M.N. Roy on The “Historical Role of Islam”

220px-Mn_roy2 I'm in Mexico City, where the house of one of my (flawed) heroes M.N. Roy, founder of both the Indian and Mexican Communist Parties, has been turned into a nightclub called M.N. Roy. (Roy later denounced Communism and became a radical humanist.) Anyway, it did remind of this essay, interesting in its capture of the spirit of debates that formed the background of Indian/Pakistani independence:

THE apparently sudden rise and the dramatic expansion of Mohammedanism constitutes a most fascinating chapter in the history of mankind. A dispassionate study of this chapter is of great importance in the present fateful period of the history of India. The scientific value of the study by itself is great, and the meritorious quest for knowledge is sure to be handsomely rewarded. But with us, to-day in India, particularly with the Hindu, a proper understanding of the historical role of Islam and the contribution it has made to human culture has acquired a supreme political importance.

This country has become the home of a very considerable number of the followers of the Arabian Prophet. One seldom realizes that many more Mohammedans live in India than in any single purely Islamic country. Still, after the lapse of many centuries, this numerous section of the Indian population is generally considered to be an extraneous element. This curious but extremely regrettable cleft in the loose national structure of India has its historical cause. The Mohammedans originally came to India as invaders. They conquered the country and became its rulers for several hundred years. That relation of the conqueror and the subjugated has left its mark on the history of our nation which to-day embraces the both. But the unpleasant memory of the past relation has been progressively eclipsed by the present companionship in slavery. The effect of British Imperialism is no less painful and ruinous for the bulk of the Muslim population than for the masses professing Hinduism. So completely have the Mohammedans become an integral part of the Indian nation that the annals of the Muslim rule are justly recorded as chapters of the history of India. Indeed, Nationalism has gone farther in effacing the painful memory of the past.

The practice of seeking consolation for the shame of the present in the real or legendary glory of the past has dressed the Muslim rulers of India in brilliant national colors.

Yet, a Hindu, who prides in the prosperity of the reign of an Akbar, or boasts of the architectural accomplishments of a Shahjehan, is even to-day separated most curiously by an unbridgeable gulf from his next door neighbor belonging to the race, or professing the faith, of those illustrious monarchs who are believed to have glorified the history of India. For the orthodox Hindus who constitute the great majority of the Indian population, the Mussulman, even of a noble birth or high education or admirable cultural attainments, is a 'mlechha'-impure barbarian-who does not deserve a social treatment any better than accorded to the lowest of the Hindus.

The cause of this singular situation is to be traced in the prejudice born, in the past, of the hatred a conquered and oppressed people naturally entertained for the foreign invader. The political relation out of which it sprang is a thing of the past. But the prejudice still persists not only as an effective obstacle to national cohesion, but also as a hindrance for a dispassionate view of history.