Beef is synonymous with Islam in India now. In fact, when a friend of mine married a Muslim guy and was converted to Islam, the first thing she was given to eat – despite the fact that she disliked meat – was beef. This is a critical step in conversions of Hindus to Islam in South Asia and elsewhere.
But why Beef (cow) and Islam? Maybe because cows were aplenty in Mecca or Medina and Mohammad had them as well as some holy practice. Seems right? Wrong! You can hardly find cows in Saudi Arabia. The main livestock consists of Sheep (63%), Goat (30%), Camel (5%) and Cattle (2%). This is when Saudi Arabia’s cattle and dairy industry has made great strides thanks to petro-dollars.
So, when the Islamic invaders came to India, how did they suddenly started considering cow to be so important in their diet? None of them was used to cow meat. In fact they were more used to goat or sheep meat (therefore Bakr-i-Eid and tradition of goat or sheep on Eid!). Then why cows?
The answer lies in Islamic invaders’ need to not just subjugate the native Hindus by force and war but also humiliate them. Destruction of temples and Cow Slaughter were two important tools used. Genesis of Beef’s connection with Islam lies there.
The invaders had realized very early that cow was considered holy by many Hindus. To attack the natives’ faith and religious system, cow slaughter and public spectacle of beef eating became a way to not just humiliate the Hindus after military defeat, but to break down their social and religious emotions. For example, Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer – who accompanied Sultan Muhammad Ghauri in his campaign against Prithviraj Chauhan – would have his followers bring a cow daily to a famous temple, slaughter it and cook kebabs and have them to treat the local Hindus with contempt.
In fact, despite the campaign of contempt by Islamic invaders – Sufis included – cow was still not the main source of meat. It wasn’t until the British came – whose natural diet included bovine meat – that cow slaughter became so rampant.
British found the practice of cow slaughter by the Islamic invaders to be a great way to create further divide between Hindus and Muslims. If – it stood to reason – the Muslims slaughtered cow as a matter of religious statement, then Hindus – who considered cow holy – would be forced to live away from them. This tactic worked.
‘That the Muslims continued to sacrifice the cow at least on festive occasions like Bakri Id and they were made to feel that the job of a butcher was honourable was also a basic political requirement of the British rule in India.’
‘But for the British it was a matter of importance that the Muslims assumed a separate identity, social intercourse with other Indians reduced and with passing of time Muslims began to live separately in distinct localities. Similar separation of persons of different Christian denominations took place in Europe from about the mid 16th century.’
‘We must thank Queen Victoria for having broadcast the truth about widespread cow-killing in India, by the British, in her letter dated December 8, 1893, to Indian Viceroy Lansdowne. ‘Though the Muhammadans’ cow-killing is made the pretext for the agitation, it is in fact, directed against us, who kill far more cows for our army, than the Muhammadans.
Hindus, over time, considered it “bad” to eat at a Muslims house. For obvious reasons. A sentiment that has continued to this day in many areas of India. In fact, the housing societies that explicitly or implicitly disallow Muslims do so precisely due to the seed sowed by the British.
What folks like Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti started as a means to subjugate Hindus and convert them, the British reaped for and through their divide and rule. And therein lies the historical “tradition” of how Islam in South Asia came to be linked to beef and cow slaughter and why it was so important for the Hindu converts to Islam to first taste beef during conversion! A tradition of perfidious contempt!
Why Public Spectacle of Cow Slaughter creates Outrage
Kashmir has a history of Sufis and Islamic kings (backed by these Sufis) – using various means to convert and subjugate the Hindu population. Before the Kashmiri Pandit exodus and earlier, cow slaughter was a common way to warn, threaten and browbeat Hindus.
When Engineer Rashid, the J&K MLA hosted a Beef Party, he was basically doing a Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti.
He was openly and shamelessly trying to humiliate Hindus using a tool that has been employed brutally and blatantly by the Islamic invaders for last over thousand years. To eat beef is not an Islamic right or tradition. It became a Tool of Subjugation in the hands of barbaric invaders to humiliate Hindu natives over the centuries.
Its not about whether cow “should be” holy for Hindus or not. And feelings against cow slaughter are not a symbolism of Hindu “superstition” but a reiteration of Islamic barbarism. For a religious group which considers following Mohammad as part of the main pillars of their religion, cow was the last thing on the dinner table in the place of its origin. Its importance stems from the need to subjugate.
The ink meant for Rashid was in a way also meant for Khwaja Chisti and his barbaric followers. And unlike the tradition of Kashmiri Muslims, the people who protested against Rashid did not throw stones or pump bullets into him. Something that the Kashmiri Pandits had become used to in the name of “Kashmiriyat”. Instead they used a symbolic way to show their anger. By blackening the face of a person who made a spectacle of cow slaughter, not because it was his religious tradition coming down from Arabia (as is the custom), but because of his contempt for Hindus!
From where I see, it is a statement of a population that was humiliated by a mindset that sought to indulge, and indeed, revel in contempt. And, contempt can not and should not be allowed to be a matter of right!It is because cow slaughter was used as an instrument of subjugation and humiliation by Muslims on Hindus, that for Hindus, ban on cow slaughter has become a matter of recovering their identity.
The basis of anti-beef movement of the Hindus may not necessarily be in the Hindu scriptures but rather, in the perfidious means used by Muslims to scorn contempt at Hindus for centuries! It is important to understand that while Beef has absolutely NOTHING to do with the religious right in Islam, a religion started where there were NO cows, it however became an important mechanism of religious intolerance and humiliation by Muslims towards the Hindus!
Featured Image – A cow sculpture at the Sri Mariamman Temple by Ivan Bandura on Flickr