ails Indian Muslims? Negativism (Comment)
Syed Ubaidur Rahman
Indian Muslims are making waves. A.R. Rahman, Ustad Zakir
Hussain, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and Sania Mirza are winning
kudos for themselves and their country. There are scores of
other Indian Muslim achievers. The Pathan brothers came from
a muezzin's home who did not have the means to even get a
pair of shoes for such brilliant kids.
Another Indian Muslim, Azim Premji, is set to rub shoulders
with US President Barack Obama. And Shah Rukh Khan, the king
of Bollywood, was the first Indian to be invited to the Golden
Globes to present an award.
But if you happen to be an Indian Muslim reading Urdu newspapers,
you may never be able to realise these success stories. What
you will read day after day will be traumatic memories of
some riots in Gujarat or a Batla House incident in Delhi or
discrimination against Muslims in some obscure corner of the
Almost three months after the Batla House shooting involving
suspected terrorists, an Urdu newspaper with around a dozen
supplements ran a full-page report on what happened there
and also imagined conspiracy theories behind the Mumbai terrorist
attacks. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories have become a
part of the Muslim psyche in India.
With such depressing news unleashed on unassuming minds of
the community, Muslims have become pessimistic to say the
least. Almost all Urdu papers and the community media churn
out similar news with impunity.
After the Batla House incident, the Muslim community acted
as if it was orphaned. They behaved as if it was the end of
the road for them. Many felt that way and even worse after
the 2002 Gujarat riots, the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and
earlier violence elsewhere.
But Muslim leaders and clergy that continue to have a stranglehold
on the community have neither tried to fight the pessimism
among their people nor tried to do something that can give
hope to Muslim youth. On the other hand, they have tried to
push negativism deeper in the Muslim psyche by carelessly
railing against the Indian government and Hindu groups. They
have tried to put the blame for Muslim backwardness on successive
governments and divisive politics of the Sangh Parivar, avoding
questions about their own contribution to the community.
The notion is not without basis. Governments over the years
have largely neglected Muslims. The Sangh Parivar's hate campaign
has also contributed to alienating them.
But the major blame for the Indian Muslim's psychological
alienation and backwardness must lie with their leaders and
clergy for whom good news is not good enough to take them
to their people. Bad news is good propaganda tool. Bad news
gives them reasons to perpetuate their negative mentality.
They would talk about lack of literacy and lack of job opportunities
among Muslims but not about how that literacy level among
Muslims in seven states including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand
and Chhattisgarh is more than that of other communities. They
will talk about discrimination against Muslims but never say
a word about how Khorakiwallas, Premjis, Hamid Sheikhs, Allanas
and thousands of other Muslims have made a mark in their fields.
Achievers in the eyes of clergy and community leaders are
Indian Muslims need new age leaders to guide the community,
leaders who are not educated in madrassas that teach syllabus
prepared over 700 years ago, without little or no exposure
to modern educational or scientific developments. They need
leaders from grassroots level, not from religious families.
I hope the community gets such leaders pretty soon.
(Syed Ubaidur Rahman is the editor of Khabrein.Info. He is
based in New Delhi.)
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