|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | SAISURESH SIVASWAMY|
|June 22, 2002||
Kalam, Islam and Dr Rafiq Zakaria
Stereotypes are like the Goebbelsian lie -- repeat them so often, they come to replace the truth.
Those of us who have had the misfortune to be at the receiving end know -- often thanks to Indian cinema's penchant for stereotypes -- that the person propagating the lie mostly does it out of ignorance, and sometimes out of malice.
But when a person as learned as Dr Rafiq Zakaria -- sometimes Congressman, mostly Islamic scholar whose erudition needs no elaboration -- willy-nilly perpetuates a popular stereotype about Muslims in India, one is not certain if his motivation was ignorance or malice. If neither, then what?
For those scratching their heads, Dr Zakaria wrote in The Asian Age that presidential nominee A P J Abdul Kalam cannot be considered a Muslim because he a) does not involve himself in the affairs of the community and b) he does not follow Islamic tenets like fasting during Ramzaan, saying namaaz five times a day. Worse, Dr Zakaria wrote, Kalam's favourite scripture was the Bhagvad Gita, and favourite deity was Krishna. But for the fact that he was born with a Muslim name, there was nothing Muslim about Kalam, ran the tenor of the piece.
Dr Zakaria also left himself an escape route: he wrote that Kalam will not make a Muslim President on the lines of Dr Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed -- the latter, younger readers will need to be told, being the same gent who signed Indira Gandhi's Emergency proclamation in 1975 with nary a glance, some say from the comforts of his bathtub.
Going by Dr Zakaria's enumeration of what makes a good Muslim, the very criterion that rules out the Bharat Ratna qualifies -- no surprises here -- the same gentlemen who, on September 11, flew fuel-laden aircraft into symbols of American might, chanting, one presumes, Inninillahi as they went to their maker. The merchants of violent death in Kashmir, and the perpetrators of the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993, they all qualify as good Muslims and will, no doubt, on their death get to galavant with houris in jannat as it is said in the holy book. And probably, as a bonus, get to watch apostates like Dr Kalam burn in hell.
What have you done, Dr Zakaria! How could you even push such a line!
The tragedy with what Dr Zakaria wrote is two-fold. One, his erudition has not prevented him from exposing the ugly truth about his faith, a truth that has lurked in the shadows, a truth that is bitter. That Islam brooks no deviation from what was uttered 1500 years ago, never mind if all creed, all dictates, are contextual and should be treated as such. The world may not have much sympathy for, or understanding of, doctrinaire isms anymore, but when scholars refuse to take note of this, one wonders, what Islam do they know who only Islam know.
The second tragedy is that he has refused to see how the Indian, indeed the entire Asian experience has altered and enriched the local cultures where Islam set root even while it was being enriched in turn. Thus, the brand and nature of Islam being practiced in, say, Ramanathapuram is as distinct from that practiced in Jharkhand as the one in, say, Tajikistan. To enforce one uncompromising view on the entire community, ummah, may have theological sanction but nothing else.
With his outline of what or who is a Muslim, Dr Zakaria has virtually disfranchised a significant number of those who consider themselves Muslim. Taken further, it would even excommunicate the founder of a Muslim homeland in the subcontinent.
The stereotypical Muslim -- Ghalib spouting, paan-chewing, biryani-loving creature -- Dr Zakaria may be surprised to know, is not what the majority of the community is about. He himself may feel comfortable in the environs that he has outlined, but that cannot be the yardstick to determine who is a Muslim and who is not. And, anyway, that task is not the bailiwick of scholars and lesser mortals.
Further, if Dr Zakaria were to poll the nation on who its ideal Muslim is, he would be surprised to find Kalam topping the list. And it won't be because he plays the veena, or that he recites the Bhagvad Gita or that he loves the company of Brahmins and shares their dietary and other habits. These are after all facts that not many were aware of till Zakaria himself highlighted them. On the contrary, it would be because he is seen as a Muslim who has fashioned the nation's defense against an adversary that is seeking to dismember, destroy India in the name of Islam.
At a time when the popular stereotypes of Muslims still going around are those who burst crackers when Pakistan wins, who reduce Hindus to refugees when not gunning them down, or just criminals who fill the city pages of daily newspapers with their deeds, India needs more Muslims like Dr Kalam, who represent the awesome synthesis between culture and religion, who speak not as Muslims first but as Indians first and last.
Such apostasy may not book them a berth in the heavens above or a place at the head of the table with the community, Dr Zakaria may demur, but these are the Muslims who need to stand up and be counted, allow their voices to be heard.
When that happens in good numbers, the stereotypical Muslim will hopefully be relegated to Bollywood fantasy and scholastic thesis.
HOME | NEWS | CRICKET | MONEY | SPORTS | MOVIES | CHAT | BROADBAND | TRAVEL
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | SEARCH
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK