Congress leader Shashi Tharoor came under the attack of Muslims on social media for cautioning against religious fundamentalism. The Thiruvananthapuram MP was commenting on shouting of Islamic chant La ilaha illallah during anti-CAA protests.
Our fight against Hindutva extremism should give no comfort to Islamist extremism either. We who’re raising our voice in the #CAA_NRCProtests are fighting to defend an #InclusiveIndia. We will not allow pluralism&diversity to be supplanted by any kind of religious fundamentalism. https://t.co/C9GVtB9gIa
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 29, 2019
Today Shashi Tharoor reacted to a video posted on Twitter 2 days ago where anti-CAA protesters were chanting La ilaha illallah, the Islamic Shahada which means “There is no god but God”, where the second God means Allah. The chant is often followed by muḥammadun rasulu llah, which means “Muhammad is the messenger of God”. The religious chant represents the central philosophy of Islam, that Allah is the only god, and there is no other god.
Tharoor said that their “fight against Hindutva extremism should give no comfort to Islamist extremism either”. He said that the fight against the Citizenship Amendment Bill is fight to defend inclusive India. “We will not allow pluralism & diversity to be supplanted by any kind of religious fundamentalism,” he added.
People in this country say ‘jai bajrang bali’ even before lifting a heavy rock and no one calls it communal.
— India Resists (@India_Resists) December 29, 2019
This was objected to by many Muslims, saying that La ilaha illallah is said by Muslims every day, and there is no religious fundamentalism about it. Tharoor was accused of soft bigotry for his comments, and said that it is “their fight”, asking him to stop telling what to do.
“Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.”
‘La illaha illallah’ certainly comes within that definition.
This is our fight, Mr. Tharoor. Please stop telling us what to do. https://t.co/JEoGXkm4gg
— نتاشا Natasha (@nuts2406) December 29, 2019
After the backlash from Muslim social media users, Tharoor tried to explain that the struggle is for India, not Islam. “It’s about our constitutional values & founding principles. It’s about defending pluralism. It’s about saving the soul of India. Not one faith vs another,” he tweeted.
But Muslims didn’t agree with him, saying that as Muslims are the most affected party and it is their fight, Muslim chants during anti-CAA protests are justified.
The Muslims are disproportionately targeted. It is *their* struggle. Not yours. Stop dictating to them what they can and cannot say.
— Meraj Hasan (@_merajhasan) December 29, 2019
Muslims are the ones being discriminated against, they’re the ones being targeted & killed, their properties are the ones being destroyed, they’re the majority at the forefront of these protests. No disrespect but they can raise the slogans they want to lift their spirits, sir.
— Anti-CAA / Anti-NRC (@iSecularIndian) December 29, 2019
While Tharoor tried to emphasis that the anti-CAA protests were for constitutional values, most people opposing the CAA differed with him, asserting that the protests were to protect the rights of Muslims. That’s why Islamic chants proclaiming that the Allah is the only god is justified.
Moreover, Tharoor was not objecting to Muslims saying La ilaha illallah five times a day, he was referring to the specific slogan in the video, which also contained the chant tera mera rishta kya, la ilaha illallah. This basically means a call for Ummah, a Muslim nation. The Ummah was the basis of partition of India, as Muslims wanted a separate nation. La ilaha illallah in general means Allah is the only god, which implies that all other gods of other faiths are not real gods.
Several users, including moderate Muslims, replied to Tharoor that several Hindu slogans are also used in day to day life, like Jai Bajrang Bali, and therefore the Islamic slogan’s use outside prayer is acceptable. But there is a difference, none of other slogans say that other gods are not real gods, they only hail the god they refer to. They don’t claim that god is superior to other gods. In that context, the Islamic chants are not comparable to non-Islamic religious chants.
Tharoor wanted to say that as Chanting La ilaha illallah outside prayer means claiming supremacy of Allah over other gods, and that is not acceptable in a plural, inclusive India. But it was lost on Muslims, and they attacked him accusing of bigotry and asked him to not to interfere in ‘their’ fight.