Indian Muslim’s dilemma
Following cataclysmic events such as 9/11 and the Iraq invasion that followed, the questions facing Muslims globally face Muslims in India as well. Of course, some of these questions are justified. They are relevant from the point of view of a fast-changing world where many in a community are blamed for being static, backward-looking and atavistic.
But many of the questions being raised are also stereotypical in that they seek to straitjacket Muslims everywhere regardless of their variegated conditioning. In the process, even those Muslims who have done nothing to deserve the epithet of being backward-looking are stigmatised; the fact that they might be as normal as others in the common civic space is ignored.
Being Muslim in today’s world often means carrying a special burden of suspicion and prejudice on the one hand and social, political and religious conservatism on the other. The ordinary Muslim is caught between the increasingly stringent anti-Muslim propaganda of the West and equally strident religious fervour of the jehadi Muslims wherever they exist in the Islamic world.
Both sides are pushing ordinary Muslims towards making a clear choice between being either anti-Muslim or projehadi. However, this is not a choice every Muslim wants to make. Many Muslims want to maintain the religious identity of their birth without being part of its fringe extremist elements. To these Muslims, religion is private and truth is divisible.
After the advent of Islam in India and until the time of British conquest, Muslims were the ruling community in the subcontinent. However, through conversion and inter-marriages, Islam did not remain confined to the upper echelons of society and permeated every aspect of Indian life and culture. The British conquest resulted in a cultural upheaval among the Hindus, which was termed a renaissance in Bengal. It, however, failed to create a change in the Muslim psyche.
The Indian Muslim, in addition to this recent burden, has had to carry the baggage of the very complex process of partition and its aftermath where he is seen as a suspect by civil society.
Of course, it doesn’t help his cause that various contemporary Muslim groups subscribe to violence and advocate militant Islam one way or the other. What is more alarming is that they are finding a growing constituency of adherents and supporters. Ironically, no one can define the Islamic culture for which these Muslims are supposedly fighting.
This ideology, besides being obviously destructive and suicidal, has plenty of contradictions. It aims at destruction, carnage and upheaval in the modern world. These Muslims want to destroy the modern, civilised world, to the development of which they have contributed little while enjoying all its comforts.
However, there has never been one model of Islam even in the past and certainly not in the modern pluralistic world. It’s difficult to imagine that these militant Islamic groups are advocating a world compatible with a desert culture of 1,400 years ago. Even in those times Islam was already divided, the concomitant intrigues and hatreds leading to the murder of three caliphs out of four after Prophet Mohammad!
Thus, the entire cause of Muslim antagonism against all other groups, religious, cultural and social, might be said to be ideological confusion among various sects of Muslims and unresolved contradictions and conflicts within Muslim society from the very time of the advent of Islam. It is apparent that no exclusivist culture, especially the ‘Muslim’ culture dreamt up by Islamists, would be able to survive in the free market economy that dictates contemporary geopolitics. This economy is completely in the hands of Jews and Christians against whom Muslims have declared a war without having prepared themselves for this cultural conflict.
Besides, Muslims are also participating in and enjoying every kind of global activity and comfort — social, cultural, economic, both IT- and diaspora-driven. Thus, the quest for an exclusive Muslim society or culture with supposedly Islamic characteristics defies all logic.
The entire civilised, cultured, affluent and educated world is in the hands of those whom militant Muslims consider their enemies and they have nothing practical to offer as an alternative to the things they want to destroy.
The writer is a political commentator .