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Congress neglected Muslim leadership: Ex-Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Rahman Khan

The senior Congress leader, one of the first Muslim chartered accountants in Karnataka, sits with Bharath Joshi to discuss his book
harath Joshi
Last Updated : 10 November 2021, 02:26 IST
Last Updated : 10 November 2021, 02:26 IST
Last Updated : 10 November 2021, 02:26 IST
Last Updated : 10 November 2021, 02:26 IST

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Former Rajya Sabha deputy chairman K Rahman Khan, 82, minces no words in his book Indian Muslims: The Way Forward when he asks Muslims to introspect on their own mistakes, shed the ‘minority’ tag, earn the goodwill of other communities and be God-conscious. The senior Congress leader, one of the first Muslim chartered accountants in Karnataka, sits with Bharath Joshi to discuss his book. Excerpts:

What was the trigger for you to write this book?

Being a Muslim, I'm very well aware of the problems faced by this section of society, their aspiration, their pitfalls, backwardness. The culmination of my experience led me to say that Indian Muslims are living in a denial mode. Either they are suffering from a defeatist mentality or they feel like they’re minorities and weak. There’s no use in blaming others. We should introspect, forget the past (Partition etc) and look forward.

You pick on Muslim clerics for “self-imposed isolation, aloofness and an unwarranted superiority complex.” How has the community received your book? Is there backlash?

I see positivity. If I had not made my name as a social worker, there would have been backlash, definitely. And, I’ve been talking about these things right from the beginning.

Is the book your way of expressing anger towards Congress?

I have reminded my party, you are forgetting your own philosophy of secularism and justice-for-all. In a diverse society, the obligation of Congress that fought for secularism and democracy is to understand what democracy is. Leadership is necessary. I feel Congress neglected Muslim leadership from emerging. I have a strong feeling that the reason for weak Muslim leadership is that most of the Muslim leaders in Congress were imposed. They did not emerge. With a population of 200 million, Muslims aren't a minority. In that 200 million, we haven't created a leader who will carry the ethos of the country's democracy.

You write that “escalating communal polarization has disastrous consequences for Indian Muslims.” Your own party is accused of fomenting this through appeasement.

The very word appeasement is a misnomer. Is it appeasement to ask for a citizen to be given Constitutional rights? A Muslim will support any party that protects secularism and the Constitution. By default, Congress is a secular party. If they lose that, then the party will have nothing in it. After the 2014 debacle, some sections of the Congress started feeling that our nearness to Muslims is causing Hindus to feel isolated. “So, we have to adopt a middle path.” This wasn't the right decision. Recently, Siddaramaiah and HD Kumaraswamy fought as though they were messiahs of Muslims. Who are they? Are Muslims pawns on a chessboard? Why is such exclusion absent for other communities like the Lingayats or Vokkaligas? Why are Muslims tagged with Congress? Tomorrow, if BJP becomes secular, Muslims won't hesitate voting for them.

You repeatedly stress on the need for Muslims to earn the goodwill of others. Why is the burden of proving loyalty always on the Muslims?

What I'm saying is what a Muslim has to do. In the Quran, God says we should give to society. One of the core principles is Zakat (donating 2.5% of wealth). You always say you're a minority and that the government should give. I’m saying you ask only for what is legitimate. Give up the minority syndrome. Don't take shelter under the minority tag. You'll be respected in society. Show me where in the Constitution the word Muslim is used. Social narratives are difficult to erase, like ‘Muslims are terrorists’. In 1947, Maulana Azad said Muslims should see themselves as the second-largest majority, and not minority.

You haven’t touched upon the concept of patriotism in Islam. Saying Vande Mataram, for example, is seen as problematic for Muslims.

Patriotism has a great role in Islam. It is in-built in Islam to such an extent that you have to obey the government or the ruler of the day. Badshah-e-waqt...what else can be patriotism? The only issue is when there’s a clash with the basic principle of the oneness of God - La ilaha Illallah. But, patriotism and this are two different things. Even Azad said there's no clash between Islam and patriotism. A Muslim can't bow before anybody except Allah. We're not permitted to bow even to our parents. If at all prostrating is allowed, it's before one's mother. It's also about intent. Prostrating out of respect isn’t wrong. There’s nothing wrong in saying Vande Mataram, which some people have literally translated as bowing to the country. If your intent is clear, then there’s nothing wrong.

In your book, you argue that when there’s a clash between one’s understanding of Islam and citizen’s rights, the law of the land should prevail. Will this logic apply if the uniform civil code becomes law of the land?

Definitely.

Then why oppose it?

Where's the opposition? This is only used for political narratives. Take triple talaq for example. That concept doesn't exist in Islam! We’re asking for codification of our law. Suppose a Muslim breaks his own law, the courts can't punish him. Suppose if the [Muslim] law is codified, then courts gets the right to punish. Nobody will object to legislation that is in accordance with the Quran. Having said that, 80% of what we practice is based on narratives.

You advise Muslims that they shouldn’t depend on the political realm. Instead, they should focus on economic, educational progress. Is this due to political failure?

I am not undermining the importance of political participation. But, what's our narrative? How many MLAs or MPs do we have? These are false narratives. Even if we go from 10 to 20 MPs, there's little we can do in a majoritarian system. If my party says vote for the CAA, I must. And, who will care after an election? We need leadership in every aspect, not just politics.

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Published 09 November 2021, 18:28 IST

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