April 14, 2002

Statement by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his speech at a public meeting in Goa

I am surprised and pained by the baseless and misinformed criticism of my speech at a public meeting in Goa on Friday (April 12) . It is being projected as “anti-Islam” and “anti-Muslim”. A motivated propaganda, both within the country and internationally, is sought to be launched on the basis of such misrepresentation. My remarks, taken in their totality, contain nothing that is either against Islam or against Muslims.

I had drawn attention to two contradictory streams in Islam. I had said, “Islam has two forms. One is that which tolerates others, which teaches its adherents to follow the path of Truth, which preaches compassion and sensitivity. But these days, militancy in the name of Islam leaves no room for tolerance. It has raised the slogan of jehad. It is dreaming of recasting the entire world in its mould.”

In pointing to these two divergent facets of Islam, I have not said anything new or different from what numerous perceptive observers, including many devout and concerned Muslims around the world, have already said.

When I said in my speech that some people “tend not to live in co-existence with others, not to mingle with others, and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, resort to terror and threats,” my reference was clearly to followers of militant Islam, and not to ordinary Muslims in general.

I also emphatically said in my speech that India is a multi-religious but secular nation, which gives the right to all its citizens to follow their faiths freely. There cannot be any discrimination in India on the basis of the faith of a citizen. My view that madarasa education should include, apart from the teaching of Islam, lessons in science and other subjects is also reiterated by many people, including all forward-looking Muslims.

It is indeed strange that I am praised as a “secular leader” when I condemn, as I recently did, intolerance and other negative features exhibited by certain self-styled champions of Hindutva, but criticised as a “communal leader” when I point out the negative aspects of militant Islam. Such double standards do no good to a healthy debate on what is true secularism and what is in the interest of our nation and the world.