Illiberal liberalism of Islamophobia

December 17, 1999

NO PHYSICAL FILERadhakrishnan Nayar objects to the analysis that Mahatma Gandhi's Hinduisation of Indian independence was a cause of Muslim separatism ("Belief in the cause of a nation's ills", THES, November 26), but he does admit that "Gandhi and other nationalists invoked the Hindu heritage in order to create national feeling".

Cannot then Nayar accept that this alienated Muslim and other minorities and created insecurity as to their position in independent India? Furthermore, Islamic separatists were able to feed on this insecurity to create a mass movement. Gandhi and indeed Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru failed to reach a compromise under which minority religions existed in an inclusive political constitution. Nayar's suggestion that Jinnah simply would not accept a compromise is debatable, because Jinnah campaigned for much of his political career on Hindu-Muslim constitutional relations and was a reluctant leader of the Muslim nationalist movement (in fact some would argue he was a reluctant Muslim).

I suspect that as always the truth lies in between the extremes, that is, that the Hinduist independence leaders and the Islamic separatists were both to blame for the 1947 partition. Let us not forget, too, that the British had a hand in this tragic event.

Incidentally, the political legacy of British colonialism is still alive today in the Pakistani "feudal" government and is one of the reasons for its political instability. Your front-page teaser "Poor Pakistan: Is Islam the cause of its undemocratic ways?" is a rather naive argument and Islamophobic.

Mortaza Sahibzada Edinburgh

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