As far as Muslims and other religious minorities are concerned, it’s good to introspect about their plight. It is not correct to have a feeling of victimhood. But can we understand the broad political global phenomenon in such a superficial way, where Muslims are blamed for their own plight? Can we present Hindus as a uniform community pitted against the uniform Muslim community?
Naseeruddin Shah in an interview to Karawan-E-Mohabbat expressed his anguish and anger at the killing of Subodh Kumar Singh, the police inspector. Shah’s interview brought forth the issue of insecurity, particularly of the religious minorities in India. While this did remind the nation of the direction in which India has been heading for the last few years, there was an angry response to Shah’s interview from intolerant sections of society who left no stone unturned in calling him names and in humiliating him in social media.
At the same time, RSS’s mouthpiece Organiser carried an interview by Shah’s cousin, Syed Rizwan Ahmad. Ahmad is introduced as an Islamic scholar. Ahmad in the interview says that Muslims are unsafe only in nations where Muslims are in majority and that in India intolerance is the birth child of Muslim incompatibility to exist peacefully with other faiths.
He goes on to blame the Indian Muslims for their plight in this country as they failed to play a proactive role in Shah Bano and Kashmiri Pandit issues. It is due to this that Hindus have started feeling that they are getting a raw deal. As per him, intolerance is the pseudo-narrative of pseudo seculars and intolerant Muslims.
As far as Muslims and other religious minorities are concerned, it’s good to introspect about their plight. It is not correct to have a feeling of victimhood. But can we understand the broad political global phenomenon in such a superficial way, where Muslims are blamed for their own plight? Can we present Hindus as a uniform community pitted against the uniform Muslim community? Globally it is true that the Muslim majority countries in West Asia are witnessing more civil wars and more insecurity. Let’s also note here that while on the Indian side we blame Pakistan for the acts of terror, the number of deaths of innocent civilians is many times higher in Pakistan than in India, and let’s not forget Pakistan lost its Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a terror attack. Again we see that oil-rich zones witness more civil wars and terror attacks. The sequential rise of Mujahideen, Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the region saw acts of terror and violence in these areas. Has this been due to Islam? Why this phenomenon was not there during the cold war era or prior to that?
This violence in West Asia (also called the middle-east) has been promoted primarily by the American policy of controlling oil wealth. In the wake of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, America was not able to counter it by sending its own army as the army morale was low after the humiliating defeat in the Vietnam War.
The USA, by clever machinations, started promoting fundamentalist groups in these regions, brainwashing Muslim youth in few Madrassas in Pakistan and it richly funded (eight thousand million dollars) and heavily armed (Seven thousand tons of armaments, including latest weapons) these groups which came from this process. This sowed the seeds of violence, terrorism and led to insecurity in the region. Mahmood Mamdani’s book ‘Good Muslim-Bad Muslim’ gives the accurate account of the process which was employed by the mighty superpower to prop up terrorist groups. To add salt to the wounds, after the 9/11 2001 twin tower attack, the American media popularized the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ and laid the foundation of global Islamophobia. The wealth of Muslim majority countries, the oil, became its biggest handicap.
Islam came to India with Arab traders and many embraced it for many reasons, one of which could be to escape the tyranny of the caste system. One recalls that Muslim kings like Akbar promoted inter-religion interaction and many of the most demonized Aurangzeb’s top officers were Hindus. In India, while the impression is being created that Muslims are intolerant, the fact during the medieval period, Hindu-Muslim interactions created Ganga Jamuna tehzeeb, well presented in Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’ and beautifully captured in the Shyam Benegal’s immortal serial ‘Bharat Ek Khoj,’ based on this book.
During freedom movement majority of Muslims were with Indian National Congress and were equal partners in the freedom movement. This gets well reflected in the Muslim freedom fighters like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abul Gaffar Khan and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai among others. Partition was the clever move of the British Empire to weaken India and to have a subservient state in South Asia in the form of Pakistan.
The communal poison was spread here by communal organizations, Muslim League; Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. Sardar Patel went to the extent of saying that it was due to the communal poison spread by RSS, that the murder of the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi could take place. The rising communal violence, the arrest of innocent Muslim youth on the pretext of acts of terror, then lynching’s in the name of cow-beef have created massive insecurity. We can see a correlation between rising insecurity and the rise in ghettoization, fundamentalism and the use of Burqa among other orthodox practices.
The Muslim community has also made a few mistakes.
The section of Muslim community which opposed the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano pushed the whole community back. The section of leadership highlighting Babri mosque demolition has not been good for the large section of the community. No doubt the Babri mosque issue has been doctored to show that it was a place of birth of Lord Ram, still Muslim leadership should focus on livelihoods than identity issues. Muslim leadership needs to focus on issues of equity. Now, dominant communal discourse by so-called Islamic scholars is trying to put all the blame of the plight of the Muslim community on Muslims themselves. Nothing can be farther from the truth, it’s like blaming the victim for the crime.