19. How not to deal with Islam

 

         When dealing with Islam, it is crucially important to keep in mind the distinction between Islam as a doctrine and the Muslims, a group of people who were born or tricked into an Islamic environment.  There is nothing intrinsically Islamic about human beings, not even when they are named Mohammed or Aisha.

 

         In Europe, the secularist Left accuses the mushrooming national‑populist and xenophobic parties of a "biologization of cultural differences".  When the said parties plead that they have put "racism" behind them, that they have nothing against coloured people or foreigners per se, and that they only fear for social disharmony as a consequence of the co‑existence of European and immigrant cultures, their opponents rightly argue that this implies a belief in the permanent character of people's cultural identity.  By assuming that immigrant foreigners are bound to remain culturally foreign, the xenophobes treat cultural identity as if it were a racial characteristic: a permanent and hereditary trait.  In reality, of course, cultural identities change, e.g. most second‑generation Hindu immigrants have moved rather closely towards the mainstream culture of their adopted countries.  Cultural identity including religion is not a permanent or hereditary trait.

 

         Yet, in India, the secularist Left, always ready to take stands directly opposed to what counts internationally as secular, insists that the Muslim cultural identity is a permanent fact of life with which Hindus will have to co‑exist in perpetuity.  Just as whites are bound to remain white and blacks are certain to remain black, Muslims are bound to remain Muslim, and Hindus just have to learn to live with them.  (The implication that Hindus should remain Hindu, however, does not apply: any criticism of conversion of Hindus to Islam or Christianity is either condemned or ridiculed.) 

 

         This secularist "biologization of Islam" is also assumed, quite mindlessly, by most supposedly Hindu organizations.  Their schemes for solving the communal problem are entirely within the framework of Hindu-Muslim co-existence: first there are the Hindu and the Muslim community, and next we have to find a way to make them co-exist.  The harder they try to be secular, the more they reduce the Islam problem to one of co-existence with a community which is somehow different, though the nature of that difference is emphatically not up for analysis.  Not one bad word will they say about Islam, even though it is Islam and nothing else which separates the Indian Muslims from their fellow Indians, and even though the problem of how to integrate the Muslims into the Hindutva identity constantly occupies their minds.

 

         This approach is politically counterproductive, as we shall argue, and it is unhistorical in its acceptance of Islam on a par with Hinduism.  Firstly, Hinduism is a civilization in its own right, developed as mankind's answer to certain questions and problems, both practical and profound, but Islam is merely a reactive phenomenon, generally destructive of (and at best parasitic on) ancient and genuine civilizations.  Secondly, in India's religious landscape, the Indian Muslim community is but a fairly recent addition cut out of the flesh of Hindu society. 

 

         Moreover, this approach of shielding Islam from critical enquiry is unfair to Islam by emphatically ignoring Islam's own self-definition as a religion based on a truth claim, viz. that "there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is Allah's prophet", a truth claim which can and must be evaluated as either true or false. 

 

         Finally, this non-doctrinal approach to the Muslim community creates the impression (gleefully picked up by the legions of communalism-watchers out to blacken Hindu society and its defenders) of a purely xenophobic motivation, similar to that of anti-foreigner parties in the West.  Xenophobic parties in the West are faced with the problem that the country which they claim for their own nation is "invaded" by an outsider population which they cannot or will not assimilate.  The cadres of these parties are often ideologues of ethnic or racial purity who do not want to assimilate Blacks or North-Africans or Turks, just as their grandfathers once rejected the assimilation of Jews.  The recent electoral growth of these parties is, by contrast, mainly due to working-class people who have assimilated immigrant labour (Italians, Poles) before, but who now find that certain new immigrant groups (particularly Muslims) in their neighbourhoods cultivate their separateness.  They fear that, against their own wish, they can not assimilate these separatist newcomers, and that their children will be faced with a civil war.  Either way, the starting-point of these xenophobic parties is the separateness or non-assimilation of foreigner populations, and their "only solution" is to send these immigrants (and their children and grandchildren) back to their countries of origin.

 

         In India, most Muslims are not immigrants even in the tenth generation, but otherwise the mistake made by their opponents is the same as in Europe: accepting the Muslimness of these Muslims as an unshakable basic fact which any policy must take into account. 

 

         The best example of this alleged similarity is the common complaint about the Islamic birth rate.  On the Hindutva fringe, there are pamphlets which falsely cite the World Health Organization as having established that within twenty years or so, Muslims will be the majority in India.  More serious publications, including Organiser and BJP Today, report a slower but nonetheless impressive increase in the Muslim percentage of India's population, recorded in every decadal census since 1881, and projected to continue at an even faster rate in the coming decades.  In essence, this picture is correct: the percentage of Muslims shows a persistent increase at the expense of the Hindu percentage, with the rate of increase itself increasing.  Given the higher Hindu participation in the birth control effort of the 1960s and 70s, we must now be witnessing a cumulative effect, of a proportionately smaller number of Hindu mothers (born in that period) having in their turn each a smaller number of children than the proportionately larger number of Muslim mothers, on average.  On top of the higher birth rate of Muslims within the Indian Union, there is the dramatic influx of millions upon millions of Bangladeshis and also some Pakistanis. 

 

         The fact that in 1991 the Indian government has chosen to replace a real census count of religious adherence with an estimate is itself an indication that the Muslim percentage is now rising at an alarming rate.  In fact, the estimate was demonstrably rigged.  It shows a slight decrease in the rate at which the Muslim percentage increases: up by 0.52% between 1971 (11.21%) and 1981 (11.73%), up by 0.47% between 1981 and 1991 (12.20).  However, all data about the Hindu-Muslim differential in birth control and birth figures imply that the rate of Muslim increase is itself increasing, even without counting the estimated ten million Bangladeshi Muslims who entered India between 1981 and 1991.[1]  On top of the native increase, we must add the figure of the said immigrants, which by itself amounts to more than 1% of India's population, twice as high as the total growth of the Muslim percentage as claimed by the Government.  For once, I agree with Imam Bukhari, who has been saying for long that the Indian government systematically understates the number of Muslims in India.  The total increase between 1981 and 1991 must be at least 1.5%.  Assuming that the 1981 figure is correct, the 1991 figure is definitely higher than 13%, or at least 1% higher than the government claims.   

 

         So far, so good: the Sangh is right about the substantial increase in the Muslim percentage of the Indian population.  A realistic projection into the future of present demographic (including migratory) trends does predict a Muslim majority in the Subcontinent by the mid-21st century, and a Muslim majority in the Indian Union by the turn of the 22nd century (in some regions much earlier).  Though generally correct, this type of calculation is subject to an unkind comparison: the same type of projection occupies the minds of white racists in the USA.  They expect that whites will cease to be the majority there by the mid-21st century, and they too are worried and unable to stem the tide.  But there are two important differences. 

 

         The first one is that the non-whites in the USA do not or need not form a genuine problem for US whites, because people of different ethnic backgrounds can and do share in the same American Dream, can and do participate in a common American society.  By contrast, Islam in India is intrinsically separatist and aiming for hegemony and ultimately for the destruction of Hinduism through conversion or otherwise.  There is nothing intrinsically anti-white about blacks, but there is definitely something intrinsically anti-Hindu about Islam.  For this reason, the concern of whites about the growth of non-white groups in the USA is reprehensible, but the concern of Hindus about the growth of Islam is entirely justified.

 

         The second difference is that people's membership of certain racial groups, black or white or other, is unchangeable; while the potentially alarming adherence of people to Islam is entirely changeable.  And it is at this last point that the BJP-cum-secularist acceptance of the Islamic identity of the Indian Muslims distorts the picture.

 

         Like American white racists, BJP secularists are, in their heart of hearts, worried about the demographic increase of the minorities, but they don't want to admit it in so many words.  Thus, in its 1996 Election Manifesto, the BJP warns that because of Bangladeshi infiltration, "various demographic entities are bound to come in conflict" due to "an alarming growth of a section of the population"; already, "a section of the population has grown by almost 100 per cent" in certain northeastern areas.[2]  The BJP dooms itself to impotence by refusing to define the problem in its proper terms.  Not wanting to sound anti-Muslim, the BJP avoids facing the "communal" angle, with the result that the Communist government in West Bengal cracks down on Hindu refugees and forces them back into Bangladesh, just to show the BJP what the asked-for crackdown on religiously undefined "Bangladeshi infiltrators" would mean in practice.  Worse, even to the extent that the BJP does identify the problem as "illegal Bangladeshi Muslims", it dooms itself to an unimaginative (and by now probably unrealistic) solution, viz. to physically push these people back across the border.[3]

 

         This grudgingly admitted concern about the increasing Muslim presence, combined with the feeling of impotence to stop this ominous increase, leads to certain undesirable ideas, which you do not find in BJP or RSS publications, but which do come out in more extreme pamphlets of fringe groups and in unrecorded conversations.  One such idea is that birth control should be made compulsory, e.g. by enforcing vasectomy on every father of two children.  Another idea in this category is that Hindus should reintroduce polygamy (as I read in a pamphlet by British NRIs).  A third, propagated by the Puri Shankaracharya among others, is that Hindus should return to having as many children per woman as possible (quite like the natalist propaganda of xenophobic parties in Europe).  A fourth is that all Indian Muslims should go to Pakistan, which was, after all, created for them ("Mussalman ke do hi sthan: Pakistan ya qabrastan").  In 1947 this was, coupled with an ordered evacuation of Hindus from Pakistan, an eminently sensible proposal which could have saved millions of lives (including those yet to be lost in future clashes resulting from Hindu-Muslim "co-existence" in India).[4]  Today, however, it could only be done by means of extreme violence, comparable in intensity to (but a hundred times larger than) the full-scale civil war which preceded the expulsion of the French inhabitants of Algeria in 1962. 

 

         Hindutva men of the drinking kind utter such ideas in the late hours, when they are ashamed about their party's non-performance on the communal front and feel the need to strike a more martial profile.  These are indeed drunkards' ideas.  Within their scheme of things, the choice is one of simply letting the Muslims take over India as soon as they become numerous enough (which is well before they reach the 50% mark, e.g. Jinnah was offered the government by Gandhi when the Muslims were hardly 24% in undivided India); or implementing one of the said scenarios of demographic competition or ethnic cleansing.  I cannot blame anti-Hindu authors for highlighting such ideas as all too similar to certain forms of xenophobia and racism elsewhere.

 

         Thoughtful Hindus, by contrast, have no such problem.  They don't rely on numbers but on consciousness, the secret weapon which will blow Islam away.  Let the Indian Muslims "breed like rats": it is thanks to them that India will overtake China as the most populous country in the world (a doubtful honour in this age, but these millions may be needed one day).  All that is needed to avert the catastrophe of a Muslim take-over, is that these numerous children of Muslim parents are properly educated.

 

         It is a well-known fact that most South-Asian Muslims are the descendents of converts from Hinduism.  As for the Turkish, Persian or Arabic components of the Muslim community, they too are the descendents of converts, be it from Buddhism or Zoroastrianism or some other Kafir religion.  There is nothing intrinsically Muslim even about Arabs, who were the first victims of Islam.  Islamic scripture itself is quite unambiguous about the terror which Mohammed and his companions used to pressurize the Arabs into joining them; and about the national Arab revolt against Islam after Mohammed's death, a war of liberation which they only lost because they did not resort to the same ruthless style of warfare which Mohammed had introduced.  The people known as Muslims have walked into Islam, and they are bound to walk out again as well.  Powerful as the conditioning of Islamic indoctrination may be, it remains a superficial imposition susceptible to the law of impermanence.  That is why any solution which starts by assuming the Muslimness of the Muslims, is mistaken.

 



             [1]  The clearest eye-opener is the birth-rate in the relatively affluent Muslim-majority district of Malappuram in highly-literate Kerala (see Baljit Rai: Is India Going Islamic?, p.103-106); at 75.22%, the female literacy rate in Malappuram is twice as high as for most Hindu communities in the Hindi belt.  In the decade 1981-91 its population grew by 28.74%, well above the national average of 23.50% and more than twice the Kerala average of 13.98%.  This disproves the usual excuse that the birth-rate automatically follows the poverty rate and the illiteracy rate.  Most Hindu Scheduled Caste people whom I know have settled for smaller families, but by and large, Muslims have not changed their appetite for large families.  Ever since the propagation of birth control among the Hindu masses, rich and literate Muslims have more children than poor and illiterate Hindus.

             [2]  BJP Election Manifesto 1996: For a Strong and Prosperous India, p.39.  This is practically a parody of secularist riot reporting (where "Muslims burned a temple down" becomes "members of a particular community damaged a religious building").

             [3]  It is a different matter that the BJP state government in Delhi, voted to power in 1993 on a platform prominently including a crackdown on Bangladeshi infiltrators, has totally gone back on this promise.

             [4]  The chance to organize a peaceful and ordered exchange of population (not the optimum solution but certainly the lesser evil after Partition had been conceded), though proposed as early as 1940 by Dr. Ambedkar, was spurned by Gandhi and Nehru, who preferred to see the millions bleed rather than give up their dogma of a "composite culture".  The 20th century AD has been full of enlightened leaders sacrificing millions of real human beings on the altar of ideological chimaeras.

 

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