Causes of Muslim non-involvement in non-Muslim issues

It would be ideal if Muslims were more involved in issues that are not exclusively Muslim. But there are deeper reasons behind this sad state of affairs. Muslims have priorities that are very different from that of non-Muslims. The most important is the fear of communal riots that takes precedence over all other issues, including corruption. This in turn is connected to their ghettoization in almost all Indian cities. The world view of an average Muslim is sharply different from that of  an average non-Muslim. Those Muslims who succeed and break out of this ghettoisation, prefer to avoid identification with the general Muslim masses. The best case is of Khojas and Bohras, both of whom are highly literate and upper middle class, but avoid calling themselves “Muslims”. This also applies to professional Muslims who succeed. An example is President Abdul Kalam who is very popular with Hindus, but most unfortunately has avoided Muslims as much as possible. Same is true of Bollywood stars, top bureaucrats and corporate chiefs. No wonder Muslim leadership, by default, falls in the wrong hands.

What is needed is a deeper commitment of upper middle class Muslims to the uplift of the community, through quality education and business. This involvement must be emotional, for the community responds once it is convinced that the leader has a genuine empathy for the masses. At the same time we have to take the ulama with us, for with hostile Maulanas we can never reach the Muslim heart. Finally, we have to find ways of reducing the RSS hatred of Muslims. That alone can give confidence to the average Muslim to break out of the mental and geographic prison into the larger world of Indian democracy. But it is very difficult. I tried it between 1992 uptil 2002, exercising tremendous patience and care.  The last step was a demand from the RSS in Baroda, that I speak on Veer Savarkar on February 26, 2002, which is his birth anniversary. With great caution and prayer, I accepted. My last words were: the country has only two choices: the path of Gandhi, in which every Indian child will feel that this country belongs to him. The other path is that of Savarkar, wherein many Indians will feel that this country is not ours, and that may destroy the unity of India.

To my sorrow, the Godhra train incident occurred twelve hours after my speech. My house was the first to be attacked in Baroda. I barely escaped death. The decade-long effort to build a bridge failed.
 J.S.Bandukwala, Baroda, Gujarat

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2011 on page no. 2

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