Every now and then there is a controversy on Indian-Twitter which bleeds over into my timeline that I have to notice.
Some quick observations:
– There are those who lambast the critics of this ad. Many of the critics are low-IQ vulgarians. So the criticism is not without foundation. But, most of the responses dodge the gendered nature of the objection. The fact is that in Islam it is understood that Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women. It is also tolerated for Christians and Jews to retain their religion after marriage. The children are considered Muslim. This practice in a patriarchal society was seen as a boon to the Islamic nation.
The advertisement plays into this Islamic trope. The converse of this is that most interpretations of sharia ban the marriage of Muslim women to non-Muslim men. Again, the rationale for this is straightforward: the children inherit the religion of the father, and therefore the children are lost to Islam. If the supporters of the beauty of the advertisement of interfaith marriage believe in this custom, then they should support more speech. In particular, they should support an advertisement where a Hindu man marries a Muslim woman in a Hindu ceremony to show that there is nothing wrong with this act so long as the people consent freely.
But, this sort of advertisement might incite Muslims, because the community may not tolerate a contravention of their social norms. Here, the low-IQ vulgarians do have a point, don’t they? India’s “secularists” tolerate a level of regression and backwardness in Islamic social mores that they wouldn’t tolerate from Hindus. Some of this is the heckler’s veto, but some of this is the bigotry of low expectations.
– The other half of this are the delusions and paranoia of India’s Hindu majority and in particular Hindu nationalists. The idea that Muslim men are “sensual” and irresistible to Hindu women strikes most as bizarre and strange. But, it is a fact that Muslims and Islam do view themselves in an expansive light. I have listened to Muslims talk about the day when all Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists will no longer be, and everyone will be Muslim. But, many Hindus have internalized Muslim self-image and norms. The assumption and expectation is that any marriage between a Hindu and a Muslim will produce new Muslims. Why not new Hindus?
When Islam was the religion of the hegemonic people of the subcontinent obviously many Hindus became Muslims. The marriage of Mughals to Hindu Rajput women produced new Muslim rulers. To protect their identity Hindus seem to have undergone an involution.* This is not shocking, Jews underwent a similar process under Christianity and later Islam. An illustration of this involution is the story of Mastani and Krishna Rao, later Shamsher Bahadur. As most readers know Mastani was the daughter of a Hindu maharajah and a Persian Muslim concubine. She identified as a Hindu, like her father. But her son was raised a Muslim. Here is what Wikipedia says:
Shamsher Bahadur was the son of Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I and his second wife Mastani, whose mother was a Persian Muslim. Bajirao wanted Shamsher Bahadur to be accepted as a Hindu Brahmin, but because of his mother’s Muslim heritage, the priests refused to conduct the Hindu upanayana ceremony for him.
Bajirao I had his son raised a Muslim because he could not be raised a Hindu Brahmin, and to this day there are descendants of Shamsher Bahadur who identify as proud descendants of the Peshwa and Muslim. There is likely some level of politics in the behavior of the Brahmins, but they illustrate a general trend where Hindus views on pollution were so strong that they excluded potential members of the community, to the gain of other groups.
These high barriers to entry make sense in a defensive crouch, which native Indian religious traditions, which we now call Hindu, were after 1200 A.D. But they do not make sense in a nation where nearly 80% of the people identify as Hindu. Even low-IQ vulgarians aside, the “Hindu mind” is haunted by Islam. Rather than being proactive, Hindus are often reactive, whether it is to Islam, or to the West.
A true civilization has a positive expansive vision. It is time that Hindus stop being defensive, and articulate a vision of the good life beyond one that aims to preserve a fading past when there is a future that they could grasp.
Native Indian religious tradition survived centuries of Islamic domination, and then British colonialism. But that is over. It is now time to live, and define existence on one’s own terms.
* Hinduism before Islam was not involuted. Not only was it dynamic and assimilative in South Asia (e.g., the conversion of Sakas), but much of Southeast Asia was touched by Indian migration and Hindu religious forms.