"Sonia, Sadly" — but Indian Muslims live like kings

A Rebuttal to Harsh Mander’s article 'Sonia, Sadly'. I acknowledge the fact that the author, Harsh Mander, has written the article with all good intentions and has probably done well to show the mirror to Sonia Gandhi.

Harsh Mander's article "Sonia, Sadly" was published by mainstream Indian media this week. The core message of the article was emphasizing on the assumption that the political parties don't want to associate themselves with the Muslims to ensure that they are not perceived as Muslim “appeasing” parties.

The writer goes on to say that this thought process has also infested the Indian National Congress, which had otherwise successfully maintained a secular image. In the process of establishing arguments for the assertion, the writer tries to build the same air of insecurity for the Muslims that has been the culminating blitzkrieg for the Right-Wing. He further says that Muslims in India are deemed irrelevant to Indian politics; they need to play low-key in politics for a decade or so.

While I acknowledge the fact that the author, Harsh Mander, has written the article with all good intentions and has probably done well to show the mirror to Sonia Gandhi, overall, the article has shown Muslims in India in a very poor light. The article may be seen as a bold step in showing an empathic view of the Muslims; however, it metaphysically represents a fake medical report given to a healthy man, to make him believe that he is a patient who deserves to be hospitalized. In other words, it was a morally demotivating article that appeared to demean the strength and power of the Indian Muslim community. Let me dissect the article and put them in order, in its true perspective God-willing.

The article states that the Muslims in India feel unsafe after the numerous lynching cases of Muslims who were accused of selling and transporting beef. “Open expressions of hatred and bigotry against Muslims have become the new normal, from schools to universities, workplaces to living rooms, internet to political rallies,” the article claims. It appears that the mainstream media is hands-in-glove with the Right Wing to create a perception that such an atmosphere of hatred and insecurity exists. The fact; however, is that a majority of Non-Muslim Indians still respect Muslims and Islam in India. My attempt shall be to reveal this perception.

The article is replete with wishful assertions by the author, like “Muslim parents caution their children — don’t respond with “salamalaikum” when we phone you in a train; don’t wear a beard or skullcap or hijab; even if someone abuses you, don’t fight back.” That is, Muslims avoid wearing skull caps or burkhas to conceal their identities while travelling in train or public transport. The author should do more to enlighten the readers and provide strong evidence of this claim. Specifically, if he conducted any survey or research study that validates this statement. In the absence of such an evidence, these types of statements are nothing more than wishful thinking of the author; probably similar to the Right-Wing propaganda to create religious rift in the country.

As far as the situation of Muslims in India is concerned, let me tell you one very factual front of the Muslims in India. The Muslims in India live like kings even today in the 21st century. They are the most carefree kind amongst all the communities in India. In short, they are "Bindaas". Bindaas is a slang. Bindaas means "careless" or "freak". The original word is "BIN-DHAST" meaning one who is not afraid or not scared or not worried. The fact of the matter is that the Muslims are not worried, nor do they fear any political leader or political vanguard. This attitude largely stems from their belief that the best and worst for them is in the hands of the Almighty. When the news of a Muslim being lynched on the pretext of eating beef reaches the masses, the Muslims of India protest and whine against the criminals. That's not due to the insecurity feeling; but due to their love for their dead brother. Muslims protesting mob lynching is not a symbol of insecurity; on the contrary, it’s a symbol of demonstrating their strength even in the event of a perceived insecure environment that is being imposed on them. Every day, people from various communities are illegally killed in India, some in the torture cells, and some in the country sides. But when a Muslim lynched, the reactions of Muslim masses is beyond a normal degree. The Muslims react to the death as a death of someone from their own family. That's the level of brotherhood that is not seen in any other community in the world. This is not just a personal wishful thought, it is a verity that may be confirmed with utmost conviction. Although the moral etiquettes of today's Muslim community is eroded and depreciated, they still have some remains of the Islamic ethos embedded in their hearts. The day they actually follow the teachings of Islam, the lost glory will return back to them, like a lost crown found and placed back on the king's head. And that day is not too far by the way.

I said the Muslims are living like kings in India. Although the example that I'm about to share now may seem irrelevant to most Muslims, I must cite this for a larger audience. I'm going to talk about Bollywood now. Bollywood has always opened its doors for Muslim actors and actresses. When Zeenat Amaan was featured in Qurbani, she didn't  conceal her identity and change her name to Rita or Julie. She called herself Zeenat. It’s a fact that she didn't represent the Islamic way of life in her movies by displaying her flesh for the desperate viewers. However, this calls for examining the attitude of the people of India. The movie industry never cared if she was a Muslim or a non-Muslim. All that they cared for was the extra bucks they were making while a glamorous damsel was flaunting her exquisite body. Who cares if she is a Muslim or a Non-Muslim! Even the viewers cared a damn about her religion. All that they wanted was someone who could entertain them for a few hours while fulfilling the appetite of the voyeurs who lecherously pried at a charming lady. And that's one of many such examples. The Khans are seen allover in the industry. They are even termed as Baadshahs and Tigers and what not. Don't tell me that only the Muslim audience watch their movies. If the movies of Shah Rukh, Amir and Salman are going for blockbuster in almost every season, it only proves that they are accepted by the majority people of India. This should stand enough of evidence to prove with conviction that the majority people of India are not communal or supremacists.

A similar example may be seen in the late President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, who was equally loved by almost all the Indians. Even the ones who promote hardcore Hindutva were also seen taking his name with lot of respect. In fact, his name was put forward as a nominee for Presidentship by none other than the BJP itself, the pro-Hindutva party and the political wing of RSS. This only proves the point that Muslims have a dominant role to play in Indian politics; and must not be seen or branded as outcasts! Muslims are in almost every field in India – as doctors, engineers, policemen, judges, businessmen, actors, directors, politicians, industrialists, writers, educationists, scholars and professionals of all kinds. Not to forget the hoteliers who feed the Indian population with the Moghulais, Tandoors and Biriyanis of all kinds. It's a different story that the Muslims in general are seen languishing in prisons, begging outside masjids and getting lynched on streets. Those are rife examples of those who've opted to live in areas where the communal hatred for Muslims are artificially triggered, while the Muslims are living in ghettos where the bulk of them are devoid of knowledge - worldly and religious. At a time when Muslims don't follow Islam well, they are safe and sound in India; and imagine if they follow it well, they will soon be ruling the lands of the Indian subcontinent. That was proven by the earlier generations who built Baghdad, Spain, Alexandria, Delhi and the whole world during the Islamic rule for a little over thousand years.

The writer of the article has mistaken the Muslim attitude by projecting them as an insecure lot. It appears that he has probably formed his judgement based on the news hour programs on the Indian TV Channels owned by the corporates; and I must admit that this is really unbecoming of a person of the stature of Harsh Mander. There are numerous evidences to prove my point that Muslims are not at all insecure in India of today; in fact, progressing and contributing to the excellence of the country – I will try to list a few such examples here. Just travel through the Bangalore-Chennai Highway and count the number of Masjids on the highway. One will be left speechless by the Islamic fervor through which hundreds of madrasas and Masjids are being built in the cities of Ambur and Vellore. Not to forget the lands in Tamil Nadu such as Tirunelveli, Melapalayam, Nagercoil, Ramnathapuram and other places where Muslims are living like kings. Kerala is another state where Muslims have their representation in almost every department. One must be highly mistaken if he thinks they are toothless. Hyderabad is another city that beautifully exemplifies my claim. The display of Muslim identity in Hyderabad is so feverish that some people do not event desist from calling it mini-Pakistan. That's because of the skull caps and Burkhas seen all around. Don't tell me that the Hyderabadi Muslims are advising their children to shun their Muslim identities! Similarly, go up north to Kashmir, Delhi, U.P, Bihar and see the Muslims living like the herds you see in National Geographic Channel. They all display the Islamic culture; but also take pride in mixing with other cultures. Muslims are living Bindass in the whole of India. But this carefree attitude is another problem for them. They actually don't really care about who comes to power – Congress or BJP. Many don't even have voter IDs. That's the level of carelessness they have.

The author’s assertion that Muslims are irrelevant to today's politics is devoid of truth. Muslims are being more relevant than ever before. The political spectrum is about to change, and this has been made possible only by the active participation of the Muslims. Muslims don't represent any one party. They are part of almost all the parties in India. They are in Congress, SP, BSP, CPI, AIMIM, DMK, AIADMK, CPI, JDS and even in BJP. To say that they are irrelevant to current politics is a statement of undervalue. The Muslim current is charging all the parties; however, the irony and anomaly is that there's no top-level Muslim leadership that can match the total population of the Muslims in India. That's due to their relenting nature of theirs for quite a long while now. They were not superseded by anyone; but they decided to remain dormant in politics, until recently that they have begun to think that their future lies in their active participation in current politics. Thanks to the BJP and its ancillaries who have indirectly helped them understand their situation. In short let me conclude by saying that the Muslims need not be silent in politics. They will soon dominate and flourish in politics. And that's inevitable.

Muslims in history have shown their contribution all over the world. If they come out of sectarian subscriptions, and talk about Muslim ecumenism, then the Islamic Renaissance is soon a reality, God-willing.

Yes, the spirit of being a Muslim is rekindled; and is burning in all glory.

[The author is based in South India and is an Islamic preacher. This piece has been edited by Sharjeel Ahmad.]

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