Asghar Ali Engineer


(Secular Perspective March 16-31-2006)


The bomb explosion in the Sankatmochan temple and Varanasi railway station on 8th March once again has shaken the country. These criminals against humanity often invoke Islam for their dirty criminal deeds and assume Arabic sounding names and call themselves ‘mujahids’ to pass their misdeeds as an act of jihad. It can deceived no one and least of all Muslims. In fact these terrorists have their own political agenda and to promote this agenda they do not mind disgracing fair name of Islam. If we doubt anything it is their Islam. Either consciously or unconsciously they are promoting the agenda of enemies of Islam. The repeated acts of terrorism on their part have indeed done great damage to image of Islam.


No religion promotes violence and any religion, which does, cannot qualify for being a religion. All religions lay great stress on non-violence and peace be it Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Janinism or Sikkhism. And for Islam peace is most central. Allah, whom Muslims worship as the only God, His one of the names is Peace and thus worshipping Allah means worshipping peace. Any Muslim who causes hurt or injury to any other human being without justification should be punished in equal measure.


The Qur’an clearly says in verse 5:32 “…whosoever kills a person unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he had killed entire humanity. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the entire humanity.” Such is the sanctity of life in the eyes of Allah. Thus these so called ‘mujahidin’ are openly defying the injunctions of the Qur’an and slaughtering innocent people in places of worship. Even under the rules of jihad (although the Qur’an does not use the word jihad for war even once) the holy Prophet required Muslims not to kill any non-combatant or women or children or destroy any property or standing crops in the field.


These so called jihadis defy every rule of the shari’ah. How can then they be described as ‘holy warriors’? They are nothing more than murderers. If they are killing for revenge then that is also not considered a praiseworthy act in Islam. Allah is repeatedly described by the Qur’an as Ghafoor al-Rahim i.e. the Pardoner and Compassionate. Then how can those who worship a pardoning and compassionate God will kill innocent people as they often do in the name of jihad?


All this clearly shows that what these various terrorist organisations do in the name of jihad is far from any religious act. No one can accept indiscriminate acts of violence as integral part of religion. All such acts should be strongly condemned.


It is a matter of pride that generally Indian Muslims are not involved in such acts of terrorism nor are they part of Al-Qaeda. However, there may be some exceptions. All such terror organisations breed under authoritarian regime. Indian Islam is no purist nor is obsessed with restoration of early days. It is product of a multi-religious ethos which were nurtured by Sufis whose universal doctrine has been sulh-i-kul i.e. total peace and peace with all. Indian Islam has richly contributed to the composite culture. Apart from Sufis even the traditional ‘ulama in India accepted secular democracy and composite culture and did not support separatism. Jami’at al’Ulama played glorious role in Indian independence and supported the Congress nationalism without any reservation. Thus Indian Islam never supported extremism of any kind in the name of Islam.


It is unfortunate that many people in India do not understand this and after every such incident demand proof of Muslim loyalty and want ‘moderate’ Muslims to condemn it as Muslims. This is not in keeping with secular ethos. Why Indian Muslims should be required to condemn such acts of terror as Muslims and not as Indians. Such an attitude keeps us divided. The underlying assumption is that Muslims are not part of national mainstream. It really irritates when such demand comes even from otherwise secular people.


Also the word ‘moderate’ Muslim also conveys certain mindset. The underlying assumption is that all other Muslims are ‘extremists’ and support such acts of terrorism whereas fact is that overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace loving as demonstrated both in Delhi in October and in Benaras when bombs exploded in the Sankatmochan temple. The large number of Muslims and Hindus showed great solidarity and frustrated the designs of communalists to use the opportunity to provoke communal violence.


The Mufti of Benaras issued a statement strongly condemning bomb explosion in the Sankatmochan temple and on request from me issued a fatwa against the bomb explosion. Also Muslim women took out a morcha against the explosion and demanded strong punishment against the culprits. Muslims also queued up for donating blood for the injured so much so that the blood bank officials had to plead with Muslims that we cannot take more blood as their capacity was no more. What better example of human solidarity?


The Hindu masses also frustrated the political designs of communalists and did not express any support for the yatra announced by the BJP leader Shri Lalkrishna Advani. BJP also demanded in this hour of grave crisis dismissal of Mulayamsingh Yadav Ministry. This also did not go well with the masses and they reacted against such politicising of a grave human problem. Instead of sincerely helping the people affected by the tragedy they were busy playing their politics.


Our politicians hardly ever measure up to standards of democracy. They want to exploit every event for their purposes. It is indeed politicising of every such events that creates conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Left to themselves they will never fight. If people were inclined to fight there would have been immediate outburst of communal violence in Benaras. Despite efforts by the communalists people refused to be provoked.


People have also learnt from various communal conflicts that how communal politicians play with their religious sentiments and make them fight. The BJP all along played this game sometimes in the name of ‘psuedo-secularism’ and sometimes in the name of ‘appeasement of minorities’. Even Ram temple issue no longer appeals to Hindus. The communal elements are at the end of tether.


The coming elections in U.P. after few months, on the other hand, are making them restless and in view of their lowest ever popularity are at their wits’ end as how to entice the Hindu masses. Even their allies like JD(U) and Trinamul Congress are no more enthusiastic about various BJP’s plans. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar has not approved of Advani’s Yatra after the Benaras bomb blasts and he categorically said that he will not support it as and when it passes through Bihar. Nitish Kumar is busy wooing Muslims in Bihar. He has even reopened communal riots cases of Bhagalpur.


Even Laluprasad Yadav did not reopen these cases as he did not want to displease his Yadav voters who were mainly involved in Bhagalpur riots. Nitish Kumar, in order to woo Muslims away from Laluprasad is reopening these cases after sixteen years. Thus though still allied to BJP he is clearly cold-shouldering it. TDP has already broke away from NDA after facing defeat in general elections in 2004. TDP lost elections in Andhra Pradesh for aligning with the BJP.


Thus it is period of isolation for the BJP. Its communal politics paid dividends for sometime but it is finding it difficult to exploit communal issues. If the BJP does not give up its communal politics, it will find it increasingly difficult to win elections. At one time it exploited backward caste votes in the name of Ram and now backward castes are being wooed by number of other secular parties. Even Mayawati is seeking backward caste and Rajput and even Brahmin votes.


The Muslim leaders also have learnt after demolition of Babri Masjid that politics of confrontation would no longer pay and are keeping low profile. It is very much in the interests of Muslim masses. Muslim masses also can no longer be swayed by communal appeals. It is interesting to note that Yaqub Qureshi, the minister from U.P. was isolated when he announced that he would pay Rs. 51 crores to one who kills the Danish cartoonist.


The Muslims showed total indifference to him, which he eminently deserved. It was at best a political gimmick. He too had an eye on coming elections in U.P. He wanted to emerge as champion of Muslims and acquire a national stature. He should have been dismissed from the cabinet, as he not only brought disgrace to Islam but also to our country in the eyes of other nations.


We are a secular democratic nation and our father of nation is Mahatma Gandhi who was apostle of non-violence and peace. How can a minister from this country announce monetary reward for killing a foreign national, whatever his crime? One should protest against it with dignity and demand from Danish Government to take action as per their law. What he announced was also totally against the principles of Islam, as pointed out above.  It is unfortunate that Mulayam Singh kept quiet about such a grave pronouncement by his cabinet minister. He should have at least warned him. But Mulayamsingh is no angle and not above electoral politics.


Benaras undoubtedly has acquired a status of a political model for whole country that people could maintain calm in view of gravest threat to peace. Let us hope the country will follow it. 


Centre for Study of Society and Secularism




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