That Hindus and Muslims are today alienated from each other is a matter of concern. Mistrust and lack of understanding on core issues are primarily responsible for their mutual antagonism. RSS shakhas are anathema to Muslims, and madrasas remain an enigma for Hindus. This gap between perceptions and attitudes of the two communities should be reduced, if not removed. Hindus are the majority and lay claims to the virtues of magnanimity and tolerance. Let them, therefore, take the initiative.
On January 30, 1971, the well-known Muslim intellectual and journalist, Saifud-din Jilani, interviewed MS Golwalkar, who was considered a guru by RSS members. He asked Guruji a question: "Don't you think that responsibility of integrating the Indian nation lies mainly on the majority?" Golwalkar replied, "Yes, I sincerely feel so. But, the Muslims also share this responsibility." His various public comments are proof that Golwalkar favoured a dialogue with Muslim leaders.
That the RSS is still willing to engage in a constructive exchange with the representatives of Indian Muslims is heartening. There have been reports that RSS leaders are likely to demand that Muslims stop calling Hindus kafirs. This term is derogatory and provocative, given that Hindus consider themselves far more spiritually enlightened than the Jahala of 7th century Arab society. It is said the RSS may also insist that Muslims stop using the word jihad, their instrument of protest against Hindus.
It is true the words kafir and jihad are often misused by ordinary Muslims. But they are equally misunderstood by Hindus. Their Quranic connotations are faith-neutral. In many verses in the Quran, kafir is used to describe an ungrateful person who does not express his gratitude towards God for the blessings and bounties bestowed upon mankind. With the passage of time, the word became synonymous with non-Muslims. The renowned Muslim scholar, Maulana Abul A'la Madudi, in his widely-read commentary on the Quran, Tafhim-ul- Quran, presents various categories of kafirs. The first is a person who denies the existence of God. The second is he who believes in God but does not tread his path. The third accepts the injunctions of God, but does not accept his messengers. Lastly, a kafir is a man who discriminates between divine messengers, accepting some and rejecting others according to his prejudices. In the light of these definitions, both Muslims and Hindus should ask themselves if they are believers or kafirs.
Maulana Madudi explains that jihad, as defined in the Quran, is an instrument of self-defence in the hands of those who are persecuted for their religious beliefs and their programme of social reformation. This simply means that jihad is necessary to any religious group prevented from cherishing and upholding its own faith in its fight against oppressors.
The RSS recently counselled Muslims in India to seek the good-will of the majority community in the interests of their own security. This is unwarranted. Communal harmony is the result of mutual trust and sympathy. In any civilised society, it is the state that guarantees the security of its people. Religious communities in a modern nation cannot recruit senas or lashkars to do the job. The latter promote bitterness and hatred and, instead of protecting their people, ensure their destruction in communal conflagrations and civil war.
Published in DailyPioneer