- Khalid Umar, a UK-based Barrister, shares his perspective on Islamic ideology, Hinduism, and the challenges of Muslim society’s interaction with the non-Muslim world.
- He discusses the lack of reciprocity in interfaith relationships, citing differences in religious beliefs as a significant barrier; he also shares how Islam views mosques as autonomous entities not bound by the laws of the land and highlights their impact on neighboring communities.
- He emphasizes the need for de-radicalization starting at home, advocating for a unified secular curriculum to promote communal harmony in India.
- Umar concludes by highlighting the need for education, secularism, and a culture of inquiry to promote progress in Muslim-majority countries and enhance global contributions.
Khalid Umar is a practicing Barrister in the UK. He grew up in Pakistan in an open-minded family environment, thus avoiding the typical Hinduphobic mindset prevalent in that country. He frequently shares his insights on Indic matters with his nearly 20,000 followers on Facebook. This article is based on a YouTube video of his wide-ranging interview with Citti.Net, titled “Hinduism is intellectually superior.”
Growing up in the late 1970s in the Punjab province of Pakistan, Khalid Umar recalls that his school education emphasized the supremacy of the Islamic faith over all else, often portraying Hindus as wicked, constant enemies of Islam and their religion as promoting bad values. Muslims were described as historically tolerant, having ruled the Indian subcontinent for a millennium without forcibly converting Hindus. After General Zia-ul-Haq’s rise to power in the late 1970s, the educational system became increasingly Islamist. According to Umar, even today, many Pakistanis perceive Hindus as being connected to those who lived in Mecca during the time of Prophet Muhammad, adding religious weight to the animosity against them. This narrative contributes to a sense of holy war, pitting the “kafirs” (non-believers) against Islam.
Umar had the good fortune of being born to educated parents who shielded him from religious indoctrination. This helped him to become a free thinker, unburdened by the prevalent biases and animosities in many Muslim households.
About this article
In this article, we have attempted to summarize his views on a number of issues, such as Islamic ideology, Indian Muslims, Hindu Rashtra, etc. While the article is drawn from the video recording of his interview with Citti.Net, it is not intended to be a verbatim transcription of the interview. Instead, we have taken the liberty of paraphrasing his words to bring the essence of his views to our readers. The YouTube video of his interview can be accessed here:
Why Muslims often do not Reciprocate Hindu Overtures of Brotherhood and Respect?
“Apparently, it feels good calling Muslims as brothers and sisters. And ideally, it should be (so) in any educated and secular society. The problem is you can’t clap with one hand. For a Hindu to call a Muslim brother, the same sentiment must be reciprocated as well.” For a practicing Muslim, Umar explains: “…a Hindu is not only a Kaffir, but a Mushrik [idolator] as well, which, according to their interpretation of Islam, is an unpardonable sin.”
“With the polytheists, a Muslim is not allowed to have any social relationships like marrying, socializing, eating food together, etc. So, the way Islam is being interpreted, it cannot be secular. And that’s why you, as a Hindu, will never get the same respect in return.”
So, the way Islam is being interpreted, it cannot be secular. And that’s why you, as a Hindu, will never get the same respect in return
Turning to whether the situation can be rectified, he says, “It can only come by stopping radicalization. It is the home where it all starts, then madrasa and school,” he elaborates: “One country, one curriculum is the recipe of communal harmony and peace in India,” and repeats for emphasis: “India needs a uniform education code – one secular curriculum for all.”
There are 3000 madrasas in the Indian Capital, New Delhi alone, with over 360,000 young minds stuck in the curriculum that was developed in the 1700s, he points out. One cannot dream of taking the nation forward with millions of children enrolled in over 600,000 madrasas around the country. In addition, there are 4-5 million mosques as well, with attached elementary schools and madrasas.
The Indian government has tried but has failed to make madrasa education more inclusive of secular and science subjects, Umar says. There was a scheme called SPQM, introduced around 2009-10, to include science, math, social studies, Hindi, and English in madrasas. It is still going on in 18 states in the country, and so far, over 21,000 madrasas have been given huge funds – over Rs1000 crores (approx. $125 million) to implement the secularization scheme. However, “You can’t teach science and mathematics and algebra, etc., [along] with Islamic scripture, because the core Islamic scripture, as being taught in madrasas, cannot be made secular and humanistic,” he says.
“Will the students of the madrasas trust science, which says that the earth is spherical and revolves around the Sun? Or, would they believe the interpretation of Quran, which says that the Earth is flat and the sun sets in the murky waters of the lake? How can you teach them harmony and love when they will learn from Quran that all the idol worshippers are consigned to the eternal hellfire?” He asks rhetorically.
“If we cannot control mullah, mosque, and madrasa, then peace and communal harmony will remain in pipe dream for the Indian society,” he concludes, “You know, you have to control the avenues of indoctrination before you can think that, in 20 to 30 years, things will come to normal settings.”
Mosques, Azaans, and Namaz in Public Spaces
Umar begins by quoting Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who apparently has said: “The minarets are bayonets, the mosques are our barracks, their dorms are our helmets, and the believers are our soldiers,” and that the mosque in Europe: “are our Trojan horses.”
“You need to understand that the mosque is not a place where you assemble to say your prayers only. It’s a house of God with four walls, which is a powerful political institution, free from state control, which seeks to influence and transform society at the grassroots level. So, all the mosques are basically houses of Sharia law. They are houses of jihad and stand against everything but [what] secularism stands for.”
A mosque is a country within a country. And the ground upon which the Mosque has been built is now the conquered territory of Islam. It is no longer part of the country where it stands.
“A mosque is a country within a country, and the ground upon which the Mosque has been built is now the conquered territory of Islam; it is no longer part of the country where it stands.”
“So, what happens is that the areas and the roads around the mosque become regions of special interest. Creating nuisance on roads and noise pollution basically discourages the other communities … to leave those properties and sell them off, maybe cheaply, to Muslim buyers.”
He then addresses the issue of Azaan, which is proclaimed five times a day, affirming Islamic beliefs in Allah as the only God and Muhammad as His messenger. While that message, in itself, may be quite offensive to non-Muslims, he focuses on its impact on civic life.
Creating nuisance on roads and noise pollution basically discourages the other communities … to leave those properties and sell them off, maybe cheaply, to Muslim buyers.
The increasing number of mosques and Muslims in urban areas has raised concerns about the intrusion of Azaan noise. The Muslim community should consider if the traditional approach is still necessary. In the past, strong voices may have been required to reach the faithful, but technology now provides more efficient alternatives, such as mobile apps and wristwatches. A civic-minded Muslim community would look into these modern options to fulfill the purpose of the Azaan more efficiently and without intrusion. However, this is not likely to happen anytime soon. “Because this is… the supremacist ideology that we are talking about. It’s less to do with the call to prayer,” he says.
It is surprising that certain mosques in the UK have been granted permission to use loudspeakers for the Azaan, especially around the Ramadan time, says Umar. It’s not just about the Azaan itself; it’s about the Islamic fixation on tradition, a fixation he calls “illogical.” Then there is the tradition of performing the Azaan for a newborn immediately after birth, which Umar also terms “illogical.” The practice is prevalent even in Western European hospitals, where, in the absence of a mullah, a Muslim doctor or paramedic will volunteer to perform this religious service. “Does it make any sense?”
There should be a meaningful internal debate within the Muslim diaspora to consider important changes to their traditional practices. He emphasizes community-driven change rather than external imposition through executive orders or court mandates. The change, he believes, will be more acceptable to the community if it comes from within the community.
Population Expansion in European Countries
Muslim population expansion in Western countries takes place through a combination of asylum, immigration, and reproduction, Umar explains. Typically, immigrants arrive first, and then they start procreating. It’s worth noting that many individuals from countries like Iraq, Pakistan, or Bangladesh who have settled in the UK tend to marry someone from their home country and subsequently bring their relatives or cousins to the UK. In the year ending September 2019, the UK issued 180,000 visas for family-related reasons, marking a 23% increase from previous years, and according to UK statistics, an additional 20,000 individuals were granted asylum. The asylum system alone costs the UK more than 1.8 billion pounds of taxpayer money annually. Additionally, in 2019, there were over 30,000 attempts by young, healthy males to enter the UK illegally.
Muslim population expansion in Western countries takes place through a combination of asylum, immigration, and subsequent reproduction.
The asylum process in the UK involves a significant waiting period, often a year or more. Currently, there are more than 100,000 pending asylum cases. Even if someone’s asylum claim is rejected, it can be extremely challenging to deport them, as their home country may refuse to accept them, or various other factors come into play. They may have established a family, a relationship, or even had a child while living in the UK. Once they gain legal status, they may return to their home country and get married again, starting the expansion cycle afresh. In Western European countries, the increase in population is largely driven by net migration, as natural population growth has been minimal or negative. Notably, Germany has around 10.4 million non-nationals residing in the country, while Spain, France, and Italy each have approximately 5 million non-nationals. These four countries account for 71% of non-national residents. This strategy involves a combination of asylum-seeking, immigration, and subsequent procreation, and “mostly they belong to a certain religion,” he says.
Halal and Haram
Islamic teachings discourage socializing with polytheists, which can lead to many traditions and festivals being classified as Haram, including Diwali.
Halal and Haram have specific meanings in Islam. Halal denotes anything that is permissible and lawful under Islamic law, whereas Haram signifies actions that are forbidden and punishable. While we often associate Halal with food, its scope extends far beyond food. It encompasses various aspects of life, including behavior, speech, attitude, clothing, cosmetics, medicine, and even areas like banking, finance, hospitality, and dating. In the UK, there are even Halal dating sites. Islam regulates nearly every facet of a Muslim’s life, and they must adhere to a set of strict guidelines. Muslims believe that following Halal practices will lead them to paradise, whereas engaging in Haram activities can lead to hell. This fear drives their obedience to these rules, as they view everything through the narrow lens of Halal and Haram.
For instance, even actions like touching someone’s feet might be perceived by strict adherents as resembling the Sajda, which is prohibited in Islam. Similarly, Islamic teachings discourage socializing with polytheists, which can lead to many traditions and festivals being classified as Haram, including Diwali.
“I find Hinduism to be intellectually and philosophically actually superior to the other faiths, especially Abrahamic faiths,” says Umar, explaining his reasons: “So, as a humanist, I love the approach of Sanatan dharma. Hindus don’t have to perform anything in particular to be a Hindu.” He finds Hinduism’s openness and non-dogmatic nature fascinating, noting that Hinduism does not prescribe a specific way of life or religious practice but allows individuals to choose how they incorporate it into their lives. There’s no formal orthodoxy, and both those who dedicate significant time to religious practice and those who do so sporadically are considered valid adherents. “I find the ideas of God more robust in Hinduism, as fragility has no space in here,” he says, as it doesn’t rely on strict dogma or a single, inflexible interpretation but encourages diverse viewpoints, fostering open and unrestricted discussions about its beliefs.
I find Hinduism to be intellectually and philosophically actually superior to the other faiths, especially Abrahamic faiths
He likes Hinduism’s portrayal of good versus evil in its epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which emphasize conflicts that are not centered on Hinduism versus other faiths but on moral battles within the tradition. This emphasis on Good vs. Evil promotes an evolving and adaptable belief system.
One of the most remarkable facets of Hinduism, according to Umar, is its rejection of blind faith, coercion, or the use of force to propagate its beliefs. Hinduism respects individual freedom and creativity, offering a unique liberty to choose one’s own deity. This freedom of choice is deeply fascinating and differentiates Hinduism from many other religious traditions. ”For someone familiar with the monotheistic faiths, understanding the Hindu faith requires a total paradigm shift,” he says.
Umar closes this segment with a rather pointed statement: “(In Hinduism) there is no such Creator of the universe, who loves me, but He will burn me in eternal hellfire for not being obedient to His eternal message given in the holy books, through a last and final messenger who lived 1000 years or more than 1000 years ago. Hinduism tells me God is inside you.”
“Isn’t that enough for me to be a Hindu?” he says.
The Way Forward for the Muslim Society
Delving into a bit of self-reflection, Umar notes that six of the world’s poorest countries happen to be Muslim-majority nations. Despite Muslims constituting 21% of the global population, their share of the world GDP is only 5%. The situation of Indian Muslims isn’t vastly different. On the educational front, all Muslim-majority countries combined have fewer than 600 universities. In contrast, India, with a population of 1.4 billion, boasts 8,470 universities. In the field of science, the Muslim society has produced only eight Nobel Laureates in the last century, only two of which were in physics and chemistry. By contrast, the Jewish community, with a population of just 14 million, has produced 167 Nobel Laureates.
…approximately 60% of the world’s Muslims cannot read or write. Illiteracy tends to promote dogma while rejecting secularism and scientific thought. Freedom of expression is strongly discouraged, and any form of inquiry is stifled by indoctrination.
One of the root causes of this disparity, he explains, is that approximately 60% of the world’s Muslims cannot read or write. Illiteracy tends to promote dogma while rejecting secularism and scientific thought. Freedom of expression is strongly discouraged, and any form of inquiry is stifled by indoctrination.
It wasn’t always like this, says Umar. There was a period in Islamic history, referred to as the “Golden Age of Islam,” that spanned from the 8th to the 13th century. During this era, there was a great deal of progress in the fields of science, economic development, and cultural contributions. Arab scholars helped preserve classical works by translating them into other languages. They assimilated the scientific knowledge of the civilizations they had encountered, including the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, and more. They made significant contributions to algebra, calculus, geometry, chemistry, biology, mathematics, astronomy, and various art forms, such as ceramics, metalwork, textiles, woodwork, and calligraphy. The era boasted a lineup of great philosophers and scientists whose contributions are still cherished.
What can be done today? The answer, he says, is clear: Education, secularism, critical thinking, and a culture of inquiry. He recalls a book, an English translation of the Quran, that his father gave him when he was about ten years old. The book contained lessons on how Islamic scholars interpreted the Quran’s message. These same principles, he believes, hold important lessons for today’s Muslims:
- Question everything, seek answers, and don’t fear divine retribution for seeking understanding.
- Do not support anything that restricts life and progress.
- Do not believe in anything without comprehending it, even the concept of God.
- Your actions are essential for changing the world.
- Approach faith with respect and practice it within your private space.
- Avoid actions that portray Allah and His messenger in a negative or hateful light.
- Foster a passion for science, literature, music, arts, and humanity, just as during the golden age of Islam.
- Remember that there is no greater religion than humanity.
- Be discerning in selecting your teachers or preachers and treat them with respect.
- Strive to be a good human being, compete in goodness and knowledge, and spread universal love; you will receive the same in return.
These principles transcend religious boundaries and can apply to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and people of all faiths, and if we explore our sacred texts with a fresh perspective, we will discover that these values have been endorsed by our ancestors, contributing to a golden age that lasted over six centuries, he concludes.