At the India Ideas Conclave in Goa, I argued that the nature of Islam itself is a principal factor in the atrocities by Boko Haram, the Taliban and the Islamic State. They say so themselves, and I respect their right to express their own motivation. Secularists, by contrast, show their contempt for Muslims by overruling the latter’s own explicit self-justification with a different account.
Thus, in a recent TV debate, a BJP spokesperson eager to prove his secularism called the Caliphate warriors “heretics”. Internationally, British PM David Cameron (whose plan to kill Muslims and others in Syria was foiled by a negative vote in Parliament but who at least contributed to the destruction of Libya, killing many Muslims) called these self-described Islamic militants “not Muslims but monsters”. Not one of the US, UK and French leaders who have invaded Muslim countries the last 20 years was a critic of Islam. Of each of them, pro-Islamic statements can be quoted. Yet between them, they have killed numerous Muslims.
A Swiss do-gooder in my audience alleged that criticism of Islam amounts to spreading hatred against two billion Muslim fellow-men. Well, Hindus have had to live daily with indictments of their religion, even from state platforms. So, if the allegation were true, we wonder why it was never made against criticism of Hinduism. Anyway, it is untrue.
First, I have only criticised the doctrine of Islam, a belief belonging to the world of ideas, with which no one is born and which can be washed off. The extent to which those billions choose to identify with the beliefs they have been indoctrinated in, varies enormously and is up to themselves. Second, the record shows that we, Islam critics, have never harmed a single Muslim, while those who praise Islam have much blood on their hands. US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that one of the war aims in bombing Islamic State positions (this is, killing Muslims) is to “remedy the distortion of Islam”, to uphold his own rosy picture of Islam against the grim reality which the Caliphate created. So what Kerry announces literally amounts to “defending Islam by killing Muslims”. To conceal this absurdity, defenders of Islam are constrained to saying that the jihad warriors are “monsters, not Muslims”.
Coming to India, secularists claim that the RSS is against Islam and has killed Muslims. While for now I remain neutral on the latter allegation, I emphatically deny the former. If you read the Organiser every week, as I do since decades, you frequently come across accusations against Muslims, but Islam remains above criticism. So, even if the RSS is guilty of violence against Muslims, it would only prove my point: this violence is unrelated to criticism of Islam.
Everyone who claims to be a secularist or a moderate will endeavour to normalise, rather than criminalise, critical debate about religious doctrines. That would prove moderation, that is the secularist way, and that is what I have done.