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Identity crisis and extremism

An identity crisis is a phenomenon where a people’s identity is defined and manipulated in a particular way to exploit it for political advantages. Identity crisis then leads to extremism in politics and the dominating cult excludes others on untenable grounds. A surge in intolerance and extremism in India and other countries has much to do with this identity crisis and stagnancy in thought where on the basis of religion or race others are targeted. This ideological dilemma provides an opportunity to extremist forces to build an obscurantist ideology upon ignorance, wrong interpretation of faith(s) and history and racial superiority. RSS and its political face BJP are using this identity crisis for their political gains. Life for other religious and political minorities has become hard. A dogmatic approach to religion and culture and its increasing influence upon politics is a serious threat to the regional peace and universal values of rule of law and justice. The Citizenship Amendment Act and its political impact on Indian Muslims is a manifestation of this cancerous trend. Millions of Hindus live in Islamic world in peace but this identity crisis will ultimately affect them too.

This mis-interpretation of history has obvious contradictions. Afghan influence on the Indo-Pak history, culture and geopolitics remains relevant. India has made huge investment in Afghanistan and enjoys good diplomatic relations with it primarily to undermine Pakistan’s interests therein. India is also providing scholarships to hundreds of Afghan students who carry back home hate for Pakistan inculcated by India. But Mehmood of Ghazni, Allauddin Khilji, Muhammad of Ghor and Ahmed Shah Abdali are villains in India. Indian Muslims and Pakistan are unacceptable to India. India named its missiles, made by an Indian Muslim scientist late Dr. Abdul Kalam, after Hindu warriors like Prithiviraj Chohan who fought against Ghori.

Similar contradictions are also noticeable in Pakistan. Pakistan has had uncomfortable, if not totally hostile, relations with Afghanistan all along. Afghanistan fueled several controversies, financed and harboured separatist movements in Pakistan. Pakistan named its missiles after Afghan warriors. They are heroes in the curriculum. Islam is confused with Afghans. Pakistan hosted millions of Afghans during the war.

The Indo-Pak subcontinent has two great religions-Hinduism and Islam. There are about 700 million Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and over 1300 million Hindus. Indian historians, mostly Hindus, portray Muslims as invaders and spoilers. Indians, who converted to Islam, are treated as an outcaste. Muslim contribution to Indian culture and civilization is ignored. True face of Islam and its message of peace and love disseminated by the Muslim saints is never shown because that would expose and falsify the Hinduwata ideology of hate and hegemony. From Nehru to Rajmohan Gandhi and from Mojamdar to Mahajan, almost every Indian historian mixes and hardly distinguishes between India and Hindus. They do not admit that Mughal Empire was different from other dynasties. It represented Indians from all castes and creeds. To them, Akbar is acceptable but not Aurangzeb, who subdued rebellions against his power and revived Islamic learning and teachings. He did not defile and prohibit other faiths. He is a villain. His name has been removed from a road in Delhi named after him. An American historian Audrey Trusche in his book titled Aurangzeb exposed lies of these Indian historians about this Mughal ruler. There is an immutable imprint of Indian Muslim culture all over the subcontinent. This cultural holocaust is unacceptable.

Muslims in the subcontinent make cultural references from outside, Arab, Afghan and Iran, including languages, such as Persian and Arabic. Indo-Islamic culture is sufficiently rich. However, due to a lack of imagination, Indian Muslims continue making reference to foreign content and form. Indian Hindus claim that Indian culture is wholly Indian. The fact is that Indian culture has many Muslim contributions. This puts two people in clash. As the people are highly emotional, they are easily swayed by the religious elements and politicians. Although there is a surge in extremism everywhere, the case in the subcontinent is different. It threatens lives of 1.5 billion people.

Extremism in Pakistan started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistan was a very peaceful society. The jihadi literature, training and then equipping of the youth studying in religious seminaries with the consent and aid of America was started to counter the Red Bear that threatened Pakistan too. Ultimately these elements threatened the state. The situation has been retrieved after unparalleled and heavy sacrifices. Again, after the second invasion of Iraq several heavily footnoted books were published in the West which ignited centuries old sectarian divide amongst Muslims under the old formula of divide et imperia. Islamic State and recent flames of war in the Middle East are the result of that old divide on sectarian lines. Pakistan must not take sides and repeat its mistakes.

It seems that despite some economic progress in recent years majority of the people in this part of the world still live in abject poverty and ignorance that provides a fertile ground for nurturing destructive ideologies. Every religion teaches peace and love for humanity. The Citizenship Amendment Act is the result of a bigotry, hate and insecurity in the minds of the present Indian Government, which intends to ‘purify’ India from ‘infidels’. Nationalist Indian Muslims and celebrities like Naseeruddin Shah today feel insecure. They are being asked to prove their Indian identity. Prophets of doom and destruction have learnt to manipulate truth. Opinions can be manipulated by using new methods and techniques. Today India needs Ghokaley, Bose, Bhagat Singh and Sarojani Naidu.

Pakistan is a reality. No power on earth can undo it. Its people are bound by a common history and culture. It is the home of many religions. It is the cradle of the oldest civilizations. Its people can rightly take pride in it. It has its local heroes to commend and eulogize. Any reference to Afghans warlords must not be interpreted as a reference to Islam. Muslims in the subcontinent should find their identity in this land without compromising on their fundamental tenets of faith. India belongs to Muslims as it belongs to Hindus. The Constitution of India embodies high values of secularism, rule of law justice and equality. Indian Supreme Court declared them as basic features. It must rise to the occasion and reclaim custody of the Constitution from the transitory and manipulative groups who are threatening the pluralistic ethos of India.

MUHAMMAD WAQAR RANA, "Identity crisis and extremism," Business recorder. 2020-02-03.
Keywords: Social sciences , Political advantages , Afghan influence , Diplomatic relations , Citizenship Amendment , Jihadi literature , Indian culture , Bhagat Singh , Sarojani Naidu , Prithiviraj Chohan , Naseeruddin Shah

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