Belgian Indologist Dr Koenraad Elst’s anti-Islam remarks created a flutter at a Goa conclave Saturday, prompting at least one foreign delegate to walk out while another lodged a complaint with organiser India Foundation whose directors include Union Minister Suresh Prabhu and Shaurya Doval, son of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Former Jordanian prime minister Dr Abdelsalam al-Majali left the meeting while Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Countries, lodged a protest.
Addressing the session on ‘Religion — Tolerance and Terror’ at the India Ideas Conclave 2014, Elst said: “On the whole, you should make it uncool to be Muslims. That will help them. You do not forcefully need to convert them. Through this, they will themselves outgrow Islam.”
Referring to the row over the ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign, Elst said: “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is coming under criticism for the one thing that they are doing very well which is ghar wapsi. We need to liberate Muslims from Islam. Every Muslim is an abductee and must be brought back.”
Those present at the session included spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Ram Madhav of the BJP and several party MPs including former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh.
An Indophile who studied at Banaras Hindu University, Elst has authored books opposing the Aryan invasion theory, contending that Aryans were Indians who fanned out — his “Out of India” theory. He has also written on the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.
Before he walked out, former Jordanian prime minister Abdelsalam al-Majali told the gathering: “I am appalled at what I heard from the platform about insulting Islam and insulting the Prophet. One can criticize this, that and the other but don’t insult. To try to destroy the whole faith is wrong. We came here to understand each other and try to be peaceful. It is very said to be at such a conference to hear insults on a religion which is followed by over one billion people.”
Ihsanoglu too protested: “We are hearing a speech of hatred. You cannot use your freedom of speech to hurt others. I was very happy being here until I heard this speech of hatred.” Gunnar Stalsett, Bishop Emeritus of Oslo, and others questioned the “demonization” of an entire faith.
When organiser India Foundation’s comments were sought on Elst’s remarks, one of its office-bearers, who did not wish to be named, said: “The views are of an individual and the India Foundation does not subscribe to them. We have already issued an apology to our guests.”