How do you see Indian Muslims
India: "Muslims are significantly worse off than Christians"
Gudrun Sailer - Vatican City
The citizenship law had caused massive negative reactions from minorities. It discriminates against Muslims who come from the majority Muslim neighboring countries of India: They are exempt from naturalization more quickly because they are Muslims. The riots in the capital New Delhi have now calmed down, Meyer-Antz confirms. But the tensions are far from over, believes the expert:
Meyer-Antz: This whole argument goes so deeply to the foundations of post-colonial Indian society that we do not assume that there will be permanent calm there.
Vatican Radio: What exactly do the unrest among Muslims have to do with India's post-colonial situation?
Meyer-Antz: I had an informal conversation with a senior Indian. The man explained to me that the fathers of Indian independence weren't really Indian, that we were too attached to European culture. In the end, he recommended that I read the Baghadvadgita. Everything is explained there. That means, there is another phase among high-ranking Indians of cultural independence, which is very closely connected to the Hindu faith. This stands in great tension to the basis of this multicultural and multi-religious state of India, which has its basic secular orientation in the constitution. If you now contrast this law, from which Muslims are clearly excluded, with the constitution, you have to recognize that if the law remains in place, something fundamental will change.
Vatican Radio: India is culturally anchored in Hinduism, to which about 70 percent of the population belong. How does the majority population feel about the naturalization law and the targeted discrimination against Muslims? Is that approved or rejected? What do moderate Hindus say?
Meyer-Antz: A number of high-ranking intellectuals have spoken up and declined. There is a signature campaign in which 620 intellectuals took part, who clearly state that this legal initiative leads to deaths. What I would say for sure is: The current government is only elected by 38 percent of the population. Because of the majority suffrage in India, the BJP has an absolute majority and it is democratic custom to describe the whole thing as an overwhelming election victory. But one cannot assume that the party has more than 50 percent of the population behind it.
Vatican Radio: How does it look in the country?
Meyer-Antz: Yes, when you go to the villages, to people who have only limited access to education, you often find an enthusiasm for the Prime Minister and his politics, so that the picture can be seen in a very differentiated way.
Vatican Radio: During the bloody rallies in Delhi, the Catholic Archbishop of Delhi called for solidarity with Muslim believers. How is the relationship between Christians and Muslims in India?
Meyer-Antz: What Archbishop Coutts did was a great initiative that we at Misereor welcomed very much. Traditionally, we have always had the feeling that all of India's minorities are too much to themselves. With all humility and caution, we have always tried to support and encourage the Indian bishops to work harder into society for a pluralistic India and for the coexistence of religions. This call from the Archbishop for a meeting of all religious leaders was a great cause.
Vatican Radio: Who suffers more from Hindu nationalism: Christians or Muslims? And why?
Meyer-Antz: At the moment the Muslims are affected. There are several reasons for this. There are also poor Christians in India, but the Muslim population is far worse off. Correspondingly, Christians are also more likely to be identified as partners or as something different. Then there is the conflict with Pakistan.
Vatican Radio: That means?
Meyer-Antz: Muslims come under general suspicion of working against the interests of India. Against which the Indian governments have always turned in the past few years. There are also riots against Christians, but basically one has to say that the Muslims are far worse off, they deserve our solidarity.
Vatican Radio: Some observers compare Hindu nationalism with right-wing extremism here or with Islamism. What is it?
Meyer-Antz: I advise caution. One should clearly recognize the international sympathies of the political currents of the BJP. President Trump was welcomed with open arms, and President Bolsonaro from Brazil was in India for a great ceremony. But I would not want to lump the BJP itself into one pot with the politics of Mr Trump or Mr Bolsonaro. You have to look at that in a more differentiated way. Basically, political Hinduism - just as we speak of political Islam - is used by interest groups to pursue their own economic interests. For example, it is used to dispute the property of Muslim landowners in certain areas according to the motto that they do not belong there, they are not Hindus. This is a pattern that we in Germany clearly know from the distant past.
Vatican Radio: Does that mean that religion and politics are mixed up too much in the perception of what is going on in India?
Meyer-Antz:Hinduism in itself is a human and creation friendly religion that we should continue to appreciate accordingly. One must not forget, however, that political use can, in the worst case, mobilize 600 million people. India is the second largest country in the world and will be the largest in the future. A time bomb is ticking that shouldn't be underestimated. Just don't associate the name of a world religion that is peaceful with the isolationalist tendencies that we can observe all over the world.
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