Koenraad Elst (°Leuven 1959) distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. After a few hippie years he studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi's legacy. He also published on the interface of religion and politics, correlative cosmologies, the dark side of Buddhism, the reinvention of Hinduism, technical points of Indian and Chinese philosophies, various language policy issues, Maoism, the renewed relevance of Confucius in conservatism, the increasing Asian stamp on integrating world civilization, direct democracy, the defence of threatened freedoms, and the Belgian question. Regarding religion, he combines human sympathy with substantive skepticism. REFERENCE: Koenraad Elst http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com/
Brought to me the other day, by a Zoroastrian to whom it was given by a Christian in Switzerland, was a copy of an article entitled 'The Muslim Rule in India', written by a Muslim on the life and works of a Hindu scholar and historian. The common link between the Muslim writer, M H Faruqui, the Hindu historian, Bishambhar Nath Pande, my Zoroastrian friend and our mutual Christian friend is that all are men of goodwill, educated, rational and untouched by bigotry. The article was first published in July 1998 in 'Impact International', based in London, which describes itself as 'a global Muslim newsmagazine', which started life in 1971 and is currently distributed in 85 countries. It is edited by M H Faruqui, a prolific writer on all matters pertaining to Islam, and has a readership of over 100,000. Dr Bishambhar Nath Pande, author and editor and a senior member of the Congress party, disciple of Gandhi and friend of Nehru, was at the forefront of every non-cooperation movement against the British and was sent to jail eight times. He was first nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1976 and lastly in 1988. He received an honorary doctorate from Soka University, Tokyo, in 1992, and the Khuda Bakhsh Award for his untiring work towards communal harmony in his country. Congress had in it a streak of Hindutva militancy which only really surfaced at the time of the Babri mosque incident, and it was this latent tendency that made Dr Pande's work all the more important. He authored ten books in English and fifteen in Hindi. He died in 1998 at the age of 92. Pande was an extremely cautious historian, realizing that the history of India was largely compiled by the British for purposes of expediency, and thus were many myths created, as always happens when history is expediently distorted, amongst them exaggerations about the impact of the Muslim conquest and the Muslim rule over India and its Hindus. The Muslims were generally depicted, in history and in school textbooks, as murderous tyrants, intolerant of the Hindus and their mode of worship. The educational policies dictated by various governors-general were aimed at strengthening the communal differences, playing off one community against the other, which the rulers deemed would be greatly to the advantage of the Raj. To use Pande's own words: "History was compiled by European writers whose main objective was to produce histories that would serve their policy of divide and rule." Faruqui quotes from a lecture given by Pande in 1985, the Khuda Bakhsh Annual Lecture: 'Thus under a definite policy the Indian history books textbooks were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval [i.e. Muslim] period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Muslim rule. And there were no common factors [between Hindus and Muslims] in social, political and economic life.' He did not just talk; he acted. During the period Pande was governor of Orissa and thus chancellor of the state's five universities, he completely overturned the state curriculum, revised all the textbooks and set straight the historical record. One of Pande's revelations of the truth and the overturning of an alleged historical incident concerned Tipu Sultan of Mysore, who, according to Indian textbooks, was responsible for the suicide of 3,000 Brahmins who objected to his forcibly trying to convert them to Islam. It transpired that the story emanated from a history of Mysore, written by a Victorian Englishman, and that no such incident had ever taken place. Tipu, whose own prime minister and commander-in-chief were Brahmins, far from indulging in forcible conversions, gave annual grants to 136 Hindu temples. Pande, as relates Faruqui, has dispelled certain allegations against Emperor Aurangzeb who ruled over the Mughal Empire from 1658 to 1707, and who continues to be one of the most maligned of Muslim rulers, famed for his brutality, his bigotry, intolerance, murderous instincts and fanaticism - renowned as a 17th century 'fundo', Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar rolled-into-one of his day. The unravelling of this myth began in Allahabad, when Pande was chairman of the municipality and was dealing with a land dispute. One party had filed as evidence a bunch of 'farmans' in order to prove that Aurangzeb had not only gifted the disputed land for the construction of a Hindu temple but had also provided cash for its maintenance. Pande was sure that they were fake, bearing in mind Aurangzeb's reputation as a hater of Hindus, temples and statues of deities. So he showed the 'farmans' to a lawyer friend, a Brahmin and a scholar of Persian, who declared them to be genuine. Pande believed firmly in the innate goodness of human nature, and remained to the end optimistic that India would eventually find its way out of its periodic bouts of communal violence, and that, with the setting right of the national curricula and a revision of all textbooks relating to subcontinental history, the heritage of communal discord and the distrust and hatred of one community for another would fade away into oblivion. On the subject of the Muslim conquest and subsequent ruthlessness of the conquerors, one can do no better than turn to Hindu and Brahmin Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru - to his book 'The Discovery of India', and to what he had to say on the expansion of Islam and its arrival in India at the end of the 12th century: ".... frequent intercourse [trade and cultural relations] led to Indians getting to know the religion, Islam. Missionaries also came to spread the new faith and they were welcomed. Mosques were built. There was no objection raised either by the state or the people, nor were there any religious conflicts.... "Mahmud's raids are a big event in Indian history,.. Above all, they brought Islam, for the first time, to the accompaniment of ruthless military conquest. So far, for over 300 years, Islam had come peacefully as a religion and taken its place among the many religions of India without trouble or conflict... Yet when he [Mahmud] had established himself as a ruler... Hindus were appointed to high office in the army and the administration.... "It is thus wrong and misleading to think of a Moslem invasion of India or of the Moslem period in India, just as it would be wrong to refer to the coming of the British to India as a Christian invasion, or to call the British period in India a Christian period. Islam did not invade India; it had come to India some centuries earlier.... "As a warrior he [Akbar] conquered large parts of India, but his eyes were set on another and more enduring conquest, the conquest of the minds and hearts of the people... throughout his long reign of nearly fifty years from 1556 onwards he laboured to that end...."
Now, this is not what the Indian children are being taught. Their concept of Islam and its establishment in the subcontinent is as different as is the attitude of Pakistani youth towards the Hindus of India. All the so-called confidence-building missiles hurled from one side of the divide to the other will not bring friendship and tolerance to the two nations unless their children are taught the truth, are not misled by rulers and politicians who, as with the British, practise the 'divide and rule' policy for their own survival and their prolongation in the seats of power. What easier way is there to do this than to distort history, facts, the truth and the minds and hearts of the present and future generations? The federal and provincial ministers of education of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are neither educationists nor is the subject of education dear to their minds or to their hearts. It is doubtful whether any of them have either the will or the ability to completely revise the national curricula when it comes to this country's history, consign the present textbooks on the subject to the WPB (their rightful place) and produce a new set of textbooks that deal with the compulsory subject, 'Pakistan studies', which are not deliberately designed to cripple the minds of our children. REFERENCE: Hindus and Muslims By Ardeshir Cowasjee 02 November 2003 Sunday 06 Ramazan 1424 http://archives.dawn.com/weekly/cowas/20031102.htm
The Social and Visual Impact of Hindu Temples in East Bengal Under the Mughals by Sandrine Gill
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During the Ayodhya controversy, there were occasional statements in the Hindutva camp confirming (VHP) or denying (BJP) that apart from Ram Janmabhoomi, two other sacred sites should also be "liberated" from Islamic "occupation": Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura and Kashi Vishvanath in Varanasi. Though the Hindu business community in central Varanasi has made it clear that it refuses to suffer the inevitable losses which would accompany an agitation in their densely populated neighbourhood, the liberation of Kashi Vishvanath is still on the VHP's agenda. Therefore, some authors have tried to "do an Ayodhya" on Kashi, viz. try to make people believe that there never was a Hindu temple at the disputed site. Syed Shahabuddin asserts that Muslims cannot possibly have destroyed any Hindu temple, because "pulling down a place of worship to construct a mosque is against the Shariat"; claims to the contrary are all "chauvinist propaganda." Arun Shourie has confronted this claim with the information given in the official court chronicle, Maasiri Alamgiri, which records numerous orders for and reports of destructions of temples. Its entry for 2 September 1669 tells us: "News came to court that in accordance with the Emperor's command his officers had demolished the temple of Vishvanath at Banaras" . Moreover, till today, the old Kashi Vishvanath temple wall is visible as a part of the walls of the Gyanvapi mosque which Aurangzeb had built at the site. REFERENCE: Why did Aurangzeb Demolish the Kashi Vishvanath? Koenraad Elst © Dr. Koenraad Elst, 2002. http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/kashivishvanath.html
In the face of such direct testimony, it is wiser not to challenge facts headon. It is better to minimize or to justify them. Thus, Percival Spear, co-author (with Romila Thapar) of the prestigious Penguin History of India, writes: "Aurangzeb's supposed intolerance is little more than a hostile legend based on isolated acts such as the erection of a mosque on a temple site in Benares." But a perusal of the same Moghul chronicle thoroughly refutes this reassuring assertion: Aurangzeb had thousands of temples destroyed. And other chronicles, diaries and other documents concerning Muslim rulers in India prove that the practice was not a personal idiosyncrasy of Aurangzeb's either. Therefore, a more promising way of defusing the conflict potential which the mosque at the Kashi Vishvanath site carries, is to justify the replacement of the temple with a mosque. Maybe the owners and users of the temple had brought it on themselves? Maybe Islam can be disentangled from this act of destruction in favour of a purely secular motive? REFERENCE: Why did Aurangzeb Demolish the Kashi Vishvanath? Koenraad Elst © Dr. Koenraad Elst, 2002. http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/kashivishvanath.html
Temple Desecration in Pre-modern India Richard M Eaton
Courtesy: HISTORICAL ANALYSIS Temple desecration in pre-modern India When, where, and why were Hindu temples desecrated in pre-modern history, and how was this connected with the rise of Indo-Muslim states? RICHARD M. EATON Volume 17 - Issue 25, Dec. 9 - 22, 2000 India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU http://www.flonnet.com/fl1725/17250620.htm
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JNU historian Prof. K.N. Panikkar offers one way out: "the destruction of the temple at Banaras also had political motives. It appears that a nexus between the sufi rebels and the pandits of the temple existed and it was primarily to smash this nexus that Aurangzeb ordered action against the temple." The eminent historian quotes no source for this strange allegation. In those days, Pandits avoided to even talk with Mlecchas, let alone to concoct intrigues with them. Other secularists have spread a more sophisticated variation, now regularly reproduced in the media: "Did Muslim rulers destroy temples? Some of them certainly did. Following the molestation of a local princess by some priests in a temple at Benaras, Aurangzeb ordered the total destruction of the temple and rebuilt it at a nearby site. And this is the only temple he is believed to have destroyed." This story is now repeated ad nauseam, not only in the extremist Muslim press and in the secularist press but also in academic platforms by "eminent historians". It is repeated with approval by historian Gargi Chakravartty, who also reveals the source of this story. She introduces the quotation as follows: "Much has been said about Aurangzeb's demolition order of Vishwanath temple at Banaras. But documentary evidence gives a new dimension to the whole episode:" What follows is the theory launched by B.N. Pande, working chairman of the Gandhi Darshan Samiti and former Governor of Orissa: "The story regarding demolition of Vishvanath temple is that while Aurangzeb was passing near Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu Rajas in his retinue requested that if the halt was made for a day, their Ranis may go to Varanasi, have a dip in the Ganges and pay their homage to Lord Vishwanath. Aurangzeb readily agreed. Army pickets were posted on the five mile route to Varanasi. The Ranis made a journey on the Palkis. They took their dip in the Ganges and went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering Puja all the Ranis returned except one, the Maharani of Kutch. "A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was to be found nowhere. When Aurangzeb came to know of it, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately, they found that the statue of Ganesh which was fixed in the wall was a moveable one. When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement. To their horror, they found the missing Rani dishonoured and crying, deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Jagannath's seat. The Rajas expressed their vociferous protests. As the crime was heinous, the Rajas demanded exemplary action. Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishvanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the Mahant be arrested and punished." REFERENCE: Why did Aurangzeb Demolish the Kashi Vishvanath? Koenraad Elst © Dr. Koenraad Elst, 2002. http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/kashivishvanath.html
Temple Desecration and Indo Muslim States by Richard M Eaton
Courtesy: HISTORICAL ANALYSIS Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states Why, after the rise of pre-modern Indo-Muslim states, were some Hindu temples desecrated, some protected, and others constructed anew? RICHARD M. EATON Volume 17 - Issue 26, Dec. 23, 2000 - Jan. 05, 2001 India's National Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU http://www.flonnet.com/fl1726/17260700.htm
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The story is very bizarre, to say the least. First of all, it has Aurangzeb go to Bengal. Yet, in the extant histories of his life and works, no such journey to Bengal, or even any journey as far east as Varanasi, is recorded. Some of his generals were sent on expeditions to Bengal, but not Aurangzeb himself. There are fairly complete chronicles of his doings, day by day; could B.N. Pande or any of his quoters give the date or even the year of this remarkable episode? Neither was Aurangzeb known to surround himself with Hindu courtiers. And did these Rajas take their wives along on military expeditions? Or was it some holiday picnic? How could the Mahant kidnap a Rani who was there in the company of other Ranis, as well as the appropriate courtiers and bodyguards? Why did he take such risk? Why did the "Rajas" wait for Aurangzeb to take "exemplary action": did they fear his anger if they punished the priests or destroyed the temple themselves? And since when is demolition the approved method of purifying a defiled temple, an eventuality for which the Shāstras have laid down due ritual procedures? One question which we can readily answer is, where did B.N. Pande get this story from? He himself writes: "Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, in his famous book, The Feathers and the Stones, has narrated this fact based on documentary evidence. So, we have to go one more step back in time to find this intriguing "documentary evidence". Let us turn to this book, now hard to find, to see what the documentary evidence is on which this whole wave of pro-Aurangzeb rumours is based, but which no one has cared to reproduce or even just specify. This is what Gandhian Congress leader Pattabhi Sitaramayya wrote in his prison diary: "There is a popular belief that Aurangazeb was a bigot in religion. This, however, is combated by a certain school. His bigotry is illustrated by one or two instances. The building of a mosque over the site of the original Kasi Visveswara Temple is one such. A like mosque in Mathura is another. The revival of Jazia is a third but of a different order. A story is told in extenuation of the first event. "In the height of his glory, Aurangazeb like any foreign king in a country, had in his entourage a number of Hindu nobles. They all set out one day to see the sacred temple of Benares. Amongst them was a Ranee of Cutch. When the party returned after visiting the Temple, the Ranee of Cutch was missing. They searched for her in and out, East, North, West and South but no trace of her was noticeable. At last, a more diligent search revealed a Tah Khana or an underground storey of the temple which to all appearances had only two storeys. When the passage to it was found barred, they broke open the doors and found inside the pale shadow of the Ranee bereft of her jewellery. "It turned out that the Mahants were in the habit of picking out wealthy and bejewelled pilgrims and in guiding them to see the temple, decoying them to the underground cellar and robbing them of their jewellery. What exactly would have happened to their life one did not know. Anyhow in this case, there was no time for mischief as the search was diligent and prompt. On discovering the wickedness of the priests, Aurangazeb declared that such a scene of robbery could not be the House of God and ordered it to be forthwith demolished. And the ruins were left there. "But the Ranee who was thus saved insisted on a Musjid being built on the ruined and to please her, one was subsequently built. That is how a Musjid has come to exist by the side of the Kasi Visweswar temple which is no temple in the real sense of the term but a humble cottage in which the marble Siva Linga is housed. Nothing is known about the Mathura Temple. "This story of the Benares Musjid was given in a rare manuscript in Lucknow which was in the possession of a respected Mulla who had read it in the Ms. and who though he promised to look it up and give the Ms. to a friend, to whom he had narrated the story, died without fulfilling his promise. The story is little known and the prejudice, we are told, against Aurangazeb persists." So now, we finally know where the story comes from: an unnamed mullah friend of an unnamed acquaintance of Sitaram ayya's knew of a manuscript, the details of which he took with him in his grave. This is the "document" on which secularist journalists and historians base their "evidence" of Aurangzeb's fair and secularist disposition, overruling the evidence of archaeology and the cold print of the Maasiri Alamgiri, to "explode the myth" of Islamic iconoclasm spread by the "chauvinist" Hindutva propagandists. Now you just try to imagine what the secularists and their mouthpieces in Western academe would say if Hindus offered evidence of this quality. REFERENCE: Why did Aurangzeb Demolish the Kashi Vishvanath? Koenraad Elst © Dr. Koenraad Elst, 2002. http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/ayodhya/kashivishvanath.html
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History often helps in analysing the present day issues by reflecting on past events. Generally, this approach is adopted in a society where there is dictatorship, censorship and legal restrictions to express discontent in regard to government policies. The method is effective in creating political consciousness by comparing the present with the consequences of bad governance and disillusionment of the past. After the independence of Pakistan, the army and the bureaucracy emerged as powerful state institutions. In the absence of a constitution, the two institutions were unaccountable to any authority. Bureaucracy followed in the footsteps of the colonial model, treating people with arrogance and contempt. A strong centre allowed it to rule over the provinces unchecked. The provinces, including the former East Pakistan, greatly suffered because of this. Sindh chose history to raise its voice against the oppressive attitude of the bureaucracy and a strong centre. Despite the grand, national narratives which justified the creation of a new country, Sindh responded by presenting its problems and grievances by citing historical suffering of its people.
During the reign of Shahjahan, Yusuf Mirak, a historian, wrote the book Tarikh-i-Mazhar-i-Shahjahani. The idea was to bring to Shahjahan’s notice the corruption and repressive attitude of the Mughal officials in Sindh. As they were far from the centre, their crimes were neither reported to the emperor nor were they held accountable for their misdeeds. Mirak minutely described their vices and crimes and how the people were treated inhumanly by them. He hoped that his endeavours might alleviate the suffering of the people when the emperor took action against errant officials. However, Mirak could not present the book to the emperor but his documentation became a part of history. When the Persian text of the book was published by Sindhi Adabi Board, its introduction was written by Husamuddin Rashdi who pointed out the cruelty, brutality, arrogance and contempt of the Mughal officials for the common man. Accountable to none, they had fearlessly carried on with their misdeeds. Today, one can find similarities between those Mughal officials and Pakistani bureaucrats of the present day. In the past Sindh endured the repercussions of maladministration and exploitation in pretty much the same way as the common man today suffers in silence. But one can learn from the past and analyse the present to avoid mistakes.
The history of Sindh shows two types of invaders. The first example is of invaders like the Arabs and the Tarkhans who defeated the local rulers, assumed the status of the ruling classes and treated the local population as inferior. The second type was of invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali who returned home after looting and plundering. The rulers of Sindh defended the country but sometimes compromised with the invaders. Those who defended it were vanquished and discredited by history, and their role was not recognised. G.M. Syed in his tract Sindh jo Surma made attempt to rehabilitate them. According to him, Raja Dahir who defended Sindh against the Arabs was a hero while Muhammad Bin Qasim was an agent of the Umayyad imperialism who attacked Sindh to expand the empire and to exploit Sindh’s resources. Decades later, in 1947, a large number of immigrants arrived from across the border and settled in Sindh. This was seen by Sindhi nationalists as an attempt to endanger the purity of the Sindhi culture. In 1960, agricultural land was generously allotted to army officers and bureaucrats. Throughout the evolving circumstances in Sindh, the philosophy of Syed’s book is the protection and preservation of the rights of Sindhis with the same spirit with which the heroes of the past sacrificed their lives for the honour of their country. These writings create a political consciousness among the Sindhi population and show how history can be used politically to bring to light the present day problems and analysing one’s historical mistakes by revisiting the past. REFERENCE: Past present: Black mirror by Mubarak Ali | From InpaperMagzine | 5th February, 2012 http://dawn.com/2012/02/05/past-present-black-mirror/
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The effort of Hindu extremists to convert the Babri Mosque into a temple is a return to a mediaeval practice. Does New Delhi regard the Indian Muslims as a conquered people? THE effort of the Hindu extremists to convert the Babri mosque into a temple, connived at by the present Indian government, is a return to the practice of the mediaeval times. The pre-monotheist religions did not proselytize neither did they convert others’ temples into their own. Their gods were strictly ‘national’ or racial, who had the same relationship with the gods of the other pantheons as did their races or ‘nations’. Therefore, when one people conquered another, it was assumed that they had done so because their gods were stronger. However, the conquered people were not exterminated. For one, the primitive man lacked the technical aids for doing so effectively. Secondly, the low technology of the means of production meant that the labourer produced a very small surplus. Consequently, the conquered people were useful as source of coerced labour. So they were reduced to slavery or degraded socially in some other manner. The conquerors and the conquered may live differently after the victory of one over the other, but they lived in the same society. Their pantheons were, therefore, united to reflect the new social mix. For example, after the Roman conquest of West Asia, Roman gods were put in the existing pantheon, which already had Persian and Greek gods. Apparently, the original hierarchy among gods, which was based upon the hierarchy among the various nations that owned them, was also changed. Persian gods ceased to be superior with time, while Roman and Greek gods tended to merge. Thus Aphrodite and Venus became interchangeable, one taking not only the other’s powers, but also assuming her sins and misdeeds. The Aryans brought their own pantheon with them to India. It was not much diversified because they were a pastoral people. They annexed the Dravidian deities like Shiv and Kali, originally investing them with based practices. But, ultimately, Shiv joined the supreme triumvirate of the Aryan pantheon, while the Aryans’ own god, Indr, barely kept a foothold in the divine city.
Monotheism was a quantum leap in the evolution of human thought. It involved two extremely difficult acts: one, conceiving nothingness, since all deities had to be abolished before God could be affirmed; and, two, accepting a deity not accessible to the senses. The concept of the unity of mankind then flowed naturally from the concept of unity of the Creator. “This sense of an immanent God helped Jews to see humanity as sacred.” (A History of God, Karen Armstrong, Heinenmann, London, 1993, p93). The Jews had been pagans. It was slavery and extreme oppression, from which their gods had been unable to free them, which finally liberated them from all associated deities and brought them to believe in Yahweh, the one God. Indeed, the man had to struggle long and hard to divest himself of the deities that could be seen or touched. And the tendency to associate other deities with Yahweh stayed long. In 869BC, Ahab, the king of Israel, married a pagan princess, Jezebel. She believed in Baal and succeeded in spreading the cult widely among the Jews. The cult was suppressed later violently and the Jews became intolerant monotheists.
There being no place for other deities in monotheism, the polytheist pantheon was gone. Whether destruction of others’ temples followed at that time, it is hard to say. Early Muslims did not destroy the temples of pagans or of the other monotheistic religions. Idols were removed from the Kaaba, because the struggle of the Prophet (PBUH) against the Meccan pagans was seen as a struggle not against deniers of God, but against associators. The idols had, thus, been expelled not from their pantheon, but from the House of God which they had, so to say, invaded. The conversion of others’ places of worship into one’s own became a custom in the mediaeval times, when Islam and a resurgent Christianity confronted each other systematically from the Sea of Azov to the Straits of Gibralter. The Turks turned the churches of Istanbul into mosques, and the Christians converted the mosques in Spain and Sicily into churches. However, this was done only where the conquerors became a majority among the people. The Turks did not do so in Ukraine or the Balkans, or the Christians in the Muslim lands that they conquered in Asia and Africa. The Christian treatment of the pagan temples in the New World was different. There, a handful of Europeans were trying to maintain its rule over a relatively numerous population. They not only used a lot of violence to do so, but also destroyed the local temples, using their material to build churches on those sites. This proved to the locals, according to them, that not only had their armies been defeated by the European armies, but their gods had been defeated by the Europeans’ god. This would break their will to resist. The Muslim rule in India drew sustenance from Central Asia from time to time. But it was based locally. The Muslims were thus infinitesimal compared to the Hindus. Therefore, as Dr Mubarak Ali says, their conquest of the Hindus was not absolute. Their rule was rather tolerated. A factor which helped them, according to Dr Mubarak Ali, was that the Hindu lower castes preferred the rule of the Muslims to that of Hindu upper castes. The fragility of their rule meant that they could not provoke the Hindus too much. They had to be restrained even in their oppression. True, some bigoted ruler may knock down a temple or more likely prevent the building of a new one. But generally, they did not interfere with the Hindus’ religious practices.
As to Babar, as the Indian historian Harbans Mukhia says, “his fame does not rest on religious fanaticism or idol smashing. He was a man of culture who liked good things of life, like music, flowers, women and, of course, a cup of wine. He had no taste for pulling down temples and putting up mosques instead”. (The quarterly Tareekh, October, 2000, p135). The Babri mosque was constructed under Babar’s orders. But Mukhia, in his article on the subject quoted above, pointed out: “There is absolutely no indication from the inscription on the mosque’s walls or the tablets in it that there was a building previously on the site where the mosque was constructed.” (p131). Neither does Babar mention in his memoir the existence of any mandir at the place, nor have Abdul Fazl or Aurganzeb mentioned it. Not even Tulsi Das, who wrote his Ramayan within fifty years of the construction of the mosque, and, who being a devotee of Ram, would, according to Mukhia, “have denounced the act violently if it had taken place”. (p133). The allegation of the mosque being at a site holy to the Hindus was first made by one Hafeezullah in a court in Faizabad in 1822. He said that the Babri mosque had been built at the site of Ram’s birth place, but did not say that there had been a temple there. Later, a collector of Faizabad, Carnegie, said in the 1860s without giving any source, that a temple had been knocked down to build the mosque. The translator of Babar’s memoirs, Mrs Beveridge, repeated the allegation, again without any supporting evidence. These allegations made after 1857 were part of the British policy of creating differences between Hindus and Muslims.
There is a high extended mound running along the Ghaghra River and adjoining the modern town of Ajodhya. Such mounds on the flat Gangetic Plain indicate the ruins of a fortress or of a town. The mound is generally assumed to be the remnants of the pre-historic Ajodhya. Hindi prose translation of Valmiki’s Ramayan, done by Anand Kumar, (Anand Paperbacks, Delhi, 1964), begins with the phrase, “the prosperous Ajodhya was an ancient city by the name of Kosal by the Sarju River. It was full of men and wealth”. Valmiki was, of course, a poet, who cannot be cited as a historical source, that too for a prehistorical event. But we can assume that the place where the pre-historic Aryan hero, Ram, was said to be from was under this mud mound by the Ghaghra (also called Sarju). Various spots on it had been designated by the believers as holy sites. For instance, “the birth place of Ram”, “Sita’s kitchen” etc. A third place almost by the river, was called Hanuman Garhi. This was where Ram is said to have enthroned Hanuman in recognition of his aid in the Lanka campaign. This spot became the centre of a crisis in 1855, an year before the annexation of Awadh by the British. Hakim Najmul Ghani, drawing on a number of historians of Lucknow, has given its full story in his five-volume History of Awadh. (Nafees Academy, Karachi 1983). He says that Babar had three temples — those at Ram’s birthplace, his court and house — pulled down, and built a mosque at the site of the birthplace. The temple at Sita’s kitchen was, however, left standing beside the mosque (Vol. V, p184). Some Muslim nobles also built mosques at other spots on the mound, but the Hindus destroyed them over a period. (none of these historians quoted by Najmul Ghani quotes any source). Earlier, Safdar Jang, the second Nawab Wazir of Awadh (mid-eighteenth century), had recovered from an illness as a result of the prayers by a Hindu priest, Abhay Ram. In return, the latter had sought permission to build a temple at Hanuman Garhi. Safdar Jang gave permission and some financial aid for the construction. After that, for about a century, Muslims built mosques at the place and the Hindus either destroyed them or made the access of the Muslims to them difficult. Things came to a head in 1855, when some extremist Muslims, led by one Maulvi Amir Ali, started from Lucknow, intending to pull down the Hanuman Mandir and build a mosque there, instead. Wajid Ali Shah sent many religious scholars and others to dissuade them, arguing that there had been a temple there before the mosque. But they kept going. The Awadh government used force as they got to Rudauli, only twenty-five miles from Ajodhya. The extremists, numbering about six hundred, were surrounded by the army and killed to the last man. But even at such a point of high tension, no one raised the question of the Babri mosque. The fact is that this dispute was created de toute piece by the British to serve their imperial interests and has been revived by the Hindu extremists a century later in order to gain Hindu votes. As mentioned earlier, conversion of others’ places of worship into ones’ own was a mediaeval practice. And it was used only against a conquered people. Does the BJP want to revive a mediaeval practice? And does it regard the Indian Muslims as a conquered people? REFERENCE: The eye of the storm By M. Abul Fazl March 31, 2002 http://archives.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/archive/020331/dmag1.htm
Dr. Koenraad Elst speaks about the Ayodhya verdict 6 of 6
THE emergence and expansion of religious extremism is hotly debated and discussed in Pakistan. The origin of this phenomenon has mostly been traced to the madressahs and, therefore, attempts are being made to reform the educational system of the religious seminaries to check extremist trends. Efforts have been directed towards introducing moderate religious reforms in their system in order to help them produce liberal students or taliban. However, this assumption is not fully correct and to blame the madressahs for producing narrow-minded religious fanatics is not justified. There are other reasons for the promotion of religious orthodoxy and fanaticism in society which should not be ignored. Here I shall analyse those causes which are usually not discussed when looking into this phenomenon. The most potent and important institution which patronises religious orthodoxy is the state of Pakistan. Right from its inception in 1947, the ruling elite hesitated to adopt liberal and secular policies. In the case of constitution-making, it sought the help of ulema and asked two leading religious scholars, Sayyid Suleman Nadvi and Prof Hamidullah, to come to Pakistan and advise the government on making the constitution Islamic in character.
The involvement of the ulema in this process is well known and ultimately resulted in the Objectives Resolution in 1949 which subsequently determined the direction of future constitutions. Defending it, Liaquat Ali Khan the prime minister, explained to the Constituent Assembly that the state should not remain partial in matters of religion. According to him, it was the responsibility of the state to patronise religious teachings. In spite of protests from minority members of parliament, the resolution was adopted. This laid the foundation of religious extremism in the country. On the other hand, from the very beginning the state adopted a hostile attitude towards progressive and liberal groups, parties and individuals. During the entire period of the Cold War, the Pakistani state sided with the western bloc and supported religious elements to counter communism. Consequently, communists and socialists became the victims of state oppression. They were harassed by the secret agencies, put in prison and tortured. They were denied government jobs.
Even private institutions closed their doors on them and they could not hope for any employment. The Communist Party of Pakistan was banned and its workers went underground. Barred from working openly, they either associated with some other parties or worked silently in a limited circle. Progressive writers and intellectuals were criticised and dubbed as agents of foreign countries. Their magazines were banned, their writings were censored and cases were filed against them on charges of obscenity or treason. The result was that religious parties and groups found free space to play a dominant role in society. Liberal and progressive elements were so terrorised and harassed that they lost their voice to challenge religious extremism and propagate their point of view. Since then, the Pakistani state has been playing an active role in the propagation of religious extremism. The three constitutions that were enacted contained provisions which upheld religious tenets in every walk of life.
The educational institutions Islamised their curricula to teach every subject from a religious perspective. Islamisation of the legal system and the setting up of the Sharia court undermined the judicial system. The official media propagated jihad and glorified martyrdom. Thus it was the state that emerged as the main vehicle of spreading religious fanaticism in society by crushing all liberal and progressive points of view. Because of the importance of the institution of the state, the ulema have vehemently opposed its secularisation. They fully realise that in a secular state they would lose their power and influence. The mission of all religious parties is to capture the state either through democratic means by appealing to the people to support them in the name of religion in elections or through an armed struggle. At the same time, their strategy is to pressure the ruling classes to keep away from any process of secularisation of the state. They have insisted on the implementation of the Sharia for making Pakistan an Islamic state.
Thus, we find that religious extremists are fighting on two fronts: political and social. The irony is that nearly all non-religious political parties are proclaiming their adherence to the Islamic system. They also promise to preserve what has been Islamised by past governments including those of Z.A. Bhutto and Ziaul Haq. In this respect, there is no difference between religious and non-religious parties. All of them, just to win the support and sympathy of the people, promise to establish the Islamic welfare state in Pakistan. They pledge to revive the past glory of Islamic history which was actually nothing but that of conquests and the expansion of Arab and Turkish imperialism. Religious extremists are also concerned with the social change that Pakistani society is undergoing. As a result of globalisation and scientific and technological inventions, the social and cultural values of society are changing.
The old cultural and social practices, customs and traditions of the jagirdari and tribal system which have been validated by religion, are now under threat. Dress, music, dance, eating habits and lifestyle are all challenging the old value system. Women want to marry according to their choice. They like to get an education and want to work outside their homes. When religious and old social value systems fail to check these changes, the guardians of conservative mores resort to violence and try to stop new trends. Here, violence is justified by religious scholars to uphold the outdated system of a feudal and tribal society. The key question remains: is there any hope for changing the structure of the state? Perhaps no, because all political parties like to use religion and exploit the sentiments of the people to win elections. Religion and politics will remain an integral part of Pakistan. To defeat old and conservative traditions will take a long time because at present liberal and secular forces are too weak to resist and combat the established set-up. REFERENCE: Roots of religious extremism By Mubarak Ali February 09, 2008 Saturday Safar 01, 1429 http://archives.dawn.com/2008/02/09/op.htm#1
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