The history of the Muslim-Buddhist conflict is a long one. During the eighth century Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims had lived side by side in Afghanistan in an atmosphere of relative tolerance and interaction. Many Buddhists even converted to Islam, which was more straightforward than the relatively esoteric Buddhist faith, with its doctrine of reincarnation, karma, and deities.
A Buddha of Bamiyan in the Hindu Kush.
During the ninth century, however, Sunni Turks — new converts to Islam, whose zeal did not leave room for any faith, or interpretation of faith, that vied with their own – launched a sustained attack on the Buddhists and their monasteries, driving them out of Afghanistan, across the Punjab, and into northern India. By 1021, the Buddhists routed the Muslim armies in Kashmir before being attacked again and pushed further into the Himalayas and Tibet.
Muslim armies conquered much of India, initiating eight centuries of Muslim rule in the traditionally Hindu land. Despite persecutions – especially early on – under the later Moghal Empire (of Muslim rule) much of the better-known aspects of Indian culture was created, from Moghal miniature painting to the Taj Mahal. Sufi Islam — mystical and largely peaceful and ecumenical — also became a large part of the culture. However, the Moghal Empire had virtually collapsed not long after the middle of the eighteenth century, although it lingered 1858, when the British filled the power vacuum, and became the new rulers of India.
The British had already taken over parts of India, and had instituted Warren Hastings as Governor-General in 1773. Hastings respected Indian culture. He learned both Hindi and Persian, and translated the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita and the Islamic texts Fatawa al-Alamgiri and Hidaya. In Bengal, under Hastings, British employees in the East India Company “went native,” marrying Indian women, learning local languages, and adopting Indian customs.