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It turns out the United States and Europe aren’t the only places where religious zealots would like to strip Muslims of their basic rights as citizens.
Indian politician and Harvard University professor Subramanian Swamy touched off an international furor by publishing an opinion piece in an Indian newspaper suggesting that the voting rights of Indian Muslims be revoked – and restored only if they acknowledge their ancestral Hindu roots.
Swamy’s plan didn’t sit well with many in the Harvard community. Some 260 students, faculty, parents and others signed a petition calling for the ouster of Swamy, who teaches economics at the Harvard Summer School. “Swamy breaches the most basic standards of respect and tolerance,” the petition reads.
The article, entitled, “Analysis: How to Wipe Out Islamic Terror,” was published in the newspaper Daily News & Analysis (DNA) on July 16, three days after three terrorist explosions rocked Mumbai, India’s largest city, killing at least 21 people and wounding 141. Analysts suggested that Pakistan-based terror groups were responsible, and may have timed the attack to disrupt recently resumed peace talks between Pakistan and India.
Offering arguments strongly reminiscent of those put forth by American anti-Muslim activists, Swamy wrote, “The first lesson to be learnt from the recent history of Islamic terrorism against India and for tackling terrorism in India is that the Hindu is the target and that Muslims of India are being programmed by a slow reactive process to become radical and thus slide into suicide against Hindus.”
Swamy, who also serves as president of India’s Janata (People’s) Party, recommended a five-point strategy of legal and cultural changes to entrench India’s character and status as a Hindu Rashtra [state] “in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus.” Swamy’s plan included renaming the nation “Hindustan” and making the learning of Sanskrit and the singing of “Vande Mataram” – the official national song of India – mandatory. He also proposed shutting down more than 300 mosques and implementing a law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to other religions.
“If any Muslim acknowledges his or her Hindu legacy, then we Hindus can accept him or her as a part of the Brihad Hindu Samaj (greater Hindu society) which is Hindustan,” Swami wrote. “India … is a nation of Hindus and others whose ancestors were Hindus. Others, who refuse to acknowledge this, or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration, can remain in India but should not have voting rights (which means they cannot be elected representatives).”
In the United States, Great Britain and other Western nations, activists have argued that Islam be treated not as a religion but as a dangerous, subversive political ideology that does not deserve free-speech protections. However, Canada and numerous European nations have laws that criminalize hate speech against, among others, Muslims.