July 26, 2017

SHOULD WE SUPPORT “LIBERAL” MUSLIMS?

I am responding to numerous requests to give my views on Tarek Fatah. I want to first examine Benazir Bhutto and Fareed Zakaria, both well-known liberal Muslims. This gives insights into other liberal Muslims.

Bhutto and Zakaria established themselves as well- known liberal face of Islam by opposing Islamic radicalism. But this does not mean a love for Hinduism. They postured as anti-radicalists on forums like CNN, playing to the global liberal market looking for liberal Islam. They told gullible westerners what these westerners want to hear in order to feel good about the future of western liberalism. But Bhutto’s anti-radicalism was merely an internal fight between two Muslim camps. Likewise in the case of Zakaria, He explicitly and assertively identifies as an Indian Muslim, which means he must comply with and believe in the core requirements of: exclusiveness of Allah, Mohammad as the final prophet, various Qur’anic injunctions concerning infidels, jihad, women and slaves. As a history-centric religion of the Book, there is a formal definition of being a Muslim without the wiggle room to improvise one’s one version. Likewise, Shah Rukh Khan, despite all the pop culture drama, is a practicing Muslim. (Salman Rushdie is closer to being a true liberal, and even he did not show kindness towards Hinduism.)

There is nothing wrong about choosing to practice Islam. And I am glad there are a few liberal Muslims wanting to challenge their own radicals – at least in front of the public. But this Islam vs Islam is an internal war similar to the Reformation movement in Christianity. That movement took 200 years of violence to sort out. It has nothing to do with what either variety of Christian thinks of Hinduism – we are heathens to both varieties of Christianity.

I have spoken to Tarek once by phone and found him to be a pleasant, witty, fellow-Punjabi with strong opinions against Pakistan and the prevalent forms of Islam. He is classified as a liberal, left wing Muslim and hence in opposition to the orthodox, radical Muslims. The promise he offers to Hindus is that he can battle radical Islam and Pakistan. This has caused confusion among Hindus who imagine that he, therefore, is a friend of Hinduism.

I want to encourage such liberal Muslims to fight their own fellow-Muslims. But I dont expect them to fight our battles as Hindus. Nor is it wise to hoist them as some sort of leaders of Hindus as far as ideas, policies, strategies are concerned. We must shoulder our own responsibilities and not try to escape the risk and burden of having our own adhikara. I often find weak Hindu leaders shirking responsibility by putting it on such shoulders in the same way as many Rajas turned over to the British to solve their problems.

By all means lets use Islam vs Islam to divide, contain and hopefully one day after several generations see them get reformed.

Here is my acid test of a true liberal Muslim: He must list all verses in Qur’an and Hadith that are the backbone of radicalism and demand that they must be declared hate speech. These should not be taught, and replaced by a truly liberal interpretation. This reformation is what some Pakistani Muslims based in USA are trying to achieve through consensus building among intellectuals – not public bombast for limelight. This will take decades but if/when successful, it can bring sustainable liberalism in Islam.

Without such a genuine reform movement with a critical mass at the core, and based on amending the holy texts, any PR based shrill movement is going to be short lived and unstable. That can at best disrupt the enemy. But dont let such a disruption become an opportunity for the likes of Bhutto, Zakaria and their lesser versions of “liberals” climb on our shoulders.

Use them as useful sepoys just like the West has deployed many Hindu sepoys against Hinduism. They must prove their value with concrete impact and get rewarded for the results produced.

 Picture Credit: News Worth Debating

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About Rajiv Malhotra 32 Articles
Author Rajiv Malhotra Born in 1950, Rajiv Malhotra is an Indian American researcher, writer, speaker and July 18, 2008 Washington 061public intellectual on current affairs as they relate to civilizations, cross-cultural encounters, religion and science. He studied physics at St. Stephens College in Delhi and went for post-graduate studies in physics and then computer science to the USA. Rajiv served in multiple careers, including: software development executive, Fortune 100 senior corporate executive, strategic consultant, and successful entrepreneur in the information technology and media industries. At the peak of his career when he owned 20 companies in several countries, he took early retirement at age 44 to pursue philanthropy, research and public service. He established Infinity Foundation for this purpose in 1994. Rajiv has conducted original research in a variety of fields and has influenced many other thinkers in India and the West. He has disrupted the mainstream thought process among academic and non-academic intellectuals alike, by providing fresh provocative positions on Dharma and on India. Some of the focal points of his work are: Interpretation of Dharma for the current times; comparative religion, globalization, and India’s contributions to the world. He has authored hundreds of articles, provided strategic guidance to numerous organizations and has over 300 video lectures available online. To best understand Rajiv’s thoughts and contributions, his books are a good resource. Besides Invading the Sacred, in which Rajiv is the main protagonist, he has authored the following game changing books: Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines; and Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity The Battle for Sanskrit: Is Sanskrit Political or Sacred, Oppressive or Liberating, Dead or Alive? Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Doniger’s Erotic School of Indology Currently, Rajiv Malhotra is the full-time founder-director of Infinity Foundation in Princeton, NJ. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and is adviser to various organizations. Infinity Foundation has given more than 400 grants for research, education and community work. It has provided strategic grants to major universities in support of pioneering programs including: visiting professorships in Indic studies at Harvard University, Yoga and Hindi classes at Rutgers University, research and teaching of nondualistic philosophies at University of Hawaii, Global Renaissance Institute and a Center for Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a program in religion and science at University of California, endowment for the Center for Advanced Study of India at University of Pennsylvania, lectures at the Center for Consciousness Studies at University of Arizona. Rajiv Malhotra inspired the idea of Swadeshi Indology Conference. The first ever Swadeshi Indology Conference was held at IIT, Chennai from July 6 to July 8, 2016. This conference hosted well-researched papers that highlighted the discrepancies and mistranslations in the studies of Indology done by Prof. Sheldon Pollock. This conference is the first of a series of conferences that have been planned to address multiple issues raised by Western Indologists requiring astute examination, analyses and rejoinders, culminating in a published volume with a selection of papers. Another major initiative of the Infinity Foundation is the HIST series. The HIST (History of Indian Science and Technology) series is a compilation of multi-Volume History of Indian Science and Technology based only on solid academic scholarship, and not on wild extrapolations. To accomplish this, each volume was subjected to rigorous peer reviews. The following volumes have already been published and printed as part of this IF project: Marvels of Indian Iron Through the Ages Indian Zinc Technology in Global Perspective Water Management and Hydraulic Engineering in India History of Metals in Eastern India and Bangladesh Harappan Architecture and Civil Engineering Beginning of Agriculture and Domestication in India History of Iron Technology in India Indian Beads History and Technology Himalayan Traditional Architecture Animal Husbandry and Allied Technologies in Ancient India Harappan Technology and Its Legacy Reflection on The History of Indian Science and Technology Chalcolithic South Asia: Aspects of Crafts and Technologies Traditional Water Management Rajiv Malhotra has an active Facebook following with about 8 hundred thousand followers.