I am a devout Indian Muslim who loves singing ‘Vande Mataram’. The obsolete controversy over the song has been resurrected by a fatwa from the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind at its annual conference in Deoband that forbade Muslims from singing it.
I remember as I child how we used to sing ‘Vande Mataram’ with gusto. If I had not sung it, would I have been a better Muslim? The song is, frankly, a non-issue with Muslims. Only a few myopic rabble-rousing clerics who misguide the media into believing that they represent the Muslim community are bothered. The truth is that these clerics have no say within the community.
India’s Muslims must follow the example of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He saw in ‘Vande Mataram’ the fusion of a Vedantic vision of many parts of truth with the Islamic doctrines of Wahdat-e-Deen (unity of religion) and Sulah-e-Kul (universal peace). While listening to a rendition of ‘Vande Mataram’ in 1952 by the singer Krishna Kumar in Delhi, Azad spoke of how graceful and inspiring the song was.
Muslims should not get carried away by a few lines of the song as nobody is asking them to forfeit their faith in Allah. Here again, they must learn from Azad. At a function, Azad’s forehead was smeared with a tilak. This led the Pakistani daily, Dawn, to suggest that he had changed his religion to Hinduism. Azad responded by saying that by participating in such an event, his faith in Islam was actually strengthened.
By the same logic, a patriotic Muslim who loves his nation can’t be declared ‘anti-national’ if he chooses not to sing ‘Vande Mataram.’ What is unfortunate is that the Jamiat clerics give Hindutva forces a handle to beat Muslims with. As for the media, they are guilty of providing these clerics, who are no more than bigots, the publicity that they crave for.
Do non-Christian children in convent schools who sing ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ come back home losing their faith? Then how on earth can singing ‘Vande Mataram’ be un-Islamic?
Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a Delhi-based writer
The views expressed by the author are personal