The global perception of Islam in the subcontinent has changed significantly. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are looked down upon as undeveloped and undemocratic societies because of the issues they face. Many believe that Islam has not gone through any reforms, unlike the other religious and civil societies. This view is now acquiring global acceptability with the recent blasphemy issues in Pakistan. Well, to understand Islam in the subcontinent, we must understand the context in which Islam was perceived by a common man in the history.
Before Islam came to India, India was a land where castism was practised by Aryans to suppress the tribal natives. This was the believed order of things. Buddhism tried to address this issue but feebly succeeded, as Hinduism responded with revived rules and ideas. In the 11th century, Islam came to India along with a new system of belief. Islam came with the notion of Allah, who created all human beings as ‘equal’. Soon afterwards, during the Sufi movement, the Hindu notion of spiritual exclusion, which was based on caste, tribe and race, was challenged.
Perhaps this was the time when many Hindus of suppressed castes joined Islam, where people were treated equally. By 1947, about 31 per cent of Indians were Muslims and thus the present Pakistan and Bangladesh emerged as Muslim nations. So, Islam among many other things, has played significant role in fighting castism in India. Today, when we Hindus and the people of the wild-west claim that ‘blasphemy’ exists only in Islam, we must stop a while and look into our own history, culture and practises. Only a hundred years back, Sati was common in India. In most cases, women were drugged and burnt alive, against their will. In tribal regions, even today, women are burnt at stake in the name of witchcraft. Cast based atrocities continue in most parts of India. Among all other things, today, Pakistan is at-least not a victim of caste based politics.
I understand that one wrong can not justify another. But we should avoid commenting on our neighbour’s house when our’s is equally (if not less) dirty. That too, when driven purely by a religious or nationalist bias, I find it utterly premature.