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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2003 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Topics missing in Muslim monologues

Encouraged by the fact that you are providing a generous amount of space to readers' opinions which are mostly an anguished cry from the heart over large and complex issues, I am submitting my critique of the Indian Muslim press, hoping that the readers may find it of interest.

A close reading of the contents of Indian Muslim press, both English and Urdu, reveals what's on the mind of the readers, and yields a few insights. Here they are:

Iraq's occupation Understandable, as it is on everybody's mind. But there is not one word about the possibilities this war has created for the establishment of democratic values in the Arab world. Even if the US motives are suspect, the rehtoric can have an impact because many of the Arab regimes are dependent on America for their existence.

Palestine conflict Many pages are devoted to this subject, in every issue of every paper. What goes unmentioned is the fact that the total number of Palestinian deaths in the last 10 years is no more than 3,000, which is just a little over the number of lives lost in the Gujarat carnage and related incidents in different parts of India. The total coverage given to the Indian Muslims' situation in the worldwide Muslim press in one year would not equal the amount of attention given to everybody else's problems in the Indian Muslim press on any given day.

Saffron menace Again understandable. But its reporting is mindless, unanalytical, repetitive and full of breast-beating: An us-versus-them kind of Muslim response to the mainstream north Indian press. What passes for analysis is a generalized, and rather detached, commentary on the broader currents in Indian politics. Such commentaries do not offer any new information, insights or ideas.

Responses to Western criticism Defensive explanations of violence done in the name of Islam are offered by many writers. Why is it so important to proclaim ad nauseum that Islam is a peaceful religion? Shouldn't the hijacking of Islam by terrorists the main focus of such writers? Was Mahathir Mohammed's critique so earthshaking as to deserve every single Muslim columnist's attention? Here's a list of topics the Muslim monologues are missing:

1. Keeping a hard, unblinking gaze at the nuances of the evolving secularist verus Hindutva discourse among the Indian elites.

2. Looking at the strategies Muslim communities in different parts of the country have developed to deal with threats to their human rights.

3. Discussing such products of the mass/popular culture as the film, Mr. And Mrs. Iyer, which so sensitively captures the anti-Muslim prejudice in India today.

4. Exploring and widening the theological basis for a composite Hindu-Muslim culture, such as Maulana Wahiduddin is doing.

5. Discussing the theological trends among Muslims themselves. Is Wahhabism growing or weakening? What influence do our Gulf workers bring back to their families and communities?

6. A weekly, if not a daily, report on what the regional-language press is saying on issues that affect Muslims. Another regular report on the images of Muslims presented on television and in films.

7. How can Muslims overcome resistance to their joining such institutions of civil society as trade unions, professional associations, and community organizations.

8. How to increase contact on a social level with people of other communities.

9. What is the state of social-service of Muslim organizations in different parts of the country.

10. Housing trends in different parts of the country. Why do we have to learn from the New York Times the phenomenon of the Mumbra community near Mumbai, which grew to more than 100,000 in about one year or so..

Usama Khalidi
Virginia, USA

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