Unfortunate step

Unfortunate step

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind’s endorsement of a fatwa issued by the Darul Uloom seminary at Deoband calling on Muslims not to sing Vande Mataram is unfortunate and stirs a needless controversy. It is likely to ignite a political and partisan debate and in the process undermine ongoing efforts to draw alienated Muslims into the mainstream. Conservative clerics believe that singing Vande Mataram goes against the principles of Islam. They have argued that Islam forbids a Muslim from bowing before anybody but Allah and Vande Mataram speaks of “bowing to Mother India.”

How can showing respect to one’s mother land be confused with one’s religious belief defies any logic. This is not the first time that controversy over singing Vande Mataram has erupted. In 2006, when the song’s centenary was being celebrated in the country and schools in some states made it compulsory for students to sing it, it ruffled feathers within the Muslim community. It stirred a heated debate during the freedom struggle too, when some drew attention to its presumed communal content.

Today, while conservative Muslims are opposed to singing Vande Mataram as it is seen to be ‘un-Islamic’ some resent the way it is imposed on them. Indeed, the Sangh parivar has made singing of Vande Mataram a test of one’s patriotism to India. BJP governments in several states have made its singing compulsory in schools. As objectionable as the Sangh parivar’s imposition of Vande Mataram on Muslims is the JUH’s fatwa, which serves no purpose other than widening the communal divide.

The JUH had earned itself praise last year when together with the Darul Uloom it issued a fatwa against terrorism. The progressive gesture was widely applauded. The UPA government too has been taking small but significant steps to reach out to the Muslim community. Home Minister P Chidambaram’s presence at the JUH meet must be seen in this context. It is this ongoing effort to build bridges that has been thrown into jeopardy by the fatwa on signing Vande Mataram. The fatwa will prompt the BJP to go on the offensive, pushing the UPA in turn to go slow on the conciliatory moves. The controversy over singing Vande Mataram had died down. The JUH has breathed new life into it by calling for a fatwa. The fatwa will reopen yet again the issue of Muslim patriotism and make Muslims needlessly vulnerable to charges of being anti-national. Such fatwas do nothing to improve their lives.

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