Hugh Fitzgerald: Was Forced Conversion to Islam Really “Historically Rare” in India?
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Here is an exchange between Todd Caldecott and Max Rodenbeck in the Letters Column of The New York Review of Books, on the latter’s claim (in a previously-published review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Heretic: Why Islam Needs A Reformation)
that the Muslim practice of forced conversion was “historically rare”
and “revived only recently by ultra-extremist groups such as Boko Haram
in Nigeria or ISIS in Iraq.” Caldecott provides, by way of answer, an
impressively horrifying list of just some of the recorded instances of
mass murder of Hindus in India and the mass destruction of Hindu temples
For example, in the thirteenth century, Muhammad
bin Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed the ancient university of Nalanda,
killing all the Buddhist monks and nuns, taking literally three months
to burn every single book in the university’s library. Imagine
if ISIS or al-Qaeda killed everyone on campus at Harvard or Yale, and
burned all the lecture halls, libraries, churches, synagogues, and
cultural institutions: such was the untold impact on India, in almost
every part of India, for a thousand years.
Similar examples of forced conversions and brutality can
be found during the reigns of Mahmud Khalji of Malwa (1436–1469 AD),
Ilyas Shah (1339–1379 AD), Babur (1483–1530 AD), and Sher Shah Suri
(1486–1545 AD), all of whom destroyed temples, killed non-Muslims, and
forced the conversion of entire communities. Even
during the so-called sulah-i-kul (“peace with all”) initiated by Mughal
Emperor Akbar (1542–1605 AD), his son Shah Jahan, known for his supposed
monument to love, had almost a hundred temples destroyed in the ancient
city of Varanasi alone. Jahan’s son Aurangzeb brought an end to any
pretense of this institutionalized peace, and went on a rampage, killing
Hindus, destroying temples, and placing severe restrictions on already
impoverished Hindu cultural institutions.
Caldecott concludes: “Hopefully, in light of this evidence, Mr.
Rodenbeck can reevaluate his claim that the forced conversion in Islam
is a ‘historically rare practice.'”K. S. Lal and other historians, both Indian and Western, have calculated
that more than 80 million Hindus were killed by Muslims during 250
years of Mughal rule in much of India. Rodenbeck does not address this
issue of genocide at all. Perhaps, since those tens of millions of
Hindus were not subjected to “forced conversion,” he may think these
figures are not relevant to the discussion — after all, they were quite
dead. Read it all here...............