Being an Indian Muslim: Online forum becomes debating point

  • Abhishek Saha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 21, 2015 14:53 IST

Software engineer Tehreem Ansari has often been asked to explain why she wears a hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf. In addition to this, she has been called a Pakistan sympathiser though she has no interest in the neighbouring country.

The remarks by Ansari, 22, came in response to the query “As an Indian Muslim, what kind of discriminations did you ever face?” posted on popular question-answer website Quora.

“Having to explain your hijab, even though it’s your cloth, and you chose to wear it for yourself, and you are not oppressed,” she wrote, listing the types of discrimination she had faced.

She added: “Being joked and called a terrorist/jihadi with a bunch of acquaintances just coz you are a Muslim.”

A screenshot of the question page from Quora.

The question, asked earlier this week, has registered more than 200,000 views and garnered 16 detailed answers, while six others have collapsed because of poor language and shallow reasoning.

Responding to the question, Kasim Saiyyad narrated an incident that occurred at a police station where he had gone for his verification in connection with a passport application. It was his first encounter with the police.

"He (a policeman) looked at me very suspiciously. It was very uncomfortable for me. He was simultaneously looking at the documents and at me which was making me more nervous. He asked me why I stay in Hindu colony? I should have stay in Muslim colony (As far as his behaviour with me, he could have asked me why am I living in India and not in Pakistan?). He threw few more questions on the same line. I was not expecting such type of questions."

Discrimination against Muslims made headlines recently after a 25-year-old communications professional, Misbah Quadri, complained to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that she was denied a flat in Mumbai because of her faith.

Quadri is not the only Muslim to face such discrimination.

There are numerous instances and anecdotes of Muslims not being allowed to purchase or rent apartments in Hindu-dominated areas.

In May, 22-year-old Zeeshan Khan was refused job by a Mumbai-based diamond exporting company on the ground that the company considers only "non-Muslim candidates".

The incidents involving Quadri and Khan got a lot of attention on social media platforms and they received considerable support.

The marginalisation and ghettoisation of Muslims is a harsh reality that several reports and studies have reflected, including the 2006 Rajinder Sachar Committee’s report that placed the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims below that of Scheduled Castes.

An anonymous Quora user responded to the thread by saying that though he (or she) is not a Muslim, many people mistook him for one because of his fair complexion and ambiguous surname, and openly said discriminatory things.

"A property agent in Bangalore asked me if I am a Muslim. I asked him why? He said the house owner doesn't rent out to Muslims."

Another anonymous user listed five instances when he felt Muslims behave in a way that he has a problem with. He had witnessed Muslims supporting Pakistan during cricket matches against India. One of his Muslim students is pro-Pakistan on social media while a Muslim colleague of his has an instrumental version of the Pakistani national anthem as her mobile ringtone, the user posted.

This user felt such behaviour "cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet".

No, there’s no discrimination: "Proud and happy to be Indian"

The thread also had some responses that denounced any discrimination against Muslims. People recounted how their Hindu friends and acquaintances had maintained a harmonious relationship with them.

"During Ramazan my friends discriminate between themselves and me and say ‘You go home, we will manage the work’," wrote Syed Naser.

He added: "Whenever I have a party with my alcohol consuming friends, if they are bringing the stuff, they discriminate against me and bring soft drinks for me."

A woman, Nalira Rumaizan, wrote: "Not once in my life have I felt ignored or discriminated. I wear a burqa, so naturally I stand out among all my friends, but then I enjoy as much as my friends do. I work for a reputed company and I am treated just like the rest."

She added, "There cannot be another country in this world where people are so much united."

(The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990)

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