MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 


In Defense of Indian Secularism


I write this from New Delhi, which has just borne witness to five massive bomb blasts in which dozens were killed and scores more injured. The bombings were the work of a group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The callousness of their act was also witnessed by the fact that amongst those targets selected was a children's park. In the aftermath of the bombings, tensions between Muslims and the proverbial "other" is understandably tense. These tensions are being exploited by certain Hindu fundamentalists allied to the Bharata Janata Party (BJP). Neither is this the only cleavage in Indian society. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has noted that Christians in BJP-ruled States were feeling insecure as a result of the attacks on their churches in places like Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. It almost seems as if one fundamentalism feeds the flames of other fundamentalisms. In this religious fundamentalists, whatever their religious persuasion, have far more in common than those who recognize the reality of India as an ethnically and religiously diverse country and therefore who aspire for a secular state in which all may practice their cultural and religious beliefs freely.

The choice confronting India in 2008 is stark. It can embrace the fundamentalisms of the IM and the BJP with their purist vision of what constitutes India or it can embrace a liberal, secular polity as promised in the Constitution. There is no middle road. The consequences of each option however, have been played out since time immemorial - including in India itself with the great Mughal empire. At a political level, the great Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605) understood the value that tolerance has for multi-ethnic, multi-religious communities occupying the same political space. Akbar did not therefore seek to force his subjects to convert to his religion. Indeed in Akbar's empire Hindus, Buddhists, Jacobites, Jews, Jains, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sunni Muslims and Ismailis were all allowed to practice their religious beliefs freely. His strong Sufi Islamic beliefs led him to "...build temples for Hindus, and in 1575 set up a house for worship where scholars of all religions could meet for discussion. Akbar was attempting to establish a polity that expressed the Sufi idea of sulh-e-kull (universal peace), which was merely a prelude to mahhabat-e-kull (universal love) which would positively seek the material and spiritual welfare of all human beings". It was not a coincidence that Akbar was regarded as the greatest Mughal emperor of all. His descendant Aurangzeb was far less politically astute than his predecessor. His religious intolerance was legendary and religious pluralism and tolerance was thrown out of the window. In the process, Aurangzeb condemned the Mughals to the dustbin of history as dissent and discord grew within his empire and was exploited by the Mughals' enemies.

India is a rising power and its presence on the world stage will be increasingly felt as we move further into the 21st century. However this path is not guaranteed if religious bigotry of whatever shape is allowed to undermine the secular ideals of India thereby sowing dissent and conflict within this great country.

Hussein Solomon

Professor Hussein Solomon is Director of the Centre for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria and is currently Nelson Mandela Chair in African Studies at Jawahrlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India.

If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000717.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Moderator @ 01:39 PM CST [Link]


Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates


Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans


Middle East


Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News


Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)



Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective


Meretz USA Weblog


MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone

Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice


ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now


Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict



Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

IsraŽl in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace


Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites

Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "Devil's advocate: New Elections in Israel"] Main Index [Next entry: "Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Going noplace?"]


Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us


Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow