(Republishing my Quora answer for the same question) …This is going to be a long answer because I want to cover many aspects which are related to Hindu-Muslim disunity and also suggest some solution for that.
Before I answer the question, let me narrate how I grew up and what values I was taught when I was very young:
- My first introduction to anything religious happened through Lord Ayyappa, if I try to remember clearly. My father used to wear mala and go to Sabarimala in Kerala every year. Sabarimala is a symbol of religious tolerance, as there is also a shrine of Vavar, a muslim friend of prince Manikandan there. Every Sabarimala devotee has to first go to a mosque of Vavar and offer salutations before having the darshan of Ayyappa. I learned at a very young age how this promotes religious tolerance.
- During my first standard, I studied in Presentation convent, Thachanallur. It was a Christian convent and our classroom was very close to a church. I didn’t know anything about Christianity back then; but for me, Jesus was just another God. I didn’t find anything odd in thinking that way.
- During my second standard, I lived in Colachel, Tamil Nadu, a town where Hindus are a small minority. Majority of the residents in the town are Christians and Muslims. I studied in a Muslim school where I was the only Hindu in my class. We lived in a big compound owned by a Christian family that had a lot of animals including cows, turkeys, hens etc. The compound was full of bones of animals as the Christian family ate meat regularly. Inside the same compound, a Brahmin family, an old Muslim couple and us lived together like a big family. It was also the time when Babar masjid was demolished. But we all lived very peacefully there. We celebrated all our festivals together.
- During my 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th std, I studied in another school in Tittagudi, where I had a close friend called Anbarasan. Their parents had an interesting story. They were Christians; but one day his father wore mala to Sabarimala without his mother’s knowledge. This led their whole family to accept both Christianity and Hinduism. Since I was his close friend, I always went to his house before going to school and used to have a light morning breakfast there. We used to discuss a lot about both religions as my friend was very much devotional.
- In 7th standard, I entered a Hindu school, which is Swami Jayendra Sarasvati Swamigal golden jubilee matriculation higher secondary school in Tirunelveli. There were lots of Muslims and Christians there, as their parents didn’t mind their children studying in a Hindu school. They valued the quality of education more than religion. Each day for us began by reciting slokas from Guru Gita, Dakshinamurthy slokam, Saraswati sloka, Shanti mantra etc. On Fridays, we had an hour long Bhajan session and everyone including Hindus and Muslims sang those songs. And here is one of the songs we used to sing:
Govind Bolo Gopal Bolo
Ram Ram Bolo Hari Nam Bolo
Allah Malik Isha Nanak
Zoarastra Mahavir Buddha Nam Bolo
Govind Bolo Gopal Bolo
Ye Nam Sare Hai Jivan Sahare
Paramananand Ke Kholte Hai Dvare
Jo Nam Chaho Vo Nam Bolo
Prem Se Bolo Bhav Se Bolo
Sing the glorious names of Govinda, Gopala,
Rama, Hari, Allah, Sai, Jesus, Nanak, Zoroaster,
Mahavir, and Buddha. As companions in life,
they open our hearts to supreme bliss. Chant
the name you choose with love and devotion
There is a small shrine of Vinayaka in front of the house. During every Hindu festival we ate prasad together. We celebrated Holi and Raksha Bandhan together
6. During 10th standard, I studied in a school in Thirumalaiappapuram, a small village in Tirunelveli district in between Pottalpudur and Ravanasamudram which had Muslim majority. We had a lot of muslims there, playing together with Hindus. There is a famous dargah in Pottalpudur where Kandhiri is celebrated by people of all religions.
7. My role models during these days also insisted that all names like Allah and Ishvara were various names for one God. I read about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who practiced different religious paths including Sufi Islam and Christian mysticism, attained the same samadhi experience, and proclaimed that all these religions are various paths leading to the same goal. I spoke regarding Ramakrishna and Vivekananda in lectures in my school and won many prizes in competitions conducted by Vivekananda Kendra. I also loved the poems of Bharathiyar, who wrote songs about Jesus and Allah too. I learnt that he had even given a speech about Prophet Muhammad in Pottalpudur dargah during his time.
8. In my personal life, I have had some close Muslim friends. There was a girl called Fathima in my first company who took care of me like a mother. She also fell in love with a Hindu guy and married him. There was also a Fazil Hussain who stood beside me for every problem. In general, I have received lots of love and hospitality from Muslims. So, I have been conditioned to never think that a Muslim or a Christian is an outsider or someone who doesn’t belong to my group or block.
But only when I began to see the kind of comments made by religious extremists online, I woke up to a different reality. The beautiful world of religious tolerance that I saw in school life is now being threatened; I am scared that if we do not act now, we may no longer be able to brag about the unity in diversity in India, after a few generations.
Let us come to the question now. What is the reason for hatred between Hindus and Muslims in India?
The simple reason for any conflict that arises between two groups is In-group favoritism, or in-group–out-group bias:
“In-group favoritism, sometimes known as in-group–out-group bias, in-group bias, intergroup bias, or in-group preference, is a pattern of favoring members of one’s in-group over out-group members. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, in allocation of resources, and in many other ways.
This effect has been researched by many psychologists and linked to many theories related to group conflict and prejudice. The phenomenon is primarily viewed from a social psychology standpoint. Studies have shown that in-group favoritism arises as a result of the formation of cultural groups. These cultural groups can be divided based on seemingly trivial observable traits, but with time, populations grow to associate certain traits with certain behaviour, increasing covariation. This then incentivises in-group bias.”
We derive our sense of self and ego, not only based on the individual abilities and skills but also based on the group that we belong to. You may be someone who were born just 30-40 years before. But you derive your pride from good things about your culture, and even boast about an ancient ancestor of your group for the good things he did; As a Hindu, you take pride in a temple that was built by someone who lived about 1000 years ago, even though you might not have done anything worthwhile yourself to deserve it. You never had a choice when it comes to where you were born. And you had no idea who your ancestor were 5-6 generations before or what kind of values the great-grandfather of your great-grandfather had. But yet, the very fact that you belong to that group makes you have a sense of superiority.
Then you were told that people from a different group destroyed your temple about 500-600 years before. You also come to know that many people who are identified with that same group indulge in terrorism. You start seeing the world in groups instead of seeing individuals. Just like you derive your pride from your group even though you didn’t do anything to deserve it, you also begin to look down on this ‘other’ group and start to stereotype them. You generalize this whole group, and you somehow tend to think that someone who was born about 30-40 years in that ‘different’ group is responsible for temple destruction and terrorsim. You see him as an outsider.
You know, it is human nature to have some kind of prejudice. But the real maturity is to grow to go beyond that. So, if someone tries to pour fuel into your prejudice or provoke your sense of ego based on your group identity, it is very important to recognize and resist that. Failure to do so is the cause of the growing hatred between Hindus and Muslims.
Do you know what keeps fueling this prejudice? Politics! But unfortunately, even based on politics we create groups. We tend to be married to one political party and be committed to vote for that group for life. We get too defensive when trying to support a political party and we even lose friends because of that. Even based on this answer, people will try to judge me and place me in a political group: a congress supporter, a sickular person, an Anti-hindu etc.
But the reality is, I hate today’s politics and how it is going. I am not attached to any political party or committed to vote them for life. In democracy, I am the king and I do not have to wipe the feet of any politician.
Politicians just play with your emotions to get votes. And you give in. Now, your political leaders become your gurus and authorities. You begin to worship them, blindly support them, kill the spirit of democracy and allow the unity of diversity of this country to be threatened. You fall for it when they act like they are the saviours of your religion, which makes you to neglect the true dharma of this land. You end up worshipping Godse and demonise Gandhi!
A politician openly says in media that Hindu boys should rape Muslim girls. A politician openly declares that Godse, who did nothing but kill a 70 year old man, as a patriot. Most of these politicians say things which are utter nonsense and seems to be lacking real intelligence. Yet, we support them, worship them and try too hard to defend them. And when someone tries to point this out, we try to come with a list of faults from another party, so that your group appears better (which is nothing but fooling ourselves). And when a person who belongs to the ‘other’ group questions it, we stereotype him just based on his Arabic name and troll him.
Yet, when someone asks in Quora if India is becoming intolerant, we have the guts to deny it, because accepting it hurts our self-esteem. So, just to save our self-esteem and pride and to make your people feel better, you start denying the reality and deliberately lie; You close your eyes to the hatred and prejudice. And in order to prove that you country is still tolerant, you come up with examples from other countries to show how we are actually better.
Let us say someone comes to your house and says that there is a lot of garbage in your house and that you should clean it. If you respond by saying, “You know, other houses are worse; you haven’t seen them. They have more garbage than we do”, then you are actually being stupid. There is no reason to look at another house. If your house has even a little garbage, you should attempt to clean it for your own good. But if you remain deaf when someone points that out, you just pave way for more garbage to gather in your house in the future. And soon, it will be worse than other houses.
If you want to know how much poison the minds of people have gathered, just look at the nature of comments on Twitter and Facebook; just see how cheap people get in abusing other people inhumanely, just to save their face and establish their superiority. There are Facebook groups tied to political parties who openly abuse the ‘other’ group members and sometimes I am left speechless and concerned after seeing all that.
The true maturity is the ability to see our own faults and criticize ourselves. We have to take our sense of self less seriously. Pointing out the faults in our own group, acknowledging them and being willing to rectify them is not the same as defaming ourselves or putting ourselves down. It only shows that we are always ready to improve and grow.
There are also two other problems that I would like to point out:
- Black and white thinking: Because of too much attachment that we have towards our own culture, we tend to white wash our culture completely; and we tend to ‘black-wash’ another group completely. Caste system? British created it. Sati? That happened because of Muslims.. Our culture? Oh, our culture is golden and there is no fault in our culture at all and never has been. Asram Bapu? He is a Hindu and so I will defend him. Nithyananda? I don’t care how many people he raped; since he is trying to create a Hindu country, I will support him. Raja Raja Chola? Oh, he was a great Hindu king who conquered many countries in South Asia, very peacefully without killing a single human. Did you say Akbar and Shah Jahan were great? Go to Pakistan. We Indians never did anything wrong right from the day God created us, we never suppressed women, we did everything only for good. In fact, the fact that my own grandfather who ran a restaurant in my village had a separate room for dalits, separate bucket to wash their hands etc is something that happened because of some evil ‘outside’ influence. Yes, none of our scriptures have any defects while all other scriptures of the world are complete nonsense.. And people like Rumi, Kabir, etc never existed because nothing good can actually come from the ‘other’ group. This way of thinking is sickness and it needs medicine. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa? Since he said that all religions lead to the same truth, he must be deluded or someone who never existed. (I was told that I am living in a fool’s paradise just because I said the same thing). Have you ever bothered to check why some people say that all religions lead to the same goal? Have you ever bothered to understand why Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi spoke good things about Islam and Christianity? Are you aware that Shirdi sai baba was both a Muslim fakir and a Hindu saint? We are drinking too much alcohol! No, not the ones which are sold in bars; The name of this alcohol is ‘pride’ and it is too intoxicating.
- Conformity: The group we belong to and identify with gives us a sense of belonging. So, we try to unconsciously conform to the norms of our own group. We tend to agree with what the members of our own group say, and this takes precedence over logic or ethics. Because, when our self-esteem is threatened, our mind is willing to compromise on logic and ethics. This is a fact in psychology; but the true maturity is to see through that and go beyond that. Guess what, we are not doing that! We simply tend to support someone’s opinion just because they belong to our group, especially if that opinion shows our group in a favourable way and puts down the other. That is like eating chocolate for us. I have seen many intelligent people simply agreeing to things just to conform. And Quora or any social media platform that signals an acceptance by your group members through upvotes and shares acts as a perfect breeding ground for all this.
How to increase Hindu – Muslim unity?
Hindus need to take the first step for that. Why Hindus? Because, we are the ones who claim that we are tolerant than the others. It is our Dharma which teaches that the world is one family. Rather than asking a different group to be tolerant with us and be peaceful us, we need to set an example by doing the first step. Only by seeing examples, other people get inspired. When you make religious tolerance as the highest value to conform to, people from other religions will also start to conform to those values. As I said, conformity is something natural to humans.
What we call as Hinduism is a huge library. And we have a huge list of saints who are important. On the other hand, Islam has just one central holy book and just one important Prophet with whom all of them all emotionally connected. So, even to compare Hinduism and Islam and argue which one is better is very unfair. It is like a huge army with thousands of weapons fighting with a single man who has a small knife. Who has to be more generous here?
You can very easily insult a person who practices Islam. Just cherry pick the so called ‘sword’ verses from Quran and ignore all the verses in the Quran that says things like ‘there should be no compulsion in religion’, or ‘If you kill one human, it is like killing the whole of humanity’. Pick some controversial verses from Hadiths that were written more than a hundred years after the death of Muhammad and use those verses to portray Islam as completely evil. Most importantly, ignore all the verses which are good. On top of that, try to insult the only person that they revere and put him down by calling him with abusive names, without caring about the historicity. Don’t worry, the whole world is with you when you do that.. Many people will come and agree with you and even rejoice at the insults that you are passing. And when you do this, forget about the claim that your religion is tolerant.
Because, the beauty of stupidity is that you can have double standards. On the one hand you can claim that your religion is very tolerant, generous, and forgiving; on the other hand you can go down to any level of intolerance to put down the ‘other’ groups and rejoice in making fun of them. Why should you care about the feelings of an innocent harmless Muslim who is already too scared about the hell fire and is in a dilemma? Why should you have any compassion to any Muslim to help him deal with his cognitive dissonance? After all, 600 years before someone from their group destroyed a temple and somewhere in the world, a sick-minded terrorist is bombing people; and this innocent Muslim is responsible for all of that!
There is an intelligent priest in Quora, an expert in Pancharatra and Mimamsa and a ‘proud’ Shudra, who actually contributes to pouring fuel in this glowing fire of intolerance. I like most of his answers. He is never abusive himself and is a very nice person. But one thing he does is, constantly cater to the needs of some extremist Hindus who are looking for some dose in the alcohol of superiority. Whenever Islam is put down, many people who are looking for this dose rejoice and upvote. And, probably the priest also gets some comfort because now he conforms to the opinions of a particular group and his need for the sense of belonging is satisfied. Who cares about a different perspective on Islam? The world has already made up their mind about it and we can all join in the chorus. Well, while this does absolutely nothing to stop terrorisim and obviously cannot undo the calamities which has happened in the past, it continues to spoil the ‘proud’ people. May be the priest doesn’t know what is happening in India or doesn’t care about the politician who said that Hindu boys should rape Muslim girls or that Godse is a patriot (After all, these politicians are Hindus, right?).
Please remember. It is the comparison of religions (to feel superior) that makes the differences and gaps in humanity larger and larger. Dharma is a path; it is not an identity. The focus of Dharma is to ensure the well-being of yourself and others. If you want to brag, please pick something else. Buy fancy clothes and post your pictures on Instagram, write beautiful and useful answers on Quora and enjoy the pride of being appreciated, go to the gym and build a six-pack to show off, play cricket and impress others etc. But do not touch dharma! Dharma is not for you to brag.
OK. Now, let me tell you about my views on Muhammad; This may help you to get a different perspective:
- Historians agree that we can’t be sure about Muhammad’s life at all. The only thing we can say for sure is the fact that a person called Muhammad existed.
- But they do agree that Islam improved the status quo of the pre-Islamic society. Islamic society was an improvement of what was existing.
- We also know that Muhammad was invited to be a mediator in Medina to handle religious intolerance. It is not an opportunity that some cruel bigot can get.
- If a person is cruel and he is just after power and money, there is no reason for him to promote charity, welfare of orphans etc or even name his religious doctrine as ‘Islam’ which is a word related to peace and surrender. There is no reason why there should be even a sentence in Quran that says that there should be no compulsion in religion.
- Human beings are not generally good in judging others. We really do not know another person. Trying to judge a person who lived about 1500 years ago based on some bits and pieces of information that we have is not going to work out.
- No human being is perfect; so I am pretty sure that Muhammad was not a perfect man either.
Also, please understand this: A human being’s behavior, personality, moral sense etc strictly depends on two things: Nature and nurture. Pre-Islamic society was very backwards and this was the society that Muhammad was brought up in. Now ask yourself these three questions:
- If you had been born in 5th century Arabia, what kind of person would you be?
- If Muhammad with his same genetic make up is born in today’s world in a developed country, what kind of person he would be?
- If Muhammad was born in 5th century India instead of Arabia, what kind of person he would have been?
Place Muhammad in his own time and in his own society. Before you try to judge him, place him in the stage where he belongs to. So, abusing Muhammad in an attempt to criticize Islam is not only unfair, it will only make you as a ‘hater’ in the eyes of Muslims. As soon as you talk ill about Muhammad, all the ears will be closed and you can’t expect any open-mindedness from the other side, even if you want to engage in some healthy discussion. At least, try to understand human psychology.
Now, my views about Islam:
- Islam means ‘submission’ or surrender to the supreme God. This concept of surrender exists in all religions. For me, this is the only criteria that defines a Muslim. In that sense, I am a Muslim too.
- Allah is just another word for God or Ishvara. I am not too obsessed with names. Also, this is what Ramakrishna, Kabir, Rumi, Vivekananda, Gandhi etc taught me. And the opinion of a modern Godse fan or Savarkar’s fan cannot change that. (By the way, Savarkar praised Nazism and he said that Indians should do the same thing to Muslims. So, I think any political party that is associated with this guy is evil).
- I reject the concept of eternal hell because it contradicts with Quran itself. I think the idea of hell and heaven were only brought to control the order of society based on fear. These ideas were first popularized by Plato.
- Quran says, ‘everywhere you turn, there is a face of God’. So, as long as you see the face of God in an idol, it is not shirk.
- I do not agree that Muhammad is the last messenger of God. In fact, Muhammad was considered as seal of Prophets, which seem to indicate that Muhammad concluded and finalized the teachings of specific prophets accepted by Jews and Christians.
- I do not agree with Sharia laws and I think most of them are outdated.
- I am completely against the cruel blasphemy laws, killing people in the name of faith or anything that is unethical, which is done in the name of Islam.
I do not have to abuse Muhammad or totally blackwash Islam to say all that. And I am pretty sure that we can come up with a list of problematic aspects in many religious scriptures of many religions.
When you come across any idea from any religion, there are only two simple questions to ask:
- Is it rational?
- Is it ethically correct?
If yes, accept it; if no discard it. This was the simple message of Mahatma Gandhi.
Hindu-Muslim conflicts are caused when we see these religions as an identity. But we don’t have to. We can discuss independant ideas without worrying about which religion it comes from.
Please remember.. You cannot make a person to leave his religion by condemning his religion. This has never worked. Most of the conflicts in religions have been resolved by syncretism and exchange of ideas. Even Shankaracharya united six different traditions under Vedantic philosophy by fusion of ideas and not by completely condemning any tradition. In fact, Muhammad himself did exactly that to unite the people of Arabia under a common law.
If you want to look at Islam from different perspective, please read this: Prophet Muhammad Exposed – A Different Perspective That Everyone Should Read
There is also a difference between Hinduism and Dharma. We have all been misled on that. Please read this to know more: Hinduism and Dharma: The Distinction between a Religion and a Way of Life.