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Indian Muslims are different. Let’s preserve Indian Muslimhood.

A few sadhvis and mahants and protagonists from Hindutva ideology making objectionable statements is no threat to the well entrenched multi-religious togetherness in India.

Written by Vivek Deshpande |
November 26, 2015 5:07:55 pm
india, indian muslims, ISIS, IS indian muslims, IS india muslim remark, IS arab muslims, muslim terrorists, indian muslimhood, arab muslims, indian muslim terrorists, india news Indian Muslims hold banners and participate in a protest against ISIS in New Delhi. (Source: AP)

The ISIS has said it – south Asian Muslims are not the martial kind. If people of any country need to take it on the face value as well as in the larger context of the situation prevailing in their country, it is us Indians. The stereotype of militancy and terrorism that has come to be attached with Muslims gets challenged in a way by this ISIS observation. It only strengthens the view of some of our leading intellectual lights that Indian Muslims have come to evolve as way different from the Arabic notions of Muslimhood.

Having lived for centuries along with different religious communities in India, they are very much at peace with the liberal reality of possible co-existence. So forget a few wayward Muslim youths getting gravitated towards the obscurantist ISIS ideology, the vast majority of them understand the value of peace having been part of a democracy for over 65 years and having tasted its fruits.

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Where else in the world would you find a Muslim called Yusuf Khan living all his life with Hindu name Dilip Kumar, a Shah Rukh Khan and a Salman Khan installing Ganesh idols in their homes and performing puja, a Muslim team of music director, lyricist and singer creating Hindu devotional songs? Where else did bold Muslim girls show themselves up in scantiest of clothes and perform intimate scenes on silver screen in as far back as 60s and 70s? And this is perhaps why India needs to not only zealously guard this separate identity of Indian Muslims but also dig it in deeper by creating an atmosphere of mutual faith and respect among them and other communities, mainly the Hindus.

To be able to sustain the multi-religiosity of Indian people, what must be protected on priority is the idea of co-existence. This idea seems to be getting challenged from certain quarters that tend to paint all Muslims with the same brush. So, are we in for the most difficult challenge of intolerance today as is being made out by many? Going by the numerical strength of the Muslim-bashers currently raising their heads with a sense of emboldenment, it may not seem very serious – just as a vast majority of Muslims claims to be against the idea of Islamic terror, an overwhelming majority of Hindus has remained committed for hundreds of years against similar sentiments within their fold. A few sadhvis and mahants and protagonists from Hindutva ideology making objectionable statements is no threat to this well entrenched multi-religious togetherness in India. To that extent, the perception of rising intolerance may seem like an overstated myth but what some of the skeptics on the other side probably seem worried about is the mute response from the powers-that-be, who are ideological brethren of this shrill minority. So clearly, the alarm though must be raised, should not be overblown.

But there is an apparent possibility of the myths catching the fancy of large multitudes of Hindus in this age of shallow and superficial social media wildfire campaign. And hence the need to keep talking about it and explaining the futility of this extreme posturing by either side. What must be immediately realized is the fact that such views do not stand the scrutiny of not only the facts but also the logic. The perception among a section of Hindus that Muslims have ruled Hindus with iron hand for centuries and hence the Hindus must now have an upper hand need to introspectively look within. Because if that logic is to be accepted, then what should Dalits and other backward classes should do with the minority of Brahmins? Is reaction and revenge the way forward? The upper castes that formed the biggest chunk of supporters of the Hindu right doesn’t even seem to be comfortable with the idea of the backward classes enjoying certain socio-economic privileges over them. This despite the fact that Dalits have hardly gained any major political power yet like the upper castes have. The analogy, when extended to Hindu-Muslim comparison, however, gets turned on its head as the Muslims, unlike upper castes, have ceased to hold on the reins of power for over 200 years now. Today, as a matter of fact, their share in political and governmental power has gone disproportionately down vis-a-vis rise in their population.

Similar arguments often emanate from the other side as well. The most perverse one is “victimhood” paranoia among Muslims. People like Azam Khan extend this victimhood theory vis-a-vis ISIS madness and savagery in action-reaction terms. And many well-meaning Muslim intellectuals also seem to get swayed by unsubtle explanation. What they don’t seem to realise is that by projecting Muslims as victims everywhere, they are vilifying all non-Muslims as patently unfair. The question that they may not be able to answer in this regard is: If Muslims have a problem everywhere, is there something seriously wrong with the community’s attitude towards non-Muslims? Notwithstanding the fact that the West, US in particular, is to blame for the mess that led to creation of ISIS monster, how do they account for their savagery against fellow Muslims, who are not Sunnis? Clearly, it is the inherent fundamentalism among a section of Muslims that will continue to pose great threat to the world whether the west or any other non-Muslim part of the world does anything silly or wise to them. So if France was a cultural evil, why did the ISIS not ask fellow Muslims to leave it? And also, a wrongly or rightly foisted war leading to unintended civilian deaths cannot be equated to a targeted terrorist attack on innocent civilians.

Thus, the citation of victimhood, past or present, to unleash physical or verbal abuse on the perceived perpetrators leads to an automatic ideological trap that has the uncanny ability to project the self proclaimed victims as perpetrators themselves in some other way. Let us all avoid this trap to emerge as a really mature society that has an inbuilt firewall against mischief-mongers as well as ideological perverts. Lets value the cultural assimilation of Dilip Kumar by Yusuf Khan than get obsessed with effacing Aurangzeb’s name and let also respect the Khans for their iconoclastic Muslimhood than portray them as communal.

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