I wrote the article “Muslims, friends of Hindus” before the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. These attacks were really shocking. Though they happened in Mumbai they could have happened in almost any city; in the UK, America or almost anywhere. Now that this method of attack has been tried there is a very real possibility that it will be used elsewhere in the world. The level of inhumanity was chilling. One sentence that left me near to tears was from the BBC news:
“My husband was behind me and all of a sudden gunfire broke out in the corridor and they had executed a six-year-old in front of his parents.”
So, after this can I still be hopeful about Muslim and Hindu relations? Some bloggers that I respect point out how many Muslims won’t unconditionally condemn the attacks, instead giving a half apology and then trying to justify them. I sympathise with a lot of what littleindian says. From what I have read from the Qur’an I have to agree that there does seem to be a lot that could encourage violence against non-Muslims. On the other hand I would not want the Vedas judged by someone who just read a couple of chapters. As I said before, if the Gita had been interpreted by warlike imperialists for centuries then people might well look at this as an encouragement to violence. The Christian Bible has been used to justify crusades, massacres and execution of dissenters in the past. Maybe any comprehensive religious book can be interpreted or misinterpreted.
Those who carried out the attacks and those who supported them and helped to arrange it deserve to be pursued mercilessly and brought to justice. But despite my opinions on the Qur’an there are still many, many people who interpret it peacefully. They live peacefully with their neighbours and just want a normal family life. They interpret Jihad as an internal struggle for righteousness rather than a fight against other beliefs. I know Muslims who are as disgusted by the attacks as anyone else, and who do condemn it unconditionally.
These Muslims should not be tarred by the same brush as the terrorists. As the attacks unfolded I did feel despair that there could ever be peace between Muslims and Hindus. I thought that perhaps the peaceful Muslims were the exception rather than the rule. In the end though there must be hope. At one time the “troubles” in Northern Ireland seemed unsolvable. I remember when if you saw someone in a bus with an Irish accent carrying a bag you would keep an eye out “just in case” they left something behind. Today, though there are still a few incidents in Northern Ireland these are generally seen by all as criminal acts. A corner has been turned.
We should also not forget that just over half a century ago the West was fighting an enemy who had unquestioning loyalty for their cause. Their religious beliefs taught them to follow their leader unquestioningly as a manifestation of God, and to show no mercy to enemies. Their cruelty to prisoners was renowned, many of whom were beheaded or worked until they died. Their tactics included suicide attacks. In just a couple of decades their reputation changed totally, and now they are seen as staunch allies of democracy and peace.
For those who have not worked it out I am talking about the Japanese. Their Shinto religion taught them unquestioning loyalty and ruthlessness, though now it is interpreted as peace and nature loving. The suicide attacks included the famous Kamakaze bombings, but also leaving troops behind enemy lines to attack after territory was taken. If the reputation of the Japanese and their interpretation of Shinto can change so much it is not impossible that one day Islam will be interpreted and seen in the same way. It could be in our lifetime.
We must hope and support the moderates. Of course we need vigilance and those who do engage in terrorism should be shown no mercy. Those who don’t engage in terrorism should have our full support though. All of the incidents of Muslims supporting Hindus mentioned in my last post still stand. Muslims are still friends to Hindus.