Just how are the Indian Muslims reacting to the Israel-Hamas conflict at the Gaza Strip? A quick look at different strata of the Muslim society — from senior bureaucrats in politically sensitive Hyderabad to common men in communally sensitive Assam — shows they are worried.
First, the attack happened during Ramzan and second, the world — especially India — allegedly looked the other way when civilians are butchered in Gaza.
SLM Ahmed, a 60-year-old bureaucrat in the newly formed Telangana government, understands the diplomatic reasons for India to be silent. “But I wish we can at least say what is right and what is wrong. The fight — between religions originating from the same land — is absurd.”
Fifty-three-year-old Moinul Ali in Guwahati had seen terrible days — the 1983 Nellie riots in Assam is one for instance. Business takes up much of Ali’s time, but discussions with friends — with strangers in the local mosque too — often veer around faraway Gaza. He thinks it’s the worst form of barbarity to kill non-combatants and that too during Ramzan.
Imams across Assam’s idgahs echoed Ali’s concern on Tuesday, some offering special prayers for the wellbeing of Palestinians.
Apartment builder Raqib Chisti, 40, prayed too. “I implored Allah to give the Gaza Strip victims space in jannat (heaven),” Chisti said.
In Lucknow, the old city wore banners and posters seeking an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, and peace closer home at Saharanpur.
Shia leader Maulana Kalbe Jawad appealed for an end to the conflict while cleric Maulana Khalid Rashid condemned the Israeli bombings on Gaza.
In his pre-namaz sermon, Nadwa seminary rector Maluana Saedurrahman Nadwi said, “Israel, backed by western forces, has been oppressing and killing innocent people in Gaza and West Bank.”
Hyderabad has gone beyond prayers. It has been trying to educate people on why Israel does what it does. Mohammed Mazhar, 50, has welcomed a poster University of Hyderabad students pasted on the wall beside his pan kiosk. The poster invites people for a talk on ‘Gaza under siege’ and screening of ‘Tears of Gaza’, a documentary.
“Bahut ghalat ho ra hain Gaza mein (what’s happening in Gaza is very wrong),” Mazhar said, adding Indians — irrespective of religion — needed awareness through “sensible” talks and films about the conflict there.
In Mumbai, Muslims have organised several public gatherings to condemn the deaths of civilians in the violence. Sayeed Khan, 43, a businessman who runs an NGO, said, “No responsible citizen can justify it. The anger is spilling on to the streets and on the social media.”
Aamir Idris, founder-president of Association of Muslim Professionals, said, “We discuss the blatant violation of human rights in Gaza. Would nations like the US have remained silent had any other community been targeted?”
Kolkata went digital besides holding ‘peace rallies’ and burning of effigies of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. ‘Kolkatans for Gaza’ has come up with a Facebook page on the massacre in Gaza.
Qari Muhammed Shafique, imam of Kolkata’s Nakhoda Masjid, said, “The BJP government is not even allowing discussions in Parliament on the Gaza conflict.”
Agree Kolkata’s Muslim intellectuals. “There is a strong pro-Israeli lobby in the BJP,” alleged Tanveer Alam, associate professor of English at Ramkrishna Vidyamandir in Belur.
(With inputs from Digambar Patowary in Guwahati, Pankaj Jaiswal in Lucknow, Prasad Nichenametla in Hyderabad, Ravik Bhattacharya in Kolkata and Swati Goel Sharma in Mumbai)
Full coverage: Gaza under attack