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This article was first published 6 years ago  » News » The word Muslim has become highly toxic in India

The word Muslim has become highly toxic in India

By Najid Hussain
April 13, 2018 10:46 IST
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'Will this communal pendulum, which is swinging towards the extreme of division and violence, ever swing back to its position of the '60s and '70s within my lifetime?'
'Or will my children, and their children, have to continue to suffer the consequences of the country, that we all love, torn apart along communal lines,' asks Najid Hussain in anguish.

Reading recent articles by Harsh Mander (Sonia Sadly, external link) and Ramachandra Guha (Liberal Sadly, external link), and the generous reaction of pundits -- from the right and the left -- which followed, one is reminded of the saying, 'If you contact enough experts you can confirm any opinion'.

The apparent description of the Indian Muslim mindset -- particularly by secular non-Muslim writers -- is often either defensive of that mindset, or offensive.

Neither do complete justice to the cause, or the truth, as it does not lie on either side of that coin.

Historically, no one has killed more Muslims than Muslims themselves.

Muslim on Muslim violence started some 1400 years ago, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Whether in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, even Pakistan -- Muslims continue to kill Muslims in the name of purity of faith, apostasy, blasphemy, hereticism, or merely for liberal views.


In this age of fast spreading puritanical Islam (otherwise known as Wahhabism), progressive Indian Muslims face opposing pressures -- one from the rigid faithful of their own community for being liberal and 'weak in faith', and the other from Hindutva ideologues, for not being liberal enough (or as some would say -- Hindu enough).

Iqbal expressed that pain well in: Zahid-e-tang-nazar ne mujhe kaafir jaana; aur kaafir yeh samajhta hae musalmaan hun mein (A narrow minded Muslim thought I am a heretic, whereas the heretic thinks I am a fanatic Muslim).

So what does this progressive Muslim feel in today's India?

I am one of those Muslims who grew up in the independent India during the '60s. I consider myself neither rigid, nor liberal; neither misogynist, nor feminist; neither archaic nor radical.

Today, I am overwhelmed with frustration, anger, fear, and insecurity.

Frustrated: because I am increasingly being asked by my clergy class and other community leaders to show that I am a Muslim -- by wearing Islam on my sleeve.

My dress, demeanour, discourse, prayers, food, friends, and habits -- all are under their Islamic scanner of conformity to the 'Muslim code' which would distinguish me.

Many Muslims, including some of my closest friends, are heeding that call.

An increasing number of women are wearing the hijab and burqa -- some of their free will, but many out of force, or fear.

Men are growing beards, and wearing skullcaps.

The line between secular and sacred is being actively blurred.

A religion of peace, tolerance, and inclusion -- as when Islam was brought to India -- is being reduced to the flaws it attempted to eradicate at its best.

Angry: because I see the communal temperature in the country constantly rising. Not that Hindu-Muslim tensions did not exist 50 years ago in India. They did. But it was limited to a mostly benign fringe of the Indian population.

There was no azaan blaring five times a day, from every mosque in every neighborhood.

Eid and Muharram processions were mostly secular affairs, with active participation from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Muslims joined drills at RSS shakhas, singing patriotic songs, and learning para-military techniques.

Calls of 'go to Pakistan' were never heard. Nor was any pressure on Muslims to live in exclusively Muslim ghettoes.

There was amicable acceptance from all sides. That spirit is sorely missing today.

Afraid: because I witnessed firsthand the Muslim massacre of 2002 in Gujarat.

Our house in Gulberg society was burned down. My father-in-law -- together with 79 other Muslim men, women, and children who had gathered in his house -- was hacked and burnt alive.

My family's nightmare of that massacre continues to date as the communal divide expands by the day.

Muslim homes are still targeted and destroyed in many parts of Gujarat, UP, MP, Maharashtra, and other states.

Innocent Muslim men are routinely captured by the police, tortured, and put in prison for years without trial. Many of them are killed through fake encounters.

Young and old Muslim men are beaten mercilessly by the gau-rakshaks or disgruntled individuals and lynched in front of large crowds who instead of stopping the lynching, make videos of the acts to share on social media.

Insecure: because the Indianness of Indian Muslims is questioned by an increasing number of folks from the majority, and members of the current administration and their political ideologues -- including the police.

One sees a breakdown of long cherished Indian values.

The law enforcement authorities fail to enforce without communal bias.

Many law-makers and ministers openly express a desire to change the Constitution to eliminate provisions of equality of religion and race.

Individuals who deliberately denigrate Islam, or inflict injuries on Muslims, quickly climb the ladder of power.

Given this environment of sharp polarisation, it is understandable, if not appreciable, why so many politicians find it politically prudent to distance themselves from Muslim issues.

The word Muslim has become highly toxic in India.

As the politics of staying in power differs from the politics of social activism, supporting the 15% Muslims over the 80% non-Muslims would be a fool's errand.

Social reform is the job of the conscientious among us, requiring active participation from ordinary folks who unfortunately have adopted total silence in the face of the communal challenge.

The thought which often gives me sleepless nights is: Will this communal pendulum, which is swinging towards the extreme of division and violence, ever swing back to its position of the '60s and '70s within my lifetime?

Or will my children, and their children, have to continue to suffer the consequences of the country, that we all love, torn apart along communal lines?

Efforts to return to a position of amiability is important, not only for the welfare of the two communities involved, but for the progress of our country.

Being supportive of puritanical Muslim mindsets, or on the flipside, being blindly critical of the community at large, will not help.

Blind eyes and hateful rebukes, both fail to produce desired results.

Blunt advice, and earnest concern, is likely to go farther in altering attitudes.

One such advice is: Indian Muslims must shed the Wahhabi influence in Islam -- which has mostly come from the influence of Saudi petro-dollars -- and return Islam to its pre-polarisation state of peace, tolerance, and inclusiveness.

The majority must also show magnanimity and reflect the spirit of brotherhood and acceptance.

After all, the only difference between Indian Hindus and Indian Muslims is the faith they follow.

As for the creed and origin, they are all fruits of the same tree -- Akhand Bharat.

We will have to try harder, and together, to bring the communal pendulum in our country to its state of rest.

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