By Asad Ali
Religion is a system of faith or worship that influences the way a person thinks about, views, and interacts with the world. One’s religion is often main source of their ethical and moral beliefs. For many believers, religion is a source of great comfort, perhaps even purpose. Many different religions exist throughout the world. Although religions are often very different from one another in theology and practice, it is arguable that most of them focus upon two near-universal themes: How to behave here on Earth, and what to expect when we die. Most religions teach faith in a higher power, be it one’s own spirituality.
Religion is the most sensitive part of every society. Every individual, be it Muslims or other religions, is espoused with its religious lines. One must not pass vague or blasphemous comments on any religion as it hurts the sentiments of millions of people across the world. As per the latest report, there are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide. Approximately, 84% of global population is espoused with different religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or some form of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics.
Likewise, it is the responsibility of every group, organization, and particularly government to provide basic religious rights to the people. They must be provided with every facility to perform their religious duties and prayers. No country can stop someone from performing his/ her religious practices anywhere in the country. If any state stops someone from performing religious customs, that is subjected to the violations of international charters, conventions and constitutional rights, which must be discouraged.
Unfortunately, a comprehensive and systematic campaign against a particular religion has been launched in India with the indirect support of the government. The main target of the campaign is to malign Muslim community. It is pertinent to mention here that the campaign was deliberately launched in order to accomplish political and Hindutva-driven interests. The campaign had started when two senior leaders of the ruling political party BJP’s passed derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The comments were passed on a live TV show.
Likewise, the remarks severely damaged the religious sentiments of not only Indian Muslims but the entire community living across the world. Similarly, the remarks have triggered massive outrage not only in India but in different parts of the world. The Indian government is receiving worldwide condemnation from Muslim states. The Muslim community is holding worldwide protests against the blasphemous remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Initially, the Indian government, which is led by Hindu fanatics, had even refused to condemn the remarks, which were made by two of its senior members. However, it has later realized the sensitivity of the matter when Arab nations including KSA, UAE and Qatar, unsurprisingly not only condemn the remarks but also summoned Indian diplomats to record strong protest on behalf of the government and people. The government has rushed to appease powerful Muslim-majority countries, after derogatory remarks from two ruling party officials against Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
That was an eye-opener for the Indian government and after that, it decided to suspend its two leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal. The Indian government also distanced itself from the remarks and said those were personal comments of two leaders and doesn’t reflect BJP’s policy. The government, however, refused to punish its leaders and instead questioned the response of Muslim states on the matter. It is highly likely that the recent developments in India against Islam will have lasting implications for communal harmony in the country.
Similarly, the role of Indian Media, which is a mouthpiece of BJP government, also remained biased towards Muslims and favored BJP leaders who made the controversial remarks. After seeing strong reactions from Muslims, unfortunately, Indian media had launched a counter-campaign to target Muslims. Likewise, Indian media vehemently supported BJP’s leaders by playing Hindutva card. Sadly, the offensive anti-Muslim campaign by Indian media created panic in Arab states, which later went on backfoot instead of punishing New Delhi. These states preferred economic, strategic and political interests with India instead of promoting religious values. The GCC, OIC and Arab League have wasted an opportunity to unite Muslims for a greater cause.
The Muslim state must not compromise on religious red lines. The cold response from Arab world will strengthen Indian government’s anti-Muslim policies in future. They must have stayed firm on their stance against India. This is right for the Muslim world to join hands and unite to fight collectively against Islamophobia, emanating from West and India.
The recent islamophobia wave in India has categorically unmasked the Indian government’s anti-Muslim policy. It is high time for international community, organizations and other human rights watchdogs to come forward and take stringent actions against New Delhi over its Islamophobic policies. They must not allow India to get away with all the mess it created against Muslims. India’s economic partners can no longer turn blind eye to Modi government’s divisive record.
But now, despite India’s growing importance in global sphere – with its $2.9 trillion dollar economy, membership of – Quad and ambitions to become a permanent member of UNSC – its Hindu nationalist political machine may have gone too far, which are a threat to regional as well as global peace.
The writer is Islamabad-based expert on Indian affairs.