Be it the burqa phobia of Britain, the racial profiling in the US or the Danish cartoon controversy, there can be no denying the fact that in the guise of fighting a "war on terrorism" democratic governments across the world have demonised and vilified entire Muslim communities to the extent of questioning their loyalty to their countries.
That India is no exception to this selective targeting can be proved from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent advice to the police: "Police and security agencies have to take care not to cast doubts on the patriotism of Muslims or any other community".
Addressing the concluding session of a conference on 'Terrorism: Causes and Remedies', organised by Muslim clerics and religious leaders at Parliament House Annexe on August 21, Singh acknowledged the fact that only Muslims were picked up for interrogation by the Maharashtra Police in the case relating to the Mumbai train blasts on July 11.
He said, "I have spoken to the Maharashtra chief minister. The incident at Nanded is also under investigation. It is wrong to cast doubts only on the Muslim community during investigations."
This brings us to the question: Why are Muslims victimised across the globe?
In his best-selling book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, anthropologist and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, Mahmood Mamdani says that the attack on Islam is the result of the "politicising of a single term: culture" because, "unlike the culture studied by anthropologists - face-to-face, intimate, local, and lived - the talk of culture is highly politicised and comes in large geo-packages".
As proof, Mamdani points out that "Culture talk after 9/11, for example, qualified and explained the practice of "terrorism" as "Islamic". "Islamic terrorism" is thus offered as both description and explanation of the events of 9/11."
"It is no longer the market (capitalism), nor the state (democracy), but culture (modernity) that is said to be the dividing line between those in favour of a peaceful, civic existence and those inclined to terror."
Mamdani's analysis, praised by Noam Chomsky as "a valuable contribution to the understanding of some of the most important developments of the contemporary era", clearly proves that the Western concept of Islamophobia is the direct result of the hatred of Muslims indoctrinated in the minds of the Christians over centuries. Why else would the Christian governments in the West gang up to decimate entire Muslim nations for the wrongs of a few? Certainly, the whole of Iraq or Afghanistan was not responsible for attacks against the US.
Even in the Indian context we find a similar racist reasoning in the behaviour of the Hindutva ideologues towards Muslims. Golwalkar said that Muslims must adopt the Hindu culture and language and "they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen's right".
This attitude has resulted in untold atrocities being perpetrated against Muslims.
Further, acts of terrorism perpetrated by Muslim outfits as part of their political agenda are given a religious colour and are referred to as "Islamic" or "Islamist" terrorism as if to suggest that Islam preaches violence.
On the contrary, Hindu organisations that commit similar acts are described as either 'ULFA militants', 'Shiv Sena activists' or 'Tamil Tigers'. They are never called "terrorists" no matter how much terror they instil in the minds of the innocent people.
A hue and cry is being raised against human rights activists such as Arundhati Roy who want the death penalty of Mohammad Afzal Guru commuted to life imprisonment.
But in August 2005, India, through the then foreign minister Natwar Singh, officially requested the Pakistani government to review the death penalty of Sarabjit Singh, who had been accused of triggering bomb blasts in that country.
The question here is not of seeking mercy for terrorists. It cannot be denied that if the highest court of a country convicts any terrorist, he certainly deserves the ultimate punishment.
But the question here is of biased attitudes. In the aforementioned conference on terrorism our prime minister said that a "terrorist has no caste, no religion and no language." Yet there are different yardsticks in our country to judge people depending upon their religious affiliations and political clout.
For example, while the perpetrators of the 1993 Mumbai blasts are being rightly brought to the book one by one, the Srikrishna Commission Report on the Bombay riots is still in the cold storage.
In his article 'A welter of evidenc', Praveen Swami wrote: "Some of the most damning evidence of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's role in the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993 is tucked away between pages 172 and 176 of Volume II of the Report of the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry.".
Just as the perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts are being tried and punished, the terrorists behind the Gujarat massacre and all other riots in which thousands of innocent Muslims lost their lives should be brought to justice because Muslims too are equal citizens of this country.
A Faizur Rahman is a peace activist and executive committee member, Harmony India, Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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