Chapter 2 : Negationism In India
Chapter Two - Negationism in India
The negationism regarding the Nazi crimes has been the object of much public discussion. Turkish negationism about the Armenian genocide has received some attention. Less well-known is that India has its own brand of negationism.
Since about 1920 an effort has been going on in India to rewrite history and to deny the millennium-long attack of Islam on Hinduism. Today, most politicians and English-writing intellectuals in India will go out of their way to condemn any public reference to this long and painful conflict in the strongest terms. They will go to any length to create the illusion of a history of communal amity between Hindus and Muslims.
2.1 Hindu vs. Muslim
Making people believe in a history of Hindu-Muslim amity is not an easy task: the number of victims of the persecutions of Hindus by Muslims is easily of the same order of magnitude as that of the Nazi extermination policy, though no one has yet made the effort of tabulating the reported massacres and proposing a reasonable estimate of how many millions exactly must have died in the course of the Islamic campaign against Hinduism (such research is taboo). On top of these there is a similar number of abductions and deportations to harems and slave-markets, as well as centuries of political oppression and cultural destruction.
The American historian Will Durant summed it up like this:“The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.”
Only off and on did this persecution have the intensity of a genocide, but it was sustained much longer and spread out much wider geographically than the Nazi massacre. Whereas the Germans including most members of the Nazi party, were horrified at the Nazi crimes against humanity within a few years, the Muslims, for whom Gott mit uns (God with us) was not a slogan but a religious certainty, managed to keep a good conscience for centuries. We will encounter similarities as well as differences between Nazi and Islamic crimes against humanity, but the most striking difference is definitely the persistence with which Islamic persecutions have continued for 14 centuries. This is because it had more spine, a more powerful psychological grip on its adherents than Nazism.
The ideological foundation of the Islamic campaign was similar to the Nazi ideology. The Muslium invaders (as we can read in numerous documents which they left us, from the Quran and the Hadith onwards) distinguished between three kinds of people: first of all the Muslims, the Herrenvolk (master nation) to which Allah had promised the world; secondly the Jews and Christians, who could live on under Muslim rule but only as third-class citizens, just like the Slavic Untermenschen (inferior people) in Hitler’s planned new order, thirdly the species to be eliminated, the real Pagans who had to disappear from the face of the earth.
Different from Hitler’s victims, the non-combatants among the unbelievers often got a chance to opt for conversion rather than death. What Mohammed (imitated by his successors) wanted, was his recognition as God’s final prophet, so he preferred people to live and give him this recognition (by pronouncing the Islamic creed, i.e. converting), and only those who refused him this recognition were to be killed. Still, conversion often came too late to save defeated Pagans from slavery. At this point, Mohammed deserves comparison with Stalin: unlike Hitler, he killed people not for their race but for their opinions. But one can hardly say that the one totalitarianism is better than the other.
The Blitzkrieg of the Muslim armies in the first decades after the birth of their religion had such enduring results precisely because the Pagan populations in West- and Central-Asia had no choice (except death) but to convert. Whatever the converts’ own resentment, their children grew up as Muslims and gradually identified with this religion. Within a few generations the initial resistance against these forcible converions was forgotten, and these areas became heidenfrei (free from Pagans, cfr. judenfrei). In India it didn’t go like that, because the Muslims needed five centuries of attempts at invasion before they could catch hold of large parts of India, and even then they encountered endless resistance, so that they often had to settle for a compromise.
The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population; the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. The Bahmani sultans (1347-1480) in central India made it a rule to kill 100,000 captives in a single day, and many more on other occasions. The conquest of the Vijayanagar empire in 1564 left the capital plus large areas of Karnataka depopulated. And so on.
As a contribution to research on the quantity of the Islamic crimes against humanity, we may mention Prof. K.S.Lal’s estimates about the population figures in medieval India (Growth of Muslim Population in India). According to his calculations, the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate). More research is needed before we can settle for a quantitatively accurate evaluation of Muslim rule in India, but at least we know for sure that the term crime against humanity is not exaggerated.
But the Indian Pagans were far too numerous and never fully surrendered. What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was in reality a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century. Against these rebellious Pagans the Muslim rulers preferred to avoid total confrontation, and to accept the compromise which the (in India dominant) Hanifite school of Islamic law made possible. Alone among the four Islamic law schools, the school of Hanifa gave Muslim rulers the right not to offer the Pagans the sole choice between death and conversion, but to allow them toleration as zimmis (protected ones) living under 20 humiliating conditions, and to collect the jizya (toleration tax) from them. Normally the zimmi status was only open to Jews and Christians (and even that concession was condemned by jurists of the Hanbalite school like lbn Taymiya), which explains why these communities have survived in Muslim countries while most other religions have not. On these conditions some of the higher Hindu castes could be found willing to collaborate, so that a more or less stable polity could be set up. Even then, the collaboration of the Rajputs with the Moghul rulers, or of the Kayasthas with the Nawab dynasty, one became a smooth arrangement when enlightened rulers like Akbar (whom orthodox Muslims consider an apostate) cancelled these humiliating conditions and the jizya tax.
It is because of Hanifite law that many Muslim rulers in India considered themselves exempted from the duty to continue the genocide on the Hindus (self-exemption for which they were persistently reprimanded by their mullahs). Moreover, the Turkish and Afghan invaders also fought each other, so they often had to ally themselves with accursed unbelievers against fellow Muslims. After the conquests, Islamic occupation gradually lost its character of a total campaign to destroy the Pagans. Many Muslim rulers preferred to enjoy the revenue from stable and prosperous kingdoms, and were content to extract the jizya tax, and to limit their conversion effort to material incentives and support to the missionary campaigns of sufis and mullahs (in fact, for less zealous rulers, the jizya was an incentive to discourage conversions, as these would mean a loss of revenue). The Moghul dynasty (from 1526 onwards) in effect limited its ambition to enjoying the zimma system, similar to the treatment of Jews and Christians in the Ottoman empire. Muslim violence would thenceforth be limited to some slave-taking, crushing the numerous rebellions, destruction of temples and killing or humiliation of Brahmins, and occasional acts of terror by small bands of raiders. A left-over from this period is the North-Indian custom of celebrating weddings at midnight: this was a safety measure against the Islamic sport of bride-catching.
The last jihad against the Hindus before the full establishment of British rule was waged by Tipu Sultan at the end of the 18th century. In the rebellion of 1857, the near-defunct Muslim dynasties (Moghuls, Nawabs) tried to curry favour with their Hindu subjects and neighbours, in order to launch a joint effort to re-establish their rule. For instance, the Nawab promised to give the Hindus the Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid site back, in an effort to quench their anti-Muslim animosity and redirect their attention towards the new common enemy from Britain. This is the only instance in modern history when Muslims offered concessions to the Hindus; after that, all the concessions made for the sake of communal harmony were a one-way traffic from Hindu to Muslim.
After the British had crushed the rebellion of 1857, the Indian Muslims fell into a state of depression, increasing backwardness due to their refusal of British education, and nostalgia for the past. While the Hindu elites took to Western notions like secular nationalism, the Muslims remained locked up in their communal separateness. As soon as the British drew them into the political process (founding of Muslim League in 1906) in order to use them as a counter-weight against the Indian National Congress, they immediately made heavy and hurtful demands on the Hindus, such as the unlimited right to slaughter cows, and they started working for political separation. First they obtained separate electorates where Muslim candidates would only have to please Muslim voters, and later they would succeed in separating a Muslim state from India.
By the twenties, they took to the unscrupled use of muscle power in a big way, creating street riots and outright pogroms. If Hindus retaliated in kind, it was a welcome help in instilling the separate communal identity into the ordinary Muslim, who would have preferred to coexist with his Hindu neighbours in peace. By creating riots and provoking relatiatory violence, the Muslim League managed to swing the vast majority of the Muslim electorate towards supporting its demand for the partition of India. The roughly 600,000 victims of the violence accompanying the Partition were the price which the Muslim League was willing to pay for its Islamic state of Pakistan. While every Hindu and Muslim who took part in the violence is responsible for his own excesses, the over-all responsibility for this mass-slaughter lies squarely with the Muslim leadership.
After independence, the Islamic persecution of Hindus has continued in different degrees of intensity, in Pakistan, Bangla Desh and Kashmir (as well as heavy discrimination in Malaysia). This is not the place for detailing these facts, which the international media have been ignoring completely. What may cut short all denials of this continued pestering of Hindus in Muslim states, are the resulting migration figures: in 1948, Hindus formed 23% of the population of Bangla Desh (then East Pakistan), in 1971 the figure was down to 15%, and today it stands at about 8%. No journalist or human rights body goes in to ask the minority Hindus for their opinion about the treatment they get from the Muslim authorities and populations; but they vote with their feet.
In the first months of 1990, the entire Hindu population (about 2 lakhs) was forcibly driven from the Kashmir Valley, which used to be advertised as a showpiece of communal harmony. Muslim newspapers and mosque loudspeakers had warned the Hindus to leave the valley or face bullets. After the Islamic conquest of Kabul in April 1992, 50,000 Hindus had to flee Afghanistan (with the Indian government unwilling to extend help, and Inder Kumar Gujral denying that the expulsion of Indians had a communal motive). The pogroms in Pakistan and Bangladesh after the demolition of the Babri Masjid left 50,000 Hindus homeless in Bangladesh and triggered another wave of refugees from both countries towards India. In Pakistan, 245 Hindu temples were demolished, in Bangladesh a similar number was attacked, and even in England some temples were set on fire by Muslim mobs. And then we haven’t even mentioned the recurrent attacks on Hindu processions and on police stations.
It will now be evident that the Hindu psyche has very little sympathy for Islam. Doing something about this was the chief motive for negationism.
2.2 Negationism and the Indian National Congress
The political context of the frist attempts at negationism was chiefly the attempt of the independence movement, led by the Indian National Congress, to eliminate all factors of disunity between Hindus and Muslims. It was the time of the Khilafat movement (1919-23), the agitation of Indian Muslims against the British take-over of the Islamic sacred places from the deceased Ottoman empire. The khilafatists demanded the restoration of the Ottoman caliph’s authority over the sacred places. Congress saw in this the occasion to enlist the Muslims in the national freedom struggle against the same British imperialists.
This was a miscalculation: the khilafat movement intensified the Islamic sense of communal identity (therefore the rejection of Indian nationalism), and added considerably to Muslim separatism and the Pakistan ideology. But before 1923, when the Turks themselves abolished the caliphate so that the movement lost its raison d’etre (and got transmuted into pogroms against the Hindus), there was great expectation in Congress circles. Therefore, Congress people were willing to go to any length to iron out the differences between Hindus and Muslims, including the invention of centuries of communal amity.
At that time, the Congress leders were not yet actively involved in the rewriting of history. They were satisfied to quietly ignore the true history of Hindu-Muslim relations. After the communal riots of Kanpur in 1931, a Congress report advised the elimination of the mutual enemy-image by changing the contents of the history-books.
The next generation of political leaders, especially the left-wing that was to gain control of Congress in the thirties, and complete control in the fifties, would profess negationism very explicitly. The radical humanist (i.e. bourgeois Marxist) M.N. Roy wrote that Islam had fulfilled a historic mission of equality and abolition of discrimination, and that for this, Islam had been welcomed into India by the lower castes. If at all any violence had occurred, it was as a matter of justified class struggle by the progressive forces against the reactionary forces, meaning the fedual Hindu upper castes.
This is a modern myth springing from an incorrect and much too grim picture of the caste system, a back-projection of modern ideas of class struggle, and an uncritical swallowing of contemporary Islamic apologetics, which has incorporated some voguish socialist values. There is no record anywhere of low-caste people welcoming the Muslims as liberators. Just like in their homeland, the Muslim generals had nothing but contempt for the common people, and all the more so because these were idolaters. They made no distinction between rich Pagans and poor Pagans: in the Quran, Allah had promised the same fate to all idolaters.
By contrast, there is plenty of testimony that these common people rose in revolt, not against their high-caste co-religionists, but against the Muslim rulers. And not only against heavy new taxes (50% of the land revenue for Alauddin Khilji, whom the negationists hail as the precursor of socialism) and land expropriations, but especially against the rape and abduction of women and children and the destruction of their idols, acts which have been recorded with so much glee by the Muslim chroniclers, without anywhere mentioning a separate treatment of Hindu rich and Hindu poor, upper-caste Kafir or low-caste Kafir. Even when some of the high-caste people started collaborating, the common people gave the invaders no rest, attacking them from hiding-places in the forests. The conversion of low-caste people only began when Muslim rulers were safely in power and in a position to reward and encourage conversion by means of tax discrimination, legal discrimination (win the dispute with your neighbour if you convert), handing out posts to converts, and simple coercion. Nevertheless, the myth which M.N. Roy spread, has gained wide currency.
The best-known propounder of negationism was certainly Jawarharlal Nehru. He was rather illiterate concerning Indian culture and history, so his admirers may invoke for him the benefit of doubt. At any rate, his writings contain some crude cases of glorification of Muslim tyrants and concealment or denial of their crimes. Witness his assessment of Mahmud Ghaznavi, who, according to his chronicler Utbi, sang the praise of the temple complex at Mathura and then immediately proceeded to destroy it. Nehru writes: “Building interested Mahmud, and he was much impressed by the city of Mathura near Delhi”. About this he wrote: “There are here a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful; nor is it likely that this city has attained its present condition but at the expense of many millions of dinars, nor could such another be constructed under a period of 200 years.” And that is all: Nehru described the destroyer of Mathura as an admirer of Mathura, apparently without noticing the gory sarcasm in Ghaznavi’s eulogy.
Moreover, Nehru denied that Mahmud had committed his acts of destruction out of any religious motive: “Mahmud was not a religious man. He was a Mohammedan, but that was just by the way. He was in the first place a soldier, and a brilliant soldier.” That Mahmud was definitely a religious man, and that he had religious motives for his campaigns against the Hindus, is quite clear from Utbi’s contemporary chronicle. Every night Mahmud copied from the Quran for the benefit of his soul. He risked his life several times for the sake of destroying and desecrating temples in which there was nothing to plunder, just to terrorize and humiliate the Pagans. In his campaigns, he never neglected to invoke the appropriate Quran verses. In venerating Mahmud as a pious hero of Islam, Indian Muslims are quite faithful to history: unlike Nehru, the ordinary Muslim refuses to practise negationism.
With Nehru, negationmism became the official line of the Indian National Congress, and after Independence also of the Indian state and government.
2.3 The Aligarh School
A second factor in the genesis of negationism was the penetration of Western ideas among a part of the Muslim elite, and especially the (in Europe newly emerged) positive valuation of tolerance. The Islamic elite was concentrated around two educational institutes, spearheads of the traditional and of the (superficially) westernizing trends among Indian Muslims. One was the theological academy at Deoband, the other the British-oriented Aligarh Muslim university.
The Deoband school was (and is) orthodox-Islamic, and rejected modern values like nationalism and democracy. It simply observed that India had once been a Dar-ul-Islam (house of Islam), and that therefore it had to be brought back under Muslim control. The fact that the majority of the population consisted of non-Muslims was not important: in the medieval Muslim empires the Muslims had not been in a majority either, and moreover, demography and conversion could yet transform the Muslim minority into a majority.
Among the scions of the Deoband school we find Maulana Maudoodi, the chief ideologue of modern fundamentalism. He opposed the Pakistan scheme and demanded the Islamization of all of British India. After independence, he settled in Pakistan and agitated for the full Islamization of the (still too British) polity. Shortly before his death in 1979, his demands were largely met when general Zia launched his Islamization policy.
Outsiders will be surprised to find that the same school of which Maudoodi was a faithful spokesman, also brought forth Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was Congress president for several terms and who was to become minister of Education in free India. Understandably but unjustifiably, Azad has often been described as as moderate and nationalist Muslim: he rejected the Partition of India and the foundation of Pakistan, not because he rejected the idea of a Muslim state, but because he wanted all of India to become a Muslim state in time.
When in the forties the Partition seemed unavoidable, Azad patronized proposals to preserve India’s unity, stipulating that half of all members of parliament and of the government had to be Muslims (then 24% of the population), with the other half to be divided between Hindus, Ambedkarites, Christians, and the rest. Short, a state in which Muslims would rule and non-Muslims would be second-class citizens electorally and politically. The Cabinet Mission Plan, proposed by the British as the ultimate sop for the Muslim League, equally promised an effective parity between Muslims and non-Muslims at the Central Government level and a veto right for the Muslim minority. Without Gandhiji’s and other Congress leaders’ knowing, Congress president Azad assured the British negotiators that he would get the plan accepted by the Congress. When he was caught in the act of lying to the Mahatma about the plan and his assurance, he lost some credit even among the naive Hindus who considered him a moderate. But he retained his position of trust in Nehru’s cabinet, and continued his work for the ultimate transformation of India into a Muslim State.
Maulana Azad’s pleas for Hindu-Muslim co-operation had an esoteric meaning, clear enough for Muslims but invisible for wilfully gullible non-Muslims like his colleagues in the Congress leadership. Azad declared that Hindu-Muslim co-operation was in complete conformity with the Prophet’s vision, for “Mohammed had also made a treaty with the Jews of Madina”. He certainly had, but the practical impact of this treaty was that within a few years, two of the three Jewish clans in Medina had ben chased away, and the third clan had been massacred to the last man (the second clan had only been saved by the intervention of other Medinese leaders, for Mohammed had wanted to kill them too). Maulana Azad could mention Mohammed’s treaty with the Jews as a model for Hindu-Muslim co-operation only because he was confident that few Hindus were aware of the end of the story, and that better-informed Hindus honoured a kind of taboo on criticism of Islam and its Prophet.
This parenthesis about Maulana Azad may help clear up some illusions which Hindus and Westerners fondly entertain about the possibility of Islamic moderacy. The Deoband school was as fundamentalist in its Azad face as it was in its Maudoodi heart, and its spokesmen had no problems with the horrors of Islamic history, nor did they make attempts to rewrite it. That Muslims had persecuted and massacred Hindus, counted as the fulfilment of Allah’s salvation plan to transform the whole world into a Dar-ul-Islam. As Mohammed Iqbal wrote: “All land belongs to the Muslims, because it belongs to their God.” (Iqbal would, however, end up in the Aligarh camp, cfr. infra) Maulana Azad shared this view of history. He condemned Moghul emperor Akbar’s tolerant rule as the near-suicide of Indian Islam, and praised fanatics like the theologian Ahmad Sirhindi, who through his opposition to Akbar’s tolerance had brought the Moghul dynasty back on the right track of Hind-persecution.
Unlike the Deoband school, the Aligarh school tried to reconcile Islam with modern culture. It understood the principles of democracy and majority rule, and recognized that a modern democracy would be incompatible with the transformation of India into an Islamic state as long as Muslims only formed a minority. The tactical opposition against the disadvantageous system of democracy was underpinned ideologically by Mohammed Iqbal, who criticized it as a system in which heads are counted but not weighed. But Iqbal understood that democracy was the wave of the near future, and, together with more modern and sincerely democracy-minded people in the Muslim intelligentsia, he faced the logical consequence that the Muslims had to give up the ambition of gaining control over all of India immediately. Instead they should create a separate state out of the Muslim-majority areas of India: Pakistan. The ideal of Pakistan was launched by Iqbal in 1930, and in 1940 it became the official political goal of the Muslim League. Aligarh Muslim University has often been described as the cradle of Pakistan.
From their better knowledge of and appreciation for modern culture, the Aligarh thinkers accepted the modern value of religious tolerance. Not to the extent that they would be willing to co-exist with the Hindus in a single post-colonial state, but at least to this extent that they wanted to do something about the imge of intolerance which Islam had come to carry. Around 1920 Aligarh historian Mohammed Habib launched a grand project to rewrite the history of the Indian religious conflict. The main points of his version of history are the following.
Firstly, it was not all that serious. One cannot fail to notice that the Islamic chroniclers (including some rulers who wrote their own chronicles, like Teimur and Babar) have described the slaughter of Hindus, the abduction of their women and children, and the destruction of their places of worship most gleefully. But, according to Habib, these were merely exaggerations by court poets out to please their patrons. One wonders what it says about Islamic rulers that they felt flattered by the bloody details which the Muslims chroniclers of Hindu persecutions have left us. At any rate, Habib has never managed to underpin this convenient hypothesis with a single fact.
Secondly, that percentage of atrocities on Hindus which Habib was prepared to admit as historical, is not to be attributed to the impact of Islam, but to other factors. Sometimes Islam was used as a justification post factum, but this was deceptive. In reality economic motives were at work. The Hindus amassed all their wealth in temples and therefore Muslim armies plundered these temples.
Thirdly, according to Habib there was also a racial factor: these Muslims were mostly Turks, savage riders from the steppes who would need several centuries before getting civilized by the wholesome influence of Islam. Their inborn barbarity cannot be attributed to the doctrines of Islam.
Finally, the violence of the Islamic warriors was of minor importance in the establishment of Islam in India. What happened was not so much a conquest, but a shift in public opinion: when the urban working-class heard of Islam and realized it now had a choice between Hindu law (smrti) and Muslim law (shariat), it chose the latter.
Mohammed Habib’s excise in history-rewriting cannot stand the test of historical criticism on any score. We can demonstrate this with the example of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi (997-1030), already mentioned, who carried out a number of devastating raids in Sindh, Gujrat and Punjab. This Ghaznavi was a Turk, certainly, but in many respects he was not a barbarian: he patronized arts and literature (including the great Persian poet Firdausi, who would end up in trouble because his patron suspected him of apostasy, and the Persian but Arabic-writing historian Albiruni) and was a fine calligraphist himself. The undeniable barbarity of his anti-Hindu campaigns cannot be attributed to his ethnic stock. His massacres and acts of destruction were merely a replay of what the Arab Mohammed bin Qasim had wrought in Sindh in 712-15. He didn’t care for material gain: he left rich mosques untouched, but poor Hindu temples met the same fate at his hands as the richer temples. He turned down a Hindu offer to give back a famous idol in exchange for a huge ransom: “I prefer to appear on Judgement Day as an idol-breaker rather than an idol-seller.” The one explanation that covers all the relevant facts, is that he was driven to his barbarous acts by his ideological allegiance to Islam.
There is no record of his being welcomed by urban artisans as a liberator from the oppressive Hindu social system. On the contrary, his companion Albiruni testifies how all the Hindus had an inveterate aversion for all Muslims.
Another ruler, Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88), personally confirms that the descruction of Pagan temples was done out of piety, not out of greed: “The Hindus had accepted the zimmi status and the concomitant jizya tax in exchange for safety. But now they built idol temples in the city, in defiance of the Prophet’s law which forbids such temples. Under divine leadership I destroyed these buildings, and killed the leaders of idolatry, and the common followers received physical chastisement, until this abomination had been banned completely.” When Firuz heard that a Pagan festival was going on, he reacted forcefully: “My religious feelings exhorted me to finish off this scandal, this insult to Islam. On the day of the festival I went there myself, I ordered the execution of the leaders and practitioners of this abomination… I destroyed their idol temples and built mosques in their places.”
The contention that Hindus stored their riches in temples is completely plucked out of thin air (though some of the richer temples contained golden statues, which were temple property): it is one among many ad hoc hypotheses which make Habib’s theory a methodologically indefensible construction. In fact, Habib is proclaining a grand conspiracy theory: all the hundreds of Islamic authors who declared unanimously that what they reported was a war of Islam against Infidelity, would all have co-ordinated one single fake scenario to deceive us.
This is not to say that the entire report which the Muslim chroniclers have left us, should be accepted at face value. For instance, writers like Ghaznavi’s contemporary Utbi give the impression that the raids on, and ultimate conquest of Hindustan were a walk-over. Closer study of all the source material shows that the Muslim armies had a very tough time in India. From Muslim chronicles one only gets a faint glimpse of the intensity with which the Hindus kept on offering resistance, and of the precariousness of the Muslim grip on Hindistan through the Muslim period. The Muslim chroniclers have not been caught in the act of lying very often, but some of them distort the proportions of victory and defeat a bit. This is quite common among partisan historians everywhere, and a modern historian knows how to take such minor distortions into account. The unanimous and entirely coherent testimony that the wars in Hindustan were religious wars of Muslims against Kafirs is a different matter altogether: denying this testimony is not a matter of small adjustments, but of replacing the well-attested historical facts with their diametrical opposite.
Habib tried to absolve the ideology (Islam) of the undeniable facts of persecution and massacre of the Pagans by blaming individuals (the Muslims). The sources however point to the opposite state of affairs: Muslim fanatics were merely faithful executors of Quranic injunctions. Not the Muslims are guilty, but Islam.
2.4 Negationism Rampant: The Marxists
The Aligarh school has been emulated on a large scale. Soon its torch was taken over by Marxist historians, who were building a reputation for unscrupled history-rewriting in accordance with the party-line.
In this context, one should know that there is a strange alliance between the Indian Communist parties and the Muslim fanatics. In the forties the Communists gave intellectual muscle and political support to the Muslim League’s plan to partition India and create an Islamic state. After independence, they successfully combined (with the tacit support of Prime minister Nehru) to sabotage the implementation of the constitutional provision that Hindi be adopted as national language, and to force India into the Soviet-Arab front against Israel. Ever since, this collaboration has continued to their mutual advantage as exemplified by their common front to defend the Babri Masjid, that symbol of Islamic fanaticism. Under Nehru’s rule these Marxists acquired control of most of the educational and research institutes and policies.
Moreover, they had an enormous mental impact on the Congress apparatus: even those who formally rejected the Soviet system, thought completely in Marxist categories. They accepted, for instance, that religious conflicts can be reduced to economic and class contradictions. They also adopted Marxist terminology, so that they always refer to conscious Hindus as the communal forces or elements (Marxism dehumanizes people to impersonal pawns, or forces, in the hands of god History). The Marxist historians had the field all to themselves, and they set to work to decommunalize Indian history-writing, i.e. to erase the importance of Islam as a factor of conflict.
In Communalism and the Writing of indian History, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia and Bipan Chandra, professors at Jawaharlal Nehry University (JNU, the Mecca of secularism and negationism) in Delhi, write that the interpretation of medieval wars as religious conflicts is in fact a back-projection of contemporary religious conflict artificially created for political purposes. In Bipan Chandra’s famous formula, communalism is not a dinosaur, it is a strictly modern phenomenon. They explicitly deny that before the modern period there existed such a thing as Hindu identity or Muslim identity. Conflicts could not have been between Hindus and Muslims, only between rulers or classes who incidentally also belonged to one religious community or the other. They point to the conflicts within the communities and to alliances across community boundaries.
It is of course a fact that some Hindus collaborated with the Muslim rulers, but that also counted for the British colonial rulers, who are for that no less considered as foreign oppressors. For that matter, in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw the Nazis employed Jewish guards, in their search for absconding Jews they employed Jewish informers, and in their policy of deportation they even sought the co-operation of the Zionist movement: none of this can disprove Nazi-Jewish enmity. It is also a fact that the Muslim rulers sometimes made war among each other, but that was equally true for Portuguese, French and British colonizers, who fought some wars on Indian territory: they were just as much part of a single colonial movement with a common colonial ideology, and all the brands of colonialism were equally the enemies of the indian freedom movement. Even in the history of the Crusades, that paradigm of religious war, we hear a lot of battles between one Christian-Muslim coalition and another: these do not falsify the over-all characterization of the Crusades as a war between Christians and Muslims (triggered by the destruction of Christian churches by Muslims).
After postulating that conflicts between Hindus and Muslims as such were non-existent before the modern period, the negationists are faced with the need to explain how this type of conflict was born after centuries of a misunderstood non-existence. The Marxist explanation is a conspiracy theory: the separate communal identity of Hindus and Muslims is an invention of the sly British colonialists. They carried on a divide and rule policy, and therefore they incited the communal separateness. As the example par excellence, prof. R.S. Sharma mentions the 19th -century 8-volume work by Elliott and Dowson, The History of India as Told by its own Historians. This work does indeed paint a very grim picture of Muslim hordes who attack the Pagans with merciless cruelty. But this picture was not a concoction by the British historians: as the title of their work says, they had it all from indigenous historiographers, most of them Muslims.
Yet, the negationist belief that the British newly created the Hindu-Muslim divide has become an article of faith with everyone in India who calls himself a secularist. It became a central part of the negationist argument in the debate over the Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid issue. Time and again, the negationist historians (including Bipan Chandra, K.N. Panikkar, S. Gopal, Romila Thapar, Harbans Mukhia, Irfan Habib, R.S. Sharma, Gyanendra Pandey, Sushil Srivastava, Asghar Ali Engineer, as well as the Islamic politician Syed Shahabuddin) have asserted that the tradition according to which the Babri mosque forcibly replaced a Hindu temple, is nothing but a myth purposely created in the 19th century. To explain the popularity of the myth even among local Muslim writers in the 19th century, most of them say it was a deliberate British concoction, spread in the interest of the divide and rule- policy. They affirm this conspiracy scenario without anyhow citing, from the copious archives which the British administration in India has left behind, any kind of positive indication for their convenient hypothesis - let alone the rigorous proof on which a serious historian would base his assertions, especially in such controversial questions.
They have kept on taking this stand even after five documents by local Muslims outside the British sphere in the 19th century, two documents by Muslim officials from the early 18th century, and two documents by European travellers from the 18th and 17th century, as well as the extant revenue records, all confirming the temple destruction scenario, were brought to the public’s notice in 1990. In their pamphlets and books, the negationists simply kept on ignoring most or all of this evidence, defiantly disregarding historical fact as well as academic deontology.
Concerning the Ayodhya debate, it is worth recalling that the negationists have also resorted to another tactic so familiar to our European negationists, and to all defenders of untenable positions: personal attacks on their opponents, in order to pull the public’s attention away from the available evidence. In December 1990, the leading JNU historians and several allied scholars, followed by the herd of secularist penpushers in the Indian press, have tried to raise suspicions against the professinal honesty of Prof. B.B. Lal and Dr. S.P. Gupta, the archaeologists who have unearthed evidence for the existence of a Hindu temple at the Babri Masjid site. Rebuttals by these two and a number of other archaelogists hae received coverage in the secularist press.
In February 1991, Irfan Habib give his infamous speech to the Aligarh Muslim University historians, in which he made personal attacks on the scholars who took part in the government-sponsored debate on Ayodhya in defence of the Hindu claim, and on Prof. B.B. Lal. In this case, the weekly Sunday did publish a lengthy reply by the deputy superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, A.K. Sinha. The contents of this reply are very relevant, but it is a bit technical (i.e. not adapted to the medium of a weekly for the general public) and written in clumsy English, which gives a poor over-all impression.
Actually, I speculate that the Sunday-editor may well have selected it for publication precisely because of these flaws. The practice is well-known in the treatment of letters to the editor: those defending the wrong viewpoint only get published if they are somewhat funny or otherwise harmless. I cannot be sure about this particular case, but it is a general fact that from their power positions, the negationists use every means at their disposal to create a negative image for the Hindu opponents of Islamic imperialism, including the selective highlighting of the most clumsy and least convincing formulations of the Hindu viewpoint.
In his Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi Controversy, the Islamic apologist Ali Asghar Engineer has also selected a few incomplete and less convincing statements of the Hindu position, in order to create a semblance of willingness to hear the Hindu viewpoint while at the same time denying the Hindu side any publicity for its strongest arguments. He has kept the most decisive pieces of evidence entirely out of the readers’ view, but has covered this deliberate distortion of the picture behind a semblance of even-handedness. In Anatomy of a Confrontation, the JNU historians do not even mention the powerful argumentation by Prof. A.R. Khan, while Prof. Harsh Narain and Mr. A.K. Chatterjee’s presentation authentic testimonies (in Indian Express, republished by Voice of India in Hindu Temples, What happened to Them and in History vs. Casuistry) are only mentioned but not detailed and discussed, let alone refuted; but clumsy RSS pamphlets and improvised statements by BJP orators are quoted and analyzed at length.
The concluding paragraph of A.K.Sinha’s rebuttal to Irfan Habib’s speech points out the contradiction between the earlier work of even Marxist historians about ancient India (in which they treat the epics as sources of history, not mere fable) and their recent Babri-politicized stand: “Today, even taking the name of Mahabharata and Ramayana is considered as anti-national and communal by the communist leaders, Babri Masjid Action Committee historians and the pseudo-secularists. What do they propose to do with all that has been published so far in [this] context by the Marxists themselves, notably D.D. Kosambi, R.S. Sharma, Romila Thapar, K.M. Shrimali, D.N. Jha and others? I have been thinking about the behavious of our Marxist friends and historians, their unprovoked slander campaign against many colleagues, hurling abuses and convicting anyone and everyone even before the charges could be framed and proved. Their latest target is [so] sobre and highly respected a person as prof. B.B. Lal, who has all his life (now he is nearing 70) never involved himself in petty politics or in the groupism [which is] so favourite a sport among the so-called Marxist intellectuals of this country. But then [slander] is a well-practised art among the Marxists.”
Another trick which a student of Holocaust negationism will readily recognize in the pro-Babri campaign of the Indian negationists, is that truly daring form of amnipulation: selectively quoting an authority to make him say the opposite of his own considered opinion. When the JNU historians started slandering Prof. B.B. Lal as a turncoat hired by the VHP, this was a panic reaction after their earlier tactic had been exposed (though only in Indian Express, but the negationist front will not tolerate even one hole in the cordon of information control). Until then, they had been using B.B. Lal’s fame to suport their own position that the Babri Masjid had not replaced a temple.
In their pamphlet The Political Abuse of History, the JNU historians had quoted from a brief summary, published by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1980, of Prof. B.B. Lal’s report on his excavations in Ayodhya and other Ramayana sites. They knew this report perfectly well, for they had gleefully quoted its finding that the excavations just near the Babri Masjid had not yielded any remains pre-dating the 9th century BC. But then they had gone on to state that there was no archeological indication for a pre-Masjid temple on that controversial site at all, even when the same report had cursorily mentioned the remains of a building dated to the 11th century AD. Later on, they have quoted the same summary as saying that the later period was devoid of any interest, suggesting that nothing of any importance dating from the medieval period had been found.
In fact, this remark only proves that the ASI summarizer saw no reason to give (or saw reasons not to give) details about the uninteresting but nonetheless existing medieval findings. But in autumn 1990, some of these details have been made public and they turned out to be of decisive importance in the Ram Janmabhoomi debate. Prof.K.N. Panikkar (in Anatomy of a Confrontation) suggests that, if these relevant details were not recently thought up to suit the theories of the RSS, they must have been deliberately concealed at that time (late seventies) by the ASI summarizer. The latter possibility means that negationists are active in the ASI publishing section, editing archaeological reports to suit the negationist campaign. The implied allegation is so serious that K.N. Panikkar expects the reader to assume the other alternative, viz. an RSS concoction. But he may well have hit the nail on its head with his suggestion that negationists in the ASI are doing exactly the same thing that they are doing in all Indian institutions and media: misusing their positions to distort information.
At any rate, the details of the full report were given in articles by Dr. S.P. Gupta and by Prof. B.B. Lal himself (and independently by other archaeologists in talks and letters to Indian Express) in late 1990. The pillar-bases of an 11th century building, aligned to the Babri Masjid walls, were presented by Prof. B.B. Lal and Dr. S.P.Gupta in separate filmed interviews with the BBC. There could be no doubt about it anymore: Prof. B.B. Lal had arrived at a conclusion opposite to the one ascribed to him by a number of Marxist historians (not only from JNU).
That is why is early December 1990 several of the most vocal Marxist historians suddenly took to slander and accused Prof. B.B. Lal of having changed his opinion in order to suit the VHP’s political needs. Now that they could no longer use Prof. Lal’s reputation for their own ends, they decided to try and destroy it. In the case of Dr. S.P. Gupta, they have not taken back their ridiculous allegation that he had falsely claimed participation in the Ramayana sites excavations. But with a big name like B.B. Lal, an impeccable academic of world fame, they had to be careful, because slander against him might somehow backfire. That is why they have nor pressed the point, and why a number of Marxist historians and other participants in the Ayodhya debate have quitely reverted to the earlier tactic of selectively quoting from the ASI summary of Prof. B.B. Lal’s report, and acting as if the great archaeologist has supported and even proven their own position. As the press had given minimum coverage to B.B. Lal and S.P. Gupta’s revelations, many people would not suspect the truth.
Another trick from the negationists’ book that has been very much in evidence during the Ayodhya debate, consists in focusing all attention on the pieces of evidence given by those who upheld the historical truth,, and trying to find fault with them as valid evidence. Thus, at the press conference (19 Dec. 1992) where Dr. S.P. Gupta and other historians presented photographs of an inscription found during the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which proved once more that a temple had stood on the site, and that it was specifically a birthplace temple for “Vishnu Hari who defeated Bali and the ten-headed king [Ravana]”, some journalists heckled the speakers with remarks that “because of the demolition, the inscription was not in situ and therefore not valid as evidence”, and similar feats of petty fault-finding.
A few days later, a group of 70 archaeologists and historians, mostly names who had not taken a prominent role in this debate so far, brought shame on themselves by pronouncing judgement on this piece of evidence without even seeing, let alone studying it. They demanded not that the government look into this new evidence, as would be proper for representatives of the scientific spirit, but that it trace down from which museum the planted evidence had been stolen and brought to Ayodhya. In doing history falsification, it is best to remain on the attack, and to put the bonafide historians on the defensive by accusing them first.
After dozens of pieces of evidence for the forcible replacement of temple with mosque scenario had been given, the Babri negationists had never come up with a single piece of counter-evidence (i.e. positive evidence for an alternative scenario); they could not do better than keep silent over the most striking evidence, and otherwise scream at the top of their voice that evidence A did not count, evidence B was not valid, evidence C was flawed, evidence D was fabricated. In 1992 alone, in the clearing operations near the Janmabhoomi site in June, during several visits of experts, and during the demolition on 6 December, more than 200 pieces of archaeological evidence for the pre-existent Vaishnava temple had been found, but these 70 scholars preferred to disregard all them. This time, the suggestion was that in the middle of the kar seva, the inscription had been planted there. You could just as well join the Holocaust negationists and say that the gas chambers found in 1945 had been a Hollywood mise-en-scene. Picking at a single testimony as if the whole case depends on it has been a favourite technique of the negationists to distract attention from the larger picture, to make people forget that even if this one piece of evidence were flawed, this would not invalidate the general conclusions built on a whole corpus of evidence.
A final point of similarity between the Marxist involvement in the Babri Masjid case and the techniques of Holocaust negationism is the fact that there was a Babri Masjid debate in the first place. Indeed, postulating doubt and the need for a debate is the first step of denial. The tradition that the Babri Masjid had forcibly replaced a temple was firmly established ad supported by sources otherwise accepted as authoritative; when it was challenged, this was not on the basis of newfound material which justified a re-examination of the historical position. The correct procedure would have been that the deniers of the established view come up with some positive evidence for their innovative position: until then, there was simply no reason for a debate. Instead, they started demanding that the other side give proof of what had been known all along, and forced a debate on something that was really a matter of consensus. Subsequently, instead of entering the ring, attacking or countering their opponents’ case with positive evidence of their own, the challengers set themselves up as judges of the other side’s argumentation. This is indeed reminiscent of the negationist Institute for Historical Review announcing a prize for whomever could prove that the Holocaust had taken place.
There is yet another trick from the negationist arsenal which has been tried in India: find a witness from the victims’ camp to testify to the aggressor’s innocence. Of course there are not witnesses around who lived through Aurangzeb’s terror, but there are many who lived through the horrors of Partition. It is nobody’s case that the killings wich Jinnah considered a fair price for his Muslim state, never took place. But the negationists have spent a lot of effort on proving the next best thing: that the guilt was spread evently among Hindus and Muslims.
The Communist novelist Bhishma Sahni has used the novel Tamas to point the Hindus as the villains in the Partition violence. The interesting thing is that Bhishma Sahni’s own family was among the Hindu refugees hounded out or Pakistan. His anti-Hindu bias, coming from a man who would have more reason for an anti-Muslim animus, is a gift from heaven for the Hindu-baiters. Marxist Professor Bipan Chandra parades a similar character in his paper: Communalism - the Way Out (published together with two lectures by KJhushwant Singh as: Many Faces of Communalism). One of his students had survived the terror of Partition in Rawalpindi, losing 7 family members. Bud he did not have any animus against the Muslims, for he said: “Very early I realized that my parents had not been killed by the Muslims, they had been kiled by communalism.” Coming from a victim of Muslim violence, this is excellent material for those who want to apportion equal blame to Hindus nd Muslims.
Of course, Bipan Chandra’s student was right. The cause of Partition and of its accompanying violence was not the Muslims, but communalism, i.e. the belief that people with a common religion form a separate social and political entity. This belief is not fostered by Hinduism, but it is central to Islam ever since Mohammed founded his first Islamic state in Medina. It is true that some Hindu groups (most conspicuously the Sikhs) have recently adopted some Islamic elements, including the communalist belief that a religious group forms a separate nation entitled to a separate state. But the source of this communalist poison in India is and remains Islam. Therefore, Bipan Chandra’s student has in fact said: “My family was not killed by the Muslims, but by Islam.”
It is a different matter that Muslims are the most likely carriers of the Islamic disease called communalism, and that they had massively voted for the commnalist project of creating a separate Muslim state. The culprit was Islam, and concerning the positions of the Muslims in the light of the fanatical nature of Islam, I would quote Bipan Chandra’s own simile for understanding the difference between communalism and its adherents: when a patient suffers from a terrible disease, you don’t kill him, but cure him. The victims of Islamic indoctrination should not be the target of Hindu revenge, as they were in large numbers in 1947. Don’t kill the patient, kill the disease. Remove Islam from the Muslims’ minds through education and India’s communal problem will be as good as solved.
At this point we may take a second look at the Marxist position, mentioned above, that the Hindu community is a recent invention. The observations which I just made concerning the Islamic provenance of communalism might seem to confirm that there was no Hindu communal identity. However, the authentic sources from the medieval period are unanimous about the sharp realization of a separate communal identity as Muslims and as Hindus, overwhelmingly on the Muslim side, but also on the Hindu side. We know for instance that Shivaji, who turned the tide of the Muslim offensive in the late 17th centure, was a conscious partisan of an all-Hindu liberation war against Muslim rule (Hindu Pad Padashahi). The same counts for Rana Pratap and many other Hindu leaders, and there cannot be any doubt that the Vijayanagar empire was conscious of its role as the last fortress of Hindu civilization.
It is true that some Hindu kings attacked neighbouring Hindu states in the back when these were attacked by the Muslim invaders. They were at first not aware that these Islamic newcomers were a common enemy, motivated by hatred against all non-Muslims; but their lack of insight into the character of Islam in no way disproves their awareness of a common Hindu identity. The fact that they were acutely aware of their internal political rivalries, does not exclude that they were aware of a more fundamental common identity, which was not at stake in these internecine feuds, but which they defended together once they realized that it was the target of this new kind of ideologically motivated aggressor, Islam. Brothers are aware that they have a lot in common, and this is not disproven by the fact that, when left to themselves, they also quarrel with each other.
If at all some Hindus had at first only been conscious of their own caste or sect rather than of the Hindu commonwealth, the Muslim persecutions of all Hindus without distinction certainly made them aware of their common identity and interest. So, if the Marxists perforce want to deny the common culture and value system underlying the diversity of the Hindu commonwealth, then let them apply some of their own dialectics instead. “It is in their common struggle aginst the Islamic aggressors, that the disparate sections of the native Indian society have forged their common identity as Hindus”: I do not agree with this statement which posits a negative and reactive basis for a common Hindu identity, but it must be accepted if one labours under the assumption that there never had been a positive common identity before. It is unreasonable to expect the Indian Pagans to be lumped together as Hindus for centuries on end, to be uniformly made the target of one neverending aggression by Islam, to be subjected to the same humiliations and the same jizya tax, and yet not become conscious of a common interest. This common interest would then give rise to unifying cultural superstructure. That is how the sustained and uniform Islamic attack on all India Pagans would inevitably have given rise to at least a measure of common Hindu identity if this had not previously existed.
In his Communal History and Rama’s Ayodhya (1990), the Marxist Professor R.S. Sharma argues that the medieval Hindus did not see the Muslims as a distinct religious entity, but as an ethnic group, the Turks. His proof: the Gahadvala dynasty levied a tax called Turushkadanda, tax financing the war effort against the Turks. But this does not prove what Sharma thinks it proves.
The Muslims called the Pagans of India sometimes Kafirs, unbelievers, i.e. a religious designation; but often they called them Hindus inhabitants of Hindustan, i.e. an ethnic-geographical designation (from Hind, the Persian equivalent of Sindh). And they gave religious contents to this geographical term, which it has kept till today: so it is correct that the Hindus never defined themselves as Hindus, as this was the Persian and later the Muslim term for the Indian Pagans adhering to Sanatana Dharma. But that was only a terminological matter, the fundamental religious unity of the Sanatana Dharmis was just as much a fact. Similarly, the Hindus called these newcomers Turks, but this does not exclude recognition of their religious specificity. On the contrary, even Teimur the Terrible, who made it absolutely clear in his memoirs that he came to India to wage a religious war against the Pagans, and who freed the Muslim captives from a conquered city before putting the Hindu remainder to the sword, referred to his own forces as the Turks. Conversely, the Hindus describe as the typical Turkish behavious pattern that which is enjoined by Islam.
While it is true that the Hindus have been much too slow (till today) in studying the religious foundation of the barbaric behavious which they experienced at the hands of the Turushkas, at least they soon found out that for these invaders religion was the professed motive of their inhuman behavious. Prof. Sharma’s piece of evidence, the institution of a Turushkandana, does however prove very clearly that the Islamic threat was extraordinary: the normal armed forces and war credits were not sufficient to deal with this threat which was in a class by itself.
The original source material leaves us in no doubt that conflicts often erupted on purely religious grounds, even against the political and economical interests of the contending parties. The negationists’ tactic therefore consists in keeping this original testimony out of view. A good example is Prof. Gyanendra Pandey’s recent book, The Construction of Communalism in Colonial North India. As the title clearly says, Pandey asserts that communalism (the Hindu-Muslim conflict) had been constructed by the British for colonial purposes anmd out of colonial prejuidices, was later interiorized by Indians looking for new, politically profitable forms of organization in modern colonial society. This is like saying that anti-Judaism is a construction of modern capitalists to divide the working class (the standard Marxist explanation for all kinds of racism), while concealing the copious medieval testimony of anti-Judaism on undeniably non-capitalist grounds. Prof. Pandey effectively denies a millenniumful of testimonies to Islamic persecution of the Indian (Hindu) Kafirs.
Another example is prof. K.N. Panikkar’s work on the Moplah rebellion,,, a pofgrom against the Hindus by the Malabar (Kerala) Muslims in the margin of the khilafat movement in 1921 (official death toll 2,339). Panikkar takes the orthodox Marxist position that this was not a communal but a class conflict, not between Hindus and Muslims but between workers who happened to be Muslims and landlords who happened to be Hindus. In reality the communal character of the massacre was so evident that even Mahatma Gandhi recognized it as terrible blow for his ideal of Hindu-Muslim unity. It is quite possible that the occasion was used to settle scores with landlords and money-lenders (that stereotype of anti-Hindu as well as of anti-Jewish sloganeering), but the mullahs exhorted their flock to attack all Hindus, and added in so many words that not only the landlords but all the Hindus were their enemies. The poison of Islamic fanaticism is such that it turns any kind of conflict into an attack on the non-Muslims.
More Marxist wisdom we encounter in Romila Thapar’s theory (in her contribution to S. Gopal’s book on the Ayodhya affair, Anatomy of a Confrontation) that the current Hindu movement wants to unite all Hindus, not because the Hindus feel besieged by hostile forces, not because they have a memory of centuries of jihad, but because “a monolithic religion is more compatible with capitalism” (to borrow the formulation of a reviewer). She thinks that the political Hindu movement is merely a concoction by Hindu capitalists, or in her own words “part of the attempt to redefine Hinduism as an ideology for modernization by the middle class”, in which “modernization is seen as linked to the growth of capitalism”. She reads the mind behind the capitalist conspiracy to reform Hinduism thus: “Capitalism is often believed to thrive among Semitic religions such as Christianity and Islam. The argument would then run that if capitalism is to succeed in India, then Hinduism would also have to be moulded in a Semitic form”.
It is always interesting to see how Communists presuppose the superiority of Hinduism by denouncing Hindu militancy as the semiticization or islamization of Hinduism. But the point is that the political mobilization of Hindu society under the increasing pressure of hostile forces is explained away as merely a camouflage of economic forces. One smiles about such simplistic subjection of unwilling facts of Marxist dogma. Especially because such analyses were still being made in 1991, and are still being made today: in India it has not yet dawned on the dominant intelligentsia that Marxism has failed not only as a political and economical system, but also as a socialogical model of explanation. On the contrary, Indian Marxists even manage to make foreign correspondents for non-Marxist media swallow their analysis, e.g. after the Babri Masjid demolition, even the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Seitung explained Hindu fundamentalism in the same socio-economical terms, complete with urban traders who are looking for an identity etc.
Incidentally, Romila Thapar is right in observing that certain Hindu revivalists ae trying to “find parallels with the Semitic religions as if these parallels are necessary for the future of Hinduism” (though her attempt to force the Ram Janmabhoomi movement into this mould, with Rama being turned into a prophet and the Ramayana into the sole revealed Scripture etc., is completely unfounded and another pathetic case of trying to force unwilling facts into a pre-conceived scheme). She sounds like favouring a renewed emphasis on “the fact that the religious experience of Indian civilization and of religious sects which are bunched together under the label of _Hindu are distinctively different from that of the Semitic”_.
It is true that some Hindu revivalist movements have tried to redefine Hinduism in terms borrowed from monotheism, with rudiments of notions like an infallible Scripture (back to the Vedas: the Arya Samaj), iconoclastic monotheism (Arya Samaj, Akali neo-Sikhs), or a monolithic hierarchic organization (the RSS). But the reason for this development cannot with any stretch of the imagination be deduced from the exigencies of capitalism. An honest analysis of this tendency in Hinduism to imitate the Christian-Islamic model will demonstrate that a psychology of tactical imitation as a way of self-defence against these aggressive Semitic religions was at work. The tendency cannot possibly be reduced to the socio-economical categories dear to Marxism, but springs from the terror which Islam (not fedualism or capitalism, but Islam) had struck in the Hindu mind, and which was subsequently fortified with an intellectual dimension by the Christian missionary propaganda against primitive polytheism. Those Hindus who were waging the struggle for survival against the Islamic and Christian onslaught have come to resemble their enemies a bit, and have interiorized a lot of the aggressors’ contempt for typical Hindu things, such as idol-worship, doctrinal pluralism, social decentralization. It is for Hindu society to reflect on whether this imitation was the right course, and whether it has not been self-defeating in some respects.
At any rate, the very existence of this psychological need among some militant Hindus to imitate the prophetic-monotheistic religions is a symptom of an already old polarization between Hinduism and aggressive monotheism, especially Islam. Bipan Chandra’s chronology of communalism as a 20th century phenomenon cannot explain the communal polarization of which Sikhism and the Arya Samaj were manifestations. These can only be understood from the centuries oif active hostility between Islam and Hinduism. Shivaji was not a herald of capitalism, nor a product of British divide and rule policy, but a participant in an ongoing war between Hindu civilization and Islamic aggression.
Since the 1950s the history market is being flooded with publications conveying the negationist version to a greater or lesser extent. The public is fed negationist TV serials like The Sword of Tipu Sultan, an exercise in whitewashing the arch-fanatic last Muslim ruler. Most general readers and many serious students only get to know about Indian history through negationist glasses. In India, the negationists have managed what European negationists can only dream of: turn the tables on honest historians and marginalize them. People who have specialized in adapting history to the party-line, are lecturing others about the political abuse of history. By contrast, geunine historians who have refused to tamper with the record of Islam (like Jadunath Sarkar, R.C. Majumdar, K.S. Lal) are held us as examples of communalist historywriting in textbooks which are required reading in all history departments in India.
But the negationists are not satisfied with seeing their own version of the facts being repeated in more and more books and papers. They also want to prevent other versions from reaching the public. Therefore, in 1982 the National Council of Educational Research and Training issued a directive for the rewriting of schoolbooks. Among other things, it stipulated that: “Characterization of the medieval period as a time of conflict between Hindus and Muslims is forbidden.” Under Marxist pressure, negationism has become India’s official policy.
Now that Marxism is no longer the fashion of the day, it is very easy to expose the shameless dishonesty of many vocal Marxist intellectuals. It is time to go through the record and see what they have said about the “economic successes” of the Soviet Union, the enthusiasm of the Chinese people for the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, about the Communist involvement in crimes like Katyn, and about the lies put out by the CIA-sponsored dissidents and camp survivors. Their Islam negationism is by far not their first systematic falsification of a chapter of history.
When the Marxists start lecturing Hindus about tolerance and the respect for Barbar’s mosque, it is easy to put them on the defensive by asking what happened to churches, mosques and temples when Mao took over. Communist regimes’ treatment of religion has been similar to Islam’s treatment of infidelity. Either religious people had the zimmi status, i.e. they were suffered to exist but at the cost of career prospects, benefit of social or material benefits, always under the watchful eye of police informers, and of course without the right to convert or to object to state atheism’s conversion efforts (according to the chinese Constitution, there is a right to practise religion and a right to practise and propagete atheism); or they were simply persecuted, their religious education forbidden (in the Soviet Union, many people have spent years in jail for transporting Bibles or teaching Hebrew), their places of worship demolished or expropriated for secular use. Communism and Islam are truly comrades in intolerance.
Certainly some statements can be dug up of Indian Communists defending the Cultural Revolution in which so many thousands of places of worship were destroyed and their personnel brutalized or killed. When the Khumar Rouge were in power, less that 1,000 of the 65,000 Buddhist monks managed to survive : what did the Indian Marxists (card-carrying and other) say then? The bigger part of the Marxists’ success was in their aggressiveness: as long as they remained on the offensive, everyone tried to live up to the norms they prescribed. Now it is time to put them to scrutiny.
2.5 Foreign Support for Indian Negationism
Some foreign authors, influenced by Indian colleagues, have also added a big dose of negationism to their work on Indian history. For instance, Percival Spear, co-author (with Romila Thapar) of the Penguin History of India, writes: “Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares.”
This is a repetition of the thesis defended by Zahiruddin Faruki in his “Aurangzeb and his times” (1935), recently taken up again by S.N.M. Abdi in Illustrated Weekly of India (5/12/1992), who claims that Aurangzeb was not anti-Hindu, and that the Ma’asir-i-Alamgiri (made available to the public by the Royal Society of Bengal and translated by Jadunath Sarkar), which lists Aurangzeb’s temple-destroying activities from day to day, is a forgery. Faruki and Abdi count on the public’s limited zeal for checking the sources, when they falsely claim that “apart from the Ma’asir-i-Alamgiri, there is no other reference to the order for the destruction of temples”, and that we do not hear of any protest which large-scale temple destruction would have caused.
Abdi thinks he can get away with claiming as evidence a stone slab allegedly seen by Faruki in the Gyanvapi mosque in Benares, mentioning a date (1659) that does not tally with the traditional date (1669) of the forcible replacement of the Kashi Vishvanath temple with this mosque; even while admitting that “the slab seen by Faruki has disappeared mysteriously, along with another significant piece of evidence”. Without blinking, he then cites a theory that the Gyanvapi mosque already existed under Akbar, i.e. a century before either of the two dates. Further, he quotes as authority a local agitator who claims: “My research reveals that a Buddhist vihara was demolished to make way for a temple, which was subsequently pulled down and the Gyanvapi mosque constructed on its site.” The first claim, in spite of flaunting the pretentious term research, in a plain lie; the second is of course true but contradicts the case which Mr. Abdi is building up. Such is the quality of the argument for Aurangzeb’s tolerance and Hindu-friendliness.
What are the facts? In Beneras (Varanasi), Aurangzeb (1658-1707) did not just build an isolated mosque on a destroyed temple. He ordered all temples destroyed, among them the Kashi Vishvanath, one of the most sacred places of Hinduism, and had mosques built on a number of cleared temple sites. All other Hindu sacred places within his reach equally suffered destruction, with mosques built on them; among them, Krishna’s birth temple in Mathura, the rebuilt Somnath temple on the coast of Gujrat, the Vishnu temple replaced with the Alamgir mosque now overlooking Benares, the Treta-ka-Thakur temple in Ayodhya. The number of temples destroyed by Aurangzeb is counted in 4, if not in 5 figures. According to the official court chronicle, Aurangzeb “ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all Pagan teachings and practices”. The chronicle sums up the destructions like this: “Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed… His majesty went to Chittor, and 63 temples were destroyed… Abu Tarab, appointed to destroy the idol-temples of Amber, reported that 66 temples had been razed to the ground”.
In quite a number of cases, inscriptions on mosques and local tradition do confirm that Aurangzeb built them in forcible replacement of temples (some of these inscriptions have been quoted in Sitaram Goel: Hindu Temples, vol.2, along with a number of independent written accounts). Aurangzeb’s reign ws marked by never-ending unrest and rebellions, caused by his anti-Hindu policies, which included the reimposition of the jizya and other zimma rules, and indeed the demolition of temples.
Aurangzeb did not stop at razing temples: their users too were levelled. There were not just the classical massacres of thousands of resisters, Brahmins, Sikhs. What gives a more pointed proof of Aurangzeb’s fanaticism, is the execution of specific individuals for specific reason of intolerance. To name the best-known ones: Aurangzeb’s brother Dara Shikoh was executed because of apostasy (i.e. taking an interest in Hindu philosophy), and the Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded because of his objecting to Aurangzeb’s policy of forcible conversions in general, and in particular for refusing to become a Muslim himself. Short, Percival Spear’s statement that Aurangzeb’s fanaticism is but a hostile legend, is a most serious case of negationism.
An example of a less blatant (i.e. more subtle) form of negationism in Western histories of India, is the India entry in the Encyclopaedia Brittannica. Its chapter on the Sultanate period (which was much more bloody than even the Moghul period) does not mention any persecutions and massacres of Hindus by Muslims, except that Firuz Shah Tughlaq “made largely unsuccessful attempts to convert his Hindu subjects and sometimes persecuted them”. The article effectively obeys the negationist directive that “characterization of the medieval period as a time of Hindu-Muslim conflict is forbidden”.
It also contains blissful nonsense about communal amity in places where the original sources only mention enmity. Thus, it says that Bahmani sultan Tajuddin Firuz extracted tribute payments and the hand of the king’s daughter from the Hindu bastion Vijayanagar after two military campaigns, and that this resulted in “the establishment of an apparently amicable relationship between the two rulers”. Jawaharlal Nehru considered the induction of Hindu women in Muslim harems as the cradle of composite culture (his euphemism for Hindu humiliation), but it is worse if even the venerable Encyclopedia considers the terms of debate as a sign of friendship. At any rate, the article goes on to observe naively that peace lasted only for ten years, when Vijaynagar forces inflicted a crushing defeat on Firuz. In this case, the more circumspect form of negationism is at work: keeping the inconvenient facts out of the readers’ view, and manipulating the terminology.
An American historian’s book is introduced thus: “In this book [Public Arenas and the Emergence of Communalism in North India], Sandra Freitag examines one of the central problems of modern Indian history, the Hindu-Muslim conflict, with new and provocative insight. She challenges long-standing interpretations by defining this conflict as a developing social process groups, not simply Hindu or Muslim, in highly specific local contexts bound together in a changing institutional order.”
This sophisticated verbiage cannot conceal that the book’s approach is merely the standard secularist version propagated by Indian establishment historians since decades. There is nothing new and provocative about a book that claims to explain communalism without touching on its single most important determinant, viz. the doctrine laid down in Islamic scripture, and that blurs the clear-cut process of India’s communalization by Islam with the help of scapegoats like colonialism.
It is not entirely clear to what extent such Western authors are conscious accomplices in the intellectual crime of negationism, and to what extent they are just gullible copiers of the version given to them by English-speaking Indians. In the case of a historian invited by Penguin to write a History of India, it is hard to believe that he didn’t know better.
Another case of malafide reporting is former Time correspondent Edward Desmond’s lengthy review of JNU Professof S. Gopal’s Anatomy of a Confrontation in the New York Review of Books. I know that Mr. Desmond had gone through the books stating the Hindu case on Ayodhya; he had talked to both Mr. Sitaram Goel and myself (by telephone); he knew about hard evidence for the temple that was forcibly replaced by the Babri Masjid, including Prof. B.B. Lal’s filmed presentation of the archarological evidence. And yet, like Prof. Gopal, he strictly keeps the lid on the Hindu case, does not mention the extensive documentary evidence, and curtly dismisses the archaeological evidence as bogus. Here, the psychology at work is apparently that of status-consciousness: you wouldn’t expect a senior correspondent of a big American magazine to prefer the company of marginal pro-Hindu writers to that of prestigious Stalinist professors of India’s Harvard, would you?
On the other hand, in the day-to-day reporting on the communal situation in India, there is a lot of bonafide copying of the anti-Hindu views dominant in the Indian English-language press. A typical mixed case of some complicity and some gullibility was the TV documentary about Hindu fundamentalism made by BBC correspondent Brian Barron, and boradcase in the week of the first round of the Lok Sabha elections in May 1991. Brian Barron is an otherwise meritorious journalist, witness his revelations in October 1991 about the massacre of thousands of Buddhist monks in the early years of communist rule in Mongolia. But his programme about the Hindu movement was second-rate and biased. For a start, it contained some factual mistakes (like a map meant to show the trail of Hindu leader L.K. Advani’s procession in support of the Ram Janmabhoomi cause, which drew a line unrelated to the actual trail, apart from placing Delhi on the Ganga river), exemplifying the carelessness which Western correspondents can afford when it comes to India reporting.
Barron said that India had already been partitioned because of religion. In fact, India has been partitioned because of Islam, against the will of other religions, and this seemingly small inaccuracy is an old trick to distribute the guilt of Islam in partitioning India over all religions equally. Barron made no attempt to seem impartial, and introduced BJP leader L.K. Advani as a demagogue. He asked Advani’s declared enemy V.P. Singh whether Advani was not merely putting a humane mask on fanaticism. Easy, that way V.P. Singh only had to say yes. He failed to take the opportunity to question V.P. Singh about his political marriage with the Muslim fundamentalist leader Imam Bukhari, while that was a case of a Hindu promoting fundamentalism as well. He let Swami Agnivesh, a Marxist in ochre robe, accuse the BJP of mixing religion and politics, but neglected to inform the viewers that Swami Agnivesh has himself combining monkhood with being a Janata Dal candidate in the Lok Sabha elections.
When Barron asked Advani why he had allowed so much bloodshed on his procession (the rathyatra of October 1990), whereas in fact there had been no riots all along the path of his month-long journey, Advani correctly said: “You are taken in by a disinformation campaign.” A serious journalist would have inquired deeper when his sources, with which the quality of his work stands or falls, are questioned so pointedly. When a sadhu said that Muslims refuse to respect Hindus and that Hindus are legally discriminated against, Barron did not inquire what these discriminations were. Like all western reporters, he has reported on Hindu fundamentalism without asking even once why this movement has emerged, instead relaying the Marxist line that it is all a camouflage for class (c.q. caste) interests, an artificial creation for petty political gain.
Barron interviewed prof. Romila Thapar, who accused the Hindu movement of aiming at a system in which some communities would be second-class citizens living in constant fear for their lives. From a spokeswoman of Marxism, which has held entire populations in constant fear and oppression, and which has killed numerous millions of “contrarevolutionary elements” (to use the criminalizing, dehumanizing Marxist term), the allegation sounds rather shameless. But the viewers were not told where Romila Thapar stands, they were led to believe that this was a neutral observer who had been asked for an objective explanation. The same thing has happened a number of times in both Time Magazine and Newsweek: Bipan Chandra, Romila Thapar and their comrades get quoted as if they are non-partisan authorities. Though anti-Communist in their general reporting, when it comes to India, these papers (unknowingly?) present the Marxists’ viewpoint as objective in-depth background information.
Only ten years ago, the Left-oriented media in many Western countries freely attacked the really existing capitalism and also conjured up all kinds of fantastic CIA and neo-fascist conspiracies, but scrupulously shielded the really existing socialism from criticism. Similarly, Brian Barron gave Prof. Thapar the chance to say her thing about unproven sinister plans imputed to the Hindu movement, but scrupulously refrained from pointing out that Miss Thapar’s picture of a theocratic society in which minorities are second-class citizens living in mortal fear, is already reallly existing in the neighbouring Islamic republic of Pakistan and in many Muslim states (and, mutatis mutandis in Communist countries).
These days, reporting on the communal in situation in India consists in highlighting the splinter in the Hindu eye and concealing the beam in the Muslim eye. At the time of the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, the German left-leaning weekly Der Spiegel summarized the communal riots in independent India as follows: “Since 1947, Indian statisticians have counted 11,000 riots with 12,000 Muslim victims.” Hindu victims are not even mentioned, as if you were reading a fundamentalist paper like Muslim India or Radiance.
The Ayodhya conflict offers a good examples of the absurd standards applied by reporters. A Hindu sacred site, back in use as a Hindu temple (since 1949 with, since 1986 without restrictions) after centuries of Muslim occupation, is claimed by Muslim leaders, who also insist on continuing the occupation of two other sacred sites in Mathura and Kashi (and numerous other sites which the Hindu leaders are not even claiming back). Claiming the right to occupy other communities’ sacred sites: if this is not fanatical, I don’t know what is. Yet, the whole world press is one the side of the Muslims, and decries a Hindu plan to build proper temple architecture on the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya as fanatical. These are not just double standards, but inverted standards.
The very fact that Muslims in India loudly complain about their situation (e.g. about their low educational level, which is 100% the fault of their own mullahs), proves that they are relatively well-off: as I have had the occasion to observe, Hindu visitors or refugees from Pakistan often do not dare to speak of the horrible conditions in which they are forced to live under Muslim rule, because they fear for their relatives, and because the constant terror has conditioned them never to raise any objections against the Muslim master race. Inside these Muslim states, the remaining Hindus are even more careful never to displease the Muslim masters. For unthinking journalists, their silence is proof that all is well for the minorities in Muslim states, and so they prefer to listen to the vocal malcontents who air the Muslim grievances in tolerant India. Whoever shouts loudest, will get our correspondents’ attention, if only because India reporting is mostly of a very low professional quality.
An example of the slanted impression which the Nehruvian establishment creates about Hindu-Muslim relations, concerns the internationally highlighted martyrdom of the Flemish Jesuit Father Rasschaert, near Ranchi in 1964. Father Rasschaert’s sister was a friend of my mother’s, so as a child I have often heard the details of the story. The part which everybody knows, is that Muslims had fled into a mosque, where Hindus wanted to pursue them, when Father Rasschaert intervened to pacify the crowd, but was killed by the Hindus who subsequently massacred the Muslims.
But the start of the story, never highlighted and sometimes not even mentioned in the contemporary newspaper reports (much less in later references), was that the Hindus in the area had been angered by the sight of mutilated Hindus who had been brought by train from East Pakistan, where they had at least survived the massacres which many more had not. As always, Hindu violence was a retaliation against Muslim violence. No missionary has stepped in to defend the Hindus of Pakistan, in fact no missionary was around, as missions have a vey hard time in Pakistan. The missions in Islamic countries find their converts harassed and even killed by their own families, their schools and churches attacked on all kinds of pretexts, their graduates not given jobs. So, the missionary centres prefer to direct their energies to more hospitable countries like India. The fact that a missionary was killed by a Hindu while defending the Muslims, and not the other way round, proves in the first place that Catholic priests can function in India, much more than in Pakistan. A closer scrutiny of this one incidence of Hindu fanaticism reveals a background of much more systematic and institutionalized Muslim fanaticism.
There is a third aspect to the story, which is never mentioned at all. It is that the Hindus in Ranchi were desperate about their government’s unwillingness to defend the Hindus in Pakistan. One of the chief culprits behind the massacre was Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the patron of secularism, who used Father Rasschaert’s death as yet another occasion to parade his concern for the minorities in India, and to put Hindus in the dock. He himself (and the entire secularist establishment till today) reneged on his duty to defend the Hindus surviving in the Islamic state which he had helped to create. By effectively condoning the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan, he was also responsible for the retalitory Hindu violence. But the international press has never thought the matter through, and confined its reporting on Father Rasschaert’s death to condemning the Hindu fanatics, weeping for the Muslim victims, and praising Nehru as the voice of sanity amid the religious madness.
The way our journalists are led by the nose towards reporting Muslim grievances and ignoring grievances of Hindu minorities (and ridiculing the very real grievances of even the Hindu majority in India), is reminiscent of the sneaking bias in all non-rightist media in Western Europe about the Left-right conflict before the Gorbachov era. They all complied with Marxist-imposed terminology like dictator Pinochet but president Ceaucescu, or rightist rebels but leftist resistance. Criticism of the West was available in plenty, and given wide coverage, but the muted populations of the Soviet bloc were not heard, and little effort was made to go in and hear them. Those who supported the cause of freedom in the Soviet bloc were riduclued. Worse, when in 1968 the Russian physicist Sakharov had a report about massive human rights violations in the USSR published, leading intellectuals actually denied the existence of “that so-called Russian physicist invented by the reactionary forces to slander the glorious achievements of socialism in the USSR”. Yes, so noxious was the intellectual atmosphere in the heyday of Marxism. In those days it was “better to be wrong with [communist] Sartre than to be right with [anti-communist] Aron”.
When glasnost made clear just how strong the Soviet bloc populations’ disgust with communalism really was, Western intellectuals and socialist parties seemed sincerely surprised. They themselves had so often pleaded that life in the Soviet system was not really worse than in the “so-called free” West. The press had never given us an adequate picture, not by telling outright lies, but by ignoring the muted voices which the communist dictators wanted us to ignore. At any rate, if there used to be far more demonstrations in the streets of the West than in the Soviet bloc, did it prove that there was less discontent in the latter? We now know better: there was more protest in the West than in the Soviet bloc because there was more freedom and less fear in the West, and in spite of deeper discontent in the Soviet bloc. There is no excuse for making the same mistake in our reporting on the situation of the minorities in India and in Muslim countries.
Without really noticing, the Western press has become the mouth-piece of the Marxist-Muslim alliance which dictates political parlance in India. I assume only a few frontline journalists are conscious participants in the ongoing disinformation campaign. Brian Barron, for one, has demonstrated to what extent he has interiorized the anti-Hindu bias of his Indian spokespersons, with a very little but truly unpardonable piece of disinformation. Reporting on the million-strong demonstration for the Ram Janmabhoomi temple (Delhi, 4 April 1991), he showed a monk carrying a saffron-coloured flag with a white swstika. And for the less perceptive viewers, he added in so many words that the Hindu movement carried the swastika. Of course he knew these two things: (1) most Western viewers know the swastika only as the symbol of Nazism; (2) most Indians know the swastika only as their own age-old symbol of good fortune (swasti = well-being). He must have known perfectly well that he was making the Western viewers read a message which the Hindu demonstrators never sent, viz. that the Hindu movement links up with Nazism. Regardless of the moral quality of such distortive reporting, it goes to show to what extent the negationist faction in the Indian media has managed to picture the Hindus as the bad guys in the eyes of the world.
A few more examples of how Western India-watchers swallow Indian secularist disinformation. The pro-Ram Janmabhoomi demonstration in Delhi on 4 April 1991 was not reported in 99% of the Western papers and electronic news channels. I have inquired among journalists about what they had received on their telexes concerning the largest-ever demonstration in the biggest democracy in the world. It turned out that these had mentioned 3 lakh demonstrators (when even the government-controlled police had given the estimate of 8 lakh), and not made the object of the demonstration clear at all. The Indian sources had deliberately blurred and minimized the information, so that the Western media had, in good faith, not deemed it worth mentioning. If six weeks later Brian Barron reported the number as more than a million demonstrators, it was not to correct this earlier lapse, but because of a different psychology. His aim was not to deny the importance and magnitude of the Hindu movement which he detests so much, but on the contrary to make it into a titillatingly gruesome dinosaur: the TV consumers have heard enough about Muslim fundamentalism, so if you want to get them interested in a new brand of fundamentalism, you have to make it extra big and colourful.
Another example is the news concerning the Indian attitude to the second Gulf War in early 1991. The Delhi correspondent for the Flemish radio station BRTN said that the Indian population was on the side of Saddam, against the Anglo-American forces (and their Saudi employers). That is just what the Times of india editorial had said a few days earlier. In fact, the Indian people was not on Saddam’s side at all. The Hindus had always cheered for Israel in its wars with the Arabs, and now they were all for the defeat of this Arab Hitler who had announced he would “burn half of Israel with chemical weapons”. The Muslim support for Saddam’s jihad against the Crusaders was not exactly massive either. Firstly, millions of Indian Muslims personally suffered when they or their reltives lost their jobs in Iraq and Kuwait as a result of Saddam’s annexation of Kuwait. Secondly, most Muslim leaders are financed by the Arab monarchies (including Kuwait), and they sided with their paymasters, either openly or by their quiet refusal to support Saddam. The only ones who supported Saddam were the hard core of the Nehruvian establishment (who forced the Chandra Shekhar government to stop allowing American war planes to land in Bombay), and the communists with their visceral anti-Americanism. A strike imposed on the communists with their visceral anti-Americanism. A strike imposed on the Calcutta dockers by the Communist trade-union was about the only sign of Indian support for Saddam, but our correspondent played it up as merely one example of a nation-wide movement. I hope it was in good faith on his part, but for the Times of India there cannot be such a benefit of the doubt.
Foreign correspondents in Delhi should realize that the Indian media and academia are entirely untrustworthy when it comes to reporting on the Hindu-Muslim conflict. When you report the truth about the democratic opposition in China or Tibet, you don’t copy the People’s Daily. When you want to know the truth about the Kurdish freedom struggle, you don’t trust the Iraqi stae radio. So, when you want to understand the Hindu backlash, you don’t believe strictly partisan sources like the Times of India, or party-line historians like those from JNU or AMU.
If a Mr. Vijay Singh writes in Le Monde Diplomatique an article full of secularist invective titled: Hindu Fundamentalism, a Menace for India, it is simply the reflection of a vested interest in blackening Hinduism, though it is sold as an in-depth comment by a first-hand observer. It so happens that the article is partly an unacknowledged quotation from the introductory chapter of the book “Understanding the Muslim Mind” by Rajmohan Gandhi, a party politician of Iman Bukhari’s favourite Janata Dal (nicknamed Jinnah Dal). If in another issue of the same prestigious French monthly, Mrs. Francine R. Frankel mouths all the worn-out secularist slogans against what she calls the “Violent Offensive of Hindu Extremists”, it merely proves her incapability of reading her Indian sources with the distance befitting partisan pamphlets. It is quite a shameful matter that Western media have swallowed and reproduced many similar motivated distortion.
The extreme ignorance and gullibility of the foreign press provides the negationists with a strategic cover. Most English-knowing Indians believe that the Western intelligentsia is more objective and competent, and they keep on believing this even in domains where the West is completely ignorant and incomponent. So the negationists feel supported in the back by an outside world which they can manipulate but which many in India still consider as a standard of truth. If the Hindu leadership had taken the trouble of studying the mental determinants of India’s political configuration, it would have blown this cover away by spreading first-hand information to the foreign media, and educating them about the Stalinist-Islamic grip on the Indian establishment.
In Great Britain and the United States, the anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim bias in India reporting can partly be explained by the political tilt towards Pakistan (now waning because of Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions). Thus, the prestigious British weekly The Economist has, in a predictably negative article about nationalism and separatism, held up the creation of Pakistan as an undisputably justified case of separatism (small wonder that British Muslims are imitating their Indian Muslim grandfathers and demanding a separate “non-territorial state of British Muslims”, justifiable on exactly the same grounds). A more universal reason is that they never get to know the Hindu viewpoint from competent and eloquent spokesmen: firstly, these have practically no access to the national English-language press, which Western correspondents in Delhi faithfully copy because they are too lazy to seek out news for themselves; secondly, the Hindus themselves have not yet suifficiently realized the importance of public relations.
The most important reason is probably the political atmosphere in Europe which demands that for the sake of anti-racism and multiculturalism, Islam as the most conspicuous and assertive guest culture in Europe gets painted in rosy colours. The result of this imperative not to expose Muslim fanaticism is that even avowedly Christian papers in the West keep silent about the ongoing persecution of Christian papers and other minorities in the Middle East. Christians cherish the illusion of a dialogue with Islam, so they will not offend their Muslim partners by raising incovenient issues like the status of religious minorities in Muslim countries. Now, if the West does not stand up for its persecuted Christian brethren, how much less will it be bothered about the idolatrous Hindus.
And so, Western India-watchers go on licking the boots of the aggressor, and keep on twisting contemporary news in the media, and to a lesser extent even historical facts in academic publications, to the advantage of the Muslim side. They have not invented the Indian brand of negationism, but they are amplifying and fortifying it.
2.6 Banning Inconvenient Books
A consequence of the negationist orientation of the Indian state’s religious policy, is the readiness to ban books critical of Islam at the slightest suggestion by some mullah or Muslim politician. It is symptomatic that India was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, at the insistence of Syed Shahabuddin, MP (in exchange, with some other concessions, for his calling off a march on Ayodhya). Among other banned books, we may mentioned pamphlet-like but nonetheless truthful books like Colin Maine’s “The Dead hand of Islam” or A. Ghosh’s “The Koran and the Kafir”, which list what the Quran has in store for the unbelievers; but also more prestigious books like R.M. Eaton’s “Sufis of Bijapur”, which debunks the myth of the Sufis as bringers of a tolerant Islam (in fact they were not only fanatical preachers against idolatry, but also spies and sometimes mercenaries).
In March 1991, Ram Swarup’s book “Understanding Islam through Hadis” was banned, after the Hindi version had already been banned in 1990. This happened after two committees set up by the Delhi administration had screened the book and found it unobjectionable, and after the judge had dismissed the plea for prosecution of its publisher, under the pressure of Muslim demonstrations. This book is a faithful summary of the Sahih al-Muslim, one of the two most authoritative Hadis collections (acts of the Prophet). According to the fundamentalist party Jamaat-i Islami the book contained “distortion and slander”, and as an example of this slanderous distortion, it mentions this passage: “Mohammed saw Zaynab in half-naked condition, and he fell in love with her”. With this revelation, the fundamentalists managed to get some agitation going, and the book was banned.
The interesting thing is that the quoted passage comes straight from the original Hadis, and is not a slanderous distortion at all. The agitation against the book reveals an important fact about the Muslim community: the ordinary Muslim does not know the contents of Quran and Hadis, and projects on Mohammed his own moral ideals, which he largely shares with his non-Muslim fellow-men. Because of his attachment to the mental image of a morally perfect Mohammed, he is shocked when he gets confronted with the historical Mohammed. Among the many historical acts of Mohammed is his arranging the hand-over to himself of Zaynab, the beautiful wife of his sdopted son. The fact that a revelation from Allah came to legitimize the marriage between Mohammed and Zaynab (which was a breach of the tribal incest taboo), became the classic illustration of the view that the Quran is nothing but the self-interested product of Mohammed’s own mind.
This ignorance about the historical Mohammed, both among the common Muslims and among the Hindus, is precisely what the banned book wanted to do something about, in keeping with the Indian Constitution’s injuction to “develop the scientific temper”. But the Nehruvian establishment (which includes the Congress Party and its Janata Dal offshoot) has no liking for free research into the contents of Islamic doctrine and history, and in spite of loud slogans about secularism, the administration gave in to the Muslim fanatics. None of the so-called secularist intelectuals has bothered to protest against this obscurantist act of censorship.
The official motivation for this banning of meritortious books is that they have been written with the intention of insulting a religion or inciting communal conflict (art. 153A amd art. 295A of the Indian Penal Code). Under section 95 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the executive power must take action against its initial users. For, according to some, there is a bok which fulfils the description given in the Penal Code, even to a far greater extent than the already banned book; but which is recited and invested with supreme authority in state-subsidized schools and in prayer-houses in every town and village of india. This objectionable book is known as the Quran.
In 1984 a citizen of India, H.K. Chakraborty, filed a petition with the West Bengal state government to ban the Quran. He added a list of 37 Quran verses which “preach cruelty, incite violence and disturb public peace” (to use the terminology of the Penal Code), 17 verses which “promote, on grounds of religion, feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different communities in India”, and 31 verses which “insult other religions as also the religious beliefs of other communities”. Indeed, even after subtracting some verses which could be regarded as legitimate polemics (esp. against the Christian belief in Incarnation), there are about 60 passages in the Quran that formulate a doctrine of demonization of non-Muslims, and of hatred and war against them. If the Indian laws prohibit communal hate propatganda, Mr. Chakraborty was right in considering the Quran as an excellent candidate for banning. But even after reminder-letters, the West Bengal authorities gave no response.
At this stage, Mr. Chakraborty met Chandmal Chopra, an adherent of the extremely non-violent Jain sect, who had taken up the study of the Quran in order to understand the plight of the Hindus in Bangladesh, who are gradually being chased from their ancestral homeland by the Muslims. In 1985 Chandmal Chopra filed a petition with the Calcutta high Court, asking for a ban on the Quran. He added a list with reprehensible verses from the Quran: 29 passages from the Quran (1 to 8 verses in length) that incite violence against unbelievers, 15 which promote enmity, 26 which insult other religions.
Some typical examples are: “Mohammed in Allah’s apostle. Those who follow him are merciless for the unbelievers but kind to each other.” (Q.48:29) “Make war on them until idolatry does not exist any longer and Allah’s religion reigns universally.” (Q.8:39, also 2:193) “We break with you; hatred and enmity will reign bnetween us until ye believe in Allahh alone.” (Q. 60.4) “The Jews and Christians and the Pagans will burn forever in the fire of hell. They are the vilest of all creatures.” (Q.98:51) There are dozens of Quran verses like this which in their unanimity cannot be dismissed as “isolated, mistranslated” little accidents “quoted out of context”.
Chandmal Chopra stated in his writ petition: “The cited passages in the Quran… arouse in Muslims the worst sectarian passions and religious fanaticism, which has manifested itself in murders, massacres, plunder, arson, rape and destruction or desecration of sacred places both in historical and in the contemporary period, not only in India but in large parts of the world.”
The petition created a lot of furore in Calcutta and abroad. Muslims created street riots. The government intervened and put heavy pressure on the judicial process. The secret service was put to work to find possible objectionable biographical data of the petitioner. The court used some dirty tricks to disturb the peritioner’s case, like changing dates and changing the object of a session to which the petitioner had been summoned, during the same session itself, with apparent foreknowldege of the government’s counsel.
Both the authorities and the court violated the secular basis of the Indian Constitution by using as justification for their policy c.q. judgement a statement of religious belief. The Marxist West Bengal government stated in its affidavit: “The Quran contains the words of God Almighty revealed to His last Prophet Mohammed… As the Holy Quran is a Divine Book, no earthly power can sit in judgement on it, and no court of law has jurisdiction to adjudicate it.”
The judge dismissed the petition on this ground: “Banning or forfeiture of the Quran… would amount to abolition of the Muslim religion itself.” Indeed, the very text which preaches war against the unbelievers is the core text of Islam, so abolition of Islamic hate propaganda amounts to abolition of Islam itself. Islam without hatred is not Islam. The judge further observed: “This book is not prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between religions. Because of the Quran no public tranquillity has been disturbed upto now…” - a resounding statement of negationism.
This verdict was only what the petitioner expected: because of political pressure, an anti-Quran verdict was simply unthinkable, and moreover, the Penal Code keeps scriptures and classics outside its own purview. The petitioner has made it clear that he considers book-banning counterproductive, and that the controversial petition was meant to direct public attentiton towards the Quran’s contents: people should read it, because Indian citizens have a right to know why their country is plagued with never-ending religious riots.
When Chandmal Chopra had the documents of the legal dispute published, the administration decided to prosecute him and his publisher on the basis of the very same Penal Code articles which he had invoked to request a ban on the Quran. The case is still pending.
Beside H.K. Chakraborty’s and Chandmal Chopra’s petitions, a third text which pointed at the Quran as a source of religious violence, was a poster published in Delhi (1986) by I.S. Sharma and Rajkumar Arya, prominent members of the Hindu Mahasabha, a small political party more extreme than the BJP. The poster carried the title: “Why do riots break out in this country?” It showed 24 Quran verses, such as: “Fight the unbelievers in your surroundings, and let them find harshness in you” (Q.9:123), and : “Kill the unbelievers wherever ye find them,, capture and besiege them and prepare them every kind of ambush” (Q.9.5).
Both publishers were arrested on the basis of arts. 153A and 295A. However, they were acquitted. The judged ruled that they had made a “fair criticism”, for: “With all due respect to the holy Quran, an attentive perusal of the verses shows that these are indeed harmful and preach violence and have the potential to cause conflicts between the Muslims and the others.” An appeal against the court ruling is still pending.
This criticism of the Quran pulls the carpet from under the negationists’ feet. The enmity between Muslims and Pagans is clearly not a back-projection from contemporary artificially created religio-political tensions. Neither is it a conflict which developed historically long after Mohammed and which can be reduced to socio-economical factors. This enmity is, on the contrary, present in the very core of Islamic doctrine.
With this information about Quranic doctrine, we find that the negationist thesis is not only contradicted by a massive body of authentic evidence; it is also highly implausible in itself. For, the thesis that Islam in India was not systematically (proportionately to its possibilities in given situations) in conflict with other religions, claims in fact that Islam in India deviated from its own principles, and behaved completely uncharacteristically for centuries on end. It is methodologically more usual to provisionally assume a consistent and probable bahaviour (viz. that adherents of a God-given call to war against the unbelievers effectively make war on the unbelievers, and that a religion which persecuted other religions everywhere else, did the same in India), and only give this up if positive evidence for a less plausible and more inconsistent course has been found. But what positive evidence there is, points in the opposite direction: a long list of Muslim invaders and rulers faithfully put the Quranic injuctions into practice.
The problem of book-banning and censorship on Islam criticism is compounded by the related problem of self-censorship. Thus, when in late 1992, the famous columnist Arun Shourie wanted to publish a collection of his columns on Islamic fundamentalism, esp. the Rushdie and Ayodhya affairs (Indian Controversies), the publisher withdrew at the last moment, afraid of administrative or physical reprisals, and the printer also backed out. Earlier, Shourie had been lucky to find one paper willing to publish these columns, for most Indian newspapers strictly keep the lid on Islam criticism. Hindu society is a terrorized society.
A final aspect of the ban (sometimes legal, mostly imposed by secularist convention) on criticism of Islam is that it is the re-institution of an old Islamic rule. When the Christians in Syria in the first century of Islam were forced to submit, they had to sign a long list of promises to their Islamic overlords. These comprised the well-known conditions imposed on the zimmis, but also some extra ones, including “not to teach our children the Quran”. Like Mohammed, his successors found it hard to counter the numerous objections to the contradictions and unethical injuctions in the Quran, which perceptive infidels kept on raising. It was logical that they prohibited the study of the Quran by non-Muslims, in order to pre-emptively disarm future anti-Islamic polemists. This ban by the theocratic caliphate on unfriendly inspection of the Quran is now re-instituted in India in the name of secularism.
2.7 The Negationists’ Second Front
Not satisfied with denying the crimes of Islam, the negationists have recently made a big effort to spread the notion that Hinduism itself is guilty of just the same things of which it accuses Islam. Remember, Holocaust negationists always allege and highlight Israeli injustice against the Palestinians: if you prove that the victim is not so innocent, it will ultimately become questionable that he was a victim at all. If ever the denial of Muslim fanaticism has to be given up, a second line of defence (or counter-attack) will be ready: accusing Hinduism of a similar fanaticism.
For example, in the Indian media you regularly come across the contention that “the Hindus destroyed Nalanda Buddhist university”. This is a plain lie: under several Hindu dynasties, Nalanda flourished and was the biggest university in the world for centuries; it was destroyed by the Muslim invader Bakhtiar Khilji in 1200. But if you repeat a lie often enough, it gains currency, and now many Indians have come to believe that Buddhism had been replaced by Hinduism as India’s chief religion in a most violent manner.
In reality, Buddhism had always been a minority religion in India, confined to nobles and traders; before its disappearance around 1200 AD, it had been partly reabsorbed by mainstream Hinduism; otherwise it co-existed peacefully with other Hindu sects, often sharing the same temple-complexes. The historical allegations of violent conflicts between mainstream Hinduism and Buddhism can be counted on one hand. It is not Brahminical onslaught but Islam that chased Buddhism from India.
In Central Asia, Islam had wiped out Buddhism together with Nestorianism, Zoroastrianism, Manicheism, and whatever other religion it encountered. The Persian word for idol is but, from Buddha, because the Buddhists with their Buddha-status were considered as the idol-worshippers par excellence. The Buddhists drew the wrath of every Muslim but-shikan (idol-breaker), even where they had not offered resistance aganinst the Muslim armies because of their doctrine of non-violence. As a reminder of the Buddhist past of Central Asia, the city name Bukhara is nothing but a corruption of vihara, i.e. a Buddhist monastery; other Indian names include Samarkhand and Takshakhand, i.e. Tashkent. In India, Buddhism was a much easier target than other sects and traditions, because it was completely centralized around the monasteries. Once the monsteries destroyed and the monks killed, the Buddhist community had lost its backbone and was helpless before the pressure to convert to Islam (as happened on a large scale in East Bengal).
A handful of negationist historians have tried to substantiate the allegations against Hinduism and spared no effort to colect instances of Hindus acts of persectution. We will take a look at them here. It would take a whole volume to sum up Aurangzeb’s career as an iconoclast and persecutor, but the Hindu record of persecution will not take us more than a few pages.
To my knowledge, all the alleged cases of intra-Hindu persecution have been summed up in “Communal History and Rama’s Ayodhya by prof. R.S. Sharma, the chapter in Communalism and the Writing of Indian History” contributed by prof. Harbans Mukhia, and most explicitly Cultural Transactions and Early India by Prof. Romila Thapar. According to Romila Thapar, “the insistence on the tradition of religious tolerance and non-violence as characteristic of Hinduism… is not borne out by historical evidence”. Given their strong motivation, we need not assume that they have overlooked incidents that could be useful for the case they are making.
The two best-known cases, involving Pushyamitra Shunga and Shashank, cannot withstand historical criticism. The non-contemporary story (which surfaces more than three centuries after the facts) about Pushyamitra’s offering money for the heads of monks is rendered improbable by firm historical facts of his allowing and patronizing monasteries and Buddhist universities in his domains. After Ashoka’s lavish sponsorship of Buddhism, it is perfectly possible that Buddhist institutions fell on slightly harder times under the Shungas, but persecution is still another matter. The famous historian of Buddhism Etienne Lamotte has observed: “To judge from the documents, Pushyamitra must be acquitted through lack of proof.” The only reason to sustain the suspicion against Pushyamitra, once it has been levelled, is that “where there is smoke, there must be fire” - but that piece of received wisdom is presupposed in every act of slander as well.
Hsuan Tsang’s story from hearsay about Shashank’s devastating a monastery in Bihar, killing the monks and destroying Buddhist relics, only a few years before Hsuan Tsang’s own arrival, is contradicted by other elements in his own report. Thus, according to the Chinese pilgrim, Shashank threw a stone with the Buddha’s footprint into the river, but it was returned through a miracle; and he felled the bodhi tree but a sapling from it was replanted which miraculously grew into a big tree overnight. So, the fact of the matter was that the stone and the tree were still there in full glory. In both cases, the presence of the footprint-stone and the fully grown bodhi tree contradict Husan Tsang’s allegations, but he explains the contradiction away by postulating miracles (which everywhere have a way of mushrooming around relics, to add to their aura of divine power). If we do not accept miracles, we conclude that the bodhi tree which Husan Tsang saw, and which was too big to have been a recently replanted sapling, cannot have been felled by Shashank.
Hsuan Tsang is notorious for his exaggerations and his insertions of miracle stories, and he had to explain to China, where Buddhism was readhing its peak, why it was declining in India. It seems safer to base our judgement on the fact that in his description of Buddhist life in the Ganga basin, nothing shows the effects of recent persecutions. In fact, Hsuan Tsang himself gives a clue to the real reason of pre-Islamic Buddhist decline, by describing how many Buddhist monasteries had fallen into disuse, esp. in areas of lawlessness and weak government, indicating that the strength of Buddhism was in direct proportion to state protection and patronage. Unlike Brahminism, which could sustain itself against heavy odds, the fortunates of Buddhist monasticism (even more than those of the Christian abbeys in early medieval Europe) were dependent upon royal favours, as under Ashoka, the Chinese early T’ang dynasty, and the rulers of Tibet and several Southeast-Asian countries.
A third story, about a 12th century king Harsha of Kashmir, is apparently true but has nothing to do with religious persecution: he plundered Hindu temples of all sects including Buddhism, in his own kingdom, without bothering to desecrate them or their keepers apart from lucrative plunder. It is the one geunine case of a ruler plundering not out of religious motives but for the gold. There is no known case of a Muslim marauder who merely stole from temples without bothering to explicity desecrate them, much less of a Muslim ruler who plundered the sanctuaries of his own religion. Moreover, Kalhana’s history book Rajatarangini relates this story with the comment: “Promoted by the Turks in his employ, he behaved like a Turk.” This Harsha employed Turkish mercenaries (which his successors would regret, for they spied and ultimately grabbed power), and these Muslims already had a firm reputation of plundering temples with a good conscience.
Number four is the attack by the Paramara king Subhataverman (1193-1210) on Gujrat, in which “a large number of Jain temples in Dabhoi and Cambay” were plundered (not “destroyed” or “desecrated”). Harbans Mukhia cites this as proof that “many Hindu rulers did the same [as the Muslims, i.e. destroy] with temples in enemy-territory long before the Muslims had emerged as a political challenge to these kingdoms.” However, it is well-known that when Subhatavarman acceded to the throne, the Muslims had more than emerged: North India was being ravaged by Mohammed Ghori’s decisive campaign of conquest. As a proof that Hindus outside the Islamic sphere of influence practised persecution, this incident will not do. On the contrary, if the report is correct, then the background may well be similar to the attested case of Harsha of Kashmir: inspired by the Turks, he behaved like a Turk.
Another case is the recurrent conflicts between the Shaiva and the Vaishnava renunciates in Ayodhya. Prof. R.S. Sharma quotes a description from 1804, which talks of “soldiers taking pleasure in battle”, “misery”, “great fear” and “shelter in secret places”, but no death toll is given, in fact no killing is mentioned in so many words. But prof. Sharma concludes nonetheless: “The passage given above is sufficient to expose the myth of tolerance practised by medieval Hindu religious leaders.”
Hindu tradition acknowledges that a rivalry between Shaivas and Vaishnavas disturbed life in Ayodhya: it was the context in which Tulsidas decided to write the Ramcharitmanas. In order to emphasize the superficial and erroneous character of the conflict between the followers of Shiva and those of Vishnu (and his incarnation Rama), Tulsidas made Shiva the story-teller of his Rama biography. Shiva and Vishnu are one, and devotees who don’t understand this, well, they have to learn it. There is no similar record of any Islamic authority who has said that Shiva and Allah are one, nor Ram and Rahim, nor Kashi and Kaaba. All this “oneness of all religions” rhetoric is a strictly Hindu projection of the oneness of the different Hindu gods and traditions on a juxtaposition of radically incompatible notions from Islam and Hinduism. Whereas the opposition between Ram and Rahim, between Kashi and Kaaba, led to endless persecutions and a Partition, such things have not happened between Shaivas and Vaishnavas. All that Prof. Sharma can show, is a riot which was not bigger than those which take place between drunken football fans.
As we might expect from Marxists who seek to mould rather than inform public opinion, this listing of evidence has been done with some editing. Thus, Romila Thapar writes that “the Shaivite saint Jnana Sambandar is attributed with having converted the Pandya ruler from Jainism to Shaivism, whereupon it is said that 8,000 Jainas were impaled by the king”. She omits that this king, Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman, is also described as having first persecuted Shaivas; that Sambandar vanquished the Jainas not in battle but in debate (upon which the king converted from Jainism to Shaivism); and that he had escaped Jaina attempts to kill him. Unlike the Muslim persecutions, this Shaiva-Jaina conflict was clearly not a one-way affair. For the sake of blackening Hinduism, the Buddhists and Jains had to be depicted as hapless victims, and their share in the intra-Hindu violence had to be concealed.
It is even a matter of debate whether this persecution has occurred at all: the Hindus were never careful historians, and like Hsuan Tsang they mixed legend and historical fact, so that the modern historian can only accept their testimony if he finds supportive outside (epigraphical and archaeological) evidence. Unlike the conscientious Muslim chronicles or Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, this story about Sambandar comes in the form of a local legend with at most a historical core. Nilkanth Shastri, in his unchallenged History of South India, writes about it: “This, however, is little more than an unpleasant legend and cannot be treated as history.” I admit that this sounds like Percival Spear’s statement that Aurangzeb’s persecutions are “little more than hostile legend”. However, Mr. Spear’s contention is amply disproven by a lot of contemporary documents including the royal orders to kill Pagans and destroy Pagan institutions, as well as by eye-witness accounts; such evidence has not been offered at all in the case of Jnana Sambandar.
Warned by this unmistakable case of distortion of evidence, we take the rest of the list cum grano salis. But at least, the next incident is reported by two seemingly independent sources: the persecution of Buddhists by the Huna king Mihirakula in Kashmir. Romila Thapar herself admits that Hsuan Tsang’s account about “the destruction of 1.600 Buddhist stupas and sangharamas and the killing of thousands of monks and lay-followers” sounds exaggerated, but she has faith in Kalhana’s more detailed version which mentions “killing innocent people by the hundreds”.
But Hsuan Tsang gives an interesting detail which does not sound like a fairy-tale and may well be historical. Mihirakula, “wishing to apply his leisure to the study of Buddhism”, asked the Buddhist sangha to appoint a teacher for him. But none of the more accomplished monks was willing, so they appointed a monk who had the rank of a servant. The king found this procedure insulting, and ordered the destruction of the Buddhist church in his kingdom. This king was not anti-Buddhist, was open-minded and took a sincere interest in Buddhism. But once a king’s ego is hurt, he can get violent, regardless of his religion. That is regrettable, but it is something else than religious fanaticism.
When a commander in the service of the Buddhist emperor Ashoka was angered by the Buddhist monks’ refusal to let the king meddle in their affairs, he had 500 of them killed. The massacre had nothing to do with religious intolerance, merely with hurt pride, and the Marxist historians have done well not to put it in their list. For the same reason, Mihirakula’s rage against the impolite monks cannot be equated with the religiously motivated persecutions by the Muslim rulers. There was never a Muslim king who invited Pagan scholars to instruct him in the Pagan doctrines, the way Mihirakula asked for a Buddhist teacher. The only exceptions to this rule were the apostate emperor Akbar, who was vehemently criticized for it by the Muslim clergy, and Dara Shikoh, who was executed for apostasy by his brother Aurangzeb.
Another incident of intra-Hindu persecution quoted from Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, is “an earlier persecution of Buddhists in Kashmir and the wilful destruction of a vihara, again by a Shaivite king”. There is an interesting little tailpiece to this incident: “But on this occasion the king repented and built a new monastery for the Buddhist monks”. This proves that a substantial number, if not all, of the monks had survived the persecution. But more importantly, it highlights something completely unknown in the long history of Islamic fanaticism: remorse. This Shaivite king knew at heart that intolerance was wrong, and when he had regained his self-control, he made up for his misdeed. Such a thing has never been done by Mohammed, or by Ghaznavi or Aurangzeb. If any proof was neded for the radical difference between the systematic persecutions by the Muslims and the rare abberation into isolated acts of intolerance by Hindus, Prof. Romila Thapar has just given it.
The next case: “The Jaina temples of Karnataka went through a traumatic experience at the hands the Lingayats or Virashaivas in the early second millennium AD”. If all they suffered was trauma they were well-off in comparison with the thousands of temples destroyed by the Muslims in the same period. After a time of peaceful co-existence, which Romila Thapar acknowledges, “one of the temples was converted into a Shiva temple. At Hubli, the temple of the five Jinas was converted into a panchalingeshwara Shaivite temple, the five lingas replacing the five Jinas in the sancta. Some other Jaina temples met the same fate.”
To be sure, conversions of the temples have indeed happened, and the panchalingeshwara temple may well be a case in point. Yet, that does not prove there was persecution. When rivalling sects entered public debate, they often put in high wagers, esp. the promise to convert to be winner’s sect. In such a case, the temple or ashram was taken along into the new sect. Here, it could well be such a case of peaceful handover: after all, the temples were not destroyed. Against this, Prof. Thapar informs us: “An inscription at Ablur in Dharwar eulogizes attacks on Jaina temples as retaliation for opposition to Shaivite worship.”
Here we may have another case of distoring evidence by means of selective quoting. The inscription of which Prof. Thapar summarizes a selected part, says first of all that the dispute arose because the Jains tried to prevent a Shaiva from worshipping his own idol. It further relates that the Jains also promised to throw out Jina and worship Shiva if the Shiva devotee performed a miracle, but when the miracle was produced, they did not fulfil their promise. In the ensuing quarrel, the Jina idol was broken by the Shaivas. The most significant element is that the Jain king Bijjala decided in favour of the Shaivas when the matter was brought before him. He dismissed the Jains and showered favours on the Shaivas.
Again, in this story the conflict is not a one-way affair at all. We need not accept the story at face value, as it is one of those sectarian miracle stories (with the message: “My saint is holier than thy saint”) which abound in the traditions surrounding most places of pilgrimage, be they Christian, Sufi or Hindu. Dr. Fleet, who has edited and translated this inscription along with four others found at the same place, gives summaries of two Lingayat Puranas and the Jain Bijjalacharitra, and observes that the story in this inscription finds no support in the literary traditions of the two sects. Bijjala’s own inscription dated 1162 AD discovered at Managoli also does not support the story. The fact that the inscription under consideration does not bear a date or a definite reference to the reign of a king, does not help its credibility either. And do authentic inscriptions deal in miracles?
It is obvious that an inscription of this quality, if it had been cited in support of the Hindu claim to the Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhoomi site, would have been dismissed by the Marxist historians as ridiculous and totally groundless. They would not view it as a serious obstacle to their foregone conclusion that there is absolutely definitely no indication whatsover at all that a Hindu temple was forcibly replaced with a mosque. But in this case, we are asked to see it as evidence that Shaivas attacked Jain temples, and that Hindu tolerance is a myth.
Unlike the party-line historians of JNU, I do not think that historians working with conflicting testimonies are in a position to make apodictic statements and definitive conclusions,, so I will not completely dismiss this inscription as fantasy. It is possible that the Jainas had indeed fallen on hard times, and I do not dispose of material that would refute Prof. Thapar’s contention that “in the fourteenth century the harassment of Jainas was so acute that they had to appeal for protection to the ruling power at Vijayanagar”. Still, in size, duration, intensity and degree of ideological motivation, this conflict does not at all compare with the terror wrought by Islam. Incidentally, the ruling power at Vijayanagar, whose protection the Jains sought, was of course a Hindu power.
From Dr. Fleet’s study of these sources, it seems that the Shaivas who were so hostile to the Jains, belonged to the Veerashaiva or Lingayat sect. And indeed, Prof. Thapar’s next piece of evidence is that “inscriptions of the sixteenth century from the Srisailam area of Andhra Pradesh record the pride taken by Veerashaivas in beheading Shvetambara Jains”. Now, the Veerashaivas were an anti-caste and anti-Brahminical sect. As these are considered good qualities, negationists have tried to link them to the influence of Muslim missionaries (“bringing the message of equality and brotherhood”), who were indeed very acvtive on India’s West coast, where and when the Veerashaiva doctrine was developed. Let us assume there was indeed Muslim influence on the Veerashaiva sect. In that case, the negationists should acknowledge that the Veerashaivas’ occasional acts of intolerance may equally be due to the influence of Islam. At any rate Brahminism cannot be held guilty of any misdeeds committed by this anti-Brahminical sect.
Finally, “in Gujrat, Jainism flourished during the reign of Kumarapala, but his successor [i.e. Ajayapala] persecuted the Jainas and destroyed their temples”. In “The History and Culture of the Indian People”, edited by R.C. Majumdar, we read about this: “The Jain chronicles allege that Ajayapala was a persecutor of the Jains, that he demolished Jain temples, mercilessly executed the Jain scholar Ramachandra, and killed Ambada, a minister of Kumarapala, in an encounter.” Here, the alleged crime is related by the victims, not by the aggressors. It is possible that they exaggerated, but I see no reason to believe that they simply invented the story. So, let us agree that some temples were destroyed and at least one prominent Jain killed by Hindu aggressors. After all, the fanaticism displayed systematically by Islam has not come falling out of the sky, it exists in human nature and may occasionally pop up in contexts of tension; the difference is that Hindu acts of fanaticism were occasional and took place in spite of the doctrine, while Islamic fanaticism was systematic and merely an application of the doctrine.
The Marxist scholars who have collected this material, have omitted from their presentations the following cases of intra-Hindu persecution. The Mahavamsha says that the Buddhist king Vattagamini (29-17 BC) destroyed a Jain vihara on the same site. In the Shravana-Belagola epitaph of Mallishena, the Jain teacher Aklanka says that after a successful debate with Buddhists, he broke a Buddha statue with his own foot. There are some more instances of Jain-Buddhist conflict, but suich material did not fit in with the designs of the negationists. They have this pet theory of Jainism and Buddhism as revolts against Brahminical tyranny, subsequently crushed out by the Brahminical reaction. In fact, the minor instances of intra-Hindu violence were distributed roughly proportionately between Brahminical, Buddhist, Jaina and other sects.
Among the above-mentioned reports of conflict between the different traditions within the Sanatana Dharma common wealth, several are probably unfounded, and several exaggerated. But as we have no firm evidence for this plausible hypothesis yet, let us assume for now that all these reports are simply correct and accurate. Let us moreover assume that a similar number of similar cases has gone unrecorded or unnoticed by the Marxist historians. Then, as a sum total, we still do not have the number of victims that Teimur made in a single day. Then we still do not have the number of temple demolitions that Aurangzeb wrought on his own. Then we still do not have the amount of glorification of temple destruction that we find in any of the diaries of Muslim conquerors like Babr or Firuz Shah Tughlaq or Teimur, or any of their chroniclers. The fanaticism record of Hinduism throughout millennia is dwarfed by the record of a single Ghaznavi, Ghori or Aurangzeb and becomes completely negligeable when compared with the total record of Islamic destruction and massacre in India. Moreover, a proper comparison of the fanaticism record of Hindu civilization would not be with Indian Islam, which represents a far smaller number of people, but with the entire Muslim world from the Prophet (peace be upon him) onwards.
Prof. Romila Thapar writes: “The desire to portray tolerance and non-violence as the eternal values of the Hindu tradition has led to the pushing aside of such evidence.” What evidence? These few disputable cases will not do to prove that “Hindu tolerance is a myth”. Hindus can afford to face this evidence sqarely. A final judgement on whether Hinduism is tolerant or not shujld not depend on a few instances selected and edited to fit the proconceived picture, but on an over-view of the whole of Hindu history. The larger patterns of Hindu history leave no doubt that the impression cunningly created by the negationists is false.
Many foreign groups of people persecuted for their religion came to seek reguge in India. The Parsis have thrived. The heterodox Syrian Christians have lived in peace until the Portuguese came to enlist them in their effort to christianize India. The Jews have expressed their gratitude when they left for Israel because India was the only country where their memories were not of persecution but of friendly co-existence. Even the Moplah Muslims were accepted without any questions asked. All these groups were not merely tolerated, but received land and material support for building places of worship.
What should really clinch the issue, is the tolerant treatment which the Muslims received after their reign of terror had been overthrown and replaced with Hindu rashtras like those of the Marathas, Sikhs, Rajputs and Jats. The Hindus could have emulated the policy of the Spanish Christians after the Reconquista, and given the Muslims the choice between conversion and emigration. With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that they would have saved many lives and India’s unity by doing so, but forcing people to convert was not in conformity with their traditions.
When negationists are confronted with the evidence of persecutions by Islam, they are sure to mention a few cases where Muslim rulers patronized the building of Hindu temples. In some cases this is deceitful: in the JNU historians’ pamphlet “The Political Abuse of History”, they mention three such cases, but on closer inspection two of them do not concern Muslim rulers, but their Hindu ministers (in his rebuttal, Prof. A.R. Khan called this “not only concealment of evidence but also distortion of evidence”). But all right, a few Muslim rulers have made gifts to Hindu institutions. The negationists insist that these few gifts make up for the systematic Islamic persecutions. By contrast, their blatantly unequal standards do not allow them to accept the systematic patronage of the institutions of Buddhists and Jains by Hindu kings through the ages as compensation for the few isolated and aberrant cases of religious conflict.
In order to undersand the problem of religious intolerance, it is necessary to distinguish between two types of conflict between religions. The first one is the ordinary conflict between two groups of people, who may derive their identity from their nationality, language family stock, economic interests, social class, or allegiance to a football team: any two people or groups of people can pick a quarrel. Therefore, two religious communities can have a conflict of interest as well, and behave just like any kind of group in conflict situation. By definition, every community can run into this kind of conflict (though some may remain non-violent throughout because of their doctrine). But this kind of conflict is temporary, dependent on an accidental state of affairs and always gravitates back to normal.
The second kind of religious conflict is not accidental, but is a consequence of the doctrines to which the community adheres. This is the case only with a handful of religions (including the Marxist quasi-religion), distinguished by their exclusivism and their ambition for conquest. Islam has been the most consistent in denying others the right to exist or at least to freely practise their religion. Its conflicts with other religions are merely the materialization of its doctrines.
This discinction between religious conflict as an accident or aberration, and religious conflict as the direct outcome of fanatical doctrines inherent in a religion, is fundamental to an understanding of the problem. In the first case, acts of fanaticism are committed in spite of the doctrine. The Vedas say that “the wise call the One by many names”, and exhort us to “let good thoughts come to us from everywhere”; in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna assures the adherents of all religions that “those who pray with devotion to any god, it is to Me that they pray”. Differences in religion are considered superficial and unimportant, therefore religious tolerance is the norm, and intolerance cannot be more than an aberration. But in the second case, acts of fanaticism are sanctioned by the doctrine, and are bound to happen on a substantial scale as long as the doctrine is taken seroiously. “Enmity and hatred will reign between us until ye believe in Allah alone” says the Quran, and it is only logical that enmity and hatred have indeed reigned between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Of course, those with a bad conscience go out of their way to blur this distinction. Marxists insist on disregarding or blurring the distinction either because they want to blacken all religion, or because they are in league with Muslim fanatics.
Among those who like to say that “all are equally guilty”, we also find the Christian missionaries. They too have a history of persecutions and temple destructions to cover up, not only in Europe and America, but in India as well. The Portuguese organized a branch of the Inquisition in Goa, and they practised conversion by force on a large scale. The French and British missionaries were less brutal, often resorting to subversion tactics and inducement by means of material advantages for converts, but they too have a record of temple destructions in India. Hundreds of churches contain rubble of the Hindu temples which they replaced. We may look a bit more closely into one case which sums it all up: the Saint Thomas church on Mylapore beach in Madras.
According to Christian leaders in India, the apostle Thomas came to India in 52 AD, founded the Syrian Christian church, and was killed by the fanatical Brahmins in 72 AD. Near the site of his martyrdom, the Saint Thomas church was built. In fact this apostle never came to India, and the Christian community in South India was founded by a merchant Thomas Cananeus in 345 AD ( a name which readily explains the Thomas legend ). He led 400 refugees who fled persecution in Persia and were given asylum by the Hindu authorities. In Catholic universities in Europe, the myth of the apostle Thomas going to India is no longer taught as history, but in India it is still considered useful. Even many vocal secularists who attack the Hindus for relying on myth in the Ayodhya affair, off-hand profess their belief in the Thomas myth. The important point is that Thomas can be upheld as a martyr and the Brahmins decried as fanatics.
In reality, the missionaries were very disgruntled that these damned Hindus refused to give them martyrs (whose blood is welcomed as the seed of the faith), so they had to invent one. Moreover, the church which they claim commemorates Saint Thomas’ martyrdom at the hands of Hindu fanaticism, is in fact a monument of Hindu martyrdom at the hands of Christian fanaticism: it is a forcible replacement of two important Hindu temples (Jain and Shaiva), whose existence was insupportable to Christian missionaries. No one knows how many priests and worshippers were killed when the Christian soldiers came to remove the curse of Paganism from Mylapore beach. Hinduism doesn’t practise martyr-mongering, but if at all we have to speak of martyrs in this context, the title goes to these Shiva-worshippers and not to the apostle Thomas.
So, applying the old maxim that “attack is the best defence”, the spokesmen of intolerant creeds falsely accuse the tolerant Hindus of the same intolerance. While nobody claims that Hinduism is without faults, or that Hindu society has never brought forth fanatical individuals,it is a plain lie that Hinduism has record of fanaticism similar (however remotely) to that of the three world-conquerors: Christianity, Islam and Mrxism.
2.8 General Characteristics of Islam Negationism
India has its own full-fledged brand of negationism: a movement to deny the large-scale and long-term crimes against humanity committed by Islam. This movement is led by Islamic apologists and Marxist academics, and followed by all the politicians, journalists and intellectuals who call themselves secularists. In contrast to the European negationism regarding the Nazi acts of genocide, but similar to the Turkish negationism regarding the Armenian genocide, the Indian negationism regarding the terrible record of Islam is fully supported by the establishment. It has nearly full control of the media and dictates all state and government parlance concerning the communal problem (more properly to be called the Islam problem).
Its techniques are essentially the same as those of negationists elsewhere :
- Head-on denial: The crassest form of negationism is obviously the simple denial of the facts. This is mostly done in the form of general claims, such as: “Islam is tolerant”, “Islamic Spain was a model of multicultural harmony”, “the anti-Jewish hatred was unknown among Muslims until Zionism and anti-Semitism together entered the Muslim world from Europe”. Since it is rare that a specific crime of Islam is brought to the public’s notice, there is little occasion to come out and deny specific crimes. Exceptions are the Armenian genocide, officially denied in Turkey and the entire Muslim world, and the temple destructions in India, which have been highlighted in the Ayodhya debate but flatly denied by Syed Shahanuddin, Sushil Srivastava and many other pro-Babri polemists.
The Rushdie affair was the occasion for negationism on a grand scale. There happens to be an unambiguous answer to the question: “Is it Islamic to kill those who voice criticism of the Prophet?” According to the media and most experts, the answer was definitely: no. According to the basic traditions of Islam, it was: yes. Mohammed as well as his immediate successors have killed critics, both in formal executions and in night-time stabbings. In Islamic law, the Prophet’s example is valid precedent. At most there could be some quarreling over the procedure: some jurists thought that Rushdie should first be kidnapped to an Islamic country and given a chance to recant before an Islamic court, though the ayatollahs have ruled that no amount of remorse can save Rushdie. If he stands by his book, even the so-called moderates think he must be killed. Islamic law punishes both apostasy and insults to the Prophet with the death penalty: twice there is no escape for Rushdie. In the Muslim world, several publications have restated the clear-cut Islamic provisions for cases like Rushdie’s including Ahaanat-i Rasool ki Sazaa (“Punishment for Insulting the Prophet”) by JNU Prof. Maulana Mohsin Udmani Nadwi, and Muqaddas-i Ayat (“The Sacred Verses”) by Maulana Majid Ali Khan, both published by the Islamic Research Foundation, Delhi. Yet, the outside public was told by many experts that killing Rushdie is un-islamic.
Flat denial will work very well if your grip on the press and education media is sufficient. Otherwise, there is a danger of being shown up as the negationist one really is. In that case, a number of softer techniques are available.
Ignoring the facts: This passive negationism is certainly the safest and the most popular. The media and textbook-writers simply keep the vast corpus of inconvenient testimony out of the readers’ view.
Minimizing the facts: If the inconvenient fact is pointed out that numerous Muslim chroniclers have reported a given massacre of unbelievers themselves, one can posit a priori that they must have exaggerated to flatter their patron’s martial vanity - as if it is not significant enough that Muslim rulers felt flattered by being described as mass-murderers of infidels.
Apart from minimizing the absolute size of Islamic crimes, there is the popular technique of relative minimizing: make the facts look smaller by comparing them with other, carefully selected facts. Thus, one can say that “all religions are intolerant”, which sounds plausible to many though it is patently false: in the Roman Empire only those sects were persecuted which had political ambitions (Jews when they fought for independence, Christians because they sought to take over the Empire and outlaw all other religions, as they effectively did), while the others enjoyed the status of religio licita; similarly with the Persian Empire and many other states and cultures.
An oft-invoked counterweight for the charge-sheet against Islam, is the fanaticism record of Christianity. it is indeed well-known that Christianity has been guilty of numerous temple destructions and persecutions. But the reason for this fanaticism is found in the common theological foundation of both religions: exclusivist prophetic monotheism. The case against Christianity is at once a case against Islam. Moreover, in spite of its theologically motivated tendency to intolerance, Christianity has had to go through the experience of “live and let live” because in its formative period, it was but one of the numerous sects in the pluralist Roman empire.
Islam never had this experience, and in order to bring out its full potential of fanaticism, Christianity has needed the influence of Islam on a few occasions. Thus, it is no coincidence that Charlemagne, who defeated the Saxons by force, was the grandson of Charles Martel, who defeated the Islamic army in Poitiers; no coincidence either that the Teutonic knights who forcibly converted the Balts, were veterans of the Crusades, i.e. the campaign to liberate Palestine from Islam; nor is it a coincidence that the Spanish Inquisition emerged in a country that had needed centuries to shake off Islamic oppression. Finally, Christianity is, by and large, facing the facts of it own history, though its is still struggling with the need to own up the responsibility for these facts.
An even more general way of drowning Islamic fanaticism in relativist comparisons, is to point out that after all, every imperialism has been less than gentle. That may well be true, but then, we are not setting up cults for the Genghis Khans of this world. A religion should contribute to man’s transcending his natural defects like greed and cruelty, and not sanction and glorify them.
Whitewashing: When one cannot conceal, deny or minimize the facts, one can still calim that on closer analysis,, they are not as bad as they seem. One can call right what is obviously wrong. This can go very far, e.g. in his biography of Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson declared unashamedly that the extermination of the Medinese Jews by Mohammed was doubtlessly the best solution. In numerous popular introductions to Islam, the fact that Islam imposes the death penalty on apostates (in modern terminology: that Islam opposes freedom of religion in the most radical manner) is acknowledged; but then it is explained that “since Islam was at war with the polytheists, apostasy equalled treason and desertion, something which is still punished with death in our secular society”. All right, but the point is precisely that Islam chose to be at war with the traditional religion of Arabia, as also with all other religions, and that it has made this state of war into a permanent feature of its law system.
Playing up unrepresentative facts: A popular tactic in negationism consists in finding a positive but uncharacteristic event, and highlighting it while keeping the over-all picture out of the public’s view. For instance, a document is found in which Christians whose son has forcibly been inducted in the Ottoman Janissary army, express pride because their son has made it made it to high office within this army. The fact that these people manage to see the bright side of their son’s abduction, is then used to prove that non-muslims were quite happy under Muslim rule, and to conceal the fact that the devshirme, the forcible conversion and abduction of one fifth of the Christian children by the Ottoman authorities, constituted a constant and formidable terror bewailed in hundreds of heart-rending songs and stories.
For another example, negationists always mentionn cases of collaboration by non-Muslims (Man Singh with the Moghuls,etc.) to suggest that these were treated as partners and equals and that Muslim rule was quite benevolent; when in fact every history of an occupation, even the most cruel one, is also the history of a collaboration. As has been pointed out, the Nazis employed Jewish guards in the Warsaw ghetto, disprove the Nazi oppression of the Jews.
Denying the motive: Negationists sometimes accept the facts, but disclaim their hero’s responsibility for them. Thus, Mohammed Habib tried to exonerate Islam by ascribing to the Islamic invaders alternative motives: Turkish barbarity, greed, the need to put down conspiracies brewing in temples. In reality, those rulers who had secular reasons to avoid an all-out confrontation with the unbelievers, were often reprimanded by their clerical courtiers for neglecting their Islamic duty. The same clerics were never unduly worried over possible secular motives in a ruler’s mind as long as these prompted him to action against the unbelievers. At any rate, the fact that Islam could be used routinely to justify plunder and enslavement (unlike, say, Buddhism), is still significant enough.
Smokescreen: Another common tactic consists in blurring the problem by questioning the very terms of the debate: “Islam does not exist, for there are many Islams, with big differences between countries etc.” It would indeed be hard to criticize something that is so ill-defined. But the simple fact is that Islam does exist: it is the doctrine contained in the Quran, normative for all Muslims, and in the Hadis, normative at least for all Sunni Muslims. There are differences between the law schools concerning minor points, and of course there are considerable differences in the extent to which Muslims are effectively faithful to islamic doctrine, and correspondingly, the extent to which they mix it with un-islamic elements.
Blaming fringe phenomena: When faced with hard facts of Islamic fanaticism, negationists often blame them on some fringe tendency, now popularly known as fundamentalism. This is said to be the product of post-colonial frustration, basically foreign to genuine Islam. In reality, fundamentalists like Maulana Maudoodi and Ayatollah Khomeini knew their Quran better than the self-deluding secularists who brand them as bad Muslims. What is called fundamentalism is in fact the original Islam, as is proven by the fact that fundamentalists have existed since long before colonialism, e.g. the 13th century theologian Ibn Taimiya, who is still a lighthouse for today’s Maudoodis, Turabis, Madanis and Khomeinis. When Ayatollah Khomeini declared that the goal of Islam is the conquest of all non-Muslim countries, this was merely a reformulation of Mohammed’s long-term strategy and of the Quranic assurance that God has promised the entire world to Islam. In the case of communism, one can shift the blame from Marx to Lenin and Stalin, but Islamic terrorism has started with Mohammed himself.
Arguments ad hominem: If denying the evidence is not tenable, one can always distort it by means of selective quoting and imputing motives to the original authors of the source material; or manipulating quotations to make them say the opposite of the over-all picture which the original author has presented. Focus all attention on a few real or imagined flaws in a few selected pieces, and act as if the entire corpus of evidence has been rendered untrustworthy. To extend the alleged untrustworthiness of one piece of evidence to the entire corpus of evidence, it is necessary to create suspicion against those who present the evidence: the implication is that they have a plan of history falisification, that this plan has been exposed in the case of this one piece of evidence, but that it is only logical that such motivated history falsifiers are also behind the concoction of the rest of the alleged evidence.
If the discussion of inconvenient evidence cannot be prevented, disperse it by raising other issues, such as the human imperfections which every victim of crimes against humanity inevitablly has (Jewish harshness against the Palestinians, Hindu untouchability); describe the demand for the truth as a ploy to justify and cover up these imperfections. If the facts have to be faced at all, then blame the victim. If people ignore or refute your distorted version of history, accuse them of distortion and political abuse of history. Slander scholars whose testimony is inconvenient; impute political or other motives to them in order to pull the attention away from the hard evidence they present.
- Slogans: Finally, all discussion can be sabotaged with the simple technique of shouting slogans: prejudice, myth, “racism/communalism”. Take the struggle from the common battlefield of arguments into the opponent’s camp: his self-esteem as a member of the civilized company that abhors ugly things like prejudice and communalism. After all, attack is the best defence.
After summing up the forms of negationism, we have to look into its causes. The following factors come to mind:
- Orientalism and Islamology: After the medieval Christian pamphlets against “Mohammed the impostor”, not much has been published thematizing the ideological and factual crimes of Islam. Books on, say, “slavery in Islam” are extremely rare: the raw information that could fill such a publication will have to be found in more general publications, in which Islam is only referred to in passing, often without the author’s realizing the implications for an evaluation of Islam. It is often said (when introducing “refutations of prejudice”) that people always associate Islam with intolerance; but finding a book specifically devoted to the subject of Islamic intolerance will be harder. How many millions have been killed by Islam simply because they were non-Muslims? Nobody has yet tabulated the figures available to prepare a general estimate. We can only notice that critical research of Islam is not exactly encouraged, and that there is an increasing tendency to self-censorship regarding Islam criticism. In part, this is due to muchdelayed reaction against the long-abandoned Christian polemical appraoch.
Now that Islamic Studies departments in Europe are increasingly manned by Muslims and sponsored by Islamic foundations and states, as has been the case in India for long, the climate for critical studies of Islam is only worsening. When comparing the first (pre-World War 2) edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden, Netherlands) with the new edition, it is striking how critical observations have been ironed out. But even in the past, Islam has enjoyed a rather favourable treatment in academic circles. Thus, about Islamic slavery the prominent Dutch Islamologist C. Snouck-Hurgronje wrote in 1887 (i.e. thirty years after the Americans had waged a war to impose the abolition of slavery in their southern states, and some seventy years after its abolition in the colonies): “For most slaves their abduction was a blessing… They themselves are convicted that it is their enslavement that has for the first time made them human.”
The political context of the growth phase of Islamology provides a part of the explanation. Mature colonialism was not waging war against Islam, but sought the co-operation of the established social forces in the colonized populations. The British co-operation with the Indian Muslims is well-known; it is epitomized by the founding in 1906 of the Muslim League, which sought to “inculcate loyalty to the British Empire in the Indian Muslims”. In French West Africa, in the same period, Islam was accepted as a factor of social stability, and General Lyautey pursued a dream of a Franco-Islamic synthesis culture in Algeria. In the 1930s, in the last European attempt at fresh colonization, the Italian Fascists actively supported the spread of Islam in the Horn of Africa. But already since 1853 the colonial powers had been supporting the Caliphate against a Christian power, Czarist Russia, esp. in the Crimean War (a mistaken war if ever there was one), and this had strongly contributed to climate of benevolence towards the Muslim culture.
- Church policy: Christianity has for centuries waged a lively polemic against Islam, with Raimundus Lullus as probably the most remarkable exponent. Recently, this criticism has subsided. Worse, polemical works by clerics have been withdrawn or kept unpublished (such as, early this centure, Father Henri Lammens’ paper arguing that Mohammed’s revelations were a psychopathological phenomenon). One reason is that the Church is aware of the similarity between Jesus’ and Mohammed’s missions, so that a criticism of the foundations of Islam may backfire on Christianity. The second reason is the fear that Christians in the Muslim world would have to pay for even ideological attack on Islam (that is why Church polemists save their sharpest words for harmless religions like Hinduism). This fear also motivates other Church policies, such as the non-recognition of the state of Israel.
Meanwhile, the face of the Church has changed. A small but significant event in the wake of the Second Vatican Council was the deletion from the Saints’ calendar of Our Lady of the Redemption of Slaves, whose feast was on 24 September. In the Middle Ages, there was a special clerical order and a whole fund-raising network devoted to the redemption (“buying back”) of Christian slaves held in Barbary. Until the 19th century, coastal villages in Italy had watchtowers to alarm the people when a ship of the slave-catching Barbarese pirates was in sight. The terror of Islamic slavery was a permanent feature of Christian history from the 7th till the 19th century, but now the Church is working hard to erase this memory.
Today, its pastors are the most fervent pleaders for the rights of Islam. Muslims in Europe are for them a substitute for the disappearing parish members. Separate Christian institutions, whose reson of existence is being questioned, find a new legitimacy in the fact that Islam in its turn is also opening separate schools, charities and even political parties. Islam has become a sister religion regularly praised as a religion of peace.
- Anti-colonialism: One of the ideological guidelines of anti-colonialism was: “Of the (ex-)colonized, nothing but good must be said.” Therefore, mentioning the colonialism and mass slavery practised by the Muslims had become undesirable.
Add to this general taboo the warning that Islam criticism effectively implies support to Israel, described by Maxime Rodinson as a “colonial settler-state”. If one acknowledges that Islam has always oppressed the Jews, one accepts that Israel was a necessary refuge for the Jews fleeing not only the European but also the Islamic variety of anti-Judaisms. Let us not forget that decolonization was followed immediately by renewed discrimination of and attacks on the Jewish and Christian minorities, and that those Jews who could get out have promptly fled to Israel (or France, in the case of Algeria). It is no coincidence that these Sephardic Jews are mostly supporters of the hard-liners in Israel.
The enemy’s enemy is a friend: Many people brought up as Christians, or as nominal Hindus, never outgrow their pubescent revolt against their parents’ religion, and therefore automatically sympathize with every rival or opponent of the religion they have come to despise. Because Islam poses the most formidable threat, they like it a lot.
Leftism: In this century, Islam has come to be advertised as a naturally leftist “religion of equality”. This line has been developed by Muslim apoligists such as Mohammed Habib, and they have even taken it as a rationalization of the irrational claim that Mohammed was the “last Prophet”: after all, as the “prophet of equality”, he had brought the ultimate message upon which no improvement is possible. Sir Mohammed Iqbal, one of the fathers of Pakistan, had claimed that “Islam equals Communism plus Allah”. The Iranian Ayatollahs, by contrast, and most of the vocal Muslims after the Soviet-Islamic war in Afghanistan, have restated the orthodox position that Communism is un-Islamic, not only because of its atheism but also because of its rejection of free entreprise; the current claim is that Islam provides a “better form of equality” than Communism.
Even while Communists were slaughtered in Islamic Iran, and even while political analysts classify the Islamist movements as “extreme rightist”, most leftists have kept on cultivating some sympathy for Islam. During the Lebanese civil war, they fed us news stories about “leftist Muslims, rightist Christians”, “Islamo-progressive, christiano-reactionnaire”.
Negationism in India is practised with the most prowess by historians and writers who are under the spell of Marxism. Lenin had wanted to use the Muslims against the French and British colonialists, but what was a tactical alliance for Lenin became a love-affair for the Indian Communists. However, it would be wrong to expect that the collapse of Soviet Communism and the inevitable decline of Communism in India will automatically lead to the dissolution of negationism. It has become a bias and a thought-habit for many people who have only vaguely been influenced by Marxism. Children mostly survive their parents, and certain forms of negationism may survive Indian Marxism for some time, unless a serious effort is made to expose it on a grand scale.
Rightist traditionalism: There is also a rightist sympathy for Islam. An obvious point of agreement is of course anti-Judaism. A subtler basis for sympathy is the so-called traditionalist current, which was represented by the converts Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon, and still has a following: it has been idealizing Islam and esp. Sufism as the preserver of the age-old philosophia pernnis against modernity. In Russia, some Slavophile anti-Western groups now seek an alliance with Islam against the impending Americanization of their society. In the U.S., Christian fundamentalists and Islamic organizations are increasingly creating common platforms to speak out against trends of moral decay (abortion, pornography, etc.). Some of these phenomena of traditionalist alliance-building are quite respectable, but they are nevertheless conducive to Islam negationism.
Hindu cowardice: Even among so-called militant Hindus, there is a shameful eagerness to praise Islam and deny its criminal record. E.g., during the Ayodhya movement, many Hindu leaders have been pleading that the Muslims should renounce the Ram Janmabhoomi site because “geunine Islam is against temple demolition”, so that a mosque standing on a demolished temple is not in conformity with Islamic law. This was, of course, blatantly untrue: Islamic scripture and history prove that destroying all expressions of unbelief and idolatry is a duty and an honour for Muslims. The doctrines that have led to the temple destructions including the one on Ram Janmabhoomi, are still being taught in all Islamic schools.
Apart from being untruthful, this Hindu appeal to “geunine Islam’s tolerance” was also bad debating tactics: if you say that temple demolition was standard Islamic practice, and that what had happened in Ayodhya was merely the local application of the general rule, the onus is on the Babri advocates to prove that the Babri Masjid was an exception; but if you say that the Babri Masjid was an exception to the rule of Islamic tolerance, the onus is on you to prove that in this case, an exceptional and uncharacteristic incident had taken place. It was also bad bargaining tactics: if you say that the Babri Masjid was merely one among thousands, then renouncing this one non-mosque would sound like a very low price for the Muslims to buy the Hindus’ goodwill; but if you say that the Babri Masjid was an exceptional case, an insignificant incident amid the many big problems thrown up by history, you look petty by demanding the restoration of this one site. Short, Hindu leaders were damaging their own position by denying history and avoiding Islam criticism.
One could understand people telling lies when it serves their own interest; but people who tell lies when it is the truth that would serve their interest, really deserve to be kicked around. This truly strange and masochistic behaviour can only be understood if we keep in mind that Hindu society is a terorized society. During the Muslim period, all those who stood up and spoke out against Islam were eliminated; and under Nehruvian rule, they were sidelined and abused. The oppressed Hindus started licking the boot that kicked them, and this has become a habit which in their slumber they have not yet identified and stopped.
- Liberal Islam: In the Islamic world, it is unwise to attack Islam head-on. Yet, sometimes people in those countries feel the need to oppose Islamic phenomena and campaigns, such as the witch-hunt on un-Islamic cultural remnants, violence on the non-Muslims, extreme forms of gender inequality. In order to have a chance, these people have to use Islamic language: “Mohammed was actually against polygamy”, “violence against others is in conflict with the tolerance which Mohammed has taught us”, “respect for other cultures is part of Islamic tradition”. In order to press their humanist point, they have to formally identify with Islam and lie about its contents.
Many Muslims have started to believe their own rhetoric. If you point out to them that the Quran teaches intolerance and war against the unbelievers in the most explicit terms, many of them will sincerely protest, and not know what to say when you show them the Quranic passages concerned. There is no reason to doubt that the Moroccanm authoress Fatima Mernissi genuinely believes in her own argument that the Quranic instructions on how to organize your polygamous household are to be read as an abolition of polygamy (albeit in veiled terms, because Allah, the same Allah Almighty who went straight against the prevalent customs of idolatry and pluralism, had to be careful not to offend the spirit of the times). Many nominal Muslims have outgrown Islamic values and developed a commitment to modern values, but their sentimental attachment to the religion imbibed in their childhood prevents them from formally breaking with Islam and makes them paint a rosy picture of it.
Among Muslim spokesmen, is is certainly not the fundamentalists who are the most active proponents of negationism. It is liberals like Asghar Ali Engineer who deny that Islam ordains war on the infidels. It is those who are acclaimed by Hindus as being good “secular” Muslims, like Saeed Naqvi, who go as far as to deny that the Partition of India was brought about by Muslims. An Islam that wants to be secular, cannot but be dishonest and untrue to itself. Unfortunately, a tolerant Islam is a contradiction, and a tolerant past for Islam to buttress the position of liberal Muslims, is a lie.
- Muslims differing from Islam: Many people have a Muslim neighbour who is a fine man, and from this empirical fact they conclude: Islam cannot be all that bad considering our friend Mustapha. This one empirical fact gives them a tremendous resistance against all information about Islamic intolerance. People usually reduce the world to their own sphere of experience, and general historical facts of Islamic fanaticism are not allowed to disturb the private experience of good neighbourly relations.
Many nominal Muslims have retained from their Quran classes only some vague generalities about morality, and they normally go by their own conscience and sensibility without ever developing the doctrinally prescribed hostility towards non-Muslims. These good people but had Muslims can ignore but not change Islamic doctrine. They cannot prevent the Quranic message of hatred from infecting at least some of the more sesceptible among their brethren.
There have certainly been situations where sane Muslims have calmed down their more riotous brethren, and such individuals do make a real difference. We should not make the Islamic mistake of judging people simply by their belonging or not belonging to the Muslim community, rather than by their human qualities. But the fact remains that the presence of a doctrine of intolerance as the official and identity-defining ideology of a community, exerts a constant pressure tending towards separatism and confrontation. The alleviating presence of the humanist factor even within the Muslim community should not be used to deny the ominous presence of Islamic factor.
“Those who deny history are bound to repeat it”: that is what many critics of Holocaust negationism allege. This seems slightly exaggerated, though it is of course the well-wishers of Nazism who practise negationism. In the case of Islam, it is equally true that negationism is practised by the well-wishers of that same doctrine which has led to the crimes against humanity under consideration. While Nazism is simply too stained to get a second chance, Islam is certainly in a position to force unbelievers into the zimmi status (as is happening in dozens of Muslim countries in varying degrees), and even to wage new jihads, this time with weapons of mass-destruction. Those who are trying to close people’s eyes to this danger by distorting or concealing the historical record of Islam are effective accomplices in the injustice and destruction which Islam is sure to cause before the time of its dissolution comes. Therefore, I consider it a duty of all intellectuals to expose and denounce the phenomenon of negationism whenever it is practised.