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Modi departs from RSS line to praise Islamic influence

Prime Minister Narendra Modi eulogised Central Asia’s Islamic traditions as being “defined by the highest ideals of Islam … knowledge, piety, compassion and welfare.”

india Updated: Jul 09, 2015 01:17 IST
Vikas Pathak, Zia Haq
Vikas Pathak, Zia Haq
Hindustan Times

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lavish praise of Central Asia’s Islamic traditions as a positive influence on India was just the right thing to say during his five-nation tour, analysts say, but the views are contrary to the long-held beliefs of the RSS.

“The confluence of Indian and Islamic civilisations took place in Central Asia. We enriched each other not only in spiritual thought, but also in medicine, science, mathematics and astronomy,” Modi said at Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University on July 7. This is also typically how the Congress and the Left have viewed history.

The RSS’s disdain for foreign Muslim influence is well-known. The Hindu right-wing organisation has long held that Hindus were persecuted by Muslim ‘invaders’ and kings. Mahmud Ghazni, for instance, is despised for his raid on Somnath temple, while Mughal emperor Babar is alleged to have destroyed a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

The Prime Minister eulogised Central Asia’s Islamic traditions as being “defined by the highest ideals of Islam … knowledge, piety, compassion and welfare.”

In Uzbekistan, Modi presented President Islam Karimov “a specially commissioned reproduction of Khamsa-i-Khusrau by the great 13th century sufi poet Amir Khusrau, who was born in Uttar Pradesh and whose father hailed from Uzbekistan.”

Delhi University historian Raziuddin Aquil says although “Somnath happened”, India’s Sufi traditions of peace and tolerance also evolved because of historical ties with Central Asian Islam.

The reason for Modi’s stand may well be diplomatic. However, invoking of Islam and historical ties is “very legitimate”, according to diplomat and former ambassador to the USA, Lalit Mansingh. “In fact it is natural for us to not only recall the cultural ties, but also about Islam as a common element,” Mansingh said.

Geopolitically in Central Asia, be it Iran or Afghanistan, one is straightaway able to make a ‘connect’ on the basis of historic ties with India, says Aquil. By contrast, he adds, many Central Asian nations have serious reservations viz-a-viz Pakistan, disliked by both Afghanistan and Iran for instance. So, Modi’s speech is likely to strike a chord on this count too.