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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Lack of visionary leaders 

The Milli Gazette Online 

Md. Shahid Rafique finds out how poor leadership hinders the progress and development of Indian Muslims, the country’s largest minority

The month of Muharram is most important and respected month in the Islamic calendar. Every Muslim even non-Muslims know of the supreme sacrifice made by Imam-E-Aali Maqam to save the religion and the ummah. Then as time rolled by Muslims progressed under great leaders both in Deen as well as in Duniya all over the world. And as the world progresses Muslim leadership lags behind. In India too Muslims play a vital role in progress and prosperity of this country, its beautification, construction and development. Muslims contributed to arts and sciences, culture and civilization of this country and nurtured it with their blood. Even in the freedom struggle, Muslims have played an important role alongside their countrymen. The Muslims of free India are here not by accident of birth but by deliberate choice.

But the scene became worse after Partition, Muslims have been blamed for being anti-national and their rights have been suppressed. Today their status has been reduced to a pitiable condition politically, economically, socially, and educationally. And the onus lies on the community itself. It is the complex legacy of the tragedy of partition, which got compounded due to the lack of proper leadership in the first three decades of independence. The enlightened Muslims also didn't come forward to stem the tide. As a result the orthodox elements took over the leadership and created a very negative image of the community. Now the so-called self-seeking leaders of the community failed to even understand the problems of their community, whose members are alienated in this country where they are the largest minority. 

Recently the split in the Muslim Personal Law Board shows that the leaders are not interested in the upliftment of the community. They only want to keep the community in confusion on such issues like talaq, nikah, etc. so that they can easily mould them according to their needs. But they don't know that this act only weakens and divides the community further, which is the worst thing for Indian Muslims. These so called leaders only want to strengthen their position whatever it takes.

Indian Muslims are, by and large, weak on every count, and part of the responsibility for their backwardness lies with their religious and political leadership. The community has become directionless. Indian Muslims lack visionary leaders who can guide this vast unorganized community. They keep the community entangled in petty religious issues to keep their vote bank intact. 

Initially, a broad section of this leadership joined hands with the Sangh Parivar (communal force) in trying to establish that India was after all a Hindu nation as Pakistan was a Muslim country. Going by this logic, the best course for Indian Muslims was to reach an honorable settlement with these forces. This resulted in the weakening of Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind, founded in 1919, which had emerged as a constructive force in free India. Here the question arises: ‘Will the Muslim activists in India ever learn the importance of economic strength for the survival and progress of Muslims and Islam in India?’ "All these leaders were products of reaction, far from being the products of positive thinking, that is why they could not make any contribution. In the present context, the paths along which Muslims are being directed by their popular leaders can only lead to destruction." Expressed Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, President Islamic Centre, New Delhi. 

Indian Muslims should ignore the irresponsible and indifferent attitude of their leaders and should wake up to take the initiative. The job of Muslim leaders is confined to mobilizing their party's vote bank. Their utility ends once the polls are over. This is having a devastating impact on the minority psyche that not only feels cheated but also deprived since their real problem remains where it was some fifty years back. A real leader should wean away the Muslim youth from the ghetto and the street and show them the way to gain self-employment and to acquire skills. The energies of social workers should be focused more and more on making the future generation of Muslims less dependent.

No leader has emerged at the national level after Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Moreover, the saffron brigade has manipulated the parliamentary system by such exploitative laws that the aspirations of Indian Muslims for a fair representation in the national parliament and other governmental organs, has virtually been crushed. A new phenomenon has risen these days which is to label Muslims as terrorists and the random killing of active Muslim workers in fake encounters. Many political experts consider the problems of Indian Muslims to be the result of their lack of unity, when the fact is that only efficient leadership can unify them and resolve their problems. The Islamic organization in India has failed to bring the entire community under one roof so as to guide them along the right path. It is high time that the Muslim intelligentsia comes out of their canon and does something towards the emancipation of the Indian Muslims. Otherwise millions of them will continue to wallow in the abyss of poverty, misconception and mistrust.

This kind of splitting a large and powerful organization and forming smaller bodies that are destined to be weak and would be less beneficial to the development of the community, is an act of foolishness. It is just because after the invasion of Iraq these self proclaimed Muslims all over the world raise their heads with the support of anti-Muslim organizations and power from all over the world to weaken the Ummah and proved them wrong. But the community easily understands this kind of cheap publicity and they are avoiding them totally. Now the Muslims are more aware of their religion and the truth behind it, so befooling them in the name of sect and caste is no longer an easy task. Indian Muslim Ulama and new generation leaders should show wisdom and bring about reconciliation in the best spirit to unite the community and lead them on the path of progress and development. 

Three issues that confront Muslim society worldwide are, namely, security threat, illiteracy and poverty. Political leaders are targeting them socially, educationally, economically, politically to preserve their vote bank. In India after independence their patriotism has been doubted. The political parties make empty promises, sidelining their real problems and neglecting them as before. The Indian Muslims are not a monolithic entity, nor are their problems simply about mosque or personal law, rather they are more concerned about basic human rights. Perhaps a leader with a vision who understands the politico-religious dynamics obtained in the new dispensation of independent India could have guided the masses. 

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