Media often takes up the issue of Narendra Modi not wearing a 'topi' [skullcap]. I don't think it is an issue at all.
Do you think those who oppose him would have a change of heart, if he wears the topi! Still, on TV & social media, this issue is raised time and again.
Amid conversation with Muslim friends, this topic often came up. Not a single Muslim I met, ever said that he expects or wants Modi to wear the topi.
Why should it be expected? In fact, the person who offered him topi shouldn't have done it. Citizens want the politician to be honest and work, rather than do such gestures. People on the street are more smart than journos believe them to be.
Another interesting aspect is that many people write that while Hindus are expected to wear topi, Muslims don't do anything like that? Arrey bhai, this is no secularism. Just for the sake of information, I should tell you that Muslims not just sport 'tilak' but many politicians have even done puja.
So? How many Hindu leaders perform Namaz? Is this a debate at all? Muslims remember how PV Narasimharao spoke in chaste Urdu on TV just after 'allowing' the demolition of Babri Masjid, and even promising that he would rebuild the masjid again at the same spot.
Topi is no Islamic symbol though it has become one in India. In Arab, even in mosques you don't need to cover your head, during prayers.
In India, media image of Muslims is that of a person who is wearing the skullcap. Till a few decades back, it used to be the Turkish cap.
But in India, we have a unique culture. Hindus and Muslims, despite their perceived differences, attend each others' programmes and even religious events.
Prominent persons are invited at such places, and to offer respect, the person is either offered 'headgear', made to wear 'saafa', or 'tilak' applied on forehead. This doesn't mean everything should be seen as Communal Vs Secular or Hindu Vs Muslim.
Section of media splashes the pictures to create CONTROVERSY and then seeks others' opinion to get TRP. Though this is a non-issue. When Mamata Bannerji covers her head, the photo is seen as 'interesting' and gets published. Lalu Yadav, Mulayam and even Atal Bihari Vajpayee were seen wearing topi at iftaar.
Yes, they do it too, despite all allegations of Muslims being more rigid. Do Hindus expect them to do it? No. Only a fool will call it appeasement. And no one forces them to do it either.
While passing the area, the leader feels that he should go to the temple, he goes. Nobody prevails upon the neta to do that or even bow head before God or Goddess.
I know many Muslims who have no objection getting a 'tilak' on their forehead. But some may not because they don't have Hindu friends from childhood.
Similarly, many Hindus easily go to mosque or dargah while some don't, again, because these Hindus didn't have close Muslim friends early in the life. You can't judge people over these issues. All these gestures are more about your personal feelings.
A person or politician may not resort to such gestures but at the same time he could be many times more honest and just.
In fact, those who talk about such things, probably, have never lived in the real India, and have no idea about the strength of Hindu-Muslim bonding at the ground level.
As I start thinking, I can recall many more politicians doing such acts. It is their personal choice. They often do it to respect others sentiments. It is not right to say that they are fooling us.
Don't we all remember, how Samajwadi Party MLA Chaudhary Bashir was attacked by a section of clerics for Puja at Hanuman temple in Agra.
And MUSLIM LEAGUE's leader Cherkulam Abdullah went to mutt and sported vermilion [tilak] on his head, leading to a controversy.
There is no dearth of such incidents. We are a unique society. It can't be judged from British, American or any other point of view. We are a nation of 1.2 billion persons. There will be many trivial incidents every day and at the same time there will be many great events too.
Depends, what you track, what you see, what you are shown and what you want to believe.
MORAL of the Story
Those in media who feel that Muslim with tilak is doing 'Hindu tushtikaran' or Hindu wearing topi is 'Muslim appeasement' are not too much far from those who think India is just a land of snake charmers and yogis. Or you perhaps had most interaction with the 'Other' on just social media and internet.
Check these links if you want to read more
1. Photograph of Tariq Anwar sporting the 'tilak' courtesy The Hindu
6. Atal Bihari Vajpayee's photo wearing topi. Courtesy S Arneja [Frontline]