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Published in the 1-15 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES

Religious stand of Muslims is clear

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

I am a Muslim and I take pride in being a Muslim. Islam's glorious traditions and legacies of 1300 years are my assets and I am not prepared to allow even its smallest part to be lost. Teachings of Islam, its history, its arts and sciences, culture and civilisation and so on and so forth are my wealth and its is my duty to protect and safeguard them. As a Muslim, I have a special position in Islam's cultural and religious field and I cannot tolerate any interference from anyone in these affairs. However, at the same time I have one more feeling which in no way is affected by the spirit of Islam. Rather, it guides me in my chosen path. I feel proud to think that I am a part of India's indivisible and united nationality without which the superstructure of its greatness remains incomplete. I am an important architect of this creation and I can never abdicate this claim.

We had brought some wealth along with us to this land which even otherwise had its own wealth and riches. We handed over our wealth and heritage to this country which in turn gifted us its wealth. We gave it the most valuable: the wealth of democracy and human equality and dignity.

Eleven centuries have passed since. Islam has its claim on this land in the same way as Hinduism does. If Hinduism has been the religion of its people for thousands of years, Islam too has been the religion of its people for a thousand years. If a Hindu can say with pride that he is an Indian and a follower of Hinduism, exactly in the same way we also can say with pride that we are Indians and followers of Islam.

[When the state government was formed for the first time in UP in 1937, Sampoornanandji, education minister at the time had in his speech in the assembly explained and clarified government's policy on education and culture. Reacting to his speech, Maulana Azad observed]

If Sampoornanandji has said in the UP assembly that he does not want to distinguish between Hindus and Muslims in matters of education, culture and civilisation, he has certainly presented an ideology which cannot be acceptable to Muslims nor Muslims can ever agree to the proposition that the distinctive features and qualities of Muslims' education, culture and civilisation should be eliminated and that being absorbed in India's united nationhood, like German and British nations, they should be nothing else except Indian nation. Muslims should declare loudly and clearly that they are in no way prepared to be absorbed into Hinduism even for a moment.

Taking active part in the struggle for India's freedom and marching shoulder to shoulder along with other countrymen does in no way mean that Muslims should bid good-bye to their distinctive religious and cultural qualities, and lose their identity by absorbing themselves in the united nationhood of India. This should never happen and Insha Allah will never happen.

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