Buddhist history in Pakistan: art of manipulation in a major media outlet in US
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The article called “Museum exhibit highlights Pakistan’s Buddhist roots” by Emanuella Grinberg (CNN) was a very interesting title and I expected some real enlightenment. Instead, it was little more than a propaganda stunt or written by an individual who clearly understands little about the history of the Indian subcontinent.
Sadly, the more I read then Melissa Chiu also followed the same theme because the Museum Director at New York’s Asia Society, also made baseless comments based on political correctness and whitewashing the ongoing persecution of all minorities in Pakistan.
It matters not if Melissa Chiu desired this or if it was based on sensitivities or if because of other factors. The end result is that her comment distorts reality by using clever language which places Pakistan within ancient culture but clearly this is false.
Yes, it is not only Hindus and Christians who suffer in Pakistan but also Ahmadiyya Muslims and Shia Muslims are also attacked often by extremists within the Sunni Muslim community. Or, the discrimination is state sanctioned and in modern day Pakistan both non-Muslims and Muslims face the death penalty for blaspheming against Mohammed.
Therefore, what religious pluralism and what Pakistan history are Emanuella Grinberg and Melissa Chiu talking about? Pakistan is a relatively new nation and since the creation of Pakistan the Hindu and Sikh population went into sharp decline and ongoing Islamization is continuing.
It is true that the land of modern day Pakistan was at the crossroads of cultural influences but this happened under “mother India.” Hindus in India welcomed religious minorities fleeing Islamic persecution in Persia (Iran) and Zoroastrians fled to “mother India.” However, constant Islamic invasions of “mother India” meant that Islamization would take place in parts of a more advanced Hindu civilization which welcomed religious pluralism – note Syriac Christians, Zoroastrians, Jainism, Buddhism and other faiths which thrived within Hindu civilization.
Indeed, since the creation of Pakistan the Hindu civilization was crushed and this applies to Hindus fleeing, greater marginalization, destruction and neglect of Hindu architecture and temples. Therefore, while the Muslim population in India remains constant the Hindu population in Pakistan and Bangladesh in such a short period of time is in crisis.
In truth, the Hindus of Pakistan are sharing the same fate which befell the Buddhists of Afghanistan and one day virtually nothing will be left apart from minor images in museums or very small Hindu communities which have no power.
Melissa Chiu comments that “When we think of Pakistan, Americans might associate it with the place where Osama bin Laden was captured, with terrorism and natural disasters…..But actually, it has a much longer history that dates back to an ancient culture that gives us a sense of a pluralistic tradition that was all about tolerance.”
Wrong, Pakistan does not have a long history but “mother India” of course does have a long deep history and it is one of the finest civilizations in the world. The Hindu civilization faced stagnation and being reduced in size because of Islamic invasions and then British colonialism. However, since independence India is once more emerging and this nation is a rising power and a nation based on pluralism.
Alternatively, since the creation of Pakistan the religious minorities and society on a whole is being Islamized and moderate Muslims, Ahmadiyya Muslims, non-Muslim minorities, and liberals within society are on the back foot. Christian and Hindu women are often kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and Ahmadiyya Muslims are treated like second-class citizens in their own land.
Ahmadiyya Muslims and Shia Muslims are not being killed in India because of their religion but in Pakistan many members from both communities have been killed.
Melissa Chiu is using language delicately because Pakistan is a new nation state and the “much longer history that dates back to an ancient culture” does not bare a relationship with aligning this with Pakistan and it should be mentioned under “mother India.”
The “pluralistic tradition” is nothing to do with Pakistan but was part and parcel of Hindu civilization and “mother India.” Since the creation of Pakistan the Hindu population and others have suffered greatly and the old world is becoming “a modern day museum.”
Emanuella Grinberg then states “At its height, Gandhara encompassed present-day Peshawar in northwest Pakistan and parts of eastern Afghanistan, the Hindu Kush, and northwest India, making it a major center of trade, commerce and the development of arts and education. Pakistan may be 95% Muslim today, but Buddhism flourished in Gandhara between the 2nd century B.C. and 10th century A.D., giving rise to a distinct style of Buddhist visual art.”
This information is educational but look what is left out. How did Afghanistan and modern day Pakistan become 99% Muslim and 95% Muslim respectively? The factors will be based on multiple reasons but ignoring Islamic jihad, dhimmitude, jizya, forced conversions, pogroms, destruction of Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Jain places of worship, is a lot to leave out.
Emanuella Grinberg crosses the line when in her article it is stated that “…the exhibit also demonstrates Pakistan’s dedication to preserving its multicultural heritage, Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations said.”
UN Amabassador for Pakistan, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, comments that “Buddha represents a human being whose ethereal qualities were so magnified by his enormous wisdom that his values of himself, which were espoused by Gandhi and so many others, became his contributions to mankind.”
I do not doubt the sincerity of Abdullah Hussain Haroon and clearly many people in Pakistan do genuinely support a more tolerant society. Also, individuals like Abdullah Hussain Haroon want to preserve past history and protect civilizations which are very rich. However, the story is more complex than this and ongoing Islamization is a reality and even Sufi shrines have been attacked in recent times in Pakistan.
The BBC stated “In recent years kidnapping for ransom and armed robberies have multiplied in the area and Hindus have increasingly been the focus of attacks….Many pay protection money regularly to local gangs or influential figures. But in spite of this they are still targeted.”
The Hindu American Foundation stated (Washington, D.C. (June 15, 2006)) that “The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) bemoaned the destruction of the last Hindu temple in Lahore, Pakistan. At the time of the partition of India in 1947 Lahore was known as one of the centers of culture and cosmopolitanism. Soon thereafter its great artists, musicians, and its Hindu and Sikh populations either moved voluntarily out of that city or were driven out by the fundamentalist Muslim forces that have shaped the country since then. “The last stroke in making Lahore totally Muslim is the demolition of the only remaining Hindu temple in the city”, said Ramesh Rao, member of the HAF Executive Council.”
“A private developer was allowed to demolish the ‘Krishna Mandir’ at Wachhoowali, Rang Mahal, and construct a commercial building in its place. Government officials, in charge of protecting minority interests, were involved in the machinations that led to the destruction of the last Hindu temple in Lahore. The Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB), the government body maintaining properties of minorities, especially Hindus and Sikhs, was said to have concealed facts from the municipal board chairman about the nature of the building. This is not the first time the EPTB has permitted the demolition of a temple. It was only last year that the Vehari temple in Punjab was razed for the construction of a commercial building.”
“These acts of connivance of local authorities in the destruction of non-Muslim religious symbols and in harassing minority groups are in the established tradition of driving minorities out of Pakistan. The Hindu population in Pakistan, which was between 15 and 24 percent in 1947, at the time of partition of India, has now been reduced to less than two percent. “While we applaud the condemnation by several opposition members of the National Assembly like Pakistan People’s Party, and Pakistan Muslim League-N, we realize that the political, social, and religious dynamic in Pakistan allows such attacks on minorities and minority institutions with impunity,” said Dr. Mihir Meghani, President of HAF. “Unless there is worldwide condemnation of this act of destruction, and arrest and imprisonment of officials involved in the matter, there is no hope for minorities in Pakistan.”
Therefore, the author, the ambassador and the museum director in the CNN article can state platitudes about the showing of Buddhist history. However, Hindu and Sikhs are becoming “real museums” without having “a museum” to show the reality of Pakistan since partition.
The pluralism of past history is nothing to do with Pakistan because past pluralism was based on Hindu civilization and the Indian subcontinent. Given this, it is deplorable that at a time when minorities face so much persecution and injustice in modern day Pakistan; that an article written by a CNN correspondent is whitewashing past history and the modern day reality of Pakistan.
The author instead comes up with allowing the following comment in her article that “...the exhibit also demonstrates Pakistan’s dedication to preserving its multicultural heritage.”
This could not be further from the truth because much of Pakistan’s past Hindu and Buddhist heritage is under attack. Also, never mind heritage, the Hindu population since the creation of Pakistan is in clear free-fall percentage wise and institutional discrimination is widespread.
Maybe the author believes it is fine to have a museum which distorts reality and then to make political capital out of the misfortune of past history where Buddhists suffered so greatly at the hands of Islamic rule. Also, the past eradication of Buddhism after Islamic conquests is not just history because since the creation of Pakistan it is clear that Hindu civilization and the Hindu population faces the same Islamization processes.
This applies to violence, persecution and institutional discrimination.
Also, why does the author allow the following comment: “This was one of the great periods of the world of fundamental equity, of human rights and so many other important principles, which are important to Pakistan and the United States today….”
The Buddhist exhibition shows how little is left of Buddhism after Islamization took place and in recent times Hindu and Sikh communities have been forced to flee many areas after the creation of Pakistan.
When does a state sanctioned policy for supporting the death penalty for blasphemy against Mohammed become “important principles?” Also, how does the ongoing Islamization of Pakistan become turned into“...the exhibit also demonstrates Pakistan’s dedication to preserving its multicultural heritage.”
I am sure that many Hindus will be alarmed by how ancient Hindu civilization and pluralism is being used in the same paragraph to denote Pakistan.
The article by Emanuella Grinberg is very misleading and near the end it sounds like a propaganda piece. I am astonished that a major agency would allow such a shallow and distorted history to be allowed to be published and manipulated.
http://moderntokyotimes.com please visit