Identity politics reaches G20
D.C. PATHAK (Source: IANS) | 22 Nov, 2022
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In a first of its kind event, Indonesia, hosting the G20 Summit this
time, prefaced it by organising a global meeting of religious and
intellectual leaders called R20 - short for G20 Religious Forum - in
Bali purportedly to decry radicalism and extremism and 'promote moderate
Islam' and to help ensure that in the 21st century, religion becomes
part of 'global solutions rather than problems'.
keeping with the origin of R20 as an adjunct of G20 that focused on
climate change issues, the Bali meet on November 2-3 was also called
'Spiritual Ecology Movement' to which leaders of all faiths were invited
for joining in the efforts to solve global economic, political and
humanitarian problems including poverty, Covid-19 and the ongoing
R20 was jointly sponsored by Nahdlatul
Ulama, the leading Islamic organisation of Indonesia, and the
Mecca-based Rabitae Alame Islami (Muslim World League). Incidentally,
the well-known Nadwatul Ulema Darul Uloom in India was also largely
funded by Saudi Arabia.
The invitees included leaders of
Catholic church, Anglican denomination, World Evangelical Forum, Chief
Rabbi of UK as also the RSS from India, which is known to be the world's
largest Hindu cultural organisation. The preamble of R20 spelt out that
the forum will mobilise diverse religious, political and economic
leaders from G20 Member States and elsewhere throughout the world, to
'prevent the weaponisation of identity, curtail the spread of communal
hatred, promote respect among the diverse peoples and cultures and work
for a world order upholding the equal rights and dignity of every human
Nahdlatul Ulama, said to be the world's largest Muslim
organisation, spearheaded the idea of R20 as the 'first inter-faith
communication group in the history of the world's most powerful
economies', in collaboration with Muslim World League headquartered at
Together they represent the predominant part of Sunni
Islam covering all the sects - from Hanafi to Hanbali - and seek
guidance and support from Saudi Arabia which leads the Organisation of
Islamic Conference (OIC) too.
Ever since the rise of Islamic
radicals such as Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS subsequent to the victory of
Afghan Jehad against the Soviet army - that led to the collapse of USSR
as a superpower - there has been an escalation of conflict within the
Muslim world between the radicals who consider US-led West as their
prime enemy and the Saudi-led fundamentalists who believe in the Islamic
State but who also want to be on the right side of the US politically.
marked the centennial anniversary of Nahdlatul Ulama whose chief, Yahya
Khalil Thaqouf, invited Shaykh Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa,
Secretary General of Muslim World League, to be the Chairman of the R20
conference. The whole show helped demonstrate unity of the Muslim world
and assert the credence of Islam as a religion of peace in a world
currently getting destabilised because of the global terror unleashed by
Saudi Arabia, though subscribing to the extreme
puritanical line of Ahle Hadis, has been at the receiving end of
violence of Islamic radicals because of its traditional closeness to the
US. R20 thus had a political message too for the G20 summit led by the
world's most developed countries.
President of Indonesia, Joko
Widodo, in his inaugural address emphasised that 'unity in difference'
is what had brought together Indonesians as one nation despite the
country's multiple religions, languages and tribes and added that
'activities in mosques, churches and temples are needed for national
Al Issa, Secretary General of Muslim World League,
envisaged R20 as a forum for building bridges 'between East and West'
and establishing peace and declared that the 'text of Islam refuted
clash of civilisations'.
Yahya Thaqouf, chief of Nahdlatul
Ulama, stressed that the G20's R20 initiative stemmed from the
faithful's sincere concern for the future of humanity and hoped that it
would make important contributions to the global efforts to solve
Sheikh Muftah Al Akhyaar, Chairman of the
Indonesian Scholars Council, wanted R20 to present religious values as a
solution to global conflicts and help build a global civilisation based
on respect for human rights and human dignity of all.
It may be
mentioned that the Muslim World League, which is represented in the UN
as an observer member for economic and social council, works for
defining Islam and explaining its pure values as revealed in the Holy
Quran and Sunnah, pays special attention to Muslim minorities and their
issues and utilises the Hajj season for interaction with Muslim scholars
and chiefs of Muslim organisations for the purpose of 'elevating the
status of Muslims in the world and safeguarding the identity of Muslim
The Mecca Declaration of 2019 had called for
addressing the practices of 'injustice, aggression and racist slogans'
and favoured a civilised dialogue to reach just and comprehensive peace.
The Muslim World League has warned against diversity being turned into
'fear, hatred and conflict'. It has since established a Council for
Southeast Asia under its umbrella to promote 'tolerance and respect for
the rights of others'.
In his valedictory address at the R20
handover ceremony on November 3 - India is the host of the G20 summit
next year - Ram Madhav, Member, RSS Karyakarini Samiti, praised
Indonesia for organising a meet that brought together 'God the heavenly,
Allah the merciful, Bhagwan the omnipresent and Buddha the enlightened'
to bless the mankind and guide it through the turbulent times ahead.
out that R20 was held in a province of Indonesia with 83.5 per cent
Hind majority in a country with over 86 per cent Muslim population, he
declared that there cannot be a better country than India - a mosaic of
religions and the mothership of spiritualism - to carry the Bali mission
Referring to the fact of India having the second
largest Muslim population in the world, Ram Madhav stated upfront that
far from the baseless propaganda about persecution, India 'has always
sheltered the persecuted' and installed Muslims as Presidents, Vice
Presidents and Chief Justices.
He summarised India's concerns in
today's world when he said that 'not just the traditional challenges of
hatred, disharmony, terror and war, but also the new age challenges
like climate change, healthcare crises, overpowering technologies and
woke social ideologies are posing a serious threat to mankind in the
In a pithy comment on what divides the world in
the name of religion, Ram Madhav stated that while R20 discussed about
the concept of 'One God', Hindu philosophy talks of the concept of 'Only
God' and believes that whatever exists is divine, that this entire
creation is manifestation of God and that since divinity is all
pervading, there should be little scope for conflict and hatred.
did well to implicitly tag the issues of 'exclusivism' and claim of
'superiority' over other religions that have surfaced because of the
stand of Islamic fundamentalists.
The final communique of R20
issued on behalf of the religious leaders of member countries and
elsewhere expressed deep concerns over global challenges such as
environmental degradation, natural and man-made disasters, poverty,
unemployment, displaced persons, extremism and terrorism and held that
the situation has been rendered more difficult because of rivalry among
major powers, resurgence of identity-based conflict world wide and
erosion of public commitment to ethical and spiritual values.
declared its resolve, among other things, to develop concrete
initiatives for building bridges between nations and civilisations,
prevent the political weaponisation of identity, curtail the spread of
communal hatred, safeguard human beings from violence and suffering
precipitated by conflict and foster the emergence of a truly just world
order founded upon respect for equal rights and dignity of every human
All of this is unexceptionable and it is expected that
the Islamic states would begin by putting all their citizens, regardless
of faith, on the same footing, giving everybody freedom of worship and
in fact treating all religions at par with their own - beyond of course
presenting the universally applicable precepts of morality and human
values embodied in Islam.
The pull of exclusivism originating
from the claims of a religion of being the only 'perfect' faith and that
too the 'last one' - since Prophet Mohammad was the 'Khatimul Anbia' -
has to be understood.
In today's world, a democratic secular
state - deemed to be the best system of governance - has to rest on 'one
man one vote', equal opportunities to all as well as the same
protection of law for everybody and avoidance of putting a religious
stamp on the state.
India is the perfect example of a state that
has secularism built into its Constitution. India's approach to
domestic governance and international relations reflects this outlook.
India opts for bilateral relations that brought in mutual gains for both
security and development and adhered to the cause of global peace.
Minister Narendra Modi has already released the logo for the G20 Summit
of 2023 to be held in India. India has to steer the mission of R20
forward and ensure that beyond the advocacy of moral values prescribed
by various faiths, there is no projection of religion in international
politics as such because that would tend to divide rather than unite the
Also, considering that in recent times an
anti-India narrative has been built by forces within and outside the
country about 'majoritarianism', 'authoritarianism' and safety of
minorities and that Pakistan with its closeness to Saudi Arabia and
influence on OIC has charged Modi government with following the
'Hindutva' agenda and putting the Muslim minority in jeopardy, India has
to check any attempt of the Pak sympathisers in R20 to use the forum
for running down this country on the pretext of advocacy of human rights
and preservation of communal harmony.
G20 in Bali, meanwhile,
has done well to focus on post-pandemic recovery and the energy and food
security impacted by Ukraine- Russia military confrontation. Prime
Minister Modi too gave special attention to the global problems in
keeping with the rise of India as a major world power under his
leadership and in particular stressed the importance of bridging the
digital gap in the world.
The summit reiterated the call for a
peaceful resolution of the Ukraine-Russia conflict through diplomacy and
dialogue and endorsed Prime Minister Modi's stand that 'this must not
be the era of war'.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)
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