Thursday, 7 September 2017
by Hugh Fitzgerald
At the end of August, an unusual article appeared in a leading English-language Chinese paper, Global Times. The author, Ding Gang, is a senior journalist for the People’s Daily, and his piece received a great deal of attention in India. For what he wrote — and he could not have published it without the Chinese government’s approval — was in praise of Hinduism as the force that explained the “moderation” of India’s Muslims, and the absence of Islamic terrorism in India. And India itself was praised, for while “Islam forms an arc that includes the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, southern Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Central Asian countries,” India stands athwart or, more exactly, puts a “dent” in that arc. In India, the Chinese author claims, Islam has been largely tamed, with very little terrorism by “radical Islam,” and this is thanks to Hinduism, as a “moderating” force on Muslim extremists.
Here is the heart of his piece:
It is true that throughout Asia, Muslim groups are increasingly ‘radicalized” — which merely means that they have taken to heart, and are ready to act upon, the commands to wage violent Jihad against the Infidels. In Afghanistan the Taliban are back, and despite the 16 years of fighting by the American military, they control close to 50% of the country. Both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State now have a presence in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the support for terrorism is strong among both civilians and the military, who for so long were the recipients of American aid. The ISI, or Inter-Service Intelligence, we all now know despite Pakistani denials, helped protect Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Such groups as Sipah-e-Sahaba in Pakistan, an uber-Sunni group that regards the Shi’a not as Muslims, but, rather, as the worst kind of Infidels for ‘“impersonating” Muslims, stages attacks on Shi’a mosques and madrasas, and murders Shi’a professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers). Another target of Pakistani Muslims are the Ahmadis, who by law in Pakistan are forbidden to call themselves Muslims, are not allowed to use the greeting “Salaam Aleikum,” and have been repeatedly attacked and sometimes murdered by Islamic jihadists for the crime of presenting themselves as Muslims. Christians in Pakistan, too, have for years been the victims of repeated Muslim attacks by the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, and by other, nameless groups of Muslims determined to wipe out the remaining Christian presence in Pakistan. The trumped-up charge of blasphemy is often brought against Christians, who have no recourse when, for whatever reason, a group of Muslims claims to have heard them utter some blasphemy. This is what happened to Asia Bibi. A Christian, she had been picking fruit with a group of Muslim women when she got into an argument with a Muslim woman over a glass of water. That woman reported her for supposedly making a derogatory remark about Muhammad. A moment’s thought tells us: how likely is that, given what Asia Bibi knew how life-threatening that could be? The upshot was that Asia Bibi was arrested, tried, sentenced to death in 2010, and has been waiting for seven years for that sentence to be carried out, while a higher court takes its time in hearing her appeal. Meanwhile, two Pakistani officials, one of them a Christian, were shot dead for daring to question her sentence.
We could carry out a tour d’horizon of Muslim violence and terrorism throughout that Asian “arc,” but the atrocities remain the same, only the victims of Muslim attacks vary, depending on the local population. In Pakistan, the main targets of Muslim attack are Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis, and Shi’a; in Bangladesh, the targets are mainly Hindus. In 1947, Hindus were 35% of the population of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); now they are 9%. Others under siege in Bangladesh are the Christians, and the handful of Buddhists who still hold on in the Chittagong Hills. In northern Myanmar, it is the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group that has historically been attacked by the Muslim Rohingyas; in southern Thailand, the targets are again Buddhists; in the Philippines, Abu Sayyaf and other Muslim groups attack Christian Filipinos in the southern islands. In Malaysia, both Chinese (Christians and Confucians) and Hindus must endure having to pay a disguised Jizyah, through the so-called “Bumiputra” system, which forces non-Muslims to give Muslims a specified share of their businesses, even if those Muslims contributed nothing, and to set aside for sale at lower prices to Muslims a certain percentage of new homes, along with many other ingenious ways of forcing a transfer of wealth from non-Muslims to Muslims. This Bumiputra (“Sons of the Soil”) arrangement is the closest thing at present to the Jizyah imposed by Muslim states in the past.
So let’s return to what Ding Gang describes as Hinduism’s genius at keeping “radical” Islam in check. He appears to think it has been done peaceably. But he leaves out a great deal. In the first place, there was the Partition in 1947 of India into Hindu and Muslim states. In one fell swoop, some 70 million people, some two-thirds of the Muslim population of India, were no longer part of India. Had they remained in India, the Muslims would have been, and felt, much more powerful, and their behavior toward Hindus would as a consequence have been more aggressive. Muslim aggression is not constant, but reflects various factors, and especially, in non-Muslim lands, in their percentage of the population.
In his study “Slavery, Terrorism, and Islam,” Dr. Peter Hammond offers his observations on the connection between the behavior of Muslims and their percentage of the total population:
He offers a half-dozen examples of countries for each of those percentages of Muslims; the details can be consulted here.
For centuries, the Muslim rulers of India successfully subjugated the Hindus, and did so when the Hindus, initially, were twenty times as numerous. And after centuries of Hindus being killed, or converting to avoid paying the Jizyah, the Muslims just before Partition were still under 30% of the total in what had been British India.
Partition made things more secure for the Hindus in India, and less secure for the Hindus in West and East Pakistan. From being close to 30% of the population, Muslims in post-Partition India were now about 10%, a number that helps explain their relative quiescence. They were just too few to cause large-scale trouble. It might also be that the Muslims who had to move out of India to live in East and West Pakistan were among the more fervent Believers, for whom it was most important not to live in a Hindu-run polity. At least some of the Muslims who remained in India may have been self-selected, as those who were most willing to reconcile themselves to their new Hindu rulers.
Ding Gang writes about the absence of “radical Islam” in India. It is true that many of the most spectacular examples of Muslim terrorism in India have been carried out by Pakistani, not Indian, terrorists. There was the attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the attacks in 2008 in Mumbai, killing hundreds. Were those involved all from Pakistan, or were some of the terrorists homegrown? And might one reason that Indian Muslims might have been less active as terrorists have been the fact that the Pakistani groups, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, were doing it for them and for all Muslims,, with more powerful weapons, and better preparation inside Pakistan, than was possible for the Indian Mujahideen who are so closely watched inside India?
The Muslims who in 2002 set fire to a train full of Hindu pilgrims returning from a disputed religious site were definitely from India. And the Muslims who for several decades have been attacking Hindus (and occasionally Sikhs) in Kashmir, have also been locals. The major attacks for which the Indian Muhajideen group has taken credit usually include a series of bombings or blasts. Here is a short list, up to 2013:
It is true that Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, two Pakistani groups, have been responsible for more attacks in India than the Indian Muslim groups. But it is not true, pace Ding Gang, that Indian Muslims have failed be “radicalized.” Kashmiri Pandits, the Brahmins who were the original inhabitants of Kashmir, have been almost completely driven out of their ancestral lands in Kashmir by Indian Muslims, whose diabolical persecution and murder led as many as 200,000 to flee, with only a few thousand Hindus still hanging on. This is what the Pandits endured in the pogrom of 1990:
Ding Gang appears to have completely overlooked this long-drawn-out act of mass sadism by Indian Muslims. He appears not to realize, either, how many bicycle, bus, train bombings (and deliberate derailings, by tampering with the tracks) in India have been the result of homegrown Muslim terrorism, that is, members of the Indian Mujahideen and other domestic terrorists. At Jaipur, in Varanasi, at the German bakery in Pune, in the series of bombings in Ahmedabad, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bangalore, these acts of terrorism in India, unless many foreigners are among the victims, are given very little attention in the Western media. This may have misled Ding Gang into thinking India is largely free of domestic Muslim terrorism. Terrorism in India just doesn’t get the coverage that attacks by Muslims in Europe routinely receive.
And there is one other countervailing force holding Indian Muslims in check: Fear. Unlike in Europe, Muslims in India have a healthy fear of violent retaliation for any acts of terrorism. There are a few hundred million Hindus who do not work in offices; many of them poor laborers, easy to whip up into a mob. Hindu nationalism has been on the rise, as the victory of the BJP in 2014 testifies. It’s not hard to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment. Hindus in the “Hindutva” movement, or in the BJP, are ready to remind the Hindu masses of what happened during the several hundred years of Muslim rule. According to the Indian historian K. S. Lal, between 70 and 80 million Hindus may have been killed, while millions of others, of course, converted to Islam to avoid having, as dhimmis, to pay the Jizyah and submit to other onerous conditions. Many of the Hindus are ready to retaliate with tit-for-tat violence, or often, in retaliation, with even greater violence In 2002, after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire by Muslims, killing 68 Hindus, the Hindus in Gujarat erupted, and the resulting inter-communal riots led to 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus being killed. Many Muslim properties were destroyed. These “Gujarat riots,” as they became known, were a lesson for Muslims. It was not the government they had to fear, but Hindus acting out their rage and resentment.
Ding Gang fails to realize that in India proper, Muslims have not been as quiescent as he seems to think. Though two of the most important acts of terrorism — those in Mumbai in 2008 and at the Parliament Building in Delhi — were conducted by Pakistan-based groups, there has certainly been plenty of small-scale terrorism by Indian Muslims, including attacks by members of the group Indian Mujahideen. The 1993 bombings in Mumbai, with 257 dead, and 717 wounded, making it still the deadliest of any terrorist attack in India, were carried out by Indian Muslims. The 1998 series of bombings at Coimbatore Junction Railway Station, with 12 separate bombings, killing 58 and wounding more than 200, were part of a plot by local Muslims to kill L. K. Advani, a leader in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, or Hindu Nationalists). The ten major attacks by the Indian Mujahideen, right up to the present, about which Ding Gang ought to, but may not, know, are listed above. That those attacks are not more numerous testifies not so much to the meek-and-mildness of Indian jihadists as to their incapacity, as compared to the terrorists who prepare their attacks, undisturbed, in Pakistan, and also to the efficient monitoring of the Indian Muhajideen by the Indian security services.
Since 1970, there have been 9,982 separate incidents in India of violent attacks, by both Muslims (Indian and Pakistani) and by Hindus. The Indian Muslims have been especially active in Kashmir and Mumbai, but elsewhere the number of attacks by them has been relatively stable. As for Hindu attacks on Muslims, they have been steadily increasing. As noted previously, Hindus have been emboldened by the political rise of the Hindu Nationalist Party, the BJP (the Bharatiya Janata Party), and the victory of its candidate, Narendra Modi, in the 2014 election. Since then, the numbers of attacks by Hindus on individual Muslims have gone up markedly, and in the last few years groups of Hindu “cow vigilantes,” easily whipped up by rumors about Muslims who have supposedly ill-treated a cow (sacred to Hindus), or even eaten beef, have lynched a dozen victims. This brand of Hindu hysteria should be, and has been, deplored by Hindu leaders, and has nothing do with the retaliatory attacks by Hindus after being attacked by Muslims.
Ding Gang may think that Muslims in India have rejected “radical Islam” and have not been involved in terrorism, but the record does not bear him out. It is true that the world media pay far less attention to such attacks in India, compared to that given to terrorism in Europe, and then do so only if those attacks are truly spectacular, as were the 2008 attacks in Mumbai carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani group. That attack contained all the elements of high drama: the terrified guests barricaded at the Taj, a luxury hotel, the young Jewish couple at Nariman House, a Chabad center, who were killed with unusual cruelty, while an Indian nanny saved the life of their baby; a half-dozen other sites where murder most foul was committed. By comparison, the Indian Mujahideen have struck mainly targets — buses or trains load with Hindu pilgrims — with nothing to capture the imagination of foreign journalists. Ding Gang explains what he sees as the paucity of attacks by Indian Muslims by reference to soothing aspects of the ‘“moderate” side of Hinduism. It’s not Hinduism, as Ding Gang maintains, but the behavior of Hindus, which is a different thing, that explains the behavior of Indian Muslims.
Muslims in India, to the extent that they are committing fewer terrorist acts than they might, are doing so not because they reject “radical Islam,” but because they recognize the dangers at this point of attacking Hindus. The are outnumbered more than 8 to 1 by Hindus, and many of those Hindus can easily be roused to anti-Muslim riots. After all, they are well aware of how their ancestors were treated during the centuries of Muslim oppression, of every sort of brutality including mass murder. If Muslims in India are not quite as enamored of terrorism as they are elsewhere, it’s only because they are scared. There may be a lesson there for the West, if only it has eyes to see.
What is most important about Ding Gang’s article is not its thesis, but that it appeared in a prestigious state-run newspaper, Global Times, with the Chinese government’s full backing. By praising the Hindus for keeping the Muslims in check, and putting a “dent” in the Islamic arc that extends from Pakistan to Indonesia, Ding Gang is reminding the world that the Chinese are anxious about Islam, and determined to rein in their own Muslims. Recently, the Chinese government in one area banned the use of loudspeakers by muezzins, who now must use only their own voices for the call to prayer. This comes on the heels of another law, which requires Muslims to avoid “naming of children to exaggerate religious fervour.” The new law also prohibits “abnormal beards” (presumably, those which are regarded as reflecting Islamic faith). The Chinese have banned any schooling other than state schools, with their anti-religious indoctrination. Muslim students, teachers and civil servants, starting this past year, have been banned from observing Ramadan, and restaurants are required to stay open. Even the vehicles owned by Muslims must have GPS devices, so that they can be tracked.
The Chinese government has also banned “advocating or propagating extremist thoughts,” which means, in practice, the government can punish anything it deems as promoting Islam. It thus forbids those who propagate Islam. It also punishes those who are guilty of “publishing, downloading or reading articles, publications and audio-video material containing extremist content.” The vagueness of the word “extremist” and absence of the word “Islamic” will fool no one in Xinjiang. The Muslims there know that they are being hemmed in as to both belief and practice. For the Chinese government, these measures are the opening salvo in an anti-Islam campaign.
Recently the Chinese government punished a Uighur official for refusing to smoke in the presence of Uighur elders. Presumably he was showing too much respect to the religious prohibition on smoking. Last April, imams in Xinjiang were forced to dance in the street and swear to an oath that they would not teach religion to children. They were also forced to tell children that prayer was harmful for the soul. They were further forced to brandish the slogan that “our income comes from the CKP [Chinese Communist Party], not from Allah.” It’s clear that the Chinese government is prepared to wage a take-no-prisoners campaign against Islam.
As part of this campaign, there is deliberate demographic dilution of the Uighur presence in Xinjiang. Ethnic Chinese continue to pour into Xinjiang to overcome, through demographic conquest, the Muslim Uighurs. In 1949, the Chinese were 6 per cent of Xinjiang’s population. In 2011, they were 38 per cent. They may now be approaching 50 per cent. The Chinese have a much better sense than the West of the menace of Islam, and are willing to be as ruthless as necessary, using every conceivable weapon, including this demographic dilution, banning names that smack too much of “religion” (i.e., Islam), banning loudspeakers for the call to prayer, banning face veils, banning “abnormal” beards, banning any home schooling (for fear it could include religious training), severely limiting the observation of Ramadan, propagandizing against prayer, even making imams promise not to teach religion to children.
Ding Gang includes a series of other remarks that deserve comment:
What “lasting cohesion” is that? The “lasting cohesion” that only started after a newly-independent India split into three parts and two countries in 1947? You could have fooled Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammed Ali Jinnah with that talk of “lasting cohesion.” The “lasting cohesion” that led to 200,000 Kashmiri Pandits being driven by Muslims out of their ancestral lands? A “lasting cohesion,” perhaps, but only if we forget about that 50-year Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Or the Sikh unrest in the Punjab. India is holding together, but it isn’t exactly a nation-state poster-child for “lasting cohesion,” and won’t be, as long as Muslims continue to take the Qur’an and Hadith to heart. To the extent that they are now behaving more cautiously than elsewhere in that Asian “arc,” they are doing so not because of the “moderate side” of Hinduism, but because of what Ding Gang calls its “extreme side.” Unlike so many of the peoples, especially in Europe, who have been the targets of Islamic terrorists, the Hindus are now prepared to fight back.
What does this mean? During the many centuries (complicated to calculate, as Muslim rule began in different parts of India at different times) when Muslims ruled and Hindus were subjugated, the latter were subject to brutal treatment, including enslavement and mad murder. Many converted to Islam to save themselves. Muslim rulers eventually extended the dhimmi status to Hindus, not out of kindness, but out of economic self-interest. Ding Gang is wrong to claim that Hinduism, whether “extreme” or “tolerant,” constituted “the foundation for its relationship with Muslims.” The “foundation of that relationship” was force. It was entirely the Muslim side that determined that “relationship.” The Muslim masters realized that if too many Hindus converted, they would no longer be paying the Jizyah, so that the Muslim rulers now had a financial interest in Hindus not converting, but remaining as Hindus, that is, as Jizyah-paying dhimmis.
If the Muslims in India are less aggressive than Muslims elsewhere, this reflects not any effect of the “moderate side” of Islam, or any effect of the “moderate side” of Hinduism, but the acute realization that Hindus now outnumber the Muslims in India by more than 8 to 1, that they feel buoyed and fortified both by the ideology of Hindutva and the political success of the BJP, and have shown themselves ready, if attacked, to give as good as they get, or a good deal better.
Ding Gang might want to take a look, for lessons in how to deal with Muslims, not at India, but at China itself. The lesson from the implacable men in Beijing is not “moderation,” but relentlessness in crafting and deploying anti-Islamic measures. The Western media has focused most on the banning of names that carry with them “religious meanings,” a prohibition that Human Rights Watch has called an “absurd edict.” But is it absurd, or is it an intelligent way to keep people from being constantly reminded of Islam in everyday life?
Having banned, in 2015, in Hotan, in southern Xinjiang, dozens of baby names with religious meanings that are widely used by Muslims elsewhere in the world, the Chinese authorities in 2017 extend the ban to the rest of Xinjiang. Islam, Quran, Mecca, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, Hajj, and Medina are among dozens of baby names banned under the Chinese Communist Party’s new “Naming Rules For Ethnic Minorities.” The report in The Guardian describes “an employee who answered the phone at a police station in the capital Urumqi” and explained that “you’re not allowed to give names with a strong religious flavor, such as Jihad or names like that,’ the official said. ‘The most important thing here is the connotations of the name … [it mustn’t have] connotations of holy war or of splittism [Xinjiang independence].'”
Still another limit put on Muslim practice has been the requirement that the muezzin not use any loudspeaker, but only his unaided voice, to call the faithful to prayer. As for Ramadan, the government prohibits teachers, students, and civil servants from observing Ramadan, and requires that restaurants remain open during that month. The government requires that all students be sent to state schools where they will be subject to anti-religious indoctrination. Parents and guardians cannot “organise, lure or force minors into attending religious activities.” Those who promote and propagate, or download, or merely read, anything the state deems to be “extremist,” can be punished. People cannot opt out of receiving broadcasts from official state channels.
This is what the Chinese government has put in place in just the last year. Of course, for many years that government has monitored every aspect of the mosques, beginning with the sermons delivered at Friday Prayers, to where the mosque gets its financial backing (no outside money allowed), and who attends them, and what those attendees put online, and the company they keep. It’s not hard to imagine the screws tightening further, with not just face veils being banned but, eventually, hijabs as well, in universities and government offices, as happened in Kemalist Turkey before Erdogan reversed course. It may even be that the hijab will be banned from all schools, at every level, or from all public places, not just government buildings. It is likely, too, that the government will take over producing the sermons to be delivered in every mosque in Xinjiang, censoring any hint of anti-Chinese rhetoric or what in China is called “splittism.”
Of particular interest is what happens to the Five Daily Prayers. In China, where atheism is the official religion of the state, and economic development at breakneck speed is its unofficial religion, will Muslims in Xinjiang continue to be allowed to break up the workplace rhythm for three, four, even five Mecca-wards prayer prostrations? Already the state has banned prayers in Xinjiang’s schools. It would seem logical that the next place to ban them would be at work, assuming it has not been done already. It’s difficult to imagine the ferociously anti-religious Chinese government continuing to tolerate workplace prayers that interrupt the flow of work, thus both violating the state’s atheist ideology, and slowing down economic activity.
“Moderation” — too often a euphemism for defeatism — has been tried with Muslims. That “moderation” has been taken by Muslims as a sign of Infidel weakness, in the U.K., in France, in Sweden. The fear of being tarred as “racists” or “Islamophobes” led the British police to downplay, and for a long time ignore, in an act of unparalleled pusillanimity, the Rotherham grooming-gang scandal. Allowing No-Go areas in Sweden and France to emerge, where the police often no longer dare to enter because of a hostile Muslim population, has hardly helped public safety. The bending-over-backwards strategy to win over the putative “moderate Muslims” has not worked. Muslim appetites are not sated, but whetted, with each new concession by the Infidels. Europe is exhibit number one. In India, as we have seen, it is the fear of Hindu vigilantes, not of the government, that constrains Muslims. In China, it is fear of the government, determined to limit the practice of, and if possible weaken belief in, Islam, that constrains the Muslims of Xinjiang. If there is a lesson here for Europe and North America, it’s the very opposite of the lesson that Ding Gang, in his praise of the “moderate side of Hinduism,” was trying to impart. The threat of severe punishment meted out by an uncompromising and unrelenting government hell-bent on limiting the freedom to practice Islam, because that religio-political faith is a threat to the security of the state and to all those who do not share that faith, goes against our good liberal grain, offends our sense of religious liberty, enrages Human Rights Watch, the Huffington Post, the BBC, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. But it does have at least one thing to be said in its favor: it works.
First published in Jihad Watch.
Posted on 09/07/2017 5:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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