In July, violent jihad– holy war in the service of Islam – reached two groups of Hindus in South Asia. The first attack involved the destruction of the religious heritage of Hindus in Pakistan. The other attack, in India, consisted of an Islamist raid on a Hindu pilgrimage. The assault killed at least six people and injured dozens.
In the first attack, on July 16, a 150-year-old Hindu temple in Karachi was "razed to the ground." According to the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn:
"[T]he operation took place while the area was without electricity late on Friday night. That's when the diggers and a bulldozer arrived to do their work.
"The residents have also reported that they saw a police mobile there to provide 'cover' to the men operating the machines."
The second attack, on July 31, Islamists unleashed "a pre-planned attack... against thousands of Hindus" in India. The attack, on a Hindu pilgrimage made to "revive holy Hindu sites and Hindu religious tourism," left six dead and around 60 injured.
A report in the Indian media outlet, OpIndia, noted "unbridled violence against [the] Hindu devotees."
"So far, over 100 FIRs [first information reports] have been filed, 202 people have been arrested and the death count stands at 6. The Islamists, in a pre-planned attack, hurled stones at the devotees, fired shots, and burnt cars, creating hostage-like situations where several thousand devotees were trapped in a Temple, only to be rescued hours after the Islamists were raining down bullets on the temple and more."
Such jihadist incidents in India are often either ignored by Western mainstream media or blamed on India or Hindu people without taking into account either the motives of the perpetrators, or the importance of India's religious diversity and its secular democracy – both of which exist nowhere else in the region.
Islamists, according to the Indian media, injured, robbed and held hostage Hindu people:
"[R]ioters started pelting stones at them from buildings. Then they [Hindus] saw a mob of Islamists charging towards them while raising slogans of Allah-Hu-Akbar. The rioters attacked them with swords and with the aim to kill."
Other Indian reports noted that 22-year-old Abhishek Chauhan, along with four others, were killed in the violence that erupted. "His cousin, Mahesh (25), who accompanied him, said he saw Abhishek get shot."
"Just as we came out of the Shiv Mandir in Nalhar, we saw a mob, armed with swords, guns and stones, running towards the temple. They started beating people, firing and setting cars on fire. A bullet hit my brother and he fell. I cried for help, but there was no one around there... I was trying to get Abhishek somewhere safe, but a man with a sword slashed his neck and fled."
According to another report:
"There were also allegations by some locals that there are speculations that some women were dragged to the fields and raped by the Islamists and murdered. "
"[M]ore than fifty rioters barged into the hospital and assaulted the patients, health workers and doctors after segregating them on the basis of their religion. They assaulted Hindu doctors and victims after separating them from Muslims... A doctor's three-year-old daughter was also beaten with sticks."
This deadly attack is typical of the Islamist civilizational war – both culturally and militarily – that India has been enduring for decades. The Hindu American Foundation relates:
"Since 1947... Pakistan has initiated three full-fledged wars with India and a smaller incursion into Indian territory in Kargil in 1999. In addition, Pakistan has consistently utilized cross-border terrorism in India as an official instrument of state policy, including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, the attack on an Indian air force base in Kashmir in 2016 that left 17 Indian Army personnel dead, and the 2019 attack that killed 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Force in Pulwama district of Kashmir, to name a few.
"Pakistan's military and ISI spy agency also continues to support the Taliban, the Haqqani group, Lashkar-eTaiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and other affiliated militant groups in Afghanistan to undermine U.S. military operations and maintain its strategic influence there."
Despite these provocations, India remains a multi-religious and multicultural, secular democracy. It is home to the vast majority of the world's Hindus and has sizable Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain, and Sikh populations, as well as to small but significant Baha'i, Jewish and Zoroastrian populations.
Hindus, a widely diverse populace, comprise a little less than 80% of India's 1.3 billion people, whereas religious minorities encompass more than 20% of the population. In addition, India has the world's second-largest Muslim population (approximately 176 million or 14.4%).
According to the Hindu American Foundation, "India is one of the few countries in the world where Baha'is and Jews have never faced religious persecution."
India first faced Islamist violence, dating as far back as the 8th century to the time of the Muslim Mughal invasions and rule through the mid-19th century. Countless Hindus and other non-Muslims were murdered or forcibly converted to Islam. Hindu women were raped and turned into sex-slaves. Many Muslims in India today are descendants of those Islamized Hindus.
Flemish researcher Koenraad Elst wrote:
"There is no official estimate of the total death toll of Hindus at the hands of Islam.... [Historian Mahomed] Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central India (1347-1528) killed a hundred thousand Hindus, which they set as a minimum goal whenever they felt like 'punishing' the Hindus.... Prof. K.S. Lal once estimated that the Indian population declined by 50 million under the Sultanate, but that would be hard to substantiate; research into the magnitude of the damage Islam did to India is yet to start in earnest...
"Apart from actual killing, millions of Hindus disappeared by way of enslavement. Slaves were likely to die of hardship, e.g. the mountain range Hindu Koh, 'Indian mountain', was renamed Hindu Kush, 'Hindu-killer', when one cold night in the reign of Timur Lenk (1398-99), a hundred thousand Hindu slaves died there while on transport to Central Asia. Though Timur conquered Delhi from another Muslim ruler, he recorded in his journal that he made sure his pillaging soldiers spared the Muslim quarter, while in the Hindu areas, they took 'twenty slaves each'. Hindu slaves were converted to Islam, and when their descendants gained their freedom, they swelled the numbers of the Muslim community. It is a cruel twist of history that the Muslims who forced Partition on India were partly the progeny of Hindus enslaved by Islam."
Islamist violence against Hindus and other non-Muslims who enjoy freedom of speech is an ongoing problem. In 2017, Muslim mobs attacked the Hindu community in West Bengal after news circulated that a Hindu high school student shared an allegedly blasphemous post about Islam on Facebook. The mob violence lasted for days and led to the destruction of several dozen Hindu-owned shops and homes, as well as police vehicles and government property. Several Hindus were also injured and a 65-year-old man, Kartik Ghosh, was stabbed to death by the rampaging mob.
Ethnic cleansing against the indigenous Hindu people of Kashmir was one of the occurrences that drastically changed the demographic balance in the region. Starting in 1989, more than 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus were driven from their ancestral homeland in the Jammu and Kashmir region by a radical insurgency orchestrated and funded by Pakistan. These Hindus still have not returned to the Kashmir Valley.
Despite these assaults, India, a diverse mosaic of multiple religions, ethnicities, and languages, has, according to the Hindu American Foundation, served as a refuge for persecuted religious groups or those fleeing violence:
"Some Jewish communities in India trace their roots back over 2500 years, while others over the subsequent millennia, fleeing persecution from various parts of the Near and Middle East.
"Zoroastrians arrived around 700 AD (they're now known as Parsis and Iranis in India), fleeing persecution in their native land of Persia, and integrated seamlessly into Indian society, while practicing their faith fully.
"The Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists fled to India after escaping Chinese oppression and established the Tibetan government in exile in the northern city of Dharamsala.
"Many Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and Afghan Muslims have found a home in India as well.
"Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Afghan Hindus have trickled into India for decades to escape religious persecution. They have struggled to obtain refugee status or any type of long-term legal status in India, preventing them from accessing basic resources or employment. The current government in India, however, has made it a priority to grant legal resident status and citizenship to those fleeing religious persecution and seeking refuge in India.
"Ahmadiyya Muslims, who are outlawed in Pakistan, are free to worship, construct mosques, and propagate their faith free from government intrusion. The Sunni Waqf Board of India (a private religious body), however, does not consider them Muslim, and therefore does not grant Ahmadiyya membership or benefits of their services."
The cultural differences between India and Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world become even more stark when compared in terms of religious freedoms. Where are the indigenous non-Muslim communities in what is today called the "Muslim world'? Where is their presence?
Today's "Muslim world", which used to be non-Muslim before Islamic invasions, conquests and massacres, is now demographically transformed. The indigenous non-Muslim communities there are now either dying minorities or extinct.
The Jewish people were expelled from Arab countries and Iran mainly after Israel's founding in 1948.
In Afghanistan, before the Islamic invasion and takeover that began in the 7th century, multiple religions were practiced such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. Today, the only religion that has freedom in Afghanistan is Islam.
Turkey, the site that has been called Anatolia (a Greek word meaning "the east, sunrise, place from where the sun rises") for millennia, was the seat of the Christian Byzantine Empire. For centuries, Islamic invaders attacked Anatolia; in 1453, Muslim Turks from Central Asia captured Constantinople, now Istanbul. Today, Christians comprise only 0.1 percent of Turkey's population.
Prior to the Islamic invasions, most of the entire Middle East and North Africa – countries such as Syria, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq -- used to be majority-Christian. Today, indigenous Christians and other minorities -- such as Assyrians, Yazidis and Alawites -- in almost every majority-Muslim country where they remain, are severely persecuted.
Zoroastrianism, founded in ancient Persia during the sixth century BCE, under the Sassanian Empire, was, until the Arab Muslim invasion in the seventh century, the state's official religion. The rise of Islam in Persia led to severe persecution and the Zoroastrians' demographic collapse. Today, in Iran, they are a tiny, oppressed minority. More than a thousand years of Islamist persecution have resulted in gradual disappearance of Zoroastrianism from its homeland.
The Baha'is in Iran are also relentlessly persecuted. The Bahai International Community reports:
"Baha'is, who are Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority, are routinely arrested, detained, and imprisoned. They are barred from holding government jobs, and their shops and other enterprises are routinely closed or discriminated against by officials at all levels. Young Baha'is are prevented from attending university, and those volunteer Baha'i educators who have sought to fill that gap have been arrested and imprisoned."
The Muslim riots or other acts of inter-religious violence in much of the Middle East, as well as Pakistan's terrorism and border disputes with India, can probably best be understood within the historical context of jihad. For centuries, jihadists have violently targeted and persecuted non-Muslims in the region. The West might do well to distinguish between destabilizing forces that create persecution, violence and refugees, and stabilizing forces, such as India that, despite their imperfections, still promote pluralism, religious freedom and security, and function as a home for all who are oppressed.
Uzay Bulut, a Turkish journalist, a research fellow for the Philos Project, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.