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Dilemma of an Indian Muslim

Reconciling modern and secular with tradition and religion isn't always easy.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2006 15:17 IST

I write in response to the sad truth about Muslim rage and Islamism in India.

What can we do? It is not easy being a Muslim in India. He has to contend with dilemmas at all levels -- fight battles at home and wage war with the outside world. Today, Muslims in India live at the intersection of two worlds, one modern and secular and the other traditional and religious. They belong to a generation that escaped the bloody partition but faced riots and subtle discrimination.

If they are a bit wary today, it is sometimes understandable.

Majority of 150 million Indian Muslims not only have to worry about worsening communal relations and police brutality, but also face high unemployment and widespread poverty.
They live in urban ghettos or squalid villages and suffer from ignorance, ridicule, humiliation and resentment.

They are easy prey to the unscrupulous mullahs and self-serving politicians who consider them to be dependable vote-banks.

The profound sense of pain caused by calculated and senseless ridicule of their religious practices only serves to alienate them from the national mainstream.

Some sections of the media and a few politico-religious entities keep attacking the religious sensibilities of Muslims with little regard to the hurt it causes.

To say that Indian Muslims have always demonstrated a total lack of dignity and tolerance amounts to a lack of historical awareness. It appears so because Muslims in India have not gone through any social revolution that would have catapulted them into a modern secular society.

Often a secular-traditional path is not their way and we cannot change that overnight.

But all these facts of life of Indian Muslims do not justify killing innocents in temples in Gujarat or Varanasi. There can also be no justification for killing a professor in Bangalore or shoppers in New Delhi or commuters in Mumbai.

Such barbaric and wanton acts of violence should be condemned by one and all. The mainstream Muslims (most Muslims in India) need to do more. They should understand that preachers of hatred play on their feelings of despair to build the forces with which they can impose their writ on a world where liberty is crushed and inequality reigns.

Muslims need to challenge the imams in every mosque to preach universal values and not hate-mongering. The message should be loud and clear: nothing, not even despair, justifies choosing darkness, totalitarianism and hatred.

Mainstream Muslims need to engage with the law enforcement agencies to help stem senseless killings. They need to stop the Islamists/jihadists from hijacking their religion and their destiny.

After having overcome colonialism and obscurantism, India now faces a new totalitarian threat: Islamism. Indians everywhere should struggle against religious totalitarianism and work for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The savage killings in Mumbai have once again underlined the necessity for waging a struggle for these universal values. This struggle will not be won by enforcement of law and POTA, but in the ideological field.

What we are witnessing in India are neither a clash of civilizations nor antagonism between Hindutva and Islamism but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.
Like all totalitarian ideologies (Fascism, Nazism, Stalinism, Zionism), Islamism is nurtured by fear and frustration. The government and the society should address the perceived and real grievances that enflame the emotions of millions of Indians.

The government should refuse to countenance blackmail and threat of violence from terrorist outfits and religious organisations. Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir should be scrapped immediately. It has no relevance today. Kashmiris should be convinced that they are an integral part of India and will remain so.

The Kashmiris must also understand that the plebiscite promised 50 years ago cannot take place now, as Pakistan forcefully occupies one third of the territory in the western sector and China occupies some land in the west.

The Muslim Personal law is a farce. Why should the civil law be based on Sharia and not the criminal law? Why should the Indian Muslim male have the prerogative of talaq? And, why should not he be stoned to death for adultery?

It is imperative to have a uniform civil code in India. Why not secularise the madrassa which provide education and refuge to millions of poor Muslims in South Asia, including India?
In the name of affirmative action, the government must not merely push for reservations but actively work for the economic upliftment of the poor people, including Muslims.

We also need to the address the issue of proportionate representation of Muslims in all walks of life in India.

The media, intelligentsia and common people of India must rise above the stereotypes and stop viewing all Muslims as drug pushers, smugglers, pickpockets or hooligans. We all must understand that it is due to deprivation and destitution and not due to any religious teachings that people are forced to indulge in such nefarious activities.

If a section of the Muslim community cheers the Pakistani cricket or hockey team, why should the entire community be blamed for that and branded unpatriotic?

But, we should refuse to renounce our "critical spirit" for fear of being accused of "Islamophobia", a concept that confuses criticism of Islam as a religion with stigmatisation of those who believe in it.

The protracted battle for the temple in Ayodhya is a grim reminder of the serious communal situation. The Muslims should be persuaded to give the disputed land as a gesture of goodwill and the Hindus provide alternative land and money for building a mosque.

We need to also forget about Mathura and other disputed places of worship (and likewise Hindus should also forego claims that Taj Mahal was an old Shiva temple).

I appeal to democrats and free spirits in every corner of the country that our century may be one of light and not darkness.

Maqbul Jamil works for Novartis Pharmaceuticals in USA and can be contacted at drj8666@hotmail.com.

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