While expressing grief at the loss of our brave security personnel who laid down their lives defending the country at Pathankot, I would also like to point out that the ISI is an intelligence agency that has sponsored terror not only in India but even Iran and Afghanistan, and in Afghanistan, even hoodwinking the US government taking aid from it to fight terror but doing exactly the reverse. All those particular peace-loving Muslims who, burying their heads in the sand, believe in ludicrous conspiracy theories pinning the blame of what are known to be jihadist terror attacks on non-Muslim entities would do well to read this piece (which is neither to say that terrorism or terrorism citing a theological justification is a Muslim monopoly* nor that jihadism should be equated with the Quranic idea of jihad with multiple interpretations, and several liberal Muslim commentators have assertively stated that the doctrine of armed jihad in any context should be discarded as anachronistic by all Muslims, as you can see here, here, here and here, something I wholeheartedly agree with). While the American government had blundered in creating the Taliban and Al Qaeda to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Taliban was a barbarian government, of which I have heard first-hand accounts from Afghan friends, and which has been captured beautifully in novels by Khaled Hosseni. Later, the Taliban and Al Qaeda chose to turn against their erstwhile masters, annoyed with US policies in the Middle East, and orchestrated the World Trade Centre twin tower attacks, which justifiably led to a US war against the Taliban that despite US excesses, some unpardonable, gave the Afghans respite by way of having a democratic framework, something most Afghans are happy about, but which many (though certainly not all) non-Afghan Muslims elsewhere globally fail to understand, being overly critical of the US for having waged a war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan (which was indeed very different from the rather unfounded war in Iraq based on false claims of weapons of mass destruction).
While I have nothing against the Pakistani Muslim populace in general, as you can see here, here, here and here, I must say that those with any illusions of the Pakistani state being a genuine flag-bearer of the so-called Muslim ummah or global pan-Muslim fraternity would do well to watch this interview of a former ISI chief gleefully talking of his agency having sponsored terror in Afghanistan (which, like Pakistan, is Sunni-majority) and India, and even referring to the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban (different from the Afghan Taliban) killing hundreds of civilians, including school children in Peshawar, to be “collateral damage” as a result of a blowback, and an Afghan gentleman in the audience even sought an apology for a personal loss owing to the ISI-sponsored Afghan Taliban. By the way, I consider the idea of a Muslim ummah too to be an anachronistic concept even in the light of what the Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad tell us, and I have explained the same in the Indian context here; I know that some Muslims would question whether I, as not being a Muslim, can give my own interpretation of Islam, but if non-Muslims are not expected to study and analyze Islam, how do Muslims expect non-Muslims to not have prejudiced views about their faith?
In general, I don’t think that the mainstream Indian media is, by and large, biased against Muslims, and in its coverage, the debate about the death penalty awarded to terrorist Yakoob Memon and the very justifiable mourning of Dr. Kalam overshadowed the undoubtedly terrible terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur by Pakistani terrorists, and our media has, from time to time, carried reports of developments across the border that would dispel the very prejudiced notions about Pakistani Muslims some Indians have, like these – ‘Pak’s deputy attorney gen works off Taliban’s sins at Delhi gurdwaras’ (Times of India), ‘Pakistan spends millions to renovate 10 temples’ (NDTV), ‘Diwali celebrated with fervour in Pakistan’ (NDTV), ‘Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor’s ancestral homes in Pakistan to get heritage status’ (Times of India) and ‘Pakistan to provide 50% Reservation to Women in Parliament’ (Bihar Prabha). Our media has also has given more space to ridiculous and arguably inconsequential statements of Hindu rightist leaders than Akhilesh Yadav proposing to release Muslims charged in terrorism-related cases (which the judiciary thankfully prevented him from doing), or Kashmiri Hindus, also known as Kashmiri Pandits, being obstructed from going for their pilgrimage to the lake Kosur Nag or being allowed to resettle in their homeland on their own terms (which should be fair enough, for they did not leave on their own terms, and as for the conspiracy theories and rationalizations offered about the exodus of the Kashmiri Hindus from their homeland, have a look at this piece). Nor does our media highlight hate crimes against Hindus by Muslim extremists like these as much as it prominently highlights hate crimes against Muslims by Hindu extremists. This, however, certainly does not, in any way, justify or make worthy of condoning hate crimes by Hindu extremists for a more highlighted wrongdoing is no less of a wrongdoing.
However, we have recently had some exposes of ISI agents from within our Indian security forces before the Pathankot attacks, which is undoubtedly a matter of grave concern, but the manner in which the media dealt with this issue promoted some kind of communal bias, though I believe unintentionally so, in the light of what I have said in the preceding paragraph.
On 30th November 2015, the Times of India, the Hindustan Times and the Indian Express carried front-page news of some people, who happened to be Muslims, being arrested for spying for the ISI, one of them being from the BSF, Kafaitullah Khan, and all of the reports mentioned that Khan was spying for the ISI, and was financially lured into doing so, implying that ideology may not have been a part of the equation. The next day (1st December 2015), more was reported on this espionage racket, and the Times of India, again carrying this story on its front page, even had a picture of Khan sporting a beard, and given that a picture is a powerful medium of communication and can convey a lot to those who do not read beyond the headlines, it could suggest that he was a devout Muslim, leading him to do what he did, a dangerous message if untrue. (On 1st December, neither the Hindustan Times nor the Indian Express gave this piece of news front-page coverage.) Given the prevalent stereotype of Indian Muslims mostly not being patriotic Indians but owing allegiance to our hostile western neighbour (obviously, very many Hindus do reject this stereotype, some even vehemently, but those buying it are no insignificant number either, and there are indeed also very ludicrous stereotypes about Jews and Hindus among many Muslims, rejected by their more rational co-religionists), even if the financial angle is mentioned, it is indeed highly likely that very many, though not all, Indian non-Muslim readers would view this expose through the prism of religious identity. While I reiterate that I do not think this was deliberate and it is not as though such news should be concealed either, newspapers often trace the history of past events relevant to the report, sometimes putting it in a box, and that should have been done here too, mentioning those Indian Hindus who have, in the past, been caught for being paid ISI agents. One example of the same exposed in 2010 – Madhuri Gupta posted in the Indian High Commission to Pakistan – may have faded largely from public memory now, but her story had indeed been given even more attention by the media back then, but even other than her, examples have included Naik Subedar Patan Kumar Poddar of the Indian Army, Iswar Chandra Behera in DRDO (the New Indian Express violated ethics of journalism by putting a picture of his parents in a report about his anti-national activities!), BK Sinha, an upper-division clerk in the Indian Army and those involved in the Samba spy scandal (though many innocent soldiers, who were mostly Hindus, were also framed in that particular scandal).
Thus, without any concrete evidence of radicalization of the particular agent whatsoever, an Indian Muslim ISI agent should be seen in the same vein as a Hindu counterpart, and equally, one ought to take into account the thousands of Indian Muslim military and paramilitary personnel who have died fighting for the nation, many even winning gallantry awards, the most significant examples being Hawaldar Abdul Hamid and Brigadier Mohammad Usman. Interestingly, on 29th December 2015, the Times of India carried a detailed piece on its front page on an Air Force officer who is a Hindu and who had become a paid agent of the ISI.
We should only be glad that we opted for being a modern, inclusive state, rather than defining our nationalism based on religious identity, as Pakistan and Uganda did, and we all know the havoc that religious extremism has wreaked for even the majority Muslim and Christian communities respectively in those two countries by the TTP and Lord’s Resistance Army respectively.
As much as some tend to level baseless allegations against and float nonsensical conspiracy theories about Gandhi and Nehru (to clarify any misconceptions you have about them, see this article and this one), these two personalities, while certainly not being above criticism, undoubtedly have great legacies, and one should not fall prey to the Hindu right trying to appropriate the legacies of Sardar Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose either and Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (hailed by the BJP) had offered to help the British in crushing the Quit India Movement and who actually formed a coalition with the Muslim League to keep the pro-freedom Congress out. If you are resentful of Muslims in general, I would request you to peruse (not skim through and judge based on one’s preconceived notions) this e-book of mine available for free download. (I am not a supporter of the Congress party of today if anyone inferred that, and I am a supporter, though not uncritical admirer, of the AAP.) It is wonderful to identify with the heritage of one’s civilization, which has also evolved, but to imagine scientific or artistic creativity or valid notions of morality to be the sole preserve of one’s own version of Indian culture, imagining other influences as necessarily being pollutants, is nothing but intolerance (which the Rigved opposes, saying one should accept noble thoughts from all directions), and one must guard against chauvinistic notions of tolerance that can and indeed do also produce very lethal intolerance.
I personally know several Muslims who are unprejudiced and are strongly patriotic Indians, and I see no reason to see Indian Muslims loyal to their country as being exceptions to the general norm. In fact, a Hindu acquaintance of mine, who studied at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), told me that while those cheering for Pakistan were quite a vocal lot there, most Muslims cheered for India, and this was in a Muslim-majority setting where the apparently pro-India majority did not have to conceal its true feelings, and another friend of mine, who is an Assamese Hindu from Guwahati and who is very resentful of the Bangladeshi Muslim influx in his state, told me that on a train journey, he overheard a conversation between two Muslims from AMU bashing the students who cheer for Pakistan. Also, another friend of mine whose father is an Indian Army officer once told me that he loves the entire Muslim community (though I don’t support any stereotyping, positive or negative!), for once, his father was fired at by militants in Kashmir and his father’s driver, a Muslim, rushed to bear the bullet to save his father’s life! He also narrated another anecdote of how a Muslim once donated blood to save his father’s life and asserted that he was not in the least ashamed of the fact that “Muslim blood” (whatever that is supposed to mean!) runs through his veins!
I am not even suggesting that it is so much as possible to classify any religious grouping into watertight compartments of ‘communal’ or ‘secular’, and communalism among those we identify as communal does vary in degree. I would even assert that not every instance of Muslim communalism in India necessarily, in the conventional sense, amounts to affinity with Pakistan or hostility to India, and while communalism, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or any other, strikes at what Tagore called the “idea of India”, any communal statement from a Muslim, like Azam Khan’s ridiculous statement attributing India’s victory in the Kargil war only to Muslim soldiers (but he did indeed explicitly glorify these Muslim soldiers serving India’s national cause in the same speech), should not be seen as “anti-national” in the conventional sense of the term if Hindu communal statements are not seen in the same vein, and even Asaduddin Owaisi has ridiculed Pakistan for the partition dividing the Muslims of the subcontinent as also for being backward as compared to India but bearing animosity towards India, making life difficult for Indian Muslims. Also, I do not believe that communalists under any banner, except arguably those actually resorting to killing innocent civilians, should be dehumanized or can never be logically made to modify their views, as the must-watch movie Road to Sangam, based on a true story, demonstrates, and to draw an analogy, you can see this video of a Muslim who initially wanted to become a terrorist wanting to blow up Jewish civilians but changed his standpoint about Israel for the better after visiting that country. It is not as though Muslims are another species that can’t be rationally engaged with, the way some extreme anti-Muslim rightists almost make them out to be, portraying Muslims in general as cruel, slimy, backstabbing and aggressive (many Muslims whom the non-Muslim readers would know personally would not exhibit such traits if the non-Muslim readers were to analyze dispassionately, rather than making baseless presumptions, and indeed, most Indian Muslims are of Hindu ancestry and so, they share the same genes as the Hindus – Hindu religious lore also refers to treacherous human beings like the Kauravas wanting to burn the Pandavas in a wax palace; so, treachery was not unknown to India before the advent of Islam, as royal family feuds among the Nanda and Gupta rulers also demonstrate, and some of the worst atrocities in history have been committed by the likes of Hitler and Stalin, who were not Muslims, nor was Chengiz Khan who was an animist), but like many people in other communities in different contexts, some (not all) Muslims are in the stranglehold of anachronistic ideas like a global pan-Muslim fraternity and the upholding of Islamic law, other than having prejudiced notions of an exaggerated sense of victimhood, and I have dealt with how to ideologically combat Muslim extremism in some depth in this article.
Sacrificing animals as a religious ritual is indeed not exclusive to Muslims, and ‘bali’ has existed among Hindus too, something Gautam Buddha (who lived centuries before Jesus and Muhammad) had opposed (and even Emperor Ashok the Great consumed meat of peacocks, which he stopped after embracing Buddhism, though interestingly, Buddhists in China, Japan, Bhutan, Vietnam etc. do consume meat, as do most Sikhs, Christians, Jews and Parsis, and what is halal for Muslims in terms of dietary regulations and the mode of slaughtering some animals is identical to what is kosher for Jews and several sects of Christians, and that is true for the practice of circumcision for males as well, which even has health benefits), and still continues in many Hindu temples across India, especially in West Bengal during the Navratri season. Also, it may interest some to know that the story of Prophet Abraham associated with Id-ul-Zuha is found in the Old Testament of the Bible too, which the Jews and Christians also believe in (those regarded as prophets by the Jews are regarded as prophets by the Christians too, with the addition of Jesus, and those regarded as prophets by the Christians are regarded as prophets by the Muslims as well, with the addition of Muhammad). And obviously, not all of Arab cuisine is non-vegetarian either, with Arab vegetarian dishes like strained yogurt using labneh cheese and sweet dishes like zlabia, popular in South Asia as jalebi!
However, it is indeed true that the cheering for Pakistan in cricket by some Indian Muslims, even if a minority of Indian Muslims, does lead to this stereotyping of Indian Muslims as not being loyal citizens, and however intellectually unfashionable and childish as this may sound to some, such cheering is problematic even according to me (though if they are Kashmiris, I would still find it problematic but view it through a different prism, and you can see my mode of engagement with Kashmiri Muslims here). Holding one’s pan-religious fraternity above one’s country (owing to what I consider an anachronistic interpretation of Islam, as I have referred to above) is not the same as Indian Hindus cheering for Brazil or Argentina in football matches only on the merit of that team (not religious affiliation, and most Indian Muslims cheering for Pakistan cheer on a religious basis, and don’t really ardently cheer for Australia or South Africa), and that too perhaps never against India (let’s await the day India qualifies to the FIFA world cup!), and those holding religious affiliation across borders as above their national affiliation can’t be trusted in times of national crisis.
While I am not in the least questioning the legal right to freedom of expression, those ‘liberals’ morally justifying Indian Muslims cheering for Pakistan ought to honestly ask themselves whether they would support Indian Hindus cheering for a Nepalese Hindu tennis player against Sania Mirza or Leander Paes or an Indonesian Hindu long-jumper against Anju Bobby George only on a religious basis (then, our ‘secularists’ would express their horror at how this is yet another instance of Hindus alienating the religious minorities from the “national mainstream”, the way they held any non-coercive conversion by Christian missionaries, even if involving financial incentives and being backed by right-wing Christians in the US establishment, to be acceptable, but vehemently oppose ghar wapsi campaigns**), and isn’t secular nationalism all about relegating religion to the sphere of a personal belief system, with little place in public life except festivals or worship congregations? Nor can some Indian Muslims cheering for Pakistan be equated with sections of the Indian diaspora in England or Australia cheering for their country of origin against their country of citizenship (which I also condemn, by the way), for Indian Muslims are not diaspora and they chose the secular idea of India over the theocratic idea of Pakistan at the time of the partition, and supporting Pakistan amounts to rejecting secular Indian nationalism (and Hindus would have legitimate suspicions about such people possibly being willing to work for Pakistan against India in a problematic eventuality), also given the Indo-Pak belligerence and sponsorship of terrorism by Pakistan’s military establishment. Arguments of nationalism itself being wrong and irrelevant may be intellectually and emotionally appealing but are meaningless till nation-states are a reality, which need nationalist cohesion for governance, and this strong denunciation of nationalism in general would even apply to global pan-Muslim nationalism of the “Muslim ummah” variety, with territorial nationalism based on a shared political and economic destiny being much more rational. Ironically, many of these ‘liberals’ would be the first to condemn any opposition to Indo-Pak trade or Indo-Pak academic exchanges, but their approach is often very different when it comes to any such ventures with Israel, though Pakistan has a poor human rights record not only in the context of exporting terror to India, Afghanistan and Iran, but also subjugating its own Baloch populace, which is mostly Muslim!
It is true that some (not all) Indian Tamils have also placed their angst against Sri Lanka owing to the problems of Sri Lankan Tamils over India’s national interests, and some (not all) Indian Jews also have a sense of extra-territorial loyalty to Israel (but India and Israel are not enemies), even actually choosing to join the Israeli army instead of its Indian counterpart, but since Sri Lanka and Israel do not have the belligerence with India that Pakistan has, it is natural for Indian Muslims to stand out in this context. While it is only most appropriate for rational Indian Muslims to raise their voice on issues specifically affecting their religious grouping, for which they will find no dearth of tolerant Hindus in solidarity (like me writing an article on how the media coverage of Indian Muslims, who have been caught as paid ISI agents, should have entailed enlisting Hindus having done so earlier), they must also equally rein in elements within their community that give it a bad name, and equally, they must not entertain notions of perennial victimhood fed by their clergy or even supposedly secular Hindus actually patronizing them, such Hindus being no different from the likes of Minhaz Merchant and Tufail Ahmad from the Muslim side, who get so carried away in fighting regressive attitudes in their community that they are soft on extremism against their own community.
To my Muslim countrymen, I must also say that those of you (I may emphatically assert that I am not in the least generalizing all of you, as is clear from what I have been saying all along in this piece) who wish to demonstrate your “secularism” and “human rights activism” by idolizing anti-AFSPA Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila and wrongly generalizing the Indian security personnel as all being murderous, pervert rogues by pointing to their human rights violations in the northeast (and not only Muslim-majority Kashmir to showcase secularism), just like harping on the problems of Dalits and Adivasis, or Christians targeted by Hindu extremists, ought to speak up more openly against your own politicians like Azam Khan (who hasn’t even been charge-sheeted for his alleged role in the riots in Muzaffarnagar and Sahranpur, unlike Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, who were duly convicted and spent some years in jail, after which they were rightly or wrongly conferred bail), anti-Jewish hatred within your community, the forced displacement of the Kashmiri Hindus, other instances of violence against innocent Hindus (take, for instance, the recent news of a Hindu boy in Bihar being murdered by Muslim extremists for marrying a Muslim girl, or the killings of innocent Hindus in a communal riot in Rampur over a petty issue of some Hindu farmers’ cattle having strayed into Muslim peasants’ farms or how before the Dadri incident, an innocent constable in Maharashtra was killed as a retaliation against the beef ban in that state, or how very many innocent Hindus were killed by Muslim rioters in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and Gujarat in 2002 and not only the reverse), Shia-Sunni violence (which has occurred in India in places like Lucknow), the intolerance towards Ahmedias who are socially boycotted and occasionally violently targeted in India by Muslim extremists in India and whose right to free speech and freedom of religion is to a great extent legally denied in Pakistan, refusal to accept progressive verdicts of the Supreme Court as in the Shah Bano case, curtailment of females’ rights in Muslim communities in India in different ways, like disallowing them from playing football or acting on stage or forcing them to wear burqas in many cases, non-Muslims not being given equal rights in many Muslim-majority countries and being violently targeted in our neighbouring countries (if such Muslims can shout against injustices by the US and Israel in Iraq and Gaza respectively, they can certainly look at our immediate neighbourhood), blasphemy and apostasy laws in Muslim-majority countries and so on (and for those of you, Muslims, not genuinely caring about the rights of others, why do you expect others to care for the rights of Muslims?). Supporting northeasterners against what one perceives as a common foe with one’s Kashmiri co-religionists (the Indian Army), or riot-affected Christians against one’s common enemy (the Hindu communalists), or deriving cheap thrills by pretending to be concerned for Dalits with the objective of Hindu-bashing does not make one secular, impartial or someone who genuinely cares for universal human rights.
*Terrorism, even terrorism citing a theological basis, is not a Muslim monopoly. As you can see here, very many instances of terrorism globally, even in the name of religion, have been carried out by those identifying themselves as Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and even Buddhists, the victims of the acts of terrorists from each of these religious groupings not always being Muslims. However, just like most people of these religious groupings are not terrorists or supporters of terrorism, and they do not believe that their religion preaches terrorism, the same is the case with most Muslims (and not supporting terrorism applies to even most of those Muslims with other regressive and not-so-liberal attitudes on issues like gender and homosexuality).
It is possible to quote any scripture (allegedly out of context according to its liberal adherents) to justify malpractices, like some verses in the Bible namely Deuteronomy 13:12-15, Samuel 15:3, Leviticus 24:16 and Matthew 10:34 seemingly advocate violence against “non-believers” and the Purusha Sukta of the Rigved, an ancient Hindu scripture, is taken by some to justify caste discrimination, but these verses do not define the entire religion. This article mentioning an anecdote from the British parliament does make an interesting read in this regard, as does this video make an interesting watch in this connection. There are Quranic verses like 2:256, 5:2, 5:8, 5:32, 6:108, 6:151, 10:99, 49:13, 60:8 and 109:6 preaching peace, religious tolerance and human brotherhood, as does the letter from Prophet Muhammad to the Christian monks of St Catherine’s monastery and there are episodes from Prophet Muhammad’s life, as per Islamic lore, indicative of such an approach too, such as his allowing a woman to throw garbage at him daily and his succeeding in ideologically, winning over her by way of humanitarian affection. Those suggesting that peaceful verses in the Quran are superseded by violent verses (which the vast majority of practising Muslims globally regard as contextual) would do well to note that verse 109:6 appears towards the end of the book, and preaches nothing but peace, and the Quran and Hadiths devote considerable space to talking about honesty (there’s an anecdote of Prophet Muhammad punishing a Muslim for stealing from a Jewish gentleman’s house), kindness, forgiveness, humility and striving for socioeconomic egalitarianism.
Very many mainstream Muslims do indeed believe that Islam is the only religion that can lead to God since the advent of Prophet Muhammad, as mainstream Christians believe the same for Christianity since the advent of Jesus, but that doesn’t entail intolerance towards those of other faiths. To explain this with an analogy, if a certain coaching centre (analogous to Islam or Christianity, going by the mainstream interpretation) claims it is the only one that can get students admitted into say, IIT (analogous to heaven), and even encourages its students to get students of other coaching centres and those not taking any coaching to join that particular coaching centre, it cannot be equated with forcing others to join their institute or killing those not willing to do so. In fact, both the Bible and the Quran preach the message of peaceful coexistence with other religious groups (the relevant verses in the context of the Quran have already been cited, and Rom. 12:18 and 1 Tim 2:2 may be cited in the context of the Bible).
Speaking of apostates of Islam (“ex-Muslims”) criticising their former religion, there is a fairly well-known website run by an apostate and basher of Islam who has even offered a cash prize to anyone who can disprove his allegations against Prophet Muhammad (but there are books by apostates of other religions criticizing their former religions too, the most famous one being ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ by Bertrand Russell, and there’s also ‘Why I am Not a Hindu’ by Kancha Ilaiah, levelling very strong allegations), but practically, he is the judge of the debate, or to go by what he is saying, the “readership” of the website, a rather non-defined entity. In fact, he has acknowledged that he came across a Muslim who “intelligently argued his case and never descended to logical fallacies or insults” and while that Islam-basher “did not manage to convince him to leave Islam”, that Muslim earned his “utmost respect”, which implies that practically, the Islam-basher is the judge of the debate. Likewise, that Islam-basher has mentioned with reference to a scholar of Islam he debated with, that the latter was “a learned man, a moderate Muslim and a good human being” and someone he (the Islam-basher) has “utmost respect for”. So, that Islam-basher’s critique of Islam, whether valid or invalid, has no relevance in terms of making blanket stereotypes about the people we know as Muslims or even practising Muslims. By the way, that Islam-basher bashes Judaism too. And it is worth mentioning that I have encountered several practising Muslims on discussion groups on the social media, who have, in a very calm and composed fashion, logically refuted the allegations against Islam on such websites. Indeed, as you can see here and here, there are several other apostates of Islam who have stated that while they personally left Islam thinking that the extremist interpretations are correct and moderate ones wrong (as is the case with apostates of many other religions), they have equally explicitly emphasized that that does not in the least mean that they believe that most people identifying themselves as practising Muslims support violence against innocent people.
And in fact, even speaking of the West, a report submitted by Europol, the criminal intelligence agency of the European Union, showed that only 3 out of the 249 terrorist attacks (amounting to about 1.2%) carried out in Europe in 2010 were carried out by Muslims. Even in the United States, most terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2005 were not carried out by Muslims. And no, I am not in the least seeking to undermine the heinousness of the crimes committed by some in the name of Islam by pointing to others having committed similar crimes under other ideological banners, for a more highlighted wrongdoing is no less of a wrongdoing than a less highlighted wrongdoing, but only to point out that viewing only Muslims as villains, and that too, all or even most of them, would indeed be grossly incorrect. However, despite jihadist terrorists being a microscopic minority of Muslims, Islamist terrorism has become a bigger global threat for its well-coordinated international network since the 1990s. And, let us not forget that when we had the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the victims included Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer who died fighting the terrorists (and by the way, there are more French Muslims in the local police, including those who have died fighting jihadist terrorists, than in the Al Qaeda unit in their country), Mustapha Ourad, a Muslim who was one of the magazine staff members killed in that attack and there was Lassana Bathily, a Muslim shopkeeper who gave sanctuary to many innocent civilians during the hostage crisis in Paris that followed. Even in the context of the more recent attacks in Paris, a Muslim security guard Zouheir, risking his own life, prevented one suicide bomber from entering a packed football stadium. More recently, Kenyan Muslims very laudably protected fellow bus commuters, who were Christians, from jihadist terrorists.
**While the puritan logic of reverting to the faith of one’s ancestors from which some of them went astray may not impress some of us, equally, the idea of being doomed in hell for just not being Christian or Muslim, howsoever good a human being one may be (which is indeed the mainstream Christian/Islamic position, some very heterodox interpretations notwithstanding), does also seem illogical to many others, but if we believe in the right to propagate one’s faith and the right to freedom of speech and expression, we cannot disallow either side. In Kerala, for instance, the Congress-led government there said it found no evidence of the ‘ghar wapsi’ conversions there being forced.