My post about Neeraj Pandey's obnoxiously anti-Muslim movie “Baby” brought an accusation from a reader that I did not have a suitably Hindu “perspective.”
That raises the question, “What is the Hindu perspective?”
One answer lies in the attitudes that Hinduism has promoted throughout its millennial course.
Hinduism began with our ancient rishis compiling the lore of India’s diverse tribes into the Vedas, thus creating a work all could venerate.
That allowed the tribes to stop their endemic conflicts and settle into interdependent castes.
Intense discussions (Upanishads) then drew from the Vedas the concepts that lie at the heart of Hindu belief.
Primarily, the rishis conceived of a universal spirit, Brahman (one who holds).
Brahman is manifest as the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Law) holding all Creation in control.
The philosophic implication of that belief is expressed in Vasudeva kutumbhakam (God’s family). It is the basis of India’s unity in diversity and constitutes the fundamental Hindu perspective.
Another important contributor to the Hindu perspective is the confidence that comes from an acute age-old capacity to understand and meet the challenges facing our society.
The Vedas settled warring tribes into castes.
The Upanishads anchored the resulting peace in a profound philosophy of family relationships.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata made that wisdom available to everyman/woman.
When superstition and ignorance blocked understanding of the Dharma the Buddha cleansed it.
When Buddhism lost its reforming zeal, Adi Sankara energized and brought back the old faith,
When caste and invasive Islam caused deep fissures in society, Kabir and Guru Nanak initiated the healing that developed into the modern Indian renaissance of Chatrapati Shivaji, Rammohun Roy, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi.
That progression makes one thing very clear: Hinduism has never been a blind faith. We have always studied problems, debated issues and come up with insightful and creative solutions.
Our failure to do that in the depths of the Kali Yuga is the primary reason why India fell victim to foreign invaders over the last two millennia.
Now, as we recover from that period, it is critically important that Hindus retrieve their traditional capacity to understand and meet the numerous challenges facing Indian society.
This blog has warned at great length about the greatest danger we face at present, the British campaign, with much help from Indian mass media proxies, to cloud our understanding of issues.
An important part of that campaign has been aimed at poisoning Hindu-Muslim relations.
The creation of Pakistan with its permanent siren call to jihad has, of course, done a great deal of work in that direction already, and if Hindu understanding is to defeat British intentions we must re-examine what actually happened.
To that end, the following section looks at the origin and development of “Islamic terrorism.”
There is no denying that Islam has an enormously violent history, but no more so than Christianity. Since their founding nearly seven centuries apart both religions have been almost ceaselessly at war within their own realms, and, since the 7th Century, with each other.
However, when Christian colonial expansion began in the 15th Century Islam was a generally quiescent faith with an Ottoman Caliph in Istanbul ruling most of what is now called the Middle East, and Persia (encompassing modern Iran, Iraq and a number of adjoining areas), presiding over most of the world's Shia.
The transformation of Islam from that torpor to its current jihadist frenzy is almost entirely due to British policy.
It involved the creation of three States (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Israel), and the promotion of the violent Muslim Brotherhood as the fount of “Islamic terrorism.”
The Brotherhood had its first mosque paid for by the British in the colonized “Suez Canal Zone” of Egypt, and its initial use was against anyone threatening British assets or allies anywhere in the Middle East.
The Cold War made it a tool against Communists and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made it the source of a “Mujaheddin” army that became Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
In that progression, the three British-created States had a key role.
Saudi Arabia came into existence before World War I when the British found in Kuwait the 16-year old scion of the former ruling family of Riyadh and sponsored him to take it back from Ottoman rule. The Saudis brought with them to power the violently extremist Wahhabi sect, long considered “Haram” by mainstream Islam.
What the British did to create Pakistan is fairly well known, so I will not dwell on the details; suffice it to say, they used murderous violence to support the Hindu and Muslim proxies who actually ripped India apart.
Pakistan emerged as a failed State and has remained one with the support of enormous amounts of aid from Saudi Arabia and the West; in return it has become their handy drug dealing rent-a-terrorist supplier, hitting not just India but Afghanistan, Russia, all of Central Asia, Uighur China and South East Asia.
Britain’s record in Palestine – later Israel – is unequaled in treachery.
After getting command of the territory through a League of Nations Mandate, it allowed unrestricted Jewish immigration from Europe, ostensibly to create a "Jewish Homeland." It then sponsored Arab terrorism against Jews. During WW II a “Jewish Brigade” in the British Army shaped the core of the Israeli Self Defence Force that beat back invading Arab armies in 1948.
One thing important to note about this whole scene is that the Arabs, who had not ruled themselves for over 800 years, were manipulated at every turn by Britain and France.
After WW I, when London and Paris created a number of new countries in the former Ottoman territories, they consistently arranged for political instability.
In Sunni majority Syria they gave power to the Shia; in Shia majority Iraq they empowered the Sunni. France created Lebanon to give power to Christians. With British prompting, Saudi Arabia took the territory containing Mecca and Medina, vaulting Wahhabi Islam to unprecedented global influence.
In surveying this history it is important to note that the Muslim populations of the Middle East and Pakistan have been the worst victims of “Islamic terrorism.” They have shed the most blood, lost the most resources and suffered the worst political manipulations.
An Indian Perspective
There can be no “Hindu perspective” in dealing with this situation for several reasons.
First and most important, our entire tradition depends upon each person being free to accept God in any form and worship in any way; those are matters decided by individual karma in which no one else can interfere. Sri Krishna says explicitly in the Bhagavad Gita: “do not disturb the faith of another. No matter to whom a person bows, he bows to me.”
Beyond the question of religion is that of politics, and there too is a strong argument not to strive for a “Hindu perspective.” Indian Muslim perceptions of their co-religionists elsewhere are likely to be far more acute, and it would be silly for Indian policy not to benefit from that.
If we want to help steer the world out of its current vortex of “Islamic terrorism,” it is essential that Muslims be part of the Indian team. They already are in the Ministry of External Affairs, but we need greater cultural heft in what is now purely policy.
It is only when Muslims in Pakistan see Indian Islam as a viable political alternative that we can wash back the blood-dimmed tide that Britain drowned us in; only in such circumstances can Arabs and Jews exchange Salaams and Shaloms in the Middle East and mean it.
The Weight of History
To foresee Hindu-Muslim unity as the foundation of India is hardly visionary. Guru Nanak set off the modern Indian renaissance five centuries ago by declaring “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim;” his first disciples (Sikhs), were drawn from both religions and all castes.
He was, in fact, making a formal statement of what had become part of life. In the centuries since Islam's entry into India Hindu and Muslim kings never stopped fighting each other; but they made liberal use of soldiers of both faiths.
One of the greatest of Indian national heroes, Chatrapati Shivaji, now celebrated as an icon of Hindu resistance to Mughal rule, endowed and prayed at Sufi shrines and employed Muslims at every level in his armies.
Perhaps nothing exemplifies the easy interfaith coexistence of those times as Netaji Palkar, one of his commanders who joined the Mughal army, converted to Islam and spent ten years fighting the Afghan tribes under the name of Quli Mohammed Khan; after that he returned without fuss to Hinduism and Shivaji's service.
The Mughals meanwhile were equally tolerant. Akbar’s main general was his former enemy, Man Singh. After Akbar the Mughals were by blood as Indian as alien, and culturally they were entirely indigenous. Aurangzeb, the most intolerant of them, endowed Hindu temples even as he destroyed others.
As British colonial rule spread over India, the resistance was nowhere divided along communal lines.
Tipu Sultan exemplified that unity: all his top commanders were Hindus and his capital took its name from the Vishnu temple of Sri Ranga Patnam which he endowed and prayed at. Tipu was finally defeated and his stronghold taken after a Persian Islamic scholar he had favored opened a door in the outer wall to British forces. Tipu's body was found under several others, all Hindus who had died to prevent the British from taking and desecrating it. The great Sultan remains a living memory: last November a mass rally at Haveri in Karnataka celebrated the 264th Tipu Jayanthi.
The British poisoned that long and liberal tradition. It is up to modern Indians of all faiths to reclaim our national heritage.