In the west you sometimes hear of Hindus and Sikhs being attacked by racist gangs who “thought they were Muslims”, and blamed them for terrorist activities. It is very easy to see that this is unfair, they are blamed for something that they did not do. Look at things a little further, however, and you will realise that exactly the same thing is true for the majority of Muslims. They get blamed for the terrorist activities of a minority.
I have read a number of blogs where many Hindus have expressed a feeling of being let down and of shame when a minority of Hindus took violent and indiscriminate revenge on Christians in Orissa after the killing of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati in Orissa. They feel that this contradicts the tradition of peace and tolerance in Hinduism. I certainly feel this way. This feeling must be what many Muslims feel when atrocities are carried out in the name of Islam.
It is unfortunate that there are Muslim extremists and terrorists and these do cause a great deal of harm. These are the ones who get reported on the news all the time. The majority of Muslims though, like the majority in any religion, want to get on with their own lives and live peacefully with their neighbours. This has been illustrated by a number of posts on an Orkut thread “Hindu – Muslim Unity“. I think it is important to circulate this kind of information. This helps us keep reports of violent Muslims in perspective, and hopefully give encouragement to Muslim moderates. That is why I have decided to post a little about some of these events here. Reported news includes links to an article about Muslims who decided not to celebrate Eid after 130 Hindus were killed in a temple stampede:
Expressing their grief on the incident, Jodhpur Muslim youth have also decided that they won’t celebrate Eid on October 2 and will prefer to mourn the death of those killed in the stampede.
They feel that the tragedy that struck at the Chamunda Devi temple on Tuesday doesn’t warrant any celebration.
According to the reports, locals rushed to the spot to help with rescue operation and take the injured to the hospital and a day later the city is mourning.
And this section of locals have put up posters appealing to others in their community not to celebrate on Thursday.
“We will only be offering Namaz. We have decided not to celebrate Id,” says one of the Jodhpur Muslim youths, who believe that Eid shouldn’t be celebrated after the stampede, Shakir Ali.
Other articles include a heart warming story of when an re-enactment of the Ramayana had to stop for the Muslim cast members to perform their namaz prayers and break their roza (fast).
Masood Ahmad recalls the hush that fell when he went onstage to announce an unscheduled break during the raging battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, last Dussehra. The huge audience assembled at the Bakshi Ka Talaab ground was not amused. A few even began to boo, till the reason for the interruption was explained.
The Ramlila cast – including Rama, Ravana and Lakshman – Ahmad explained, needed to offer namaz and break roza . Not a single protest was heard thereafter. The show resumed only after the actors rolled up their prayer mats post-namaz and shared the iftari snacks – right on stage.
Yet another article describes how in Tripura Hindus and Muslims take part in each other’s festivals. The people of this region show a beacon of hope:
“We are one, we’ve always been one. We live together, so why wouldn’t we celebrate our festivals together?” said Nazrul Islam, member of Rajnagar Puja Committee.
Bengali Muslims have been indigenous to Tripura. In fact, Bengali Hindus are the migrants in the area. Despite the animosity shared elsewhere between the two communities, it has become a tradition in the state to celebrate festivals together.
Yet another article shows an amazing willingness of Muslims in Kendrapara to help Hindus. A municipal strike had threatened to leave the town strewn with rubbish during the Lakshmi Puja celebrations, when:
… the Muslims in Kendrapara town, in a rare gesture of communal harmony, started cleaning the drains and roads in the Badahat area of the town to create a clean atmosphere during the celebration of the weeklong festival of Lakshmi Puja that started on Tuesday.
These stories serve to remind us that religious differences do not mean conflict is inevitable, and that there are many people who want to live peacefully. Now, I am sure there are some people reading who are thinking that Islam does not teach peace in the way that Hinduism does. Perhaps that is true, as a Hindu I certainly believe that there are many things expressed better in Hinduism than in other religions. Think for a moment though how much of the way we view Islam comes from the traditions and culture of some Islamic countries rather than from the religion itself. If the Gita had been interpreted historically by militaristic nations perhaps people would look on that differently.
These stories and many like them show that there are many Muslims who do interpret Islam peacefully, and these Muslims should have our thanks. As Hindus we would not want to convert all Muslims, and we couldn’t if we tried. If Peace comes between different Islamic groups, and between Islam and other faiths, it will come from the peace-makers within Islam. This is what happened to European Christianity over the centuries. For this reason I thank any peace-loving Muslims who read this. May we live in friendship and with respect for each others’ traditions.