At the outset, I’d like to declare this post does not attempt to criticize any religious entity or blame it solely for the world’s evils that we are witnessing everyday.
So what’s the crucial difference between the two phrases, Indian Muslim and Muslim Indian?
To understand, first let’s discuss a particular element of grammar called ‘adjective’. As per linguistics, an adjective is a describing word which qualifies a noun object and gives more information about it. Here, an object is an entity. Any entity. A flower. A fruit. A human. Every object is defined by a certain set of intrinsic and extrinsic properties. When we say, Tomato is a fruit and not vegetable and Mowgli is a human and not a wolf, we are talking about their objectiveness.
The nature or the God (or whatever name we’ve given to him) had created objects, first in homogeneity. Humans, animals (evolution or no evolution, big bang or no big bang), trees, mountains, seas, rivers. And then it (He or She) tricked them, by taking away the homogeneity and introduced heterogeneity (again through evolution or no evolution). It became impossible for the objects in the same family to define themselves clearly. A Mountain could be a plateau, could be a hill or a plain rock. A tree could be a herb, shrub or a pine. So linguistics provided us adjectives. To describe objects. But adjectives didn’t just describe, they categorized as well. Just like they did to properties – into intrinsic and extrinsic. And all hell broke lose. Humans forgot other objects and suddenly became a white human, black human, brown human and a yellow human. Civilized humans and uncivilized humans. For civilized, atheistic humans and non atheistic humans. Theistic humans became pagan humans, animistic humans, polytheistic humans or monotheistic humans.
As civilizations developed further, human became man and isolated himself completely from other natural objects (by his own sheer stupidity or by God’s will). Man created guarded boundaries, first to safeguard against natural enemies and then unnatural enemies – his own ‘other’ men. Thus came into being, the power struggle to control these defined territories as nature retaliated, drying up resources. The power inflated pride and fame and to gather more ‘adjectives’ for himself, he created politics and nations, the sanctuaries of the evil of power. Still fine till now, though.
But then he proclaimed that the God had ordained him a nation to rule and look after. Heaven broke lose this time as man finally created the religion, to bind objects under a ‘similar’ adjective, to foster brotherhood but most importantly, to keep people’s mind under control and keep ‘God’s nation’ intact. In east and west, alike.
Initially, the concept of nation didn’t have fixed boundaries. It was more of an idea of people under one adjective ‘related’ (similar customs and rituals and language), living together. But soon, they needed more land and required permanency of habitation. Soon, came into being physical nations with name plates like in west, ‘The Hebrew Nation of Israel (quite different in its original terms than the present day piece of land) and in east, India – a ‘Sanskrit Nation of Indus’. There was no concept of conversion and spread of belief yet, precisely because the religion was nation based.
To govern these nations effectively, one needed laws and the code of conducts. With trade and increased interactions, man began to explore new ideas. The rulers realized that their nationalistic rants e.g. ‘We are God’s Israelites’ wasn’t enough to check the intrusion of any unwanted idea. And hence, a complex mix of moral and social laws based on philosophy, myths, fear, pride and promises was developed. Modern Religion was born. Holy books were written. And Man objectified himself into a parallel religious entity.
Soon religion became an inseparable part of a nation’s politics and governance. With religion firmly controlling their objects minds, they didn’t anymore need to sell the idea of a nation separately. Any attack on the nation would automatically become an attack on the religion, which in turn made sure people were ready to give up their lives to protect the nation in promise of a much better afterlife.
The ‘sacrifice’ became a rage. ‘Kings’ became equivalent to ‘Gods’, and nations were now called the ‘Kingdoms of God’. But man was tricked again, like Gollum.
For, heterogeneity made sure a certain adjective ‘Liberal’ became a pain in everybody’s ass, especially the conservatives. Liberal men (the utopian preachers) were bored of the idea of a religious philosophy, restricted by a nation’s physical boundaries under the command of ‘conservatives’. In their extreme prudence, liberals wanted their bubbling ideas to reach every nook and corner known to the mankind and gain control over people’s minds. But, they knew any direct confrontation with politicos obsessed with the purity of races, would mean a certain defeat.
In Jewish nation, liberals got their opportunity when they found about Christ, a person soon to be crucified and dead for proclaiming himself ‘the King of Mankind’ appointed by their dear God himself. Immediately, apostles were dispatched away from the boundaries of Israel to spread the idea. A new idea of a religion was thus formed. Though, a similar example had already been set successfully in the east by Indian liberals in form of ‘Buddha’. The experiment had begun five hundred years prior and bore real fruits only 250-300 years ago. Patience was the key, liberals understood. The idea succeeded in west as well and in next three hundred years, took control of every nation and subsequently their politics and social life too.
Centuries later in far middle east, which was still ruled by nomads and pagans, it was as if they had skipped last thousand years of nation-religions, fighting pettily among themselves, doing trade and developing mathematical and astronomical ideas. But with the latest onslaught of this new religion which was converting people’s mindsets, in promise of a guaranteed salvation despite committing any number of sins, an urgent need arose to stop its progress. The fear of losing their culture and territories was too much. And Arabs knew, they couldn’t wait for 250-300 years. For, the pagan mindset was easier to turn into the intended direction.
Since necessity is the mother of invention, a brand new idea of religion was invented. Unseen and unparalleled in the entire human history and future.
The concept of a religious nation – a Kingdom of Muslims, was to be marketed as something surpassing all previous ideas (proves marketing is not a modern concept). In all prudence, it included almost every idea mentioned in the two existing religious theories, the nation theory and the pure religion theory. Added to it, were a lot more fear and promised bounties, including the ever flowing rivers and greenery that inhabitants of Arab world never had but always yearned for, following their travels to the far east and far west. Idea was clear. If someone would indeed be inclined towards Christianity in promise of a heaven, he’d be interested in Islam as well. If not, the sword would do the further talk. The model, riding on the many wars, got instant success and was further developed during subsequent years to create a new ideology to rule mankind in future.
Thus began the race of conversions in the west and the middle east, that engulfed the whole world in next thousand years. Governments under the influence of these two religions, made consistent attacks on other territories in guise of trade, jihad etc. to collect as much wealth as possible. For, wealth had become the most important instrument to influence man’s mind if ever it wavered away from religion. The further proclamation that the wealth had been given by the dear religious God, it ended any debate, all culminating into a present day chaos where each religion in the world is fighting a battle of supremacy (called the battle of existence by their followers).
Today, the world is again under transformation as religious ideologies, especially the ones which are imperialistic in any form are losing favor. A new thought wants religion to disassociate from the Social and Government structure and become a mere spiritual and personal guidance (shared by most of the current inhabitants). It would solve two purposes. First, the religion, even if it permeates the boundaries of every nation, will never interfere with the social life. Second, it would cease to be a valid reason to expand territorial boundaries in the name of a nation and kill innocent lives.
And that’s why the concept of a Nation and a nationalist identity in its present modern democratic and physical sense, again becomes the most important idea in the modern world. This would bring the man much closer to being the human. A heterogeneous human, an idea that was lost first to the idea of man thousands of years ago and then, to the man made ideologies called religions.
This Neo-nationalism, which is often misunderstood, in reality is more inward looking than outward looking. It never justifies the evil actions in terms of eternal rewards and hence never kills a debate between the validity and invalidity of human actions. Agreed, it is not devoid of its pitfalls, but then nationalism is dynamic, currently fueled by democracy that runs on collective human ideas and participation and not some divine inspiration. And hence, one can challenge it. One can check it. One can stop it. One can steer it.
Now, why nations? Why not open boundaries? Why not simply be a human? One would say. The reason is simple. Territorial boundaries are natural. Coconut trees can’t survive in Himalayas. You won’t find pine trees in coastal areas. Every naturally existing object marks its territories, guided by the nature itself. And hence the concept of territorial demarcations is natural to every living species in the world (again evolution or no evolution). Why governments but? Because the heterogeneity makes sure that in absence of a leadership, chaos merely increases. 7 billion is not a small number.
Finally to the topic, ‘Indian Muslim and Muslim Indian.’ How the above story is relevant? Because, for the two words Muslim and India, we need to understand that in modern context, which one should be the object and which should be the adjective.
In the phrase, ‘Indian Muslim’, ‘Indian’ is just an add on detail, a transitory prefix. The object here is the man made nation-religious identity, it’s core idea of existence. Just like British Indian. In itself, this phrase is alienating and considers the object foreign to the territory belonging to the adjective. Whereas, in the phrase, ‘Muslim Indian’, Muslim is the additional, extrinsic description of the core territorial object Indian – born naturally in the natural region of India, meaning it is, in stark contrast to the first phrase, inclusive. Same case arises for any other religious identity and any other nation, be it Britain, China or the USA.
Yes, the difference is slight but it is definitely crucial. As Burhan Wani’s school headmaster father said when interviewed if he was bothered about his son:
For me, first it’s Islam then Son. First, it’s Quran, then son.
Ditto about the people who killed Akhlaq, not thinking twice how their over-zealousness for their religious beliefs would affect the larger environment.
It’s apparent how the mindset works. As religions become close, conservatism sets in. If they become open to personal interpretations, every individual can go into any direction he chooses, good or bad. But when we bind people under national laws, carefully made keeping every social, cultural and religion sentiment in mind, we can stop their radicalization and engage them into a consistent debate.
So which part of our identity becomes an adjective and which becomes a noun? Our choice is simple, not easy though.