Jobs @ MG
Mumbai Muslims lead the community
By M H Lakdawala
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
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
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
» 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
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. q