A way to removing prevailing, perennial Hindu-Muslim tension in India and creating a lasting amity would be if Indian Muslims start respecting their Hindu heritage like the Muslims in Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority country in the world, have done. At the same time, if Hindus in India accept and embrace Muslims as part of them, part of the Indian society.
In the past 1000 years or so, no effort was made by Indian Muslims to feel proud of their Hindu culture and heritage. On the contrary, Indian Muslims were determined to reject anything Hindu as ‘haraam’. This prompted V S Naipaul to say:
“A (Muslim) convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has to turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance to societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away has to be done again and again”.
In the independent India, situation has further been aggravated by Nehruvian Hindu secularists, Communist secularists and many regional so-called (Islam leaning) Hindu secular parties. They consciously encouraged strengthening of separate Muslim identity of Indian Muslims. These secularists projected themselves as the messiah of Indian Muslims only for vote-based politics.
In last 70 years, Indian Muslims also felt comfortable in their role of ‘immature Muslim children’ under the custody of those ‘secular Indians’. Indian Muslims could never chart out their own path and many of them even could not escape from the home-grown Islamism and that penetrated India from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Islamic countries.
If by accepting and respecting Hindu heritage openly, Indonesian Muslims can remain Muslims, what problems do Indian Muslims have in doing so for the interest of peace, harmony and their socio-economic advancement? They should come out of the insular box of Islamism and embrace multiculturalism. If, at the same time, the Hindus can respect Islam as a separate theological entity in a multicultural society, what harm will that do to the Indians? India is large enough to accommodate multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual and multi-religious societies. Indeed, India prides itself to be exactly that. So, why Muslims cannot live amicably side by side in the vast multiplicity of societies in India, when there is mutual respect for one another?
The author, Bhaskar, is a freelance writer.