Jamaat e Islami Should not and Cannot be Compared to the RSS. Here’s Why

Shakeel Shaheen

RSS and Jamaat e Islami have been compared and contrasted with each other for a long-time. Besides other factors, the convenient need to posit a Muslim equivalent to RSS has driven the equivalence. When the Indira Gandhi regime banned RSS during the emergency, primarily for its prominent role in the Jay Prakash agitation, Jamaat was also banned to keep the “balance”. Since the rise of RSS as the most powerful political force in India, such comparisons have increased in frequency amongst the Muslim intelligentsia. While some have exhorted Jamaat to learn from the tactics of RSS, others have sought to “balance” their critique of the so called Sanghis(RSS) with the, now customary, lampooning of the so called Musanghis (the Muslim Right). However the equivalence is, as we shall see, merely superficial.
First, the RSS and the Jamaat are very different organisations. They were established in different times for different purposes. They have evolved over time in different socio cultural settings and political environments. There are certain similarities between the two including but not limited to religion based political mobilisation and social conservatism. Yet the comparisons drawn are mostly arbitrary. It is nobody’s case that Jamaat is all good and RSS is all bad or vice versa. Both have their negatives and positives. But to brush them both with the same paint and to put them in the same category is flawed and highly uncalled for. Particularly disconcerting is the usual conclusion that both the organisations are extremist and cause human suffering.
Let us compare and contrast the two on the basis of their ideology and stated goals .So what is the stated goal of RSS?
“Our one supreme goal is to bring to life the all-round glory and greatness of our Hindu Rashtra”.
The stated goal of Jamaat on the other hand is “Aqamat e Deen” which is often mistaken as euphemism for an Islamic state. On the surface of it, a Hindu Rashtra and Aqamat e Deen do seem similar goals. But they are not, and here is the big caveat. The goal of Hindu Rashtra as is evident is premised on the basis of (ultra)nationalism. It seeks to bring glory to a particular race/nation. The goal of Aqamat e deen on the other hand is not based on nationalism. It is based on faith. It seeks to bring all the aspects of human life- be it personal, social or political in line with the commandments of God-, as Muslims believe them to be. This includes a political set up (not necessarily equivalent to the modern nation state) run according to the commandments of God. Here, there is no concept of nationalism. Jamaat seeks to establish Aqamat e Deen because it believes that this is what God has ordained us to do. God created man and that it is the God who is best suited to decide how man should live, personally, socially and politically.
​The RSS on the other hand doesn’t root for a divine system. It’s Hindu Rashtra is not premised on divinity but on the glory of Hindu nation (in fact, Savarkar was an atheist). It wants to make Hindus a powerful nation and it claims that it is in the best interests of humanity to do so. The RSS claims that it is imperative for the development of humanity that glory and greatness be brought to the Hindu nation.
Thus, we see the two goals and the two ideologies are very different in their essence. Jamaat does believe that falling back on the Islamic system will lead to revival and glory of the Ummah but it is not its only or basic premise or goal.
Thus , while RSS is a nationalist organisation, the Jamaat is not confined in its ideology to a nation or a country.
Second, the RSS narrative is situated in a particular historical setting. It talks of a 1000 year slavery of the Hindu nation by the “other”. The narrative is based on alleged historical wrongs and national hurt which it seeks to correct. The glory of the nation will not be gained without erasing the humility of past. This can only be done by showing the “other” its place. This narrative seeks to avenge historical wrongs (real or percieved), past or present.
It is also claimed that both these ideologies seek to make the “other” as second class citizens who will nevertheless be protected. This is a very flawed premise. In a Hindu Rashtra the “other” may live as second class citizens but they may not be necessarily protected. They shall have to bear the blame of the historical wrongs.
As far as the question of dhimis(non muslim subjects) goes in an Islamic political setup, it is not equivalent to second class citizenship. The very concept of citizenship is a modern one and is based on the basis of a contract between the state and its subjects. And, if a state is formed on Islamic principles it is incumbent upon it to honour its contract for all citizens. The terms of that contract may be different for different citizens but they surely are not arbitrary or unjust. Any political set up based on Islamic principles has to be plural and tolerant. It doesn’t seek to correct historical wrongs by heaping misery on the descendants of the past villains.
In nutshell, the Jamaat and RSS may have superficial similarities but in reality they are very different organisations based on different premises and working for different goals. Comparing them to one another is like comparing apples to oranges.
—The author is a software engineer, freelance writer and a blogger based in Kashmir. He can be reached at:

One Response to "Jamaat e Islami Should not and Cannot be Compared to the RSS. Here’s Why"

  1. Soumyakanti Chakraborty   July 7, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    What a ridiculous article. Both organisations are operating with the objective of subverting India’s constitution and establishing a theocracy in the Indian subcontinent. The author is a typical right wing apologist, and there are dozens like him on the Hindu Right also who write similar articles.

    Both organisations are anti-people, anti-minority, anti-freedom and totalitarian in nature that seek to reverse all the progress we the people of India have made since independence. Their views on civil liberties, gender equality, LGBT rights and sanctity of human rights/religious freedom is IDENTICAL.