In a remarkably simplistic piece, Fauzan Alavi, spokesperson for the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association, decided to throw lesser privileged Muslims under the bus by displaying woeful ignorance, which is characteristic of the elite in most (marginalised) communities. Ignorance, not only of the current state of affairs in the country, but also of history.
Alavi’s piece, titled ‘Indian Muslims won’t lose religion by saying ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, we have bigger battles’, misses the bigger picture by a huge margin, quite ironically.
The article starts by rightly calling out the so-called secular parties and how they’ve taken the Muslim community for a ride all these years. But Alavi quickly adds, “It’s time for Indian Muslims to do a quick introspection and correct what needs to be corrected”—not realising that correcting systemic discrimination, structural marginalisation and repeated denial of justice requires more than a ‘quick introspection’.
How else can one describe the treatment that has been meted out to Muslims in India – consistently, government after government?
Deliberate misuse of state institutions to target the community and relegate it to the margins of society should not come as a revelation – Muslim men picked up and killed by personnel; 11 men fighting a 25-year-long battle to prove their innocence in a ‘terror’ case. All this creates a fear psychosis that only pushes Muslims into ghettos, where they are denied basic resources. To add insult to injury, a narrative is then peddled around Muslims being inherently unhygienic. And, let’s not even get started on everyday Islamophobia that Muslims face in their schools, colleges and workplaces.
“There are bigger issues to resolve – like schools, primary health, water crisis, infant mortality, etc.”, Alavi writes. It is in fact the state’s duty to ensure unbiased access to these amenities to every community, but I am guessing the author already knows that.
The very premise of Alavi’s argument that India is a country where “Muslims and Hindus have lived in peace and harmony since time immemorial” is flawed. Riots between the two communities pre-date Partition — the fault lines have always existed.
Being a Muslim was never any fun in India, but is Alavi right in whitewashing the deeds of the present administration?
The Narendra Modi government has been accused of legitimising the hate and bigotry that was always ever-so-present in our country. So, when a Union minister garlands people convicted in a case of murder by lynching, it’s a message to the community: you are second-class citizens, not despite the state but because of an active helping hand by it.
Blame the victim
The crux of what is wrong with Alavi’s piece is essentially what is wrong with the arguments employed by most privileged Muslims – from Naseeruddin Shah, when he argued that Muslims “must determine to stop feeling persecuted”, to when former union minister Arif Mohammad Khan says that “the seeds of the problems are within”. They very conveniently choose to blame the victim. The importance of introspection and reform cannot be stressed enough, but should it come at the cost of making a distinction between us (the good Muslims) and them (the regressive, unhygienic, uneducated Muslims)? Selfish and arrogant pontification cannot pass off as a virtuous call for introspection.
Hate to break it to you, sir, but the reason why Muslims like you and I did receive the education that we did, or we enjoy the societal privileges that we do is only one: we lucked out. There really isn’t more to it.
Alavi goes on to make a point about how Muslims lack a strong political leadership; and while that is true, it would also do us good to remember that only 27 Muslims MPs were elected to Parliament this year – and none from the BJP.
Most Muslim leaders indeed deserve the flak they get for not articulating the woes of the community adequately. But while we are on the subject of introspection, perhaps Alavi too would like to reflect why the only thing about the ruling party that seemingly bothers him is how the meat export industry is facing a difficult time in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh.
And even then, not only is Alavi quick to cut the CM slack, but also conveniently forgets about the many poorer Muslims who have been lynched allegedly on the mere suspicion of storing and consuming beef. Perhaps, in Alavi’s world, these are only “silly little things” that we shouldn’t get provoked by.
The Muslim problem
Alavi’s mischaracterisation of ‘the Muslim problem’ doesn’t end there. He goes on to write, “Indian Muslims could have solved the triple talaq issue on their own, but we chose to serve it to the world on a platter”. Except Indian Muslims did resolve the issue on their own — it is the Muslim women who led the fight against triple talaq until it was banned by the court. Of course, why the BJP government is hell bent on criminalising a practice that has already been invalidated by the top court, is something that should serve as food for thought for Alavi.
“We will not lose our religion if we say: Bharat mata ki jai,” writes Alavi. Muslims know they won’t lose their religion if they say Bharat mata ki jai, or Vande Mataram, or Jai Shri Ram. Muslims will, however, lose their lives despite chanting these. Tabrez Ansari, 24, was tied to a pole and allegedly forced to chant Jai Shri Ram — he did but still didn’t survive.
Alavi quotes Prophet Muhammad twice in his article. Here’s another quote by The Prophet that we would do well to remember in trying times: “People, beware of injustice, for injustice shall be darkness on the Day of Judgment.” The privileged Muslims should extend their hand to ensure justice for the poorest, marginalised and vulnerable, and not blame them for their own persecution.