Muslim and Hindu Perspectives on How Indian Law Should Function
Image courtesy: Indiatimes.com
I. Vellore Ibrahim; His stance on Muslim Violence; Difference of Opinion
Vellore Ibrahim is the National Secretary (Minority Morcha) of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu . He is perhaps my favorite prominent Muslim on Indian soil, a sane and sensible person and a top asset to the BJP, someone I often go to for some calm when the insanity of his fellow believers overwhelms my titiksha. In a world full of Muslims who live on bottles of Taqiya, this man speaks his conviction from the heart and believes confidently in the following:
- The intrinsic goodness and validity of all religions
- The potential for lasting peace in India
- The BJP nationalist siddhanta that puts the nation first and respects all religions equally as the best way for India to achieve prosperity and harmony
Here [2, 3] is Ibrahim making it clear that there can be no place for calls of violence by Muslims against Hindus even if the purported offense is so-called hate speech against their beloved prophet. Of course, the logic is pedestrian common sense for most Hindus, but somehow it appears a great deprivation of the Muslim’s fundamental right to madness, violence, murder, when someone speaks ill of his religion, prophet, God.
Where, however, the twain cannot meet is about the right of the kafir to question, hate, or simply express a negative opinion on the historical personality called Mohammad. Because the Muslim considers him “dearer than life,” everyone else must keep quiet and dare not speak ill of him. That must be Law, according to Muslims, including Ibrahim. We bear witness to this continuing process of the Islamization of India as it adopts the Shariah-based Muslim rationality into its common laws, governance, and public discourse.
The limitation inherent to the BJP, in terms of its potential scope as the great Hindu hope, is not that it must appease the bad Muslim on the street but that it is sensibly committed to the good Muslims like Vellore Ibrahim. The pact is practically the best possible we can imagine, yet it can only survive on the slow sacrifice of the fundamental principle of freedom of the individual to express his opinions. Because the Muslim will not allow it.
II. Ibrahim on Jai Shri Ram and the Ram Navami violence
Let us consider a more recent example. In this interview , Ibrahim is accosted by a typical interviewer using an anti-Hindu modus-operandi and asked about the Ram Navami violence in 2023, on Hindus chanting Jai Shri Ram in front of mosques and on the BJP’s role in the rioting. He begins on an agreeable note that the salutation Jai Shri Ram is inherently a good thing, it being the call for Victory to Rama whom Hindus consider God. He draws parallels with the Allah hu Akbar salutation in Islam. People of all faiths should respect the prayers of the devotees of other faiths, he says. Notice however that the nature of his responses changes right after.
Interviewer: “What is the need for Hindus to go in front of a Mosque and say Jai Shri Ram?”
Ibrahim: “To festively utter (“gosham”) Jai Shri Ram outside of a mosque is completely destructive for religious harmony and opposed to the path shown by India’s Prime Minister… It is equally wrong if Muslims and Christians do their gosham in front of Hindus following their beliefs”.
Interviewer: Who [if not BJP people] went into the Muslim areas carrying the [saffron] flag?
Ibrahim: “Some groups who carry Hindu names think that they can create a name for themselves by denigrating Muslims’ beliefs. And for that purpose, they go during the sacred month of Ramadan to Muslim areas and cry (“gosham”) Jai Shri Ram. This is a wrong act. It is not the way shown by Rama, it is against Hindutva and the BJP siddhanta.”
When referring to Hindus saying Jai Shri Ram outside of a mosque, the interviewer repeatedly uses only the word “soll” in Tamil which means “say”. He doesn’t say “shout,” “cry,” “bellow” — any word that can signal some sort of aggressive intent. Whereas Ibrahim each time replaces “soll” with “gosham”. “Gosham” means a loud, festive utterance or shout (often done by a group); in this context it can also allude to a war-like cry. It is evident from his responses that Ibrahim is singularly referring to the Hindus who go to the “Muslim area” with the intent of harassing the Muslims with calls of Jai Shri Ram. Such Hindus he says are bad, wrong; the BJP will arrest them and keep the peace.
Ibrahim, however, does not defend the rights of the Hindu who is not against the Muslim’s worship of Allah during Ramadan, but who wants to participate in his community’s traditional procession on Ram Navami to celebrate His birth — not when that celebratory procession goes by a mosque in a Muslim area. Though Jai Shri Ram is intrinsically good and the Hindu who says it should not be generally vilified, Ibrahim is convinced it is bad gosham when said outside a mosque, and therefore the Hindu who does so must be punished.
Ibrahim here feeds into the stereotype being propagated that all Hindus who go out to celebrate in these areas are the hypothetical “instigator/militant Hindu” carrying guns and shouting in front of a mosque to provoke Muslims, and all Muslims who respond violently against these Hindus are only reacting on account of the few provocateurs. When it is the Muslim stone-pelter and bomb-thrower, it is always in response to provocation and isolated, but when it is the Hindu slogan shouter, it is the whole crowd and that warrants throwing stones at them and attacking recklessly. The Muslim is always the victim and Islam is never at fault.
III. Some questions to Ibrahim
To be fair, Ibrahim is responding to leading questions meant to trap him in positions that may be considered anti-Muslim and therefore he answers in a manner that avoids triggering additional controversy. Still, given that he perpetuates the Muslim worldview in which all Hindus near a mosque are criminal when they express their religious beliefs, we should ask him:
- If some Muslims perform the namaz inside a train, blocking passages and disturbing fellow passengers , should we consider that all Muslims performing namaz in trains and in public places  are disrupters of peace and therefore should be arrested/punished?
- If a Muslim performs the namaz in a public space , surrounded by Hindus and others, are the Hindus justified in taking offense at this blatant show of religiosity? If they assume it is religious provocation, does it become so? Would India’s chief ministers  and media rationalize Hindu violence against the Muslim as having been instigated by the Muslim’s namaz in their midst? Would the BJP regard this sort of public namaz destructive for religious harmony and therefore arrest those who perform it?
- If Hindus are told that saying Jai Shri Ram in front of a mosque is a crime and an instigation of Muslims, why should we tolerate hearing the azaan multiple times each day? Are not mosques that blare out the azaan through loud speakers instigating Hindus in “their area,” in their homes, in their temples? [9, 10]
- If a Christian missionary solicits a Hindu at his home and goes on to harass him to convert, should we require that no missionary be allowed to go knocking on the doors of Hindu homes? Should we accept the logic of the Hindu who says he broke the missionary’s nose because the latter disturbed him during evening prayers, and that otherwise he would not have hit him? 
- Should the Hindu community have to assume guilt and responsibility for the Muslim’s paranoia?  If a Hindu carried a saffron flag near a mosque on Ram Navami and chanted Jai Shri Ram, should we think that he must have been instigating the intolerant Muslim gang that beats him up?
Ibrahim does not condone or justify the violence perpetrated by Muslims who say they are defending Islam. But he wants Indian law to be interpreted and to function in the manner the Muslim believes it should. The law cannot decipher the intention of the Hindu simply from his saying a mantra/slogan near a mosque, whether it is Jai Shri Ram, or Ishvara Allah tera naam, and whether such utterance is to instigate the Muslims in “their area”. Yet Ibrahim wants the law to assign guilt to people’s actions prima facie on account of others’ beliefs and reactions. If the Muslim gets upset, the Hindu must have instigated. That is the logic.
IV. What if it was the other way around?
Well, what if the conflict is not in front of a mosque? How about if a crowd of Muslims or Christians camp outside a Shiva temple and start shouting Allah hu Akbar or Jesus alone is the savior? Ibrahim concurs that they too are in the wrong, inferring from their action that the intent is antithetical to religious harmony. This seems sensible because if the assessment of evil intent is correct, then we would want the police to stop the evildoers from carrying out their actions.
We, however, have an alternate viewpoint.
The act of performing the Allah hu Akbar gosham in front of a temple does not by itself imply that the Muslims had the intention of provoking Hindus in the temple. The two things, saying Allah hu Akbar outside a temple and Hindu-hate, are disconnected acts that get connected in the minds and actions of some Muslims (some Hindus, as we elaborate in the next paragraph), and by politicians like Mamata Banerjee. However, we cannot prove that all Muslims who utter that salutation outside a temple are possessed of Hindu-hate and are uttering it to provoke Hindus in the temple. We simply do not have the magic drones to read human minds in this manner. Therefore, it is not justifiable to criminalize the act by presuming the actor is guilty.
Secondly, the salutation Allah hu Akbar does not contain the message of hate and lacks an intrinsic causal potency to provoke a listener to rage and violence. It is the hearer who connects the words to an independent meaning and import and responds accordingly. It is the connotation of the words, not the denotation. How the hearer interprets and reacts to the words is therefore dependent on how he has trained himself to think about the words and the speaker. In summary, the words don’t have explicit hateful or violent content — in fact it has the opposite meaning – and the speaker need not have hateful intentions in order to say them. The one who hears is instigated by the words because of his prejudices or because of prior knowledge about how certain words are used to provoke. The authorities therefore should not therefore presume guilt when someone utters the words in the presence of such a person.
Is this, however, not unfair to the person who believes the speaker has ill-intention towards him and must be punished? The person thinks/responds in a certain way on account of past experiences and interactions. This may be so, but a bias howsoever justified is still a bias and not proven fact. The law should not punish people on account of suspicions held by others. Let us look at this a bit deeper.
What is achieved by creating a law that criminalizes one community for saying its prayers or expressing its religious beliefs in the vicinity of another community’s house of worship or in its “area”? It trains the citizenry to artificially correlate and connect disconnected events of religious expression and the intent-to-instigate. The Hindu looks at the law and concludes the Muslim who says Allah hu Akbar in front of his temple is guilty of the crime of disturbing “religious harmony”. The Muslim who wants to call on Allah (or perform his namaz) looks at the law and his presence in a “Hindu area” or near a temple location and thinks the act of his worship is inherently – a) criminal if performed in that circumstance, b) provoking Hindus, and c) therefore, must understand that he is instigating Hindus if he were to perform the namaz there.
Thus, the law actively forces its citizens to think in terms of “us” vs. “them,” “our slogan” vs. “their slogan,” and “our area” vs. “their area”. It influences the Indian’s worldview in the manner that Islamist teachings have done to the Muslim’s worldview . The law will legitimize this kind of hatred that is inculcated by Islamists. (This is not just an Indian problem, however, if we were to consider what happens in any contested area like Northern Ireland, the American South, Cyprus, and elsewhere and where a flag or a slogan becomes symbols of difference and hate.)
V. What then is the solution?
On temple/Hindu land, the law should side with Hindus on what can and cannot be done by other communities there. Likewise on Mosque/Muslim land, the law should favor the consensus of Muslims on what Hindus can and cannot do while there. Note that this “land” of a community is not the same as the notion of an “area” where there is a majority or a concentration of one group or the other . We are only referring to the land and property actually owned by that community .
Public land is what the government regards as being common to all. There, all communities should follow the common law and have the same/uniform rights. It does not matter that a road passes in front of or behind a temple or a mosque. If it is a public road, then the Hindu should be able to do there what the Muslim can, and vice versa. The law should not discriminate along communal lines in public spaces. Before we ask whether Muslims can camp in front of a Shiva temple and cry Allah hu Akbar, we must ask whether by law that space in front of the temple is part of temple land or whether it is regarded as being “public space” or “government property” (like a public road). If it is the latter, then the law should ensure the same rights for both Hindus and Muslims there. The government must decide on whether to allow any gosham or no gosham, and not whether to allow only Hindu or Muslim or cinema or political gosham and depending on “whose area” it is — unless it can determine explicitly hateful or violent intention in such gosham.
Hindus or Muslims in any area should not have special privileges and rights over others in the public spaces of that area. The law should not facilitate their claims of ownership and control over the streets. Decisions to accommodate or deny the special requests of particular groups have to be based on secular and not communal/religious considerations. If Hindus want to have a procession during Ram Navami, the law should discern its viability at a location based on the logistics of that place and not based on demographic variables. Will the procession create traffic problems, or can the traffic be suitably redirected for the time of the procession? Is there an environmental or noise-pollution issue? Such questions are valid. What should not be entertained as part of legal considerations are questions such as “Will Muslims in that area become upset seeing the saffron flag and hearing Jai Shri Ram from the street (when they will not mind seeing skull caps and hijabs and hearing echoes of Allah hu Akbar)?” That is the epitome of hate, and the law should not feed it.
VI. The Islamist as the obstacle, and the way forward
The solution that we have outlined is contingent on having proper data of land ownership and the capacity of the authorities to stop land-jihad. Our continuing experience tells that we cannot have high expectations in this regard from Muslims [16, 17] or even from the government . For one thing, this shows how important it is for Hindus to secure their land and property.
A vocal section of the Muslim community will pursue Islamist agendas. Their ultimate objective is to bring the world into Islam, or to put it another way, to take over the world from the kafir. They will seek to grab land that belongs to Hindus as well as public land, and to establish Shariah, the rule of Allah, upon it. We should not, however, seek to bend the law for fear of such people, because they will not change. We know on the other hand that the Hindu is trained by his culture and civilization to think differently than the Islamist. Yes, the Hindu in general when he chants Jai Shri Ram outside a mosque, a church, a Shiva temple, does so without the intent to provoke or condemn others; and he hears the azaan and sees the namaz in the same spirit. He would gladly be part of a world in which Muslims and Hindus can greet one another with Allah hu Akbar and Jai Shri Ram, respectively. But it is the Islamist alone, not the Hindutvadi nor both, who because of his fundamentalism is responsible for making this a dream beyond reach. We want the good Hindu’s, the good Muslim’s, and the good citizen’s freedom to be protected by law without discrimination. That must be the focus. Talking the Islamist’s language of “Muslim area” and “in front of mosque,” post Ram Navami violence, is entirely the opposite of what needs to happen in such circumstances. India needs to stop pandering to those who threaten her with violence and retribution and stand with those who place their trust in her inherent goodness and higher nature.
- Vellore Ibrahim, BJP National Secretary (Minority Morcha): https://twitter.com/syedibrahimbabl?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author
- Vellore Ibrahim directly addressing Muslims on their violence: https://www.facebook.com/ChoRamBoss/videos/352290879555575
- Vellore Ibrahim on non-acceptance of violent response from Muslims to hate-speech: https://www.facebook.com/syedibrahimbabl/videos/798078087450469
- Vellore Ibrahim on Ram Navami violence, BJP’s stance: https://www.facebook.com/syedibrahimbabl/videos/3342459106071395
- Namaz on Train: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI-t1z004hc
- Upadhyay, S. N. (April 29, 2023). “Viral photo of Muslims offering namaz in Mumbai resurface amid Azaan, Hanuman Chalisa flare-up,” The Print, https://theprint.in/hoaxposed/viral-photo-of-muslims-offering-namaz-in-mumbai-resurface-amid-azaan-hanuman-chalisa-flare-up/935912/
- Times of India (December 20, 2021). “Passenger offers namaz in a moving local train in Mumbai,” https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/news/watch-viral-video-passenger-offers-namaz-in-a-moving-local-train-in-mumbai/videoshow/88384287.cms?from=mdr
- OpIndia (April 09, 2023). “Minorities, please pray to Allah to finish off Ram Navami rioters: Mamata Banerjee resorts to dog-whistling, alleges Hindus deliberately entered Muslim areas with guns and bombs,” https://www.opindia.com/2023/04/mamata-banerjee-tells-minorities-to-pray-to-allah-to-fight-ram-navami-rioters/
- Anand Ranganathan on azaan: https://twitter.com/ARanganathan72/status/1642911866606465024?cxt=HHwWgMDR5evo5cwtAAAA
- OpIndia (February 17, 2023). “Loudspeaker was removed from Hanuman temple but azaan from the mosque blares 5 times a day: Priest in Palamu complains of discrimination by police,” https://www.opindia.com/2023/02/loudspeaker-hanuman-temple-azaan-from-the-mosque-continues-priest-in-palamu-complains-of-discrimination-by-police/
- OpIndia (April 03, 2023). “Why was the procession taken out during Azaan?: West Bengal cleric justifies Ram Navami violence in Howrah,” https://www.opindia.com/2023/04/west-bengal-muslim-cleric-justifies-violence-in-howrah-asks-why-ram-navami-procession-took-placed-during-azaan/
- Police orders removal of Ram Murthy from man’s private property: https://twitter.com/MeghUpdates/status/1644244861070237697?cxt=HHwWgoDTvar_w9EtAAAA
- OpIndia (April 14, 2023). “Stone pelting on Hindu processions, violence on Ram Navami and Hanuman Janmotsav: All the incidents so far, police versions and complaints of victims,” https://www.opindia.com/2023/04/stone-pelting-processions-violence-ram-navami-hanuman-janmotsav-all-the-incidents-so-far-police-versions-and-complaints-filed/
- OpIndia (March 30, 2023). “Muslim area: Mamata Banerjee bats for Muslim-exclusive ghettos, asks Hindus to avoid celebrating festivals in those areas,” https://www.opindia.com/2023/03/muslim-area-mamata-banerjee-muslim-exclusive-ghettos-asks-hindus-to-avoid-celebrating-festivals-in-those-areas/
- Rajhans, S. S. (June 22, 2022). “Who owns most of India?” OpIndia, https://myvoice.opindia.com/2022/06/who-owns-most-of-india/
- Sikka, Y. (September 26, 2022). “Land Jihad: Halal Land Grab,” Organiser, https://organiser.org/2022/09/26/95016/bharat/land-jihad-halal-land-grab/
- Hasan, S. M. (September 19, 2017). “Waqf land grab: India’s biggest land scam,” India Today, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/waqf-land-grab-scam-muslim-charitable-assets-1048007-2017-09-19
- The Hindu (June 09, 2021). “What happened to 47,000 acres of missing temple land? HC asks TN Government,” https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/what-happened-to-47000-acres-of-missing-temple-land-hc-asks-tn-government/article34765670.ece