Notes and Comments — The Arya Samaj at the Religious Conference at Lahore [2–4 December 1907]

The Review of Religions (English), January 1908 Issue (Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 45–47)

We noticed in our last [issue] how the Arya Samaj indulged in bitter invectives against the sacred leaders of all other religions at a religions conference of which the Samaj itself was the organiser. The misdirected policy of the Samaj writers and lecturers to speak of the prophets of God in contemptuous and scurrilous language whenever they have the occasion to do so is causing an excitement among all sections of the community whose religious feelings are thus presumptuously injured. We take the following note from the Observer of 1st January [1908]:

“We publish in our correspondence columns two letters on this subject (the Arya Samaj and Religious Controversy) written by gentlemen residing in different parts of India which prove, if further proof were needed, that the insulting references made by the Arya Samajist lecturer on the occasion of the last Dharm Churcha (Religious Conference) at Lahore have aroused feelings of keen indignation throughout Muslim India.

“That the Muhammadans [Muslims] of Lahore were filled with righteous indignation at the unseemly tactics employed by the Mahatma party of the Aryas need hardly be wondered at. No man who entertains the slightest reverence for his religion and its great leaders can patiently listen to the vulgar abuse and lying statements made by the Samajists against all faiths other than their own.

“The Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Islam was appealed to by some pious Muhammadans with a view to bring the matter before the Government or to take some other steps that might have the effect of preventing a recurrence of such disgraceful scenes. What action the Anjuman has decided to take thereupon, we are not yet in a position to announce. But it need hardly be mentioned that the problem has been engaging the earnest attention of its executive.

“The matter is indeed one that should engage the earnest attention of all who have the unity of Hindus and Muhammadans really at heart.”

We have often called the attention of the Arya Samaj leaders to put a stop to the misguided zeal of the Samaj writers and lecturers who fearlessly injure the feelings of other communities by the use of inordinate language and we hoped that the leaders would sooner or later see the advisability of such a step in the interests of peace and for promoting the growth of friendly feeling among the various communities. But the facts brought to light in the Religious Conference at Lahore show that the Arya Samaj is not likely to mend its ways. What causes the greatest disappointment is the fact that the lecturer on this occasion was one of the leaders themselves, being no other than the Secretary of the Arya Samaj and the translator of the Satyarth Prakash into English. It was hoped that the enlightened lecturer would use the occasion to the greatest advantage and impress upon his co-religionists the necessity of adopting a more tolerant and more respectful attitude towards other religions and the leaders revered by other people. Moreover, it was a conference and not a controversy where heated or offensive language could be excused, and the Arya Samaj had in fact given positive assurance to the public that speeches would be made in decent language and in a friendly and unobjectionable manner. But how keen was the disappointment and how great the indignation of the audience when Mr. Bhardwaj was heard reiterating the disgraceful and disgusting remarks made in the vilest organs of the Arya Samaj. This injudicious course is likely to embolden petty writers and speakers in the Samaj circles in the use of offensive language towards the sacred religious leaders of other people.

We think it is time for the Government to interfere in the matter, and forbid by law the use of abusive language concerning the great religious leaders who are held in the highest esteem by various communities and thus to put a stop to an evil which is gaining ground day by day and is likely to cause a disturbance of the public peace if excitement continues thus to run high. Such a law would be in the interests of the public, and it would without curtailing freedom of speech or writing promote friendly feeling among different people. What the people want is freedom in expressing their religious views, but we think at present this right so graciously and liberally conferred by the Government is being misused.