Hoisting the Tricolour, a note on patriotism
Muslims say that they have had to wear their patriotism more explicitly and express their nationalism more volubly than other Indians.mumbai Updated: Aug 13, 2017 22:57 IST
Last week, a leading Muslim preacher from Mumbai asked mosques and madrassas, or religion schools, to fly the national flag on Independence Day.
Maulana Syed Moinuddin Ashraf, called Moin Miya by his followers, is an influential figure and his advice on issues ranging from zakat donations during Ramzan and education are received with great gravity by those who attend his discourses. He runs the Jamia Qadriya Ashrafiya, which runs madrassas and other charity institutions. On Sunday, the Jamaat Ulema e Hind, a group representing religious scholars, asked madrassas to hoist the tricolor from their buildings.
Some of his followers, who take his advice on ecclesiastical matters, do not know what to make of this message. “I have reservations about this,” said one of them.
Muslims say that they have had to wear their patriotism more explicitly and express their nationalism more volubly than other Indians. Kannada writer Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi, while speaking at a recent event, wondered whether Indian Muslims, besides praying five times a day as their religious duty, will have to put their patriotism on display five times a day too.
The demands are relentless. After the September 2016 attack on an army camp in Uri, in which soldiers were killed by terrorists, civil society groups in Mumbai organised meetings to protest against the incident and to commemorate the dead soldiers. Most of the groups that gathered in the city for the commemoration were Muslims.
Recently, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation passed a resolution making singing of Vande Mataram compulsory in all schools it runs. The decision would not have been very controversial but for the fact that a large number of these schools offer instruction in Urdu. Muslims have issues with the song because of its deification of the country and some municipal corporators have protested against the diktat, explaining that they would sing other national songs. Around two years ago, the high court of Uttar Pradesh asked the state government to ensure that Muslim religious schools hoisted the national flag on Independence Day and Republic Day.
Many Indians are asking why one group is under persistent pressure to display their patriotism, but the Muslim organisations that have issued instructions do not think of it in that way. Maulana Mustkim Azmi, a member of the Jamaat Ulema, said, “The Hindus can ask temples to display the national flag and the Christians can ask churches to do that. Moin Miya, as a Muslim, can ask his community to fly the national flag; there is nothing offensive in saying that. We have made sacrifices for this country and we have to remind everyone about that.”
Maulana Arif Umri, another member of Jamaat e Ulema, said that he did not find these appeals annoying. “There are two reasons why Muslims need to commemorate these days more actively. Madrassas used to do it but students now look at these days as a break from school,” said Umri. “The second reason is that Muslims are accused of keeping themselves away from celebrations of national pride. If this is the perception we have to send the message that we too have a stake in the country’s future as everybody else.”
The Jamaat e Ulema has excluded mosques from the list of institutions asked by them to fly the national flag. “This is because we want the Independence Day celebrations to be attended by every community and this will to be possible in a mosque,” explained Umri.
Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, former head of the department of Islamic Studies, St Xaviers College, said that she did not look at the direction as a ‘forced’ one. “He (Moin Miya) did it voluntarily and not because some organisation asked him to. He did it from his heart,” said Ali.
“What is the harm if we start (flying the national flag from religious buildings) even if we have not done it earlier,” said Ali. “It is a very positive action because it today’s world it is important to show everyone what is been done, which should not be. It will silence them (those who accuse Muslims of lacking in patriotism). You have to meet communities half way; you have to take a step. Everything today is about what you see, unfortunately,” said Ali.