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Hindu-Muslim Fissures:NEED FOR COMPOSITE CULTURE, by Syed Ali Mujtaba, 1 Sept, 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 1 September 2010

Hindu-Muslim Fissures


By Syed Ali Mujtaba


Cultural integration took a back-seat in the Lok Sabha last week when regional satraps RJD’s Lalu and SP’s Mulayam upped the ante on the Enemy Property Bill by calling it “anti-Muslim”. Notwithstanding, the necessity for forcefully propagating the idea of inclusive development and composite culture through inter-faith dialogue between different religious communities is increasingly being felt in India.

This is because those spreading canard of lies, hate and stereotypes are having a field day in the country while those preaching peaceful co-existence and unity in diversity are getting marginalized. Some feel the peace activists are not academically sound to articulate their point of view, while their opponents have gathered a high degree of expertise in communication technique and skills.

There is a deliberate attempt to create fissures in society by stereotyping the Muslim community through propping up the spectre of ogre in the minds against those advocating exclusive development. As factually there is no historical background to stereotype a community in India.

Clearly, intellectual bankruptcy is emboldening those working for excluding Muslims and other religious minorities from reaping the benefits of development. One such stereotype of the Muslim community is that it’s perceived as invaders, temple destroyers, who multiply like rabbits, do not bathe and are butchers (kasai).

Take the Muslims as invaders theory. The contact between Arabian traders and India predates the birth of Islamic faith. Whereby Kerala was the contact point between both countries centuries before the existence of Islam. Hinduism welcomed Islam with open arms after its birth and gave land for the construction of the first mosque in India at Cranganore near Cochin called the Cheruman Perumal Mosque when the Prophet was still alive.

Two, North India was invaded by people of many faiths and specificity long before those professing Islamic religion. But these conquests are never highlighted in public discourse and instead the conquest of Muslims is drummed up to serve political and social purposes. 

In this spread of lies, Babar occupies centre-stage and the entire Muslim community in India is branded as sons of Babur (Babur ki aulad).  The slogan during the Babri Masjid demolition campaign: “Babur ke auladon ko, Joota maro salon ko,” is still fresh in public memory. No matter, the historical fact that Babar was invited by Hindu ruler Hemu to fight Ibrahim Lodi, the then Muslim ruler of India. Yet he is typecast as an invader. The irony is the entire country believes this and maintains a conspiracy of silence in the persecution of Muslims. 

Similarly it’s wrong to assert that Muslim rulers were temple destroyers. The 11th Century Hindu King Harsha of Kashmir (1089-1111) had a regular department assigned with the task of looting Hindu temples to augment national coffers.

The fact that both Muslim and Hindu communities destroyed temples with avowed objectives to fill their coffers has never being highlighted, whereas, the stereo-typing of Muslims as destroyers of temples is selectively done to appease majority sentiments. Paradoxically, such lies are allowed to have a free run as enlightened people remain silent.

Besides, to state that Muslims multiply like rabbits, do not bathe and behave like butchers is a misnomer. This is done with evil and malicious intentions. The census demolishes the myth of Muslims multiplying. Similarly, the canard that Muslims do not bathe is far from true. Every Muslim has to perform the ritual ablution five times a day and clean with water. How many times do people of other religions do so? As for Muslim behavior it has nothing to do with a community per se but is an individual trait.

Significantly, Muslims have made immense contribution in shaping the contours of inclusive development based on India’s composite culture. Emperor Akbar accorded great respect to all religions. This was reflected in the promulgation of a new religion called ‘Deen-i-Illahi’. His rule was the manifestation of sulh-e-kul (harmony for all). Similarly, Dara Shikoh translated the Upanishads in Persian and made valiant efforts for evolving a composite culture. 

There are numerous examples that illustrate the continuation of composite traditions. The Lord Jaggannath Rath Yatra in Orissa begins with a song written by Sal Baig and its best singer is Sikander Alam. The best Bhajan ‘Man Tadpata Hari Darshan Ko Aaj’ was penned by Shakil Badayuni, composed by Naushad and sung by Mohmmad Rafi. No Kathakali performance is possible without invoking the name of Kotakkal Haider Ali. Similarly, Justice Ismail of Madras is the only authority on Kumbh Ramayana.

The classical music tradition is the best example of composite culture. There are umpteen examples of ustad-chela relationship cutting across religious lines. Many of the musical maestros and disciples have an inter-faith relationship.

The Muslim-Hindu bond is also reflected in the field of art and architecture. A study of medieval paintings and architecture shows how united the communities were at that time. It continues to surprises why, how and for what purpose differences arose. Given that composite culture is the common heritage of all people living in a geographical space.

Further, culture has nothing to do with religion. Faith is an individual’s choice while different cultures are common to all irrespective of faiths. As outside places of worships, there exists a great degree of communality that binds people together leading to a rancour free society.

Towards that end, various cultural mores and customs are enthusiastically adopted by inter-religious communities. Festivals like Holi and Moharram sees participation of both communities with equal zest and enthusiasm. Common attire and language are results of the osmosis of composite culture.

However, today all this is being forgotten. It seems the forces invoking communalism and creating chasms among communities are winning while those working for peaceful co-existence are getting marginalized. The communal-minded people are creating havoc, playing with people’s sentiments and labeling the Muslim community. By erasing all traits of composite culture. Forgetting that the history of peaceful co-existence among Hindus and Muslims far exceeds those of conflict in the country.

Thus, it is time that every Indian starts looking seriously at this issue and tries to stop those propagating exclusive development. This could be done through preaching inclusive development both at the geographical and social level. As development and democracy are inextricably linked, the fruit of development must reach all sections of society including Muslims. This in turn, might help create a congenial atmosphere and ultimately facilitate in buttressing peace, harmony, stability and enrichment of the country. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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