Islamic Dialogues: 5 The 100 Million Moslem Minority
Written by Lewis D. Eigen
December 3, 1971. The main Islamic Mosque of Delhi India. The Imam, Sheikh Fouad Abdul-Kareem, is meeting in his office with two key Muslim community leaders, Gamal Ubaid, a Moslem member of the Indian Parliament and Anwar Rafi, a leading Moslem business leader in India. Yesterday, the Pakistani Air Force, without warning, attacked a number of military airfields in Northern India. Majority Hindu India is now at war with Moslem Pakistan, the leading Imams, Sheiks and Muftis of Pakistan have called on their fellow co-religionists in India to support Pakistan for Islam is under attack and it is the duty of all Moslems to defend it. The three Indian Moslems await the visit of Sheikh Humam Ghazi, a Pakistani religious politician with ties to the most fundamentalist Moslems within Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world. As an officially accredited Pakistani diplomat to India, he could move freely about the nation he so hated and he was on his way to the meeting at the mosque.
The pleasantries were over quickly and the Imam Abdul-Kareem came quickly to the point.
“Sheikh Humam Ghazi will be here soon. He will want assurances and commitments of how we Moslems can help Paksitan. This is going to tear our people apart. It could end up as another partition.”
At the word “partition” his voice changed and the other two men stiffened. Gamal Ubaid, the legislator reminded the others. “The worst memories of all Indians, both Hindu and Moslems, was that terrible time of independence which for any other nation would have been a great celebration but for India was the worst of all calamities. Our country was divided in two, and Pakistan was to be formed for the Moslems, and the rest of India, would be Hindu majority controlled. None of us could them realize that the British ceremonial cannon firing the salute to the new states, would be the beginning of the explosion that was to leave over 2 million of India’s people dead in less than a week and tens of millions more uprooted.”
“It was a catastrophe,” Rafi, the businessman added. “The more killing, the more Hindus living in the land designated for Pakistan left for India and the more Moslems in land for India left for Pakistan. Almost 100 million people on the move all with their attention equally divided between avoiding being butchered by the other religious adherents and trying to exact revenge by killing the others for the myriad of sins which went back to the 7th century when the Moslem invaders first came to India. “We’ve got to avoid civil violence at all cost.” Anwar Rafi stated, hoping that there was no one who would disagree.
“By us or against us?” Gamal Ubaid asked dryly.
“Both” Rafi clarified immediately. He was the President of the Moslem Business Owner’s Association of India and had been on the telephone most of the night with anguished members of the association worried that the new war, worse than being bad for business, might trigger ethnic rioting that was always so close to the surface in India.
Gamal Ubaid , a veteran politician and member of Parliament of the ruling Congress Party, was the Chairman of the Moslem Caucus within the Parliament. “I’ve tried to get in touch with the Moslem members of the Indian Cabinet,” he told them “but they have been in official meetings nonstop since the war started. “The Prime Minister has called upon all Indians to come together and repel this attack on our nation.”
Imam Abdul-Kareem spoke quickly. “The Sheikh Humam Ghazi will come with an unofficial message from the Grand Mufti or some other religious authority in Pakistan, He has been their channel of communications with the believers ever since the inception of Pakistan. He is, I fear, going to try and organize material support for the Moslem cause …”
“It is not the Moslem cause he represents. It is the Pakistani cause,” the legislator clarified.
“Be that as it may, Gamal Ubaid, he will likely seek money, demonstrations, petitions, letters to the editor, and Allah only knows what else,” the Imam explained.
“I will not be a party to any treason or sabotage,” Anwar Rafi clearly stated. I will not even discuss it.
“That’s why I wanted you here a few minutes before he came. I thought that if we formed a united front in advance, we could circumscribe the dimensions of the discussion and avoid that which would be most compromising.”
“Imam, why do you feel we need a united front to deal with this little pipsqueak? He is a pompous little fool,’ Gamal Ubaid reminded him.
“He’s a Wahabbi, he was always with the Muslim Brotherhood. He is very close to the Grand Mufti in Pakistan. He acts as a non-governmental agent of the Saudi Royal Family. He has terrific connections and crossing him could be …. well it could be trouble.” The cleric was clearly worried.
“Well, if he wants us to commit acts of sabotage, I, for one won’t even listen to him,” Anwar drew his line in the sand.
The legislator nodded his head in agreement and the Imam summarized. “Then it is agreed. If he brings up the subject, I will say that we have already considered the possibility, and will not even discuss the subject.”
They had agreed just in time for the chimes sounded and the Imam’s number one man went down to the door to admit the Pakistani Sheikh. The three of them could not resist peeking through the shutters to see the problem cleric outside the front door. He had gotten out of a Black Chevrolet—an expensive car as the then protectionist Indian government wanted everyone to buy the locally made Ambassador car so huge duties were charged for imports.
Sheikh Humam Ghazi was flanked by two huge Pathan warrior types who escorted him up the stairs. When the servant opened to door ushering him in, Imam Abdul-Kareem switched from English to Hindi and instructed the servant to take the two giants to the reception room where they could have some refreshments. Ghazi was no more than 5’4”, slightly stooped with an unkempt beard, wearing a rumpled corta. He immediately approached Anwar Rafi and proceeded to go through the ritual Middle Eastern semi kiss to which greeting notables were obliged. Gamal Ubaid was disgusted already. That was an Arabic, Middle Eastern thing, not at all Indian where people rarely touched each other for fear that a Brahmin might be despoiled by, an untouchable—another manifestation of the crazy caste system which India had made illegal, but which most Hindus followed out of tradition anyway.. Ghazi was not so subtly reminding them of which culture he felt had call on their primary loyalty. He had always reminded himself that whenever an Arab country had attacked one of it’s Arab neighbors, the rulers of the two countries had kissed each other with the ritual embrace at some Arab League or other meeting just before.
The four men arranged themselves in four chairs and the Imam asked, “Have you news, noble Sheikh?”
The little man drew himself up to the front of the large chair, and paused for effect. “The initial battle succeeded in completely destroying the nine air bases in the West that were attacked, destroying hundreds of Indian planes on the runways or in the hangers. Half the Indian Air Force was immobilized in two hours. Pakistani ground troops have crossed the border in strength with only token opposition and were taking their objectives as scheduled. The Indians were caught by surprise, and have complained to the United Nations which was in Security Council session in New York, but the Indians have not been able to stop Allah’s Army, nor have they been able to mount a counter-attack. The faithful have complete air superiority. The Indian military command is meeting with the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister to make recommendations.”
“What are the Pakistani military and geopolitical objectives?” asked Gamal Ubaid. As a parliamentarian he had a little military sophistication and was puzzled by the Pakistani aggression. He suspected that that was a prelude to the real prize, Kashmir.
“The primary objective is the defense of Islam.”
“No I mean really, what is Pakistan after, Kashmir? They could strike quickly, occupy a large amount of land in Northern India, and then offer to withdraw only if Kashmir became part of Pakistan.”
Sheikh Abdul-Kareem was slightly annoyed at Ubaid. “It’s the same thing. Kashmir always has been Moslem. At the partition, they were supposed to let the Kashmiris decide. India has refused to have an election. This is an insult to Islam as well as providing material concrete harm to our religion.”
“Why is it an insult to Islam, rather than two greedy countries fighting over territory that they both covert. It has nothing to do with religion.”
“Of course it does,” the Sheikh responded. “It’s much bigger the material value of Kashmir. East Pakistan is under attack,” he said using the official name for the Bengali area of what was later to become Bangladesh. “Islam will lose another nation unless India can be stopped.”
Gamal Ubaid had been at a disadvantage in that the Sheikh from Pakistan had information that they did not regarding the military situation, but on the issue of East Pakistan he was well-versed. That situation had been debated in Parliament for a few weeks now. He had numerous briefings and his Party, the majority Congress Party, had been most concerned.
“I’ll grant you, that the Government of Pakistan is under attack in East Pakistan,” the legislator told Ghazi. But the attack is coming from our fellow believers in East Pakistan. There is a revolutionary movement there—Moslems contesting with Moslems over some pretty basic and fundamental democratic principles.”
“Democratic principles?” The diminutive Sheikh virtually hissed the words. There are no decent principles here. They are apostates, heretics who are trying to lead the faithful into their heresy. Almost every Mufti in Pakistan has issued his own Fatwa or joined in the Fatwa of others condemning them and pronouncing the penalty for heresy”
The Indian imam was shocked. “For Moslems, heresy was about as serious a charge as could be made. Unbelievers, could commit heresy or blasphemy out of ignorance, and might be forgiven, but for a Moslem in Pakistan if he literally followed Sharia, death was the only possible outcome. Sharia, Islamic Law, is very precise.”
Gamal Ubaid however, was not buying the Pakistan religious party line. “Heresy is always what the corrupt government complains of when anyone unmasks their villainy or complains of poor, corrupt government. And that is exactly what the dictators of Pakistan are imposing on East Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his followers there are challenging the military dictator and his immoral and illegal attempt to keep absolute control of the country. It’s a revolution; it’s not a religious reformation.”
The Sheikh countered. “There are obviously two points of view regarding Apostate Rehman. But even if you are correct, which I do not concede, but if you were right, and Mujibur Rehman was attempting just to overthrow the government, he would be acting contrary to Islamic law. Sharia is very precise on this point. A Moslem owes obedience to the ruler!” He paused for effect. “And it is not for the ruled to take it upon themselves to bring chaos and disorder to the faithful just because they would prefer some form of civil government. Unless the ruler violates Sharia itself, loyalty is still owed to him even if he is less than perfect. Even if he is corrupt, Allah will take care of this and he will burn forever, but here on earth the faithful must have stability and order. Even a bad Caliph must be obeyed.” He turned to his fellow cleric, Fouad Abdul-Kareem, for validation. Abdul-Kareem nodded in agreement with the interpretation of Islamic law.
“It is so settled,” he quietly agreed.
Gamal Ubaid was not about to be rolled so easily. “That principle alone has been the worst burden that Islamic nations have had to bear. Power anywhere is never given up voluntarily. Is there any great nation in the world that has not had its revolution—some more bloody than others? Some non-violent like ours in India, but there is always a revolution. This is why the great Ottoman Empire, where Islam ruled most of the known world for a longer period than the Roman Empire ruled, fell into feebleness and corruption. Without answerability to the people, there is no other check on Caliphs, Sultans, Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Generals, or others who hold temporary power. Degeneration always comes. And that is what most Moslems have in the world today—degenerate governments. Is there a single Islamic nation today that is a democracy, or where there is freedom of speech or expression, where there is true civilian control of the military. Not one I tell you. Turkey is the only one that is coming close, and Pakistan is among the worst offenders.”
Ghazi had heard this argument before and moved easily into the rejoinder. “These so called virtues of government are not of the faithful. They are of the un-believers. You, Gamal Ubaid, have been intellectually corrupted by the imperialists. After Great Britain has exploited so much of our area, the Hindus and erring Moslems, are adopting their perverted values and customs and undermining the faithful. You talk of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom for what? To blaspheme the Prophet, peace be unto him? To insult the dignity of those who protect and guard the people? To print their filth with naked women? To corrupt the faithful? This is Western degeneracy. And as for democracy, look how it has corrupted the Indian government. The people can be easily fooled. They need the guidance of their leaders. Right now, the Indian generals and ministers are taking their instructions from a woman—Indira Gandhi. It is unnatural; it is sick; it is contrary to the will of Allah. That’s why India will lose this war badly. This woman, like women everywhere, are weak. The Prophet, blessings be on him, has told us that women make terrible rulers. Note that India has not even attempted a counterattack. She is a lover of the corrupt philosophy of non-violence. Allah requires strength in his rulers.” Again, he looked to Imam Fouad Abdul-Kareem for validation. “Tell them about the Prophet’s last sermon.”
“It is true that the Prophet, peace be unto him, in his last sermon in 632 told the faithful that men have rights over women.” Fouad explained. “And that the rights that the women had over men are only to be fed and clothed. But that was in the context of a medieval desert society that was and tribally family centered culture.”
The Pakistini again used his religious colleague to validate his history of Islam. “As the Sunnah informs us, did the Prophet, peace be unto Him, not tell us that the proper place of women is in the home? And that women make bad ruler. Did He not say to the faithful, ‘The tribe that constitutes a woman its ruler will not find redemption.’ This is so is it not?”
“Yes, but he did not prohibit women from the Mosque even though he said it was better for them to be at home. Nor did he ever prohibit a woman from being a ruler. It seems he made allowances for women of extraordinary capability or ambition. And the woman ruler he was criticizing was the Persian King Chosroes’ daughter who was not up to the job. Does not our brother Quadafi of Libya train his women to serve on their police force and in their government. And Tunisia as well. I would observe, my learned friend that both of these Moslem countries have a higher standard of living than Pakistan. More education also. As for the courage of women as warriors, I recall just a few years ago that our brethren in the Middle East rejoiced when the Israelis elected Golda Meir as their Prime Minister. They saw this as the hand of Allah giving them their opportunity, and in 1966 began increasing and mobilizing their forces. When Mrs. Meir did not strike, they were convinced that she was weak. So emboldened were they that they launched an attack without warning on the Jewish Holy Day of Yum Kippur. The Israeli losses were substantial. Within hours, there was a victory celebration in every Arab capital, and imams were proclaiming the ascendancy of Islam again. But this woman, had only held back so that she could persuade the United States and other countries that could supply Israel with weapons and war material for their defense—that it was the Arabs who were the aggressors, not the victims. Then she stuck! Our Arab brethren were so dismissive of her that they reported for days that they were about to overrun Tel Aviv—that the Jews would finally be pushed into the sea. While at that time it was this weak woman’s troops that were overrunning the Jordanian Army, destroying the Syrian troops in the North, and surrounding and capturing the Egyptians in the Sinai and the Suez Canal. Never in human history had so few conquered and captured so many.” His fellow Indian Moslems were nodding their head in agreement. Now hear me my, brother. This woman, our Prime Minister, is the daughter of Nehru, The finest generals of the Indian Army—men trained by the British—have worked with her and found her leadership inspirational.”
“Then why does not India defend herself,” Ghazi challenged “They dare not commit their reserves else they will loose all. Their only hope is the United Nations to intervene.”
Gamal Ubaid marveled at the fact that this man had been selected for an important post by the Pakistani leadership. He didn’t even seem to realize that the only real military danger to India was China. If China entered the war, all the Indian resources would be needed to fight them. If they did not, Indira Gandhi would take care of the Pakistan military in due time. And the Pakistani supply lines could never support an overall invasion of India beyond the North. The Paks were convinced that they would easily prevail. Although the Indian air force was somewhat larger, it consisted of older planes firing cannons and machine guns. While the Pakistani’s had Russian MIG 21s as the backbone of their air forces with American F-86s as well. But most important, their planes were equipped with missiles including one of their own development that was very much like the American Sidewinder. They even had a modern submarine clandestinely submerged off the coast in East Pakistan in case the Indian Navy should try and blockade East Pakistan and prevent munitions and other supplies coming from West Pakistan, as the Partition had left Pakistan with two unajacent territories reachable only by sea.
But beyond those factors giving the Paks so much confidence, they had Allah on their side. The Muftis had so declared when they pronounced the Jihad—the Moslem Holy War. The Imam’s at the daily prayer would remind all the Moslem men—5 times a day. It was a more efficient social mobilization than almost any country in the world which depended on newspapers, TV, and other institutions. The entire population of Pakistan was already committed to the Jihad, while the Indian Hindus were still finding out that a war had started. The Indian Moslems were aware much faster, but most of their initial efforts were toward protecting themselves against the kind of pogroms that had historically taken place when Hindu India was at war with Moslem Pakistan, for the Hindus, if they believed their enemy, they were at war with Islam but more important, Islam was at war with them.
Gamal Ubaid, didn’t want to bother educating, Sheikh Humam Ghazi , but he was concerned that his fellow Indian co-religionists were not buying into the distorted Pakistani mind-set. The three of them would influence and lead the Delhi Moslem community and Delhi being the Indian capital, Moslems the country over would, for the most part, take their lead from Delhi.
“I would like to go back to the revolt in East Pakistan, Noble Sheikh” he said, hoping the sarcasm he was feeling in the polite form of address was not as apparent. The way I see it, we have two groups of fellow Muslims, contesting with each other and contesting for the support of other Muslems in India and elsewhere.”
“This is true” said the Sheikh. “However, one group is the legitimate government supported by the people and the religious leaders of the country. The other is an upstart, radical, anti-Moslem, faction of criminals. You make it sound as if both groups have an equally meritorious claim. But Allah supports only the righteous.”
“Alright, let’s look at that. Please interrupt me if I misspeak the facts. A short time ago Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was a local politician in East Pakistan with a local following, and although seemingly more concerned about corruption than most, he was on good terms with Karachi and the national government.” Checking to see that all were still in agreement, he went on. Then it turned out that Mujibur Rehman was a very charismatic speaker who was able to communicate with the masses. He seemed to strike a chord of public concern over inequality, authoritarianism, and poverty as well as corruption. He became very popular very fast, including in West Pakistan as well as his East Pakistan. Soon, the Government was becoming embarrassed as a result of his criticism. They, still seeing him as loyal opposition, started attacking him politically and spreading the kinds of slanderous personal stories about him that politicians all over the world tend to do with a worthy opponent. That backfired and seemed to increase his popularity with the people—especially the poor and disenfranchised.”
“He became a demagogue and was inciting the people,” Ghazi interjected.
“Be that as it may, providing the people with hope has many times in recoded history been described by the establishment as incitement. But at this point there was no revolution or talk of revolution.” Ghazi let it go. “Then,” continued Gamal Ubaid, “Sheikh Mujibur Rehman decided to, as the Americans say, throw his hat into the ring and declared for the Presidency. At first, the ruling party said this as a good thing. Rehman would split the opposition, weakening them still further. The worst outcome was that Rehman’s Awami League movement, now a political party, might have a few seats in the local state legislature of East Pakistan. They paid him little attention and mostly just spread false, salacious rumors. However when the returns were in, he surprised everyone including himself. With no public opinion polls, as there are in the industrial countries, no one realized that his movement was gathering support all over the country. The Awami League did not only win control of the East Pakistan legislature but also Sheikh Rehman had garnered the most votes for the national Presidency. So what was the government to do?”
“There was massive fraud,” the Sheikh explained. It was a defective election.”
“So said the nation’s expert on election fraud, the losing dictatorial President, his appointees on the election commission, and finally his handpicked Supreme Court so ruled. And what then did they do? They arrested Sheikh Rehman and put him in jail. They ruled that as a criminal he was ineligible to be President, and …”
“Do you think that a criminal should be the leader of a Moslem nation? Ubaid.”
“No, but I do want to see such declarations take place with some reasonable due process with due regard for the defendant’s rights. There was no evidence put forth. Even many opponents of Rehman knew he was no criminal. And when the people objected to the trumped up charges, the army moved into East Pakistan in force and broke up the demonstrations. We understand that many thousands of protesting civilians have been massacred.”
“Lies, Lies. These are Hindu and Western imperialist lies.”
Gamal Ubaid interrupted the little man. “Lies? That is what your Government told our ambassador while at the same time our government received photographs and some TV footage from various sources. Unarmed civilians were mowed down by machine guns, mortars were fired into protesting crowds. It took something like that to produce the crisis which ensued. Thousands went on strike in protest. Soldiers refused to shoot at civilians any longer and went over to the other side to join the protesters. I admit that East Pakistan was in crisis. I further admit, as our government has, that we Indians have given asylum to protestors who have escaped from the soldiers across the border. And I understand that private Indian individuals have provided the protestors with small arms with which to defend themselves and protect their basic human rights.”
“There you go again with that British imperialist clap-trap,” the Sheikh chided him,
“Noble Sheikh, this is not just Ghazi’s opinion,” said Anwar Rafi. “Even our Moslem businessmen believe that the election was stolen from Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his Awami League, and that the government was high-handed and denied him his due process rights. Yes, you are right that this view has been partially influenced by our colonial occupation. But as anti-British as most of us are, there are three things that most Indians—Hindu, Moslem or Sikh, feel was a positive legacy of the British and values that we will keep forever: Western technology and the English language are the first two. With hundreds of different language groups, no third of India could ever converse with any other third. India is now a country where we can all communicate. And with our rapid assimilation of technology we can all talk among themselves. But the most important gift of the Englishmen was the appreciation of English rights, for now they are Indian rights and as important as anything we have.”
Sheikh Humam Ghazi interrupted. “You talk of rights, but what about responsibilities. What about the will of Allah and the words of the Prophet, blessings be on him.?”
Razi continued. “Every Indian Muslim knows his obligations. It is the duty of every Islamic male to teach this to his sons. Every Indian Moslem heeds the call of the Muezzin five times every day, and our imams remind us of our duties which we all acknowledge gladly. But now each of us reminds our government of our rights and our government’s obligations to the people as a whole and each of us as individuals. Indian Muslims have individual rights, the same as Indian Hindu, even though we are a minority. But Sheikh, please remember that we Indian Moslems in the minority have far more individual rights than our Moslem Pakistani brothers in the overwhelming majority in Pakistan. Does that not give you pause?.”
Gamal Ubaid picked up the theme. “And it is distressing for us that our co-religionists—other children of Islam, in East Pakistan are being abused from a human rights point of view.”
“But they are against the government, they are against the courts, they are against our religious leadership,” the Sheikh protested.
Imam Fouad Abdul-Kareem explained to his fellow cleric, “What I think my colleagues are trying to tell you noble friend, is that people have a right—Muslims have a right—to be against such things if they choose. You are most worried about this new group in East Pakistan, whom the Muslim people seem to prefer, attaining power and the implication of this war for that dimension. We, on the other hand, are most concerned that with the passion that goes with a national crises such as this war, that the Hindu majority might forget about protecting our rights and we may not be able to take whatever side our conscience dictates in this crisis for fear of our safety,” He looked at the two Indians who nodded their heads in assent.
“And so good Sheikh, tell us what you would want of the Muslim Indians,” said Anwar Rafi in a low, quiet, calm voice.
“Join our Jihad. Protect Islam as every Muslim must when it is under threat and attack.”
“Do you mean to interfere with our own Indian government’s war effort at the possible risk to our lives?” Gamal Ubaid asked.
“If necessary, yes. It is always such.”
“May I remind you, Sir, that as a member of Parliament I have taken an oath, and have sworn before Allah and by the beard of the Prophet that I will be loyal to this Indian government.”
“Of course, that is why your example is so important to the cause.”
“But what about my duty to India and to Mrs. Gandhi to whom I have personally pledged loyalty. Even if you think she is wrong or insufficient for the post, is it not Sharia—Moslem law—that we owe fealty to the government. Do I not owe that to the current Indian government as you stated a good Muslim’s duty was just a few minutes ago?”
The Pakistani cleric argued, “That would normally be true, but there are two reasons that you should not be concerned about your oath.”
Gamal Ubaid raised his eyebrows trying to anticipate what was to come. Fouad Abdul-Kareem had an inkling where his fellow cleric was going and was about to dissuade him but there was no time. Sheikh Humam Ghazi plunged on. “There are two reasons. First, a duty to Islam takes precedence over obligations to a civil government or civil matter. But most important, you are a Muslim living in a land of unbelievers. You are a minority. Sharia makes special allowances for the faithful who must live in such a land. The Prophet, peace be upon him, recognized that until Islam should conquer and control all nations, Muslims would have to live among the heathens. In order to reach important posts and provide for the faithful, oaths would have to be taken, Hallel foods may not be available. There may be no Muezzin to call to prayer. There may be no Mosque even. We do what we must in the land of the enemy.”
“Are all non-Moslem lands, enemies of the faith? Imam?” the legislator asked.
Almost like a robot, the Pakistani Sheikh’s brain scanned his almost encyclopedic knowledge of 1400 years of Fatwa and Sharia. “Lands of the non-believer are of two kinds: Those who are enemies of Islam today and those who may be so tomorrow. Your duty is to provide material help, aid, and your life if necessary to protect Islam. The Prophet, peace be upon him, recognized that spies for the faithful were necessary and it is permissible to tell the unbelievers anything that might comfort them or keep them off guard, to swear or to use any artifice that might be useful, and Allah will bless the believer who makes and reneges on such oaths for the benefit of his believers. What Islam needs here however is not sabotage. This is owed to believers who are near the front. You are in Delhi, the political capital of the enemy. You are a politician. The faithful need political action.”
“What kind of political action?”
“Block the Government from asking the UN to intervene in the war. The army of the Prophet needs time to occupy enough territory so that when the cease fire comes, we will hold so much of India’s land that they will agree to stop aiding the insurrection in East Pakistan and give us Kashmir in order to get their territory back. It is a ground invasion now and troops can only progress so fast even in the absence of serious opposition and even with our air superiority. You are influential and can persuade others that the honor of India is at stake—that it would be cowardice to be saved by the UN which is dominated by the capitalists and the great colonial powers. That a country as large and powerful as India should not beg the Europeans, Americans and Russians to protect them. There is no way Pakistan can invade all or even most of India. Get Mrs. Gandhi’s officers to insist that India stand and fight. There are several lines that the Indian army can easily defend. It will take them five days to establish those lines, and the Pakistan incursion will then end in a stalemate. Then the ceasefire, then the negotiations. But in three to five days we can take enough Indian land that they have to get it back, even if it costs Kashmir. Keeping them out of East Pakistan is easier. We have enough land for that now. And in three days the traitors in East Pakistan will be no more. There will be few if any left alive. We need the three days. Anwar Rafi and Fouad Abdul-Kareem. You can galvanize the people to use this precious democracy of India. Letters to the editor, petitions, congregations demonstrating, business leaders calling the representatives in parliament, educating their employees. All we need is three days and no one need do anything illegal. Under your democracy, all this is proper, and you rights will be protected as the Hindus, who are just waiting for an excuse to butcher more Moslems will not have the excuse that you are impeding the war effort. Indian Moslems will be patriotic heroes. Our religion will be strengthened here in India. After we get Kashmir, we then go for the rest of the land inhabited by many Moslems in the Bengali area. Then other Indian pockets of Moslem density crying for the self determination that means so much to democrats—they will join Pakistan until we have all our land and people that we were denied in the Partition.”
“But all the Moslem leaders, including Jinnah himself, signed the agreement on partition. How can they go back on that? Ubaid demanded. “It would be crass, dishonest and dishonorable.”
“A promise made to the enemies of Islam to get some tactical advantaged for Islam is not binding on a Moslem. Remember the words of the great Islamic theologian of the 12th century, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali”
And what did he say? the legislator asked/
“Know that a lie is not haramin itself, but only because the evil conclusions to which it leads the hearer, making him believe something that is not really the case…. If a lie is the only way of obtaining a good result, it is permissible. . . ..”
There was silence for about 15 seconds which seemed much longer. Just as Fouad Abdul-Kareem had feared, the Sheikh based his argument on Fatwas and Islamic law which did not have the effect on these two that it might have upon more ignorant, less educated Moslem people. If the Government wanted a cease fire, he was not sure that try as they might, Ms. Gandhi would not be persuaded by temporary public opinion. There had been great pressure brought to bear on her regarding her birth control and sterilization programs, but she had not budged. But then he also realized that amongst Indians Muslims, whether or not the government worked for a cease fire was an issue that few people would normally feel very passionate about, one way or the other. Sheikh Humam Ghazi was right about one thing. It would be easy to sway Indian Moslem public opinion in whichever way the three of them might choose as there would be no serious opposition which ever side they took.
Also,the Indian imam did not want to offend Ghazi. The man was known to be mean spirited. Gamal Ubaid had already offended the Pakistani, Ghazi could so easily arrange for a Fatwa telling the faithful to teach Ubaid a lesson if not kill him outright. There would always be some poor soul who would kill on a Mufti’s fatwa in order to preserve the faith, especially if he would have a permanent place in Paradise. But the key was Anwar Rafi , the business leader, without him and the leadership of his shopkeepers, exporters, spice merchants, taxi wallahs and other middle class merchants, the Moslem clerics would just see this as too unimportant to take this position on their own.
Gamal Ubaid, the politician, as his Imam predicted, gave Ghazi no assistance. “Noble Sheikh.” This time there was no disguising the dripping sarcasm as he strung out the word, ‘noble.’ I have heard you, and have mixed views on such a complex issue. Candidly I think that India has been wrong in not allowing elections in Kashmir and have spoken so. Even had we not agreed, self determination is a right of the Kashmiris as much as anyone. Until this day, I had never understood the position of some of my colleagues saying that Pakistan was ‘playing the religion card’ and whipping up a frenzy of fear to swing the election away from the relative economic, cultural and political advantages of the people. So I leaned toward the Pakistan position. However, starting a war to try and divert your public opinion away from the fact that your government stole an election and then leveraging that to get advantage in Kashmir is not the behavior of an Islamic nation by any moral standard I have ever heard of or contemplated. Probably, no Muslim has ever told you this before, but freedom is contagious, so contagious that those of us who get a taste of it even think that our opinions are just as important and valid as learned men such as yourself. You may know your Fatwas and make learned judgments on Islamic rulings, but you have no practical sense of what is good for your fellow religionists. I for one started in politics as a ward worker for the Congress party. Congress is not Hindu; it is not Moslem. It is Indian. Indira Gandhi is not only our prime minister but is my party leader. To the best of my knowledge she has never done anything that would harm Moslems. If she and her generals think we should go to the UN and ask for a cease fire, that I will support. And if she wants to defend a line, that too I will support. And if she wants to counterattack and strike at Pakistan itself, that I will support with much more enthusiasm than I would have had before my conversation with you today.”
“I am sorry you feel that way. I am certain you will come to regret your position. Even if you think you have many friends and supporters, there are those of the faithful who will not be deluded. There is no telling what might befall you.” It was a typical veiled threat to discourage Anwar Rafi from taking a similar position. Sheikh Humam Ghazi had never been sure that he would be able to enlist Gamal Ubaid or any of the other Moslem members of the Congress Party. Congress was almost a secular religion for them. He was much more certain of Rafi who had less connections with the Indian political establishment and who was much more vulnerable to outside pressure. He understood what Saudi money, could do to help or hurt a merchant or a factory owner. He also knew that Pakistan had many agents moving throughout the large Indian Moslem community. He was certain that Imam Fouad Abdul-Kareem will go with Rafi. Thus the threat. It may have been unnecessary he thought. What did Rafi care about the cease fire? The Pakistani agents had told Ghazi that he was a merchant whose politics was making money. He had to be intimidated. In addition he was a very pious Muslim. “I’m sure that you will exercise better judgment than your political associate,” he said to get a response out of Rafi.
“Learned Sheikh,” he began slowly. When our Prophet’s armies first came to India in the 7th century, my ancestors were Hindu merchants here. They, like so many others, initially saw the Moslems as just another group of invaders and rulers to whom the population had to adjust. But soon they discovered what half the world was discovering—that Islam offered more as a religion than the other alternatives. It was more easily understood than Christianity or Buddhism, and less complex and easier to follow than Judaism. However Islam brought a new perception of the equality of men which was radically different and refreshing compared to the Hindu caste system. Common people of that era were all subservient to some ruler and while Islam did not promise equality, it did raise fellow Muslims to a level of human being with some basic entitlements of treatment. It ended slavery. Christianity and Hinduism provided no hope in coping with an unjust ruler or master that himself did follow his duties as prescribed by the Prophet, peace be unto him. And Judaism had been scattered to the four winds. But Islam for the first time in human history gave the common man something new that enabled him to bear the injustice that was so prevalent at the time. That man as he continued to be treated cruelly could at least be comforted by the certainty that the master who defied the will of Allah would burn eternally in hell, and, he as a believer, might be rewarded in Paradise.”
The Sheikh could not understand where the business man was going with his history of Islam coming to India in the Mogul invasion. Rafi continued.
“That together with simple concepts of justice, rules of behavior made practical sense and celebrated a sense of fairness. It was a tradeoff that the surrender of the man to Islam would entitle him to some dignity and hope together with the threat of damnation that characterized other religions of the era. This is why so many people came to the Islam of the conquerors voluntarily at a rate never before or since known in human history. There was conversion by the sword and by rape, but it was unnecessary. So many were prepared to embrace Islam. My ancestors were among them. My family prospered materially and spiritually and became totally integrated into the Moslem culture that had brought so much to India. My ancestors supplied the Mughal rulers and when they weakened and were replaced by Sher Shah Suri and his dynasty they helped build the Purana Quilla. We gave merchants, imams, physicians and at least one Mufti to the community and in all these generations we have always thanked Allah that he has embraced our family.”
The Sheik decided to stay silent and let Rafi go on.
“Every male of our family for all these generations has learned the Koran and not a single member of our family has ever left Islam. When India was partitioned, I was a young boy but remember well that my father was planning on making the journey to Pakistan. Our Imam, however, prevailed in us to stay to be of assistance to the large number of believers who were too ill, old, young, poor, ignorant or uncaring to make the journey. No one knew what would befall them and our great imam assembled Moslem merchants, soldiers, doctors, and teachers to protect the faithful, heal the sick, educate the young and maintain the Moslem community who could not easily move. The slaughters began. In one afternoon we lost almost half our number to the anger and ravages of the Hindu mob. The next day a group of Hindus were chased into our community by a Muslim mob intent on revenge. Our Imam gave the Hindus our protection and soon more Hindus, threatened by extremist Muslims, joined us. When the other Hindus came to attack us, our Hindu neighbors would protect us and we them from the aggressive Moslem mobs which mercifully either disappeared of killed each other.
He had never been an intellectual or a speaker, but the partition had been a personal trauma he lived through as a child. It had shaped his entire future being. He continued.
“It was Allah’s will that the new government found us, and provided us with support until we could get on our feet. I lost a brother and a sister but those of us who were left alive knew that Allah had protected us for a reason and that was when we built the Mosque over which Imam Abdul-Kareem now presides. Some Hindus helped with the labor; others contributed materials along with the faithful. Since that time we have built a community of Moslems in Delhi, and as time went on, we discovered that there were many more of us than anyone realized. You talk about Pakistan being an Islamic nation, and it is, but so are we. This minority you disparage is a much larger Moslem community than all the Moslems of Pakistan. We have more mosques, more Imams, more Muftis. And our people are wealthier and better educated than our brothers in Pakistan. They say their prayers and avoid that which is haram. Islam thrives in this and thousands of other Indian mosques. So why, Sheikh, is Pakistan the Islamic nation and we Muslims of India must acknowledge that Pakistan speaks for Islam?” We are a larger Moslem nation than Egypt, the largest of the Middle Ease. We are larger than Turkey. We have more Moslems in India than any other country in the world with the exception of Indonesia. We do not flee from here to Egypt or Iran or Sudan. And every one of us could go to Pakistan of we want and would be welcomed as Israel welcomes Jews from the world over. We stay by choice because we can thrive as free Muslims here. We can have Islam and Democracy. Islam and Freedom is as close to Paradise as we can have on earth. Does that exist in Pakistan?
“No matter how many believers you have an a state, you will never be free to allow Islam to thrive unless we control the Government?” Humam Ghazi argued.”
“Freedom for Islam? Control the government? No one here in India has ever told us how we should practice Islam except our Imam and other Muslim clerics throughout our country. In Pakistan the Ministry of Religion is constantly choosing between different religious groups and playing them off against one another to maintain control of the government. The Wahabbis, the Sufis, the Shiites, the Sunni, here they are each free to be Moslems in they way they have been taught. I cannot imagine how we could be more free to follow Islam. There are over 500 different religious sects here in India and we are the second largest.”
The Pak sheikh could not stay silent any longer. “But followers of the Prophet, peace be unto him, have always been discriminated against in India. Ever since the British came and favored the Hindus over Islam, our people have been second class citizens. It was the Hindus who obtained the administrative positions—not us.”
“For more than 100 years we have been hearing that canard. Like so many of our people, you do not view history as a coin—having two sides. It is true that in the late 18th century, when the British invited Indians into the civil service of India, the Hindus obtained most of the jobs, but why?”
The sheikh was clear on that. “Because the British favored the Hindus—we Muslims fought them.”
“You know perfectly well that there were British collaborators in both religions and there were rebels in both. The appointments to positions had nothing to do with discrimination other than what we imposed on ourselves.”
“The British made the appointments, not us.”
“The British introduced a civil service system in India. Everyone who wanted a position had to take an examination. The fact is that our Muslims did not do so well on those examinations. That is history, but so is the reason. When the British introduced the civil service system, they also introduced public schools and colleges to teach the skills that would be needed for governance. In what was, looking backwards with hindsight, a terrible policy mistake, most Islamic leaders urged the boycott of the British schools.”
“The schools were Godless. They did not even teach the Koran.”
“The schools were secular. They did not teach the Hindu religion or Christianity either. The Hindus and Christians attended. Those schools did not teach Islam. Those subjects were to be studied elsewhere. But the fact remains that most Moslem youth did not attend the schools, and many Hindus did. With the unfortunately corrupt tradition of both our Indian peoples, we never believed that appointments would be made on merit. We assumed that we could buy the positions for our sons the way that it had been done in India for centuries. It was a bad assumption. We couldn’t pass the examinations; we didn’t get the jobs. The few Moslems who did attend the schools did fine and thrived in the British civil service. And those Hindus whose families thought that they could bribe their sons a position learned as we did that there was a new order—one I might add that Pakistan has gotten away from. Corruption is still rife in your Civil Service.”
“Unfortunately, my brother, corruption is the disease of both of our nations.”
“Well, the British Civil Service had minimum academic standards and we, like fools, didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to study a modern curricula—a mistake, I might add that Pakistan still makes with their madrasses. All they teach is Islam under the theory that all important knowledge is in the Koran, and anything that differs from the Koran is forbidden anyway.”
“That is not so. We in Pakistan now have universities, schools of law and medicine.”
“I will grant you that, but the government has not and will not require the madrasses to include modern curricula nor will they make a secular education compulsory in addition to the teaching of the madrasses. The fact remains that most of our people in Pakistan are woefully uneducated in anything except the Koran. We too have the problem in India, but the government has as its official policy to end purely religious education and make sure that all children grow up with both religious and secular learning. And that is happening. We have many more Moslem scientists, engineers and professionals here in India than Pakistan does.”
“While that may be, you cannot deal with the heretics, the idolaters, the innovators, the backsliders. You even have Bahai here in India where they are sheltered even though our Iranian brothers have killed most of them or run them out of the Middle East.”
“We don’t have to deal with the heretics. This is India. We have a billion people of hundreds of different religions and sects. The Government is of no sect and of all sects. The Bahai do not harm us. And they have suffered enough. Our communities are different. In India we share the same land but we have different religious communities on the same land. We have built a nation—a nation on its way to become great for all. A great Moslem Nation, a great Hindu Nation—great for whoever commits themselves to be a part of it. My family has fought and died for the Moslem community and the nation in general. Our blood flows through the rivers; the dust of our bones is in the ground.”
“But there is this conflict between believers.”
“I am pained at the conflict with Pakistan. But there is no way that I will ever betray my Moslem brothers of India. And if I have to choose between the Moslem Indians and the Moslem Paks, it does not require a moment’s thought. I choose India.”
“And what of our Moslem brothers in Kashmir?”
“You want me to help you bring Kashmir into the Pakistani fold. To what benefit to my Moslem brothers in Kashmir? So that they can be controlled by a corrupt dictatorship? I take your point about the Islamic traditional obligation to tolerate a poor government—for the sake of preserving life and order. I do not urge my Pakistani brethren to throw off the yoke of dictatorship; even though emotionally I find it hard personally to understand dictatorship. I accept the precepts of the Prophet on that point. But I have read the Koran and the Haddith. Whereas Moslems must accept living under a bad government, nowhere have I ever found a duty of a Moslem to put himself under the rule of a bad ruler, a dictator, and that’s what would happen to the Moslems of Kashmir if Pakistan had its way. So I will never deliver Moslems, or any other people for that matter, into a dictatorship, even if it is a dictatorship of my coreligionists.”
“Democracy is a Western, foreign, idea.”
“Instead of warring on your fellow Moslems, Sheikh, reform your own nation. You offend me sir. I have a mind to report you to the authorities here, but with your diplomatic immunity you will be returned to Pakistan where you will be going in a day or so as our diplomatic relations are broken. Your Wahabbi fanatics, your Petan goons, your Saudi money is a potential problem for all of us. But I have been tried in a crucible of fire where I have had to risk a mad mob of crazed Hindus whipped into a frenzy by their religious leaders. If you kill me, it will be more blood to nurture the ground of India. But you, learned Imam will burn in eternal fire as assuredly as the Prophet has said because your Islam is foreign to me. It is foreign to over 120 million Indian Moslems. It is even foreign to most of the Moslems of Pakistan though at the moment there is little then can do about it. I will not help you.”
Sheikh Humam Ghazi was beaten. He would not accomplish his objective. But he would have the satisfaction of estranging these two leaders from their Imam. “Well Fouad, I assume that you had no knowledge of these seditions and apostate positions. You have always been one of Islam’s strongest pillars in India.”
“Thank you for the compliment Sheikh. I was unaware of their personal feelings or their depth, but I would be less than helpful to the Muslim cause, either here in India or elsewhere, if I was not completely truthful. Our Pakistani brothers must know the reality of our situation.” Having started, he screwed up his courage. “My colleagues’ views mirror those of most of my congregation—certainly the educated ones. And I think that it is fairly reflective of leading Moslems throughout India. However, we are all assuming a set of facts on the ground based on the information with which you have provided us. And that in turn has been provided to you by officials in Karachi.”
“Absolutely. That is why we can rely on it.”
“My friend, we Moslems have a creditability problem when it comes to war and crises. Very often in the past, reports have not turned out to be, shall we say, not exactly precise.”
“There are always some military secrets, and the Prophet …”
“I know, the Prophet, peace be unto him, has allowed withholding secrets from the enemy. The Russians do that all the time. They just do not tell anyone about natural disasters, accidents, governmental changes, until well after the event if ever. I am referring to the type of problem we Muslims, have had in releasing war communiqués. In the wars of Palestine, it is always the same. ‘The Arab armies have attacked in force and caught the Israelis by surprise’ we have been told. ‘All the Arab states are unified in this holy objective.’ ‘The Arab land forces are on the march with little or no resistance encountered.’ ‘Heroic Islamic fighters have demoralized the enemy and its leadership is in disarray.’ ‘God’s forces have air superiority.’ ‘Islam has regained much of its territory back already and are regaining more every hour.’ ‘Losses are very light.’ Then, a few days later we hear from the Western press that the initial attack had not crippled the enemy; Arab air forces have been decimated; entire divisions of Arab armor have been destroyed or captured by Israel; most of the attackers have been killed, captured or run from the field; the Arab leadership are the ones in disarray; the Arab allies are all blaming each other; and the Israelis are sitting upon even more Arab land than before the war. Pakistan’s previous communiqués regarding the conflict with India have been equally in error.”
“It is true that the modes of our communication have not been as good as the West or as they should have been, and erroneous information has sometimes been issued” allowed Sheikh Humam Ghazi.
“No, this is not ‘erroneous information’. There is a jest that I have heard Western reporters make at our expense. One asks how you can tell when an Islamic spokesman is lying. The other says, ‘whenever his lips move!’ It is tragic, because it is almost true.
“They were not trying to deceive; they just didn’t have accurate information,” Ghazi defended.
“That is so, my friend, and that is the true tragedy. These lies are not to deceive the enemy because they are continuously uttered until there is an entire collapse of the Islamic war front. We Moslems have the greatest capacity for self delusion of any people on Earth. Given our history, it is understandable, but nonetheless very damaging. Our Moslem cultural roots are in the Arabian desert—a sparsely populated place where all is the same, no color, nothing different, no literacy, no printing and little to do before modern technology. We all read, but all we read was one book. So whenever early Moslems met each other, there was a deluge of conversation and to gain esteem a man had to posses many camels or horses, be a great warrior, or be very skilled in the art of rhetoric. And the more flowery the rhetoric, the better. There were few cultures that gave so much credence to the poet, the story teller. With most of their lives a dull similarity, we developed magnificent imaginations, romantic if you will, for there was little real to report upon and even if there were, most was uninteresting. And we are optimists all. Before the Prophet, blessings upon him, our people had to be of positive outlook. Without that, one simply will not survive in the desert. And then came Islam, the first religion of great hope. This is why so many flocked to its standard. And over these years, through disappointment, struggle, disease, famine, and lately impotency and humiliation—through all these our positive outlook, our imaginations, our stories and rhetoric, as the will of Allah has kept us a people. We dream, we hope, we pray, and when some of the things for which we have prayed appear to manifest themselves, we bring the great strength of our imaginations to bear else we would attempt little and achieve nothing. Our reality mingles with our dreams, our rhetoric mixes with the facts. Our great writers are not journalists or historians; they are poets. We ourselves make terrible military planners because as a plan evolves we run away with ourselves and convince ourselves of its feasibility and desirability; it is not in us to always look at what the English call the ‘down side” of things. Most of us, growing up in this multi-cultural environment learn this and we unconsciously discount that we tell each other. What for others might be a brave man, to us Moslems is ‘the most courageous leader alive.’ But few of us literally believe that; we just say that. The English even have a word which describes our communications: hyperbole.”
“Are you implying that I have not reported accurately on the war?”
“Not implying, I am stating it categorically. It is almost impossible for us to report anything accurately where we have a deep, sincere aspiration for the outcome. That the Indian air bases were attacked I have little doubt. That the Paks have achieved air superiority so fast is not quite so credible. That the columns are marching is probably true, but the lack of strong opposition might be due to worrying about the Chinese, not overwhelming firepower and prowess of the army. You, not really you, but the Pakistani military planners and politicians have scoured the Koran to find every piece of evidence as to the Indian woman prime minister being a weak opponent; however, you have totally overlooked the history of just a few years ago when Mrs. Gandhi took on the Chinese and fought the largest army in the world to a standstill. Your eyes are open, yet you do not see. Sound reaches your ears, yet you do not hear. You don’t really know what is going on at the war front, nor do the people who briefed you, and that briefing was almost a day ago.” He paused a moment and then stood up facing Ghazi. Go my friend, let us argue no more. There may yet be things we can do for our people, our co-religionists and our countrymen. If they be in conflict, I grant that most Moslems will choose Islam first for if you asked them what they are, they would respond, ‘a Moslem, a Moslem from India or Pakistan or Egypt. But if you ask us who we are, we will tell you, ‘An Indian, an Indian who is a Moslem.’ Recognizing that important difference we may yet help to bring peace to our peoples.”
While the four men were conversing in the Delhi Mosque, the Indian Navy detected and sunk the Pakistani submarine that was deployed to prevent the blockade. With the blocade, East Pakistan was cut off from West Pakistan. Indira Gandhi held her troops back until the Russian diplomats assured the Indian Diplomats that China had nothing to do with the attack and would not get involved. Mrs. Gandhi and her generals then counter-attacked in force. Although the Pakistanis had modern Russian and American warplanes, their pilots were not able to handle them optimally, while the Indian pilots were expert in their older but serviceable aircraft. The Missiles that the Paks had installed and were counting on would have given them military advantage, but most of them did not work properly due to inferior installation, design, and maintenance. The Indian pilots were expert with their cannon and machine guns. The Indians counter-attacked on all fronts. Rapidly it was the Pakistanis who changed strategies and sought the intervention of the UN and a cease-fire in place. The Indians delayed until they could accomplish all their military and political objectives.
Pakistan no longer occupied any Indian territory and had nothing to bargain with over Kashmir. Even years later the Pakistanis could not understand how they had suffered such reversals in the war.
In East Pakistan, the military atrocities upon the Awami League ceased when Indian soldiers crossed the border to come to the aid of the Moslems being murdered, In one of the fastest, most efficient military operations in history, East Pakistan was completely occupied by the Indian forces and were welcomed by the Moslems as liberators. They captured 93,000 Pakistani soldiers who had not already been killed or wounded.
The war was over in only two weeks, but it had been decided by the third day. It was one of the more one-sided wars in world history, all contrary to the official reports of the Pakistan Government and military.
The Indians turned East Pakistan over to the Government that had originally been elected there before their leader was jailed, the Awami League, and provided air cover and sea blockade so that the West Pakistan military could not return. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was elected as the President of the then new Islamic Republic of Bangladesh. East Pakistan ceased to exist. The Pakistani politicians bemoaned the fact that Islam had lost another country. Most of the Indian Moslems and all the citizens of Bangladesh celebrated the fact that a new Moslem nation had been born.
Entry filed under: History, Politics. Tags: Bangladesh, China, covert operations, destabilization, diplomacy, freedom, fundamentalism, Hinduism, Hindus, India, insurrection, Islam, Islamic fundamentalism, loyalty, Moslems, nationalism, Pakistan, politicians, religion, revolution, United Nations, war.