Majoritarian violence against minorities has hogged the limelight across South Asia in recent years. The violence against the Hindu minority in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the killings of Hindus in the Kashmir valley are the most recent threads in this long rope, and religious identities are invoked and violence is justified in defence of perpetrators’ religious beliefs. Once the sense of fear and insecurity is put out into the public sphere, the people begin to relate and subscribe to exclusivist mentality driving people to use violence if they feel any religious symbol is in danger. For example, in the past few weeks, two separate incidents of minority killings took place in Kashmir and Bangladesh with different triggers. However, in both the incidents, the majority population professes Islam as their religious belief while the targeted minorities professes Hinduism.
The incidents sparked had dissimilar trajectories and enablers; the Bangladesh incident had religious symbols involved, and the Kashmir incidents, though connected on religious grounds, did not involve majoritarian violence. Shooters filled with hate opened fire and murdered seven persons in Kashmir in October 2021, four of whom belonged to the Hindu and Sikh minorities. According to police sources, at least 26 persons, including political activists, have been slained in targeted assaults in Kashmir this year. In another incident, a purported picture depicting contempt for the Quran was distributed in Comilla in the Chittagong region. This seems to have triggered a wave of mob violence against Hindu temples and houses belonging to the minority population. Hindu worshippers at the Dhakeshwari national shrine in Dhaka received a video conference message from Prime Minister Hasina, who pledged stern action against the culprits and tried to reassure minorities throughout her speech. In the light of gravity of the assaults and the panic that had engulfed the country’s Hindu minority, it is not unexpected that the world community and the Indian Government are concerned.
In Bangladesh, religious symbolism (Quran desecration) was invoked and violence was justified in the name of religion, and religious identity became an enabler in perpetuating fear and insecurity. On the other hand, in Kashmir killings, extremist organisations exercised violence in the name of Islam. In both incidents, human lives were lost and left Islam at the receiving end. Prophet Muhammad always asked his followers to respect human beings, respect other religions and promote peaceful co-existance. Muslims must remember that violence against non-Muslims is a direct contradiction of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.