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12. TEMPLES AND MOSQUES
Idolatry in Hindu Temples
I AM both an idolater and an iconoclast in what I conceive to be the true sense of the terms. I value the spirit behind idol-worship. It plays a most important part in the uplift of the human Race. And I would like to possess the ability to defend with my life the thousands of holy temples which sanctify this land of ours. My alliance with the Musalmans presupposes their perfect tolerance for my idols and my temples. I am an iconoclast in the sense that I break down the subtle form of idolatry in the shape of fanaticism that refuses to see any virtue in any other form of worshipping the deity, save one’s own. This form of idolatry is more deadly for being more fine and evasive than the tangible and gross form of worship that identifies the deity with a little bit of a stone or a golden image.
And what is it that we should be fighting for? We Hindus may be idol-worshippers. We may be mistaken. But when God gave every man the right to make mistakes, when God suffers us to live although we are idol –worshippers, why should not the Musalmans suffers us too?
Idolatry is bad, not so idol-worship. An idolater makes a fetish of his idol. An idol-worshipper sees God even in a stone and therefore, takes the help of an idol to establish his union with God. Every Hindu child knows that the stone in the famous temple in Banaras is not Kashi Vishwanath. But he believes that the Lord of the Universe does reside specially in that stone. This play of the imagination is permissible and healthy. Every edition of the Gita on a book stall has not that sanctity which I ascribe to my own copy. Logic tells me there is no more sanctity in my copy than in any other. The sanctity is in my imagination. But that imagination brings about marvelous, concrete results. It changes men’s lives. I am of opinion that whether we admit it or not, we are all idol-worshippers or idolaters, if the distinction I have drawn is not allowed. A book, a building, a picture, a carving, is surely all images in which God does reside, but they are not God. He who says they are errs.
I ask you to accept the slavery of the one Omnipotent God, no matter by what name you address him. Then you will bend the knee to no man or men. It is ignorance to say that I coupled Rama, a mere man, with God. I have repeatedly made it clear that my Rama is the same as God. My Rama was before, is present now and will be for all time. He is Unborn and Uncreated. Therefore, you should tolerate and respect the different faiths. I am myself an iconoclast, but I have equal regard for the so-called idolaters. Those who worship idols also worship the same God who is everywhere, even in a clod of earth, even in a nail that is pared off. I have Muslim friends whose names are Rahim, Rahman, Karim. Will, therefore, join on to them the name of God when I address them as Rahim, Karim or Rahman.
Some dub Hindus as image worshippers. But is not the stone image which they worship but the God within, without whom not a particle of matter exists. If a devotee that his belief is a delusion, it deludes nobody but himself. It requires magnanimity and breadth of outlook to understand and appreciate the religious convictions and practices of others. It is the same thing if they considered the Koran or the Granth Saheb as God.

Desecration of Places of Worship
I hinted the last week that there was evidently as organization at the back of the mania for desecrating Hindu temples. Gulbarga is the latest instance in point. Whatever the Hindu provocation, if there was any, the Musalman out burst has an ominous look about it. The desecration of temples cannot be justifies in any circumstances, whatsoever I feel perhaps more keenly than most of them, every fanatic outburst on the part of Musalmans. I am fully aware of my responsibility in the matter. I know that many Hindus feel that I am responsible for many of these outbursts. For, they argue, I contributed the largest share to the awakening, of the Musalman masses. I appreciate the charge. Though I do not repent of my contribution, I feel the force of the objection. Therefore, if for no reason, for this at least greater responsibility, I must feel more keenly than most Hindus can, these desecrations.
The law of retaliation we have been trying since the day of Adam and we know from experience that it has hopelessly failed. We are groaning under its poisonous effect. Above all, the Hindus may not break mosques against temples. That way lies slavery and worse. Even though a thousand temples may be reduced to bits, I would not touch a single mosque and expect thus to prove the superiority of my faith to the so called faith of fanatics. I would love to hear of priests dying at the posts in defense of their temples and their idols. Let them learn to suffer and to die in the defense of their temple, even as God allows himself be insulted and broken up in the insult and damage done to the idols which, being omnipresent, He undoubtedly resides. Hindus will not defend their religion or their temples by seeking to destroy mosques, and thus proving themselves as fanatical as the fanatics who have been desecrating temples.
To the unknown Muslmans who are undoubtedly behind these desecrations, I submit: “Remember that Islam is being judged by your conduct. I have no found a single Musalman defending these outbursts not under provocation. There seems to me to have been little, if any, provocation offered by the Hindus. But let us assume that it was otherwise, that the Hindus played music near mosques to exasperate the Musalmans, that they even removed a stone from a minaret. Yet I venture to say that Musalmans ought not to have desecrated the Hindu temples. Even the retaliations has its limits. The Hindus prize their temples about their lives. It is possible to contemplate with some degree of equanimity injury to life but not to temples.
I have been trying to find proof for the allegation about Hindu desecration in the places referred to in my article on the Hindu-Muslim tension. I have failed to receive any proof in support of them. You will not enhance the reputation of Islam by the acts reported about Amethi, Shambhar, and Gubarga. If you will permit me to say so, I feel about the honour of Islam as much as I feel about my own religion. This I do because I desire to live in perfect, open and hearty friendship with the Musalmans. I cannot help saying that these desecrations are cutting a deep wound in my heart.
If it could be proved, whilst I would still hold, under every conceivable circumstance, desecration of temples and equally of mosques to be unjustified from my point of view, I admitted that my condemnation would lose much of its force. I should be deeply hurt and ashamed, if the alleged Hindu desecration in Gulbarga was found to be true.
A simple pujari nor knowing the meaning of non-violence told me with some glee that when a mob entered his temple to break his idols, he carefully hid himself away. Such a man I told to be unfit to be a pujari. He should have died at his post. He would then have sanctified the idol with his blood. He would have been justified in killing the intruders, if he had not the courage to die at his post with a prayer on his lips that God might have pity on the assailants. But it was unmanly for him to have hidden himself to save his perishable skin. The truth is that cowardice itself is violence of a subtle and, therefore, dangerous type, and far more difficult to eradicate than the habit of physical violence. A coward never risks his life. A man who would kill often risks it. For he knows that the soul within never dies. The encasing body is ever perishing. The more a man gives his life, the more he saves it. Thus, non-violence requires more than the courage of the soldier of war. The Gita definition of a soldier is one who does not know what it is to run away from danger.
If some misdirected individual took it into his head to desecrate a temple or break idols, should a Hindu in return desecrate a mosque on that account? Does it anyway help to protect the temple or to save the cause of Hinduism? Personally, I am as much an idol worshipper as an idol-breaker, and I suggest that the whole of the audience, whether Hindu, Muslim or any other, are also so, whether they admit it or not. I know that mankind thirsted for symbolism. Are not masjids or churches in reality the same as mandirs? God resides everywhere, no less in stock or stone than in a single hair on the body of man. But men associate sacredness with particular places and things more than with others. Such sentiment is worthy of respect when it does not mean restrictions on similar freedom for others. To every Hindu and Musalman my advice is that, if there is compulsion anywhere, they would gently but firmly refuse to submit to it. Personally, I myself would hug an idol and lay down my life to protect it rather than brook any restriction upon my freedom of worship. That requires courage of a higher order than is needed in violent resistance.
I had visited a mosque in the village Bola which was a damaged during the disturbances. I was told that on the Holi day the mosque was again desecrated by some villages who played Holi inside the mosque premises. If it is true, it is undoubtedly a notice given by them to the Muslims not to enter their homes even when they are rebuilt nor dare to visit the mosque. If this reported desecration on the Holi day is a fact, it is a bad omen for the Hindus, for Bihar and for the whole country.
If any attempt at desecration of the Gurudwaras is made by the Muslims, it will be contrary to the tradition of Islam as I know it and those Muslims who take part in such desecration would be partakers in the destruction of Islam. Every faith is on its trial in India. God is the infallible judge and the world which is His creation will judge the Muslim leaders not according to their pledges and promises but according to the deeds of these leaders and their followers. What I have said of the Muslim leaders is also true of the leaders and followers of other faiths.
Do not look to any other power outside yourselves for the protection of these shrines. I would liker every Sikh to be a defender of his faith and therefore, of all the gurudwaras  and not merely of Panja Saheb, which one of the greatest.
An Idol has no value unless it is duly installed in a consecrated place by duly qualified devotees. Forcible possession of a mosque disgrace Hinduism and Sikhism. It is duty of the Hindus to remove the idols from the mosques and repair the damage. I have not heard of any mosque being turned intoa Gurudwara. The Sikhs worship the Guru Granth Saheb will be an insult to the Granth Saheb if it is placed if it is placed in a mosque.

Reparations
Not perhaps eight miles from here is the mausoleum of Kutubudin Bakhtiyarkaki Chishtisaheb which is reputed to be second in sanctity to the one in Ajmer. Both are visited not only by Muslims but by the thousand of Hindus and other non-Muslims in equal veneration. Hindu wrath visited the sacred place in early September 1ast. The Muslims in the surroundings felt compelled to vacate their favorite home which had been such for close on four centuries. It would be unnecessary to mention this tragic occurrence but for the fact that the place is still deserted by the Muslims, however much they may be devoted to the mausoleum. It behoves the Hindus , the Sikhs, the officials immediately in charge and the Ministers to wipe out the disgrace and reinstate the place in all its original glory. What I have said here is equally applicable to all the Muslim places of worship in and around Delhi and elsewhere in the Union. It is high time that both the Governments by their firm action made it clear to their respective majorities that they could no longer tolerate desecration of the places of worship, big or insignificant. All damage done to them should be repaired without delay.
I am also distressed to see the costly marble trellis damaged. It is no answer to say that similar or worse things have happened in Pakistan. Have we fallen so low as to stop such acts of vandalism? Granting that such incidents have occurred on a larger scale in Pakistan, it will be improper to institute comparisons in evil doing. Even if the whole world did wrong, should we do likewise? If today I take to evil courses, will it not distress you? For me it will be worse than death. Similarly, we have reason to feel ashamed at the damage done to the Dargah. It behoves them all to show to such a holy place the veneration due to it.