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Fuelling Discontent Dishonestly

Fuelling Discontent Dishonestly

Ziya Us Salam’s propagandist anti-Hindu book, “Being Muslim in Hindu India” promoted by habitual offender The New York Times

Dr Shailendra Kumar Pathak

The book, “Being Muslim in Hindu India,” by Ziya Us Salam, an author infamous for his agenda driven writings has sparked controversy and debate, particularly due to its propagation of what many perceive as a narrative steeped in victimhood and misinformation.

A recent article in The New York Times edition of May 18, 2024, titled ‘Strangers in Their Own Land: Being Muslim in Modi’s India’ by Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar seems to be an attempt at amplifying this very min-information.  Assertions made in the book that are one-sided may have suited anti-Hindu and anti-Bharat agenda of The New York Times.  Media outlets like ABC News, AFP News from US also echoed the packaged mis-information peddled by Ziya Us Islam.

On closer scrutiny, it becomes evident that claims made in the book and related articles are riddled with inaccuracies and lack substantive evidence. A few media outlets had to cut a sorry figure as US State Department debunked their claims on lack of religious freedom in Bharat.

On May 20, US foreign ministry spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the state rejects such reports outright. “We are deeply committed to promoting and protecting universal respect for the right to freedom of religion or belief worldwide. We have engaged many countries including India on the importance of equal treatment for members of all religious communities,” Miller said at a briefing.

In this write up, claims made by Ziya Us Islam in his book and related foreign media reports are being closely scrutinised to expose the fallacies and distortions that underpin them.

Salam’s book propagates false victimhood narrative suggesting that Muslims in Bharat are constantly oppressed and marginalized due to their religious identity. This portrayal ignores the socio-political realities of Bharat where Muslims have held significant positions in government, businesses, academia and arts.

Dharmic ethos has led Bharat to accommodating diverse religious communities and faiths including Muslims over the millennia. It may not be an exaggeration to say that Bharat is the only country that’s home to most sects and sub-sects of Muslims.  Overplay by foreign media sporadic localised incidents involving minorities in Bharat are absurd. Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council said in a report that from 1950 to 2015, muslim population in Bharat increased by 43.15 per cent. On the contrary, a decline of 7.82 per cent has been reported for Hindus during the same period. If muslims faced atrocities or were under attack as Ziya Us Islam and his media friends claim, will the absolute number of muslims surge?

The research found that Christian, Sikh and Buddhist numbers increased while Jain and Parsi populations fell. Is there, any country across the world where any community faced discrimination and wrath of majority but its number grew consistently over 65-year time frame?

Propagandist book alleges systemic discrimination by Indian state against Muslim citizens. On the contrary, Bharat’s Constitution guarantees equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens, irrespective of religion. Government policies and initiatives aim to uplift marginalized communities including Muslims, through affirmative action and welfare schemes. Accusations of state-sponsored discrimination lack evidence and serve only to fuel divisive agendas.

One glaring flaw in Salam’s book is his selective interpretation of history. He conveniently ignores instances where Hindu-Muslim harmony prevailed and exaggerates isolated incidents of conflict to paint a grim picture of interfaith relations in Bharat. In reality, Bharat’s cultural tapestry is woven with threads of coexistence and mutual respect, exemplified by centuries-old syncretic traditions and shared cultural practices.

Salam’s work ventures to perpetuate stereotypes about Hinduism, portraying it as inherently hostile towards Muslims. This misrepresentation not only undermines the rich tapestry of Hindu philosophy and spirituality but reinforces divisive narratives that fuel communal tensions.

Hinduism encompasses diverse beliefs and practices embodied by principles of tolerance, compassion and pluralism. Salam’s lies hit the roof when he claims that ancestors of Bhagwan Ram were Muslims. It has been proved with scientific research that Ram existed more than 3000 years before Islam took birth on this earth.

The book sensationalizes Hindu – Muslim relations by highlighting isolated incidents of communal violence while ignoring the vast majority of harmonious interactions between two communities. Bharat’s cultural fabric is woven with threads of diversity and tolerance where Hindus and Muslims coexisted peacefully celebrating each other’s festivals and sharing social bonds.

Instances of communal harmony far outweigh sporadic conflicts, a fact conveniently overlooked in the propaganda narrative. Salam illustrates some incidents where those accused in murder of Muslims were given heroic welcome. The author deliberately keeps silent on targeted killing, rape and sexual abuse of Hindu girls and women perpetuated by Muslims through predesigned means and campaigns.

Salam appears very upset towards laws against ‘love jehad’ encouraged by Muslim families through fake identity. His conscience does not stir when reports appear each day on rapes, murders, discords, divorce, abuse of Hindu girls.

By singularly portraying Muslims as victims of purported Hindu oppression, Salam overlooks the agency and resilience of the Muslim community in Bharat. Despite facing challenges, Muslims have made significant contributions to Bharat’s cultural, economic and social fabric. From art and literature to science and technology, Muslims have excelled in various fields enriching the nation’s diversity and heritage.

Attributing violence to Hindu extremism oversimplifies complex socio-political dynamics. Like any other country Bharat also grapples with various forms of violence including caste-based and intra-religious conflicts. Blaming Hindu nationalism for all instances of violence undermines efforts to address broader issues of social justice and communal harmony.

Salam’s book risks exacerbating sectarian tensions by essentializing Hindu-Muslim identities and reinforcing a binary narrative of “us versus them.” Such divisive rhetoric not only undermines Bharat’s secular ethos but plays into the hands of extremists on both sides who seek to sow discord and hatred. Instead of fostering unity and understanding, Salam’s work could fuel polarization and mistrust.

The propaganda propagated in Ziya Us Salam’s book, “Being Muslim in Hindu India,” represents gross distortion of reality. By cherry-picking instances of purported discrimination and communal tension while disregarding broader socio-political contexts, the narrative presented serves to perpetuate divisiveness and mistrust. As responsible journalists and citizens, it is imperative to critically examine such narratives and strive towards a more nuanced understanding of Bharat’s Dharmic identity.

The recent article that The New York Times published promoting Ziya Us Salam’s book attempts to portray Muslims in Bharat as victims of oppression. Personal account of Ziya Us Salam has been extrapolated to 30 crore Muslims’ experience and portrayed as rising Islamophobia in Bharat reflecting pervasive nature of discrimination.

The New York Times’ editorials and op-ed articles over past years has regularly portrayed the newspaper’s anti- Hindu, anti-India and anti-Modi stand.

NYT : January 1, 2017 to October 31, 2019 

Date PublishedHeadlineEditorial/Op-ed/Report
Jan 9, 2017Narendra Modi’s Crackdown on Civil Society in India     His government is choking the finances of civil society groups working with the most vulnerable Indians.Op-ed by Rohini Mohan
Jan 26, 2017Vaunted Literary Festival Gets Jolt from India’s Far RightArticle by Ellen Barry
Apr 05, 2017Hindu Cow Vigilantes in Rajasthan, India, Beat Muslim to DeathReport by Suhasini Raj
Apr 17, 2017Anatomy of a lynchingOp-ed by Aatish Taseer
Apr 24, 2017India’s New Face    India’s Hindu nationalists are pushing hard to turn the country into an exclusionary Hindu nation.Op-ed by Hartosh Singh Bal
June 29, 2017Toll from Vigilante Mobs Rises, and India Begins to RecoilReport by Ellen Barry
July 12, 2017Firebrand Hindu Cleric Ascends India’s Political LadderReport by Ellen Barry, Suhasini Raj
July 13, 2017Anti-Muslim Venom Fuels Rise to Power in IndiaArticle by Ellen Barry, Suhasini Raj
May 30, 2018India’s Embattled Democracy Institutions from the judiciary to the media have been corroded during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four years in power.Op-ed, Hartosh Singh Bal
July 21, 2018Far-Right Politics in India’s Year of the Lynch MobReport, by Jeffrey Gettleman, Hari Kumar
July 29, 2018Baba Ramdev’s Holy War    The Indian swami helped bring Hindu nationalists to power as he built his multibillion-dollar business empire. But is his pious traditionalism a mask for darker forces?Article, by Robert Worth
October 24, 2018Angry Mobs at an Indian Temple Ignore Orders to Admit WomenReport by Kai Schultz
Apr 11, 2019Under Modi, a Hindu Nationalist Surge Has Further Divided IndiaArticle by Jeffrey Gettleman, Kai Schultz, Suhasini Raj, Hari Kumar
May 21, 2019The Rise of Modi: India’s Rightward TurnEditorial
May 23, 2019How Narendra Modi Seduced India With Envy and Hate  Op-ed by Pankaj Mishra
Jun 10, 2019Indian Court Convicts 6 Hindus in Rape and Murder of Muslim Girl, 8Report by Kai Schultz
Jun 25, 2019Forced to Chant Hindu Slogans, Muslim Man Is Beaten to Death in IndiaReport by Suhasini Raj, Rod Nordland
Aug 06, 2019Hindu-Led India Puts Clamp on Muslim Kashmir (Also published under the title, “In Kashmir Move, Critics Say, Modi is Trying to Make India a Hindu Nation”)Report by Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Kai Schultz, Hari Kumar
Aug 08, 2019India Tempts Fate in KashmirEditorial

If one were to read these stories, opinion pieces or analyses, central point being made is that “Hindu vigilantes” “lynched” Muslims because they were either transporting cattle to slaughterhouses or because they were allegedly caught with beef in their kitchens. While selective amnesia takes over, New York Times ignored killing of several Hindus including those from most vulnerable sections by Muslim criminals and lynch mobs in recent years.

Prof. Anand Ranganathan listed 250 incidents in which Muslims attacked Hindus lynched, raped, their temples burnt, property destroyed and businesses vandalised over a period of two years i.e. 2017-2018. But, such incidents do not even find place through fleeting references in The New York times.

Ziya Us Salam’s “Being Muslim in Hindu India” and its coverage in The New York Times represents a distortion of reality aimed at sensationalizing interfaith relations in Bharat rooted in their habitual hatred against Hindus, Prime Minister Modi and Bharat.

It is imperative to challenge such misleading narratives and promote a nuanced understanding of India’s pluralistic heritage, where diverse religious communities coexist harmoniously.

(Author is a Delhi based researcher and formerly an Assistant Professor of Political Science)

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