Almost all Muslim rulers in India were secular. This they were in their own interest, for the vast majority of their subjects were Hindus. So if they persecuted Hindus there would be revolts and turbulences regularly, which no ruler wants.
Thus, the Mughals, Nawabs of Avadh and Murshidabad, Tipu Sultan, Nizam of Hyderabad etc were almost all thoroughly secular. For instance, the Nawabs of Avadh used to celebrate Holi, Dussehra and Diwali, organize Ramlilas, etc and give respect to all religions.
Akbar used to hold discussions with people of all religions, and give them respect (see my judgment in Hinsa Virodhak Sangh vs Mirzapur Moti Koresh Jamaat online and ‘Akbarnama’). His son Jehangir used to regularly meet the Hindu sadhu Jadrup, and hold discussions with him (see ‘Jehangirnama’).
The controversy is about Aurangzeb. I discussed about him with many Professors of history in Aligarh Muslim University and Allahabad University. Strangely enough, The Professors of AMU with whom I discussed Aurangzeb, and who are Muslims, regard Aurangzeb as communal, while the Professors of Allahabad University, who are Hindus, regard him as secular. Which is the correct view?
My own view is that more research is required.
On the one hand there is evidence to show that in Aurangzeb’s time grants were given to several Hindu temples, e.g. Mahakal temple at Ujjain, the Chitrakoot temple, etc. In this connection one may see online ‘History in the Service of Imperialism’, which is a speech given in the Rajya Sabha by Dr. B.N. Pandey, former Professor of History of Allahabad University and Governor of Orissa. Details of the grants to Hindu temples in Aurangzeb’e reign can be seen there. Many of Aurangzeb’s army commander’s, e.g. Raja Jai Singh, were Hindus.
I had been to Bikaner a few years back. A part of the Maharaja’s palace has been converted into a museum. I went to that museum and saw there a letter by Aurangzeb to the new Maharaja of Bikaner, who was a young man whose father (the previous Maharaja) had just died. Aurangzeb writes to the young Maharaja consoling him, and said that he could understand the loss of one’s father. He concludes the letter saying that the young Maharaja should regard Aurangzeb as his own father, and if he needed anything he had only to inform Aurangzeb.
Now the point is that if Aurangzeb hated all Hindus would he have written such a letter?
On the other hand, the fact cannot be denied that Aurangzeb reimposed jeziya on Hindus, a tax which his great grandfather Akbar had revoked. When I mentioned this to the Allahabad University Professors (with whom I discussed Aurangzeb) they said that Aurangzeb needed money for his wars. Now if Aurangzeb needed money for his wars he should have imposed a tax on everyone, why only Hindus?
The charge against Aurangzeb is that he demolished several Hindu temples e.g. the original Kashi Vishwanath temple, which is now the Gyanvapi mosque, standing next to the present temple built in the 18th Century by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar. In fact the rear wall of the Gyanvapi mosque has Hindu carvings, which are clearly discernible.
Which is therefore the true Aurangzeb?
My own view is that he is somewhere in between, but more research is required.
It cannot be denied that Aurangzeb antagonized Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs, etc which hastened the demise of the Mughal Empire. After his death in 1707 within a few years the Mughal Empire’s size was reduced to Delhi and its suburbs only ( ‘ Saltanat-e-Shah Alam, Az Dilli ta Palam’).
Though Aurangzeb was a totally honest man (he earned his living by making caps), he seemed to lack the great quality which Akbar had, of accommodating everyone and pursuing a tolerant and flexible, instead of rigid policy. Akbar realized that India is a country of great diversity, and so only a tolerant, flexible and accommodating policy can keep the Empire together. This realization, evidently, Aurangzeb lacked.
However, this is only my tentative opinion, and more objective research is required by experts.
The Federal Court, which represents the last bastion of hope for upholding civil liberties and protecting citizens whose rights are violated by the executive, has once again disappointed.
The majority decision not to allow the Catholic Church leave to appeal to the Federal Court against the Home Ministry’s ban on the use of ‘Allah’ in the Herald has allowed the fundamental right of Malaysians to practice the religion of their choice to be violated without remedy.
Article 3 of the federal constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the federation but Article 11 guarantees that every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and to propagate it (except among Muslims). The Federal Court has now rendered the 10-point solution meaningless.
The government of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak must take immediate action to correct the incursion into Article 11 of the federal constitution if this government believes in the rule of law.
In multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia, the government has a duty to create and maintain an environment where the different faiths may peaceably be practiced and equal protection of all faiths is ensured.
Failure to do so will increase tension and disharmony. It leads to tyranny and oppression resulting in the disintegration of our nation and the government must be held accountable.
The government is reminded that freedom of religion is an internationally recognised basic human right. It is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations recognises in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.
The United Nations has also declared religious tolerance is important as set out in the preamble to the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief that the disregard and infringement of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or whatever belief, have brought, directly and indirectly, wars and great suffering to mankind and amounting to kindling hatred between peoples and nations.
Article 6 declares that the right to freedom of religion includes the freedom to write issue and disseminate publications which includes newsletters such as the Herald.
If the government does not practice these basic tenets and principles, its attempt to seek a seat in the Security Council is hypocritical and farcical in pretending to uphold these principles in the United Nations and enforcing them against the rest of the world while violating them at home.
Supreme Court’s clarification that fatwas issued by sharia courts or muftis had no legal basis and hence could not be enforced has important social ramifications. Ruling on a PIL questioning the jurisdiction of sharia courts, the apex court asserted that fatwas had no place in the country’s constitutional scheme. This comes against the backdrop of fatwas being regularly issued on a wide range of subjects and cases concerning Muslims. Most of these religious diktats are out of sync with modern life, leading to unfortunate outcomes.
Take for example the fatwa issued by a cleric that called for banning an all-girl Kashmiri rock band, purportedly on religious grounds. Despite it having no legal force, the girls were compelled to disband their group due to community pressure. In fact, by their very design, fatwas are particularly harsh on women — recall the fatwa asking a woman from Muzaffarnagar to treat her husband like her son after she was raped by her father-in-law. Fatwas and other extrajudicial community rulings reinforce patriarchal biases and militate against reason and justice. Worse still, they can be easily manipulated to suit vested interests.
In this regard, Supreme Court’s observation that attempts to enforce a fatwa will be deemed illegal and dealt with according to the law should also serve as a safeguard against north India’s khap panchayats and Bengal’s shalishi adalats. In January, a shalishi court in Birbhum district shocked the nation by ordering the gang rape of a 20-year-old woman for immoral conduct. Those behind such rulings need to be strictly prosecuted. That said, sharia and other community courts may be able to adjudicate petty cases. But neither can these rulings be binding nor can they preclude the aggrieved party’s right to approach the judiciary. Supreme Court has done well to forcefully clarify this.
A Tragedy when even an Eminent former Judge and Chief Justice cannot tell the truth
I was afraid I would become a ‘traitor’ to the Malays and Islam,” Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad said. He was not truthful; he was not offered a place in a unity council, says source –www.themalaysianinsider.com
Malaysia’s flirtation with democracy died 45 years ago, in the racial riots of May 13, 1969, in which Malaysians attacked Malaysians in acts of savagery. Today, we live in a state which, on the surface, seems to be a functioning, normal democratic society, but if one were to scratch beneath the surface, one would wonder if democracy was just a figment of the imagination.
We all despise and mistrust politicians, from both sides of the political divide. Detractors will insist that we are a democratic nation. That is one myth which must be immediately quashed. It does not mean that we live in a democracy just because we visit the polling stations every five years.
The electoral system is corrupt, indelible ink washes off, boundaries are skewed to benefit the ruling party, ballot boxes are switched during blackouts, thugs intimidate voters and money and citizenship is given to illegal immigrants, in exchange for voting rights. These are not the hallmarks of a democracy.
Politics in Malaysia is just a game for the ruling elite. They swop roles and tinker with administration and funding. The main thing is to keep the party in power. Personal interests outweigh the national interest. Our freedom is curbed, along with our freedom of thought.
It is a grave concern, when the rakyat increasingly accepts corruption, murder and thuggery, as part of the normal government machinery.Today, apart from it being a religion, Islam is also used as an implement for political suppression, a divisive tool, a diversionary tactic and a ploy to destroy the opposition.
Few Malaysians will have heard of the book, Malaysia, Death of a Democracy
John Slimming, a journalist who lived and worked in Malaysia from 1951 to 1967. Slimming’s book gives an unbiased and graphic account of the riots, the reasons they happened and the aftermath. The book was banned in Malaysia, but having obtained a copy of the book, I know that Slimming’s conclusions are just as applicable now, as they were, in 1969.
In June 1969 photocopies of Fred Emery’s articles from The Times were smuggled in from Singapore and sold for RM20. People who were caught with these photostats, about the riots, were imprisoned for up to two years.
In the section of the book about ‘One-Party Rule and Ultra-nationalists’, Slimming said, “The present UMNO leaders cannot risk offending the Malays for fear of widening the rift within their own party.” He observed that, “As long as the opposition is suppressed, there can be no long-term solution to the country’s difficulties.”
Tun Razak told one correspondent (The Far Eastern Economic Review of July 10, 1969) that the policy of the National Operations Council (NOC), which Abdul Razak Hussein set up under Emergency Rule, was to “do nothing”, but “ensure the preservation of law and order, and wait, hoping that tensions would relax and memories fade”. Slimming said that Razak did not want public debate on racial issues because it would heighten tension.
‘Like father, like son’-Najib’s Say Nothing and Do Nothing Policy
Today, nothing has changed and following the adage, “like father, like son”, Najib Abdul Razak has emulated his father’s “do nothing” and “say nothing” policy. Slimming said that Tan Siew Sin, the then-MCA president, also supported the NOC policy of “do nothing” and that Tan had lost the respect of the Malaysian Chinese. The Chinese have no respect for the MCA, in May 2014.
Slimming said that Tunku Abdul Rahman was “made to walk a very slender tightrope” and that a “little known UMNO backbencher, Dr Mahathir Mohamad (in photo
), wrote a letter to the Tunku in “Rajah Malay”, to demand his resignation. The letter was banned and Mahathir ejected from the UMNO central committee. Slimming added, “Had an opposition backbencher written that letter, he would have found himself in detention, without delay.”
In 1970, Razak became Prime Minister and Mahathir was embraced into the UMNO fold. By 1973, Mahathir became a senator, then Education Minister in 1974 and in 1981, the Prime Minister. Mahathir abused the Internal Security Act (ISA)–Op Lallang 1987– to tighten his grip on power. Hell hath no fury as a dictator who was once scorned.
Slimming details the thoughts of a university lecturer, Mukhtaruddin Dazin, who said, “The Malays must not want a return to parliamentary rule. The NOC must lead the country towards the aims of the national Malay philosophy… to be carried out by the armed forces loyal to the Malay race. When non-Malays fight for equal rights, Malays must… be offensive and fight to review the question of citizenship… by means of language tests, essays, religion and Malay customs…” Today, we find extremists like Perkasa and Isma spouting the same offensive ideals.
Slimming’s book described Malay student leaders demanding an “all-Malay apartheid-style government, with the Chinese barred from taking part”. These same students previously condemned the racial discrimination in South Africa and Rhodesia.
In a section called ‘Boycott and Goodwill’, Slimming said that after the riots, the Chinese (and Singaporeans), boycotted Malay shops, foodstalls and markets. The Malays suffered greatly and in an ironic twist, the then-Selangor Chief Minister Harun Idris, whom Slimming said was “the sponsor of the original UMNO demonstration”, pleaded with the public not to boycott the shops. Harun’s appeal fell on deaf ears.
Under the section marked ‘Singapore, Malaysia and external Defence’, Slimming said that Lee Kuan Yew had positioned multi-racial security forces on alert and swiftly clamped down on an outbreak of racial clashes. The forces acted with complete impartiality, unlike their Malaysian counterparts and because of this, Singapore quickly returned to normal, thus restoring confidence and preserving racial harmony.
Today, our leaders are afraid to act swiftly to contain the extremist elements, nor are our police able to act with complete impartiality. Slimming observed that Malay leaders were concerned with the threat from external dangers, but chose to ignore the threat from within.
Malaysia has degenerated from its predicament in 1969. Will Najib face the facts, and allow discussion of “sensitive issues”, or will UMNO Baru prolong the policy of doing nothing?
Issuing death fatwas based on an evaluation of a religious cleric, often a mufti or a mullah, is neither civilized nor scientific in its approach. A democratic society cannot allow its citizens being subjected to fatwas issued by Sharia courts, which can very easily result in gross violation of fundamental rights of people. Once again, the Supreme Court of India is right in insisting that religion or faith cannot and should not be allowed to victimize innocent citizens irrespective of faith. Now there is a lot of hue and cry about the verdict of the Supreme Court on Monday that implies that a Sharia court has no legal sanction. We should sometimes listen to our neighbor, where 96 percent of the population are Muslims. One distinguished lawyer of Pakistan´s Supreme Court said to me in Denmark that India’s Supreme Court offers a lot of inspiration to courts in Islamabad, and many verdicts are studied thoroughly with the motive to emulate them in the Pakistani context.
Through its judgments the Supreme Court of India has made India and the region around it progressive. We have to recognize the importance of this valuable institution along with the role of the free press in India as a milestone in India´s arrival as a true democracy.
We all know of the famous death fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie because he once dared to use his freedom of expression. It resulted in a decade-long period of persecution during which Rushdie was forced to go underground and live under a totally different identity with huge consequences for himself and his family. No literary work, however critical, lousy or derogatory, should result in death penalty or death fatwas. Once again the Supreme Court of India has excelled in its function as a safeguard mechanism to protect and uphold the rights of the citizens of India.
India´s Supreme Court has quite justifiably shown its reluctance to offer death penalty for even severe crimes. I am not arguing for India´s membership of the European Union. But all member states which have joined the European Union or intend to do so have to completely drop death penalty as a form of punishment. This is without doubt one of the best achievements for promoting human rights in Europe.
In a civilized society even a state should not be allowed to take away the most precious thing we all have – a human life. Taking another human being’s life is criminal, inhuman and uncivilized. Thank god, many countries and most European countries have either abolished the death penalty or established a moratorium on its courts from coming to such a heinous judgment.
Historically speaking, human societies have made great progress, from passing death penalties for many types of crimes, and now most societies limit its use only to the most unacceptable form of crime. India allows its use in the rarest of rare cases. But why not abolish it completely?
The paradox is that countries that have abolished the death penalty are also the ones where there are fewer of those crimes which we consider unpardonable or detestable. Death penalty is no deterrent from horrible crimes. A creation of a just, equitable and prosperous society prevents people from indulging in crimes.
So death penalty is no deterrent. Therefore I really appreciate that in recent years the Indian Supreme Court has shown its utmost restraint and reluctance in handing out the barbaric treatment of taking someone´s life.
India, though, should take the final leap and either abolish the death penalty or impose a moratorium on its use. Whether it is heinous rapes or other crimes, India should not take the short cut to justice by hanging its citizens. What we need is a lengthy and long discussion of gender equality, which is the only way to reduce such crimes. We have to create a society where both sexes can freely and easily meet each other.
The bottom line for a society which demands to be called civilized should be to abolish the death penalty completely. States have an obligation to protect life, not to take it. And clerics who want to issue death fatwas cannot be taken seriously in a state based on human rights law.
India desperately needs a justice system that prevents the collective from harming the individual. Therefore the verdict of the Supreme Court on Monday regarding the Sharia Court, should be welcomed by both the religious and secular-minded citizens of India.