Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023

House for Mr Ali

In a recent meeting, some 300 real estate brokers in Surat declared that they will not sell or rent houses to Muslim clients.

In a recent meeting, some 300 real estate brokers in Surat declared that they will not sell or rent houses to Muslim clients. The ostensible reason for this “boycott” is that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai had local supporters. In other words, even if the terrorists are foreign, they rely on the support of India’s Muslims, all of whom, in this thesis, are suspect. Muslims have long found it hard to buy houses in urban India. Tales of discrimination now form a clear pattern of prejudice. Many middle-class Muslims find that otherwise pliant homeowners and building societies suddenly develop cold feet on learning of the buyer’s religion. This is especially true in Gujarat post-2002, with segregation becoming disturbingly visible. But this is unprecedented in its brazenness.

Urbanisation is supposed to mix communities, scrambling neighbourhoods and ridding them of sameness, removing identity as a geographic marker. This is why the Surat-like boycotts are even more alarming. In fact, Islamic terrorists feed on the perceived alienation and ghettoisation of Muslim communities in India — and they often cite the discrimination which they claim people from those communities face when trying to enter the mainstream. One would have thought that by buying and renting houses in urban India, more Muslims would enter the mainstream, further decreasing the power of such justifications. Besides, it is in insular ghettos that prejudices fester, and anger amplifies. And nothing kills stereotypes the way familiarity does.

But for those brokering hate and paranoia, logic is a lost investment. These real estate brokers have shown us what they think about what defines our nationhood and citizenship. They’ve also shown that, in the struggle against terrorism, they expect rationality to take a back seat to their prejudices. It is up to civil society to snub them.

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First published on: 12-12-2008 at 22:57 IST
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