Friday 30 December 2011


In a curious convergence of views, policymakers—regardless of the party in power—administrators/police and journalists appear to be united in the belief that to put the activities of Hindu militant organisations under the scanner, in the way their Muslim counterparts are, would somehow upset the social balance.Take the Bajrang Dal, the 12.5 lakh strong (official figure) armed youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the RSS, with units across the country. From the destruction of the Babri Masjid
in 1992—after which it was briefly banned—to the post-Godhra massacres in 2002, and the violence it routinely wreaks on Christian tribals in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, it has provided enough evidence of its appetite for bloodletting.

Today, once again, the Bajrang Dal—which had kept a low profile after the fall of the BJP-led NDA government in 2004—is in the news, thanks to a range of violent activities across the country. Whether providing muscle to the Amarnath agitation in Jammu, terrorising Christian tribals in Orissa, making bombs of lethal intensity in Kanpur or building a terror network across Maharashtra, it all appears to be part of a day's work.
The question now being asked, especially by civil rights organisations, is: is it time to ban the Bajrang Dal again? Queried on the subject—especially in the context of Orissa—Congress spokesperson and central minister Ajay Maken hesitated to go beyond saying: "For the first time after the post-Godhra violence, we have met the President to demand a CBI inquiry. If such an inquiry finds the organisation is the culprit, then its recognition has to be taken away."The Dal's activities in Orissa and in the Jammu region have been dubious enough to warrant investigation, if not action. In Orissa, it has been at the forefront of the current violence against Christian tribals, following the murder of a VHP leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, by Maoist groups. The toll has been huge: reports say 558 houses and 17 places of worship have been burnt in riots, and 12,539 people have taken shelter in 10 relief camps. That, in itself, should warrant action by the state.

In the Jammu region, the Bajrang Dal's activities have been less well-documented. But police sources say it provided the muscle for the violent Amarnath agitation. In May 2004, Surendra Jain, the VHP all-India secretary of the Bajrang Dal, admitted in an interview that the organisation had members who worked "undercover" in Hindu-dominated villages in Jammu, Poonch, Doda and Rajouri. They had penetrated, he said, the village defence committees set up to combat terrorism without fellow committee members knowing anything about their allegiance to the Bajrang Dal. An IPS officer familiar with the BD's activities told Outlook, "Purely civil society organisations could not have sustained an agitation of such intensity without the help of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP."

Even more sinister is the way in which over the last four or five years the Bajrang Dal has begun to change its methods of operation—from group violence to covert violence patterned on international terror groups. The most recent instance came to light when on August 24 this year, two Bajrang Dal activists, Rajeev Mishra and Bhupinder Singh, died while making explosive devices.Kanpur zone IGP S.N. Singh told journalists that investigations by UP's Special Task Force had revealed "plans for a massive explosion". The police had recovered 3 kg lead oxide, 500 grammes red lead, 1 kg potassium nitrate, 11 countrymade grenades, several bomb pins, seven timers and batteries from the scene of the blast. The countrymade hand grenades were similar in shape and size to those used by the defence forces.

In police raids on Bhupinder Singh's Lajpat Nagar photo studio and his residence, the police found a diary and a hand-drawn map of minority-dominated Ferozabad. The police is also exploring the possibility that the explosives and the grenades were intended for use during the month of Ramzan, as the map has markings of at least five spots—possible targets. Apparently, exit and entry points were marked, and a small, marked rectangle matches with the location of the town's railway station.

The Kanpur case is, of course, still being investigated. But the latest issue of Communalism Combat runs an article by activist Teesta Setalvad which makes the shocking revelation—on the basis of documents accessed through the RTI Act—that the CBI diluted a detailed and damaging investigation by the Maharashtra ATS on a similar incident in Nanded in Maharashtra in 2006, where two Bajrang Dal activists died while making explosives. The painstaking ATS investigation established the presence of a large Hindu terror network across the state.

The Nanded bomb blasts of April 4-5, 2006, at the residence of RSS worker Laxman Rajkondwar killed two Bajrang Dal/VHP workers, Naresh Rajkondwar and Himanshu Panse. These investigations revealed that the bomb blasts at Nanded and in other Maharashtra towns, Parbhani, Jalna and Purna, were no ordinary crimes—the Dal had been assembling bombs to target mosques, camouflaging their entire operation to resemble a terror operation run by Muslims, including disguising themselves as members of the minority community. Diaries, documents, maps and mobile telephone numbers were also unearthed from the houses of the accused.

The ATS investigations also revealed that three dozen-odd Bajrang Dalis from all over Maharashtra were trained in Pune, while another 100 from all over India were similarly trained in Nagpur. The men who trained the Dal's cadres included retired officers of the country's military and intelligence services.

Today, all the guilty are out on bail. The CBI has watered down the entire case. For instance, the two ATS chargesheets accuse 11 persons of being part of a criminal conspiracy involving terrorist acts. But the CBI, ignoring the forward or backward linkages to the explosion at Rajkondwar's house, has held the six accused present (and who died or were seriously injured in the incident) as collectively responsible only for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and certain offences under the Explosive Substances and Arms Act—in short, it did not include any terrorism link.

Clearly, there is enough to suggest a cover-up and a reluctance to even examine the possibility of a nascent Hindu terror network. A police officer familiar with the subject told Outlook:"While it may be true that an organisation like the Bajrang Dal is not yet as powerful in its capacity to make bombs as other terror groups, it has the knowhow. For instance, in Gujarat in 2002, 500-600 bombs went off—a majority were linked to Hindu organisations. In Orissa, the police have legally recorded a conversation between two local BJP leaders about how violence in that state will help the party politically. These are all links that need to be examined." Isn't it time to act?

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Islam & the Concept of Friendship

Humans have always been social creatures and in need of friends and companions. Much of our lives is spent in interaction with others. For us Muslims who are living in a society where we are clearly a minority, the issue of choosing the right companions is essential for preserving our Deen. Befriending righteous and virtuous Muslims is an essential means for staying on the Straight Path. Strong individuals, on the other hand, are the core of a strong community, something that Muslims should always strive for.
We all know that we were created for a specific purpose and that Allah the Most High has given us life in order to test us. None of us will deny that we are here for a relatively short period of time and that we shall meet Allah (swt) one Day. Once we know our purpose and our goal, we should seek ways to achieve them so as to benefit our own selves. All of us believe that Allah has sent us a Messenger (saws) and revealed to us the Qur’an, the Best Speech.
In an authentic Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” (1).
The person most noble in character and dealings with fellow humans gave us a very clear message and advice in regard to friendship. We should choose the friend that is satisfied with our Deen and avoid the friend that is displeased with it. Whoever we see and are pleased with his Deen, we should befriend him and whoever we are displeased with his Deen and his manners, we ought to avoid him. There is no good in the companion who does not wish for us (from good) what he wishes for himself. There is also no good in the companion who wishes for us what he wishes for himself, if what he likes for his own soul is leading him towards destruction and Hellfire.
The bases for the actions of those who follow the evil ways are corrupt; their actions are built upon misguidance and deviation. Their deeds are worthless to them as Allah (swt) said: “And We will proceed to what they have done of deeds, so We shall render them to scattered floating dust.” Qur’an 25:23
Their actions, even if we regard them as righteous and noble are of no value to them, so how can they be of benefit to us? Friends are those who feel for their companions, in both happy and sad moments. If we share our feelings with the wrong-doers whose actions are worthless and based on corruption, then we are following the same ways and standards as they are. Affection which results from that friendship leads to love and closeness to other than the righteous believers, and this may even lead to avoiding those who are on the Straight Way. Mixing with followers of any way other than that of the Guidance also results in a change in one’s behavior, morals and conduct.
If we agree, follow and are pleased with such friends, then we inherit their habits, behaviors and even religion. Such a Muslim would find himself in a situation wherein he is willing to hide his Islam in front of those who despise it (those that he considers as friends) and to separate from the believers. When this situation occurs, a point is reached when there is a very slight difference between the Muslim and his wrong-doing companion. Such a companionship is the root of sickness of one’s heart and loss of one’s Deen.
Instead of making friends with the misguided ones we should befriend the righteous and treat the rest in a gracious and just manner. Staying at sufficient distance is necessary, yet treating everybody in a noble and kind manner is required.
In another Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (saws) said: “The example of a good companion and a bad companion is like that of the seller of musk, and the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows.. So as for the seller of musk then either he will grant you some, or you buy some from him, or at least you enjoy a pleasant smell from him. As for the one who blows the blacksmith’s bellows then either he will burn your clothes or you will get an offensive smell from him.” (2)
In his commentary of this Hadith, Imam an-Nawawy said that the Prophet (saws) compared a good companion to a seller of musk and spoke of the virtue of having companions who are good, who have noble manners, piety, knowledge and good culture. Such are those who grant us from their virtue. And he (saws) forbade us to sit with those who do evil, commit a lot of sins and other bad deeds, as well as with innovators, backbiters, and so forth. Another scholar said: “keeping good company with the pious results in attainment of beneficial knowledge, noble manners and righteous actions, whereas keeping company with the wicked prevents all of that.” Many times a Muslim is encouraged by his friends to do evil and to forget his duties. The result is that Muslims themselves are often ashamed to leave them to perform prayer, their friends thus causing them to clearly deviate from the Right Path.
Allah the Exalted says in the Qur’an: “And (remember) the Day when the wrong-doer will bite his hands and say: Woe to me! Would that I had taken a path with the Messenger. Woe to me! If only I had not taken so- and-so as a friend! He has led me astray from this Reminder (the Qur’an) after it had come to me. And Satan is ever a deserter to man in the hour of need.” Qur’an 25:27-29
So take heed before the inevitable Day comes when we are called to account for our actions.
Allah, the All-Wise also says: “Friends on that Day will be enemies one to another, except al-Muttaqoon (i.e. those who have Taqwah).” Qur’an 43:67
Hafidh Ibn Katheer, commenting on this verse, relates a story on the authority of Ali Ibn Abi Talib (ra) and says that any friendship for other than Allah is turned into enmity, except what was in it for Allah the Mighty and Majestic: “Two who are friends for Allah’s sake; one of them dies and is given good news that he will be granted al-Jannah, so he remembered his friend and he supplicated for him, saying: ‘O Allah, my friend used to command me to obey You and to obey Your Prophet (saws) and used to command me to do good and to forbid me from doing evil. And he told me that I will meet You. O Allah, do not let him go astray after me, until you show him what you have just shown me, until You are satisfied with him, just like You are satisfied with me.’ So he is told: ‘Had you known what is (written) for you friend, would you have laughed a lot and cried a little.’ Then his friend dies and their souls are gathered, and both are asked to express their opinions about each other. So each one of them says to his friend: ‘You were the best brother, the best companion and the best friend.’ And when one of the two disbelieving friends dies, and he is given tidings of Hellfire, he remembered his friend and he said: ‘O Allah, my friend used to order me to disobey You and disobey Your Prophet, and commanded me to do evil, and forbade me from doing good, and told me that I would not meet You. O Allah, do not guide him after me, until you show him what you have just shown me and until you are dissatisfied with him just like You are dissatisfied with me.’ Then the other disbelieving friend dies, and their souls are gathered, and both are asked to give their opinions about each other. So each one says to his friend: ‘You were the worst brother, the worst companion and the worst friend.”
That is the end of those who do not have Taqwah and those who befriend for a sake other than that of Allah the Exalted. Allah has surely spoken the truth and we all should grasp what He has informed us of. It is through the good company that Allah, the Most High, saves those who are astray and guides the wicked. The benefit of mixing with the righteous is immense, and it will, insha’Allah, be even more obvious to us in the Hereafter. One of the early Muslims said that it is from Allah’s blessings upon a youth when he turns to worship that he is given brother who is a follower of the Sunnah encouraging him upon it.
Sealing a friendship for Allah’s sake will result in one’s receiving protection of Allah (swt). And as Ibn Abbas said: “No one may taste true faith except by this (i.e. building relationships for Allah’s sake), even if his prayers and fasts are many. People have come to build their relationship around the concerns of the world, but it will not benefit them in any way.” (3)
A scholar has said: “To seal a friendship for Allah’s sake indicates the obligation of establishing relationships of love and trust for His sake; this is a friendship for the sake of Allah. It also indicates that simple affection is not enough here; indeed what is meant is a love based upon alliance. This entails assistance, honor, and respect. It means being with those whom you love both in word and deed.” Loyalty for the sake of Allah really means to love Allah and to come to the assistance of His Deen; to love those who are obedient to Him and to come to their help. Moreover, the Shahadah “La Ilaha Illa Allah” requires us to ally ourselves for the sake of Allah, and it requires us to ally ourselves to the Muslims wherever we find them.
In two other authentic narration’s of the Prophet (saws) we were commanded to keep company with a believer only (3), and told that a person will be with those he loves (4). So if we love and associate ourselves with those who are misguided, we should fear for our fate. The wise person is the one who prepares himself for the Hereafter, not the one who neglects his faith and falls into the trap of Satan who tells him that he will be forgiven and that he can do whatever he wishes. If we truly believe that the best speech is the Speech of Allah and that he best guidance is the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (saws), we should act in accordance with them, lest we build a proof against ourselves.
Ali (raa) said: “Mix with the noble people, you become one of them; and keep away from evil people to protect yourself from their evils.” (4)
If we are truly concerned about our fate, we must come to this realisation: those who take us away from remembering Allah, from obeying Him and His Prophet (saws), those who fail to remind us of our daily prayers and those who do not give us sincere advice in regard to our Deen; such are really our foes and not our friends. On the other side, “a believer is the mirror of his brother” (5), and if he sees any faults in the other believer, he draws his attention to it, helps him to give it up and helps him wipe away any evil that he may have.
Ibn Hazm said: “Anyone who criticises you cares about your friendship. Anyone who makes light of your faults cares nothing about you.” (5)
How can we expect sincere advice and exhortation in regard to our religion from those who are displeased with our Deen or are simply indifferent? Are they going to help us achieve the purpose of our life, or will they take us away from it? Will they desire for us Allah’s pleasure or is that Completely irrelevant to them and not their concern at all? Are they leading us to al-Jannah or to the Hellfire? These are the questions we have to ask ourselves, lest we wake up after we die.
“O you who believe! Take care of your own selves. If you follow the right guidance and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allah, then He will inform you about (all) that which you used to do.” Qur’an 5:105
We ask Allah to make us of the righteous ones and give us companions that will take us away from His Wrath and lead us to His Pleasure and Paradise.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Do Not Live Without a Vision

Many people think that they have a vision but in reality they have nothing. Countless brothers and sisters consult me regarding key decisions in their life. My answer has always been and continues to be, ‘if you had a clear vision of what you want to be or what you want to do, you would not ask such questions!’
One key quality of any successful person is to live for a mission. Unsuccessful people live from one day to the next. They are not inspired by something virtuous not living for a noble goal and therefore they do not live a noble life. Islam, being a religion of nobility, does not want people to live in this way. Allah encourages people to compete for the best possible afterlife and be inspired all of the time. In the Qur’an we read,
“Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allah), and towards Paradise, the width whereof is as the width of heaven and earth, prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is the Grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He pleases. And Allah is the Owner of Great Bounty.”[1]
Such people are dedicated to achieve what they want and look for all possible means to facilitate such achievements for themselves. Having vision is paramount to the success of a person. In his book The seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey considered “beginning with the end in mind” as the second habit of such successful people. In fact, we easily see that when Allah desired to send a prophet, he would prepare him to be a special person with high ambition. He inspired him from an early age to become a leader and set out a vision for him. Our Prophet was raised a poor orphan - this situation tends to set a ceiling for what a person might aim for, however Allah decreed that his grandfather would look after him. His grandfather, Abdu’l-Muttalib, was the chief of the Quraish tribe which was the most dignified tribe in the world. Hence, the Prophet tasted the life of dignified leaders. Furthermore, his grandfather used to love him so much that the Prophet had the privilege to do what others could not do. For example, his grandfather would sit on a mat that no one else was allowed to sit on except the young Muhammad. Throughout his teenage years he was not involved in the many indecent activities others his age were. He was inspired to be different. Similarly, Prophet Yusuf was inspired to think big and be ready for greatness. Allah says,
“(Remember) when Yusuf (Joseph) said to his father: "O my father! Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves to me.”[2]
Moses was also inspired from a very young age as he was raised up in the Pharaoh’s house even though he was from the Children of Israel whom the Pharoah wanted to subjugate and destroy.
There is no doubt that life takes on a different meaning once a person sets out a vision for him/herself and works towards it. On the other hand it is boring and devastating when a person lives for nothing of substantial value.
Many people think that they have a vision but in reality they have nothing. Countless brothers and sisters consult me regarding key decisions in their life. My answer has always been and continues to be, ‘if you had a clear vision of what you want to be or what you want to do, you would not ask such questions!’ Some brothers and sisters may say that they want to worship Allah or they want to go to paradise. This is good, but the key question is how? Moreover, Paradise is of different levels, which level are you aiming for? The reality is many people do not have a vision. In order to set out a vision for yourself simply put yourself in the shoes of your father, what does he do now after being retired and do you want to follow the same routine?
A vision that does not materialise
I am sure that at this point many people will ask the following question: what about a vision that I failed to achieve due to ‘out of hand’ circumstances? Failing to achieve it is likely to demotivate a person and might lead to negative consequences. However, this is not true if the person follows an Islamic way of setting out his vision.
Abu Kabshah al-Anmaari, a Companion of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with him), stated that he heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying: “Four people are making the most of this world: a man to whom Allah gives wealth and knowledge, so he fears his Lord with regard to the way in which he disposes of his wealth, and he uses it to uphold ties of kinship and he realizes that Allah has rights over it. This man occupies the highest status. And a man to whom Allah has given knowledge but did not give him wealth, so he is sincere in his intention when he says, 
‘If I had wealth I would have done the same as so and so is doing.’ So he will be rewarded according to his intention and the reward of both of them is the same.”[3]
Anas ibn Maalik (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came back from the campaign to Tabuk and when he drew close to Madinah he said: 
“In Madinah there are people who, whenever you travelled any distance or crossed any valley, were with you.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, even though they are in Madinah?” He said: “Even though they are in Madinah, because they were kept there by (valid) excuses.””[4]
Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote in his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, ‘This indicates that a man may attain by means of his intention that which the one who does the deed may attain when he is prevented from acting by some (valid) excuse.’
In conclusion once a person sets out a vision and tries all possible means to achieve it yet fails to do so in this life, he will be rewarded in the hereafter. In reality, the person did not fail and thus there is no need for him to despair or lose hope. This is a unique aspect of Islam and demonstrates its beauty. Furthermore, this demonstrates that any achievement in this life is worthless if it does not count in the afterlife where he will not be worried about what he may have missed out on. Allah says,
“Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.”[5]
The believer should also believe in the Divine’s wisdom and submit to Him – it is in this way that he will not be frustrated due to the inability to fully achieve what he desired. Allah says,
“That is the Grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He wills. And Allah is the Owner of Mighty Grace.”[6]
As a final point, it must be noted that if Allah knows that a person is committed to achieving his goal He will help him to achieve it. It is amazing to read the stories that establish this point. Once Abdullah ibn al-Zubair, Musab ibn al-Zubair, Urwah ibn al-Zubair and Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab gathered together in al-Hijr next to the Kaʽbah and they said to each other let us wish. As for Abdullah ibn al-Zubair, he wanted to be the caliph over the Hijaz, Musab ibn al-Zubair wanted to be the governor of Iraq and to marry beautiful women. Urwah ibn al-Zubair desired to be a scholar of hadith and Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab wished for paradise. al-Dhahabi, the great historian said that everyone received what they desired (we pray that Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab will receive paradise). Therefore, I urge all brothers and sisters to ask themselves - what is my vision for this life and the hereafter?

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Findings of the Sachar Committee were an eye-opener for many in the Muslim community all over India. The report itself raised many eyebrows and the community is overwhelmingly concerned by the startling statics brought out by the Committee. It is really a painful reality that quite a few governments have initiated studies on the community and developed administrative measures on their basis to tackle the long-debated issues related to the social, economic and political status. On account of various factors, the work of the Sachar Committee and its report has greater significance and relevance than earlier initiatives. The report also adds that Muslims rank below Scheduled Castes in some of the indicators considered. In many of the Indian states the community lives in conditions of poverty comparable to that of Dalits and Adivasis. However, situation in Kerala represents a notable odd to the general situation. The credit for this remarkably exceptional position, no doubt, goes to the sparkling galaxy of Indian Union Muslim League leaders, their amazingly futuristic visions, thoughtfully devised policies and finally but importantly to the all-weather support of Mappilas of Malabar. Thanks to their persistent and untiring efforts our party has undeniably become a household name and a perfect model for others to emulate in Muslim politics.

The Indian Muslim Situation
It is a sad irony that a community-Indian Muslims- contributed immensely to the nation-building, is vilified by a section of population and media. Madrasas run by the community are portrayed as “nursery of terrorists” as part of castigation. Muslims need to prove on a daily basis that we are not anti-national and terrorists. We can’t deny that we are partly responsible for this negative stereotyping and all sorry state of affairs.  Some of our fellow-Muslims are caught up in the image imposed by the fascist forces. This prompts us think of seriously; are they really dancing in tune with Sangh Parivar agenda? What we could see, when we take the stock of situation is that the positive results seldom outweigh the damages caused by them and such disruptive activities get backfired most of the time.

A thorough-going enquiry points towards the fundamental social condition that has created this situation. Muslims across the country, except in Kerala, have a less access than other religious groups to educational facilities and political institutions. Community’s participation in governance is also abysmal. So may also be the case with Dalits and other backward communities, who have been the victims of hostile neglect and violence. Thanks to reservation policies, we have witnessed the emergence of a stream of affluent middle class in other communities. But one should be very self critical, when it comes to our community. Have we fully utilized the opportunity provided by reservation and other affirmative actions? The answer may be bit of agonizing.  We can see that much of what goes in the name of affirmative action fails to take off the ground in our community.

How did this come about? The reason may be a complex intersection of many factors. The prime reason may be historical stretching back to colonialism and the differential treatment enjoyed by the community under British rule. None can deny the historical past in which Muslims were the victims of benign neglect and various degrees and modes of discrimination. Partition left Muslims, particularly in the north, a largely impoverished community. It also led to a situation, in which separate political mobilization of Muslims was no longer considered feasible. But blaming colonialism and partition itself does not entirely explain our backwardness and subscribing fully to partition theory will not provide an answer for the problems of the present. As we know, the similar forces are still powerful in different forms. The chance is very bleak for us to have a situation in which all enemies are eliminated. Such a situation would be very ideal and imaginary.  So, it is the need of the hour to overwhelm such forces strategically.

Extremism: An unwise Option 
However, one has to keep in mind such a defence should not speak the language of terror. The most effective weapon in this context, no doubt would be the proper utilization of our intellectual capital not the muscle power. The world has witnessed umpteen numbers of incidents, which proved the inefficiency of terror to deal the situation. What we experience for last two decades is that as a self-destructive weapon, terrorism often leads to further alienation and isolation from the mainstream.

It is a painful reality that many of our fellow-Muslims live with the mounting wave of Islamophobia and Hindu chauvinism. The selective targeting of Muslims by the state, as what happened in Gujarat, of course, have reinforced the feeling among Indian Muslims that they are actively being discriminated against. Sachar Committee Report has highlighted the institutional discrimination in Muslim-dominated localities and areas in such matters as schools, banks, grants, roads and development schemes. Disengagement with the politics naturally evolves as a strategy for some in such a situation. But what we see is that this further drives Muslims into ghettos, where they are often confined against their will. The example of West Bengal, where Muslims were earlier a integral part of the left parties, exposes the hollowness of communist parties’ ‘Muslim appeasement’. Muslims of West Bengal lag far behind their counterparts in rest of India.  The community, with large deficits in education and employment, naturally figures high in terms of incidence of poverty.

Why Muslims have not fared well even after 60 years of independence? One can find reasons in three major factors; political under-representation, educational backwardness and abnormally poor participation in governance. Among these factors, one needs to have special mention here; inadequate role of Muslims in political process. As we know clearly, Muslim politics since the trauma of partition is chiefly centred on fear and consequent insecurity. And the only way we could deal with this situation is the enhancement of participation in the political process.  The lack of representation and colossal shortfall in participation in governance has really contributed in a big way to the growth and expansion of stereotypical image of Muslims. The vexed issue of bad- Muslim image arises from the lack of political power.

With regard to education, none thinks that Muslims in India continue to nurture their traditional opposition to ‘secular’ system of education.  A recent statistics explodes the myth that Muslims prefer to send their children to madrassas.  But still there is a noticeable lack of access to educational institutions of higher learning. Again on the positive side, there has been a significant trend among Muslim organizations to focus on Muslim educational and economic empowerment. These efforts, in the form of Muslim-run NGOs are however, scattered and inadequate to address the problems of the community in the absence of political will and proper institutional support. As many studies show, Muslims are second to none in many fields. In the areas of art, science, literature, technology and professional world, we stand in equal measure to any other community in India. The problem arises when it comes to representation and power. It is indifference to mainstream politics that is responsible for Muslims inequality with other communities and that it has blocked their progress and created a public image of backwardness.

Similarly, it is clearly understood from our long experience that the social mobility is always complimentary to political power. We have a classical example of Gujarat, which proved that economic power doesn’t essentially lead to social power. Whatever the pinnacles of economic power we are, the community is vulnerable to any kind of attack from outside. The mere material changes will not bring about the true empowerment of Muslims unless they are attached with political mobility. Political power, as the major pointer to mobility, is the first and foremost goal to attain. The others will follow it automatically.

As has been discussed, Muslims in every state constitute disadvantaged communities; only the extent and nature of the disadvantage vary. In Gujarat and Assam they are gripped in high amount of insecurity, while in Bihar and UP they are treated as outcasts, in national capital they are pushed to stay in ghettos. There is a strong feeling of alienation within the society everywhere. Muslims are subject to the same social discrimination faced by Dalits in many of the north Indian villages.

The Sachar committee report points out that Muslims, who account for 10.6 per cent of the population of Maharashtra, constitute 32.4 per cent of total number of prisoners in the State. Although there is fact that a section of investigating officers are biased and draconian laws are responsible for increasing number of arrests of members of this community, this statistics is very much disturbing, especially when it comes to a community, which gives vital role to moral science education from the childhood onwards. While there is no justification for discriminatory practices, the reason why so many from this minority community add up to the crime statistics has to be analysed.

Besides being discriminated against for their entire lives, many men have been victims of communal violence. Taking advantage of this, terrorist groups brainwash the youth in our community. Similarly, there is widely-held misconception that the community has little faith in mainstream law. This is another indication of increasing alienation.  

Kerala Experience: Testimony to Muslim League’s Strategies

Situation in Kerala illustrates best that the alienation comes out of the lack of political power and under-representation. What makes the Kerala Muslims truly different from their Indian counterpart is the political clout they do enjoy in the State.   As we all know, the role of Indian Union Muslim League is undisputable for this enviable achievement. Muslim League’s glittering array of leaders, starting from late K.M. Seethi Saheb, motivated people in the community to use their own strength. Learnt from the lessons of 1921 Mappila rebellion, League leaders reworked the strategies and succeeded in a complete makeover of the community from a traditional one to a modern, vibrant and forward looking.  

League leaders stressed more on three ideals, knowledge, representation and power. The party launched a tradition of challenge against the causes of backwardness and set in motion a new practice of politics enabling to acquire power in a more democratic way. Keeping fight against the forces that hindered community’s development and integration with the secular ethos of the State in mind intact, League participated fully in governance. Fighting against all odds the League gave the community a sense of power and freedom from inherent insecurity and alienation.

It was again a nice coincidence that most of the first generation league leaders were very active in social reform movements also. They inculcated the need of a radical reform through education and empowerment. The holistic socio-political engineering scheme envisioned by the early League leaders captured the popular imagination of a large section of ordinary Muslim population in Kerala as it stood appealing to a lot of educated Muslims. The most significant result of their effort was the popular realization among the Muslims that the welfare of the community depended on the intelligent utilization of power for the benefit of community.

Our leaders like Seyd Abdul Rahiman Bafakhi Thangal and Pankkad Seyd Pukkoya Thangal could use their mass clout among Muslims as a committed weapon for the community advancement.  Qua’de Millat Ismail Saheb’s shibboleths ‘restoration of ideal society’ and ‘honourable existence’ became a rallying point for many to join the bandwagon. Through well thought-out strategies, ahead-of-time vision and well-calibrated programmes, leaders like C.H. Mohamed Koya contemporarised the community along a modernist line. The community witnessed a manifold transformation under the pious and broad-shouldered leadership of our beloved Pannakad Seyd Mohamedali Shihab Thangal who departed us by making a profound gap. Finally, E. Ahmed’s accession to power at the centre as a minister marks a new phase in the political history of this country and adds long up to the amazing list of political attainments of our party.  

Muslim League facilitated a journey for the community from the problems of anecdotal social inertia to a rapidly modernizing one.  Kerala Muslims for the first time in many centuries realized the state of being under-educated and under-represented. Thanks to this attitudinal shift, Muslims in Kerala have now done so well in terms of their representation in politics however under-represented they may be in the government services.

Quite interestingly, they felt the need for faster educational progress. League leaders like M.K. Haji were instrumental in establishing educational institutions all across the state. They harbingered a real revolution with a multitude of deliverable agendas. This is being reflected in a plethora of new generation educational institutions came up in Muslim localities. However, it does not mean that Kerala Muslims fascinating human developmental index does prevent them from all sorts of discrimination in terms of religion. Nevertheless, Muslims in Kerala, who make up 24 percent of the State’s total population, stands apart with a developmental model that the others’ can emulate without much of hassles.

The triumphant story of Kerala Muslims, as has been widely accepted, closely entwined with the success of political engineering schemes orchestrated by the Indian Union Muslim League. Kerala, where the party has a key role to play in parliamentary politics, still remains to be a quintessential political laboratory for the League.  What the other states with sizable Muslim population lack are an organized and thoughtfully designed political move that Muslim League often stands for. It is quite outlandish to understand that the Muslims are incapable of determining the election results even in assembly segments, where Muslims make up a decisive portion of the population.

Need to re-formulate the Strategies 
History is the other major site, where Muslim alienation is quite palpable. It is a domain in which the ideological struggle that Indian society is currently witnessing; a struggle between secularism and communalism. There is a purposeful deletion of Indian Muslim history from the mainstream. The new historical narratives being poured into by the neo-conservative historians distort the real history in favour of Sangh Parivar. Correlated with the distortion of history, there is the issue of dissemination of fabricated historical truths through text-books. A critical interrogation would expose the lack of organic intelligentsia form the community to take on such noxious efforts at the intellectual level. We have due respect for secular intellectuals who speak usually of a meaningful debate on the alternative version of history. There is also a more concerted attempt to draw attention to the differently situated experiences of oppressed groups like minorities and Dalits in history writing. Apart from these, there is the need of an organic intelligentsia to emerge. Taking cue from the experience of Dalits, who recently witnessed the emergence of organic intellectuals to speak up for their rights and to make hear the previously excluded voices, Indian Muslims also need to have specialised organic intellectuals. Our party has a plan to initiate a dialogue and float a platform for organic intellectuals to come out and express themselves. The ideal proposition for this is to create a national level think-tank incorporating scholars from different fields including theology. A research centre with state-of the art facilities and properly updated data bank on various socio-economic indices of the community like education, employment, poverty, and standards of living is also proposed in support of such an intelligentsia. The proposed think-tank is expected to have a role in policy making and in preparation of text books and evaluation of text books to ensure community interests are not hurt. The Party would get benefit out of the regular dialogues and brainstorming sessions proposed.

It is clear that the new media debates have aided the process of ‘villification’of Muslims in the public eye. Media plays an important role as the street level interaction with the community becomes seldom instrumental in determining the non-Muslim perception about Muslims. Other communities’ understanding of Muslims, thus, is influenced by a set of ‘transnational’ media debates taking place in a distant place (mostly in the west). Such debates provide inputs to the people for taking a position regarding the matters related to Muslims than the real life experiences. But blaming media solely may be a futile exercise.

It is quite unfortunate that Muslims haven’t recognised the power of media images to create a particular group’s identity and social relations so far.  Along with the issues related to security and equity, Sachar committee also had given emphasis to the issue of ‘problematized Indian Muslim identity, which is manifested mainly through the media discourses. Against this backdrop, Muslim League leadership has felt the need of an appropriate move to make the media debates in favour of the community or at least to lessen the damages caused by such debates. Launching a media cell and a media lobbying group appear to be essential in this context.

Another important issue is of human rights. A major doubt remains, whether Muslims have used politics for strengthening our rights? Awareness about constitutional provisions like human rights commission is relatively less in our community. There is, of course, a burgeoning trend among Muslim organizations to speak the language of ‘rights’. A genuine doubt lurks here; are they earnest enough to uphold the spirit? Sometimes cry for human rights becomes a mask for such groups to promote their hidden agenda.  The prospects turn to be very bleak and such hypocrisies fail to attract the attention of authorities and general public. In the light of this fact, League leadership is giving a thought to have a genuine mechanism to get national and international audience for violation of Muslims’ human rights. The other area to which we have to pay urgent attention is empowerment of Muslim women. Enhancement of the role of women in the party and government is, obviously, our long-committed agenda. Women empowerment and realization of their rights, however, come solely through education. Effort to make them self-dependent seems to be the other means of empowerment. Self-help groups to address local and proximate income generating issues could be made a part of such a holistic approach.  

There is another issue, which perhaps must be the most important one. Muslims are the worst-hit community under the new economic regime. Studies have shown that the community, many of which are artisans, odd jobbers and petty traders are witnessing a rapid decline in their living conditions in the face of the current economic reconfiguration. On the other side, there is a newfound economic mobility among Muslims mainly due to the remittance from the Gulf. This phenomenon may be quite confined to some pockets of Kerala and Uthar Pradesh, but this economic transformation is often shadowed by the mystification of Muslim investment. There is an acerbic debate over the money with a volley of guess games; where is the money generated from, how does it operate. Muslims’ financial transactions blur the lines between national economies and between legal and criminal transactions. Why others look askance at Muslim capital? Why Muslim capital is always conflated with ‘hawala’. The major factor which helps mystifying Muslim wealth is its general dissociation with the financial institutions.

We have a time-tested system of zakat with a view to lessen the effects of economic imparities. And there is a considerable section of faithful Muslim population keeping aloof from the bank interest. Given this, what is required is a collective effort to channelize the excess wealth that rich people in our community possess in a constructive way. Introduction of microcredit system strictly adhered to Islamic financial rules is the most appropriate solution which seems to have a high potential to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich in our community. Other avenues in which we can engage the rich people (especially high-profile NRI businessmen) are to set up an Islamic financial banking and ssupport initiatives for self-employed youth.

Also to add, there is the issue of emergence and spread of new technologies and global means of communication, like internet and satellite television. Muslims’ engagement with new technology is a significant and interesting phenomenon as they have collectively brought many changes in pattern of our life. And many of the Muslim organizations and individuals have taken the advantage of IT to have wide reach for their ideologies among larger section of population. The proliferation of Islamic webistes, blogs, you tube clippings and other related sites for expressions of beliefs and articulation also have increased tremendously. But in spite of all these glossy pictures, we should be very self-critical about two things. Firstly, how we have made use of new technologies and global means of communication for the propagation of our ideology? Secondly, have we made any attempt to reach out to such professionals or utilized them for community’s benefit? 

Environmental degradation and consequent climate change is the other matter of concern which attracted so much of global attention in the event of global summit on climate change. But Muslim community, as a whole, pays little attention to the frenzied global debates on environmental issues and its wide-range repercussions. It is quite mysterious to understand that a community which pioneered the fight against the ill-effects of some disastrous socio-political phenomenon (like colonialism) well in advance fails to recognize the major issue of this century. The Party has sensed the urgency and need to address such sensitive issues with a due concern they deserve. In order to be sensitive to such issues, there is the need to initiate the process of establishing single-issue-oriented NGOs under the patronage of the Party. Such civil society organizations eventually would strengthen the Party as they play an important role in recognizing real issues of the people.   

To sum up, the low participation of Muslims in nearly all political spaces has an adverse impact on Indian democracy and polity in the long run. In a pluralistic society, a reasonable representation of various communities in governance is necessary to enhance participatory governance. The proper political participation provides a necessary influence and opportunity to change or at least to influence events which enable our meaningful participation in the political process. The current statistics show that the country is far from attaining such a goal. In no uncertain terms, we can say that the political strategies of old mould would not serve the purpose. The priorities should be given to address new challenges and to work out programme strategies to attract the yo | "Old Fogeys Have To Go"


by Shaheerji Ahmed on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 at 10:47
corruption is the failure of democracy.all countries gripped with corruption.corruption bears in the field of administation and appointments in govt services in india.we should oppose this with the responsible approach. But Anna hazare's approach on corruption is the only a DRAMA. Anna hazare himself is a most corrupted person.he is a fascist.he is a co-traveller of Bjp-Rss .his this activity only with the aim of breaking democracy and parliamentary system protected in indian constitution..........