National security adviser Ajit Doval on Tuesday claimed "India continues to play its role as a refuge for heterodox ideas with infinite capacity to absorb dissent", asserting that dissent does not mean disintegration or confrontation.
Doval's statement came in the face of realms of commentary on the shrinking space for dissent in the country on Modi government’s watch owing to crackdowns on protests and critics. He made these remarks while addressing a meeting at the India Islamic Centre in Delhi where he shared the stage with Muslim World League (MWL) secretary-general Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, who is considered a global voice on moderate Islam.
Al-Issa is in India for a six-day visit at the invitation of the government which has been trying to establish regular contacts with religious figures across the Islamic world; purportedly to address radicalisation which many of these countries themselves are grappling with. Such contacts with the Islamic world — which get noticed in the international media — also help address the overseas image of the Modi government being anti-minority.
According to Doval, Islam has enriched India and dissidents from every school of thought have found a home in India which, in turn, helped create a syncretic consciousness. Also, he stressed that terrorism is not linked to any religion.
Specifically on Islam, he underscored the fact that despite having 200 million Muslims, the involvement of Indian citizens in global terrorism has been "incredibly low". At the same time, he said the challenges of extremism and global terrorism are such that India cannot lower its guard.
Stating that MWL is aware of the fact that India is a "Hindu majority country", Al-Issa said India’s entrenched tradition of diversity is a source of enrichment and an example of co-existence for the world. About the Muslims of India, he said they are very proud of their Indian nationality and the constitution.
Given that his visit has taken place in the midst of the raging debate on a uniform civil code, Al-Issa’s remark that Islam respects countries and their respective laws is likely to be a shot in the arm of the ruling ecosystem as it tries to navigate this slippery terrain that was abandoned by the makers of the Indian Constitution.