Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Friday, April 01, 2005

Communalism 2: What the Islamists fear

The following column by Balbir K Punj has references to some of those things mentioned in the previous post, and you may be interested to look at this. I shall follow this up with my own interpretation - let's see, what Mr Punj says: (source :

What the Islamists fear

Two recent incidents point towards spiralling Islamic aggressiveness in the country. The first is Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf board's claiming proprietorship of Taj Mahal. The other is SIMI threat e-mail to iconic Yoga-Guru Swami Ramdev. However, the best thing about these is that they expose the public face of "secularism".

In the first incident, two rival sects of Muslims have staked ownership of the Taj Mahal. The UP Sunni Wakf board has demanded that the ownership of Taj Mahal be transferred to it by Archaeological Survey of India by April 9. The claim is based on the premise that the Taj, being a grave, is Wakf property. Muslims also tender Friday namaz at the Taj Mahal. A section of Shias led by Khursi Agha of Lucknow is prodding the Shia Wafk board to stake a similar claim on Taj Mahal since Mumtaz Mahal herself was a Shia and so was the principle architect Isha Khan Shirazi from Iran. Let us see how a communal or sectarian claim of Taj Mahal can really upset India's "secular" facade.

The Taj is a poster site for Indian tourism like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower in France, and Statue of Liberty in the US. Noted Indo-Anglian writer Amit Chaudhuri wrote: "Social scientist Partha Chatterjee is puzzled and engrossed by what has happened to these 'national images' - for instance, the Taj Mahal; Shah Jahan's Red Fort - as they have been represented in our textbooks in the last 40 or 50 years: That is, in our relatively brief, but palpably long, history as a republic. Prof Chatterjee discovers that early photographs and engravings found in textbooks dating back, say, to the Twenties, are gradually replaced in textbooks after 1947 by a certain kind of line drawing. He finds no economic raison d'etre for this change: 'Are they cheaper to print? Not really; both are printed from zinc blocks made by the same photographic process.'

"But the more telling change occurs in the nature of the representations themselves, as the pictures of certain monuments are transformed into 'national icons'. As these monuments are turned into 'national icons' in post-Independence history textbooks, the pictures are emptied of signs of randomness, emptied, indeed, of all but the monument itself, and a new credo and economy of representation comes into existence" (The Casual Moment-The mysterious indefinable quality of poetry, The Telegraph, Calcutta, February 13).

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum. As far as I am aware, Islam forbids erecting mausoleums over graves. Yet Muslim kings built mausoleums for their loved ones and sometimes for themselves in advance. But most Muslim kings in India also enjoyed wine, took more than four wives, patronised musicians and painters. They sometimes opened their purse strings to dargah (shrine) or mazaar (grave) of Sufi saints. But actually, all these are un-Islamic practices, howsoever humane they might appear to non-Muslims. Non-Muslim often romanticise Islam though these essentially un-Islamic customs. But Sunni clerics, who drive Islam, abhor them.

We idolise, no doubt mistakenly, Emperor Akbar for his religious syncretism of Deen-e-Ilahi (which was nothing but promoting Islam through the backdoor). But when Akbar died in 1605, the ulema refused to recite the kalima on his body, declaring him an apostate equivalent. Even Muslim scholars of our era like late Ali Mian (Syed Abu-ul-Hasan Ali Nadwi) held similar opinion about Akbar. Muslim scholars clearly feel that the Sunni empire established by Babar, got strayed in Akbar's gesture of tolerance, Jahangir's indulgences in wine and women, Shahjahan's romanticisations - and it was not until a puritan Aurangzeb that the original pursuit could be revived - albeit unsuccessfully.

Though mausoleums violate Islamic principles, Sunni scholars tolerate them, and don't prescribe their destruction. After all, it will be no good to demolish these souvenirs of Islamic era. However, they don't compromise on Islam by idolising them. So why are these learned clerics asking for the Taj so passionately?

Taking over the Taj would signify a great symbolic victory for Islamists. It would undermine the authority of the Central Government. With Taj taken, the next target would be the Red Fort in Delhi and then the one in Agra. For, these were once the seats of the Mughal empire - atop which fluttered the green banner of Islam. The Mughal empire was the standard bearer of Islam in India.

Shah Abdul Aziz (1746-1823), son of the architect of the Wahabi movement in India, Shah Wali Ullah, on perceiving the decline of the Mughal empire, proclaimed in 1810 that India had ceased to be Dar-ul-Islam (House of Islam) and had become, instead, Dar-ul-Harb (House of War). If the Sunni Wakf Board is successful in taking over the Taj, its moral claim on Delhi's Red Fort and the Agra Fort will be emboldened. As a prelude to the take over, Muslims would start congregating in Pearl Mosque (Moti Masjid) inside Delhi's Red Fort as they did at Taj Mahal.

The Wakf claim can be theoretically extrapolated. If the seat of erstwhile Mughal power should come under Wakf's jurisdiction, why not entire India, most of which was Dar-ul-Islam for six centuries? Remember how Hamas justified its call for "destruction of Israel" by saying that the entire land of Palestine was Wakf property belonging to Allah?

In the second incident Swami Ramdev, the iconic yoga-guru of Aastha channel, has received a threat from banned SIMI (Students Islamic Militia of India) through an e-mail. He has been forbidden to teach yoga to Muslims. He has been warned of major "collateral damages" in his dream-project, Patanjali Yoga Kendra in Hardwar.

Now, Swami Ramdev, of modern gurus, teaches religion the least. He gives no pravachan from the Gita, Upanishad, Puranas or Ramayana. He teaches breathing techniques and some asanas (physical postures) that eliminate physical, mental and moral maladies and promote general well-being. These, according to him, can provide almost miracle-cures to many diseases pronounced incurable. And many practitioners have actually experienced such "healing miracles" after pursuing his simple techniques. They have gladly come forward with their medical records in support of their claim. Aastha channel claims a viewership of over 20 million people. Most of those who had taken advantage of Swami Ramdev's yoga had done so over the television rather than in his yoga camp. SIMI can prevent Aastha channel from reaching Muslim viewers only by preventing cable TV from reaching them.

All of us, regardless of our religion, breathe the same oxygen. Will Muslims cease to be Muslims if they breathe it correctly through Pranayam? I will not become a Muslim by sitting in the posture of namaz, nor a Christian by doing the Alexander method of posture correction, or start speaking Chinese by doing Falun Gong exercises? So isn't there something suspicious about SIMI's fear?

Homeopathy was developed in Germany by Samuel Heinemann. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was perhaps the first Indian to be treated in this method by German doctors who visited him. But he lived and died as a "Hindoo King". No one ever became a Christian after being treated with his wonderful system of homeopathy medicine. Muslims of Pakistan have no hitch in coming to India for delicate surgeries and transplants performed by "kafir" doctors of India. But SIMI sees a problem if a Muslim is healed of his diabetes, heart disease, obesity, skin diseases, and tension through pranayam and asana. What SIMI actually fears is Hindu resurgence through yoga, which is likely to cure the hypocrisy called "secularism" in the Indian mind. The Hindu civilisation might suddenly come across "self-realisation", something Islamists don't want. But their design of Islamisation of India will be foiled again.

(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP and Convenor of BJP's Think Tank, can be contacted at


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