ARTICLES FROM THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN
Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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As a young nonagenarian, I feel fully entitled to air my view that the world is in too much turmoil. If it isn't man-made tragedies causing death and destruction, it is nature's fury doing the same, cyclones, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. It has been a year dominated by floods across every continent of the globe, even in the unlikeliest of countries like Saudi Arabia. Floods now have a tendency to come in a flash, without warning, making them another weapon of mass destruction.
Alignments across the world too seem to be in transition, and fault lines are deepening. Dialectics are innate to our philosophy and metaphysics, but presently, I am thinking of the Hegelian brand of dialectics that relate to society and history — the thesis or the reigning idea, its antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the ultimate synthesis which resolves the contradictions between the forces. Society is always in a state of flux, but gradual changes do accumulate and lead to crises, that become major milestones for real change, resulting either from a clash of ideas, or a synthesis of them.
I'm not quite sure at what stage of social or historic dialectics we are, but I feel concerned about some kind of Armageddon hanging over our heads, inching closer, as Islam's latest hijacker, the ISIS, shows its savage, gruesome face. Bloodshed, beheadings, intolerance and brutality are overtaking Islam's interface with the rest of the world, and the fallout is spilling over to the secular, democratic political structures of Christian Europe and other countries with Muslim populations. Even within itself, the new Islam preached by the rabid ISIS, persecutes non Sunni sects like the Shias, Ahmadias, the Kurds, and wants either to coerce them to their version of Islam or exterminate them. Vast tracts of West Asia have been turned into killing fields, as the most brutal, bloody battles rage between the Sunni ISIS and the rest of the world, reminiscent of invasions of Ghazni, Ghori and Timur, to name some of the cruellest. The civilised part of the Muslim world is watching in exasperation at this new Islamic interface, a complete blasphemy of true Islam, that refuses to interface with anyone but itself.
I am at a loss to understand why a large section of modern Muslim intellectuals, rationalists and enlightened opinion makers are silent at the rampant abuse of Islam proliferating in the world. It was Islamic Arab scholars who brought Greek learning back to the world after the Dark Ages. After political consolidation of numerous divergent tribes during its early centuries, Islam was a religion that encouraged learning, knowledge and libraries. The rot started in the 13th century, when a mad Khalifa ordained the destruction of all books and literature except for the Holy Quran. Scholarly works of great Muslim intellectuals like Avicena and Averroes, who had reintroduced Aristotle to Europe, were burnt to ashes. But it was the Wahhabis, who during the 18th century hijacked Islam and brought it to the archaic condition that it has been reduced to. Wahhab, an evil Saudi Arabian preached that all Mushrikeen had forfeited their right to live on this planet. His definition of the word included Jews, Christians, Shias and all non Muslims. He gave Pakistan his evil progeny called Maulana Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami. The ranting hysterical Bilawal Bhutto of Pakistan is his current satanic avatar in a Pakistan desperately trying to find a positive identity.
Islam has to modernise and interpret itself to live in contemporary times with the rest of the world. Presently, it is being converted into a religion that does not know how to tolerate a belief other than its own; which does not allow debate or discussion; where there is no freedom to question; where questioning becomes labelled as blasphemy. Modern Muslim intellectuals and opinion leaders must rise up to the occasion, and start a movement encouraging Islam to become more inclusive, and to live in peace with other faiths and religions. These saner voices should become more audible and explain the true essence of the faith, which is consistent with a life guided by reason and logic and inspired by love and charity. This is what secularism is all about. It is a ridiculous hypocrisy for Muslims in India who hate anyone labelled rightly or wrongly as non secular, but imbibe nothing of secularism in their own life and conduct. That some beliefs and practices which came into existence in the clime and circumstances of 15 centuries ago are unalterable can only be the faith of unalterable fools. Mankind has to go through a transition from religion to metaphysics to science. No Prophet of any religion knew of the law of gravity, our earth revolving round the sun, electricity and the magic of atoms and electrons. Muslims must recall that Islam tolerated and welcomed Mutazilites, who loudly affirmed the supremacy of reason when in conflict with the Holy Book or Hadith. Remember that an express article of the Constitution of India 51-A (h) mandates that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of enquiry and reform.
Meanwhile, India is at the threshold of a new strategic axis, the contours of which have been indicated within record time of the BJP government assuming power. It would appear that the Japan-India-Israel-US axis has every chance of becoming reality soon. India has started talking with a certain firmness with China, despite their stale old tactics of embarrassing India with hostile behaviour at the borders each time there is a diplomatic occasion between both countries. Narendra Modi continued his diplomacy and investment economics with the Chinese President, in a spirit of firmness and nonchalance, even as the Chinese army was indulging in their usual shenanigans in Ladakh. The Chinese would no doubt be relooking their geo-political strategy towards India, especially after Modi's whirlwind visits within the subcontinent to Bhutan and Nepal, where the Chinese control sizeable subversive elements targeting India; his highly successful visit to Japan; and of course, his rock star visit to the US, where he has developed a special rapport with President Barack Obama.
Pakistan continues to be in deep trouble. The Pakistan Taliban have come out in open support of the ISIS; Imran Khan's rally against Nawaz Sharif is said to be ISI supported; Bilawal, self styled Prince of Pakistan, was screeching some gibberish, like a boy possessed, that every inch of Kashmir belonged to him. Clearly, nothing of his long years of Oxford education or debating etiquette has rubbed off on him.
Pakistan has also failed to recognise the new India under Narendra Modi. Like China tries to blight every India-China event with an embarrassment, Pakistan diverts attention to India and Kashmir by starting some escalation at the border whenever it is under severe political stress at home. Several theories are being floated for their recent unprovoked attacks, this time not at the Line of Control, but at the international border. First, that the friendly Kashmir border is too closely guarded, and will become inaccessible after snowfall very soon for them to push in jihadi infiltrators. Therefore divert attention by attacking the international border at Jammu, Sambha, and RanbirSinghpura, inhabited mostly by Hindu and Sikh refugees, and push them in. Second, habituated by the lukewarm responses that they were accustomed to during UPA rule, they thought that they could swing it as they had done in the past, and attract attention to India being a hegemonic neighbour. They did not anticipate the character and nationalism of the new Prime Minister and government who responded with redoubled strength and made the Pakistan army run for cover and beg for flag meetings, which were refused until they conformed to civilised international behaviour. Third, it has been said that the border clashes were meant to deter the huge foreign investment that is waiting to be infused in India, after the Prime Minister's successful foreign visits. Fourth, it is expected that the BJP will make huge gains in the J&K elections that are due shortly, and border clashes involving loss of life and property can dampen their chances. And lastly, as was expressed by a BSF officer, the intensity of the attacks at the border came soon after India defeated Pakistan in the hockey match at the Asian Games!
Pakistan is confused. Like China, they are not accustomed to the new Indian leadership that can make China cancel its visit to Pakistan after our NSA visits China; to a Prime Minister who does not even mention Kashmir in the US, and a UN which turns down their attempt to make it into an international issue; and an India which refuses flag meetings until attacks against it from Pakistan stop. All of this resulted in Pakistan reportedly muzzling its press about border clashes.
Modi's responses have been just right. Even when he was campaigning for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, he assured our countrymen that he was monitoring every move at the border, and that everything would be fine soon. "Today, when bullets are being fired on the border, it is the enemy that is screaming," the PM said, adding "the enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated". As reported by a Delhi newspaper, "The volume and intensity of India's return fire is much higher than the usual calibrated response the Pakistanis have come to expect." The nation has full faith in what Modi has said. And Pakistan must see the new reality.