It would be outrageous if anyone fails to recognize that the unbridled, anti-Muslim bigotry has become quite widespread in our societies; that Muslims are invaders, intent on replacing the majority community of west, Europe or India for that matter has swelled up like a cloud ready to burst any moment.
A “Muslim invasion” is that sentiment which is not limited to a far-right extremist with a gun in a mosque, killing Muslim worshippers in New Zealand. It is popularised by scores of people in far more mainstream arenas and can be reflected in blatant remarks of our leaders, who know they will never be held accountable for those words. Every time some far-right populist promotes the idea that Muslims are a threat to our civilization, this feeds into a climate of hate and resentment towards Islam and Muslims generally.
The aftermath of such sedimentation of hate makes the whole community vulnerable to such attacks, like shooting in a mosque or in the form of mob lynchings. Hate is slowly creeping in the societies, caressing the years old prejudices. If you look around you would notice some of it rearing it’s ugly head once in a while; the loot at a person’s face I meet in the university when they get to know I am a Muslim, the interrogations about my faith and their complete obliviousness about it has left me perplexed beyond measures. But what shocks me more are the expectations that I must have all the answers because hey, I am a Muslim!
In conversations, I keep coming across offensive remarks like “how Islam is the root cause behind the terrorism in the world and the ISIS mentality is the hidden reality of all the Muslims”. They don’t try to even hide the disgust towards the Muslim community. If I try to give them a counter argument involving the politics of middle east they would casually shrug it off by making a comment like “the terrorist was waving the Quran”, as if thatʼs the only evidence they need to brandish the whole community of Muslims as Al Qaeda terrorist. I am talking about 23-24 years old graduates studying law.
Situations in undergrads, where the young impressionable minds come whose knowledge is restricted by the comments they read on facebook, twitter, our mainstream tv channels, the whatsapp forwards, is abysmal. What’s the problem one might ask? As far as I think the problem of any evils in society is those unchecked unaccountable comments which people make that goes unnoticed because it is so normalized by our society.
For example- in one of my moot competition on triple talaq, the judge asked the plaintiff what he wants from the court. He replied, My lord all the Muslim countries have banned the practice of triple talaq and India is a “Hindu” country why we must follow this practice? To my utter disbelief, instead of calling off on him that what gave him the idea that India is a “Hindu country’’, the judge who was a professor of law chose not to say anything as if his statements were not at all unconstitutional and an attack on the very idea of India.
This kind of utterances is pretty common in the normal discourse of India. Like this attack in New Zealand, people would deny saying that oh, this is not Islamophobia and just a lone extremist attack. I think the very same people need to give the Muslim community the same benefit of the doubt, instead of making the whole community apologize for acts done by some fanatics. Secondly, there is a need to create a safe space for Muslims to speak out without the fear of being labeled as Pakistani sympathizers. People need to understand a common Muslim of India without twisting their words and betraying their sentiments, without making them “the other”.
Citizens of this country have to go beyond and transcend these differences, giving not only the Muslim community but also, our political leaders an opportunity to confront the problem plaguing the Muslim community without fear of losing their Hindu vote banks. We need to be better than this. We need to come together as a nation which cares about everyone in its community despite sex, gender, religion, caste, color or creed. We need to build each other up and that cannot be done by demonizing the whole community of Muslims. There are no buts or binaries.
Indian society has to confront the elephant in the room. Our leaders have to bridge this gap without getting the mileage for further dividing the communities. Every time we deny the threat of anti-Muslim bigotry or underestimate the extent of Islamophobia, we encourage those in our society who seek to whip up hatred against Muslim communities. As the glue that binds the Hindu-Muslim community is not the chest-thumping patriotism espoused by a monopolist of nationalist forces, it is an acknowledgment of each other’s faith and sheer force of a culture that has been shared since the past thousand years.
21st century India has to draw inspiration from the 13th-century Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb that reflects in Khusrao’s eloquence over Krishna’s Ras Leela. It needs to tell a different tale. An inclusive tale where a Muslim reads Mahabharata and a Hindu is more comfortable with Islamic lore than their own. We have shut ourselves up in our secluded poultry pens and spend all our time hating each other. The culture had to be the first casualty, as seen in the demise of Urdu which was a product of our Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb.
The democracy in India is on a life-support system. We are not only witnessing the death of a language but the passing away of a way of life, the slow demise of a synthesis of culture and corrosion of that glue which binds India’s diverse communities together. India needs to step up and act fast before it falls prey to the monstrosity which is rearing in its womb. I pray that sanity prevails in India before it falls prey to a fate worse than that of New Zealand.