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The Language of Hate
By M. Zeyaul Haque

Some Hindi newspapers are crafting a newspeak that portrays Muslims in an extremely unpleasant colour

M. Zeyaul HaqueRecently the Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagaran published an article on its edit page which was typical of Jagaran-style journalism in terms of its blatant anti-Muslim stance. The title could be roughly translated as "The spreading fire of religious hatred". Two points about the article are worth noting: its use of language in a mischievous Goebelian manner, and the blatant falsehood of its assertions.

First, its dishonest use of language. Whenever Jagaran has to talk about some unpleasant feature of religions, like bigotry or communal riot, it invariably uses the word mazhabi, instead of dharmik, which is the Hindi synonym for the Urdu word. However, whenever it has to refer to religious virtues like piety, austerity and compassion, it would invariably write dharmik or adhyatmik, but never mazhabi. This is the most glaring example of crafting a language of hate and employing it to malign the "other". The article under review too talks about mazhabi nafrat (religious hatred) rather than dharmik baimanasya.

Jagaran has been at it for quite a few years by now. For instance, whenever it has to talk about some misdeed of a woman, it invariably refers to her as an aurat, rather than a mahila. The latter word is used only to describe a woman either in neutral or laudatory terms. Aurat and mazhabi are only two weapons in a large lexical arsenal that newspapers like Jagaran have developed over the years to be used in the campaign of calumny against Muslims. This is part of a larger cultural aggression mounted by a section of the media.

The article asserts (of course, wrongly) that all over the world terrorist operations are carried out exclusively by Muslims and, whenever there is a war or a civil war, either one of the parties or both of them are Muslim. Needless to say, this is a transparent lie. For instance, Latin American insurgents are Christian, the LTTE is almost exclusively Hindu, the IRA is Roman Catholic and Basque separatist fighters are Christian. The writer of the Jagaran article, Bhanu Pratap Shukla, is an experienced journalist, and there is no possibility of his not knowing that the terrorists who killed former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi belonged to the LTTE, and the terrorists who killed the last British Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, were from the IRA. None of these groups is Muslim.

Despite the noise against Muslims and Islam, the fact remains that Muslims are still a minority in the business of terrorism. Even the latest U.S. Department of State list of terrorist organizations has far fewer Muslim entries than others, contrary to Mr Shuklaís claims.

Historically too, Muslims had no major role to play in the evolution of terrorism. For instance, some of the earliest terrorists were the Sicaris, Jewish zealots who fought against Romans after the fall of Masada nearly 2500 years ago. Among the earliest Muslims to be identified as terrorists were the Assassins (Hashshasheen in Arabic), Ismailites who specialized in murdering public figures in the early Sunni caliphates. The word zealot comes from Jewish history, while assassin is merely the anglicized version of the Arabic Hashshasheen. On the other hand, the early thugs were of Hindu origin, worshippers of Kali, who cheated and murdered people as an offering to the goddess. The words thug and thuggery in modern English are thus of Indian origin. All this goes on to show that terrorism is not the exclusive intellectual property of Muslims, nor is it an Islamic invention, as Mr Shukla would have us believe.

That violence is not an Islamic prerogative is evident from a cursory look at the 20th century history. The two World Wars which together killed, maimed and dislocated more people than all wars put together in the last 1000 years, was not the handiwork of Muslims. In fact, Islam and Muslims had no role to play in them, except as victims. Nor were Marxism, Nazism and Fascism Islamic doctrines. Each of these claimed millions upon millions of lives.

Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Pol Pot were not Muslims; each one of them killed far more people than the total number of casualties in the entire history of Islamís war against non-Muslim adversaries. Even Genghis Khan, another mass killer, was not a Muslim. Violence has only a tenuous relationship with Islam, far more tenuous than it has with most other faiths and political doctrines. Interestingly, all the Mongol mass killers (including Genghis and Hulagu) were Buddhists, not Muslims. Even Pol Potís faith is Buddhist.

This is only a brief account of how off the mark the exaggerated claims of Islamís penchant for violence can be. However, people like Bhanu Pratap Shukla have already made up their mind and there is no scope for argument. Of course, he can cite his own set of "facts and arguments". For that matter, anybody can muster enough "arguments" to put virtually any faith in the dock. Mutual mud-slinging is one luxury which has to be avoided like plague. Let us hope newspapers like Dainik Jagaran and columnists like Mr Shukla focus on improving the lives of their own constituency rather than wasting their energies on Islam and Muslims.
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