Chapter 3 : Exposing And Refuting Negationism
Chapter Three - Exposing and Refuting Negationism
Negationism and history-distortion require a large-scale effort and a very strong grip on the media of information and education. As soon as the grip loosens, at least the most blatant of the negationist concoctions are bound to be exposed, and its propounders lose all credibility. In 1988, the schools in the Soviet Union decided to suspend the history exams because “the history books are full of lies anyway”. The great lies and distortions of Soviet historiography are now items in the gallery of ridicule.
3.1 Enter Voice of India
Just like the Russians have thrown Soviet historiography into the dustbin, Indian negationism will also be thrown out in the near future. The newly published second volume of “Hindu temples, what happened to them”, by the Indian historian Sitaram Goes (1921), is a mortal blow in the face of negationism. And there are more reasons for calling the book a milestone.
The author is, together with his friend, the linguist and philosopher Ram Swarup (1920), the leading light of the intellectual rearmament of the battered and despondent Hindu society. Born in 1921 in a poor family (though belonging to the merchang Agrawal caste) in Haryana, he took an M.A. in history in Delhi University, winning prizes and scholarships along the way. In his youth he was a Gandhian activist, organizing inter-caste dinners and participating in the Freedom Movement. In the forties, when the Gandhians themselves were drifting to the Left and adopting socialist rhetoric, he decided to opt for the original rather than the imitation, and joined the Communist Party. Within a few years, he left the Party in disgust, and participated in Ram Swarup’s anti-communist organization in Calcutta, then as now the centre of Indian communism.
In the fifties he published a number of books exposing the lies that formed the backbone of communist propaganda. For instance, in “Whom shall we believe?”, he compared the economic figures in official Russian and Chinese publications with the propaganda put out by the Communist Party of India and its fellow-travellers, and demonstrated the utterly deceitful nature of whatever creditibility communism had acquired. As the cover of his newest publication proudly proclaims, “the numerous studies published by the movement in the fifties exist in cold print in many libraries and can be consulted for finding out how the movement anticipated by many years the recent revelations about communist regimes”.
An aspect of history yet to be studied is how such anti-communist movements in the Third World were not at all helped (in spite of all allegations of CIA innvolvement) but rather opposed by Western interest groups whose understanding of communist ideology and strategy, and of many other political issues, was just too limited and blunt. The critique of communism formulated by these Indian thinkers was often intellectually superior to most of what has been produced by European and American anti-communists in the Cold War period.
Shortly before the Chinese invasion (1962), which pin-pricked the balloon of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s vainglorious brainchildren, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Indian-Chinese friendship as an axis of Asian stability, Sitaram Goel published a critique of Nehru’s policy of friendship with communism, “In Defence of Comrade Krishna Menon”. In it, he debunked the current fashion of attributing India’s communist-leaning forein policy to minister Krishna Menon, and demonstrated that Nehru himself had been a consistent communist sympathizer ever since his visit to the Soviet Ubnion in 1927. Nehru had stuck to his communist syumpathies even when the communists insulted him as prime minister with their unbridled swearology: he used to lick the boot that kicked him. Nehru’s absolute refusal to support the Tibetans even at the diplomatic level when they were overrun by the Chinese army, cannot just be attributed to circumstances or the influence of collaborators: his hand-over of Tibet to communist China was quite consistent with his own political convictions.
Eventhough Sitaram Goel’s stand was vindicated by the Chinese invasion, the book about Nehru cost him his job in a state-affliated company. He went into business himself and set up a company of book import and export. In its margin,, he later started the non-profit publishing house Voice of India. Its aim is to defend Hinduism by placing before the public correct information aboutthe situation of Hindu culture and society, and about the nature, motives and strategies of its enemies.
For, as the title of his book “Hindu society under siege” (1981) indicates, Hindu society has been suffering a sustained attack from Islam since the 7th century, from Christianity since the 15th century, and this century also from Marxism. The avowed objective of each of these three world-conquering movements, with their massive resources, is the replacement of Hinduism by their own ideology, or in effect: the destruction of Hinduism. This concern is not at all paranoid (as spokesmen of these aggressors would say), even if the conversion squads are remarkably unsuccessful in India. Consider the situation in Africa: in 1900, 50% of all Africans practised Pagan religions; today, Christian and Islamic missionaries have reduced this number to less than 10%. That is the kind of threat Hinduism is up against. So far, the biggest success of these aggressors is at the level of thought: many Hindus have interiorized the depreciation of Hindu culture and society which their enemies have been feeding them from the relative power positions which they have had in the past or are enjoying today. Standing up to the challenge thrown by these mortal enemies, Voice of India works for the intellectual mobilization of Hindu society.
The importance of Sitaram Goel’s and Ram Swarup’s work can hardly be over-estimated. There is no doubt that future textbooks on comparative religion as well as those on Indian political and intellectual history will devote crucial chapters to their analysis. Ther are the first to give a first-hand Pagan reply to the versions of history and “science of religion” imposed by the monotheist world-conquerors, both at the level of historical fact (e.g. Sitaram Goel’s “History of Hindu-Christian Encounters”) and of fundamental doctrine (e.g. Ram Swarup’s “Hinduism vis-a-vis Christianity and Islam”), both in terms of the specific Hindu experience (e.g. Sitaram Goel’s “Hindu Society under Siege”) and of a more generalized theory of religion free from prophetic-monotheistic bias (e.g. Ram Swarup’s “The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods”, a ground-breaking statement of Pagan doctrine).
Their long-term intellectual importance is that they have contributed immensely to breaking the spell of all kinds of monotheist prejudices and misrepresentations of Paganism in general, Hinduism in particular. They have done so in an explicit manner, addressing the polemical positions taken by the world-conquerors squarely, not merely eulogizing the qualities of Upanishadic thought and other Hindu achievements (as too many Hindu revivalists do).
Voice of India’s shorter-term political importance consists in its breaking through the weak apologetic taken by the established Hindu movement. This movement, including the Bharatiya Janata Party which won 24% of the vote in the 1991 elections, wastes quite a bit of its energy on proving its secular credentials and its harmlessness for Muslims and other minorities, unsuccessfully trying to acquire a new secular identity and meanwhile undermining its natural Hindu identity. It is still playing by the rules imposed by the Marxist-Muslim alliance. Voice of India changes the rules by debunking the premises of secularist disocurse (very explicitly in Sitaram Goel’s “Perversion of India’s Political Parlance”) and exposing the imperialist designs which are currently stealing a march behind the smokescreen of secularism.
3.2 Intellectual Defence of Hinduism
Faced with the attack from the world-conquerors, Hindus has so far failed to put up an intelligent defence. This should already be clear from the extremely negative image of the Hindu revivalist movement which the English-language press has created, and against which this movement itself has been quite helpless. The organizations claiming to work for the welfare and defence of Hindu society, have not managed to give an intellectual dimension to their work, and have neglected the field of ideological development and of broadcasting their viewpoints through the media.
There is an India-wide Hindu organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, “National Volunteer Corps”), which is devoted to character-building the physical training, to cultural activities, and to giving an organizational backbone to Hindu society. The erstwhile Jan Sangh and now the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are political parties affiliated with this RSS movement. The degree to which Hinduism is on the defensive can be inferred from the fact that these militant Hindu organizations do not even dare to call themselves Hindus, but go hiding behind neutral terms like “national” and “Indian”.
The basic political idology of the RSS is called integral humanism, developed by Deendayal Upadhaya (d. 1967) on the basis of ancient Hindu social philosophy. The term means that the world should be organized in such a way that each of the four goals (purusharthas) of human life is given its due: Hindu tradition enumerates these as kama (erotics, pleasure), artha (gain, success), dharma (duty, world order), moksha (spiritual liberation). It is a humanism in the sense that human values, not divine revelation, form a basis of its programme (those who say that the BJP aims at creating a “Hindu theocratic state”, merely display their ignorance). As an integralist Hindu alternative to the reductionist ideologies (socialism,, liberalism, nationalism), integral humanism deserves comparison with Christian-democracy in Europe. In spite of all the swearwords hurled at the RSS/BJP, their ideology is quite unexceptionable. In fact, after the fall of Marxism, the renewed excess of nationalism, and the obvious limitations of liberalism beyond the economic sphers, it is clear that humanity now needs an ideology which can only be some kind of “integral humanism”.
While the ideological starting-point of these Hindu movements is perfectly acceptable, it is striking that there is no think-tank to develop this seed into a successful practical analysis of concrete political problems. Whereas Marxist have published numerous analyses about every social, political and cultural topic, the intellectual output of the RSS movement is minimal. Most of its pamphlets and manifestoes contain a lot of puffed-up patriotism and wailing over the Partition of the Hindu motherland, but little penetrating analysis that could be the basis for imaginative policies and a realistic strategy.
The intellectual failure of the Hindu movement is most striking in its dealing with the one great sore in medieval as well contemporary Hindu history: the Muslim problem. You hear so much about the Hindu-Muslim conflict, that you would expect to find a great deal of intellectual effort in analyzing the nature of this problem as a prerequisite to any workable solution. In fact, there is no such analysis by any leader of the organized Hindu movement, except in a very concise and elementary form, e.g. by prof. Balraj Madhok (erstwhile Jan Sangh leader who fell out with the party precisely because, apart from personal conflicts, he opposed its increasing opportunism and lack of Hindu consciousness). They all complain a lot that Muslim have destroyed temples and split the Motherland, that Muslims start riots, that Hindus are persecuted in Muslim states, but not one of them dares to ask why believers in Islam exhibit this unpleasant behaviour.
Most Hindu leaders expressly refuse to search Islamic doctrine for a reason for the observed fact of Muslim fanaticism. RSS leader Guru Golwalkar once said: “Islam is a great religion. Mohammed was a great prophet. But the Muslims are big fools.” This is not logical, for the one thing that unites the (otherwise diverse) community of Muslims is their common belief in Islam: if any wrong is attributed to “the Muslims” as such, it must be situated in their common belief system.
In the Ayodhya dispute, time and again the BJP leaders have appealed to the Muslims to relinquish all claims to the supposed birthplace of the Hindu god Rama, arguing that destroying temples is against the tenets of Islam, and that the Quran prohibits the use of a mosque built on disputed land. In fact, whatever Islam decrees against building mosques on disputed property, can only concern disputes within the Muslim community (or its temporary allies under a treaty). It is perfectly lawful, and established by the Prophet through his own example, to destroy Pagan establishments and replace them with mosques. But the BJP leaders dream of dealing with a tolerant Islam, and they appeal to the Muslims to remember the tolerance taught by Mohammed as much as by any other prophet. Perhaps this is the typically Hindu attitude which generously tries to see the best in every one; perhaps it is ignorance or cowardice or wilful self-deception; perhaps it is the psychological effect of centuries of terror, which make it hard for Hindus to even criticize their terrorizer. At any rate, the tolerant Islam of which the BJP leaders speak, does not exist.
Therefore, Sitaram Goel is rather critical of the current Ayodhya movement. In the foreword to the newly published second volume of his book “Hindu Temples, What Happened to Them”, he writes: “The movement for the restoration of Hindu temples has got bogged down around the Rama Janmabhoomi at Ayodhya. The more important question, viz. why Hindu temples met the fate they did at the hands of Islamic invaders, has not been even whispered. Hindu leaders have endorsed the Muslim propagandists in proclaiming that Islam does not permit the construction of mosques at sites occupied earlier by other people’s places of worship… The Islam of which Hindu leaders are talking exists neither in the Quran nor in the Sunnah of the Prophet. It is hoped that this volume will help in clearing the confusion. No movement which shuns or shies away from truth is likely to succeed. Strategies based on self-deception stand defeated at the very start.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the established Hindu organizations show very little interest in Voice of India’s work. Apparently they are mentally too slack to see the importance of fostering a developed Hindu viewpoint among their own activists. They prefer to invest in lots of physical locomotion, and to voice the prevalent self-pity concerning the injustice at the hands of the Muslims and the secularist state. What they should do instead, is to change the conceptual framework of Indian politics, and to re-educate their cadres and the public and free them from the mental grip of the perverted political parlance imposed by the Muslim-Marxist combine. That will do a lot more for overthrowing secularist depotism and India’s vassalage to Islamic imperialism, than all the rathyatras and padyatras and kar sevas combined.
The ideological helplessness of political Hindus comes out immediately when you question them about Mahatma Gandhi. The assessment of Gandhia’s significance for Hindu society, and the fact of his murder by a Hindu, are embarassing topics with which Hindu-baiters are having a lot of fun. Invariably, they call the RSS (with its “family” of affiliated organizations including the BJP) the “murderers of the Mahatma”. As Craig Baxter (in his 1971 book Jana Sangh) has remarked, this allegation is in definace of the judicial verdict in the Mahatma murder trial. Nonetheless, Baxter notices that Gandhi’s murder has been “a millstone around the neck” of the political Hindu movement and especially the RSS. It is true that the RSS had professed a very negative opinion of the Mahatma’s failed policy of “Hindu-Muslim unity”, which opinion was also Nathuram Godse’s motive for the murder.
According to Balraj Madhok, the murder was “a very un-Hindu act” which saved the Mahatma from “the dustbin of history” to which he was heading after the creation of Pakistan crowned the victory of Islamic separatism over Gandhi’s Hindu vision of trans-sectarian unity. There is truth in prof. Madhok’s assessment, but only if we limit Gandhi’s politics to his quest of “Hindu-Muslim unity”. Voice of India is the only think-tank which has produced a straightforward, sincere and satisfactory analysis of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and death from the Hindu viewpoint without reducing Gandhi’s significance to his stand on a single issue.
As authentic Gandhians Ram Swarup (author of Gandhian economics) and Sitaram Goel can address the issue with an undisurbed conscience. They are aware of Gandhi’s unconditional commitment to the well-being of Hindu society, and they have put Gandhi’s defeat in the struggle against Partition in a proper perspective. The chapter on Mahatma Gandhi in Sitaram Goel’s Perversion of India’s Political Parlance should be required reading for anyone who tries to understand India’s “communal problem”. It is a powerful rebuttal both to Nathuram Godse’s justification for the murder of the Mahatma, and to the numerous attempts to use the Mahatma as a secularist argument against the Hindu cause. Very briefly this is what it says.
First of all the Islamic and Communist lobbies who currently invoke the Mahatma’s name to blacken Hinduism, had no use for the Mahatma while he was alive. They attacked him in the crassest language, thwarted his policies and opposed him tooth and nail. On this issue as on many others, the secularist front displays the ugliest dishonesty. It was the Hindus who revered him, and if the Islamic-Communist combine consider the use of the Mshatma’s name profitable, it is because the public mainly consists of Hindus who still revere or at least respect him.
The Mahatma’s first and foremost loyalty was towards Hindu society. If he criticized it, it was for its own upliftment, to force it out of its inertia, rejuvenate and re-awaken it. He was a proud and combative Hindu.
The Mahatma’s defence of Hinduism against the claim and allegations levelled by Christianity and by colonialism was very clear and unwavering. So was his opposition to the seeds of separatism which hostile forces tried to sow within Hindu society, via the Tamils, the Harijans, the Sikhs. In the Freedom struggle it was his strategy that managed to involve the masses. Unlike the Hindu Mahasabha, which championed religion but thought and worked in strictly political terms (borrowed from Western secular nationalism) the Mahatma understood that the Hindu masses could only be won over by a deeply religious appeal. The ethical dimension of politics which he emphasized, regained for Hinduism a good name throughout the world, and is still highly relevant (see Arun Shouie’s book “Individuals Institutions Processes” for some practical lessons). Therefore, it is nothing short of morbid to remember the Mahatma only as the leader who failed to stop Islamic separatism, as Nathuram Godse did, and as a minority within the Hindu movement still does.
On the other hand, “it must be admitted that the failure which the Mahatma met vis-a-vis the Muslims was truly of startling proportions”. It is a fact that his policy towards Muslims had always been one of appeasement at the cost of Hindu society. But nothing had helped and with every concession the Muslims continued to grow more hostile: “There must be something very hard in the heart of Islam that even a man of an oceanic goodwill like Mahatma Gandhi failed to move it”.
The failure to prevent Partition can only be attributed to the Mahatma for the period (and to the extent) that he dictated Congress policy. The political course which had led to Partition, had been started before his arrival on the Indian scene. And when he was at the helm, most Congress leaders had equally approved of decisions which we can now recognize as steps on the road to Partition. For instance, the 1916 Lucknow Pact between Congress and the Muslim League, which legitimized the privileges (separate electorates, one-third representation in the Central Assembly) that the League had obtained from the British, was signed by Lokamanya Tilak, an unquestionably staunch Hindu. The involvement in the khilafat movement, that giant boost for Muslim separatism, was accepted not only by the Nehrus, whose support for Islamic causes was always a foregone conclusion, but also by such Hindu stalwarts as Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.
It is true that the Mahatma has made a number of sentimental and flatly untrue statements about Islam, such as: “Islam is a noble faith.” He denied that the Quran preached intolerance, even when his multireligious prayer-sessions must have given him ample opportunity to inform himself of the numerous Quranic injunctions to, and expressions of, intolerance and hatred. But this stubborn blindness before the grim facts about Islam, which accords the aura of an avatar to Mohammed, the sancity of a Scripture to the Quran, etc. have been practised for a long time before the rise of the Mahatma, and are still being practised by a great many Hindus, including sadhus, intellectuals and politicians. Hinduism has always seen Islam through the eyes of its own spirituality, and projected its own qualities onto this radically different ideology.
The Mahatma had at least acknowledged the typical behaviour pattern of Islam (“In my experience the average Muslim is a bully, the average Hindu a coward”), so he was not a negationist. But he failed to trace Islamic fanaticism to its source, viz. the Quran and the example of the Prophet. Instead, he invented good-natured but fatally flawed explanations (“Islam is still a very young religion”), which ignored or denied the special character of Islam. The habit of explaining away the unpleasant facts about the Islam problem is still very much alive, even in circles dubbed as Hindu communalist and anti-Muslim.
The failure of the Mahatma before Islamic aggression was the failure of Hindu society. Sitaram Goel strongly rejects Nathuram Godse’s allegation that the Mahatma was the chief culprit for the Partition: “It is highly doubtful if Hindu society would have been able to prevent Partition even if there had been no Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that Hindu society would have failed in any case.”
Gandhi has propounded the following views which are in stark contrast with those of the Nehruvian establishment :
India is one nation. It is not, as self-glorifying Britons and Nehruvians thought, “a nation in the making”. It has a common culture called Sanatana Dharma (“eternal value system”, Hindusim), and the adherence to this common heritage tranwscends the borders between language areas and other divisions which elsewhere would define a nation.
Hinduism is in no way inferior to other religions and ideologies. On the contrary: “Whatever of substance is contained in any other religion is always to be found in Hinduism, and what is not contained in it is insubstantial or unnecessary.”
Political achievements like independence, national unity and social transformation can only be based on a religious and cultural awakening of Hindu society.
These are viewpoints which the political Hindu movement shares, and it should emphasize that secularism’s claims on the Mahatma are entirely false. In the Indian context of sycophancy, it is important to have revered personalities on your side, and to quote their infallible statements. So, in the struggle for the Mahatma’s heritage, the Nehruvian traitors to his message of Hindu self-confidence have invested a lot in misrepresenting the Mahatma as a secularist. But if Hindu society calls their bluff and honestly examines his work, it will expose the stark opposition between Gandhi and Nehru, between patriots and fellow-travellers, between practitioners of Hindu tolerance and bootlickers of Islamic imperialism. Hindus should claim the Mahatma back from those who call themselves Gandhians, but who kill the Mahatma a second time by emulating those very Hindu-baiters (e.g. the missionaries) who saw in the Mahatma their most dangerous opponent.
Sitaram Goel’s conslusion puts the Mahatma in the centre of the Hindu revival: “The one lesson we learn from the Freedom movement as a whole is that a religious and cultural awakening in Hindu society has to precede political awakening. The language of Indian nationalism has to be the language of Sanatana Dharma before it can challenge and defeat the various languages of imperialism. The more clearly Hindu society sees the universal truths of Hindu spirituality and culture, the more readily will it reject political ideologies masquerading as religion or promising a paradise on this earth. Mahatma Gandhi stands squarely with Maharshi Dayanand, Bankim Chandra, Swami Vivekananda, Lokamanya Tilak and Sri Aurobindo in developing the language of Indian nationalism. His mistake about Islam does not diminish the lustre of that language which he spoke with full faith and confidence. On the contrary, his mistake carries a message of its own.”
The message present in the Mahatma’s failure vis-a-vis Islam, is that Hindu society will only develop in peace and in dignity if it removes Islam. No amount of goodwill is capable of changing Islamic theology and its inherent policical ambition of world conquest. But this is a conclusion from which the Hindu organizations are still shying away. it is quite unthinkable that one of their leaders would say: “Islam is a hostile and destructive ideology. We will not make any concession to it, and we work for its dissolution.” Imagine the shrieks and howls in the secularists media in case of such a clear rejection of Islam’s pretences, and you will understand why Hindu leaders shy away from it. But let then pause and think: is not braving the pandemonium of secularist indignation preferable to (self-) censoring the truth about Hindu society’s mortal enemy?
The European humanists (deists as well as atheists) who attacked the power position of Christianity, were very clear about their objective: Ecrasez l’Infame! (“crush the infamous one” i.e. the Church). Many liberal and socialist parties were very outspoken in their rejection of the Christian religion, the opium of the masses (note that they were hardly aware that religion could be something better than the irrational belief systems of prophetic monotheism). Till today, the Communists are very unambiguous about their condemnation of all religion as an obscurantist superstition, and about their determination to ultimately liberate the people from the straglehold of religion (unlike Hindu critics of Islam, the Communists understand removing a religion as a physical elimination of at least its ordained members, as they have amply proven on Buddhists in Mongolia,, Cambodia, etc. Even when anti-Christian socialists or liberals have entered coalitions with Christian-democrats, they never made it an occasion to renounce their fundamental rejection of Christianity. Even when Communists set up joint fronts for peace or against imperialism along with Christian useful idiots (to use Lenin’s term) they did not change their official line. So the Hindu movement would not do anything extraordinary if it states clearly that it rejects and condemns Islam as a mistaken belief system and a destructive ideology.
The RSS-BJP have been trying to be Muslim-friendly, and they are proud to tell you that they have some Muslims in their own ranks, even in leading positions. This makes it difficult for them to criticize Islam. A Muslim communalist leader has said that the presence of Muslims in any organization is always useful, as it effectively disarms that organization in the struggle against Islam. Even the most Hindu-friendly Muslims in the BJP is still a Trojan horse, not because he chooses to assume that role, but because his surroundings immediately change their language and behaviour one they meet a Muslim. It seems that no Hindu (especially with any political ambition in the Nehruvian fremework) dares to criticize Islam in the presence of Muslims.
This is not to say that a Hindu-minded political party should refuse Muslims as members. On the contrary, it should definitely continue to prove that the Islamic establishment has no monopoly on the common Muslims’ loyalty, and that many Alis and Fatimas refuse to be held on a leash by the Bukharis and Shahabuddins. However, it shouldnot compromise on its Hindu perspective, and it should acknowledge that Islam is presently Hindu society’s worst enemy. Perhaps it can use a more diplomatic language in passing judgement on Islam, but there should be no compromise about contents. After the ambiguity about the Hindu movement’s opinion of Islam has been cleared, Muslim-born Indians should be attracted not with re-assuring eulogies to the noble faith of Islam, but with a positive and non-sectarian programme of Integral Humanism, embodying the best of Hindu social philosophy without hammering too much on name-tags like Hindu. In the Gandhian perspective which Voice of India has been actualizing, Sanatana Dharma is not a banner, but a practical way of realizing the intrinsic goals of individual and society. Its central virtue is satya, truthfulness.
For Voice of India, as for Mahatma Gandhi, truth is as much an instrument as a goal: “In this fight for men’s minds, out only weapon is Truth. Truth must be told, as much about Hindu society and culture as about the alien ideoligies which have been on the war-path since the days of foreign domination over the Hindu homeland.” Political leaders who claim the confidence of Hindu society would do well to take some inspiration from this, and to rethink their ambiguous attitude regarding Islam. Not facing the truth about Islam was a costly mistake in Gandhi’s time. With Islam’s increasing strength and self-confidence, it may prove to be a deadly mistake in the near future.
3.3 What Happened to the Hindu Temples ?
In all the lands it conquered, Islam has replaced indigenous places of worship mosques. In Iran, there are no ancient Zoroastrian or Manichean shrines left. In Central Asia, there are no Buddhist temples left. Similarly, in India (except the far South where Islam hardly penetrated) there are practically no Hindu temples that have survived the Muslim period. But there are thousands of mosques built on the foundations of Hindu temples, often with the debris of those very temples. These archaeological remains are mute witnesses to the long and repetitive story of Islamic iconoclasm.
The first volume of the “Hindu Temples” book subtitled “A Preliminary Survey”, was published in the spring of 1990 and played an important role in the political debate over the controversial Rama tempel in Ayodhya. It contains a competently presented list of about 2000 mosques in India that have forcibly replaced Hindu temples. This list is not complete, and does not concern Pakistan and other countries where temples have been violently replaced with mosques. Moreover, the number of temples of which material has been used in these 2000 mosques far exceeds 2000. For the single Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi, as an inscription at the entrance proudly proclaims 27 Hindu temples had been destroyed. These 2000 are only the tip of an iceberg.
This first volume also contains a list of over 200 temples destroyed in Bandgladesh in November 1989 under pretext of protest against the Shilanyas (laying of the first stone) ceremony of the prospective Rama temple in Ayodhya. Muslims have raised a hue and cry over the demolition of the Babri Masjid (which they had not used since decades), but few outsiders seem to realize that destruction of the religious places of minorities is a routine affair in Islamic states.
The book also contains articles by Ram Swarup, Jay Dubashi, Prof. Harsh Narain, and the famous journalist Arun Shourie. Ram Swarup, like editor Sitaram Goel, traces the facts of Islamic intolerance and iconoclasm to the exclusivist theology of the Quran and the Sunnah (tradition). He also deals with the role of Marxism is recent negationist efforts: “Marxists have taken to rewriting Indian history on a large scale and it has meant its systematic falsification… The Marxists’ contempt for India, particularly the India of religion, culture and philosophy, is deep and theoretically fortified. It exceeds the contempt ever shown by the most die-hard imperialists… Marx ruled out self-rule for India altogether and in this matter gave her no choice… Marxism idealizes old imperialisms and prepares a people for a new one. Its moving power is deep-rooted self-alienation and its greatest ally is cultural and spiritual illiteracy… No true history of India is possible without countering their philosophy, ideas and influence.”
Jay Dubashi, an economist affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party, links the laying of the first stone for the planned Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, which happened on the very same day: “While a temple was going up in Ayodhya, a Communist temple was being demolished 5,000 miles away in Europe… The two events…mark the end of the post-Nehru era and the beginning of a truly national era in India on the one hand, and the…beginning of a truly democratic era in Europe on the other. History has rejected Nehru in India and also overthrown Communism in Europe.” Reductionist systems which see man only as producer or consumer of material goods, are out. The mental horizon clears up and prepares for the era of an integral humanism continuous with the age-old spiritual vision of Sanatana Dharma.
Harsh Narain, a historian who has taught at both Aligarh Muslim University and Benaras Hindu University, presents four pieces of testimony for the local tradition that the Babri Masjid had replaced a Rama Temple, all written in the 19th century by local Muslims outside the sphere of British influence. One of these testimonies narrowly escaped oblivion: it was part of a manuscript that was recently published as a book by a Muslim foundation, which decided to omit the chapter containing the inconvenient testimony. Fortunately, a descendant of the author had the controversial chapter published separately.
A similar story is told in greater detail by Arun Shourie (sacked in 1990 as Indian Express editor after exposing V.P.Singh’s deal with secularists like imam Bukhari) about yet another piece of Muslim testimony for the pre-existence of a Rama temple at the Babri Masjid site. A book mentioning this tradition had been published in tempore non suspecto, but recently efforts had been made to get back all the copies from places where unbelievers might get access to it.
None of the negationist historians, and none of the so-called secularists at large, has spent one word of comment on these attempts to tamper with the historical Ayodhya record. They condone anything that may weaken the Hindu case in the Ayodhya debate. Whatever the mistakes committed by the Hindu Ayodhya movement on the ground, at the intellectual level it is a struggle for truth and honesty, against attempts (some petty, some high-handed) to falsify history. On the other hand, the stand taken by leading negationist historians in this debate wil be studied in the future as a classic in latter-day Marxist history falsification.
In November 1990 there had been proposals in the national parliament and in the state parliament of Uttar Pradesh to ban this first volume of “Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them”. This step was not taken, possibly because negationists thought the ban would be counter productive by drawing attention to the list of disputable mosques. None of the negationist historians has come forward with a reply or with the announcement that a mistake has been discovered in Mr. Goel’s list of monuments of Islamic fanaticism. Manini Chatterjee, reviewer for The Telegraph, could do no more than calling it a “very bad book”. Very bad for the negationists, indeed.
The second volume of Sitaram Goel’s book, subtitled “The Islamic Evidence”, and published in May 1991, takes us a lot farther in its revelations of the grim facts of the Islamic campaign to destroy Hinduism. It also contains some head-on attacks on negationism. By way of introduction, it deals in great detail with the controversies over Krishna’s birthplace temple in Mathura and the Rudramahalaya temple complex in Sidhpur, both forcibly replaced with Islamic structures and exposed the negationists’ machinations to distort or conceal the facts. The chapter From the Horse’s Mouth gives 174 pages full of quotations from Muslim documents that describe and glofify the destruction of Hindu temples very explicitly. It is only an anthology, and the already very impressive material collected in this chapter is again only the tip of an iceberg.
If this book gets the publicity it deserves, negationist historians will find it difficult to show their faces in public. They stand exposed, and only their control over the media can save their reputation by censoring this critique of their career-long efforts at history falsification.
In appendix, the book contains a questionnaire for the negationist historians concerning their second front: allegations that Hinduism has demolished or stolen many Buddhist and “Animist” shrines. As we have seen in ch.2.7., the negationists go on spreading the story that the Hindu had persecuted and destroyed Buddhism. Now, Sitaram Goel challenges the negationist historians to come forward and present, among other things:
a list of Hindu temples that have forcibly replaced Buddhist (or Jain or animist) temples;
a list of epigraphs recording such temple destructions;
a list of literary sources decribing these temple destructions;
a list of injunctions to, and glorifications of, the destruction of non-Hindu temples in Hindu scriptures;
a list of known historical Buddhist (Jain, animist) temples which are now missing due to Hindu iconoclasm.
Of course, the negationist historians have not reacted so far. Perhaps the reply has already been given implicitly in their earlier publications? As we have seen in ch.2.7., the negationist books and articles in which this allegation against Hinduism is made, try but fail to give the answers to Mr. Goel’s questions, viz. the evidence required to substantiate the allegation. It may be hard to believe for followers of iconoclastic religions and ideologies, but non-fanatical religions do exist, and some of them have co-existed for millennia with only marginal moments of friction.
3.4 Face to Face With Mohammed’s Model Behaviour
The most important part of the second volume is the 145- page chapter about the Islamic theology of iconoclasm (i.e. the destruction of what other people consider sacred objects or buildings). Here, the spotlight is moved from India to Arabia. The Islamic destructions in India were nothing but a long-drawn-out reply of Prophet Mohammed’s own exemplary practice, which in turn is only an application of Quranic injunctions.
One of the great founding-moments of Islam was the capturing of the Kaaba, the sanctuary in Mecca. With their own hands, Mohammed and his son-in-law Ali smashed to pieces all 360 idols. After that, Mohammed sent patrols to all the population centres of Arabia to smash the idols and to destroy or convert the temples (mostly polytheist but also including a Christian church). Since the Quran and the Prophet’s model behaviour count as normative, we must recotgnize that the desecration and destruction of other people’s sanctuaries is an intrinsic component of Islam, not a later accidental outgrowth.
The Dome on the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque have also been built on a sacred place stolen from others: the Jewish Temple Mount. True, under Byzantine rule the Jews could not rebuild their Temple, but still the site remained most sacred to them. Nonetheless (or rather, precisely for the reason), Mohammed’s successors took it from them, in order to affirm Mohammed’s claim to being the final fulfilment of the Abrahamic prophetic tradition. Similarly the cathedral of Damascus, of Cordova (both cathedrals had themselves replaced Pagan temples) and of many other places were taken from the Christians, as would also happen 8 centuries later to the Aya Sophia of constantinople. The take-over of these Jewish and Christian places of worshop should moreover be seen against the background of the relative tolerance which these two communities still enjoyed under Islamic rule: if this tolerance could not prevent the take-over of important places of worship, how much less chance did an Pagan temple have.
In parenthesis, we should draw attention to the flimsy rationalizations which Islam has produced to justify the occupation of the most sacred places of other religions. In the Ayodhya conflict, the Muslim side has often said that the Hindus must first produce proof that Rama was indeed born on the spot which Hindus claim as his birthsite. If historical proof is the prerequisite brfore a sacred site can be recognized and accorded respect, then Muslims will have to give up both the Kaaba and the Temple Mount. Of the Kaaba, which Mohammed took from the Arab Pagans, they claim that it was build by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham (facts suppressed in the Old Testament by a Jewish conspiracy to distort God’s word), and later stolen by the Pagans. Of the Temple Mount, which they took from the Jews in order to affirm Mohammed’s status as the seal of the lineage of Jewish prophets, they claim that it was Mohammed’s landing-site in his night journey through heaven on a winged horse. These ridiculous claims can hardly be considered as historically proven.
Sitaram Goel analyzes the relation between the Prophet and the unbelievers. As a Hindu, i.e. as a Pagan, he is especially interested in the viewpoint of the Arab polytheists. That is one thing which makes this book a milestone in the science of religion. Until now, the study of Islam has been either a part of Christian apologetics, which applauded Mohammed’s destruction of idolatry even while denouncing his claims of prophethood as imposture; or it was part of the recent effort to create a “better understanding” of Islam, which in effect tends to mean the apriori suppression of all criticism of Mohammed as being mere prejudice. Here, a Pagan stands up to reconstruct the Pagan viewpoint.
That it is a Hindu who should direct our attention to the viewpoint of the Arab Pagans, is normal. Hinduism is almost the only polytheist culture to survive till today, and the attitude of the Muslims towards Arab and Indian Pagans was essentially the same. In pre-Islamic days, there were not only intense trade contacts between Indian and Arab Pagans, but also a kind of pilgrimage exchange. The Hindus visiting Arabia payed their respects to the Arab sanctuaries, and considered the black stone in the Kaaba as a shivalingam, a phallus of Shiva (as Western orientalists translate it). The Arabs, in turn, went to pray in the Somnath temple in Gujrat. The Muslims believed that the idols of the Pagan goddesses Al-Lat and Manat (of Satanic Verses fame) had been transferred to Somnath, and this is one reason why Mahmud Ghaznavi and other Muslims risked their lives in conducting raids deep into Hindu territory in order to destroy the Somnath temple.
Within the framework of the current unprejudiced approach to Islam, multiculturalist do-gooders copy all the Islamic accusations against the Pagans, a party which isn’t there anymore to give its own version of the facts. They say that Paganism no longer satisfied the Arabs, so that they welcomed Islam; that the Prophet identified with the poor and was welcomed by them as a liberator from the oppressive Pagan elite; that the Muslims were the victims of persecution by Pagan fanatics, so that their fight against the Pagans was merely defensive; that the position of women in Islam “may not be ideal, but at least a great step forwards compared to the pre-Islamic period”; that the Pagans only opposed Mohammed because they feared for their unrighteous power positions and for the dishonest income from the superstitious pilgrimage to the Kaaba idols. Similar things hve been said by the negationists about the advent of Islam in India, demonstrably wrongly.
In numerous European works on Islam, the Islamic negative judgement on the Arab Pagans is adopted lock, stock and barrel. Only Mohammed’s relation with Jews and Christians comes in for a bit of polite criticism. Of course, if on some occasions Mohammed was tolerant towards Jews and Christians, it was because he had borrowed from them the monotheism which he wanted to impose on his own people, and because he had expected them to recognize him, in due course, as a Prophet of their own tradition. For the Pagans there was no mercy at all (except in one promising moment of weakness, the socalled Satanic Verses in which he accorded a measure of respect to three Pagan goddesses). Those who like to fight against intercultural prejudices and misconceptions, should accord posthumous restoration of honour to the destroyed culture of the Arab Pagans, whose own testimony has been obliterated though it can be glimpsed indirectly through some passages in Islamic Scripture. Serious historiography would start by noticing that the Islamic reports on the Pagans are the highly coloured version of their mortal enemy.
The Islamic statements about the unbelievers, in the original Hadis as well as (in fact, even more strongly) in modern apologetics, serve a similar purpose as the anti-Semitic Nazi film The dirty Jew Suss, or the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion. They serve to justify the annihilation of a religion and the subjection of a nation (Mohammed conceived of his community as a nation). While the core of the Islamic version of islam’s early history is of course historical,, there is no doubt that,, on top of the highly partisan viewpoint expressed in the Quran,, a lot of motivated distortion has crept in during the two centuries between the facts and the edition of the Hadis.
For instance, the contention made in the Hadith that the Muslims in Mecca (before Mohammed set up his state in Medina) were subjected to persecution, is not borne out by the more reliable information in the Quran (finalized a few years after Mohammed’s death). The Quran gives a lot of details about the Pagans’ reaction to Mohammed’s performance, what questions and arguments they confronted him with; but persecution does not figure in it. Any hints at confrontation date from the time when Mohammed, already established as the leader of Medina, had launched his caravan raids and finally his open warfare against the Meccans and other unbelievers.
Even the Islamic traditions leave us in no doubt as to who ws the aggressor. in Ibn Ishaq’s orthodox biography of Mohammed, we read that the first blood in Islamic history flowed when a Meccan happened to witness the prayer-session of the new sect, laughed, and got beaten up (the very act of laughing is still frowned upon in Islamic theology). One fine day, Mohammed announced to the Meccans in the Kaaba: “By the One Who holds my life in His hand, I bring you slaughter.” Without provocation, he and his comrades used to disturb the Pagan festivals and insult the Meccan religion.
The Pagans were definitely not intolerant: they allowed Christians and Jews to live amongst them, in spite of the persecutions by Jewish and Christian leaders only a few decades earlier. It was Mohammed who rejected any “live and let live” agreement, most explicitly when this proposal was made to him around his uncle Abu Talib’s deathbed. The simpletons who claim that the Quranic verse: “To you your religion, to me my religion” (Q.109:6), is a statement of tolerance, should know that this is literally the proposal made to him around Abu Talib’s deathbed by the Arab Pagans, and that he turned it down, demanding that they embrace Islam, nothing less. The Quranic verse simply means: I will have nothing to do with you, there is no compromise possible between your religion and mine. The Indian secularists who have dreamed up the notion of composite culture uniting Islamic and native Indian elements, should remember that according to every Muslim who stands by the Quran, such synthesis of Islamic and non-Islamic elements is impermissible and a watered-down act of apostasy.
Mohammed did not tolerate the Meccans’ rejection of his claim to prophethood, and threatened all non-believers in his claim with hellfire. If the civilized and tolerant Meccans didn’t tolerate his intolerant rantings forever, it is quite understandable; but still their patience was a lot bigger than Islamic apologetics wants us to believe. It is only logical for a religion which preaches war, to develop a cult of martyrdom (unknown in Buddhism and Taoism, among others); the Hadis traditionists have blamed the whole conflict on the destroyed Pagan society of Mecca, and attributed a touch of heroic martyrology to the early Muslims. But the fact that it is the Pagan and not the Muslim version which has been obliterated, is a strong clue to who was aggressor and who was victim.
Sitaram Goel is one of the first historians to keep the proper distance from the partisan Muslim version. He summarizes what we may know objectively about the Pagan culture and the complexities of its religion, through inscriptions, pre-Islamic literary documents (Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian), and indirectly through Islamic scripture. They had a pantheon comparable to that of the ancient Greeks or Hindus, embodying metaphysical, cosmological and ethical notions. On this basis Mr. Goel rejects the now-classical description of the Arab-Pagans as “quarelling rabble addicted to idol-worship”, and concludes: “It is nothing short of slanderous to say that pre-Islamic Arabs were barbarians devoid of religion and culture, unless we mean by religion and culture what the Muslim theologians mean.”
The Arab Pagans have only made the mistake of being defeated, but “the fact that they failed to understand the ways of Mohammed and could not match his mailed fist in the final round, should not be held against them. It was neither the first nor the last time that a democratic society succumbed in the face of determined gangsterism. We know how Lenin, Hitler and Mao Tse-tung succeeded in our own times.”
A modern myth spread by Islamic apologists and especially by Western friends of Islam, is that the Meccans did not really care for their religion, and only opposed Mohammed because of financial calculations concerning the revenue of the annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba. For instance, in the introduction to Prof. J.H. Kramers’s Dutch translation of the Quran, we read: “In Mohammed’s time the religious aspect of the Haji festival had been lost, it had become a big market, more fit for doing business than for devotion to the gods… The Arab religion was a primitive polytheism, poor in real religiosity…”
However, it is a fact that the Meccans’ revenue increased immensely after the Kaaba had been transformed into an Islamic place of pilgrimage, anf after the entry into the Muslim fold gave them the right to share in the booty of raids and conquests: they gained enormously by converting, at least politically and materially. More pertient for the historian is the fact that the Islamic sources themselves don’t bother about attributing such materialistic motives to the Meccans, and merely hold it against them that they are idolaters and refuse to recognize Mohammed’s prophethood. At most, accusations of injustice and hoarding riches are added to blacken them, but the object of the Islamic campaign against them is not to change their socio-economic life (although this would inevitably be influenced by the endless inflow of booty and later by the imperial size and structure of the Islamic state), but to change the religion.
The crude allegation of materialistic motives can be turned around against Mohammed, on firmer grounds. The Meccans were traders, and maybe some were even usurers, as modern apologetics claims. But Mohammed was worse: he organized 80 raids on peaceful caravans, and led 26 of them in person. He had Allah reveal that booty from raids on Pagans and conquest of Pagan lands was lawful (Q.8.69), and that one-fifth of the booth (including slaves) was the Prophet’s own. If no fighting had occurred, all of the booty belonged to Allah and His Prophet.
In the classic of Marxist negationism, Communalism in Modern India, Prof. Bipan Chandra describes how “Hindu communalists” spread the myth of the inherently intolerant character of Islam, and quotes as prime example the Hindu Mahasabha leader Swatantryaveer Savarker, who wrote in 1923: “Religion is a mighty motive force. So is rapine. But where religion in goaded on by rapine and rapine serves as a handmaid to religion, the propelling force that is generated by these together is only equalled by the profundity of human misery and devastation they leave behind them in their march. Heaven and Hell making a common case - such were the forces, overwhelmingly furious, that took India by surprise the day that Mahmud Ghaznavi crossed the Indus and invaded her.” Of course, Bipan Chandra doesn’t even attempt to argue against the contents of this statement, he takes it as axioma that such views are nothing but inventions of a communalist false consciousness.
Whatever we may think of Savarkar’s poolitical views, his brief analysis of the nature and impact of islam is impeccable. It is not only borne out by the career of Islam in India, but also in detail, by the Quran and Hadith. They have no room for doubt about Mohammed’s own unhesitating initiative in linking religion with rapine.
To justify his share of the booty, Mohammed decreed that his own revenue, both from booty and from the charity tax (zakat) which all Muslims had to pay, was to be used for charity. Here we have another item from the apologist’s tool kit: the notion that Mohammed brought the practice of charity to the selfish and greedy Pagans. In fact, the zakat was originally a Pagan practice on an individual basis, which was nationalized by Mohammed’s Islamic state. As for its caritative purposes: the Hadith collections tell us more about the Islamic revenue being used to buy arms and horses, for new and bigger raids, than aboout charity in the usual sense. In fact, the Quranic decree (9.60) that this income be used in the service of Allah and “for winning over the hearts [to Islam]”, means in plain language: for the Holy War, and as a material incentive for loyalty to Islam. So, all the resources which became available to the Muslim state through whatever means, were to be used to strengthen and expand this state; charity to keep the poor happy was one element in this policy, but really a minor one. The end justified the means, and war coffers of Medina as well as the enthusiasm of the Islamic soldiers were replenished with a constant infolow of booty. Those who perforce want to reduce the conflict between Pagans and Muslims to case of crude greed, had better thrown the stone in Mohammed’s direction.
The real reason why the Meccans rejected Mohammed’s prophecies, can be inferred very clearly from the Quran. It was not for any materialistic reason, because at that time especially after the creation of the first Islamic state in Medina, joining Mohammed was the short road to wealth and slave-ownership. The real reasons, which the Meccans themselves formulated in discussion with Mohammed, were the following.
Firstly, they were attached to their ancestral religion. This is not stupid obscurantism, but a very sensible consequence of the basic premise that religion is concerned with eternal truths. Give me that old-time religion: it was good for my ancestors, it is good enough for me. The Meccans felt a sincere disgust when Mohammed consigned their ancestors, including his own mother to the fire of hell because of their having lived in the pre-Mohammedan “era of ignorance” (jahiliya). The split of history into hell-bound people who had not been followers of Mohammed, and heaven-bound Mohammedans, was just too puerile (and egocentric on Mohammed’s part) to be taken serious by a grown-up human beings.
Secondly, the Meccans made a clear diagnosis of someone who hears voices and thinks he is God’s own spokesman. A number of times of Quran dictates what Mohammed has to answer when the Pagans say he is possessed. In modern terminology, the Pagans thought he was mentally deranged. That is not a prejudice from medieval polemics Islam, but the perception of numerous contemporary eye-witnesses. Moreover, the orthodox biography and the traditions also give some involuntary indications for a neuro-mental disorder: as a child Mohammed had been thrown on the ground general times (by God), to the worry of his guardians; when receiving revelations he became all chilly and foamed at the mouth; his first revelations frightened him intensely and he himself wondered whether he was becoming crazy (the soothing impact of habit and of his compassionate wife Khadija re-assured him). The Meccans’ inference that Mohammed was merely hallucinating, whether correct or not, was at any rate not far-fetched, nor necessarily dishonest.
When the most authentic sources keep on saying that the Meccans opposed Mohammed because they didn’t believe him and because they refused to give up their time-tested religion for the railings of a mad poet, it is methodologically quite indefensible to ignore this and to replace it with the gratuitous contention that they defended their religion only out of false materialistic motives. Imagine being in the same situation as the Meccans: someone walks into your house uninvitedly and telly you that he has a private telephone line with God that he is the last one to enjoy this privilege, that he cn intercede for you on Judgement Day, that you have to smash to pieces what you cherish most, and that you will burn forever in hell if you don’t believe him. Would you need any base motives to show him the door?
3.5 The Nature of Islam
While Mohammed enthusiastically assumed his role of God’s spokesman because of a peculiar psychological condition, the theology which he espoused and which was developed in detail by later generations of Muslims clerics, was largely a continuation of the older monotheism of the Jews and Christians. From them, Mohammed had picked up a number of Bible stories and theological notions including prophethood. A large part of the Old Testament is devoted to the struggle against polytheism and idolatry. Moses ordered the sternest measures against these alternatives to his own cult of Yahweh, and successive prophets would employ the foulest language and sometimes the most treacherous means to annihilate god-pluralism.
In advanced Christian apologetics, the struggle between the One God and the many gods is portrayed as a struggle between the proper religious veneration of the Divine and the false religious treatment of non-religious objects like money, status, enjoyment, power and other worldly things. But that is not at all what the prophets’ fierce and sometimes bloody struggle against idol-worship was about. The two contenders were not ethically different, and among the Ten Commandments, only the first and second (no other gods, no images of sentient beings) were a point of difference between Pagans and monotheists. They were not the violent vs. the peaceful, or the lewd vs. the chaste (in the prophets’ tirades, fornication means idolatry) or the good vs. the bad, or the religious vs. the irreligious. The Pagans had a culture, a code of ethics, a religion complete with rituals, festivals mystical practices and doctrines; at best, the monotheists had the same things, but under the aegis of a different God, the jealous and vindictive Yahweh/Allah. What Moses could not tolerate about the Golden Calf, was not that it was made of gold (as modern moralistic Christians think), for it was only natural that people wanted to sacrifice some of their riches to glorify what they consider most sacred, viz. the god they worship. The Horned god worshipped by the Pagans in Moses’ following was not intolerable because his statue was made of god, but because he was an alternative to Yahweh.
In his chapter on the doctrine of iconoclasm, Sitaram Goel traces this doctrine to its Old Testament sources, and lists all the instances of verbal and physical violence against idolatry. This story might make defenders of Islam say: “See whatever you say about Islam, Judaism and Christianity aren’t any better.” That is true if you consider an earlier stage of the Jewish and Christian religions. But it is a hopeful sign that these two religions have come a long way since the arch-fanatic Moses. The Jews have not had a state for many centuries, and they have developed a social outlook of live and let live. They never had a doctrine of world conquest anyway, and had limited their ambition to the Promised Land. In present-day Israel, the Jewish authorities respect and protect the religious rights and pilgrimage places of Christians, Muslims and Bahais. Judaism is one religion that has actually grown, matured over the centuries. For Christianity, the days of persecuting Pagans and heretics are not that far behind us yet and more civilized forms of fanaticism are still there. But at least the principle of religious freedom has been conceded by the Second Vatican Council, and the effort to enter a dialogue with other religions is not entirely an eyewash.
The last few centureies, a strong humanization has taken place within Chrisitianity. For instance, after condoning the institution of slavery of about 18 centuries, Christian have abolished slavery in their domains. The motive was not outside pressure alone, but also ethical considertions developed by Christial clerics ant thinkers since the Renaissance. As the case of William Wilberforce shows, abolition of slavery could even go hand with Christian fanaticism. By contrast Islamic countries have only abolished slavery under pressure from Western culture. Even after that, slavery has continued to be practised occasionally in countries like Sudan and Mauretania.
The Islamic doctrine of slavery was closely linked with its doctrine of the inescapable struggle between believers and unbelievers: a Pagan could not own a Muslim slave, but a Muslim could of course own a Pagan slave, and Pagans were routinely sold into slavery if they had the misfortune of being captured by Muslims. Wherefrom the European folklore character of Saint Nicolas’ associate, the Moor Black Pete, who puts naughty children in his bag to carry them off and beat them with his rod. And wherefrom the Afrikaans (South African) word kaffer, negro, originally black slave, from Arabic kafir, Pagan. In contemporary Islamic apologetics for African and Black American consumption, Islam is portrayed as anti-slavery. That is yet another instance of negationism.
Another example of the difference between Islam and Christianity is the fact that among the Christian missionaries who accompanied the Conquistadores in the New World, there were some who expressed pity and regret when they described the sad plight of the native Americans. There were some who tried to save the natives’ lives and freedom (though not their religion). In the numerous chronicles of the Muslim conquests and rule in India, there are to my knowldege no such considerations. At least a germ of a universal ethics and a universal human fellow-feeling, transcending the frontiers between religious communities, was present in Christianity, even if for a very long time it was obscured by monotheistic and ecclesiastic exclusivism (“outside the Church no slavation”). In Islam, this glimpse of universalism is confined to a few of the early heterodox Sufis, who were considered heretics by authoritative guardians of Islam. At any rate, their works are only read by a few intellectual amateurs, but the official doctrines are hammered into children’s minds in Islamic schools the world over. An occasional tolerant Muslim does not have the power to overrule and abrogate the Quran. Not one Islamic school in the world teaches that Allah’s declarations of war on the unbelievers stand abrogated. The cleavage of humanity into Muslims and non-Muslims is so fundamental of Islamic doctrine, that it is very hard to even imagine the transformation of Islam into a tolerant religion.
Christianity has a broader basis than just the Moses line of intolerant monotheism, it has incorporated elements from Pagan sources such as Greek philosophy, and so it can disown some parts of its history without having to disown its very identity and dissolve itself. Judaism has developed a pluralist culture of debate and interpretation, embodied in the Talmud, which makes it temperamentally averse to the fanaticism characteristic of the world-conquering religions. But Islam is bound up very closely with the text of the Quran and the personality of Mohammed. It cannot disown these without dissolving itself. Islam is by its own description a “seamless garment”: pull out one thread and the whole fabric comes apart. Since fanaticism and persecution of non-Muslims are an intrinsic and strongly emphasized teaching of the Quran, there is no hope of witnessing the emergence of a genuinely tolerant Islam.
Sitaram Goel’s sharp criticism of Islam can in no way be explained as an expression of anti-Arab racism (which would be the standard reply to such criticism in Europe). First of all, equating Islam criticism with anti-Arab racism is a typically eurocentric allegation, because outside Europe the opposition between Muslim and non-Muslim seldom has a racial dimension. Moreover, Islam (and more generally monothieism) had been a foreign and eccentric fad to the Arabs, and was forcibly imposed on them by Mohammed. As Sitaram Goel explains, the Arabs were the first to be robbed of their culture by Islam. Like the Persians, Egyptians and many others after them, they were robbed of their history, which was condemned as an age of darkness and replaced by a fake ancestry involving Ismael and Abraham.
Even the large-scale crimes against humanity which the Arabs were to commit during the Islamic Blitzkrieg under Mohammed and his immediate successors, should not be held against the Arabs, but against Islam: “Nor should the image of what the Arabs became after they were forced into the fold of Islam be confused with what they were before… For it was Islam which brutalized the Arabs and turned them into bloodthirsty bandits who spread fire and sword, far and wide. In the majority of mankind, the baser drives of human nature are never far from the threshold. Islam brought them to the fore in the case of the majority of Arabs.” Criticizing Islam is not an attack on nations or individuals, but it is an ideological critique, as well as a psychological critique of what is called prophethood. Instead of accusing “the Muslims” of the numerous crimes which their community has undeniably committed, this critique absolves many Muslim-born individuals of this guilt, by placing it squarely where it belongs: in the doctrine of Islam as the ideological motivation for these acts of fanaticism.
In Europe there is no Voltaire anymore who would dare to give one of his works the title “Mahomet ou le fanatisme” (“Mohammed or fanaticism”, a play criticizing religious fanaticism, showing Mohammed murdering one of his critics). Even the Rushdie affair has not sent European intellectuals searching Islamic Scripture and informing the public that Mohammed himself had ordered the murder of poets who had criticized him, thus setting the example for Khomeini’s “death sentence” on Rushdie. There is no Schopenhauer anymore who dares to speak openly of the contrast between the humane philosophies of South and East Asia and the barbaric fanaticism taught and practised by Mohammed.
European intelectuals observe a taboo on criticism of Islam. I am sure this is only temporary, but at least it is definitely the case today. This criticism of Islam, making use of all the methodological process which the science of history has made in the West, must now apparently be done in India. A powerful lead in this endeavour has been given by Sitaram Goel.
After debunking the pious claims which Islamic apologists, Indian “secularists” and Western “multiculturalists” (who do not realize that Islam has systematically destroyed pluralist cultures and is the very antithesis of multicultural co-existence) are making for Islam, intellectuals should prepare for the next important task: helping the Muslim masses on their way into a humanist world culture, i.e. out of the mental and social shackles of Islam. We have to educate the Muslim masses on their way into a humanist world culture, i.e. out of the mental and social shackles of Islam. We have to educate the Muslim masses, and frankly make them aware of the choice they have: staying in or opting out of a religion of backwardness and fanaticism. We should not have the field of information about Islam to the obscurantist mullahs and the negationist history-falsifiers. This is more than a propaganda task, because it involves understanding the universal values which common Muslims identify with Islam, and preserving them while eliminating the distinctive exclusivism and fanaticism of Islam.
Islam is not an inborn quality of a community of people, which has to be accepted as an unchangeable element which we have to learn to live with. The Muslims are just human beings, descendants of people who were mostly converted to Islam under pressure (ranging from material incentives to a choice at swordpoint), and there is no reason to believe that they are immune to the influence of rational thought and humanist culture. But straightforward criticism of Islam is likely to infuriate the Islamic clerics and many common Muslims. A lot of intelligence will be needed to dissolve the mental grip of Islam in a gentle way.
The easy part is to be honest with ourselves, and stop these attempts to paint Islam in rosy colours. It is the duty of all those who come in contact with negationism, to expose this intellectual crime. We need not pin people down on the appalling record of the religion they were born into, and we may forgive everything, but wrongdoings can only be forgiven once they are recognized as such. Therefore, there is no virtue in concealing and denying the crimes against humanity which Islam has committed systematically in India and elsewhere. For social harmony, it is far better to face the truth.
Of course, ultimately it is for the Muslims themselves to see the shortcomings of their religion, and revise it suitably so that it permits them to live at peace with non-Muslims. No critique of Islam from the outside can be a substituite for a critique from within the Muslim fold. But so long as Muslims are held down by despotic theocracies or frightened by fierce fundamentalism, and cannot speak freely, people from the outside have to speak freely, people from the outside have to speak for them. The history of how Christian theocracy and Communist totalitarianism got shaken in the long run, shows the way. In both cases, it was a critique from the outside which proved a powerful catalytic agent. Voices of reason and humanism have a way of penetrating the thickest theological walls and the strongest iron curtains.
In this context, Hindus are in a unique position. They have been victims of Islamic imperialism and intolerance for more than thirteen centuries. They know it in their bones what Islam has done to their ancient homeland, their society, their culture, and what it has so far stood for. They have only to stop complaining about the Muslim behaviour pattern, and trace that pattern to its source in the Islamic scripture: then they will acquire an initiative which they have never had in their long encounter with Islam. Once they educate themselves about the true character of Islam, they will be in a position to educate their Muslim countrymen, on most of whom Islam sits rather lightly. It need not be a compaign for Shuddhi, it has to be only a battle for liberating Muslims from the stranglehold of a closed creed.