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March 12, 2001
Amberish K Diwanji
Will destroying the Bamiyan Buddha recreate the Babri Masjid?
What does one say about the destruction of the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, ostensibly because the statues are unIslamic? Islamic scholars, countries, laymen, all have condemned the Taleban for this most dastardly and, if I may add, unIslamic act, but obviously to little avail. Analysts are now busy trying to figure out what motivated the Taleban on to this course of action.
Yet, what must surely rank as rubbing salt on the wounds of any civilised Indian is the utter nonsense being uttered by our own Talebanised folk. If on one hand we have members of the Bajrang Dal and VHP warning the Taleban that its action would make them react by taking similar steps against Muslim structures in India, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi has claimed that the Taleban's action is in response to the destruction of the Babri Masjid.
The VHP, Bajrang Dal, and its sister groups like the Shiv Sena seek to be nothing more than a Hindu version of the Taleban. And these outfits would like nothing more than to destroy every vestige of Islam in India (not unlike the Taleban which aims to destroy all traces of 'idolatry'), whether it be mosques or other structures.
The VHP today harps on a single fact: that it is seeking only three sites. Yet, every now and then, outfits akin to it and trying to outdo it speak of razing the Qutub Minar, the Taj Mahal and sundry other Islamic structures, claiming that Hindu temples lie beneath. At this rate, there will not be a single Muslim structure left unblemished.
Let us be very clear. Should the VHP or its sister outfits capture political power in India, they may well emulate the Taleban in Afghanistan. The VHP did not hesitate in pulling down the Babri Masjid. The reason: this masjid stood where a temple had been pulled down four centuries ago. Pulling it down only 'righted' history, they trumpeted.
When the VHP was told to provide evidence beyond reasonable doubt or await the court verdict before sending its mobs to Ayodhya, it gave the famous reply: "This is a matter of faith that cannot be decided by historical and rational evidence or the courts."
The Taleban has used the same logic: Destroying the Buddha is a matter of (Islamic) faith.
Is it not strange that the VHP/Bajrang Dal and its political sister, the BJP, today condemn the Taleban when they did exactly the same thing? Why is the Taleban's faith and its inhumanity any different from that of the Hindutva groups?
If the Hindutva outfits are odious, the Shahi Imam is reprehensible. This individual over the years harmed Indian secularism by playing the communal card just to remain influential. His utterances have led to communal violence time and again. This man, who wields considerable influence among the poorer Muslims of Delhi, has never used the same to lead the Muslims out of their present state of ignorance and poverty.
By consistently harping on the question of the Muslim identity (over questions of their education and jobs) and regularly raising the war cry "Islam khatre mein (Islam in Danger)," he, more than anyone else, helped make Hindutva an ideology embraced by millions of Hindus today.
The Shahi Imam, along with some other crazy Muslim outfits, has upheld an alleged statement by a Taleban official that the destruction of the Buddha statue is in retaliation for the destruction of the Babri Masjid.
Some points the Shahi Imam might consider:
The VHP and its fellow outfits, reprehensible as they are, were not in the government when the masjid was pulled down. Second, does he lack the basic intelligence to realise that two wrongs never make a right? Will destroying the Bamiyan Buddha recreate the Babri Masjid? The VHP was wrong, the Taleban are wrong, and he is wrong for equating the two.
If the Imam has nothing to say, then he would do well to keep his mouth shut because his utterances are only hardening radical elements on both sides. He could also explain how destroying Buddha statues amounts to retaliation for the acts of Hindu radicals. Are Buddhists Hindus?
Most important, if the Babri Masjid were to be rebuilt, can he guarantee that the Bamiyan Buddhas will also be rebuilt? We all know the answer.
It is immensely tragic that the Imam should condone such mayhem. It clearly reveals that for men like the Imam, India's secularism is not a matter of principle but simply of opportunism and politics. The Imam wants India secular because the Muslims are a minority; he obviously does not believe in secularism as a matter of principle.
Such men like him do more harm than good to the cause of secularism and liberalism, beliefs that many Indians and others across the world still hold dear. Liberalism and secularism has no room for medieval crap such as destroying mosques or statues, for whatever reason. After all, the the 21st century is not the 16th!
Human history is full of rampaging vandals who destroyed everything in their path in the name of god, religion or race. Men like Mullah Omar, the Shahi Imam, Ashok Singhal, Slobodan Milosevic and their ilk belong to that age. Today's tragedy is that such men are actually becoming popular and coming to power in various countries and killing those who are unlike them.
Such men and outfits must be stopped. At all costs.
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