“Just because the oppressor is bad, doesn’t mean that the oppressed is good,” said Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in a lecture on the title ‘What Is It To Translate?’ in the M.A. Ansari Auditorium, Jamia Millia Islamia, as she discussed the problems that subalterns face.
This statement, despite all the things she said, stuck with me for days. I scrounged more and more into the statement and finally came to the conclusion that all the world’s politics is about the minority and the majority, the powerful and the powerless. I applied this newly-brewed philosophy of mine in today’s scenario: the growing Islamophobia and the regressive Islamism.
In 2017, two people were brutally lynched by religious goons, partly because of their profession and partly because of their religion. One was Mashal Khan, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University (Mardan, Pakistan) and the other, Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Nuh District (Haryana, India). Mashal Khan criticized Islamic norms and evils in his Facebook posts, while Pehlu Khan was carrying cows in his vehicle, a brutal crime according to right-wing goons. They were lynched in broad daylight and became captives of two opposite trajectories.
When Iranian women protested by removing their headscarves against Hijab laws in the Islamic Republic, it was ridiculed by many Hijabi feminists from other countries, where they enjoy every bit of freedom. The inherent beliefs of Muslims have become a new obstacle for the community itself: the sense of otherization for non-Muslims, the constant negligence to the non-practising Muslims within the community, the growing Homophobia, the purdah system through the act of imposition are just some examples, to name a few.
In India, the lack of good and sound Muslim leaders is painstaking for the community itself, for its primary concern is only their religion, while they ignore all the secular and progressive prospects of life. One can easily witness a Mullah or an Imam representing Muslims in any debate of socio-political issues on news channels.
B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution, had rightly put with his sheer scrutiny the fate of Muslims in a socio-political sphere. He wrote:
“There is thus a stagnation, not only in the social life but also in the political life of the Muslim community of India. The Muslims have no interest in politics as such. Their predominant interest is religion. This can be easily seen by the terms and conditions that a Muslim constituency makes for its support to a candidate fighting for a seat. The Muslim constituency does not care to examine the programme of the candidate. All that the constituency wants from the candidate is that he should agree to replace the old lamps of the masjid by supplying new ones at his cost, to provide a new carpet for the masjid because the old one is torn, or to repair the masjid because it has become dilapidated.”
The stagnancy among Muslims is very much a morbid, grotesque issue that the modern world is witnessing, and the only way to correct it is from the inside.
It is equally important to challenge regressive beliefs of a community as it is to fight against the growing phobia for the same community. Unfortunately, Indian Liberals have failed to see that spectrum in most of the cases and put Muslims into a sphere of victimization. We should stop making Muslims a monolith of victims, and scrutinize the fallacies within the community. A modern Muslim is bound to be a victim of an Islamic institution as much as he is bound to be a victim of growing Islamophobia.
Our objectives should not be confused, our vision should not be blurred. It is equally important to protest against triple talaq, bigotry, hijab by coercion as it is to protest against lynchings of Muslims, and the growing hatred that surrounds them.
The only way to uplift the community, to fight against the growing phobia, is to work within the community and eliminate the regressiveness, superstitions, and theocratic supremacy.
The next time when we stand for our Muslim brothers, we should check if they are not the victims of their own community too. And if we fail to do so, we fail to be the thinking individuals of the society, and we are crippled by “appeasement” politics that the parties have been playing for decades. The fight is in-and-out, and not an easy one.