Secularism is a laudable concept that has been constitutionalised in several countries of the world. France and Turkey are two examples of nations that come to mind. They have an intransigently secular constitution that is vehemently opposed to the infiltration of religion into the affairs of the state.
The Turkish military remains a bastion of obdurate secularism that feels threatened by the Islamist personality of the party that is currently guiding the country. However, it would be prudent to mention that the Justice and Development Party, though Islamist and conservative ideologically, has largely protected the secular nature of the Turkish polity. The example of the justness of Turkish laicism has, deplorably, not been emulated by a majority of the Muslim world. The secularism of the Turkish nation is laudable and must be a ‘role model’ for other Islamic nations. One mustn’t forget that Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation. It underwent constitutional secularisation in the aftermath of the dismantlement of the sickly Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal, the procreator of modern Turkey, believed that Turkey must journey on the secular path.
Of course, French laicism is accompanied by the notion of the identity of the French civilisation. Now, the Frenchification of the immigrants is integral to them being embraced by the French society, which is a wholly legitimate demand. In this regard, the legislative decree that debars the ‘burqa’ in public and penalises the imposers of the ‘burqa’ has been defended by many French secularists as a measure that is compatible with the French laicism. A right-wing national government, shepherded by Nicolas Sarkozy, was the progenitor of this motion.
What the Islamic opponents of this move fail to grasp is that the French identity, of which secular principles are intrinsic ingredients, is implacably attached to the intellect of a majority of French citizens, who are, predominantly, white Gauls. The burqa or the Islamic veil that is symbolic of the subjugation and submissiveness of Mohammedan woman is incompatible with the French civilisation. In any case, French secularism doesn’t demand the obliteration of mosques in France or doesn’t decree that the French Muslims, largely of Arabic descent, from the ex-French colonies in North Africa, disassociate themselves from their faith in their faith. It merely calls for the acceptance of certain norms of public behavior that embody Gallicisation. It asks for conformity to the tenets of the French constitution that anyhow are not vitriolic detractors of the idea of freedom of speech and religion.
Mohammedanism, according to many honourable Islamic theologians, doesn’t mouth that the embracement of the oppressive veil is mandatory for the Islamic females. This can certainly be said. What the Muslim fanatics in favour of the veil claim is that Islam mandates the wearing of the burqa. This is nothing but poppycock. The declaration of such claims stems from a parochialist and chauvinistic mindset that is ill at ease with the reasonable thought that Islamic ladies too can compete in a fair manner with their male counterparts.
Those who unswervingly smack Hinduism as the principal force that has the potential to bulldoze the constitutional secularism of India fail to remember that it is the paradoxical Hinduism that permitted the two ancient religions of the world, Zoroastrianism and Judaism, to function in India. Zoroastrians, who fled Persia after its subjugation by Islamic marauders, arrived in a dire condition in India. Hinduism, the dominant religion in Bharat, requested the Zoroastrians to amalgamate significantly with the Hindu characteristics. The Parsees, as the Zoroastrians are also known, did assimilate terrifically in the sense that they acquired knowledge of the Indian languages, principally, Gujarati of Gujarat, where many of them settled. There is no better method of integration than being able to speak in the language of an area to which you have emigrated.
(Wadiaji’s Atash Behram Agiari, Marine Lines, Mumbai; photo source)
Also, the Parsees acquainted themselves with some of the Hindu mores. Mostly, the delegates of Hinduism in India never dictated that the Parsees jettison their religious traditions. Bellicose and macabre evangelisation, for the most part, didn’t exist in the vocabulary of Hinduism like it always did in the voyage of Christianity across the world. So, the Parsees constructed ‘agyaris’, many of which exist and continue to operate even today. If the history of Hinduism was indeed as barbarous as the self-appointed secular brigade in India would like us to believe, then the Parsees would have undergone conversion to Hinduism or faced slaughter at the hands of Hindu bigots.
In fact, Hinduism allowed Judaism, a religion that predates Christianity, to live in India. Some Jews of Iberia, who encountered and witnessed the butchery of hapless Jews by the uncivilised warriors of Christianity during the ‘reconquista’ of the Iberian Peninsula by the Christian forces, fled to India. Bharat is probably the only nation or mass of land in the universe that didn’t subject the Jews to the indecorousness and venomousness of anti-Semitism, a tradition that prevailed throughout Europe for centuries, much before the political ascension of the National Socialists in Germany. Again, if Hinduism was the manifestation of demoniacal tendencies, Judaism wouldn’t have survived in India. The pulchritudinous synagogues in different parts of Bharat are the testimonials dedicated to the enlightenment of Hinduism. Such was the decorous reception for the Jews here that many of them voluntarily intermingled with the natives of this land. These instances demonstrate that the persona of Hinduism has been synonymous with secular ideals. After all, one of the many meanings of laicism is the coexistence of several religions within a specific zone. Hinduism, being the predominant religion, exhibited a gigantic heart by letting the foreign religions reside here. Axioms such as ‘the whole world is one family’ and ‘guest is akin to a God’ that are immanent components of the Hindu evolution serve to remind us that tolerance has always been a virtue associated with Hinduism.
Yes, Hinduism has experienced intellectual debauchment, which led to several ill customs that simply bloodied the reputation of India universally. Unhealthy traditions such as ‘child marriage’, ‘suttee’, maltreatment of widows were evidences of the degeneracy of Hinduism. But every religion on earth has behaved degenerately at one point in time or the other. One mustn’t fail to point out that the egalitarian nature of Hinduism in India produced ‘reformist’ movements during the era of British imperialism. Many of these movements for the rejuvenation of Hinduism were immensely victorious.
Secularism doesn’t mean that an honest discussion of the deathly persecution of Hinduism in Bharat during the Islamic reign and the Christian governance, especially in Portuguese Goa, mustn’t be conducted. The fact is that several small and enormous places of worship of the Hindus were razed by the invading barbarians and on which the transgressors built their holy sites. An expression of this historical reality doesn’t make one a vampirical communalist. The indefensibly wicked proselytisation of the helpless Hindus by the Christian and Mohammedan aggressors is, indubitably, a sordid historical fact with which the soul of Hinduism and of this land will always have to progress.
The ills that plague Hinduism today are candidly debated. Fair enough! But what is pretty revolting is that the scum that has permeated the Islamic community, even its literate constituents, is not debated with as much candidness. The answer is that nobody wants to offend the fundamentalists of that community. This fear of inviting the wrath of the fundamentalist Mohammedans prevents the country from having a constructive conversation about the future of the Mohammedan community and the path on which it must voyage. The ferocious but eloquent denunciations of the mistreatment of Mohammedan women by eminent Muslim women such as the controversial Tasleema Nasreen and the educated Somali, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are not given adequate coverage. These two passionate females have acknowledged the rottenness that has percolated into the domain of the Islamic clergy and, thereby, into the wider Islamic society, more so, in a nation such as India. But to provide a forum to these valiant women so that they can voice their voice freely is considered an affront to secularism, specifically, by the mainstream media in India. There are robust discourses and dissertations on the need for further renovation in the Hindu society, which is splendid. But a corrupted and brazenly improper definition of secularism that has captured the psyche of the Indian media has killed the chances, at least in the near future, of a frank discourse on the status of the Islamic community in India.
It is necessary to state that it is the benevolence of Hinduism that has maintained the secular identity of India. It has sustained and stabilised secularism in Bharat. It is the generousness or selflessness of Hinduism that has, historically, educated the Hindus about the necessity of the maintenance of the revered sites of the invading religions. The fact that, today, there are thousands of mosques, majestic and modest, and hundreds of churches, extraordinary and decrepit, in India, is an illustration of the welcoming and all-inclusive persona of Hinduism. Muslims can adhere to the teachings of their religion and the Christians too can practice Christianity. Hinduism has never claimed that it is the truest and holiest religion in the world unlike some of the Semitic religions, especially two of them that altered the status of a large part of the world through proselytisation and conquest.