explain’ it ‘explain away’.

Overwhelming majority of Indian population consists of two major religions: Hinduism and Islam. Hinduism by many is considered a conglomerate of many religious sects rather than a single religion. Islam is more often considered a single religion in the classic sense of the term ‘religion’, but does have its own sects and factions. Here, without getting into this fine distinction, I am treating both as religious groups.

Both these religious groups have their bigoted lunatic fringes. The fringe elements have a mind-set of victim-hood and vengeance. They also feel threatened by the other and want to gather strength to contain, if not to annihilate the other. Support and sympathy to the extremist fringes from within their respective communities is a matter of speculation, there are no hard data to say one has greater support then the other. But condoning and explaining-away their heinous acts by Indian intellectuals clearly has a pattern. The Hindu communalist is recognised for what he is, a communalist; but mostly a Muslim communalist is seen and defended as a victim.

Unless we treat each one of them fairly and as equally condemnable, we will strengthen the rivalry by comparison, the fringes will grow. The healing has to be two pronged: kind and humane treatment by the state and calling a spade a spade. The idea of India as a Hindu-rashtra has to be condemned and firmly put down. This idea has to be shown morally wrong, politically unviable, theoretically stupid and totally unacceptable. But simultaneously the ideas of universal Islamism, Caliphate and establishing Shariya as the universal code have to be condemned, shown morally bankrupt, politically impossible and theoretically stupid.

The second cannot be done without bringing in their religious figures (mythological and historical); be that Manu, Rama, Krishna or Muhammad; in the debate and showing that ideas associated with them might be unacceptable, wrong and morally debased, as well as some of them might be very laudable. The historical sheen from their persona has to be taken off and they have to be shown as ordinary mortals which are fallible and can be wrong, even severely condemnable. Similarly the principles articulated in their religious scriptures; be that Gita, Veda, Manusmriti, Quran or Hadith collections; have to be analysed and their untenable defence and soft interpretation have to be abandoned. If there is bigotry and in today’s world morally unacceptable ideas in them in them, it has to be shown clearly and status of God’s word has to be declared as bunkum for all. This has no value in public affairs and politics; however essential it may be for the believers.

Thus three principles that can help us remain secular and contain religious bigotry are:
1. Equal treatment to all perpetrators of communal disharmony and violence.
2. An unforgiving rational critique of their religious books and religious figures. Creation of an environment of tolerance of genuine criticism; even if that makes them angry at first.
3. Kind but non-condoning and firm treatment to bring sense to the misguided. Zero tolerance for the seriously indoctrinated bigots.

Mrs. Gandhi’s and Mr. Swami’s ways of thinking and acting will increase communalism and will not combat it.
In the vitiated atmosphere of India today, I feel compelled to state that no mention of BJP, VHP, Modi, RSS etc. does not mean that they have been paragons of communal harmony and that they are not to blame, or that they are any less responsible. It their divisive politics and hate mongering is generally accepted, and rightly so. They are not mentioned here for the simple reason that this piece is a response to Mr. Swami’s article, and not a general analysis of roots and kinds of communalism in India. Reading support or condoning of BJP etc. in this again will be an example of the same skewed logic used by Mr. Swami in arriving at his untenable conclusions.