Unlike America

In India, voices of public protest against hate-mongering targeting Muslims have been far too muted and infrequent

Written by Harsh Mander | Published:February 18, 2017 12:00 am
trump, donald trump, trump travel ban, travel ban, travel ban US, US ban, US immigrants ban, US news, world news A politics of hate, however powerful, can never triumph if people defy attempts to divide them with bigotry and fear. (Reuters/File)

“No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.” This protest anthem emanated from demonstrators gathered outside the White House, in front of the Statue of Liberty, and in airports across the United States, hours after President Donald Trump temporarily limited the entry of Muslims from seven Muslim-majority countries. His executive order — now stayed by the courts — suspended the entry of all refugees for at least 120 days and those from Syria indefinitely. It also stipulated that among refugees let into the country, Christians will be prioritised over Muslims.

US airports everywhere were rapidly jammed with protesters in solidarity with Muslim travellers — refugees, spouses, parents, students, and professionals — stuck inside. CNN reported that airport officials accommodated protesters by closing security checkpoints and diverting traffic. Demonstrators waved banners displaying slogans such as “No wall, no ban” and “You are welcome”. One even said, “We are all Muslims”. Muhamad Moustafa, a Syrian training to be a doctor was distraught when his wife was put on a plane back to Qatar, although she had lived in the US for almost a year and had a J2 visa given to the spouses of immigrants. He told CNN that he did not know what he could do to help his wife. “I was hopeless, but seeing this,” the crowds at Washington DC airport, “gives me hope”.

There was also a massive outpouring of protests against Trump’s ban by Christian and Jewish faith leaders. Stosh Cotler of the Bend the Arc Jewish Action, declared “As Jews, we know what it’s like to be scapegoated and we will not be silent now”. The Catholic Relief Services president said that “denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. We have a moral obligation to ‘welcome the stranger’.”

Reports have also come in from mixed neighbourhoods across the US of Christian and Jewish residents reaching out to their Muslim neighbours with reassuring messages of friendship and acceptance. A retired teacher stood on a sidewalk with a welcoming message, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbour,” according to the Middle East Eye. Other slogans included: “If you build a wall, we will raise our children to tear it down”; “Love not hate makes America great”. Two women held a poster showing the star of David with a crescent inside it, and the words “never again”.

The dark foreboding that enveloped me with Donald Trump’s election lightened considerably with this luminous, spontaneous public display of solidarity and empathy with the targeted Muslims by millions of ordinary Americans. A politics of hate, however powerful, can never triumph if people defy attempts to divide them with bigotry and fear.

This led me to reflect if we in India have adequately resisted the fear and animosity that has been systematically fostered against the Indian Muslim minority in the Modi era. India is home to more Muslims than any other country in the world, except Indonesia and Pakistan. The Constitution promised that they would enjoy equal rights in every way, yet they are being pushed by triumphalist majoritarian politics into second-class citizenship. Have Indian people reached out to defend and reassure their Muslim neighbours in ways that many Americans have?

There have indeed been many moments in the past which reassured me that ordinary Indians resist the politics of hatred and division. During the gruesome and cruel Gujarat carnage of 2002, I found that at least three times as many Hindus saved lives as those who took lives. The large majority of people who fought the injustice of this hate violence — as human rights defenders, journalists, writers — are not Muslim.

Yet, in the recent years of mounting organised hate-mongering against Muslims, I worry that although the majority did not join these campaigns to scapegoat, stigmatise and target their neighbours, we also did too little to resist them. We allowed cow vigilantes — and in Haryana uniformed policepersons — to attack Muslim and Dalit people for rumours that they eat cow meat. Fifty thousand Muslims were expelled from Muzaffarnagar by hate violence, and the only opposition we hear is from Hindus protesting that their relocation has worsened crime. There are reports from many parts of the country that many Muslims were too frightened in 2016 to perform their annual ritual animal sacrifice on Bakrid for the first time in their lives. Young Muslim men continue to be detained for years on false charges of terrorism. Eight Muslim youth jailed in a high-security jail in Bhopal were killed at close-range after claims that they crafted keys from toothbrushes and a knife from a spoon. Last autumn, the country’s security forces responded to stone-throwing by protesting students in Kashmir with pellet guns that blinded and maimed hundreds of teenagers.

Through all of this, the voices of public protest across India have been far too muted and infrequent. Rarely have leaders of other faiths spoken out against the persecution of Muslim citizens. Is it that we are too frightened? Or indifferent? Or do we actually support the persecution of other Indians because of their faith?

American protesters invoke the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” To turn them away, they declare, is to lose the very soul of our great nation. In India today are we doing enough to defend the soul of our great nation?

Mander is a human rights worker and writer

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  1. H
    Hemant Kumar
    Feb 18, 2017 at 9:08 am
    Regarding Muslims, his views reflect like a grave digger. He should leave writing and become CHANDAAL in a graveyard.
    1. I
      Feb 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm
      One of the richest legend in India is Muslim (premji), our VP is Muslim, all the top Bollywood are muslim. Yet they are oppressed? The only difference in treatment of this government of religion compared to the previous one is that this one isn't appeasing people based on religion.
      1. I
        Feb 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm
        Bullets and heads of leftists , that's the only combination Hindus should work on, no other choice. Authors like this are Isis terrorists in the form of civilian garb. They should be treated far worse than Isis in my opinion.
        1. V
          Feb 18, 2017 at 11:51 am
          All the morality is reserved only for America. Why can't Saudi Arabia take any refugee from seria. It is much closer and culturally more compatible as most of the serian refugee are Sunnis. Saudi Arabia is spending money to build mosque in w eruope and not doing anything for refugees. The are partner in crime against serians. The w responsibility of morality is laid only on eruope and America. The writer is so hypocrat.
          1. V
            Feb 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm
            They are not raising any questions because of their morality but what is morality of Saudi arabia who is bombing on Yemen an giving arms, ammunition fighter for seria war but not ready to accept any refuge which are displaced because of them
            1. R
              Feb 18, 2017 at 4:06 am
              These same people who the writer is defending will bomb his own house if required. They'll force him to accept islam and won't hesitate a bit to behead him if he doesn't kneel. lt;br/gt;Wait for 40 more years, liberals of his ilk will realize that they were defending the snakes who have come to bite them.
              1. K
                K SHESHU
                Feb 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm
                American blacks, underprivileged are more proactive than in india. Moreover, indians live under severe repression
                1. V
                  Feb 18, 2017 at 11:34 pm
                  America has not been parioned or had to flee their states once the jihadis get into sizeable number
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