In situations of adversity, head-on confrontation, as a means of eliminating opposition, is frequently resorted to. As a negative reaction, it is almost always counterproductive. Experience shows, oftener than not, that the better way is to take positive action. That is, to return good for evil.
This argument is borne out by the history of the Indian minorities. Subsequent to l947, for certain reasons, the majority community bore a grudge against the Muslim minority, which culminated in serious communal conflict. The first instance—in a residual climate of post-Partition agitation—occurred in a North Indian city. Members of the majority community, participants in a religious procession, began shouting, Mulla, jao Pakistan! (Muslims, go back to Pakistan!) as they approached a mosque in a Muslim locality. A group of Muslim youths retaliated. The result? Bloody riots, the loss of precious lives and damage to crores worth of property.
Hordes of leaders then poured into the affected area, gathered Muslims together and made such fiery speeches against the majority community as convinced their hearers that they had been genuinely justified in their hot-headed reaction to the slogans. This conviction then launched them on a course which only triggered countless clashes between Hindus and Muslims. It was a chain reaction to which there seemed to be no end. Ironically, the Muslims themselves—being the weaker group—were the greatest losers. Perhaps the greater irony was that the leaders remained personally unaffected by the riots, and, wasted no time in making political capital out of them to form vote banks. Subsequently, they missed no opportunity to collect huge funds in the name of “relief.”
After making an in-depth study of this issue, I have concluded that the riots should be treated not as a communal evil, but as a human problem, and ways and means should be found to solve it peacefully. The Hindus should not, in fact, be regarded as adversaries, but as fellow countrymen. Once seen in this light, the problem ought then to be solvable in a well-reasoned and peaceable manner. Two rules, Muslims should observe is to refrain from interfering with Hindu processions and to stifle their reactions to provocative slogans.
In a similar situation, identical advice was given to Muslims in the Qur’an in Islam’s early stages: “Repel evil with good and he between whom and you was enmity will become your dearest friend.” (Quran, 41:35).
Through the media and at public meetings, I have continuously campaigned against unreason and violence and in favour of constructive action. Like any initiative of this sort, it took time to bear fruit. But, finally, by 1993, Muslim attitudes began to change, and now, by the grace of God, there has been a nation-wide adoption of a non-confrontational approach. The Muslims’ immediate gain is the almost total cessation of riots. Attitudes will no doubt change even further with their heightened awareness of the need for a better education and more concerted efforts to establish themselves in all constructive fields.
Example of Christian Community
By the end of 1998, albeit for different reasons, the Christian community were subjected to violence in several states. One of the most deplorable incidents was the burning alive by Hindu extremists of a Christian missionary, Graham Stewart Staines, and his sons in the village of Manoharpur in Orissa in January 99. His widow, Gladys Staines, evinced the true Christian spirit when, in response to this horrendous tragedy, she said. “May God forgive the killers. May God touch and liberate their hearts through love.”
But those who are advising the Christians to take the course of confrontation have nothing to do with the true Christian spirit. Urging the Christians to fight the forces of evil is, to my way of thinking, not only against reason, but also against the teachings of Christianity. It would be nothing short of telling them to commit suicide. Communities should lead, not mislead.
I would like to stress that the advice to enter into confrontation is reactionary and quite contrary to the message of Christ. Christ and his followers were faced with a far severer kind of persecution. Then what was the key to success given by Christ? According to the New Testament, Christ’s guidance took the shape of a three-point formula:
1. Render to Caeser what is due to Caesar and render to God what is due to God—that is, follow the policy of avoidance of those who are in power instead of pursuing the policy of confrontation with them, and concentrate your efforts on non-political spheres.
2. One who seeks your shirt, let him have your cloak also—that is, whenever faced with any form of conflict, do not insist on a bilateral solution. That is, put an end to the conflict unilaterally, at the very outset.
3. Love your enemy— that is, take your enemy as your potential friend. The response of the believers should not be that of dividing people into two dichotomous groups—friends and enemies. They should not regard hostility to be a permanent state of affairs and then start on a collision course bred out of hatred. Rather by means of good, positive behaviour, all efforts should be made to turn the enemy into one’s friend. Thus Christ enjoined his followers to love the enemy, that is, to turn your enemy into your friend through the demonstration of love. The two-thousand year old history of the Christians tells us that whenever they have found success, it was not achieved by fighting against evil, but by following the above teachings of Christ.
For instance, in its early days in Palestine, there was formidable opposition to Christianity by the Jewish community, leading to an exodus of Christians to surrounding countries. If Christianity then began spreading there, it was not because the Christians launched violent campaigns against the Jews, but because, in their new homelands, they practised love and service to the people
Later, persecuted by Rome, they did not fight back, but bore with injustice patiently, while never ceasing to spread the message of love. The Roman emperor himself was led to embrace Christianity in 337 A.D. Thereafter, Christianity spread all over Europe. Formerly a local cult, it now became an international religion.
Conversely, when the Christians chose to diverge from their principles — in the 200 year long Crusades — their efforts came to naught with their ultimate defeat by the Muslims. However, with the end of the Crusades came a change of heart and a reversal of policy.
Now groups of Christians devoted themselves to reviving the true spirit of Christianity. Other groups made forays into the peaceful field of scientific research. Books in Arabic and other languages were translated on a large scale into European languages, making a major contribution to the Renaissance. The Christian nations of Europe may have suffered defeat in war, but in the field of knowledge and spirituality they emerged victorious, ushering in a new era in history known as the age of scientific revolution.
In conclusion, my advice to both Christians and Muslims is to be creative and constructive, practising love rather than hatred. In that way, in the eyes of the nation, they will become assets rather than liabilities.