Voters wait in line at a polling station in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh | T. Narayan | Bloomberg
Voters wait in line at a polling station in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh | T. Narayan | Bloomberg
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Muslims’ attitude towards national security is a highly debatable issue. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah repeatedly raise the issue of national security, nationalism and the Indian Air Force’s Balakot strikes in their election speeches, there is very little systematic examination of the views of Indian Muslims on these subjects.

Hindutva politics has tried to establish that Muslims are not sufficiently patriotic and hence do not care about the security of the country. The BJP seems to suggest that ‘terrorism has no religion but all terrorists are Muslims’. The secularists, on the other hand, prefer to stay away from the debates on national security as it disturbs their narrative of Muslim victimhood.

As a result, the views, opinions and anxieties of Muslim communities are not given adequate attention in the popular discussion on radical Islam, the expected role of liberal Muslims and the threat of ISIS in India.


Also read: Are Muslims nationalists? What is their problem with Modi? 12 FAQs about Muslims answered


Muslims’ imaginations of national security    

I conducted a series of group discussions with Muslims in four states: Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the last two months. The participants were asked to reflect on the issue of terrorism, (especially in the wake of the Pulwama attack in February), ISIS impact in India, solution of the Kashmir problem and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

There was a consensus that terrorism has no relationship with Islamic teachings. However, Muslim participants did not reduce everything to this ‘political correctness’, which celebrates Islam as a religion of peace. Instead, they talked about the impact of the so-called Jihadi terrorism on their everyday lives.

More specifically, five sets of arguments emerged out of these discussions.

First, it was claimed that Muslims were also killed in terrorist violence, but no one bothered to talk about them. This deliberate ignorance creates a wrong impression that a war between Muslims and non-Muslims is going on and the Jihadi groups represent the interest of common Muslims.

Many participants also mentioned the Pulwama incidence. They strongly condemned this attack and described it as an anti-Islamic, anti-national act, because it was meant to kill innocent people irrespective of their caste or religion.

Second, most of the Muslim participants remain indifferent towards the Kashmir problem. They claimed that Indian Muslims do not associate themselves with Kashmir at all. For them, the Kashmir problem is a bilateral issue between Indian and Pakistani governments, which should be resolved through negotiations.

Third, the confined nature of public debates, especially on TV and social media, is also highlighted. Participants strongly asserted that Muslims are not allowed to express their feelings and anxieties openly. Even the collective Muslim reaction to the Pulwama or Balakot episodes have been seen unenthusiastically.

For instance, if Muslims celebrate Balakot airstrikes (as many of them said they did in Old Delhi), it is seen as a kind of a ‘patch-up’ or ‘face-saving’ exercise, especially on social media.

But if Muslims do not respond to such events, they are targeted for being disloyal to India. In such a context, Muslims are highly confused as their religious identity is posed as an anti-thesis to the nation’s security.

Fourth, Muslims participants were very critical of the ISIS phenomenon. Although they do not think that the global Jihadi group might be able to establish base in India, there was a strong apprehension that radical Hindutva politics wants to use the threat of ISIS to target Muslims. Many of them said that the government should control all kinds of radicalism and devote its energies to deal with issues such as unemployment, poverty and education.

Finally, the growing threat of Hindutva to Muslim identity is identified as an important concern of national security. In a highly charged discussion, a local auto-mechanic in Udaipur said, “India as a nation is made up of different religious communities, if Muslims are not feeling secured, is it not a national security issue?”


Also read: BJP is emerging as second-most preferred political choice for Muslim voters in India


What is national security, officially?

Let us locate these Muslim responses in the official discourse on national security.

National security has two interlinked components: external threats from neighbouring countries (especially from Pakistan and China) and internal threats, such as terrorist violence and spread of radicalisms of various kinds (including online radicalism). The Ministry of Defence is responsible for the external threats, while the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) takes care of the internal threats.

The MHA officially identifies four subthemes of internal security: Terrorism in the hinterland of the country; Left-wing extremism; cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and insurgency in the north-eastern states.

These sub-themes have evolved over the years, especially since the 1990s. The current government has not made any changes in this list.

Interestingly, the MHA does not recognise Hindu radicalisation as an internal security issue. The MHA Annual Report 2017-18 is virtually silent on Hindu radical mobilisation and incidences of mob lynching, which has emerged as a new form of violence against Muslims.

This simple administrative classification of sub-themes has a different political overtone. The rise of global Islamic radicalism fits well with the terrorism category. Similarly, separatism in Jammu and Kashmir may also be interpreted as a form of Islamic terrorism. In this sense, it is officially possible to figure out radical Islam, or even for that matter, any form of Muslim collective assertion, as a potential threat to the nation. However, there is no such provision to respond to the challenges posed by Hindu radicalism.


Also read: As BJP & Congress fight over surgical strikes, India’s stand on national security is exposed


Does this discriminating attitude affect Muslim perception of national-security?

It would be too early to make such a sweeping generalisation only on the bases of a few group discussions. However, there is a need to secularise the national security discourse.

After all, “all Hindus are not involved in mob-lynching or cow-vigilantism, but most of the time innocent Muslims are killed in the name of Hinduism”.

The author is a scholar of political Islam and associate professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Views are personal.

This article is part of a series by the author on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and how Muslims vote. Read the others here.

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23 Comments Share Your Views

23 COMMENTS

  1. Terrorism is attacking innocent people for political gains. I have personally discussed the national security with muslims. It is shoking to note that some consider terrorism is a global problem and cannot be stopped . They also consider that terrorists are freedom fighters and india should tighten the security to avoid them.

  2. Where is Hindu radicalisation in India? What is seen sporadically in some pockets of north India is just mob violence, a criminal act. The author has an agenda of indirectly establishing a non-existing phenomenon. Hindu were never terrorists and will never be in the foreseeable future. Hindu scriptures, unlike others do not assert that theirs is the only way or otherwise highway. Hindus are never taught by scriptures that if they don’t accept their revelations, you would be roasted in hell fire for eternity. The pseudo secularists have no idea as to what the sacred book of terrorists teaches. Because, they don’t want to distinguish between Hindu scriptures and others, they behave as if they know everything. Before,sitting on judgment, therefore, all pseudo secularists must read the Book from where terrorists draw their inspiration from. Take it from me, the day these guys read it, they will cease to be the advocates of terrorists.

  3. Islam did not live in harmony with Hindus-So you got your Pakistan And Banglas.
    So Caricature of Ahmed Mohamed go to 50+Islamists gamglands.

    Leave hindus alone. It is not you Hilal Ahmed Patel but Stupid dumb Hindus who harbour your beliefs & behaviours and let Khans rape Hundu Womanhood

    Is this TOXIC?.

  4. Muslims want sharia for themselves and constitution and secularism for Hindus. They should also consider constitution over their religion. Secularism practiced by congress and secular parties have made it a hated word.

  5. One more point, he forgot to list. Muslims in different countries speak, write and read that language of that country. For example, in UK and US, it is English, in Spain it is Spanish and so on. But why in India, they insist on using Urdu only?

    • Bewaqoof you have made Urdu a Muslim language where as Muslim don’t consider only Urdu to be their language. Allah has created all the languages even Sanskrit is the language of Muslims.

      • Are you doing shirk, Arabic is the only language used by the Muslim. Issent that the reason Rossul received the Revelation in Arabic.

  6. You and author both are wrong. I follow few Indian Muslims on Twitter, not only will they give us their life for the country, they are (some are Kashmiris) very vocal about their love for India and everything that is Indian (Kashmir, Hindus, Muslims, people, culture, go-mata). So let’s not generalise Muslims, or Hindus or press(not all are presstitutes), or politicians (not all are RG)

  7. This is partial one sided views kf some uneducated mullah who wants to follow medieval laws.
    Why they don’t look India as their mother land and if terrorist attack or outside attack happens all of us will suffer. Pakistan or it’s government tries to lure Muslims of India to cause terrorist attack inside India, why Muslims don’t unite to oppose it and expose jihadist?
    All over the world most terrorist attacks are caused by Muslims hence all others faith are concerned like Hindu.
    Why all countries have to spend so mush on securities even though there are not hostile neighbors?
    Russia has silenced Chechans, same is going on Inside China against Muslims and US. Is profiling them too.
    Why only Muslims have problems with other faith where ever they go and even in their own majority countries? Please introspect first.

  8. I really liked the part where Indian Muslim Dilemma was very well projected. Where the article lost its impartiality was bringing in Radical Hindutva and Hindutva in same breadth as an internal security issue. Islam doesnt want to be tagged with terrorism in name of Islam, similarly Hindutva should not bear the burden of few vigilanta act in name of cow protection. Hindutva is no different from Islam.

  9. The author should write up his observations on the rapidly growing population of Muslims and illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh to India. These are the real issues, the rest are the non issues. All Muslims and the Muslim intellectuals are waiting for the day when Muslims will become more than 25% and strong enough to create the another Pakistan. This is their actual agenda.

    • Yes, you are right. They don’t want to talk about real problems. They don’t want to adopt family planning, small good educated family to make progress in right direction. They want to follow medieval laws and rules, but world is moving fast and there is no place to hide. They can’t complain to China were their population is forcibly moved away from traditional Islam and all unscientific practices are removed. India is democratic and allowing freedom to all. However there should be uniform civil code for all citizens like USA and UK, not religion based one. Why educated Muslims are not impressing upon their Islamic brothers to give up triple Talaq and no more than one wife at a time? Only two children and no government benefits to third child? China had gone ahead with one child policy too.
      Hindus are afraid too of further division of their motherland in the name of religion. Why Muslims are not getting right education in Madrassa, though they get tons of money from Islamic nations?

  10. Indian Muslims have choices: Pakistan or India
    Indian Hindus have choices too: India or the rest of the world

    Both are free to leave right before they starting hating India as a country also called Bharat officially and Hindustan unofficially and Jai Hind and Vande Mataram are center piece.

  11. “Second, most of the Muslim participants remain indifferent towards the Kashmir problem. They claimed that Indian Muslims do not associate themselves with Kashmir at all.” Why are Indian Muslims remaining indifferent towards Kashmir problems. Why cannot they take a stand that Kashmir is an integral part of India and pakistan has no business to claim it as theirs.

  12. After reading the article, I scrolled back and looked back if the author was a Muslim – yes he is! Selective set of observations and hence arguments, justifications to build up a narrative! I think these type of intellectuals are doing biggest disservice to society as a whole and Muslims in particular. They do not happen to see the obvious, the information technology brings out truth very clearly such weird logic is no longer tenable. Satyamev Jayate.

  13. The author has completely avoided the concern of most Muslims to vote for BJP. However, from discourse in media it’s obvious that the reasons cited by Muslims for not voting BJP are the same that are given by Congress and other other opposition parties indicating that Muslims are highly influenced by what Congress wants them to believe. Muslims have to come out this siege and form their views based their own experience rather than media propaganda. However, this is unlikely to happen as suspicions have taken deep root in the psyche of Muslims.

    • What about lynching by mobs due to beef. No where in the world humans are killed in place of animals. Cow is an animal and if you say it is not an animal, than you do not belong to this civilization.

      • So are dogs. But you won’t eat them rt? So is pork, if u are a Muslim are you going to eat? Secondly it’s not about beef, it is specifically about killing cow for meat. If you don’t want to understand Hindu culture and just have a monochromatic view that creates a problem. They are revered like god and called mata(mother) and you are butchering them for your taste buds.

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