My memories go back by about twenty some years. That was the time when ours was the only non-Muslim household in a radius of, may be 1 km
One day my Mother was rather angry..... Our neighbouring house had a little girl named Bushara. Three years elder to me, elder sister of my best friend at that time- Haneefa (Ani). Her parents- Koya and Pathumma, had just realised that inspite of being in 2nd or 3rd grade Bushara cannot read or write Malayalam alphabets, eventhough she can byheartedly recite the Quran. So they send her to my mom, a teacher, for some extra coaching during summer vacation- after all most times they are at my house only playing with me
What angered my mom was not that. Days after the Mullahs of the nearby mosque learned it, they sent word to Koya and Pathumma. "DON'T SEND YOUR KID TO A KAFFIRICHI'S HOUSE FOR LEARNING" (Kafirichi= a Malluised form for kafir woman)
Pathumma, who told my mom about it, was in tears, but what can she do ? My mom kept saying "Poor girl"
And yet, if I remember correctly, my mom & father , many times through me (Hey show Bushara how to write "Ma" da), tried... And the kids and parents were only happy to... Every now and then I would read out Mahabharata and Ramayana from Paico publishers to a bunch of Muslim kids (many of whom could not read properly inspite of being in3rd or 4th grade).Sometimes we would enact them- as always Arjuna was my favorite, and Ani wud be Bhima.. My mom, who is otherwise crazy about cleanliness, would only say "can't they take bath and come?".. "Can't they keep the chappal outside and come?".. Well, she would have said that even if it were Hindu kids
I can quote lot more such examples of harmony -how these same poor/uneducated Muslims would feed us almost everyday of the Ramzaan , in the evening while they break the fast... Almost the whole of Mahabharata, I watched together with a Christain family in their house, because we did not have TV. In my 12th, among a number of people, I chose to have a christian roommmate, who was perhaps the rare one whom inspite of two year association, I almost never fought with - Rahul Thomas Paul was of course an exceptionally calm person
What am I trying to say ? Well, today, a friend of mine sent me an article by Thomas Friedman of NYT.. There was a technical error in mentioning India as the second largest "Muslim country", instead of second largest Muslim populated country. But what struck me more was the almost complete absence of the term Hindu in the article, inspite of saying again and again that Indian Muslims have been *comparitively* mild in their reaction to the Danish cartoons ....(especially considering their large number)
So, Inspite of such overwhelming notion of comparatively-more-peaceful Indian Muslims , why hasn't the world not bothered to know more about the Hindu angle to things ?
Imagine the kind of experiences I quoted, in any other country .. A Muslim kid sitting and listening to another religion's text ? And more, enacting it ? So what made it possible in India ? Just saw a news item where a Muslim boy won a Ramayana competition or something.. Why doesn't it invite a fatwa in India, considering the high idolatory in the story ? Why is is that Indian Muslims can sing Vandemaataram, when Quran clearly says that a Muslim cannot worship anyone else, or any other concept but Allah ? (similar example could also be found in Indonesia and other parts of south east were there is still a great Hindu influence, atleast in traditions)
Why did the Muslim kids in my Christian school not refuse to say Christain or even Hindu prayers and when even the "liberal Muslims" elsewhere in the world, including US perhaps would not let their kids do it ?
Before trying to answer these, let me switch back and first debunk some myths that Freidman has created, knowingly or not
1) A good economy and succesful Muslim businessmen and indivdiuals is the solution : Well, what about Saudi Arabia ? What about Osama Bin Laden ?
2) Good education is the solution : What about Omar Sheikh.? What about AQKhan ?
If only you study carefully, you will realise that those two issues may help, but is not a solution in itself
And yeah, Koya and Pathumma were neither rich (they struggled to get each of their 4 or 5 daughters get married- some of them twice and thrice) nor were they educated (they perhaps even did not know how to read and write)- and yet, they had the humanity in them to want to see their kids educated (if only the Mullahs were a little more obliging), and with their full knowledge, the kids continued to know about Krishna and Rama from a kafir kid !!
So then what makes the Indian Muslim different ?
Let me start off with my oft repeated statemnt. Human Beings are in general good. Its bad ideologies that corrupt them. And its the atmosphere that corrupts them more or rather prevents from being corrective .
The Quran has fundamental issues with it. Unlike good books which people can take pains and misinterpret, you need to take pains to spiritually interpret islam. Its very difficult for one to believe that Jehad is a war against the non-believer in oneself when plethora of Quranic verses clearly mention non-believers as set of people, and so on. And adding fuel to the existing fire are the Mullahs
Now, comes the crucial part - well, I as an individual may not be practicing this, but I am glad India as a collective has- Instead of being blunt about this fact (like the Danish cartoon's), Hindus, I would say, have lead by example. By being nice , by being spiritual. And a reasonable Indian Muslim would immediately see that the environment is different, different from a hostile European environment.
Which Hindu in India has ever seriously offended prophet Mohammed ? Inspite of his Gods been repeatedly shown in the nude and erotic postures by a Muslim ? Thats because Hindus value others' religion - good or bad, how muchever illogical it sounds to you..
Even some one like me, who otherwise claim to be starightforward even if it meant not caring about being politically correct, and have my own personal notions on the prophet based on his life, when it comes to telling that to a Muslim, can't ignore the feeling of something in my throat. "Cowardice" you may, "hypocrisy" you may, sorry, all I can say is, I am a Hindu
So thats were the environment plays such an important role. Be good, and others will follow. A Muslim parent knows that if his kid is being told the Mahabharata by a Hindu kid, or even a Hindu teacher, thats not with an intention to convert - well may be convert one spiritually, but not "religiously".. Trust... and whats more interesting, Hindus have done it without even claiming credit.. "the gentle dew that falls, unseen and unheard off, and yet bringing into blossom, the fairest of the roses"... even today !
This is not an advice to fellow Hindus who disagree with tenets of other relgion... to feel guilty that you have not been nice enuf to other religions... Neither is it a call to sit and watch silently and passively if injustice is being done to you..
Rather, this is an honest note of congratulations, to fellow Indians who have lived in such harmony, and especially to my fellow Hindus, for being true to their religion as said in "Krunvantu Viswamaryam" ("lets ennoble the world")