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‘For unity we need harmony, not uniformity’

One of the many sayings of Prophet Mohammed that have deeply influenced me is about peacemaking, and it has relevance...

One of the many sayings of Prophet Mohammed that have deeply influenced me is about peacemaking, and it has relevance to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. “Shall I inform you,” the Prophet tells his companions, “of an act better than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by their roots.”

Similarly, there is a peace mantra in the Yajurveda, which calls upon all the rulers and people to create a world without prejudice and enmity. Every faith, thus, exhorts people to resolve their mutual antagonism on the basis of justice and through recourse to the peaceful and peacemaking means of dialogue.

Dialogue, of the honest, candid and consistent kind, and based on a shared awareness of their common Indian nationalism, is what is most needed among Hindus and Muslims to achieve lasting peace. I consider this series of columns on transforming the BJP-Muslim relationship to be a small part of this larger dialogue aimed at strengthening Hindu-Muslim unity. In itself, the BJP-Muslim relationship is of secondary importance. It assumes a deeper and wider significance only if it can contribute, which I believe it will, to communal harmony, national integration, a healthier democracy and India’s equitable progress. It is for this primary reason that I am attempting to explore ways in which a fruitful BJP-Muslim and RSS-Muslim dialogue might start.

This purpose necessitated making a reference to some of the lesser-known views on Muslims articulated by M.S. (‘Guruji’) Golwalkar, the longest-serving chief of the RSS (1940-73) and its most respected ideologue. Last week, we discussed his extraordinary interview with Khushwant Singh.

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In 1971, in another interview with Dr Saifuddin Jeelani, an Arabic scholar, (Bunch of Thoughts by M.S. Golwalkar, page 639) he said: “According to our religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu. It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion.”

Specifically refuting the charge that the Sangh’s concept of Indianisation meant Hinduisation of Muslims, Golwalkar observed: “Follow your own religion. The God of Islam, Christianity and Hinduism is the same and we are all His devotees . . . Give people true knowledge of Islam. Give people true knowledge of Hinduism. Educate them to know that all religions teach men to be selfless, holy and pious . . . Indianisation does not mean making all people Hindus.”

By far the most unorthodox, and also least known, is Golwalkar’s opinion about the demand for a uniform civil code, an issue that agitates a majority of Indian Muslims. Not many Muslims — and not many BJP workers either — know that the former RSS chief was opposed to this demand. Here is what he said in an interview to K.R. Malkani (Organiser, 23 August 1972).

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Malkani: Don’t you think that a Uniform Civil Code is needed to nurture the sense of nationalism?

Golwalkar: I do not think so. What I say on this issue might surprise you and many others, but this is my view. And I must speak out the truth as I see it.

Malkani: Don’t you agree that uniformity is needed to promote national unity?

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Golwalkar: Harmony and uniformity are two different things. For harmony, uniformity is not necessary. There have always been limitless diversities in India. In spite of this, our nation has remained strong and well-organised since ancient times. For unity we need harmony, not uniformity. . . Nature does not like excessive uniformity. I think that diversity and unity can co-exist, and they do co-exist.

Malkani: Don’t you believe that Muslims are opposing uniform civil code only because they want to maintain their separate existence?

Golwalkar: I have no quarrel with any caste, community or section wanting to maintain its own individual identity or existence, until and unless this desire for a separate existence causes them to distance themselves from a feeling of nationalism. Many people insist on uniform civil code because they think that the Muslim population is growing in a disproportionate manner since their men are allowed to have four wives. I am afraid that this is a negative way of looking at the problem . . . There is no basic difference between those who favour appeasement and those who favour uniformity. So long as Muslims love this nation and its culture, they have a right to live according to their way of life.

Malkani: Is it proper to let our Muslim sisters become victims of purdah and polygamy?

Golwalkar: If your objection to Muslim customs is based on broad considerations of humanism, then it is proper. Reformist outlook in these matters is welcome. But it is not proper to try to bring about equality in a mechanical manner through the external instrumentality of laws. It is better that Muslims themselves reform their outdated laws and customs. I’ll be pleased if they come to the conclusion that polygamy is not good for them. But I would not like to impose my views on them.

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In the same interview, Golwalkar warns: “Uniformity is a pointer to the downfall of nations. I am in favour of preservation of diverse ways of life. At the same time, we should pay attention to ensure that these diversities nurture unity of the nation.”

Convinced that these enlightened views provide some basis for a positive dialogue between the RSS and Muslims, I shall, next week, try to build further on this foundation.

First published on: 09-06-2007 at 10:58:14 pm
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