Self-righteous Wannabe Leaders of Indian Muslims

Kaleem Kawaja

We often hear that the condition of India’s Muslims is not improving because the community has no leaders.  But if you examine in detail you will find that this is not true.  Aside from the known leaders there are plenty of budding leaders and wannabe leaders  in the Muslim community, wherever you look, north, south, east, west.  Also there are several small Muslim - centric political parties in existence for many years.  Browse the Indian Muslim media and the email lists of Indian Muslims that actually span the globe,  east to Australia, west to Middle East, Europe and North America and you will find wannabe Muslim leaders dishing out detailed opinions on every aspect of the lives of Indian Muslims.

When you browse this panorama you will soon realize that most leaders and wannabe leaders are very self-righteous and very rigid in their opinions.  Most of them want just their opinion to be heard and are not willing to either solicit opinions from other Indian Muslims or listen to what others are saying.  Their fear of competition and their desire to dominate is so preponderant that it makes them highly self-righteous even in the small number of educated Indian Muslims who express views on political and social matters.

The heads of most Indian Muslim organizations stay in their positions for their entire lives, hardly ever allowing others any opportunity to contribute to leadership and they hardly ever consult anyone even from their small circle of top associates.  In a few organizations where there are term limits for the chiefs, the arrival of a new chief is marked by much skirmishing between the new chief who wants to act like chief and the outgoing chief who wants to continue to dominate the organization.

The fact is that after the chief leaves his position and starts to work with people and does some real service, is the time when he/she becomes a real leader of the community. Unfortunately in most Indian Muslim organizations the chiefs suffer from the Saddam Hussein complex, wrongly thinking that their being leader is directly tied to their being chief.  The result is more leadership skirmishes, more waste of scarce resources and time and the near absence of any programmes that bear any results.

Why is it that Muslim leaders and wannabe leaders are so keen to dominate opinion-making forums and discussion forums? Whether it is discussion in meetings or newspapers or email lists, they want to dominate discussion with unending diatribes and repeated exhortations of their opinions both verbal and written.  If anyone dares to give a contrasting viewpoint or says that he/she has heard enough, the leaders savage him/her by ridiculing that person’s opinion.  In fact, the over-saturated opinions of the wannabe leaders in newspapers and email discussion forums, soon start sounding like propaganda. Soon the audience loses interest in the basic issues and drifts away. There goes the end of an opportunity to form opinions on issues in the Muslim community.

And then the outsiders and India’s mainstream question why the Indian Muslim community does not have well-articulated and thought-out opinions on issues that matter to their community?  The answer is that the wannabe leaders and leaders frequently kill such efforts by dominating the discussion with their own unending elaborations and opinions on every topic under the sun. They arrogate to themselves the opportunity to think and express viewpoints and suffocate the opportunities for others. Also their groupies and friends lead a march to shut out diverse viewpoints.

Can this situation be redeemed? Yes, it can be. The editors and moderators of various newspapers, online news-magazines, e-mail discussion groups must formulate rules-of-fairness and implement them to prevent anyone, no matter how renowned, from dominating discussions on issues and suffocating out others. We must realize that much as there is gross shortage of critical thinking in the Muslim community, the situation is being made worse by the attempts of the self-righteous opinion-makers to dominate the print space or bandwidth.

The writer is Executive Director of Association of Indian Muslims of America, Washington DC.  He can be reached on: 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2016 on page no. 11

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