Playing the "PC" Card

Sat Dec 9 06:39:24 UTC 1995

Narayan Sriranga Raja wrote, replying to my posting:

> It is not an "Indians vs. Muslims" issue.
> As you know, many Indians are Muslims.
> No offence intended,

None taken. But the question is for how long? I'm thinking less about Hindus
wanting to expel Muslims as much as about secessionist movements. Are
Pakistanis still Indians? They are, by the definition someone else suggested,
native Indians whose ancestors converted.

I appreciate the civilized criticisms my post received... at least we are now
talking about how Indians have defined and been defined, rather than quibbling
about generic labels of disapproval. Yes, Hindu was coined to designate anyone
living south of the Indus river. It was not a religious term, but a
geographical one. It was, to the best of my knowledge, coined by Muslims
however. If someone has other information, I'd be interested to know what.

"Indian/Hindu" was not meant to imply that the two sides of the slash were
exclusivistic identities, but to note quickly a certain group. Given the
context I'd be surprised if anyone misunderstood which group I meant. The term
does not preclude another term "Indian/Muslim", or Indian/Jain, Indian/Parsi,
Indian/Jew, etc.  That a geographical term has come to designate a religious
identity (not by "Hindu" choice, but as a result of the convenience and
worldview of occupiers) is a symptom of the problem. That most Hindus today
seem to have accomodated themselves to the term (as have many American
RIndiansS) should not mask the historical conditions under which that
accomodation was made, or obscure our awareness of those conditions.

Contemporary political discourse seems to have difficulty recognizing
territorial claims as being simultaneously religious claims; hence Zionism is
easily condemnable, while the PLO cleverly uses political language
("self-determination," "autonomy," etc.) rather than religious language to make
its case and build sympathy. (Yes, I know some Palestinians are Christian...),
and thus have served as a useful front for Arab aggression (which otherwise
would have great difficulty disguising its intent from being religious and
imperialistic). The Israeli and Indian situations are remarkably parallel: The
British leave both at almost the same moment, partitioning the new countries
between Muslims and non-Muslims; both retain sizable Muslim populations, and
experience periodic border conflicts from their Muslim neighbors; Muslims
within the borders tragically get caught in the middle; etc.

As for the conquest of the Americas, those missions, from the first, were
religiously as well as politically and financially motivated. Columbus sailed
for Spain *and* Church even before he knew there were Americas to discover. The
Japanese, some centuries later, threw out the Portugese and Spanish, and agreed
to trade *only* with the Dutch precisely because the Dutch alone agreed to
never mention Christianity. Places like the Phillipines, Guam, etc., are not
Catholic today merely as byproduct of Mercantile adventures; Missionaries
arrived in the vanguard of any "merchant" enterprise (and occasionally even
before the merchants). The Missionaries labeled Tasmanians as "devils" --
because they weren't good convert material -- and literally had them wiped out.

Those who wish to sanitize the Muslim invasion of India (why are some too
squeamish to call it that? That's what it was, whichever wave you finally
concede was the "Muslim" one) clearly don't know the history of Central Asia,
nor, I suspect, would they be satisfied with Islamic apologetics for the
disappearance of Central Asian Buddhism (Parthia, Bactria, Sogdiana, etc.; only
the Mongolian and Tibetan varieties survived, due to their inaccessiblity). The
Turkish and Afghan invaders perhaps were not exclusively aiming at planting an
Islamic "cross" in India; anymore than European imperialists were exclusively
aiming to convert every soul they encountered. Yes, they did have other
interests, but they *also* had interests based on their religious
sensibilities, which dictated how infidels should be treated, etc. To this day,
Islamic Law draws a sharp distinction between how a Muslim is to treat others
within a Muslim country and how others are to be treated while living in a
non-Muslim country. Those rules were modified over time in India (e.g, Indians
became honorary "People of the Book," a category until then reserved
exclusively for Jews, Christians, and Greek philosophers), but they still
exist, even today.

As for the disappearance of Buddhism in India -- yes, it is complex, and the
vogue today seems to be to absolve Muslims as much as possible from
responsibility. Nyaayikas and Vedaantins would like to take some of the creidt
themselves. The fact is that we have contemporaneous accounts into the 12th and
13th century from Tibetan pilgrims, for instance, who made pilgrimage to India,
only to view vihaaras and mahaavihaaras in destitute ruin, and to spend most of
their time hiding from Turkish raiding parties who were conducting organized
and persistent pogroms on Naalandaa and other Buddhist sites. BuddhismUs
misfortune, in part, was that it had concentrated itself to a large extent in
the Northwest corridor of India (due to its connections with Central Asia and
the trade routes), and so were they were the first Indians -- or RHindusS --
that the Muslims encountered. By that time Muslims knew well what Buddhists
were, since they had to wade through a Central Asia full of them to get to


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