Mr Sareshwala, Muslims are nobody’s fools

By Syyed Mansoor Agha

In a scathing attack on prominent Muslim faces and organisations, Zafar Sareshwala, a business baron of Gujarat and a protégé of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reportedly said, “In AIMPLB, except its president Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadwi, rest all are fools. I feel that Muslim bodies like AIMPLB have no vision. They have failed to prioritise their issues.”

He added: “There are other bodies like the Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, which became defunct in 1964, but still its dead body is being carried on by some Muslim leaders. It is stinking now. Another is Milli Council. These are all redundant” (IE, Feb. 20).

In a civilised society, difference of opinion and approach is welcome. Everybody has the solemn right to dissent and disagree. Freedom of speech is a beauty. Islam established this right in its golden era and gave due space and respect to asking questions. It was how an ordinary person could question the size of the shirt of a caliph. Sureshwala has the right to question the wisdom and strategy of Muslims to redress their grievances. But he cannot enjoy the liberty to call persons of eminence, experience and older in age to him, fools. His comment symbolises arrogance and an unacceptable attitude.

What Sareshwala inferred from a meeting with Maulana Nadwi is blatantly illogical. To his wisdom, only the president of AIMPLB is a right-thinking person and all those who elected him are stupid. Consider the logic.If the members are wise enough to elect a right-thinking person, how can their wisdom in other matters be discredited? Certainly, Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadwi is first among equals. All members are competent to advise him and this is why he respects all of them.

Though Sareshwala did not disclose what transpired during his meeting with the president of AIMPLB, we can imagine that Maulana Nadwi would have told him that he was bound to collective decisions of the members. In most organisations, the president or chairman follows a democratic system; he does not decide himself on matters of policy without consulting others.

If Sareshwala thinks his wisdom and vision are absolute, then he certainly is a misguided soul. However, it is not a strange phenomenon. You can find patients confined to lunatic asylums claiming to be mentally healthy. They think all others are mad. However, the problem arises when a person, young like Sareshwala, who has very little experience and knowledge, calls elders fool and redundant. Such badmouthing is against our values. We put such cocky persons in the category of Sakshies, Adityanaths and Niranjan Bharties. Certainly, their utterings do not help their mentor.

Right, Mr. Sareshwala, Muslim leaders should have some engagement with the ruling class. But engagement is not a one-way traffic. The ruling class will have to create space for one-fifth of the population of the country. Engagement does not mean surrendering our concerns and keeping our eyes and ears shut on the outrages the country has been witnessing for the last eight months. We do not subscribe to your idea: “Muslims cannot remain isolated from a party which is in power, and Modi should not remain untouchable forever. Permanent animosity against a political party and its prime ministerial candidate will not help improve the community’s (situation)” (TOI: 24 Nov. 2013). For our principles and for the liberation of our country from the British, we fought for a hundred years and made exemplary sacrifices. To some, mundane comfort is paramount, to us is our faith and principles.  

What are the priorities of Muslim organisations, which have become “redundant” and how have Muslims “failed to prioritise their issues”? In a nutshell, we want the Government of India to follow rule of law and translate guarantees given in our Constitution into practice. Attacks on Muslims’ faith and on their persons and properties have to stop. They demand non-intervention in their personal laws, religious matters and in their choice of education until there is a serious breach of law. What governments have been doing in the past and at present is utterly against the assurances and guarantees given in the Constitution.  

These organisations and persons demand curbs on activities meant to create disharmony among communities. What is Mr. Sureshwala aiming at? He wants us to keep our eyes and ears shut, follow and support a person with a  blood-stained history, who represents an organisation whose ideology is diametrically opposite to our cultural values of tolerance and the principle of Sarva Dharma Samabhava, a beautiful concept embodying the equality of all religions and respect for our constitutional laws.

Muslim organisations, irrespective of their popularity among the community, are law abiding. They do not play stunts for gaining popularity. Most of the persons attached with these organisations lead a simple and pious life. They do not need pomp and show. They do not have their business interests with the government and therefore they do not agree to compromise with ideas of those who are presiding over physical, cultural and political attacks on them and their faith and community in general, and on of Indian social fabric and the foundations of the country in particular.  

Let Brother Sareshwala be aware that people cannot be made fools with one or two statements until words match actions. We are not averse to a particular person or party, but against the actions of persons and the organisation they represent. Mr. Sareshewala, please do some ground work, go deep into basic tenets and teachings which are so dear to Muslim leadership. Also, go into the assurances and the actions of the past and present rulers. We can assure you that the Muslims, who have long faced so many traumas, are ready to come forward. We are still alive to concrete action and welcome Mr Sareshwala to discuss in a decent  manner all issues which are of paramount importance for us and are in the interest of a multicultural India.

The author is a senior Urdu jounalist