03 January 2004

Negationism In India - Chapter Two - Negationism In India: "In 1984 a citizen of India, H.K. Chakraborty, filed a petition with the West Bengal state government to ban the Quran. He added a list of 37 Quran verses which "preach cruelty, incite violence and disturb public peace" (to use the terminology of the Penal Code), 17 verses which "promote, on grounds of religion, feelings of enmity, hatred and ill-will between different communities in India", and 31 verses which "insult other religions as also the religious beliefs of other communities". Indeed, even after subtracting some verses which could be regarded as legitimate polemics (esp. against the Christian belief in Incarnation), there are about 60 passages in the Quran that formulate a doctrine of demonization of non-Muslims, and of hatred and war against them. If the Indian laws prohibit communal hate propatganda, Mr. Chakraborty was right in considering the Quran as an excellent candidate for banning. But even after reminder-letters, the West Bengal authorities gave no response.

At this stage, Mr. Chakraborty met Chandmal Chopra, an adherent of the extremely non-violent Jain sect, who had taken up the study of the Quran in order to understand the plight of the Hindus in Bangladesh, who are gradually being chased from their ancestral homeland by the Muslims. In 1985 Chandmal Chopra filed a petition with the Calcutta high Court, asking for a ban on the Quran. He added a list with reprehensible verses from the Quran: 29 passages from the Quran (1 to 8 verses in length) that incite violence against unbelievers, 15 which promote enmity, 26 which insult other religions.

Some typical examples are: "Mohammed in Allah's apostle. Those who follow him are merciless for the unbelievers but kind to each other." (Q.48:29) "Make war on them until idolatry does not exist any longer and Allah's religion reigns universally." (Q.8:39, also 2:193) "We break with you; hatred and enmity will reign bnetween us until ye believe in Allahh alone." (Q. 60.4) "The Jews and Christians and the Pagans will burn forever in the fire of hell. They are the vilest of all creatures." (Q.98:51) There are dozens of Quran verses like this which in their unanimity cannot be dismissed as "isolated, mistranslated" little accidents "quoted out of context".

Chandmal Chopra stated in his writ petition: "The cited passages in the Quran... arouse in Muslims the worst sectarian passions and religious fanaticism, which has manifested itself in murders, massacres, plunder, arson, rape and destruction or desecration of sacred places both in historical and in the contemporary period, not only in India but in large parts of the world."

The petition created a lot of furore in Calcutta and abroad. Muslims created street riots. The government intervened and put heavy pressure on the judicial process. The secret service was put to work to find possible objectionable biographical data of the petitioner. The court used some dirty tricks to disturb the peritioner's case, like changing dates and changing the object of a session to which the petitioner had been summoned, during the same session itself, with apparent foreknowldege of the government's counsel.

Both the authorities and the court violated the secular basis of the Indian Constitution by using as justification for their policy c.q. judgement a statement of religious belief. The Marxist West Bengal government stated in its affidavit: "The Quran contains the words of God Almighty revealed to His last Prophet Mohammed... As the Holy Quran is a Divine Book, no earthly power can sit in judgement on it, and no court of law has jurisdiction to adjudicate it."

The judge dismissed the petition on this ground: "Banning or forfeiture of the Quran... would amount to abolition of the Muslim religion itself." Indeed, the very text which preaches war against the unbelievers is the core text of Islam, so abolition of Islamic hate propaganda amounts to abolition of Islam itself. Islam without hatred is not Islam. The judge further observed: "This book is not prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between religions. Because of the Quran no public tranquillity has been disturbed upto now..." - a resounding statement of negationism.

This verdict was only what the petitioner expected: because of political pressure, an anti-Quran verdict was simply unthinkable, and moreover, the Penal Code keeps scriptures and classics outside its own purview. The petitioner has made it clear that he considers book-banning counterproductive, and that the controversial petition was meant to direct public attentiton towards the Quran's contents: people should read it, because Indian citizens have a right to know why their country is plagued with never-ending religious riots.

When Chandmal Chopra had the documents of the legal dispute published, the administration decided to prosecute him and his publisher on the basis of the very same Penal Code articles which he had invoked to request a ban on the Quran. The case is still pending.

Beside H.K. Chakraborty's and Chandmal Chopra's petitions, a third text which pointed at the Quran as a source of religious violence, was a poster published in Delhi (1986) by I.S. Sharma and Rajkumar Arya, prominent members of the Hindu Mahasabha, a small political party more extreme than the BJP. The poster carried the title: "Why do riots break out in this country?" It showed 24 Quran verses, such as: "Fight the unbelievers in your surroundings, and let them find harshness in you" (Q.9:123), and : "Kill the unbelievers wherever ye find them,, capture and besiege them and prepare them every kind of ambush" (Q.9.5).

Both publishers were arrested on the basis of arts. 153A and 295A. However, they were acquitted. The judged ruled that they had made a "fair criticism", for: "With all due respect to the holy Quran, an attentive perusal of the verses shows that these are indeed harmful and preach violence and have the potential to cause conflicts between the Muslims and the others." An appeal against the court ruling is still pending.

This criticism of the Quran pulls the carpet from under the negationists' feet. The enmity between Muslims and Pagans is clearly not a back-projection from contemporary artificially created religio-political tensions. Neither is it a conflict which developed historically long after Mohammed and which can be reduced to socio-economical factors. This enmity is, on the contrary, present in the very core of Islamic doctrine.

With this information about Quranic doctrine, we find that the negationist thesis is not only contradicted by a massive body of authentic evidence; it is also highly implausible in itself. For, the thesis that Islam in India was not systematically (proportionately to its possibilities in given situations) in conflict with other religions, claims in fact that Islam in India deviated from its own principles, and behaved completely uncharacteristically for centuries on end. It is methodologically more usual to provisionally assume a consistent and probable bahaviour (viz. that adherents of a God-given call to war against the unbelievers effectively make war on the unbelievers, and that a religion which persecuted other religions everywhere else, did the same in India), and only give this up if positive evidence for a less plausible and more inconsistent course has been found. But what positive evidence there is, points in the opposite direction: a long list of Muslim invaders and rulers faithfully put the Quranic injuctions into practice."