Every time I manage to write something, I wait for the feedback with bated breath. This is always the case, week after week. One awaits the readers’ verdict as a nervous student would wait for results after a critical exam. And the feedback is invariably instructive; even one doesn’t always agree with the views.
Look at this take by a Canada-based writer, for instance, on my recent piece on Islam and how some Muslims misrepresent its humane teachings. I had argued that if the world has a negative view of the great religion, its followers are largely to blame.
Frankly, I was rather stunned by Dr Vijaya Rajiva’s response and her views on Islam and Muslims. Because Vijaya is not only a fellow Indian but like me she has also been a passionate supporter of the Palestinian cause, frequently writing on their dispossession and struggle.
In her take on my recent piece, Vijaya wrote: “I have nothing against Muslims, especially Indian Muslims who are basically converts from one of the indigenous religions. My quarrel is with Islam itself. Its history has been one of war and violence. The conquest of southern Europe, the other countries of the Middle East, Iran, Iraq and later Afghanistan, the Muslim conquest of Sind in the 8th century AD (have all been the result of Islam’s war). Well, I'm sure you know your history!
“To give an example, Mohamed of Ghazni did come and plunder and loot India but that was only one of his aims.
“The other (aim) was conversion of the infidels, at the point of the sword. Those who did not convert were summarily killed. Nadir Shah standing on the ramparts (of Delhi) watching the inhabitants of the city being put to death because they were infidels is a well-known fact. The entire history of Muslim conquests is well known. Hundreds of temples were destroyed, sacred books burned and thousands were killed or converted (in India). I would be interested in knowing when exactly Islam morphed into a 'peaceful' religion!”
Then she goes on to say: “Intellectually, I find it insulting there is only one God, and one Prophet. I much prefer the truth that the divine principle is a mystery and each of us has access to it. (There is) not just the One Way!”
Well, I wish I could reproduce the fascinating letter in its entirety but can’t do it for obvious space constraints.
One could write a whole book in response to these familiar rants steeped in ignorance and mostly based on hearsay and utter lies shamelessly peddled by European crusaders dressed as historians and scholars for a thousand years now.
I respect Vijaya for her activism on behalf of the Palestinians. But let me say this. Her ignorance and mixing of historical facts with fiction is not only surprising, it’s downright pathetic.
Mahmoud of Ghazni, who she calls Mohamed of Ghazni, and numerous ‘Muslim rulers’ who invaded India at one time or another, were not driven by a missionary zeal to convert the subcontinent to Islam. They were merely greedy kings and conquerors like hundreds of others who came to India for its fabled riches.
Be it Mahmoud of Ghazni, who invaded India 17 times, or Mohammed Ghouri, they were not ideal Muslims nor did they represent Islam. Like other conquerors in history, they were merely men driven by a craving for power, not by a holy mission to spread Islam. They just happened to be Muslims – just like some European and Indian conquerors happened to be Christian or Hindu.
Just as Ashoka the Great was not driven by any religious zeal when he painted Kalinga red with the blood of its people, Muslim conquerors were not on a proselytising mission.
This is why they were equally ruthless in dealing with fellow Muslims. What Babar did to Ibrahim Khilji and what Sher Shah Suri did to Humayun is what emperors and kings routinely did to each other – and not just in India.
Nadir Shah of Iran, who Rajiva says watched from the ramparts of Delhi while the ‘infidels’ were killed, did not kill only Hindus. If this is any consolation, almost all of those killed in Delhi at the time were Muslim subjects of the reigning king Mohammed Shah.
If Muslim rulers fought and killed Hindu kings and their subjects, they also killed their fellow Muslim rulers and their subjects with equal impunity. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb incarcerated and killed his own father and brothers.
All this was for power and the religion of these rulers had nothing to do with the whole circus. Even the most benign of Muslim emperors like Akbar did not represent Islam or Muslims, just as most of the current lot of Muslim rulers do not.
If these men had indeed been real models of Islam and its teachings, their subjects would have thanked them as the persecuted Jews did when the second Caliph Syedna Omar entered Jerusalem or as the oppressed Christians did when Tareq bin Ziad led the Muslim army into Spain.
As for the charge of forcing the Hindus to convert to Islam, there’s a simple answer to the accusation. If the Muslims had indeed converted the indigenous population at sword’s point, India would have been a Muslim country today, which is not the case. The Muslims are still a minority in the country of a billion. The same would have been true of Spain. Remember, both India and Spain were ruled by the Muslims for nearly a thousand years.
That said, I understand if well-read and informed friends like Vijaya Rajiva demonstrate such incredible ignorance about Islam and Muslims. Despite the wealth of resources at their disposal and their growing numbers (recently the Vatican admitted Muslims have replaced Christians as the world’s biggest religious bloc), the Muslims have done little to bridge this gulf of mistrust and hatred that alienates them from the rest of the world.
They remain their faith’s worst enemies doing nothing to present its real, pristine face before the world. They’re busy chasing worthless mirages in concrete while the world builds on and multiplies its prejudices against Islam and Muslims. No wonder then the world can barely conceal its contempt for us.