The Islamic Crusades in India
“…the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within.” –Historian Will Durant (1885 –1981)
For three days in November 2008, all eyes were transfixed on the Jihadist bloodbath in Mumbai. These scenes of the burning Taj Mahal Hotel were on live feed to cable and satellite networks around the world. Many Westerners had heard of the rivalry between India and Pakistan, and may have been aware of the tensions centering on the disputed territory of Kashmir, but the sheer brutality and brazenness of the Mumbai Massacre brought the Jihad in India to global consciousness as never before. Unfortunately for India, the Mumbai attacks were only unique in terms of the high-profile media coverage accorded to them. The casualty figures, while appalling, were rather standard in the context of the series of Islamic terror attacks in India in the 21st century. And they are dwarfed by the massacres of tens and hundreds of thousands, sometimes in a single day, that pepper the 1300 year history of Islamic conquest on the Indian subcontinent.
Before the Islamic juggernaut burst in from the west, the native religions of these lands were Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism (* SEE CORRECTION). The Jihad against India was extraordinarily brutal even by Islamic standards. This is because unlike the so-called people of the book, Christians and Jews, who enjoyed some basic rights as subjected Dhimmis… Hindus and Buddhists were considered idolaters; the lowest of the low, worthy only of death.
Only 25 years after Muhammad’s death Islamic forces had crushed the Sassanid Persian Empire, and thus brought the spearhead of Islam to the borderlands of India. The first permanent Muslim foothold on the subcontinent was achieved with Muhammad bin Qasim’s conquest of Sindh in 711 A.D. He demolished temples, shattered sculptures, plundered palaces, killed all able-bodied men and carried their women and children into slavery. For example, it took his army three days to slaughter all the inhabitants of the port city of Debal. But the Arab Muslim conquest would stall here in the northwestern frontier.
By the end of the tenth century however, newly Islamized Turkic tribes began to expand the Ummah into what is now Northwest India proper. Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030), who was also known as the “Sword of Islam,” mounted seventeen plundering expeditions between 997 and 1027 into North India.
Each winter Mahmud descended into India, filled his treasure chest with spoils, and amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill; each spring he returned to his capital richer than before. At Mathura he took from the temple its statues of gold encrusted with precious stones, and emptied its coffers of a vast quantity of gold, silver and jewelry; he expressed his admiration for the architecture of the great shrine, judged that its duplication would cost one hundred million dinars and the labor of two hundred years, and then ordered it to be soaked with naptha and burnt to the ground. Six years later he sacked another opulent city of northern India, Somnath, killed all its fifty thousand inhabitants, and dragged its wealth to Ghazni. In the end he became, perhaps, the richest king that history has ever known.– Historian Will Durant, from “The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage” 1935. pp. 459-463
A subsequent conqueror, Muhammad Khilji had the distinction of single-handedly wiping out Buddhist culture on the subcontinent by the end of the 12th century. He conquered their stronghold in Bihar and burned their famous library to the ground, slaughtering thousands of Buddhist monks and destroying dozens of ancient temples in the process. Muslims have done their best to erase any trace of this culture, even as recently as March 2001 when the Taliban destroyed four giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.
Khiliji’s brutality also incited the first case of Jauhar in India. Jauhar is a desperate act of mass self-immolation. When Khiliji besieged the city of Chittor the Hindu inhabitants realized their cause was hopeless. As the men rode off to certain death in battle, the women and children burned themselves alive rather than suffer the dishonor of being killed or enslaved by the conquerors.
Another Turkic Muslim warlord, Timur, known as Tamerlane in the West, crossed the Indus River in 1398 and eventually captured the capital of Delhi. Timur explains the motivation for his conquest in his personal memoirs:
About this time there arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels, and to become a ghazi; for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is a ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes a martyr. It was on this account that I formed this resolution, but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India. In this matter I sought an omen from the Kuran, and the verse I opened upon was this, “O Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers and treat them with severity” [Quran 66:9]. My great officers told me that the inhabitants of Hindustan were infidels and unbelievers. In obedience to the order of Almighty Allah I determined on an expedition against them.– From the Malfuzat-i Timuri, an autobiographical memoir of the Emperor Timur (1336-1405)
Later he describes the sack of Delhi in his own words:
In a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels, and all the goods and effects, the treasure and the grain which for many a long year had been stored in the fort became the spoil of my soldiers. They set fire to the houses and reduced them to ashes, and they razed the buildings and the fort to the ground….All these infidel Hindus were slain, their women and children, and their property and goods became the spoil of the victors. I proclaimed throughout the camp that every man who had infidel prisoners should put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners to death.
One hundred thousand infidels, impious idolaters, were on that day slain…on the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the baggage, and it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set these idolaters and enemies of Islam at liberty…no other course remained but that of making them all food for the sword. – From the Malfuzat-i Timuri, an autobiographical memoir of the Emperor Timur (1336-1405)
By the early 1500’s the mantle of Islamic power in India had passed to the first Mughal Emperor, Babar. Over the next centuries the Mughal Empire would expand to occupy nearly the entire Indian subcontinent. During the Mughal period outright slaughters and enslavements were less common, but the regime provided many incentives to convert to Islam by means of degrading Dhimmi laws and burdensome Jizya taxes.
So far as the Hindus were concerned, there was no improvement either in their material and moral conditions or in their relations with the Muslims. With the sole exception of Akbar, who sought to conciliate the Hindus by removing some of the glaring evils to which they were subjected, almost all other Mughal Emperors were notorious for their religious bigotry. The Muslim law which imposed many disabilities and indignities upon the Hindus…and thereby definitely gave them an inferior social and political status, as compared to the Muslims, was followed by these Mughal Emperors with as much zeal as was displayed by their predecessors,. The climax was reached during the reign of Aurangzeb, who deliberately pursued the policy of destroying and desecrating Hindu temples and idols with a thoroughness unknown before or since. -R.C. Majumdar (editor) The Mughul Empire, Bombay, 1974
Based on Muslim chronicles and demographic calculations Indian historian K.S. Lal has estimated that the Hindu population of India decreased by 80 million during the millennium of Islamic rule.
Yet despite a deliberate policy of genocide and conversion over the 1,000 years of partial or complete Muslim rule, the majority of the population miraculously retained their Hindu religion as modernity dawned on the subcontinent. In the next episode we will explore the continuing Islamic efforts to reconquer India in the modern era.
“These massacres perpetrated by Moslems in India are unparalleled in history. In sheer numbers, they are bigger than the Jewish Holocaust, the Soviet Terror, the Japanese massacres of the Chinese during WWII, Mao’s devastations of the Chinese peasantry, the massacres of the Armenians by the Turks, or any of the other famous crimes against humanity of the 20th Century. But sadly, they are almost unknown outside India.” – Serge Trifkovic
* CORRECTION – Sikhism was not present at the time of the Islamic conquest. Sikhism evolved in the early 16th Century as a militaristic response to Muslim tyranny.
As the power of the Islamic Mughal Empire steadily declined over the 18th and 19th centuries, European influence filled the void, culminating in the establishment of British rule in 1858. This period of colonialism is well-known and universally demonized in the West, and many blame British intervention for the Hindu/Muslim tensions we see in the region today. This flatly ignores the historical fact that Muslims had invaded the subcontinent 1,000 years before the Europeans, and Muslim on Hindu violence had been endemic ever since. To put things in perspective, the British Raj (1858-1947) lasted only 89 years, or less than one third of the 331-year span of the Mughal Empire (1526-1857), which was only the most recent in a series of Islamic empires that ruled India.
Although British rule brought its own brand of exploitation, the relative status of Hindus improved. They were no longer spat-upon infidels, but royal subjects- still occupied by a foreign ideology but now equal to Muslims and all other residents of the subcontinent. The British were more interested in economic gain than religious imperialism, and inadvertently or not, the infrastructure they built brought India out of feudalism and into the modern industrial age. Railways, roads, canals, bridges and telegraph lines were rapidly established so that raw materials, such as cotton, could be transported more efficiently to ports for export to England. By 1920, India had the fourth largest railroad network in the world, and 85% of the railroad network that moves 18 million Indians per day in 2009 was built by the British in the colonial period.
After World War II the British came under increasing pressure to leave, and no longer had the financial resources or domestic support to continue their occupation. In 1947 the British viceroy assembled leaders of the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities, who decided to partition the land. Hindu and Sikh-dominated areas would become a smaller core state called India, while Muslim areas in the West and East would form a new state called Pakistan. The prince of Kashmir, a majority-Muslim territory with a large Hindu minority, hesitated to join Pakistan and Islamic forces invaded to force the issue. The prince called for military help from India, igniting the first India-Pakistan War and ensuring division and instability in Kashmir ever since.
The name Pakistan is a recently fabricated acronym based on the five Muslim-majority regions in northwest India: Punjab, Afghan Border States, Kashmir, Sindh, and Baluchistan. Pakistan declared itself an Islamic Republic, and later codified the supremacy of Islam when it adopted the Koran as the basis for its constitution. In contrast the Republic of India’s constitution (PDF) laid the foundations for a secular democratic state in which the rights of all citizens would be respected. In the chaos following partition millions fled across the newly-drawn borders and about half a million died in inter-communal fighting. The fate of the minorities who remained on the wrong side of the borders is very telling.
PAKISTAN (West Pakistan)
In 1947 the population of West Pakistan, later known simply as Pakistan, was 15-20% Hindu. Today that figure has fallen below 2%. Hindus have been murdered, expelled and legally marginalized. Religious minorities have been forcibly converted and temples have been destroyed. Just as Arab Muslim textbooks and media vilify Jews, Pakistani Muslim textbooks incite violence against Hindus.
A 2003 study conducted by 30 experts of Pakistan’s education system found:
“Incitement to militancy and violence, including encouragement of Jihad and Shahadat (martyrdom)”; a “glorification of war and the use of force”; “Perspectives that encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow citizens, especially women and religious minorities, and towards other nations” and “Omission of concepts … that could encourage critical self awareness among students”
With the rise of the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier and the Swat Valley the atrocious conditions for minorities are only getting worse. In early 2009 the Taliban instituted Jizya, the tax that Muslims are required to collect from subdued minorities, on the infidel population of the Swat valley. In May 2009, 2,000 Sikhs who refused to pay the tax were forced to take refuge in a Sikh shrine near Islamabad. Sharia courts have been established in Swat, meting out such progressive penalties as death for adultery.
BANGLADESH (East Pakistan)
In the former East Pakistan, known as Bangladesh today, the Hindu population has seen a similar decline since partition. (INSERT GRAPH). Persecution reached the level of genocide in 1971 when civil war broke out between West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Bengalis in East Pakistan were pushing for independence, so West Pakistan sent tens of thousands of occupying troops to put down the revolt of their fellow Muslims, but during the occupation Hindus wound up being the main victims. They made up less than 20% of the population but accounted for an estimated 80% of the three million deaths and 80% of the ten million refugees who fled over the border to northeast India.
In a report to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Ted Kennedy wrote:
“Field reports to the U.S. Government, countless eye-witness journalistic accounts, reports of International agencies such as World Bank and additional information available to the subcommittee document the reign of terror which grips East Bengal (East Pakistan). Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops, systematically slaughtered, and in some places, painted with yellow patches marked ‘H’. All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad.”
American Professor R. J. Rummel noted that:
“The genocide and gendercidal atrocities were also perpetrated by lower-ranking officers and ordinary soldiers. These “willing executioners” were fueled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. “Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chickens. Said Pakistan General Niazi, ‘It was a low lying land of low lying people.’ The Hindus among the Bengalis were as Jews to the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best be exterminated.”
Anti-Hindu crimes continue to this day. 98% of reported rapes in Bangladesh are registered by Hindu women. The so-called ‘Vested Property Act’ has seen up to 40% of Hindu land snatched away forcibly, and Hindu temples are regularly vandalized. The Islamist Jamat-e-Islami party joined the government in 2001 sparking a new round of fleeing refugees, violent attacks and forced conversions. The government has openly called for the “Talibanization“ of the state.
Meanwhile the opposite has happened in India. Not only has the minority Muslim population grown, but it’s exploded at a 50% faster rate than the Hindu population. Between 1961 and 2001 the raw number of Muslims increased from 47 million to 138 million – a growth of 193%. In short the Muslim community of India proper has been thriving as the Hindu communities in Pakistan and Bangladesh have been bullied into irrelevance. Muslims have full voting and citizenship rights in India and just as in Western Europe, the Muslim vote is becoming crucial to swinging elections. And like in Western Europe and North America, the ruling socialist Congress Party in India is loathe to criticize its Muslim population for fear of provoking civil violence.
Of course the horrific violence emanating from the Muslim community and from Islamic groups in neighboring Pakistan continues unabated. The following is a partial list of recent atrocities:
March 12, 1993: 257 killed and more than 1,000 injured in 15 co-ordinated bomb attacks in Mumbai.
December 13, 2001: Attack on the Indian Parliament complex in New Delhi led to the killing of a dozen people and 18 injured. Four members of the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed were later convicted for their part in the plot
September 24, 2002: 31 people killed, 79 wounded at Akshardham temple in Gujarat
Aug. 25, 2003: Twin car bombings in Mumbai killed at least 52 people and injured 150. Indian authorities blamed the Kashmiri Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba
Oct. 29, 2005: Three explosions in busy shopping areas of south Delhi, two days before the Hindu festival of Diwali, killed 59 and injured 200. The Islamic Revolutionary Group claimed responsibility, but authorities blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba
March 7, 2006: A series of bombings in the holy city of Varanasi killed at least 28 and injured over a hundred. Indian investigators blamed Pakistan-based Islamic terrorists.
July 11, 2006: Seven bomb blasts on the Mumbai Suburban Railway killed over 200 people. Police blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Students Islamic Movement of India.
Aug. 25, 2007: Forty-two people killed and 50 injured in twin explosions at a crowded park in Hyderabad by Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami (HuJI).
May 13, 2008: A series of six explosions in Jaipur killed 63 people and injured more than 150.
July 26, 2008: Serial explosions in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad killed 45 people and injured more than 150. The Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility.
Sept. 13, 2008: Five bomb blasts in New Delhi’s popular shopping centers left 21 people dead and more than 100 injured. The Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility.
And we all remember the Mumbai Massacre that played out in front of our eyes on live TV in November 2008.
And yet it seems that India is powerless to act. Because both India and Pakistan now possess nuclear weapons, India today faces the same unsettling choices that Israel will face in the near future when Iran acquires nukes. Democracies are accountable to their people. Wars in which the sons and daughters of the nation die in combat are barely tolerated, let alone wars in which entire cities are wiped off the map. Meanwhile Islamic governments are only accountable to Allah.
And so today, the population of India is held hostage by aggressive Islamists who value death as they value life. India faces the same conundrum as the Western democracies; how can they maintain an open and pluralistic society while confronting an enemy who will gladly use those very attributes to sow death, fear and destruction in their cities? But even free people have their limits, and if another Mumbai-style attack occurs on Indian soil the people’s anger may be impossible to contain.