Needless controversy

Masood Peshimam

AIMIM legislator Waris Pathan’s controversial suspension from the Maharashtra Legislative assembly for refusing to say Bharat mata ki jai has created a debate over the legality of such acts.   Interestingly, some well-known Muslims in Mumbai have sought to interpret the event as “match fixing” between Owaisi and the BJP, an act of dangerous brinkmanship.    Such linkage between the two as projected at a Mumbai press \conference by some Muslims flows from no logic, reason or evidence.  Is Waris Pathan’s suspension a part of match fixing?  Is filing of an FIR against Owaisi a part of match fixing?  Is denigration of Owaisi by the Hindutva communal forces part of that match fixing?  The protest against the slogan Bharat mata ki jai has provoked a massive backlash against the protesters.  Has such backlash been cast within the ambit of match fixing?  These “spokespersons” of Muslims have not defined their own stand over the contentious slogan?  Such platforms are created to enhance the social clout to earn dividends in different forms.  Irrespective of how the section of the media quotes them it does not diminish their lack of credibility.

The Muslim leadership has turned into a commercial enterprise. Some persons join social and political life to save their skin and slowly begin flexing their political muscles with no or little interest in serving the just social interests.
There is no problem in raising slogans like Madare watan ko salam, Jai Hind or Ma tujhe salaam.  Even Bharat mata ki jai has not aroused objection from some quarters as it is said that there is no inconsistency in it with the essence of monotheism of Islam.  Those opposing the slogan have their own logic.  Their contention is that the slogan carries an element not in consonance with Islam.  However, the fact remains that both the schools of thought do not want anything interfering with the concept of Tawhid, or the oneness of God, forming the essence of Islam.  

However, notwithstanding controversy over the contentious slogan the fact remains that Muslims in this country are no less patriotic than their compatriots. The community despite the grievance of being economically and socio-politically marginalized, has always remained nationalist to the core.  Muslims living in predominant Hindu areas like Dombivli in Maharashtra are amenable to the cosmopolitan cultural influence than to any influence from any Muslim country.  

Their love for the country does not deserve to be doubted.  The dispute is never concerning raising some slogans or not.  The dispute crops up when a slogan assumes religious connotation not in consonance with the letter and spirit of monotheism.  It’s not the question of Muslims.  Any faith community may not share the beliefs of others and is free to express its reservations or opinion.

In the teeth of intense and competitive communalism the BJP and its patron RSS are playing the dangerous game of dividing the people in the name of nationalism to occupy much of the electoral space.  In the already hostile atmosphere, not discouraged by the Modi government, fake issues like love jihad, ghar wapsi or beef-eating are intensely hyped up, leading to dangerous consequences.  The brutal murders of Muslims on the charge of beef-eating and the growing incidence of goonda attacks has aroused concern at International level.  The UN, Amnesty International and other human rights groups abroad have taken note of the unhappy events.  The current anti-pluralism trend turning into ethnic chauvinism with the muscular show of communalism is posing danger to the very survival of secular democracy.

Owaisi is blamed for the rise of communal temperature after his rhetoric, but what about Bollywood stars facing serious constraints over their freedom of expression.  Bollywood stars like Amir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan have no passion for wearing Islam on their sleeves or talking in religious jargon. Still they are sometimes attacked by right wing fanatics and face hostile opposition.

Javed Akhtar, while delivering his farewell speech in Rajya Sabha had a chance to clarify the situation to mitigate the madness in the name of nationalism. Instead, he chose to project his own secularism to earn plaudits.

The late Nida Fazli, despite his irreligious temperament, did not play sycophant.  Nida was so anti-religious that once at Sansar Hotel in Kurla, Mumbai, he called the creation of world an accident, rather than an Art.  It is not known whether his antagonism to religion was a transitional phenomenon and he moved close to religion, thus revising his stance like late Zoe Ansari who was critical of Islam, resorted to his belief in Islam at the fag end of his life.  Nida Fazli, despite his critical view of religion, did not show his ambition to flirt with the political class hoping for material gain.  Javed Akhtar, drawing a lesson from Nida Fazli, should have opposed the suppression of dissent and should not have given leverage to the rightist forces.

The Congress had no hesitation in casting its lot with communal forces, making the MIM MLA bite the dust in the Maharashtra assembly.  The track record of the self-proclaimed secular Congress is not positive as far as the victimisation of Muslims is concerned.  Right from the frequent occurrence of communal flare ups to the demolition of Babri Masjid and cases of blatant injustices to Muslims, the Congress only paid lip service to the secular cause and had to pay the price of its political duplicity.

However, now is the time to shift the focus to redressal of the miseries of common people and pushing the development agenda.  Real Bharat mata ki jai lies in the economic prosperity of the common man rather than in inflaming the society to divert attention from the economic failure of Modi government.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2016 on page no. 2

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