|Source – World Religion Watch|
6. Chance for Indian Muslims
“It is only a small population of extremist Muslims who are perpetrating terrorism. They do not represent me. Why do you blame my beliefs and my religion in the garb of accusing terrorists?” a friend said in a casual debate. These are the views echoed by almost all of the moderate Muslims of India. If that is the case let us see what is being said by those whom you allegedly vote for as a block, by those who claim to represent you. Their statements raise many doubts. Let me ask them straight out.
- Do you Muslims want terrorists like Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab not be hanged just because they are Muslims?
- Do you want reservations based on religion although reservation based on poverty level makes more sense?
- Do you believe it when a party member claims that his leader cries when she thinks about alleged Islamist terrorists being killed in encounters and as a result of her crying will you vote for them?
- Do you believe that incidents such as in Assam where not only Muslims but also Bodos and non-Bodo, non-Muslim Indian citizens were also affected, and in Myanmar a faraway place, about which majority of Indians know only a little, will cause young Muslims to get radicalised, i.e., to be blunt, make them violent enough to cause destruction ?
- Do you honestly believe that communal riots targeting Muslims occur only when BJP is in power?
- Are you going to vote for anyone who says he or she cannot stand next to Modi, how so ever his or her track record in administration, in performance delivery may be?
- Are you going to keep quiet even if it is insanely clear that the kind of protests in front of US Consulate against Innocence of Muslims is a knee jerk reaction?
- Are you going to believe that India is Muslim-friendly, only if the government bans Innocence of Muslims?
- Are only those parties who help only Muslims of India, who sends medical aides to only Muslims of a mixed refugee camps, good parties?
- If religion symbolism is so important, then is it not against the concept of secularism that you and other minorities and many Hindus also claim to be cornerstone of constitution which is described as the thread which holds India together?
- Do you like to be the heroes and heroines of a story where you are always the victim and where none from your religion have done any wrong?
- Is doing business with Israel so wrong although a majority of the agricultural technologies are being borrowed from them?
- Do you want to create a law which will make criticism of religion a crime?
I have these doubts because these are what those who represent you, say about you. This is the kind of portrait these leaders flaunt about you. Thus you are represented as an unendingly moaning, moping victim of some larger conspiracy, all of which are incidentally aiming to destroy your religion, and impose upon you some alien culture. Thus you are showcased as some unprivileged set of men and women who are scoffed at by others, much like Cinderella and her step-family. While you are the beautiful Cinderella, rest of the India plays the role of the step-family while Owaisi types are the Fairy Godmothers, because of whose efforts you get a chance to ride in a chariot made out of pumpkin and finally meet the prince, only that in our story the time strikes midnight even before Cinderella meets her prince. And like in the movies this particular sequence where in you are tormented by the step family, then given hopes which do not become true, is repeated a billion times.
Is this the life you want? Are these the kind of leaders you deserve? Leaders who separate you from the rest of the nation, even as the rest of the nation is trying desperately to connect with you? Should you live by what these people say? Are you satisfied with these men as your spokesperson? If then, what is the difference between a Muslim, say in Mali and between you? What is so unique about Indian Muslims if your leaders are trying to make you mundane? India is a nation of great reformers and thinkers. All Indians, from whatever religion they come from, share a common gene of Indian-ness which is inalienable how so ever hard one tries. Instead being proud of this legacy, is it not a disservice by your leader who keeps on exhorting you to be different from the rest of India? What is common is common there is no running away from the fact. Is your leader not putting yourself into a psychological trauma by asking you to treat what is natural to you as something vile and forcing you to adopt something completely alien to yourself as your basis? Is it not like forcing a left hander person to write using his right hand?
Muslims constitute 13.5 % of the population in this nation. Wiki leaks have revealed that US consider this to be an understatement and the original Islamic population is up to 14.9%. Even then, going by the official number, there are approximately 163376112 Muslims in India. This is nearly 10.2% of the world Muslim population. You are the 3rdlargest single concentration of Muslims anywhere in the world. This is a chance for you to make some substantive change. Why can’t you be different? Why should you toe the line of laws created keeping in mind an altogether different geographical setting? Why can you not lead by example?
|President house and South block buildings illuminated. Courtesy MSN
In the 1820s we had leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who was a severe critic of the practice of Sati. He lobbied heavily in favour of the Anti – Sati law even though he was effectively ostracised from the conservative Hindu society. There was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in the 1850s who challenged the notion of oppressed girl child and opened up many school only for the girl children. His Bethune School was one of the centres of powerful movement of women’s education. This reformation was marred with protests from every corner. Even though these young students were shouted at and abused and even though parents were subjected to social boycott they did not stop attending schools. His contribution to widow remarriage is unforgettable even now. We had leaders like Jyotiba Phule in the 1870s who started Satyashodhak Samaj against caste discrimination, not for any political gain but out of genuine concern for his people. He was a pioneer of widow remarriage too, which, in those times was looked down upon. India had leaders like Gopalhari Deshmukh popularly known as Lokahitawadi who bravely proclaimed that “If religion does not sanction social reform, then change the religion”. The 1900s witnessed Sri Narayana Guru, who broke the shackles of discrimination, inspiring millions of people to date. India is the birth land of leaders like A K Gopalan and Krishna Pillai and K Kelappan who spearheaded the Temple Entry Movement. The Pledge Movement started by M G Ranade in the 1880s worked incessantly for abolishing child marriage.
Is there not a single Muslim to challenge the convention from the country which gave us thinkers like Swami Vivekananda and Raja Ram Mohan Roy? Reformation is a concept which is fundamental to human beings, every one of them, regarding their actions, their beliefs, the way they live. Everyone is looking for ways to reform themselves to betterment, then why not in religion? The fact that Raja Ram Mohan Roy was severely criticised for his opposition to Sati, the fact that those who married widows were stoned and later given police protection for pioneering widow remarriage, the fact that Gandhiji himself was fiercely criticised for cleaning the toilets of Harijans, the fact that Vivekananda himself called Kerala a lunatic asylum of caste, shows the guts, the courage these men had when they set out with the purpose of cleansing Hinduism from the clog it had collected due to centuries of superstitions and false sense of divinity bestowed upon undeserving men.
In a secular point of view, even democracy is a reformed structure of archaic forms of administration like monarchy and aristocracy. Thus stage after another, reformation leads to something better and this is indisputable. To brand anyone who set out to reform the religion as a blasphemer and accuse them of heresy is suicidal as it prevents the single existing path towards betterment. Instead asking others to “tolerate” the cultural sensitivity of Islam, ask why not the religion tolerates voices of dissent? Ask how moderates are persecuted and sane voices muted with the threats of chastisements in your religion. Try to differentiate things which pricks your soul from the heavenly ordains of the book. Nurture a leader like G G Agarkar who questioned blind adherence to faith. Respect the moderates who set out in the process of reform. Ask if your faith is too fragile that when a set of non-believers mock you, it becomes a source of rage for radical elements. Ask if fighting for religion makes your life better? Dare to ask your leaders if conducting these protest rallies will bring the alleged 31 % of Muslim BPL population upwards. Ask if passionate speeches in parliament about Muslim youth’s radicalisation create jobs for these young men. Dare to question your book, dare to question your leaders, dare to question the convention. Only then can Indian Muslims make a mark for themselves.
If indeed such a change occurs, it will be hailed by women and men of every country of the world, which ever religions they may belong to. It is going to be a landmark event when one of the most influential set of Muslims in the world, the Indian Muslims, set out in a path way of introspection. That will be the day of Renaissance in the Muslim world, not the Arab spring. That will be the day when Indian Muslim Leader would proudly hailed by every Indian to be truly secular. That is the day when not only Muslims of higher echelons but also the poorest of poor Muslims begins climbing the ladder of prosperity and success. That is the day when religions become irrelevant for all Indians. That is the day when our magnificent nation becomes truly secular. That is when we can focus our energies on issues that matter. That is when we can call us all Indians instead of Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus. That is the day when India breaks out from the chains of religious feud and starts ascending on a path of glory and greatness that she deserves. For that day I wait.
Written on 2nd October 2012
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