Temple desecrations in medieval India: Iconoclasm or political tactics?
Always a tough and tricky subject.
This is fab research given it is so difficult to do such stuff. It is by a trio of econ researchers: Sriya Iyer , Anand Shrivastava , Rohit Ticku.
We conducted this study to understand the motivation for temple desecrations by medieval Muslim States in India. Our results show that political tactics, rather than iconoclasm, underlined the agenda for temple desecrations. We, however, do not rule out the iconoclastic behaviour of certain medieval Muslim rulers. How India escaped the systematic desecration of pagan religious sites in the Arabian Peninsula remains a question (Benthall 2005).
The literature on medieval India offers possible explanations. The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, which was the predominant school of Islamic law in India, encouraged a more conciliatory approach towards Hindu subjects. Another explanation is that Muslim elites were vastly outnumbered by their Hindu subjects, and hence a pacifist approach could only have been politically most viable (Benthall 2005).
This study has key implications in the current political climate. The rise of extremist groups such as the Taliban and the Islamic State, and their destruction of religious relics, have led some to magnify the presence of religious bigotry in Islamic societies. Our results suggest a nuanced approach; events which appear to be motivated by religious ideology might camouflage the political interests that lie at the helm. The same caution needs to be applied to the discourse on medieval temple desecrations that has precipitated several Hindu-Muslim riots in post-independence India. Hopefully our study will add some nuance in future to the debate about medieval temple desecrations.