NYT does "Al-Jazeera" on India

Moorthy Muthuswamy, September 2002

The New York Times appears to be embarking on an ill-conceived discrediting of Indian Americans and India on the issue of fund raising ("Indian Starts a Campaign Against Cash for Militants", August 18). It is providing an avenue to an Indian Muslim woman, - a former communist -- on a crusade to discredit and divide us about an event started by Indian Muslims, -- who burnt a train occupied by many Hindu women and children in the Indian State of Gujarat. In the subsequent retaliations scores of Muslims too were killed.

There has been hardly any worthwhile crusade by Indian Muslims or their Diaspora in America about stopping fund generation from America, the Middle East, and Pakistan for preaching mostly hate and promote medievalist among Indian Muslims. These funds have turned Kashmir into a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, with over three hundred thousand non-Muslims ethnically cleansed and several thousands killed and raped; kept Indian Muslims from progressing and joining the main stream.

Why is the above alternate, -- much needed -- view not in the August 18 article or in any other follow-up stories of the New York Times? Times’ columnist Tom Friedman, in an op-ed titled, "Where Freedom Reigns", August 14, didn’t even bother to mention Indian Muslim community’s involvement in the train burning, while blaming the "Hindu nationalist government" for the "pogrom". This attitude of the Times is similar to the one displayed by the Middle East Arab network Al-Jazeera, -- notorious for its one-sided reporting of the Israel-Palestinian conflict or the US-led war on terrorism.

The New York Times has an established recent pattern of uneducated outlook about the religious conflict in South Asia.

On Feb. 25, there was an op-ed by one Pankaj Mishra, followed by another on March 6 (Shashi Taroor), and on March 7, there was the editorial: "Instability in India". The issue in consideration was this: The Muslim-Hindu conflict regarding a religious site in the Indian town of Ayodhya and its implications.

Here was the problem: Both the op-eds did not address the issue of the Babri or any other Mosques being built on the site of former temples. Nor did they address the obvious bigger issue: The inability of Muslims to coexist with others and respect their beliefs in South Asia. Instead, the op-eds put the blame on the beleaguered Hindu community, and called Muslims as victims!

Many of us sent letters to the Editor giving an alternate, and probably, a more realistic view of the issues. But none where published. Astonishingly, the Times wrote an editorial on March 7th, parroting the flawed analysis of the two op-eds, putting the blame on the Indian government, -- and by extension, on the majority Hindus themselves.

I wrote to the CEO of the Times on March 10th pointing out that his Editorial Board, on this issue, had acted similarly to one person acting as the judge, jury, and executioner. I also suggested that these issues be viewed within the overall context of Muslim – non-Muslim conflict in South Asia.

So far, I have not received a reply.

I believe flawed analysts such as Shasi Taroor or Pankaj Mishra have unduly influenced the Times’ Editorial Board. But, unfortunately, the Board appears not to have done its homework.

Let me discuss briefly the nature and impact of Muslim - non-Muslim conflict in South Asia. This is important in influencing accurately, not only the Times, but also other media. Many now realize that this conflict is about the imposition of fascism and Nazism in the name of a religion. What are signatures to look for if this is indeed true? Answer: The attitude and attributes of a community become apparent when they hold power through majority status.

Every Muslim majority region in South Asia, -- Pakistan, Bangladesh or the Kashmir valley has seen massive drop in non-Muslim populations, since the 1947 partition of British India in the name of Islam, achieved by driving non-Muslims to India. Pakistan has seen its non-Muslim populations reduce from over 20% to less than 3%; Bangladesh from over 30% to about 10%; the Indian Kashmir valley saw most of its non-Muslim populations decimate since 1989. Also, Islamic Pakistan discriminates against its minorities in religious practice, voting, law, and employment. It uses the blasphemy laws to persecute them. However, Muslim population increased from about 10% in 1947 to 14% in Hindu majority secular India.

It therefore appears that religious indoctrination has transformed South Asian Muslims into oppressors, and non-Muslims, -- their victims. Now, non-Muslims are being attacked by Islamic fundamentalists in the only land they can live as free citizens, -- India. This is religious terrorism and genocide, faced by America and Israel too.

It is time we assert ourselves, as a community, and as supporters of the US-led war on terrorism. Given the Times’ prominence as one of world’s influential newspapers, I request the readers to write to the NYT management urging them to provide space for alternate views, especially, when such views are closer to being the truth (Publisher: A. Sulzberger; E-mail:publisher@nytimes.com).