Muslims and reconstruction of India: Kerala Muslim youth have important role to play
New Delhi: Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, author and journalist and the current Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, attended the inaugural session of the Indian Union Muslim League’s week-long conference in Malappuram commemorating the seventy-year struggle and service of the Indian Union Muslim League to the people of Kerala in particular and India in general. The inaugural session held in Malappuram next to the new IUML office in the town on 22 February was attended by important IUML leaders like P.K. Kunchalikutty (M.P.), Mohammad Bashir Saheb (M.P.), Prof. K.M. Khadar Muideen Sahib (former MP), Prof. Abdus Samad Samdani (former M.P.), Sayed Sadikali Shihab Thangal and many others including over a dozen of the MLAs of the party. The party has 18 MLAs in the state assembly and three MPs in Lok Sabha. In Kerala, it is a force to recon with and has worked hard to serve its constituencies. As a result, north Kerala is way ahead of the national average in terms of infrastructure, services and education.
Zafarul-Islam Khan speaking at the conference
Zafarul-Islam Khan receiving a memento
Zafarul-Islam Khan meeting the editorial staff of Chandrika, IUML's mouthpiece
Following is the text of Dr Khan’s speech on the occasion:
Muslims and reconstruction of India with special reference to IUML
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
We, the Indian Muslims, are the world’s largest minority with a population of 172.2 million according to the 2011 census. Projections tell us that, by 2030, we will become the world’s largest Muslim community. Have we given a thought to how are we going to act and what are we going to do once we are in that coveted position?
It was not long ago that the Indian Muslims were the political and intellectual leaders of the Muslim world. Indeed, the first half of the twentieth century saw us as leading the Muslim world when we had towering personalities like Muhammad Iqbal, Shibli Nomani and Muhammad Ali Jauhar who lit the path of the whole Muslim world and took active interest in Muslim issues all over the world.
Alas, with the sad partition of our country, we lost the intellectual leadership not only in India but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Today, we may be living in better houses, drawing better salaries and driving advanced vehicles but we have much retreated as intellectual leaders of not just the Muslim World but even of India. All indicators show that we are already the new Dalits of India.
In terms of ethics and religiosity too we have much retreated though our mosques are brimming every Friday and lakhs of our people are performing Haj and Umrah every year.
In terms of education, statistically we may be around 60% literate but in reality 90% of our population should be considered illiterate, which is a matter of utter shame for the followers of a faith whose revealed and sacred text started with the injunction to read (Iqra!). Our family structure has crumbled. We no longer have joint families where age-old knowledge, wisdom, common sense and ethics were effortlessly passed on from one generation to another.
Over the last seven decades we have been retreating into our shells and ghettos, leaving the common space to others. Today, even if we are active in politics, we speak only of “Muslim” issues when we should be playing a leading role on the whole fabric of national life. We are not seen in the myriad struggles going on in this country. Dalits and Adivasis are persecuted and we remain silent. Movements and struggles are raging against corruption, fascism, liquor, pollution, black money, police atrocities, farmers’ neglect, lawlessness of Hindutva forces in particularand of the political class in general. We are seen nowhere in these struggles. When we fail to take interest in the larger issues of our society we should not be surprised that others seldom speak for us and share our grief.
We remain engaged in some “Muslim” issues like Babri, Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University, reservation for Muslims, Shariat, Triple Talaq, Uniform Civil Code, Terrorism etc. These are important issues, no doubt, but they will gain weight only if others too support these causes and join our struggle. We are so weightless today that the current government has relegated to itself the right to interpret and legislate in matters of our religion. The current government did not even bother to consult any Muslim scholar or institution before pushing the legislation on Triple Talaq through Ordinance or Parliament. Lynching by Hindutva militias is now India’s new normal. In this new avtar of communal riots, the majority of victims are Muslims. Muslims are being killed and arrested in the name of beef and cows, just as we were being arrested and thrown into jails in fake terror cases under UPA. Our waqfs are slowly being occupied and usurped by others.
The larger picture is that our whole country is slowly slipping politically into the hands of fascist Hindutva forces which want to relegate us to the margins, and economically in the hands of soulless corporates whose only motto is to earn more and more every passing year. Even education, healthcare and media are now mostly in the hands of corporates as if the poor and marginalized have no right to these vital services. Now only the rich have the right to live, rule and prosper.
This condition demands some serious thinking on our part if we are serious to lead a dignified life in this country, now and in future.
Despite our large numbers, we are a small minority in the midst of a sea of non-Muslims. We have to adopt the strategy that the Prophet (pbuh) adopted while in Makka, and which the migrant Muslims adopted in Ethiopia and later in Madina before the Conquest of Mecca. We have to get organised in small groups wherever we live, like Dar Al-Arqam in Makkah. We have to learn to help each other in all possible ways to achieve what Allah has commanded: Wa tawasaw bi’l-Haqqi, wa tawasaw bi’l-sabri (And join together in the mutual enjoining of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy (103:3)). We have to learn to help each other by clinging to Truth and sabr (patience). If Islamic education is not imparted in schools, we should arrange it in our mosques and homes. We should not take our family disputes to ordinary courts which are costly, time-consuming and often go against the Shariat. Instead, we should go to darul qazas to get disputes settled quickly and without any financial cost. We should respect our faithful religious and community leaders and must not undermine them.
I am pleased to note that Muslims of north Kerala on average are in a better position than the rest of the country in terms of education, literacy and political consciousness. You have a single dedicated party which was wise enough not to dismantle itself after Partition when people in the north hurriedly and foolishly disbanded the Muslim League out of a feeling of guilt and without giving much thought to its long-tern consequences. The result is that Muslims of north India failed to this day to evolve a powerful leadership to lead and speak for the community. Over the decades, we had to be content with whatever leftover was thrown at us by other parties which claim to be secular but are out and out casteist and communal, and even the most secular among these parties follows soft Hindutva and has consistently and willfully persecuted Muslims including fabricating fake terror cases against Muslim youth over the years.
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kerala offers a successful and commendable example of Muslim empowerment. Malappuram, IUML’s base in north Kerala, provides the image of a very developed and civilized district. It was the first fully IT-compliant district in India. Also, it is 100 percent literate. This is because IUML legislators and ministers took care to develop their constituencies over the years. Leading simple and frugal lives, they live and work among their people. The result is that north Kerala by any standard is a very developed area in terms of infrastructure and services. Despite this progress, IUML leaders and people of north Kerala are most civilised and down to earth. Moplah or Malabar in the past and Malappuram today are shining parts of our country and Indian Muslim history and community. Seventy-year-long history of IUML has been eventful and full of lessons for all Muslims of India. IUML leaders have been time and again part of Kerala governments, holding high portfolios but they did not neglect their area and people. IUML’s experience tells us that Indian Muslims can do a lot within the framework of democracy and secularism.
I believe Muslims of Kerala, especially the Muslim youth of Kerala, can teach a lot to the Muslims in rest of India. I have always admired the commitment, youthful enthusiasm and love for charity of Kerala’s young Muslims. We need you all over India. You can become the game-changer and the new leaders of Muslims of India. I hope when Indian Muslims emerge as the world’s largest Muslim community in 2030, you will be there leading and shaping their destiny.