Indian journalist and politician
Arun Shourie (born 2 November 1941) is a prominent journalist, author, and politician of India.
- A case in which the English version of a major book by a renowned Muslim scholar, the fourth Rector of one of the greatest centres of Islamic learning in India, listing some of the mosques, including the Babri Masjid, which were built on the sites and foundations of temples, using their stones and structures, is found to have the tell-tale passages censored out; The book is said to have become difficult to get;... Evasion, concealment, have become a national habit. And they have terrible consequences...
It was a long, discursive book, I learnt, which began with descriptions of the geography, flora and fauna, languages, people and the regions of India. These were written for the Arabic speaking peoples, the book having been written in Arabic. ... A curious fact hit me in the face. Many of the persons who one would have normally expected to be knowledgeable about such publications were suddenly reluctant to recall this book. I was told, in fact, that copies of the book had been removed, for instance from the Aligarh Muslim University Library. Some even suggested that a determined effort had been made three or four years ago to get back each and every copy of this book. ....Such being the eminence of the author, such being the greatness of the work, why is it not the cynosure of the fundamentalists’’ eyes? The answer is in the chapter “Hindustan ki Masjidein”, “The Mosques of Hindustan”. ... Each reference to each of these mosques having been constructed on the sites of temples with, as in the case of the mosque at Benaras, the stones of the very temple which was demolished for that very purpose have been censored out of the English version of the book! Each one of the passages on each one of the seven mosques! No accident that. .... why would anyone have thought it necessary to remove these passages from the English version-that is the version which was more likely to be read by persons other than the faithful? Why would anyone bowdlerise the book of a major scholar in this way?...
- About the removal of a book from libraries for political reasons. Arun Shourie: Hideaway Communalism (Indian Express, February 5, 1989) Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Volume I.
- Their real significance- and I dare say that they are but the smallest, most innocuous example that one can think of on the mosque-temple business-lies in the evasion and concealment they have spurred. I have it on good authority that the passages have been known for long, and well known to those who have been stoking the Babri Masjid issue. That is the significant thing; they have known them, and their impulse has been to conceal and bury rather than to ascertain the truth....The fate of Maulana Abdul Hai’s passages-and I do, not know whether the Urdu version itself was not a conveniently sanitised version of the original Arabic volume-illustrates the cynical manner in which those who stoke the passions of religion to further their politics are going about the matter. Those who proceed by such cynical calculations sow havoc for all of us, for Muslims, for Hindus, for all. Those who remain silent in the face of such cynicism, such calculations help them sow the havoc. Will we shed our evasions and concealments? Will we at last learn to speak and face the whole truth?
- About the removal of a book from libraries for political reasons. Arun Shourie: Hideaway Communalism (Indian Express, February 5, 1989) Quoted from Goel, Sita Ram (editor) (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. Volume I.
- And yet I find in the majority judgement a fatal innocence... The judgement quotes the proclamations from the Rig, Yajur and Atharva Vedas - about all human beings being one, about their being the children of the same Mother-Earth, about the yearnings that all of use be friends. But it does not note that less than a mile from its building volumes upon volumes of fatwas are being sold and distributed which exhort Muslims never to trust Kafirs, never to allow them into their confidence; which tell them that their first duty and allegiance is to their religion and not to sundry laws... It is not Gandhiji who needs to be convinced that Ishwar and Allah ar one. It is not Guru Gobind Singh who needs to be convinced that mandir and masjid, Puran and Quran are one. The ones who need to be convinced that they are one - say, the ulema, or the Shahi Iman... - have it as an article of faith that they are not one.
- Arun Shourie in: India., & Dasgupta, S. (1995). The Ayodhya reference: The Supreme Court judgement and commentaries. p. 171-3
- "The forfeiture is exactly the sort of thing which has landed us where we are : where intellectual inquiry is shut out ; where our tradition are not examined and reassessed and where as a consequence there is no dialogue."
- About the book banning of Ram Swarup's Understanding Islam through Hadis. quoted from Koenraad Elst. Ayodhya and after: issues before Hindu society. 1991. Ch. 12.
- They rely on intimidation, It is exactly by tactics of this kind that an earlier book of Mr. Swarup - Understanding Islam Through Hadis - was put out of circulation... November 27, 1990, under the influence of the same intimidation the Delhi Administration declared that, contrary to what it had itself twice decreed, the book was not only objectionable, was deliberately and malicious so!....
Our response should be three fold. First, whenever an attempt such as this from quarters such as Mr. Shahabuddin is made to stifle free speech, to kill even scholarly inquiry, we must go out of our way and immediately obtain the book....
Secondly, whenever the intimidators prevail and such a book actually comes to be banned large numbers should take to reprinting it, photocopying it, to circulating it, and discussing its contents.
The third thing is more necessary, and in the long run will be the complete answer to the intimidators. As long as scholars like Mr. Swarup are few, intimidators can bully weak governments into shutting them one by one. But what will they do if 1,000, scholars are to do work of the same order? This is the way to deal with intimidators. Let 1,000 scholars carry on work Mr. Swarup has pioneered.
- Arun Shourie: " How should we respond?", also in: Freedom of expression – Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998, edited by Sita Ram Goel)
Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their FraudEdit
- In June–July 1998, progressives kicked up quite a racket. The government has packed the Indian Council of Historical Research with pro–Ram Mandir historians, they shouted. It has surreptitiously altered the aims and objectives of the Council, they shouted. As is their wont, they had sparked the commotion by giving wind to a concoction. As is their wont too, they were charging others with planning to do in some undefined future what they had themselves been actually doing for decades – that is, write history to a purpose.
- The most extensive deletions are ordered in regard to the chapter on ‘Aurangzeb’s policy on religion’. Every allusion to what he actually did to the Hindus, to their temples, to the very leitmotif of his rule – to spread the sway of Islam – are directed to be excised from the book. He is to be presented as one who had an aversion – an ordinary sort of aversion, almost a secular one – to music and dancing, to the presence of prostitutes in the court, and that it is these things he banished... In a word, no forcible conversions, no massacres, no destruction of temples. Just that Hinduism had created an exploitative, casteist society. Islam was egalitarian. Hence the oppressed Hindus embraced Islam!
Muslim historians of those times are in raptures at the heap of kafirs who have been dispatched to hell. Muslim historians are forever lavishing praise on the ruler for the temples he has destroyed, for the hundreds of thousands he has got to see the light of Islam. Law books like The Hedaya prescribe exactly the options to which these little textbooks alluded. All whitewashed away.
Objective whitewash for objective history. And today if anyone seeks to restore truth to these textbooks, the shout, ‘Communal rewriting of history’.
- The real crime of these eminences does not lie in the loss they have inflicted in terms of money. It lies in the condition to which they have reduced institutions. It lies in their dereliction – because of which projects that were important for our country have languished. It lies even more in the use to which they have put those institutions.
They have used them to have a comfortable time, of course. They have used them to puff up each other’s reputations, of course. But the worst of it is that they have used their control of these institutions to pervert public discourse, and thereby derail public policy.
They have made India out to have been an empty land, filled by successive invaders. They have made present-day India, and Hinduism even more so, out to be a zoo – an agglomeration of assorted, disparate specimens. No such thing as ‘India’, just a geographical expression, just a construct of the British; no such thing as Hinduism, just a word used by Arabs to describe the assortment they encountered, just an invention of the communalists to impose a uniformity – that has been their stance. For this they have blackened the Hindu period of our history, and, as we shall see, strained to whitewash the Islamic period. They have denounced ancient India’s social system as the epitomy of oppression, and made totalitarian ideologies out to be egalitarian and just.
They have belittled our ancient culture and exaggerated syncretistic elements which survived and made them out to have been an entire ‘culture’, the ‘composite culture’ as they call it. Which culture isn’t? And all the while they have taken care to hide the central facts about these common elements in the life of our people: that they had survived in spite of the most strenuous efforts spread over a thousand years of Islamic rulers and the ulema to erase them, that they had survived in spite of the sustained efforts during the last one hundred and fifty years of the missionaries and British rulers to make us forget and shed these elements, that the elements had survived their efforts to instead inflame each section to see its ‘identity’ and essence in factors which, if internalized, would set it apart. Most of all, these intellectuals and the like have completely diverted public view from the activities in our own day of organizations like the Tabhligi jamaat and the Church which are exerting every nerve, and deploying uncounted resources to get their adherents to discard every practice and belief which they share with their Hindu neighbours.
These intellectuals and their patrons have worked a diabolic inversion: the inclusive religion, the pluralist spiritual search of our people and land, they have projected as intolerant, narrow-minded, obscurantist; and the exclusivist, totalitarian, revelatory religions and ideologies – Islam, Christianity, Marxism-Leninism – they have made out to be the epitomes of tolerance, open-mindedness, democracy, secularism!
- And another thing: if an RSS publication publishes even an interview with me, that is further proof of my being communal; but so tough are the hymen of these progressives that, even when they contribute signed articles to publications of the Communist Party, their virginity remains intact!
- As we have seen, the explicit part of the circular issued by the West Bengal government in 1989 in effect was that there must be no negative reference to Islamic rule in India. Although these were the very things which contemporary Islamic writers had celebrated, there must be no reference to the destruction of the temples by Muslim rulers, to the forcible conversion of Hindus, to the numerous other disabilities which were placed on the Hindu population. Along with the circular, the passages which had to be removed were listed and substitute passages were specified. The passages which were ordered to be deleted contained, if anything, a gross understatement of the facts. On the other hand, passages which were sought to be inserted contained total falsehoods: that by paying jizyah Hindus could lead ‘normal lives’ under an Islamic ruler like Alauddin Khalji! A closer study of the textbooks which are today being used under the authority of the West Bengal government shows a much more comprehensive, a much deeper design than that of merely erasing the cruelties of Islamic rule.
- The position of these ‘academics’ in Bengal has, of course, been helped by the fact that the CPI(M) has been in power there for so long. But their sway has not been confined to the teaching and ‘research’ institutions of that state. It is no surprise, therefore, to see the same ‘line’ being poured down the throats of students at the national level. And so strong is the tug of intellectual fashion, so lethal can the controlling mafia be to the career of an academic that often, even though the academic may not quite subscribe to their propositions and ‘theses’, he will end up reciting those propositions. Else his manuscript will not be accepted as a textbook by the NCERT, for instance, it will not be reviewed….
- Notice the sleight of hand. The repair of temples is allowed! Temples can be constructed in villages! Temples can be constructed ‘within the privacy of homes’! Thus ‘liberal policy’ is the norm which is departed from only in times of war! And the ones who are fought and destroyed at such times are in any case ‘the enemies of Islam’! In times of peace, which are the times that prevailed normally, the norm prevails – that is, ‘the Hindus practice their religion openly and ostentatiously!’ Each of these assertions is a blatant falsehood. But these historians, having, through their control of institutions, set the standards of intellectual correctness, the one who questions the falsehoods, even though he does so by citing the writings of the best known Islamic historians of those very times, he is the one who is in the wrong.
- Once they had occupied academic bodies, once they had captured universities and thereby determined what will be taught, which books will be prescribed, what questions would be asked, what answers will be acceptable, these historians came to decide what history had actually been! As it suits their current convenience and politics to make out that Hinduism also has been intolerant, they will glide over what Ambedkar says about the catastrophic effect that Islamic invasions had on Buddhism, they will completely suppress what he said of the nature of these invasions and of Muslim rule in his Thoughts on Pakistan,3 but insist on reproducing his denunciations of ‘Brahmanism’, and his view that the Buddhist India established by the Mauryas was systematically invaded and finished by Brahmin rulers.
Thus, they suppress facts, they concoct others, they suppress what an author has said on one matter even as they insist that what he has said on another be taken as gospel truth. And when anyone attempts to point out what had in fact happened, they rise in chorus: a conspiracy to rewrite history, they shout, a plot to distort history, they scream. But they are the ones who have been distorting it in the first place – by suppressing the truth, by planting falsehoods.
- And look at the finesse of these historians. They maintain that such facts and narratives must be swept under the carpet in the interest of national integration: recalling them will offend Muslims, they say, doing so will sow rancour against Muslims in the minds of Hindus, they say. Simultaneously, they insist on concocting the myth of Hindus destroying Buddhist temples. Will that concoction not distance Buddhists from Hindus? Will that narrative, specially when it does not have the slightest basis in fact, not embitter Hindus?
- In regard to matter after critical matter – the Aryan-Dravidian divide, the nature of Islamic invasions, the nature of Islamic rule, the character of the freedom struggle – we find this trait – suppresso veri, suggesto falsi. This is the real scandal of history writing in the last thirty years. And it has been possible for these ‘eminent historians’ to perpetrate it because they acquired control of institutions like the ICHR. To undo the falsehood, the control has to be undone.
- And so on – among the highest piles of rubble in the world of the sacred temples of another religion, among the highest piles of corpses of those venerated by another religion. Yet, in the reckoning of our eminent historians a policy of ‘Broad Toleration’! A policy of toleration guided by purely secular motivations!
- But here in India a simplistic recitation of the earlier phrases and categories remained enough. It is not just fidelity to the masters, therefore, which characterizes the history writing by these eminences. It is a simple-mindedness!
But there is an additional factor. Whitewashing the Islamic period is not the only feature which characterizes the work of these historians. There is in addition a positive hatred for the pre-Islamic period and the traditions of the country. Over the years entries about India in Soviet encyclopedias, for instance, became more and more ductile. They began to acknowledge ever so hesitantly that the categories and periods might need to be nuanced when they were extended to countries like China and India. They began to acknowledge that at various times there had been an overlapping and coexistence of different ‘stages’. And, perhaps for diplomatic reasons alone, they became increasingly circumspect – careful to avoid denigrating our traditions.
In the standard two-volume Soviet work, A History of India, for instance, we find more or less the same characterization of the different periods in Indian histories as we do in the volumes of our eminent historians. But the Soviet volumes have none of the scorn and animosity which we have encountered in the volumes of our eminent historians.
- Thus, there are two points to remember. First, our friends are not just Marxists, they are also Macaulayites. Second, they are Marxists in a special sense. They are Marxists in the sense that they have thought of themselves as Marxists, in the sense that they repeatedly regurgitate a handful of Marxist phrases and assertions. But more than being Marxist historians, they have been establishment historians. Their theories and ‘theses’ have accorded not just with the ‘classics’ of Marxism-Leninism, they have accorded with the ideology of, which in terms of their theory means, the needs of Congressite rulers.
- Caste is real. The working class is real. Being a Naga is real. But ‘India is just a geographical expression!’ Similarly, being a Muslim of course is real – Islam must be seen and talked of as one block of granite – ... But Hinduism? Why, there is no such thing: it is just an aggregation, a pile of assorted beliefs and practices – ... And anyone who maintains anything to the contrary is a fascist out to insinuate a unity, indeed to impose a uniformity, where there has been none. That is what our progressive ideologues declaim, as we have seen. In a word, the parts alone are real. The whole is just a construct. India has never been one, these ideologues insist – disparate peoples and regions were knocked together by the Aryans, by the Mughals, by the British for purposes of empire. Anyone who wants to use that construct – India – as the benchmark for determining the sort of structure under which we should live has a secret agenda – of enforcing Hindu hegemony.
This is the continuance of, in a sense the culmination of, the Macaulay-Missionary technique. The British calculated that to subjugate India and hold it, they must undermine the essence of the people: this was Hinduism, and everything which flowed from it. Hence the doggedness with which they set about to undermine the faith and regard of the people for five entities: the gods and goddesses the Hindus revered; the temples and idols in which they were enshrined; the texts they held sacred; the language in which those texts and everything sacred in that tradition was enshrined and which was even in mid-nineteenth-century the lingua franca – that is, Sanskrit; and the group whose special duty it had been over aeons to preserve that way of life – the Brahmins. The other component of the same exercise was to prop up the parts – the non-Hindus, the regional languages, the castes and groups which they calculated would be the most accessible to the missionaries and the empire – the innocent tribals, the untouchables.
- The situation thus is as follows: the ones who have dominated and controlled and terrorised public discourse for half a century in India are now bereft of facts, of arguments. The evidence is available to anyone who has access to their internal ‘dialogues’ – they are talking to narrower and narrower circles; and in these ever-shrinking circles, they are just repeating the old cliches, there is not a new idea, there is not a new fact. And that is predictable, as we have seen: regurgitating those nostrums of the theory is not just necessary, it is sufficient.
- ‘I would like to review your book myself,’ said the editor of one of our principal newspapers about Worshipping False Gods. ‘But if I praise it, they will be after me also. I too will be called communal, high-caste and all that.’ ‘Brilliant, Arun, it was fascinating,’ said a leading commentator who had written a review that inclined to the positive. ‘But, you’ll understand, I couldn’t say all that in print. But it really is brilliant. How do you manage to put in this much work?’ The very selection of reviewers tells the same story. If there is a book by a leftist, editors will be loath to give it to a person of a different point of view: ‘They will say, I have deliberately given it to a rightist,’ the editors are liable to explain. On the other hand, if it is a book by a person they have decided is a rightist, they will be loath to give it to a reviewer who also has been branded a rightist: ‘They will denounce me for deliberately giving the book to a person who is bound to praise it,’ they will bleat. Therefore, in such cases they deliberately give the book to a person who ‘is bound to condemn it’!
- Furthermore, we are instructed, when we do come across instances of temple destruction, as in the case of Aurangzeb, we have to be circumspect in inferring what has happened and why.... the early monuments – like the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi – had to be built in ‘great haste’, we are instructed...Proclamation of political power, alone! And what about the religion which insists that religious faith is all, that the political cannot be separated from the religious? And the name: the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, the Might of Islam mosque? Of course, that must be taken to be mere genuflection! And notice: ‘available materials were assembled and incorporated’, they ‘clearly came from Hindu sources’ – may be the materials were just lying about; may be the temples had crumbled on their own earlier; may be the Hindus voluntarily broke their temples and donated the materials? No? After all, there is no proof they didn’t! And so, the word ‘plundered’ is repeatedly put within quotation marks!
In fact, there is more. The use of such materials – from Hindu temples – for constructing Islamic mosques is part of ‘a process of architectural definition and accommodation by local workmen essential to the further development of a South Asian architecture for Islamic use’. The primary responsibility thus becomes that of those ‘local workmen’ and their ‘accommodation’. Hence, features in the Qutb complex come to ‘demonstrate a creative response by architects and carvers to a new programme’. A mosque that has clearly used materials, including pillars, from Hindu temples, in which undeniably ‘in the fabric of the central dome, a lintel carved with Hindu deities has been turned around so that its images face into the rubble wall’ comes ‘not to fix the rule’. ‘Rather, it stands in contrast to the rapid exploration of collaborative and creative possibilities – architectural, decorative, and synthetic – found in less fortified contexts.’ Conclusions to the contrary have been ‘misevaluations’. We are making the error of ‘seeing salvaged pieces’ – what a good word that, ‘salvaged ’: the pieces were not obtained by breaking down temples; they were lying as rubble and would inevitably have disintegrated with the passage of time; instead they were ‘salvaged ’, and given the honour of becoming part of new, pious buildings – ‘seeing salvaged pieces where healthy collaborative creativity was producing new forms’.
- And yet, none of this is accidental. As we have seen in the texts that we have surveyed in this book, it is all part of a line. India turns out to be a recent construct. It turns out to be neither a country nor a nation. Hinduism turns out to be an invention – surprised at the word? You won’t be a few pages hence – of the British in the late nineteenth century. Simultaneously, it has always been inherently intolerant. Pre-Islamic India was a den of iniquity, of oppression. Islamic rule liberated the oppressed. It was in this period that the Ganga-Jamuna culture, the ‘composite culture’ of India was formed, with Amir Khusro as the great exponent of it, and the Sufi savants as the founts. The sense of nationhood did not develop even in that period. It developed only in response to British rule, and because of ideas that came to us from the West. But even this – the sense of being a country, of being a nation, such as it was – remained confined to the upper crust of Indians. It is the communists who awakened the masses to awareness and spread these ideas among them.
In a word, India is not real – only the parts are real. Class is real. Religion is real – not the threads in it that are common and special to our religions but the aspects of religion that divide us, and thus ensure that we are not a nation, a country, those elements are real. Caste is real. Region is real. Language is real – actually, that is wrong: the line is that languages other than Sanskrit are real; Sanskrit is dead and gone; in any case, it was not, the averments in the great scholar, Horace Wilson to the House of Commons Select Committee notwithstanding, that it was the very basis, the living basis of other languages of the country; rather, it was the preserve of the upper layer, the instrument of domination and oppression; one of the vehicles of perpetuating false consciousness among the hapless masses.
- The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education had issued instructions in 1989 that ‘Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned.’
- Their deceitful role in Ayodhya – which in the end harmed their clients more than anyone else – was just symptomatic. For fifty years this bunch has been suppressing facts and inventing lies. How concerned they pretend to be today about that objective of the ICHR – to promote objective and rational research into events of our past! How does this concern square with the guidelines issued by their West Bengal government in 1989 which Outlook itself had quoted – ‘Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned?’ But incorporating their wholesale fabrications of the destruction of Buddhist viharas, about the non-existent ‘Aryan invasion’, that is mandatory – to question them is to be communal, chauvinist! The capture of institutions like the ICHR has been bad enough, but in the end it has been a device. The major crime of these ‘historians’ has been this partisanship: suppresso veri, suggesto falsi.
- The press is a ready example of their efforts, and of the skills they have acquired in this field. They have taken care to steer their members and sympathizers into journalism. And within journalism, they have paid attention to even marginal niches. Consider books. A book by one of them has but to reach a paper, and suggestions of names of persons who would be specially suitable for reviewing it follow. As I mentioned, the editor who demurs, and is inclined to send the book to a person of a different hue is made to feel guilty, to feel that he is deliberately ensuring a biased, negative review. That selecting a person from their list may be ensuring a biased acclamation is talked out. The pressures of prevailing opinion are such, and editors so eager to evade avoidable trouble, that they swiftly select one of the recommended names...
You have only to scan the books pages of newspapers and magazines over the past fifty years to see what a decisive effect even this simple stratagem has had. Their persons were in vital positions in the publishing houses: and so their kind of books were the ones that got published. They then reviewed, and prescribed each other’s books. On the basis of these publications and reviews they were able to get each other positions in universities and the like…. Even positions in institutions which most of us would not even suspect exist were put to intense use. How many among us would know of an agency of government which determines bulk purchases of books for government and other libraries. But they do! So that if you scan the kinds of books this organization has been ordering over the years, you will find them to be almost exclusively the shades of red and pink....
So, their books are selected for publication. They review each other’s books. Reputations are thereby built. Posts are thereby garnered. A new generation of students is weaned wearing the same pair of spectacles – and that means yet another generation of persons in the media, yet another generation of civil servants, of teachers in universities….
- The example we would do well to keep in front of us is that of the Dalai Lama. He was giving a discourse on a Tibetan text about meditation. He read out a sentence, laughed and remarked, ‘Buddhist theories of creation, a disgrace! Must throw them out!’ He advises that we should keep a wastepaper basket nearby – whatever doesn’t accord with what we know now, we should cast into that basket. ‘Buddhism must face facts,’ that is what he teaches. Accordingly, he has opened Buddhist texts to minute examination. (...) That reflects confidence in one’s tradition. That is true service to the tradition. That is the way to preserve for the future ‘the pearl of great price’ in it.
- But today the fashion is to ascribe the extinction of Buddhism to the persecution of Buddhists by Hindus, to the destruction of their temples by the Hindus. One point is that the Marxist historians who have been perpetrating this falsehood have not been able to produce even an iota of evidence to substantiate the concoction. In one typical instance, Romila Thapar had cited three inscriptions. The indefatigable Sita Ram Goel looked them up. Two of these turned out to have absolutely no connection with Buddhist viharas or their destruction, and the one that did deal with an object being destroyed had been held by authorities to have been a concoction; in any event, it told a story which was as different from what the historian had insinuated as day from night.
Missionaries in IndiaEdit
- I hope the reader will not just read through the examples but will also ask why it is that such material is not placed before our students. After all it is not difficult to come by, and, as the reader will agree after going through it, it has the most direct bearing on our denationalization. Yet, even though he may have considerable interest in our current problems, even though he may have been following closely the public discourse on such problems, in all probability the reader would not have come across the material. Why is this so?
- But there is an even more potent cause for the near total erasure of such material from our public discourse and our instruction. And that is the form of “secularism” which we have practised these forty-five years: a “secularism” in which double-standards have been the norm, one in which everything that may remove the dross by which our national identity has been covered has become anathema.
The World of Fatwas (Or The Shariah In Action)Edit
- In the bookshops in the Muslim areas of our cities—for instance in the bookshops around the Jama Masjid in Delhi— the collections of fatwas fill shelves after shelves. They are put together with great care, the sort of care one associates with sacred literature. The pages are well laid out. The calligraphy is often a work of art. The volumes are beautifully bound— ever so often with gilded embossing on the covers.
- In a word, fatwas are the shariah in action.
- For all these reasons one would expect a host of studies on fatwas. But then one would reckon without our intellectuals. It is yet more proof of the fact that our intellectuals have seceded from our country; that there is hardly a study in either English or Urdu on the fatwas.
- First, our scholars have not spared time for this vital material for the same reason on account of which they have not spared time for other things vital to our existence as a country. Most of the intellectual work in India consists in writing footnotes to work being done in the West—this has been so in the case of Marxist intellectuals even more than it is in the case of the others. And when our intellectuals are not engaged in writing these footnotes, they are busy following the fashion of the day in Western circles, busy ‘applying’, as the phrase goes, to Indian material the notion or ‘thesis’ which has become fashionable in the West. In a word, our scholarly work is derivative. So the first reason there has been no substantial study of the fatwas in India is that they have not yet caught the eye of the West.
- “We should, in particular the Muslim liberal should speak the whole truth about the condition of Muslim society—for instance about the plight of women within it. And not flinch from tracing it back to its roots—the text, the laws, the ways of thinking. We should document the social practice of the Ulema [Muslim religious leaders] and of the fundamentalist politicians.…We should document what the Ulema etc. have been saying and decreeing on religious issues themselves.…We must, in particular the Muslim liberal must, take the consistently secular position on every matter—that is the only way to confront the fundamentalists, it is the surest way to bring home the alternative viewpoint to the community.…Fatwas and the rest which impinge upon the civil rights of a person are manifestly a criminal infringement of law; we should show them up as such; and join others in demanding that anyone who seeks to trample upon the rights of others by using…fatwas should be brought to book under the law. Similarly, we must expose, and work to thwart concessions by our opportunist politicians which are meant to appease, and will in the end strengthen the grip of these reactionary elements.…But it is not going to be enough to counter the Ulema, and their networks, or to show up their syllabi. As we have seen, what they proclaim, and regurgitate, and enforce is what the Koran and Hadith prescribe. Therefore, to really break the vice, liberals, and liberal Muslims in particular must examine and exhume the millenarian claims of Islam: the claims that there is only one truth, that it has been finally revealed to only one man, that it is enshrined in only one Book, that that Book is very difficult to comprehend, that the select few alone know its inner meaning, that therefore it is everyone's duty to heed them just as it is the duty of the select to make sure that everyone heeds them. In a word, the basic texts themselves have to be opened to examination.” (quoted in Bostom, A. G. (2015). Sharia versus freedom: The legacy of Islamic totalitarianism.)
- The volumes of fatwas devote pages and pages to an even more exotic subject—namely, what the believer should do with an animal which has been used for intercourse. ‘What is the hukum about the animal with which a man has had sexual intercourse—what is the hukum about the animal and the man?’, asks the querist, and after due deliberation the ulema of this great ‘centre of Islamic learning’ issue a fatwa. The other matters which call forth fatwas are just as earth-shaking.
‘Is a pregnant goat which has been used for intercourse halal or haram? Has one to wait for her to deliver or should she be killed and buried without waiting?’ ‘Zaid has had intercourse with a goat. What is the law in respect of her? Can we eat her flesh or drink her milk? And what is the law for him who has had the intercourse?’ ‘What is the punishment for having intercourse with a minor child or a goat?’ ‘Zaid decided to have intercourse with an animal which is halal such as a cow or a goat. He approached the animal and inserted his male member into its vagina. But there was no ejaculation. Should Zaid or other Muslims regard as halal the meat or milk of that animal? Has Zaid to do penance for this offence?’ ‘Zaid had intercourse with a cow, and then sold it. How should that money be spent? Can it be used for sadqah? And what is the punishment fo Zaid?’ ‘What is the punishment for one who has intercourse with a mare? What should be done with that mare?’ A fatwa on one and each of these matters.
And the answers are not always predictable, often they turn on subtle differences. It is enough for the believer who has had intercourse with an animal to do taubah, decree these men of learning, but in the usual case the animal must be killed and burnt. In the usual case, that is, its meat should not be eaten. However, to take one instance, ‘If there is no ejaculation (inside the animal) its meat and milk are halal, without question,’ rule the ulema of Dar al-Ulum, Deoband. ‘But if there is ejaculation, it is better to kill the animal and bury its flesh. No one should eat it, though it is not haram to eat it.’ [...] Finally, while others may be a bit squeamish in discussing such questions, and a little surprised at encountering them in ‘religious’ books, the ulema have no qualms about discussing such matters and laying down the law on them as much as on any other matter. They regard it as one of their functions to do so. The point is set at rest by Maulana Mufti Abdur Rahim Qadri. It transpires that a maulvi, styling himself as Hazrat Shaykh al-Islam Maulana Maulvi, published two pamphlets attacking the Hanafite jurists for holding that intercourse with an animal does not vitiate a fast, even if ejaculation takes place. He cited the great authorities of Hanafite law—Shami and the Durr-ul-Mukhtar—as having decreed this. He also chided the learned ulema for filling religious books with discussions of such topics. The writings of the maulvi were referred to Mufti Abdur Rahim Qadri for opinion. The Mufti’s elucidation takes up ten printed pages of the Fatawa-i-Rahimiyyah. On the substance of the question, the decision turns on whether the ejaculation took place upon intromission into the animal—in which case the fast is rendered void—or it took place by the man merely touching the animal’s genitals with his hands or kissing it, without using his sexual organ—in which case the fast is not vitiated. The Mufti cites authorities to nail the distinction, and he argues that the maulvi who had made the charge against the Hanafite jurists had misrepresented their rulings on the matter.
- Next comes the Urdu press. It has been one of the most potent allies of, in some ways the instrument of the ulema, as we saw in reviewing the campaigns against Dr Zakir Hussain and Maulana Azad. We saw the same role and the same potency in the campaigns in 1992 against Mushirul Hasan, pro-vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia in Delhi, and Abid Reza Bedar, director of the Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna. A shrill tone, wholesale distortions, creating echoes upon echoes of their allegations, fomenting an extreme insecurity and then presenting everything as an assault on Islam—these are its hallmarks. And they invariably end up being deployed to fortify the world view which the ulema want the community to retain.
- And then there is the effect of patronage. Funds from Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or Iraq, or other ‘Islamic’ sources go to the ulema, to elements and organizations controlled by or beholden to them. The funds are almost never channelled to liberals. The Indian state is of course worse. As the ulema control the community, it is to the ulema, and to those who speak their language that the state genuflects. As the state has got weaker, the ulema have been able to press their campaigns with greater and greater ease. And in turn they have been able to fortify their hold over the community by demonstrating that it is to them that the state bends—on Shah Bano for instance; that it dare not step in their way: look at the audacity of their current campaign to set up a parallel structure of courts—the shariah courts—outside the legal system of the country.
- The liberal who happens to be a Hindu is so apologetic, he has internalized sham secularism so much, he is in any case so innocent of the texts—of Islam, of Hinduism, of our laws and our Constitution—and he has internalized double standards to such an extent that he has made silence on all matters Islamic, indeed toeing the fundamentalists’ line proof of secularism. The ‘secularists’ of the English press are a ready example. They will refer to Ali Mian as ‘the moderate, universally respected Muslim leader’, without bothering to read anything he has written. They will refer to sundry muftis and maulwis as ‘Muslim divines’. They will shut their eyes tight to what organizations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board or the All India Milli Council are doing; and will jump in to shout and scream should any agency of the state take a step to uncover their activities. Worst of all, they will, by a Pavlovian reflex, weigh in on the same side as the ulema on issues, and insist that anyone who opposes that side is ‘communal’, ‘fascist’, ‘revanchist’. The effect of such shouting is not limited to poisoning the air of discourse. Weak rulers are swayed by that air. And so public policy bends to the ulema. The latter are thus twice strengthened.
- When we study the discourses of the Buddha or what Gandhiji has to say on, say, fasting, the content is all about looking within, about self-purification. But even when they deal with purely religious subjects the fatwas are all about the form to which the believer must adhere. They resemble instructions a drill sergeant gives to cadets for a parade.
- While our leaders and the Supreme Court keep chanting, ‘All religions are one’; while they keep recalling the Vedic pronouncement, ‘Truth is one, only the sages call it by different names’; while they keep recalling Ashoka’s rock edict, ‘One who reveres one’s own religion and disparages that of another, due to devotion to one’s own religion and to glorify it over all others, does injure one’s own religion certainly’, the ulema proclaim the very opposite set of values, the truly Islamic values to be fair to the ulema. Thus we have Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan descend as an avalanche on persons who countenance processions in which books like the Gita and Quran are carried with equal respect; he declares that for a Muslim to even say, ‘Hindus should live by the Vedas, Muslims should live by the Quran,’ is kufr; a temple is the abode of Satans, he says, a Muslim is forbidden from going into it; to describe the Holy Quran as being like the Veda is kufr; to say that Hindus should live by the Veda is to ask people to follow kufr, and to ask people to follow kufr is kufr...
- The fatwas reflect this belief in double standards. The differential attitude to conversion and apostasy illustrates this vividly. Islam regards it as a right and duty to convert persons from other religions. The ulema vehemently insist on it....Exactly the same position holds in regard to doing something or refraining from doing something out of regard for the other person’s religious sentiments.....An even more vivid instance is the stance in regard to the continuation of religious practices. It is the right and duty of a Muslim to carry on his religious rituals. ...Under no circumstances can the Islamic ruler give permission to kafirs to continue their religious rites, declares the Fatawa-i-Rizvia, and asks: shall he permit them to practise their kufr and thereby himself become a kafir?...It adds that there are several Hadis to the effect that no non-Muslim should remain in the Arab island...So, no non-Muslim shall be allowed to stay in the Arab island, but if a Bangladeshi who has entered India illegally is asked to leave, that is an assault on Islam!...Similarly, even today in no Islamic state can teachers in a school impart religious education of their faith to non-Muslim children...No restriction can be tolerated on teaching of the Quran and on religious instruction, declares Kifayatullah. ...And yet if we were to go by secularist discourse there is no religion which has abolished distinctions as Islam has, there is no religion which treats all equally as Islam does!
- In the face of all this those who continue to assert, ‘Shariah has safeguarded the rights of women like no other system of law has,’ do so only because of their confidence that no one but them has read the texts of shariah.
- And yet we must believe, on pain of being communal, that no system of law has guaranteed as many rights to women as shariah, that no religion is as solicitous of them as Islam. ... The argument can fool no one but the determined apologist.
- That is not just the shariah as enforced by the fatwas. As our governments have not acted upon the directive of the Constitution to enact a Uniform Civil Code, that is the law of secular India enforced by our courts!
- It is not the occasion but the ulema’s assessment of women per se which is of interest, for it pervades the fatwas through and through. ‘For the Quran says,’ declare the ulema of Deoband settling a matter to which we shall soon turn, ‘the husband is the master.’ .... And among these kafirs there are gradations, Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan declares: one hard kind of basic kufr is Christianity; worse than it is Magianism; worse than that is idolatry; worse than that is Wahabiyat; and worse than all these and more wicked is Deobandiyat...
- And so on indefinitely. The effect of all this will be obvious: when you take a problem to them, the ulema can facilitate your way or thwart it by invoking one authority rather than the other. Simultaneously they, joined this time by the apologist, will insist that we, in particular the non-Muslims, must never cease to believe that the shariah is a clear and definite code, that it is a divinely ordained, and therefore an eternal and unchanging code!
- Two features would by now be obvious: (1) far from being a clear and definite code, the shariah is ambiguous; (2) it is ambiguous on the entire spectrum of issues. Two operational consequences follow: (1) this ambiguity is one of the bases for the unrivalled power of the ulema; (2) the ulema therefore sabotage every effort to codify the shariah as zealously as they fight back every effort to replace it by a modern code common to all.
- That is why Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan is only being true to the Faith when, as we saw at the beginning of the chapter, he says that the glory of Islam consists in having science bend to it, not in its bending to science. What holds for science holds a fortiori for mere historical ‘facts’—of whether there have been a hundred Caliphs or twelve.
- The earth is stationary. The sun revolves around it. The stars are stationary, hung as lamps by Allah to guide travellers, and to stone the Devil. To believe anything contrary to all this is to betray The Faith. Men are the masters. Each may keep up to four wives at a time and as many concubines ‘as the right hand holds’. The wives are fields which the husband may or may not ‘irrigate’ as he will. The husband can bind them to obeying his merest whim on pain of being divorced. If he is still not satisfied, he can throw them out with one word. Upon being thrown out they are to be entitled to bare sustenance—but only for three months, and nothing at all beyond that. To see any inequity in this, to demand anything more for the women is to question the wisdom of Allah, it is to strike at Islam. To urinate while standing, to fail to do istinja in the prescribed way, to fail to believe that the saliva of a dog is napaak and his body paak—these are grave sins. To ask for the well-being of a kafir, be he ever so saintly, even upon his death, to fail to believe that a Muslim, be he ever so sinful, is better than a kafir, be the latter ever so virtuous, is kufr itself. Such is the mindset of the ulema. It pervades their rulings on all aspects of life.
- Education is central to advancement—of the country, of the individual. But the ulema have fought hard and long against what most today would consider education. For them religious education must take priority over modern, technical education. Only those subjects are to be studied, only that knowledge is to be imparted which strengthens one’s faith— in practical terms, only those subjects are to be studied, only that knowledge pursued which confirms one in the belief that whatever is written in the Quran and Hadis, whatever has been put out by the ulema over the centuries is true and the acme of wisdom as well as perfection. The education of women, in particular their being awakened to new values, their being trained for new professions, their being awakened to their rights—all this is anathema; it is held to be injurious to them, in fact it is declared to be the way to disrupting society and undermining Islam.
- Is an institution the Indian history course of which covers only the period from the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi to 1947, the geography course of which focuses on the Arabian peninsula, an institution of and for India?
- Predictably, in Maulana Ahmad Riza Khan’s reckoning the Shias are not Muslims at all. Their ‘mosques’ are not mosques—and remember, as Mir Baqi and his descendants, the mutwallis of the mosque were Shias, the ‘Babri masjid’ was a Shia mosque.
- ‘Arrey bhai, but why don’t you write on Hindu fatwas?,’—that from a prominent intellectual who carries a haloed name. There is nothing like the fatwa among Hindus—but surely even our intellectuals know that. The point of such admonitions is different. In this view of the matter, a Hindu should stay clear of writing on Islam. Rather, that if he writes about matters Islamic or Muslim, he should only pen Hosannas—’the religion of tolerance, equality...’—he should only write books ‘understanding’, that is explaining away the ‘Muslim mind’. At the least, if he just has to allude to some unfortunate drawback in it, he must attribute it to some special time and place and exculpate Islam from it! Even more important, he must make sure that he ‘balances’ his remark about that point in Islam with denunciation about something in Hinduism, anything—the caste system, dowry deaths, looking upon foreigners as malechh, at least sati if nothing else fits the bill!
- So, who is offended? Who is humiliated by the fatwas being reproduced and analysed? It is the secularist. And the reason is manifest. He has no answer in the face of this evidence, in the face of the express and emphatic commands of the Quran and the Prophet, in the face of the repeated and absolutely explicit declarations contained in the fatwas. He has no evidence with which to counter these. But when what they say is brought out on the table, he cannot sustain his inverted ‘secularism’. As long as these things are confined to Urdu they do not inconvenience him in his circle. But the moment they are out in English he is pinned. And so he feigns offence! What is the answer? To go on setting out the facts. To go on analysing them. In the faith that abuse shall not bury evidence. In the faith that ideas are seeds, that they shall take root.
- In Bangladesh, with the gallop towards Islamization, the rapid spread of Tablighi Jamaat, the ever-widening reach and influence of fundamentalist organizations like the Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Hizb-ut-Tauhid, Shariah Committees sprang up in several parts of the country. Fatwas became ever more frequent. They were often issued by the local mullahs in rural areas, and ever so often the victims were women who had in fact been victims of violence, rape and the rest....
Quotes about Arun ShourieEdit
- Muslim leaders and Stalinist historians were raising a howl about Hindu chauvinism when it came to the notice of Arun Shourie, the Chief Editor of the Indian Express at that time, that some significant passages had been omitted from the English translation of an Urdu book written long ago by the father of Ali Mian, the famous Muslim theologian from Lucknow. He wrote an article, Hideaway Communalism, in the Indian Express of February 5, 1989 pointing out how the passages regarding destruction of Hindu temples and building of mosques on their sites at Delhi, Jaunpur, Kanauj, Etawah, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura had been dropped from the English translation published by Ali Mian himself. This was a new and dramatic departure from the norm observed so far by the prestigious press. Publishing anything which said that Islam was less than sublime had been taboo for a long time. I was pleasantly surprised, and named Arun Shourie as the Gorbachev of India. He had thrown open the windows and let in fresh breeze in a house full of the stinking garbage of stale slogans.
- Goel, S.R. How I became a Hindu (1993, revised ed.)
- Arun Shourie had shown great courage. But he had counted without the secularist crowd which had access to the owner of the Indian Express. He told me on the phone that there was some trouble brewing. I have never talked to him about the nature of the trouble, and do not know if my articles had anything to do with his ouster from the Indian Express next year. All I know is that he had to slow down the publication of my next two articles.
- Goel, S.R. How I became a Hindu (1993, revised ed.)
- Mani Shankar Aiyar totally condemns one of Arun Shourie's books, and then goes on to declare that he has decided not to read it : "Shourie gave the final touches to the manuscript of his book on Islam, a work so vicious and perverted that every English speaking Muslim I know was outraged... I decided then to show my solidarity with secularism by not reading the book." (The book he refers to, is apparently Shourie's Religion in Politics, a very sane and sober look at several Scriptures in the light of reason.)
- Elst, Koenraad. Ayodhya and after: issues before Hindu society. Voice of India. 1991.
- The problem of book-banning and censorship on Islam criticism is compounded by the related problem of self- censorship. Thus, when in late 1992, the famous columnist Arun Shourie wanted to publish a collection of his columns on Islamic fundamentalism, esp. the Rushdie and Ayodhya affairs (Indian Controversies), the publisher withdrew at the last moment, afraid of administrative or physical reprisals, and the printer also backed out. Earlier, Shourie had been lucky to find one paper willing to publish these columns, for most Indian newspapers strictly keep the lid on Islam criticism. Hindu society is a terrorized society.
- Elst, Koenraad. Negationism in India: concealing the record of Islam. Voice of India. 1992
- Arun Shourie was sacked as Indian Express editor, apparently under government pressure, after revealing that, in October 1990, Prime Minister V.P. Singh had aborted his own compromise arrangement on Ayodhya under pressure from Imam Bukhari, prominent member of the BMAC.
- Koenraad Elst. Ayodhya: the case against the temple. 2002
- Or take A Secular Agenda by Arun Shourie, PhD from Syracure NY and stunningly successful Disinvestment Minister in the AB Vajpayee Government, when India scored its highest economic growth figures. It was a very important book, and it left no stone standing of the common assumption among so-called experts that India (with its religion-based civil codes and its discriminatory laws against Hinduism) is a secular state, i.e. a state in which all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their religion. Though the book deconstructs the bedrock on which the “experts” have built their view of modern India, they have never formulated a refutation. Instead, they just keep on repeating their own deluded assumption, as in: “The BJP threatens India’s structure as a secular state.” (Actually, the BJP does not, and India is not.) They can do so because they are secure in the knowledge that, among the audiences that matter, their camp controls the sphere of discourse. Concerning the interface between religion and modern politics, the established “academic” view is not just defective, it is an outrageous failure.
- Elst, Koenraad. Hindu dharma and the culture wars. (2019). New Delhi : Rupa.
- The only ray of light in this encircling gloom was Arun Shourie, the veteran journalist and the chief editor of the Indian express at that time. On February 5, 1989, he frontpaged an article, Hideaway Communalism, showing that while the Urdu version of a book by Maulana Hakim Sayid Abdul Hai of the Nadwatul-Ulama at Lucknow had admitted that seven famous mosques had been built on the sites of Hindu temples, the English translation published by the Maulana’s son, Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Mian) had eschewed the “controversial evidence”. He also published in the Indian Express three articles written by me on the subject of Islamic iconoclasm. This was a very courageous defiance of the ban imposed by Islam and administered by Secularism, namely, that crimes committed by Islam cannot even be whispered in private, not to speak of being proclaimed in public.
- Goel, S. R. (1993). Hindu temples: What happened to them. (Second Enlarged Edition) 
- He dismisses Arun Shourie by pigeon-holing him as ‘post-modern’. He does not know that Hinduism has its own view of Time, and that a person who serves Sanatana Dharma cannot be dated. Scholars like Arun Shourie belong neither to the past, nor to the present, nor yet to the future. They belong to a timeless span.
- S.R. Goel, History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
- Just then Shourie was sacked as its editor. The reason was not so much the article, but, apparently, his entire policy of including columns by Hindu communalists like Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel, and his own articles that debunked some of the prevalent secularism, such as Hideaway Communalism.
- Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
- It is clear that Witzel himself has a political agenda: note his resentment of the “present Indian (right wing) denouncement of the ‘eminent historians’ of Delhi” (§9) – some of these “eminent historians” actively collaborated with Witzel and Farmer in their recent media-blitz in the Indian press. The reader is invited to go carefully through Arun SHOURIE’s book “Eminent Historians” (1998), which is being referred to here, and see the kind of political scholarship to whose defense Witzel has no compunctions in rushing!
- S. Talageri. Michael Witzel – An Examination of his Review of my Book (2001)