JUH-Fatwa: Needless Stir

Ironically, political stir raised over fatwa issued by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) on Vande Mataram earlier this month at its 30th general session held in Deoband bears all possible symbols of being deliberately indulged in to gain some media coverage and a little political importance. There is nothing new about the stand held by prominent Indian Muslim organizations on several stanzas of the song being against Islamic principles. Extremist right-wing Hindu organizations associated with saffron brigade, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have strongly reacted against the fatwa . Considering the weakening political hold of saffron brigade, the group may be expected to cash on every available opportunity to hit headlines. The JUH fatwa against Vande Mataram was thus exploited by this group to the maximum degree possible.

What is, however, a little perplexing is that even "enlightened" sections of the country appeared to have viewed the political stir over Vande Mataram from a rather narrow perspective, which is only suggestive of their limited awareness about the country's Muslim population. This is marked by their raising questions over Indian Muslims lacking "enlightened leadership," on JUH not being representative of the Indian Muslim community and also wondering over credibility of the fatwa. It may be pointed here, that just as Hindus across the country cannot be assumed to be members of any one political  or religious group, the same is true about Indian Muslims. Assuming the JUH to be representative of the entire Indian Muslim community is as big a political error as holding the saffron brigade as voice of all Hindus in the country.

The Muslim community is not the only one with several religious groups in the forefront trying hard to make their political presence felt. The same is true of the religious leaders of all communities, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others. If a particular Muslim group has chosen to voice its stand on several issues, including its stand against Vande Mataram, why should others feel disturbed and/or concerned about it? Why? But if they do feel concerned about the stir raised over the issue, it would perhaps be more objective if they viewed the fatwa and protest voiced against it from the same angle. Considering that the country's majority population cannot be held to be charmed by any one political leader and/or group, why should the "enlightened" ones feel alarmed about Muslims lacking any leadership? The error lies in their assuming JUH to be a strong political body representative  of Muslims across the country.

There is difference in viewing decisions taken by JUH, as one of the prominent Muslim organizations, and in holding the same as reflecting mindset of the entire Muslim community. Would the same people who have strongly criticized the JUH-fatwa as reflecting lack of leadership among the Muslims, who (in their opinion) seem to be led by only what "Maulanas" or clerics say, be willing to view other religious communities from a similar angle? In other words, would they hold saffron brigade as representing the entire the Hindu community and/or the Shiv Sena all the Marathi Hindus? Shocked by these questions, they'd pro bably say- no.

Prior to expressing their stand, it would have been more appropriate of the same "enlightened" sections to contemplate a little on whether they are analyzing the JUH as an organization by itself or the entire Indian Muslim community. Sadly, quite a few these "enlightened" critics seem to be burdened by prejudiced and also discriminatory notions held by them towards the Indian Muslims. Certainly, the entire Indian society is suffering from a leadership crisis. Even if the Indian society is split along caste, regional as well as political lines, no group can be said to be run by a strong leader. So, why should the Indian Muslims or even the JUH be itself be viewed as suffering from a major problem due to lack of appropriate leadership?

It would have been a different issue altogether, if political as well as social compulsions led to particular religious groups affiliated with only select parties, organizations and/or individuals. The saffron brigade would then have nothing to complain or even grieve about with perhaps the entire Hindu community behind it. But it is facing problems with strong rise of Dalit-leader, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) under leadership of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati. The saffron brigade is also still musing over where and how it has failed to fare well in parliamentary polls as well as recent assembly elections. Now, should saffron brigade's shortcomings and/or its Hindutva-agenda be viewed as suggestive of political crisis faced by the entire Hindu community? No. Similarly, so what if JUH has issued a fatwa on Vande Mataram and so what if a few biased groups have protested against it? After all, neither is representative of the entire religious community, Muslim or Hindu, respectively. It is time those who pick on such issues, holding the entire Muslim community at fault, "enlightened" themselves on these points!  

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2009 on page no. 18

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