Victims of Islamic bigotry The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> Victims of Islamic bigotry Anuradha Dutt The beheading of Sikhs in Pakistan and the assault on a temple at Sonargaon in Bangladesh point towards the plight of non-Muslims in Muslim majority countries. The situation is clearly intolerable and India must exercise its moral authority to come to the aid of innocent victims Even as political parties that nurture minority (read Muslim) vote-banks prepare to grant further privileges to the community under the guise of alleviating social and economic backwardness, and lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants procure property and voting rights, one just needs to look across India’s western and eastern flanks to ascertain how Sikh and Hindu minorities in Muslim majority nations are being persecuted. In the latest of a series of communal assaults on them, two Sikhs were beheaded by the Pakistani Taliban for their reported failure to convert to Islam. A grief-stricken Taranjit Singh, cousin of Jaspal Singh, one of the decapitated men, praised Jaspal for choosing martyrdom over the ignominy of forced conversion. The other reason cited for the decapitation is the deadline having passed for payment of ransom of Rs 3 crore to the abductors. Two other Sikhs are still in the Taliban’s captivity. In Bangladesh, on February 6, a gang of men, 30-35 in number, vandalised the Sonargaon temple, an ancient Hindu pilgrimage in Narayanganj district, and damaged six idols. The supposedly secular Indian intelligentsia and media, which suffered an apoplectic fit as a result of the Babri Masjid demolition, largely ignored the assault. Neither did Right-wing groups, posing as custodians of Hindu interests, bother to raise the issue. Yet, to dreg up the past, the Muslim backlash to the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992 was marked by the ancient Dhakeshwari shaktipeeth in Dhaka being vandalised and Hindus being butchered; and over a hundred shrines, including those of Jains and Sikhs, being damaged in Pakistan, and a Jain temple being razed. In Britain, a temple was razed by a vengeful mob, and gurudwaras and Hindu shrines attacked. Muslim expatriates from the subcontinent attacked the Indian Embassy at Teheran, and rose in protest in Arab countries though Arabs themselves observed restraint. The assault on the Sonargaon shrine as well as the beheading simply draws attention to the plight of non-Muslims in regions, where Islamic bigotry has reared up in a ferocious avatar. Under the previous Bangladesh Government, reports of snatching of land, owned by Hindus, were common; and majority of rape cases were registered by Hindu women. Such persecution forced many Hindus to flee their homes and seek refuge here. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban’s writ runs, besides Sikhs and Hindus, minority Christians too are on the run from marauders, criminals and fanatics, posing as the true flag-bearers of Islam. They are being forced to pay jizya, protection money or survival tax, in order to ensure their safety, to extortionists. In Iraq, too, according to reports, Christian families are being coerced by gun-toting men to pay jizya or leave. The poll tax levied on non-Muslims in Muslim countries in exchange for state protection draws sanction from the Quran (Al-Tawbah 9:29). The imposition of jizya and the accompanying violence in lawless areas is a throwback to the past, when crusading Islamic conquerors subjugated ‘infidel natives’ either on the point of the sword via forced conversions or spared their lives in exchange for the payment of protection money: “Summon the people to god; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear god with regard to what you have been entrusted.” (Al Tabari, Volume XII) Umar ibn al-Khattab during the conquest of al-Basrah (636 CE) The conquest of Sindh by Muhammed Bin Qasim in the early 8th century AD led to imposition of jizya on Hindu and Buddhist natives. In return, they were free to follow their own religions. This set the precedent for some of the Islamic rulers who followed him into India. The empire-builders among them, the Mughals, alternated between Islamic severity and kingly graciousness in their treatment of non-Muslims. However, the Sikhs, as a militant sect, came into conflict with them. Emperors Jahangir and Aurangzeb clashed with two of the Sikh gurus Arjan Dev and Tegh Bahadur, respectively, and had them put to death. The four sons and mother of Guru Govind Singh, the last in the line, were also martyred for resisting imposition of Islam, as were thousands of others. The differentiation between Muslims and infidels often owed to political compulsions. But such intolerance is an anachronism in today’s rapidly shrinking world. There are ulterior motives behind religious bigotry. Hugh Fitzgerald, of JihadWatch, states on his internet site DhimmiWatch: “Elsewhere, as in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Hindus and Christians live in a state of permanent physical danger, and that danger also is one of losing their property to Muslim looters and marauders who cannot be sued or brought to justice on the say-so of a non-Muslim... There is no security for the property of non-Muslims in Muslim lands, and there are various ways in which the ‘protection money’ that is the jizya is paid...”. Religious bigotry is thus also a convenient pretext for extortion and grabbing minorities’ property, and making them abandon their homes.