By U. Mahesh Prabhu
Muslims today are being looked upon with strange skepticism. And conditions are certainly getting worse for even those Muslims who are nowhere near the ideas of the fundamentalists. Without doubt, the situation is absolutely frustrating for Muslims. But how can we ever free the Muslims from the clutches of such suspicion? How do we enable them to lead a normal life, in India at least? Are Muslims and non-Muslims doing their share to restore this dignity? These are some of the fundamental questions that seek answers and are yet unheeded, or lost in discussion.
It has to be agreed that terrorists who are carrying on ‘jihad’ or ‘holy war’ are Muslims. They have but one objective—glory to Allah and to the Prophet Muhammad. Their ideologies are formed very much by the verses found in the Holy Koran. And because it is so, every time there is a blast, anywhere in the country, the administration first suspects those who belong to this faith. To tell them otherwise or prevent them from taking precautionary measures by way of mass demonstrations in public and the media will only strengthen the existing skepticism of non-Muslims.
Recently, when a ban was imposed on the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), its members are said to have formed yet another outfit named ‘Indian Mujahideen’. They sent several mails claiming responsibility for the blasts across the country. When police began arresting the suspects, Muslim organizations, especially pressure groups, raised objections.
The media took up the ’cause’ and began calling it ‘police brutality’. However, not a word was said about those innocents killed in the blasts who had nothing whatsoever to do with the state of affairs. The Muslims’ protests began to gain momentum. ‘They are innocent’, they asserted, time and again. But they have no proof about the ‘innocence’ of the arrested either. Muslim journalists and intellectuals began writing of the failure of the system.
Yes, it is possible that the police have made these arrests without any basis. But it should not be forgotten that it is equally possible that these Muslims can be terrorists having contributed, directly or indirectly, to the blasts. But just saying they aren’t terrorists is of no use. If the police lack convincing evidence to prove them culprits, then the Muslim protestors are no better either as they have no evidence to the contrary. In the face of opposition, they just claim ‘Muslims and Islam are under threat!’ What nonsense!
There are several cases of atrocities being committed by people in uniform. But I have never found any logic in saying the entire system is corrupt. It’s an insane idea. Even if the entire system were to be corrupt, then the sufferers would not just be Muslims but also Hindus, Christians, and in fact, every single citizen of this nation. It would no longer be an issue of a particular religion; it would the matter of an entire nation which would have to be addressed by everyone together. Such ‘police atrocities’ don’t affect just Muslims, but people of all faiths. Given this, why individualize the whole issue? And what is the point in making this a ‘reason’ for their resorting to arms?
India is a secular nation. But its secularism isn’t one that is imported from the west. India’s secularism is where ‘every religion is looked upon as equal’. Every religion has equal rights, or better put, is supposed to have equal rights. But to be true, it is certainly not so. Being a democratic nation where heads are simply counted and never weighed, vote bank politics is our way of life. Today, India is home to the world’s second largest Muslim population, after Indonesia. And because their population is high, and ever increasing, their votes are simply invaluable to the politicos.
By pocketing Muslims with privileges, they can rule this country. It is no wonder that several governments in turn, have endowed several privileges upon Muslims. Indian Muslims have the special provision of following their Islamic law through the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The Indian government gives Rs 10 billion in salaries for ‘imams’ in mosques and Rs 2 billion in Hajj subsidies. No other, country, not even Muslim nations, in the world endows such privileges on their Muslim citizens. This is contrary to the situation of Hindus, who are deprived of privileges, even after their temples being nationalized. Yet, there seem to be no sense of satisfaction among the Muslim masses. ‘Yes, we are given privileges; but only on papers’, they reprimand. But even if that is true isn’t it possible for them to fight it in a court of law?
What justice are those Muslims who join Jihadi organizations, or sometimes Naxal movements, across the country, hoping to get? Justice? What kind of justice? The movements are supported by Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, and some Arab nations, who have a terrible record of human rights violations themselves. You just have to read their history and current state of affairs to know what they are. No one has the word ‘liberty’ truly engraved in their constitution and even if written, it’s fairly invisible or never brought into force.
If Muslims think the judiciary is unfair then, there are legal means within the constitution to set it right. If there can be a way to bring arms into this country, then can’t there be a way to restore the judicial system, should it have ‘gone wrong’, as contested?
Muslims are criticized by most of Indians today, and not just Hindus. ‘Criticism’ because they are feeling threatened and they aren’t being convinced enough. It’s not hate, but apprehension, and an uncertainty. They are also in no mood to assail Muslims. They want words that can prove their worst fears as ‘untrue’, and they aren’t getting it.
If Muslims are to talk about the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, Godhra, and all that, they should also not forget that there are non-Muslims who have lost their lives and loved ones. If Muslims have suffered then the non-Muslim populace of this land has suffered no less.
I wish to recall an instance from the pages of the history of India. When the freedom struggle was on and a great population was following Mahatma Gandhi, there was a section of youth, from all parts of society and religion, who were not content with him. They rebelled against his ideas and started a violent revolutionary movement. But they respected life and their violence was limited. It so happened that Gandhi had to take a stance as to whether he was with or against Bhagat Singh’s death sentence. He was very clear in his stance and said ‘I can’t support violence in any form’, and thus, never intervened even when the revolutionary and two of his comrades were hanged.
The Indian media is a great fan of Mahatma Gandhi. Whenever there is violence, the name of Gandhi pops up. ‘The Mahatma died again’, they will say. But when it comes to following his principles, why don’t the media shun talking ‘good’ about the terrorists? Why can’t the law take its course? Every culprit will claim his innocence, but that is not a credible reason to support a terrorist.
Muslims cannot complain about lack of support from the media. They cannot complain lack of privileges from the government, either. But they can complain of injustices whenever and wherever they might have occurred. They have that right. But by trying to justify terrorists, I fear they are antagonizing and even instigating non-Muslims. Thus, the protest undertaken by the Muslims of India is completely out of context and is working against them. And unless Muslims shun the violent members of their community; they will never be able to win the hearts of the masses of this land—ever. This IS an uneven ado.
Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK).