Across the Aisle: Mischievous and fake crusades, writes P Chidambaram

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September 26, 2021 6:30 AM

A secular nation must stamp out such fanaticism whether it is expressed in words or deeds or through subtle means of discrimination.

UDF protestLeader of opposition VD Satheesan supports Kerala CM's statement that the government will be 'unsparing against those who propagate false theories'. (PTI)

I read a page from history. The Crusades were religious wars that began toward the end of the 11th century. The wars are believed to have been fought between 1095 and 1291. History records that they were organised by European Christians, with the support of the Latin Church, to check the spread of Islam, roll back Muslim expansion (in Palestine, Syria, Egypt) and take back the Holy Land in the eastern Mediterranean.

The wars were waged a thousand years after Jesus Christ and 450 years after Prophet Muhammad. Both preached monotheism. Both were inspired by Abraham and Moses. Among Muslims, they are Ibrahim and Musa. Along with Judaism, the three faiths are called Abrahamic religions. Therefore, the justification for the wars is inexplicable. Despite the wars, Christianity and Islam have survived to this day with millions of followers; most are tolerant and peaceful, some are warriors. Europe is largely Christian; Palestine, Syria, Egypt and some other territories over which the wars were fought are predominantly Muslim nations.

The moral of the story is that no religion or religious group can vanquish another.

What is jihad?
Yet, the word jihad is in currency. Jihad, in Islam, according to Britannica, is a meritorious struggle or effort, primarily the human struggle to promote what is right and to prevent what is wrong. In modern times, however, it has become a synonym for violent campaigns.

Love jihad was a monster invented by the Hindu radical right to terrorise young men and women. Narcotic jihad is the new monster, and it pains me and millions of Indians that an ordained bishop, Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt of Pala, should be its author. While ‘love’ and ‘narcotics’ are real, to attach the word jihad to love (a natural human emotion) and to narcotics (an analgesia and an addictive drug) reveals warped thinking.

The intention is clear. It is to provoke distrust and communal conflict between followers of a religion (Hinduism or Christianity) on the one hand and Islam on the other. Islam is the ‘other’ and Muslims are the ‘other’ people to fanatics. A secular nation must stamp out such fanaticism whether it is expressed in words or deeds or through subtle means of discrimination.

No Evidence
There is no evidence that Islam is ‘expansionist’ in India. The PEW survey, published in June 2021, has blown away many myths and falsehoods. The religious composition of India has been reasonably stable between 1951 and 2011. There is a slight increase in the proportion of Muslims because of migration and because the fertility rate among Muslims, though it has fallen sharply from 4.4 (1992) to 2.6 (2015), is slightly more than the fertility rate among Hindus and other religious groups. Yet, even by 2050, Hindus will constitute an overwhelming 77 per cent (1,300 million) of the population. Among the respondents in the PEW survey, 81.6 per cent said they were raised as Hindu and 81.7 per cent currently identify as Hindu; 2.3 per cent said they were raised as Christian and 2.6 per cent currently identify as Christian. Mass conversion to Islam is a lie.

There is no surprise in the Hindu radical right springing to the support of the Bishop of Pala. Both target the ‘other’, meaning the Muslims. We must remember that there have been occasions when the Hindu radical right has treated the Christians as ‘other’. The ‘othering’ of any section of the people is unacceptable.

My School Experience
I studied in a school run by Christian missionaries. The overwhelming majority of pupils were Hindus from all sections of society. There was a small number of Christians and a sprinkling of Muslims. Each class was divided into many sections, but there was a Class Leader, chosen by the Headmaster, the legendary Kuruvilla Jacob. In the five years that I studied from Class VI to Class X, the Class Leader was A K Moosa, a jovial, friendly but average student. In Class XI, the final year, the Class Leader automatically became the School Pupil Leader. The Headmaster wanted a student who was tall and impressive and who could speak English fluently at school functions and at the Annual Day. Who did he choose? Lo and behold, he nominated Mr Haroon Mohammed! None of the students, and certainly not the Hindu or Christian pupils, thought that something unusual had been done. The word ‘appeasement’ was totally unfamiliar to us.

I am glad that the Chief Minister, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, has read the riot act to the Bishop. I am gladder that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr V D Satheesan, has supported the Chief Minister’s statement that the government will be “unsparing against those who propagate such false theories”.

Those who talk mischievously about narcotic jihad should ponder over the unprecedented haul of 3,000 kg of heroin (that is three tonnes!) seized by the authorities when it was attempted to be ‘imported’ through a port in Gujarat. I can say with authority that no one would have dared to ‘import’ such a humongous quantity unless he/she (a couple — not Muslims — have been apprehended) enjoyed official patronage at a fairly high level.

The Prime Minister and the Home Minister should deprecate talk of jihad, love or narcotic. They should also comment on the seizure of 3,000 kg of heroin. These are issues that have serious consequences for the internal security and social harmony of the country.

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