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Mumbai Muslims lead the community
By M H Lakdawala

The lessons learnt from Mumbai are important, for they show that when the administration and the community concerned are determined to keep the peace, the gravest provocation cannot deter them.

During the last two months Mumbai has shown the way to rest of the country by its response to the slew of emotional issues raised by various groups and political parties. They are no more interested nor willing to let any group exploit their emotional and religious sentiments.

Unlike their counterparts in other parts of the country, Muslims of Mumbai maintain peace in the light of the Koran burning controversy last month. The spark lit by the burning of the Koran in Delhi which had spread steadily to Nashik, Pandharpur, Aurangabad, Pune, Kanpur, Srinagar. Mumbai too was scorched by the news, but it refused from erupting.

When the Urdu Times, one of the city's two major Urdu dailies, published on its front page, a box item on the burning of the Koran - the first Mumbai newspaper to do so - Muslims across the city worked frantically to calm the outrage that swept the community.

That day's Saamna, the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece, had already carried one of its typically strident editorials against the violence in other parts of Maharashtra by Muslims on this very issue, and made dire predictions about how Muslim areas in Mumbai were always waiting to explode.

All the ingredients to start a full-scale riot were present. But Muslims of Mumbai refused to fall for the bait.

In Mumbai unrest was gradually building up early last month over the distortion of Islam, in the history textbook of third year Bachelor of Arts (TYBA) students of the University of Mumbai. The book History of Medieval India (1000 AD to 1707 AD) authored by Dr R R Singh, Principal of the St Joseph College of Arts and Commerce at Virar (West) mentions that the advent of Islam was a boon for the Arabs, but has been a curse for people outside the Arab world.

Chapter 2 of the book under the heading 'Invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni' reads: ‘The advent of Islam might have been a boon to the Arabs who got united under its banner, and were enthused by it to carry on conquests in Asia, Africa and Europe. But it has been a curse for the people outside the Arab world because wherever the Islamic hordes went, they not only conquered the countries, but killed millions of people and plundered their homes and places of worship and destroyed their homes, places of worship and above all their art works...

Few of the organizations tried to capitalize on the issue but failed in their efforts.The issue was resolved through deliberations with the concerned authority.

Maharastra government has recently decided to ban Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) one of the largest Muslims students organizations in India. Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who also holds the home portfolio, had told the legislative assembly that the state government had asked the Centre to ban SIMI. According to Mr Bhujbal, SIMI was allegedly responsible for fomenting ‘communal trouble’ in the state.

SIMI all-India president Shahi Badr Falahi who was in Mumbai after the announcement along with his team tried to organize support from all sections of the society but City’s Muslims insisted on peaceful methods of protest.Public agitations were opposed.

Early this month The Raza Academy,a local Muslim religious organization had raised an objection to the Daler Mehndi's latest album, Nabi Buba Nabi, song alleging that ‘it made fun of Islam and the Prophet’.

The Raza Academy had protested against the use of the word Nabi (which means Prophet) in the song, and to the semi-nude women dancing to its tune. It had also objected to the use of the word Nabi with Ali and certain ‘obscene’ scenes in the video.

But Raza Academy was forced to suspend the agitation and resort to peaceful methods of negotiation as Muslims were not really interested in making an issue of it.

The factors responsible for preventing a potential explosive situation into a riots where:
» Community shunning emotional issues and realizing that salvation lies in focussing all its attention on education: That in the last three years, for the first time, Muslims have been topping the academic streams in Maharashtra. Slew of organizations are concentrating on taking education at grass root level. Scholarships, vocational guidance, focus on girls education and opting for professional courses have led to the drop in the drop out rates and increase in the general awareness level.

» Realization that reacting on Emotional issues is playing into the hands of vested interests, and the consequences are detrimental to the community, socially, economically and also it leads to the distortion of the image of the community, which is then projected as fanatic and intolerant.

» Rejection of the so-called traditional leadership and the emergence of the young leadership on the center stage. Instead of relying on the existing organization youths not only took active part in maintaining the peace but also exerted pressure on the Muslim leadership and administration to take firm steps to defuse the situation.

» The free availability of Islamic literature in various languages is helping the young Muslim leadership to understand Islam from the authentic sources rather than depending on hearsay.This has led them understand Islam in the correct perspective and they are able to analyze the ground situation correctly and with confidence.

It's a tribute to the tolerance of the city's Muslims that they continued to remain peaceful though the unpleasant truth was staring them in the face. The lessons learnt from Mumbai are important, for they show that when the administration and the community concerned are determined to keep the peace, the gravest provocation cannot deter them.
This lesson becomes all the more significant because, in this case, the affected community has always been portrayed as fanatic, emotional to the point of irrationality, and ever-ready to take to the streets on matters of faith. But Mumbai's Muslims have learnt the hardest way. Lives still in the process of being built from scratch after the December 92-January 93 riots are too precious to be risked, is the consensus of the city's Muslims.

A small but growing section among Mumbai's Muslims also feels that it's time the community learnt to react to the constant provocation's bound to be thrown at it in a more mature manner, which is, by ignoring them. The community's salvation lies in focusing all its attention on education, feels this section. Nothing must come in the way of this trend - not even the public desecration of the book they regard as divine. Reacting violently would mean playing into the hands of the provocateurs, these Muslims argue, for they want the community to remain trapped in the vicious circle of rioting-police-firing-deaths-devastation, which the current generation refuse.

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