April 14, 2009 6:11:23 pm
The RSS vision of an Akhand Bharat has an unlikely supporter,the Grand Mufti of Syria,Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun. The Mufti feels “You need to bring back the idea of pre-independence India. An Indian continent which for over a thousand years was home to all civilisations — Hindus,Buddhists,Muslims,Jews,Christians and Sikhs. He believes that the barriers between India,Pakistan and Bangladesh are unnatural and should be removed. The holy man cites the example of Europe,where boundary lines are becoming irrelevant.
The Mufti was speaking his mind to a delegation of the Indian Women’s Press Corps,of which I was a member,visiting Syria earlier this month. The highly respected cleric assured us that he was not advocating this viewpoint simply because we were Indians. He had expressed the same thought to visiting delegations from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“I believe your forefathers did not want India to be partitioned. Let us rectify what your grandfathers have done. Why not re-merge for economic benefit and common security.” He felt that if there was one common parliament and central government and autonomous regional governments,India could be one of the greatest and most peaceful countries. The Mufti was speaking from the perspective of his own country,Greater Syria,which was also unnaturally divided along religious lines by the same forces which divided India.
Considering the turbulent turn of events in Pakistan,with the Taliban relentlessly extending its sphere of influence,it is unlikely that many in India today,probably even those from the RSS,would support the concept of a re-merger. But one appreciates the Mufti’s sentiment which stems from his belief that a country’s culture should not be categorised in terms of a religion. When taken around the Taj Mahal and told it was an “Islamic building” the holy man gently corrected his guide. “This is an Indian building,which may have been built with Islamic spirit.”
The image of a religion is often shaped by the pronouncements of its clerics and it is an unfortunate fact that the views of the most extreme elements get most prominence,because of their sensation value. The Mufti’s enunciation of Islam was inclusive,peace loving,humane,tolerant,just,a doctrine far removed from the rigid intolerant and fundamentalist approach adopted by some like the Taliban,claiming to act in the name of religion.
For the Mufti,what is important is not the outward manifestations of a religion but rather the peace and welfare of human beings. No religion advocates killing,he maintains firmly. He believes in equality between sexes and women getting their due place. For him,the preservation of religious places,whether temples,mosques or churches,is less important than the life of a single child. Asked about the rise of terrorism,hand in hand with fundamentalism,the Mufti replied “Extremism in the name of religion is not religion,it is extremism. No religion teaches extremism.”
This was his message to the Taliban:
“I will say stop alleging and claiming that you want to liberate Afghanistan with Islam. What you need is to liberate man. Killing does not make a state. It does not build a country,love does. Please heed your brother and please do not bring Pakistan back to the dark ages. Religion should not separate people and advocate killing . The Prophet emancipated man. Jesus emancipated man. Gandhi emancipated man. Enough bloodshed in Afghanistan. Even children are crying.”
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