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Home > 2021 > A Christian bishop, Islamophobia and the Left in Kerala | Sukumaran C (...)

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 41, New Delhi, Sept 25, 2021

A Christian bishop, Islamophobia and the Left in Kerala | Sukumaran C V

Saturday 25 September 2021, by Sukumaran C.V.


Kerala is believed to be "the most secular" state in India. Even in this most secular state, we are witnessing a bizarre situation where a bishop who spewed outright Islamophobia is supported and pampered by the Left government and its CM. [1] The bishop said during a sermon in a church at Kuravilangad in Kottayam district of Kerala that the Christians ought to be vigilant against narcotic jihad by which he meant that the women of Christianity are being lured through drugs by the followers of a certain religion. By the very word jihad, everybody knows against which religion the bishop talks. It is nothing but outright hate speech and a criminal offence. But the Chief Minister of Kerala who is also the Home Minister and who belongs to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) does not see it as hate speech! [2]

In the whole world it is in Kerala the Communist party could come to power through election in 1957. But that government was toppled as a result of the anti-communist backlash called Vimochana Samaram (Liberation Struggle). The Catholic Church was in the forefront of the retrogressive struggle. The N S S, the community organisation of a prominent caste in Kerala had also had a prominent role in toppling the elected Communist government. But the Muslims of Kerala had not had any crucial role in that struggle. And the Left parties seem to forget history.

In 2013, when widespread agitations were organised by the Church in Kerala against the recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report prepared under the chairmanship of the veteran ecologist Madhav Gadgil, the CPIM too joined hands with them. As the majority of the settlers in the Western Ghats mountains in Kerala belong to Christianity, when the Church and the political parties affiliated to it observed a statewide hartal in protest against the WGEEP report, the CPIM supported the hartal! It not only means that the party doesn’t have any Environmental sensitivity in this age of Global Warming and Climate Change, but also it forgot that it was the Church which led the anti-communist backlash to topple the first elected government in Kerala.

And now, as the colour of the political landscape of India is overwhelmingly saffron, the CPIM under Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala finds it pretty suitable to satisfy the soft Hindutva leanings of its Hindu votebank by supporting Islamophobia expressed by the Church. It is a crooked tactic. The Christian vote bank which has always stood with the Congress and the UDF, can be lured to the left too, the Left calculate. It is a "two birds with one stone" strategy at the cost of the Muslims. But, it is a kind of "scratching the head with fire" act that will ultimately boomerang on the Left, because, what the Left politicians in Kerala are doing now is not secularising the people, but communalising. They put minority communities in the arena, support the Christians to entertain those among the majority community who are Islamophobic and keep a secret love for the saffron party. The sectarian tactics may work for the time being, but in the long run, the ultimate loser will be none other than the Left.

For the knowledge of those who believe that narcotics/drugs are connected to a particular religion, I have to say what the protagonist of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird says in the courtroom after ripping apart the spurious case against the African American Tom Johnson who was falsely accused of raping a white woman while the real culprit was her own father: “The witnesses for the state have presented themselves to you gentlemen, to this court, in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted, confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption—the evil assumption—that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, which, gentlemen, we know in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.”

And in this age of Islamophobia which is a construct of Europe and the U.S., it is necessary to prove that Islam doesn’t have the history of intolerance and oppression as Europe and the U.S. do have. Jawaharlal Nehru says in his Glimpses of World History: "Spain was thus made part of the great Arab Empire...Kurtuba was the capital of this kingdom for just 500 years. This is usually called Cordoba in English, sometimes Cordova. This was a great city of a million inhabitants, a garden City ten miles in length, with twenty-four miles of suburbs. There are said to have been 60,000 palaces and mansions, 200,000 smaller houses, 80,000 shops, 3800 mosques and 700 public baths. These figures may be exaggerations, but they give some idea of the city. There were many libraries, the chief of these, the Imperial Library of the Emir, containing 400,000 books. The University of Cordoba was famous all over Europe and even in Western Asia. Free elementary schools for the poor abounded. A historian says that: "In Spain almost everybody knew how to read and write, whilst in Christian Europe, save and except the clergy, even persons belonging to the highest ranks were wholly ignorant." About 1000 A.C.—that is, just at the end of the millennium—the kingdom of the Emir extended almost all over Spain. It even included a bit of Southern France. But collapse came soon....The Arabs were driven south, but still they resisted. In the south of Spain they carved out a little kingdom, the kingdom of Granada, and held on there....The kingdom of Granada lasted for 200 years. It was pressed and harassed by the Christian States of Spain...The Arabs fought bravely for several years till they were surrounded and hemmed in Granada. Starved out they surrendered in 1492 A.C. Many of the Saracens or Arabs left Spain and went to Africa....But a large number of Arabs remained in Spain. The treatment of these Arabs is a very dark chapter in the history of Spain....The Spanish Christians seem to have been very much against washing and bathing. Perhaps they objected to these simply because the Spanish Arabs were very fond of them and had erected great public baths all over the place. The Christians even went so far as to issue orders "for the reformation of the Moriscos" or Moors or Arabs, that "neither themselves, their women, nor any other persons, should be permitted to wash or bathe themselves either at home or elsewhere; and that all their bathing-houses should be pulled down and destroyed." (Chapter 61—Cordoba and Granada).

Ironically, the year 1492 in which the Arabs of Granada surrendered is the year when Christopher Columbus landed on the American shore at the Carribbean. See the catastrophes befell on the Native Americans thereafter: "The Tainos and other Arawak people did not resist conversion to the Europeans’ religion, but they did resist strongly when hordes of these bearded strangers began scouring their islands in search of gold and precious stones. The Spaniards looted and burned villages; they kidnapped hundreds of men, women and children and shipped them to Europe to be sold as slaves. Arawak resistance brought on the use of guns and sabres, and whole tribes were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people in less than a decade after Columbus set foot on the beach of San Salvador, October 12, 1492....When the Dutch came to Manhattan Island..... In 1641 William Kieft levied tribute upon the Mahicans and sent soldiers to Staten Island to punish the Raritans for offences which had been committed not by them but by the white settlers. The Raritans resisted arrest and the soldiers killed four of them. When the Indians retaliated by killing four Dutchmen, Kieft ordered the massacre of two entire villages while the inhabitants slept. The Dutch soldiers ran their bayonets through men, women, and children, hacked their bodies to pieces, and then levelled the villages with fire. For two more centuries these events were repeated again and again as European colonists moved inland through the passes of the Alleghenies and down the westward-flowing rivers to the Great Waters (the Mississippi) and then up the Great Muddy (the Missouri). ... On the mainland of America, the Wampanoags of Massasoit had vanished, along with the Chesapeakes, the Chickahominys, and the Potomacs of the great Powhatan confederacy. Scattered or reduced to remnants were the Pequots, Montauks, Nanticokes, Machapungas, Catawbas, Cheraws, Miamis, Hurons, Eries, Mohawks, Senecas, and Mohegans. Their musical names remained forever fixed on the American land, but their bones were forgotten in a thousand burned villages or lost in forests fast disappearing before the axes of twenty million invaders. Already the once sweet-watered streams, most of which bore Indian names, were clouded with silt and the wastes of man; the very earth was being ravaged and squandered. To the Indians it seemed these Europeans hated everything in nature— the living forests and their birds and beasts, the grassy glades, the water, the soil, and the air itself." (Quoted from Dee Brown’s Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, Chapter 1).

See the Sand Creek massacre, one of the hundreds of massacres through which the millions and millions of Native Americans have been eliminated en masse to rob their lands which are now called the United States of America: “Only the year before the two chiefs (Black Kettle and Lean Bear) had been invited on a visit to see Abraham Lincoln in Washington. President Lincoln gave them medals to wear on their breasts, and Colonel Greenwood presented Black Kettle with a United States flag, a huge garrison flag with white stars for the thirty-four states...Greenwood had told him that as long as the flag flew above him no soldier would ever fire upon him.....The Cheyenne camp lay in a horsehoe bend of Sand Creek north of an almost dry stream bed....Robert Bent who was riding unwillingly with Colonel Chivington said that when they came in sight of the camp “I saw the American flag waving and Black Kettle tell the Indians to stand around the flag, and there they were huddled—men, women, and children. This was when we were within fifty yards of the Indians. I also saw a white flag raised. These flags were in so conspicuous a position that they must have been seen. When the troops fired, the Indians ran....I think there were six hundred Indians in all. I think there were thirty-five braves and some old men, about sixty in all...the rest of the men were away from camp, hunting....After the firing, the warriors put up the women and children together, and surrounded them to protect them. I saw five women under a bank for shelter. When the troops came up to them they ran out and showed their persons to let the soldiers know they were women and begged for mercy, but the soldiers shot them all. I saw one women lying on the bank whose leg had been broken by a shell; a soldier came up to her with a drawn saber; she raised her arm to protect herself, when he struck, breaking her arm; she rolled over and raised her other arm, when he struck breaking it, and then left her without killing her. There seemed to be indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children. There were some thirty or forty women collected in a hole for protection; they sent out a little girl about six years old with a white flag on a stick; she had not proceeded but a few steps when she was shot and killed. All the women in that hole were afterwards killed...Every one I saw dead was scalped. I saw a women cut open with an unborn child lying by her side. I saw one woman whose privates had been cut out. I saw a little girl about five years of age who had been hid in the sand; two soldiers discovered her, drew their pistols and shot her, and then pulled her out of the sand by the arm. I saw quite a number of infants in arms killed with their mothers.”” (Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, Chapter 4—War Comes to the Cheyennes).

It is high time the world knew that Islam is not basically associated with terror and atrocities. The Euro-centric narratives of the world should be rewritten. And to see the Left parties allying with those peddling Islamophobia in Kerala is quite abominable.

PostScript: In his Press Meet on Sept. 22, the Chief Minister talked "sternly" against those who indulge in divisive speech. But even if many complaints were lodged with the police and the Chief Minister against the bishop, no FIR has hitherto been registered and no case has been charged against him. The bishop delivered his narcotics or drug jihad sermon on Sept. 8. Half a month passed and no action is initiated against him, but the Chief Minister says that the government would crack the whip on inflammatory speech irrespective of the speaker’s social stature! It is rhetoric, nothing else. And he talks "sternly" only because he can’t ignore the widespread outrage against the pro-bishop stand of his party and government. The bishop’s case is not an isolated one. Immediately after the bishop’s narcotic sermon became big news, some nuns revealed that they had to ask a priest to stop his hate speech against Muslims while giving sermon. No case has been charged against the priest. A handbook published by the Thamarassery diocese of the Catholic Church titled "Thirty-three Truths and Facts through Questions and Answers" says that Muslim clerics use black magic to lure Christian girls. No case has been charged against the diocese for printing such communal contents! Communal hatred against the Muslims is spread both through sermons and print materials, but the authorities are not bothered about it! The irony is that it is the same authorities who have charged UAPA against two youth on the flimsy ground of having found some Maoist leaflets in their custody.

[11). Bishop warns Christians in Kerala against ‘love and narcotics jihad’, The Hindu, Sept. 09, 2021.

2). A dark cloud in Kerala’s sky of communal harmony, The Hindu, Sept. 18, 2021.

3). In Kerala, the ruling CPM and an Islamophobic bishop make strange bedfellows,, Sept. 19, 2021.

[2Pala Bishop had no intention to create disharmony: CM, The Hindu, Sept. 15, 2021.

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