MUSLIM EXISTENCE AT TWO LEVELS: M YUSUF KHAN (Previously published in The Pioneer)

An Indian Muslim lives on two levels. One is when he is on his own turf interacting with his fraternity. He is unguarded and expresses freely his sense of grief about the discrimination he encounters, about the way his loyalty to his country is questioned, about the way his religion is perceived and projected.

The other is when he is all too charming interacting with the members of the other communities. He considers himself to be the ambassador of his faith, trying conscientiously to create the right impression with a sense of guilt lingering somewhere at the back of his mind. Is it the guilt of Partition of the country or of the years of Muslim rule, which has been imposed on him? Or is it the minority syndrome to live on two levels at the same time, trying hard to strike a balance to be accepted by society?

It is a complex situation that he has to grapple with. Indian Muslims have come a long way trying to forget the traumatic division of the country. Yet the feeling of vulnerability has never left them entirely. It is a negative emotion and they do not cherish it. But whenever they have lulled themselves into believing that things are normal, shrill communal voices of a few jolt and alarm them.

Time and again they are blamed for not joining the mainstream. How can they be part of the mainstream, if there is one, when they are in real fear of losing their identity - the only prized possession they have? What is this business of being in the mainstream? Be a partner in the progress? Have a fair share of the cake? Is this possible given the neglect they have suffered? They feel they have never been treated fairly. They should have been helped to overcome their insecurity instead of being subjected to alienation so often. That drove them further into their corner. They needed a messiah. But there was none. They were let down by their own leaders. They were easily exploited, as reason had long given way to the all-powerful emotions.

Muslims feel hurt and disillusioned when they are accused of being "appeased" buy a certain political party. If they were appeased and pampered they would not be in the squalor they are in. The appeasement would show in their lifestyle, in their living conditions and their education. They are trailing on all fronts. Their identity crisis is accentuated whenever there is a talk of a common civil code. Why can't they be left alone to conduct their affairs within the bounds of their faith which, doesn't interfere with the national interest?

The only concern is shown to the community in the matter of the law governing divorce and alimony. As if by changing these all other ills plaguing the community will disappear setting them on the path of progress. The core issues like education, equal opportunity and discrimination are never mentioned. A Muslim does not live on two levels by choice. It is the discrimination he is subjected that make him behave the way he does. Be it SIMI or Madarsas, he is convinced they are targeted because they have something to do with the Muslims. He would like to know why Bajrang dal and VHP activists who indulge in all kind of activities are never banned.

The Madarsas have been bearing the onslaught of the media and some political parties relentlessly for being the breeding ground of terrorism. Yet not a single criminal case has been filed against anyone of them, but the vilification goes on. If only Muslims could afford better schools the number of Madarsas will automatically come down. Muslims do not need the crutches of job reservations, as some of their leaders have been demanding. It will further divide the society and alienate them. They will also be accused of being appeased. Instead most positive thinking Muslims will like better educational opportunities and facilities. They realise that ultimately it is the judicious mix of religious studies and the quality of modern, contemporary education, which will bring real progress.

The community leaders before blaming the Government would do better to do some introspection to see what has been their contribution to the community in terms of education and direction.









Web graphics and design by Smita Maitra