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Monday, August 13, 2012

Excessive Emotions: Indian Muslims must exercise restraint, shun needless passion

B'desh, Malaysia, Indonesia are Muslim nations near Burma
Two recent incidents that include protest over 'discovering' the Akbarabadi Mosque in Delhi, and then the agitation at Azad Maidan in Mumbai which turned violent, must serve as wake up call for all Indian Muslims.

I'll come back to them but just a recall: In the late 70s and even up to early 80s, Urdu newspapers like Nida-e-Millat and Nasheman, in India would spend tonnes of ink on the plight of Palestinians, perennially.

This was not just an interest but an obsession. With the decline of Urdu press for a phase in eighties, there was a marked decline in Indian Muslims' interest towards the faraway territory.

It was the era when Muslim here faced the heat due to Ayodhya movement. Thereon, either it was Babri Masjid demolition or major communal riots, we never heard any foreign Muslim country or people in other lands, shedding tears for Indian Muslims or issuing any statement for them. Was there any strong voice over Gujarat from a foreign power?

There was no need either for any outsider to speak for us. We are a democratic country. Like most nations and societies, we will have our issues, and then we will sort them out ourselves. There is no need for  intervention. Mostly our Hindu brethren are fighting the cases for justice with minorities.

Still, whenever there is an issue in a faraway country, Indian Muslims are the first to hit streets. Of course, not when Muslims kill Muslims in an African country, or when Ahmadiyyas or [even Shias] are blown to pieces in supposedly 'Muslim nations' on a regular basis.

Some of us unfortunately might look at Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries as model states, despite the fact that they are monarchies. Despite, their rigid and regressive attitudes when it comes to treating women, minorities and even Muslim settlers from other countries, who are not given equal treatment or citizenship and kept below par with even American and other white races.

The Akbarabadi mosque in Delhi
Yes, Arab countries have their laws, we have our laws. Have you ever seen Arab Sheikhs protesting killing of Muslims in Myanmar or their citizens.

Do the Arab people have the right to protest. And if they don't have it or even if they have it, do they intend to do it.

From Egypt to Lebanon, Iran to Turkey and Kazakhstan to Bosnia, which Muslim country saw such huge numbers pouring out on streets to protest the killings?

Frankly, we have the right to protest and we are perhaps misusing it. We don't join other communities to protest for injustice on others, but our blood boils when we hear or see images of attacks on Muslims.

Don't we realise that the world looks at it, as a case of Muslims just thinking about themselves and none else. Wouldn't it be better if we submitted memorandums, met MPs, wrote to President and Prime Minister, to apprise authorities in Myanmar about our sentiments, rather than creating road blockades and fiery speeches. Already online campaigns were on.

Our heart must bleed for everyone who is facing injustice, not just for Muslims. For a moment, it can be accepted that till a few years ago, other communities didn't have much presence in countries outside India and failed to understand this excessive show of solidarity by Muslims for events outside.

Now with growing diaspora, Indian Hindus and Sikhs also begin to feel for attack on co-religionists outside. However, the catch lies in the fact that there are no Hindu and Sikh nations apart from India. While we can surely be unhappy with what is happening in Myanmar, we must understand the realities.

What Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country is doing? This country amended its secular constitution and became a supposedly Islamic country, and it closes border on Rohingyas, it forcibly sends them back and doesn't hold serious talks with Myanmar regime over this issue.

They did the same with fellow Urdu speaking Biharis for decades. These lakhs of Biharis remained in camps and both Pakistan and Bangladesh avoid taking the responsibility. Only recently did Bangladesh accepted them and gave them citizenship.

Don't expect permission for protests easily now
Forget Gulf countries, what about Malaysia, another Muslim majority country, close to Myanmar.

It is also an economic force and just a bit far away is Indonesia. What these governments are doing? If Indian Muslims want to the feel pain of Rohingyas, it's okay.

But holding demonstrations of such size, that can go out of control, what message we want to send. We are further harming our own image in this country.

Rather than taking proper routes or legal ways, we always go for rhetoric and streets, which turns counter-productive and hurts our image even more. It is not that you shouldn't be concerned, but head must prevail our heart.

On the issue of ethnic cleansing in Burma, for the last month, we have seen demonstrations not just in capitals, but districts, even towns and at smaller places. Why? In cities, where twenty people aren't seen ready to join a delegation over a matter of genuine concern or the issue of delay in recognition to a school in minority dominated area, 2,000 easily come for such a gathering or protest. Isn't that amazing?

It tells a great deal about the emotions which the Indian Muslims seem to have in excess. Its better to use and channelize this energy elsewhere. Either it's the issue of Akbarabadi mosque in Delhi,  for which passions were whipped up by an MLA or the Burma issue, our priorities are misplaced.

Isn't it a better idea to have funds collected for victims of violence in Assam, both the Bodo victims as well as Muslims, rather than giving advertisements in papers and then heading for rallies! In Akbarabadi mosque case, the issue was handled in such a way that now it could cause severe embarrassment to community.

Just a few decades back, a senseless emotional movement over a frail old woman, had turned Muslims into villains in this country. The Shah Bano case had strengthened right-wing forces, led to rise of BJP, destruction of Babri Masjid, and the entry of the word 'appeasement' in Indian political dictionary.

Despite going through so much, the Muslim leaders seem to have learnt nothing. Either it's Akbarabadi Masjid issue in Delhi, for which later FIRs were registered, or the Azad Maidan protest, where Muslim youths ultimately died, one sees misplaced priorities and 'josh' prevailing over 'hosh' that only harm us.

Read this post on similar issues that were posted on the blog earlier:

Indian Muslims must avoid street protests: Ten lessons to be learnt from Jalna incident