Wikipedia Wars: Hindu Nationalism and Pashtuns/Afghans

A few months ago MuslimSkeptic published an article regarding how Arab nationalists weaponize Wikipedia within the information war of our era.

But Arab nationalists certainly aren’t alone here.

When it comes to this sort of manipulation, Hindu nationalists are heavily involved in it too. In fact, Hindu nationalists are actually far more active in this regard than Arab nationalists, and this is highly correlated with both India’s high population rate and the unemployment rate among its youth.

What we’ll be examining here is how Hindu nationalists use Wikipedia to propagate their notion of Akhand Bharat or “Greater India.”

Were Pashtuns-Afghans Ever Hindus? And Why Does It Even Matter?

Those of you who live outside of South Asia have likely at least heard of Pashtuns or Afghans due to the Taliban, as they make up the towering majority of the group.

It is crucial that we specify that “Pashtun” and “Afghan” in pre-modern times were synonymous. It is only with the rise of the modern nation-state of Afghanistan that being “Afghan” was extended to the non-Pashtun ethnic groups such as the Hazaras, the Uzbeks or the Tajiks. In theory it would technically be more accurate to class these other groups as “Afghanistanis” (citizens of Afghanistan) rather than “Afghans.”

Pashtuns or Afghans (an Iranic group) number approximately 60 million. Around 45 million of that number are in Pakistan and there are around 15 million in Afghanistan. Despite their prominence in the country’s politics, they make up less than half of the population in Afghanistan.

While outsiders may link them with the Taliban, South Asians generally view them simply as a “Muslim ethnic group” par excellence.

Similar to Malays in South-East Asia or Fulanis in Sub-Saharan Africa, Pashtuns/Afghans are an ethnic group defined completely by Islam. They are renowned for their significant contributions to the expansion of Islam. Many of the Muslim kings-rulers of South Asia were of ethnic Pasthun-Afghan descent.

RELATED: Dalia Mogahed vs. The Taliban: Who Understands Islam Better?

Sher Shah Suri for example, whose rule during the 16th century witnessed the establishment of systems of administration and economics, which in turn also helped to facilitate the future authority and rule of the Muslims.

Then you have the great Pashtun-Afghan king from the 18th-century; the warrior, Ahmed Shah Abdali. He was affectionally referred to as Ahmed Shah Baba as he was basically the founder of what is modern Afghanistan. He is also the one who was invited by Shah Waliyyullah al-Dihlawi to fight against the Marathas (those revivalist Hindu militants). Abdali is responsible for preventing their dream of a “united Hindu empire” from being realized.

We could list numerous such examples of Pashtuns/Afghans who have served Islam.

And what is perplexing is that their ethnogenesis (anthropological jargon to denote the origins of an ethnicity) is linked with Islam. Some tried linking them back to White Huns and others tried linking them back to Scythians, but there is nothing conclusive either way.

Even their religious history remains mysterious. Were they Zoroastrians like other Iranic populations? Or were they some form of Buddhists like in Gandhara?

It’s as if their very history begins with their conversion to Islam, and Pashtuns/Afghans themselves trace it to Qais Abdur Rashid, who met the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

There are very few ethnic groups which are so strongly linked to Islam as the Pashtuns/Afghans are… that is, until Hindu nationalists discovered Wikipedia.

Until a few years ago, anyone who had gone onto the Wikipedia page dedicated to Pashtuns/Afghans would have seen “Islam” under the religion category. This may then have been broken down into “Sunni majority” and “Shi’ah minority.”

Even the mere inclusion of Shi’ah would in and of itself be pretty odd since it’s a minuscule minority found mainly within the Parachinar city of Pakistan. And this is in no way sufficient for defining an entire ethnicity.

The Hindu nationalists though, went a step further and amazingly “unearthed” Hindus among the Pashtuns/Afghans.

We don’t exactly need to be anthropologists to know that there’s no cultural trace of Hinduism among them, at all. This is as opposed to some of their Indic neighbors for example, who may retain a form of the Hindu caste system, even if it’s less forceful.

RELATED: Dozens of Dalits Accept Islam in India. But Who Are the Dalits?

But with Pashtuns-Afghans, there’s nothing. There’s absolutely nothing in their language, behavior, and so on which even remotely indicates ancestral Hinduism.

It is also thus no wonder then that the quoted Wikipedia “sources” don’t have any real evidence.

For instance, they speak of Hindus and Sikhs who self-identify as Pashtuns/Afghans because they speak the language (Pashto). But how is that any different from a French citizen of Russian origins. They may be a French citizen (due to having citizenship) but that wouldn’t make them ethnically French.

And it is a well-known fact that non-Pashtun Hindus identify as ethnic Pashtuns/Afghans simply because they either speak Pashto or come from Pashtun-dominated areas. One famous case, which became a meme due to how utterly ridiculous it is, is that of Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor. Kapoor is a self-styled “Pathan” despite his family name “Kapoor” betraying him and revealing his Punjabi origins (this would be equivalent to someone named “Kumar” claiming to be an ethnic Italian because he speaks Italian and lives in Italy).

Besides self-identity, another supposed “proof” is the existence of some tribes like “Kakar.”

But Kakar is one of the few names that is shared by both Pashtun-Afghan and Punjabi peoples. The existence of a Hindu (or Sikh for that matter) “Kakar” doesn’t mean that Pashtuns/Afghans are Hindus. It only means that two different ethnic groups happen to share a family name. The Punjabi Kakar’s self-identification as a Pashtun-Afghan is based entirely upon the reasoning highlighted earlier (culture and language); not ethnicity.

Hindu nationalists would be hard-pressed in trying to find Hindus among more exclusive Pashtun-Afghan clans and tribes such as the Khattaks, the Durranis, etc.

This is the reason behind what the Wikipedia folks refer to as “edit wars.”

RELATED: The Inevitable Failure of Political Shi’ism: The Secularization of Iran

Hindu nationalists kept throwing up the Hindu reference, and the Pashtuns kept removing it. The Hindu nationalists ultimately win (“locking” the page so it’s not easily editable) based on their sheer numbers alone.

The question that arises is:

Why are Hindu nationalists so desperate to push their absurd narrative regarding the supposed Hindu roots of the Pashtuns/Afghans?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward. As we all know, Hindu nationalists embrace the fantasy of Akhand Bharat or “Greater India.”

The objective is simple. Invent a Hindu genealogy for all ethnic groups (especially “the most Muslim ethnic group”) as a strategy to “reclaim” their lands:

“Your forefathers were Hindus, so these are all Hindu lands.”

This is all thus a basic psy-op designed to promote both cultural Hinduism (which, within in the region, is the best way towards liberalization and secularization) and also more concrete Hindu territorial expansionism.

RELATED: Major Hindu Nationalist Politician Calls for the “Re-Conversion” of Muslims

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WE WAZ PASTHOONS N SHIEEEET

Of course, did you not read about the galant Hindu, Sikhs, Bhuddist, Majosi and Jewish Pashtun laskaars that fought against the British, Soviets and just recently bravely defeated the Americans and NATO?

Look at all the available written and oral records of Hindu, Sikh, Bhuddhist, Majosi, Jewish Pashtun leaders and conquerors that ruled Isfahan and Delhi.

Just look at Pashtun tribal family trees, look at all those Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Majosi, Athiest forefathers in the sajras and tareekh!

WE WAZ PASTHOONS N SHIEEEET

Instead of running away to India, Punjab, Israel and other countries to safety, the Hindu, Sikh, Jewish Pashtuns sacrficed themselves, their families, properties fighting the English, Soviets and the Yanks.

This is why they deserve the honor to be called Pashtuns. Because they liberated the motherland from occupiers. They never supported the occupiers, or pushed the interventionist narrative as hapless minorities needing liberation. Oh no sir.

They are the true Mu-jew-hindu-sikh-deen!

Ibrahim Ihsan

I’d wish to differ. The Pashtun identity is of course primarily Muslim but in case of their precursors, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they were pagans. Furthermore, the legend of Qais Abdur Rashid can not be traced to more than 400 years ago and there are no Arabic or Persian texts referring to him so identifying him as a Sahaba is quite risky.
Also, Pashtuns are less a group of people sharing a common ancestor and more of a confederation. As in, a mixture of different ethnicities.

Nasal Chor Pajeet

Not really. Yes some where we all had pagan ancestors but there are some identities and racial ethnic groups that specifically came out of particular set of beliefs that influnced their dress, values, diets, customs for example Jews or Arabs. The same way Pashtun, just like Chechens, and other groups like Berbers, Mamluks, Baloch, Kurds, and even break away groups from Islam like Druze, Babis, Yazidis and I would say Sikhs (in denial sufis) too that are identified by beliefs as well as race.

Nasal Chor Pajeet

Pashtun are predominantly Central Asian Turkic and Iranic clans. Even with some Indic admixture, those groups are absored into the dominant Central Asian pool than vice versa.

Since that 400 years old sajra family tree, Pashtuns are a hemogenous group very rarely mixing outside even with other Pashtun tribes let alone some Hindus or Sikhs who came as merchants and sepoys of the British.

The identity is uniquly Islamic thanks to Sufism/Ghaziyyat. Khorosan being the birth place of Sufism.

Maaz Ahmad Khan

As salam u alaikum

Abdul Ghaffar Khan traced his lineage back to Qais Abdur Rashid.

Shehreyar

Your second part of the argument refutes the first one. If Pashtuns are a tribal confederation, that means they might have came from different religious backgrounds. How can they all be pagans then? For most part, like all Iranian people, they were thought to be most likely Zoroastrians but since Pashto is an East Iranian language like Scythian, Saka, Khwarizmian, which were all tribal societies contrary to sedentary Persian, Parthian, it is hard to classify the religious practices of Pashtuns.

Maaz Ahmad Khan

The oral history among Pashtuns is that they originated from Bani Israel. They might be from among the lost tribes of Israel.

Last edited 2 months ago by Maaz Ahmad Khan
Abdullah

Yes this legend is well known. I’ve heard this from many Pathans myself

Ali

According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the theory of Pashtun descent from the ancient Israelites is traced to Tārīkh-e Khān Jahānī wa Makhzan-e Afghānī (تاریخ خان جهانی ومخزن افغانی), a history compiled by Nimat Allah al-Harawi during the reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir in the 17th century. The Makhzan-e Afghānī’s Israelite theory, however, has been dismissed by modern authorities due to numerous historical and linguistic inconsistencies.[citation neede

akh

Unlikely for four reasons:

  1. The Israelites were a literate people. The wrote down their knowledge ( firstly on scrolls later in books) about everything. Including their lineage. They don’t rely on oral tradition only.
  2. Middle Easteners like Jews and Arabs take lineage very seriously. This is why they can trace it back hundreds if not thousands of years.
  3. The lack of ancient artifacts and cemeteries.
  4. When they left Palestina the Israelites primarily moved westward not east. Europe and North Africa
Maaz Ahmad Khan

Don’t know about point 1. but the oral tradition maintains Israelite descent, so that refutes your 2nd point. My grandma was from Afghanistan, she had written document of her lineage. 3. There are artifacts, similar sirnames, similar traditions, similar facial features. 4. Whats the source of 4th point?

Yusuf ibn Tashfin

The only people that nowadays can be claimed as having part of their lineage coming from Bani Israel(people of Israel) are modern day levantine arabs(Muslims and Christians) and mizrahi jews(jews native from the Levant and the rest of the Middle East at large with also some communities in North Africa).

Haziq Khan

Assalam o alaikum Daniel, so far, the Qais lineage is mere folktales.
I’m pashtun myself and I found it to be a made up person and does not exist.
If he did then he would have been mentioned in reports if he did indeed meet the prophet peace be upon him.
Just a heads up.
The most evidence there is that our ancestors might have been Jews, Buddhists or whatever the Greeks were doing.
Regardless it matters not, Allah guided us to the truth and that is all that matters.

Shehreyar

Jews: Highly unlikely as most DNA refute the claim and there is zero cultural or linguistic impact. Buddhism: Moderate as some Saka, Kushans & Huna people did embraced Buddhism, was imported to China via Afg. Most probably Iranian (Scythian, Saka, Khwarizmian, Sogdian, Bactrian, Greeks as they ruled the Greco-Bactrian & Indo-Greek kingdoms in modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kushans (we use Kuchi for nomads, Gujjar is another word derived), Hepthalites as ancestors of Ghiljis.

Abdullah

With regards to Akhand bharat , it’s well known that Hindus claim it to be the entire south east Asia as far east as Indonesia and westwards towards Kabul. But in Hindutva seminaries, children are in fact taught that “The Hindu empire” goes as far west as Mali, Africa, and even as far north as Russia. So they can’t use the Islamic belief of aggressive Jihad against Muslims when they themselves have aspirations to conquer and were involved with conquest’s before Islam arrived in the 7th century.

Ali

The original people of India are adivasis and tamils , rest mostly are foreigners as stated by indian politician Owasi.

Shehreyar

Like Kakar, there are Suris but as you said earlier that same tribal names doesn’t qualify Pashtuns as being Hindus.

Murshid Agha Khel

Pashtun are predominantly a mixture of Turkic-Indo-Sythian tribes. Sakas, Khiljis, Parthians etc. Pashtun and Afghan identity came out from the marriage of Islam with Central Asian groups, beliefs and heritage.

Just like the Chechens, Kurds, Turks, Persians etc. AND NOT INDIC.

Pashtun Qays is based on two different people. Qusayy ibn Kilab and Qays ʿAylān. Patriarchs of major Sufi silsilas/sajras out of Khorossan i.e. Chisti and Naqshabandi.

Zaid Diaz

There’s only one piece of puzzle left for me: who are the ‘Sheen Kalai’ Hindus who claim to speak Pashto and claim they’re a part of Pashtun ethnos? Maybe they were some older Indians who went to the Afghan lands for a living, and gradually learnt Pashto?

Khilji Khan

No such thing as “Sheen Kalai” Hindus, just made up garbage.

Sheen Khalay means “Green Marks” which isnt a custom of Hindus but Kochi Nomads who are part of the larger Ghilzai Pashtun tribe who are Turko-Iranic origins.

Most Hindus and Sikhs are merchant class settlers plus those who served British. Those in the region are fluent in language and some culture but are seperate people. They are known as Hindkays including the Muslim ones like Sharukh Khan and Dilip Kumar co.

Zaid Diaz

Jazakallahu Khairan! There’s indeed too much falsehood about Pashtun people on the internet!