By U Mahesh Prabhu
'I wonder why you write such a column replete with hate and vengeance' alleged a protagonist, who calls himself as a 'secularist', on reading my previous columns. But when I asked him to aid me in finding those words of 'hate and vengeance' he wasted no time to enjoin 'I don't have time for that'! When an allegation is levelled, one cannot but seek elucidation. Not even once have those allegers took some time to warrant those allegations.
Because, for past few months, I have been indicting columns critical of Islam with purports from Holy Koran and Hadith, I am being branded as 'anti-Muslim'. 'You [hate] Islam' many have already declared. But hate is such a strong word. It's opposite to love and thus, when you hate you just end up perverting. I have time and again advocated that 'Seed of hatred begets nothing but destruction.' I have never abused Islam nor have I, ever, used derogatory words against Muslims. How can I speak fetid against anyone when I disown 'hate' in the first place? I am not a phoney.
Though I may have written critical analysis on Islam, I have seldom 'branded' an entire Muslim community as terrorist. I have never called for seizing of their right to practice their faith, their right to exist. The people who allege me of saying so have never read my columns.
Criticism isn't a bad, neither is critic worth considering a pariah. He is not an inevitable foe. He is a person who is trying to give in his stimuli and notions on certain issues. Distinguished journalists and intellectuals in this country have spoken so critically of Hindus and Hinduism at large, but they aren't tagged as 'anti-Hindu'. And I, very strongly, believe that just because someone has criticized Hindus or Hinduism, he cannot be labelled as anti-Hindu. It's injudicious.
If you take a look at Hinduism you will find that it has been ever evolving. It has never lazed. It's true that: Dalits were suppressed here, widows (in some parts of this country) were being burnt alive, child marriage was rampant and lower caste people were never allowed inside the temple.
But today how many of such evil practices do you find in Hinduism now? Isn't it virtually extinct? It is. But how was this made possible? When so many people began criticizing Hinduism umpteen, within the faith, began questioning and thereby sought revision. Renaissance was made possible primarily due to criticism, and Hindus became forward thinking people because of it.
The critics didn't write with the intention of uplifting Hindu but with an objective of endorsing religious conversion and also, at times, with the view of defaming it. But Hindu leaders were relatively prompt to react and thus something good happened. 'Don't debunk criticism and critics blindly.' an old maxim of Hindus, came for them handily. There was of course resistance for change but it was weakened by resolve of the men who sought reform. But when similar situation was put forth Muslims they began playing their 'anti-Muslim' label. Anyone criticizing them is today an 'anti-Muslim'.
If, by bringing to light unpleasant reality from Islam's Holy Scripture, I wish to do anything, it would be to ask Muslims to rethink on it. I want them to rethink on parts of their faith for their own betterment.
Another allegation thrown against me by my Muslim brethren is that 'I am built in the mould of Sangh Parivar.' I am not sure what they mean when they say 'built in the mould'. Yes, I have been associated with Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). I have read their books, for sometime I have complied, or better put, tried to follow, their discipline. I have many friends within the organization of whom I am proud of. But, if my friendship is to be a deciding factor then I also have friends within Jamat-e-Islami, Students Islamic Organization and even from Churches of Southern India. Until two days back from penning this column I did also have a Communist friend who, somehow, himself disowned me by branding me as a 'fascist'. Interestingly he is yet to prove as to why I should be branded so.
My background is diverse. I have read Bible before reading Bhagavad-Gita. I am a product of a Christian Missionary school established by the German Bassel Mission. I have attended classes on Koran by a competent Maulvi. My favourite teacher was a Communist, and thus I can fairly explain communism – first-rate. My close friends during school and college days have been Muslims, who preferred to offer Namaz five times a day. I have been to Mosque and can even imitate actions of Namaz. My most favourite writer is M J Akbar and though I disagree with him on numerous aspects I am equally proud of him and also of my friends who come from so many diverse faiths. Many of my friends, even today, are the ones who prefer to disagree with me. Given this, I would like to know from my critics as to how could I possibly be an 'anti-Muslim' or go against fundamental rights of any religion for that matter?
The greatest diplomat and statesman from India, after whom I have named this column, says in his brilliant work, Arthashastra, that "It's better to have an intelligent & criticizing enemy than a foolish and all-agreeing friend." It's important that our Muslim brethren stand up and respond to such criticism proactively and think candidly of a socio-economic renascence within the community.
Fanaticism is dangerous because it blocks logical thinking and wisdom. It isn't healthy and can be a primary cause for one to perish. And history is a testimony to this fact.