Two recent incidents — the protest over the ‘discovery’ of the Akbarabadi mosque in Delhi, and the agitation at Azad Maidan in Mumbai over the violence in Myanmar and Assam which turned violent — must serve as a wake-up call for all Indian Muslims.
I’ll come back to them but just a recall: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Urdu newspapers in India Nida-e-Millat and Nasheman would spend gallons of ink on the plight of Palestinians, perennially.
This was not just an interest but an obsession. With the decline of the Urdu press for a phase in the 1980s, there was a marked decline in Indian Muslim interest in the faraway territory.
This was the era when Muslims here faced the heat due to the Ayodhya movement. But whether it was the Babri Masjid demolition or major communal riots, we never heard any Muslim country or people in other lands shedding tears for Indian Muslims or issuing any statement for them. Was there any strong voice over Gujarat from a foreign power?
In fact, there was no need for any outsider to speak for us. We are a democratic country. Like most nations and societies, we will have our issues and will sort them out ourselves. There is no need for intervention. Mostly our Hindu brethren are fighting the cases for justice for minorities.
Still, whenever there is an issue in a faraway country, Indian Muslims are the first to hit the streets. Of course, not when Muslims kill Muslims in an African country, or when Ahmadiyyas (or even Shias) are blown to pieces in supposedly ‘Muslim nations’ on a regular basis.
Some of us unfortunately might look at Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries as model states, despite the fact that they are monarchies, despite their rigid and regressive attitudes to women, minorities and even Muslim settlers from other countries, who are not given equal treatment or citizenship.
Have you ever seen Arab Sheikhs protesting the killing of Muslims in Myanmar or their citizens? From Egypt to Lebanon, Iran to Turkey and Kazakhstan to Bosnia, which Muslim country saw such huge numbers pouring out on streets to protest the killings?
Frankly, we have the right to protest but we are perhaps misusing it. We don’t join other communities to protest against injustice on others, but our blood boils when we hear or see images of attacks on Muslims.
Don’t we realise that the world looks at this as a case of Muslims just thinking about themselves and none else? Our heart must bleed for everyone who is facing injustice, not just for Muslims.
In any case, what is Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country, doing? It closes its border to the Rohingyas, forcibly sends them back and doesn’t hold serious talks with the Myanmar regime over this issue.
They did the same with Urdu-speaking Biharis for decades. They remained in camps and both Pakistan and Bangladesh avoided taking responsibility. Only recently did Bangladesh give them citizenship.
Forget the Gulf countries, what about Malaysia, another Muslim majority country, close to Myanmar? It is also an economic force and just a bit far away is Indonesia. What are these governments doing? If Indian Muslims want to the feel pain of the Rohingyas, it’s okay. But holding demonstrations of such size that can go out of control, what message do we want to send?
On the issue of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, for the last month, we have seen demonstrations not just in capitals but districts, even towns and at smaller places. Why? In cities, where twenty people aren’t ready to join a delegation on a matter of genuine concern at delay in recognition to a school in a minority-dominated area, 2,000 people easily come for such a gathering or protest. Isn’t that amazing?
It tells us a great deal about the emotions which the Indian Muslims seem to have in excess. It’s better to use and channel this energy elsewhere. Whether it’s Akbarabadi mosque, over which passions were whipped up by an MLA, or the Myanmar issue, our priorities are misplaced.
Isn’t it a better idea to have funds collected for victims of violence in Assam, both Bodos and Muslims, than giving advertisements in papers and then heading for rallies? In the Akbarabadi mosque case, the issue was handled in such a way that it could now cause severe embarrassment to the community.
Just a few decades ago, a senseless emotional movement over a frail old woman turned Muslims into villains in this country. The Shah Bano case strengthened right-wing forces, led to the rise of the BJP, the destruction of the Babri Masjid, and the entry of the word ‘appeasement’ in the Indian political dictionary.
Despite going through so much, the Muslim leaders seem to have learnt nothing. Everywhere, one sees misplaced priorities and ‘josh’ prevailing over ‘hosh’ that only harms us.
(The author is a blogger who writes under the pseudonym Indscribeat anindianmuslim.com.)