The Azad Maidan incident did not enjoy the support of a sizeable section of the Muslim community, but many Mumbaiites from the community say they are caught in an uncomfortable situation - they don't identify with the protesters or the violence but they have to bear the brunt because they are Muslims.
Salima Poonawala is a case in point. Almost two decades after the communal riots and blasts in 1992-93, this Kandivli resident continues to grapple with stereotypes and discriminations made on the basis of her faith. "These acts of violence instigated by small groups make things more difficult for the community. I fear that in the days ahead, Muslims might not get jobs, besides finding it difficult to locate homes," said Poonawala, a yoga teacher. "The post-Babri Masjid demolition riots and Godhra riots have made people assume that all forms of violence are perpetuated by Muslim outfits."
Many professionals, students and academicians said incidents such as the Azad Maidan violence make living in a pluralistic society a challenge. "It is because of these violent outbreaks instigated by small groups that the entire community is looked down upon," said Ali Nawaz Thaver, 18, a mass media student.
Maseera Sheikh (name changed), a philosophy student, said the murmurs and silent whispers that the burkha attracts in local trains irks her.
"Even if it is not intentional, I feel that I am being looked at suspiciously. I feel angry when people look at me and start discussing riots and violence," she said.
For others such as Maliha Kothary, 25, a sales executive, the constant association of Islam to violence is alarming. "It is a scary feeling to have such small outfits determining the overall face of the community," said Kothary.
"The stereotype of Islam being associated with violence has been around; it's when a handful of community members participate in or instigate violence, these stereotypes become more active," said Asghar Ali Engineer, reformist writer and activist. "Even as the community follows a composite culture globally, people follow identity politics by instigating communal forces to distribute pamphlets and booklets, and thereby reinforce the stereotype."
Javed Anand, member of Muslims for Secular Democracy, said: "The concept of Islamophobia is taking new form. The level of propaganda and the issues addressed at the pan-India level are reinforcing several stereotypes."