Saturday, August 01, 2020

Muslims ahead on nutrition, health indicators: Status of women, dietary discrimination in other communities

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Firstly, this post is not for those who've no interaction with Muslims but have preconceived notions about the community and without statistics or any report, generalize, branding entire community as backward.
This is about the fact that in Muslim households, girls are valued much more, comparatively, and this is evident, statistically, also.
Even when female foeticide was rampant in North India, this was not a major problem in Muslim society.
In households, you often hear, 'Hamare huzoor ki nasl bhi unki beti se chali'. Many people don't understand that at ground level, even among the poorest of poor, this slight difference in attitude due to religion, plays a major role.
This is to highlight how certain religious teachings, sayings about women's status, have impact. Those working in social sector sector for years, knew difference but said, 'ya, they [Muslims] have less of this problem among women' (or in malnutrition too) but won't tell more.
There are big regions where Muslims don't have much land holdings, less than even 1% in govt jobs, yet, on these indicators like nutrition among girls, doing much better & despite less affluence, attitudes towards girl child-daughters, different-visible. Problem is sweeping generalization, false narrative.
Either it was about dietary discrimination or birth of girl child, these social evils were prevalent more in other communities. But nobody termed them as 'backward'. Backwardness is in social evils, attitudes. Being less affluent is not being backward. Open mind, shun prejudices.
It's not that we don't know or won't focus on our own shortcomings, we do and we must make an effort to get rid of social evils, try to improve. If on one indicator, we are doing well, we must try to do even more better in coming years. But branding & falsehood will be tackled.
It's not that you have a sex ratio of 850 in a region but still remain 'forward' or that women-girls in your community are more stunted, anaemic and malnourished, but you continue to term others as backward just because of your power to brand others and use majoritarian privilege to brand the 'other'.
This blog has a series of posts on this issue. Also, regarding backwardness, the false narrative that is shaped and how propaganda is used as a means to brand an entire community. More on this topic, with statistics would be posted, soon.
It is interesting that if you ask journalists on social sector beat, why they don't give religion-wise figures on these indicators, they quickly say, 'oh ya, we never thought about it'. Nobody else will tell your story, you need to tell it, claim your voice.
Else, even if community doing well, the report will be published with a classification among Muslims, OBCs, Dalits and Tribals, not as Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jain, Buddhist--and you won't even know your own progress. Either it is NHFS or similar reports, keep an eye, read, write and tell. This series about the 'backwardness narrative' will continue and figures will be shared in coming posts.
Photo courtesy: Mr Joy Deb, Pexels