The demands of the Jamiat were simple. In
For the sake of Hindu-Muslim alliance Gandhi continued to make compromise after compromise, but ultimately the alliance collapsed. It collapsed because of several reasons and because Gandhi did not think things through. He was not interested in
(i) In the first place, the Jamiat presented the image of a Christian war against Muslims in the regions of
(ii) The Muslim leaders of the Khilafat movement painted a picture of world-wide conspiracy against Muslims. Gandhi was swayed by the eloquence of Mohamed and Shaukat Ali. It is common for Muslims to claim that everyone is unjustly persecuting them and there is a conspiracy against them everywhere. (These claims of victimization can be as ridiculous as “9/11 was carried out by Jews” or “Americans beheaded Paul Johnson to give Islam a bad name”)
(iii) Gandhi ignored voices coming from the Indian Muslim community. There were many Indian Muslims who did not support the Khilafat movement. The more religious held that the Ottoman Sultans were not legitimate Caliphs. In
(iii) Another mistake Gandhi made is to ignore the sections that would have actually helped him. He ignored the sects of syncretic Islam that had arisen in the Indian subcontinent. Such sects were more willing to live in peace with other religions. A 'pure' form of Islam yearning for Dar-ul-Islam puts up with non-Muslims only as long as they [the Muslims] are weak. Gandhi should have encouraged these heretical sects. There were also a growing number of secular Muslims. But Gandhi ignored them in favour of religious mullahs.
(iv) The Muslim clergy did not believe in living peacefully with other religions. The Koran divides the world into Dar-Al-Harb (House of war) and Dar-Al-Islam (house of Islam). The faithful are commanded to fight until the non-Muslims are converted, subjugated or annihilated. Though the Koran also allows treaties with pagans, according to traditionalist interpretations based on Muhammad's own actions, such a peace is to be kept only as long as Muslims are weak. A strict interpretation of such commandments means there can be no tolerance in Islam for other religions, particularly of non-Abrahamic variety. After the British conquest of
(v) It cannot be emphasized enough that Khilafat movement had no real connection with
(vi) Gandhi viewed Islam through his own spirituality ignoring how the parishioners of Islam actually saw it. For them religion and politics are inseparable. To Gandhi this was not bad since he also believed that religion and politics should not be separable and religion is needed to make politics ethical. He himself was a devout Hindu and declared his allegiance to Hinduism as an essential component of national struggle. But his Hinduism was of a different brand than the Islam practiced by orthodox Muslims. About Hindu sacred texts Gandhi said, "My belief in the Hindu scriptures does not require me to accept every word and every verse as divinely inspired... I decline to be bound by any interpretation, however learned it may be, if it is repugnant to reason or moral sense. ... Every word of the printed works passing muster as `Shastras' is not, in my opinion, a revelation ... The interpretation of accepted texts has undergone evolution and is capable of indefinite evolution, even as the human intellect and heart are .... Nothing in the shastras which is manifestly contrary to universal truths and morals can stand... Nothing in the shastras which is capable of being reasoned can stand if it is in conflict with reason." Such evolutionary Hinduism is a part of Hindu tradition. But no devout Muslim can accept this as true of the Koran or even the Hadith. For them their revealed texts are eternal and immutable; the commandments are not to be rationally scrutinized but simply accepted. Though there is a limited space for interpretation, there is no space for questioning or rejecting the doctrines even if they conflict with reason and morality. That was the essential difference between the way Gandhi practiced his religion and the orthodox Muslims practice theirs.
(vii) It was not that Gandhi was ignorant of Islamic fanaticism. He complained that Muslims are bullies and Hindus are cowards during riots. The Ali brothers had invited the Amir of Afghanistan to invade
Needless to say Gandhi's experiment with Islam failed. The results were disastrous for both Hindus and Muslims. In the first place since the movement understood nothing about the dynamics of Turkish politics and nationalism it was bound to fail – the time of Sultans was over. In 1922 there was violence and Gandhi withdrew his support for the movement. Now let us take a look at the consequences of support to this Islamic movement:-
(a) The Muslim clergy became the centrepiece of Muslim politics in
(b) Muslims blamed Gandhi for the failure of the restoration of Khalifa.
(c) It led to Mopla riots. The Mopla Muslim community heard rumours that the time for jihad had come and an end must be put to all kaffirs. So they violently attacked the Hindus, killing old and young, raping women, tearing off fetuses from wombs. Finally the British restored peace. This must be the only time during the national movement when British troops were welcomed with open arms by the Indians. It is evidence that religion-addicted Muslims cannot live in peace with non-Muslims for long. That was what Hindus got for taking part in a purely Islamic agitation.
(c) The Khilafat movement made the Muslims more conscious of their Islamic identity. It was this that finally led to the
(d) Let us see how the orthodox Muslims repaid Gandhi: In 1924, Mohammed Ali to whom Gandhi showed such affection said, : "However pure Mr. Gandhi's character may be, he must appear to me, from the point of religion, inferior to any Mussalman even though he be without character." In 1925 he emphasized: "Yes, according to my religion and creed, I do hold an adulterous and a fallen Mussalman to be better than Mr. Gandhi". That is the true Islamofascist mentality revealed in all its glory.
In this way Gandhi's experiment with Islam failed. This should serve as an object lesson to all who try to appease the fanatic Muslims. It will not succeed but only lead to greater fanaticism and destruction.