Some of the more fanatical members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, itself known for championing right-wing Hindu nationalism, have called the Taj Mahal “a blot on Indian culture”. These incendiary words are among the latest salvoes in the attacks on India’s Islamic past by Hindu extremists. The Muslim Emperor Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal constructed between 1632 and 1654 as a mausoleum for his favourite consort, Mumtaz Mahal.
In Malaysia there have long been allegations that authorities are attempting to dilute and even obliterate the country’s pre-Islamic past from its history books and national consciousness.
It may be hard for some of the holier-than-thou Muslims in Malaysia to reconcile their present Islamic piety with the animistic folk religions and the Hindu and Buddhist faiths of their ancestors before Arab missionaries and traders brought Islam to Southeast Asia. And so they try not only to forget it themselves but also to make everyone else forget it.
This deliberate historical amnesia is also present in some of the advocates of China’s hanfu movement, who are pushing for the revival of the traditional clothing of the Han Chinese.
For them, the qipao (or cheongsam) and its male equivalent, changshan, do not reflect the “true culture” of their country because they are the attire of the Manchu conquerors who ruled China from 1644 to 1912 under the banner of the Qing dynasty.
Never mind that the Manchus are one of the 55 non-Han ethnic minorities officially recognised today as constituting the “Chinese nation” (Zhonghua minzu); to blinkered Han nationalists in China, their contributions to Chinese culture are a “blot” best forgotten.