Who is to Blame for the Plight of Indian Muslims?

VETERAN actor Naseeruddin Shah in an interview to Karawan-E-Mohabbat expressed his anguish and anger at the killing of Subodh Kumar Singh, the police inspector. Shah’s interview brought forth the issue of insecurity particularly of the religious minorities in India. While this did remind the nation about the direction in which India has been heading in the last few years, there was an angry outburst to Shah’s take from the intolerant sections of society who pounced on him calling him names and humiliating him on social media.

At the same time, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser carried an interview with Shah’s cousin, Syed Rizwan Ahmad. Ahmad is introduced as an Islamic scholar. In the interview, the newly discovered cousin says that Muslims are unsafe only in nations where the Muslims are in majority and that in India intolerance is the result of the Muslim incompatibility to exist peacefully with other faiths.

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He goes on to blame the Indian Muslims themselves for their plight in this country as they failed to play a proactive role in cases like Shah Bano and the Kashmiri Pundits. It is because of this that the Hindus have started feeling that they are getting a raw deal in their own country. According to him, intolerance is the “pseudo-narrative of pseudo seculars and intolerant Muslims.”

As far as the Muslims and other religious minorities are concerned it’s good to introspect about their plight. It is not right to have a feeling of victimhood. But can we understand the broad political global phenomenon in such a superficial way, where Muslims are blamed for their own plight?

Can we present the Hindus as a uniform, monolithic community pitted against the Muslims? Globally it is true that the Muslim majority countries in West Asia are witnessing more civil wars and more insecurity. Let’s also note here that while from Indian side we blame Pakistan for the acts of terror, the number of deaths of innocent civilians is many times higher in Pakistan than in India. And let’s not forget Pakistan lost its former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a terror attack.

Again we see that the civil wars, wars and terror attacks have been more in the oil-rich Muslim countries. The coming of Afghan Mujahideen, Al Qaeda and Taliban in that sequence in the region began the acts of terror and violence in these areas. Has this been due to Islam? Why this phenomenon was not there during the Cold war era or prior to that?

This violence in West Asia has been promoted primarily by the American policy of controlling oil wealth. In the wake of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, America was not able to counter it by sending its own army as the American army was writhing under the breakdown of its morale due to the humiliating defeat in the Vietnam war. So the US by clever machinations started promoting fundamentalist groups in these regions, promoted brainwashing of Muslim youth in madrassas in Pakistan and funded and heavily armed these groups which came up through this process.

This sowed the seeds of violence, terrorism and led to insecurity in the region. Mahmood Madani’s book ‘Good Muslim-Bad Muslim’ gives an accurate count of the process which was employed by the mighty superpower to prop up the terrorist groups. To add salt to the wounds, after the 9/11 attacks; the US media popularised the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ and laid the foundation of global Islamophobia. The wealth of Muslim majority countries, the Oil, became its biggest handicap!

Islam came to India with Arab traders and later many embraced it due to many reasons including the wish to escape the tyranny of Hindu caste system. One recalls that Muslim kings like Akbar promoted inter religion interaction and even the most demonized Aurangzeb’s many top officers were Hindus.

In India while the impression is being created that Muslims are intolerant, the fact during medieval period Hindu-Muslim interactions created Ganga Jumna tehzeeb, well presented in Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’ and beautifully captured in the Shyam Bengal’s immortal serial ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’, based on this book. During freedom movement majority of Muslims were with Indian National Congress and were equal partners in the freedom movement. This gets well reflected in the Muslim freedom fighters like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abul Gaffar Khan, and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai among others. Partition was the clever move of the British Empire to weaken India and to have a subservient state in South Asia in the form of Pakistan.

The communal poison was spread here by communal organizations, Muslim League; Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. Sardar Patel goes to the extent of saying that it is due to the communal poison spread by RSS, that murder of father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi could take place. The rising communal violence, later arrest of innocent Muslim youth on the pretext of acts of terror, then lynching’s in the name of cow-beef have created massive insecurity. We can see a correlation between rising insecurity and rise in ghettoization, rise in fundamentalism and rise in use of Burqa among other parameters of orthodoxy.

It is nobody’s case that mistakes have not been done from the side of Muslim community. The section of Muslim community which stood to oppose the Supreme Court verdict on Shah Bano pushed the whole community back. The section of leadership highlighting Babri mosque demolition also has not been good for the large section of the community.

No doubt the Babri mosque issue has been doctored to show that it was a place of birth of Lord Ram still Muslim leadership should focus more on the issues related to livelihood than these identity issues. Muslim leadership does need to focus on issues of equity. Now dominant communal discourse as by this so-called Islamic scholar is trying to put all the blame of plight of the Muslim community on Muslims themselves! Nothing can be farther from truth, it’s like blaming the victim for the crime!


Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai. The views are personal and Caravan Daily does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.