Editor’s note: The Print published an article today that argued that Indian Muslims don’t need an Owaisi or a Salman Khurshid, but a leader like Shashi Tharoor. The argument presented was that In India, either a Muslim leader is popular only among Muslims and is unable to build credible support in a Hindu-majority country, or he is completely disconnected with the community and can’t be seen as a credible Muslim leader. While The Print builds up own imaginations trying to solve non-existent problems, the real issue is not whether Indian Muslims need a Tharoor, but where is that Ambedkar that Islam needs desperately?
Every time there is some news report on caste atrocity by the so-called upper castes, our “liberals” never fail to remind us of the ‘ugly reality’ of our society and the Hindu religion. Hinduism is reduced just to caste. And due to the evils of caste-system, Hinduism is declared the most violent society in the history of human civilization.
Now contrast the reactions to those when every time there is some news report about an act of terror carried out by a Muslim group or an individual. The same set of people never fails to remind us that all religions are the same. Islam is reduced to ‘peace’ (even though its literal meaning is ‘submission’, not peace). And due to the merits of peace, Islam is declared just as peaceful or violent a religion as any other in the history of human civilization.
The reactions might appear totally diverse but there is one commonality – the response (attack on Hinduism in the former case and defence of Islam in the latter case) is carried out ostensibly to protect a set of people (the lower castes in the former case and the Muslims in the latter case).
The victim in a case of caste-atrocity is generally the person from a lower caste, while the victim in a case of terrorism becomes the Muslim who might have to face persecutions due to ensuing Islamophobia (umm…). Essentially the liberals end up fighting the crime yet to be committed when it comes to Islamic terrorism.
And this is why the problems within and around Islam are never discussed. Those who raise the issues with Islam after a terror attack are painted as perpetrators of Islamophobia – a crime the liberals were already geared up to fight. It works like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Casteism of Hinduism vs Violence of Islam:
I’ll go back to the caste atrocity and Hinduism analogy that I had referred to at the beginning of this article. That reference was not just to show the double standards of the “liberals” while responding to cases that are fundamentally a violation of human rights and dignity, but because I believe that the problem of caste-system vis a vis Hinduism can be used an analogy to the problem of violence vis a vis Islam, although the latter is a much greater threat. I don’t mean it in any academic or theological way but in a pragmatic and practical way.
One can cite numerous examples to show that birth based discriminations are not exclusive to the Hindu culture and similarly one can argue that violence is not exclusive to the Islamic ideology, but for practical purposes, both these groups are dealing with the respective problems in an almost exclusive manner. Now there comes another double standard of the Indian liberals.
To deal with the issues of caste-system and Hinduism, they can never praise someone like Babasaheb Ambedkar enough (and I won’t bother to vehemently disagree with them there), but to deal with the issues of violence and Islam, they draw a blank and resort to political correctness and kid gloves. Who is the role model of Indian liberals when it comes to reforming Islam? Or rather let me put it this way – where is the Ambedkar that Islam needs?
All the reformist or moderate Muslim names that the liberals may put forward in response to the above question will hopelessly pale in front of Ambedkar, who took on caste discrimination by denouncing Hinduism itself. Some of the liberals might even put forward examples of Sir Syed Ahmed or Allama Iqbal as reformers, while both of whom actually believed in the concept of ummah and formation of an Islamic state. Sorry dudes, that’s like an Ambedkar who believes in Manusmriti.
The truth is – the Indian liberal is either hopelessly coward or viciously anti-Hindu (due to double standards) who doesn’t yearn for an Ambedkar that Islam desperately needs in today’s times. He just wants to use Ambedkar to attack Hinduism. The utility of someone like Ambedkar ends there. He doesn’t believe in the idea, the attitude, called Ambedkar.
Ambedkar that Islam needs
Someone might ask me what exactly do I mean by an Ambedkar that Islam needs? And I won’t mince words here as I’m not as cowardly as the Indian liberal. Yes, I don’t want to get beheaded, but that might happen anyway unless an Ambedkar comes to reform Islam. By Ambedkar of Islam, I mean a reformer who can attack the traditional Islam just like Ambedkar attacked traditional Hinduism – almost to the point of destroying it in existing form. This attack is needed because the kid gloves are not working.
One has to be blind not to see the radicalization that is happening at a really quick rate among Muslims. Various surveys among Muslim societies show that the proportion of people believing in concepts like death for apostasy or blasphemy is rising.
Let’s forget the number of terror attacks, but just focus on changing beliefs. More and more normal Muslims are taking pride in Islam being a “perfect” religion. The literal and the most obscurantist interpretation of the religion and the Quran are becoming increasingly popular, even among the educated lot.
One can cop-out by blaming this radicalization as being transient and reactionary (by pinning the blame on the RSS when it comes to India, and on Israel and the USA when it comes to incidents abroad), or by inventing new words like “self-radicalization”, but those will be just that – cop-out.
The time is to junk political correctness just like it has been junked when the problem of casteism is discussed. And junking this political correctness, I will repeat that the problem of violence and intolerance in Islam is similar to the problem of caste discrimination in Hinduism – it is almost inherent. It doesn’t require a trigger to insult a lower caste or to punish a kaafir – it is assumed to be sanctioned by the respective perpetrators.
The nice talks by social reformers before Ambedkar didn’t help Hinduism get rid of the caste-system (we are still struggling) and the nice talks by whoever is not helping Islam either. Babasaheb Ambedkar gave a shock-therapy to Hinduism, which some would argue was badly needed.
Why Ambedkar was needed to reform Hinduism
In “Annihilation of Caste”, Babasaheb Ambedkar virtually calls for the annihilation of Hinduism to get rid of the caste system. That’s the only thing the “liberals” like about Ambedkar – the apparent call for the annihilation of Hinduism.
Do I support that? Broadly, yes! In fact, I would argue that the Hinduism that Ambedkar called on to annihilate is virtually annihilated today. The Hinduism that I practice or many other “right-wingers” practice is not based on the texts that Ambedkar held responsible for the inhuman caste-system. I don’t know a single person in my social circle who has even seen those texts.
The Hindu religion that Babasaheb wanted dead is already dead, however, the social structure he despised lives on. And unfortunately, that’s still largely a feudal structure. But it no longer needs that form of Hinduism (or as some call it – Brahminism) to sustain itself; which is why people have left the religion but they haven’t left the caste-system. I know deeply casteist people who are not at all religious. New tools are needed today for the annihilation of caste. However, I’d not go into those as the scope of this article is something else.
Coming back to the attacks that Babasaheb launched on Hinduism, I’d say that it could be very much cogently argued that those were needed at that time. Hinduism needed that shock. Ambedkar’s agenda was not to reduce Hinduism to caste-system but to create a new Hinduism where caste discrimination had no place. When he failed to do that in his lifetime, he chose a new religion.
The liberal love for Ambedkar is selfish
The Indian “liberal” has deviously hijacked Ambedkar. His single-point agenda is to reduce Hinduism to the caste system. Remember how Yoga is secularized and it’s declared that it has got nothing to do with religion – same is done with philosophy, festivals, music, food, medicine, and other aspects of the Hindu culture.
Ambedkar is clubbed with others like Periyar and his agenda is distorted and put out of context. The aim is to reduce Hinduism just to the caste-system. And after that successful reduction, the liberal argument is to destroy the evil caste system, which is proxy for destroying Hinduism.
This ingenious line of reductionist argument puts the Hindus – those who’d assert to identify and call themselves as one – on the defensive, and some of them even rush to defend the caste-system, giving an opportunity to the “liberals” to paint all assertive Hindus as casteist bigots. This is another self-fulfilling prophecy they have created.
I don’t wish to comment on the origins or “merits” of caste-system here in this article; at best those can be topics of academic discussion. I am more of a pragmatist and thus I support the destruction of caste-system – prevalent in the current form, especially in rural India – and which is why I earlier wrote that I broadly support what Babasaheb argued in “Annihilation of Caste”.
And as I said earlier, it was a shock therapy that was badly needed. Even Ambedkar himself conceded that the kinds of rational and logical tests and standards he was putting those Hindu texts through, were intense and most religions would fail similar tests, but he argued that the Hindu society needed to pass this test if it wanted to progress and prosper.
To be honest, the Hindu society is still struggling, but it has not discarded Ambedkar and his views. In fact, he has become relevant again. The “liberals” mock “right-wingers” for appropriating Ambedkar (and this article will be mocked too) but that only shows that Hindus have accepted Ambedkar as a reformer. It is acceptance, not appropriation.
Waiting for the Islamic Ambedkar
And that’s where I will ask the liberals again – fine, mock us for appropriating Ambedkar, but can you tell us who your idea of Ambedkar is when it comes to Islam? Or do you think Islam needs no Ambedkar? If you think Islam doesn’t need any Ambedkar, you’re not helping anyone, not even Islam.
Just like Hinduism can’t be reduced just to caste-system thanks to “appropriation” of Ambedkar by “right-wing” Hindus, Islam too needs to save itself from being reduced to barbarism and violence. An absence of Ambedkar will actually hurt it.
One can argue that this problem of Islamic terrorism is just a recent phenomenon (perhaps 9/11 will be put as the start date) and that Islam had been doing rather well since its inception, but that will be just a reassuring lie. Bitter truth is that Islamic history is full of strife and violent clash between ideologies.
It’s not that Islam is all about violence. That will be as unfair as saying Hinduism is all about caste. However, currently, the political and mythological aspects of Islam are prevailing over the philosophical and mystic ones. The former aspects will annihilate the latter ones if they are not annihilated first.
And that’s why Islam needs an Ambedkar.
(This article was originally published on the author’s blog and can be accessed here)