Threat of polarisation

Between the lines
Last Updated 17 March 2011, 16:54 IST

It is difficult to believe that the Jamiat-e-Ulma Hind should advise the Muslim youth not to watch television or hear music. I believe in Azamgarh district in UP Muslims in villages do not watch TV because of the propaganda that it is un-Islamic to do so. The same Jamiat was opposed to the creation of Pakistan because it did not want a separate country sought to be created on the basis of religion.

Pre-independence Muslim League was quite candid in its inference that after the departure of the British, the Muslims would be reduced to a hopeless minority and would be in no position to assert themselves to get their due. Therefore, the demand of the League was for an independent country to look after the affairs of the Muslim community. It is another matter that Pakistan did not follow the advice of its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah not to mix religion with politics or state.

The Jamiat bravely stood by the side of the Congress which promised to set up a secular country after freedom. To raise the question of separate identity for Muslims after 10 years belies the Jamiat’s original stand against partition. It was equally categorical in its stand that the Indian identity submerged all other identities — Hindus, Muslim, Sikh and Christian. Only the other day did it issue a fatwa against jihad, a war the Taliban were waging in Afghanistan and the north western border districts of Pakistan to impose the true tenets of Islam.

For the same organisation to warn against TV or music is to more or less ditto what the Taliban demanded and implemented when they came to power in Afghanistan or when they temporarily ruled the Swat Valley in Pakistan. The approach of the Taliban has been rejected by a large majority of Pakistanis who may stay silent out of fear but support the government in its efforts to combat terrorism.

Civil society takes the cake. It is getting thinner day by day and less and less determined in upholding liberalism. The assassination of Salman Taseer and minister Shahbaz Bhatti was not condemned by all the intelligentsia. Yet there is a determined lot which opposes the dictum of preferences and prejudices. Threats can drown the limited challenging voice, but cannot deny their existence.

Why the Jamiat is resiling from its original position may be because of the influence of Pakistani leader Fazal-Ur-Rehman who is said to be a constant advisor to Jamait-e-Ulma Hind. He did not like the views of liberal Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and parted company with it some time ago.

Composite culture

There is nothing wrong in Jamiat’s exhortation to Muslims to preserve their way of living. But this should not come in the way of the composite culture which the country has assiduously built over hundreds of years. The Indian culture is an amalgamation of different cultures followed by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.

The revolt in the Arab World is all about defiance to religious fundamentalism or obscurantism. Old customs and traditions are not sacrosanct. They have to be reinterpreted to give space to new thinking. The youth have proved through their sacrifice that the modern is not bad just because it is new. It represents a fresh thinking. Yet it retains all that the religion demands.

The Jamiat has also announced to set up ‘social reform committees’ to promote Islamic rules and social values. By all means there should be committees. But they should ensure that every Muslim boy and girl goes to school. They should find out why there are drop-outs. Muslim states, including Pakistan, see to it that the youth is engaged in learning because that is going to help them overcome the economic backwardness and the perennial unemployment.

Reservation for Muslims, as enunciated by the Milli Council at its meeting in Jaipur, is understandable. It is justified to some extent. But reservations cannot be on the basis of religion. The criterion should be economic and backwardness. Poor Muslims and those from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are being denied their due because the creamy layer in the Muslim community corners most of gains.

The minority way of living is, indeed, threatened by the majority way of living. This cannot be met by the way the Jamiat is going about it. An average Hindu is not bigoted. He has proven this in the last two general elections by preferring the Congress to the BJP. And however contaminated policemen, there are quite a few who have defied the Hindutava government of chief minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat. Sad, Hemant Karkare did not live but he saw to it that the blame of Malegaon blast was put at the door of saffron terrorists, the real culprits.

The line plugged by the Jamiat-e-Ulma Hind may consolidate the Hindu vote on the BJP side. This is suicidal. Muslims should secularise Hindus if and when they are found wanting. Furrowing a communal line or indulging in such thinking is against the interest of India, not just Muslims alone. A parochial approach can tell upon the country’s secular and democratic structure. The Jamiat should know that.

(Published 17 March 2011, 16:54 IST)

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