DISCLAIMER: As a follower of Islam, (knowing the fact that I am Indian does not bother many fellow Indians), I, in my conscious state, am fully aware of the fact that I have to prove my Indianness repeatedly, throughout the article; lest I am misinterpreted for speaking candidly or perhaps, get too carried away with disguised pain of Islamophobia, and forget to express love for my country. Kindly forgive me…
The recent developments around National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that have gripped the nation, do not solely motivate me to write about what it is to be like a Muslim.
After all, the very hidden spirit of the bills; ‘Islamophobia’ has existed ever since the 9/11 attacks in the US. And probably, that marked the genesis of custom for all Muslims to show their love for their country, out of duty, rather than with genuineness, whichever country they belonged to. Obviously, this does not apply to countries where Islam is the official religion. However, this is compensated by issues of existential crisis, which, I believe, are worse than death.
There are many reasons to write and first and foremost is, that I am an Indian and… a Muslim.
Well, the toughest part for most of our non-Muslim friends, and people around us, has been figuring out the pronunciation of our names! After all, Persian and Arabic languages have peculiar syllables and pronunciations, which makes it a daunting experience for some. But believe me, deep down, we loved some of the strangest renditions of our names!
You guys waiting impatiently for our lip-smacking delicacies on Eid always gave us a sense of inclusiveness, and never did we feel any different, when we burst Diwali crackers together and lighted the Diyas together!
And the list goes on…
Though our numbers are minuscule in the mainstream; be it workplaces, colleges and universities, cinemas or theatres, but, never once did you let us feel different just because of our faith. To be frank, it never felt any different. Our love for the same land and love for each other, irrespective of the differences, made everything beautiful.
Any terrorist attack by the ISIS perturbed us deeply. After all, we condemn killings against humanity, and Islam prohibits killing any human being in the name of religion, whatever be his/her faith and instructs us to be kind and gentle to everyone.
With time, Islamophobia rose in the mainstream foreign media, be it US, UK, France, Australia, China and many more. But you all knew that ISIS was a false ambassador of Islam and no religion, whatsoever, supports violence and murder. Though not all of you felt this, and we understand that. We are sorry we didn’t condemn it publicly every time they did it. But our condemnations are always there at a personal level.
I know the taqiyahs, burqas and hijabs sometimes scared you or made you see us with suspicion. All thanks to cliched Bollywood films, which always stereotyped us as traitors and terrorists. But you also know that isn’t true, and, that we are not Pakistanis.
As a young Indian, I always take pride in being one, because unlike other countries, which treated most Muslims with hate and misunderstood their ideologies, India never resorted to Islamophobia or accused us of things we never committed.
This is what makes India beautifully different. Everyone was equal before law, and perpetrators were punished not on the basis of faith, but by their level of wrongdoing. People never judged on the basis of eating habits and respected each other for their practices, opinions and beliefs. Though this sometimes triggered unrest and fights, all this never took an ugly turn in the form of lynchings, after all, there can’t be any Utopian society!
The blood and sweat of our forefathers gave us this very nation, India. The very idea of India was based on the idea of ‘unity in diversity’ which Gandhiji and other leaders envisioned. The very formation of Pakistan was and has been a mirror of the challenge that Jinnah put forth, and that was if Muslims could live peacefully in India, with their existence never threatened. And we emerged victorious, though with a set of ups and downs. The Constitution of India lives by a very fragile thread of secularism and the Preamble as follows.
However, recent developments have only made things worse for us, as Muslims. Our existence questioned and ignored at the same time, we were never made so conscious about our religion or our status as a minority, before 2014. We have been made to question things, which don’t make sense in the present scenario; when on the other hand, we have more pressing issues to look into.
We must identify this as an attempt to attack the sanctity of the Constitution and deviation from issues, whose resolution will uplift the country in the real sense. The real motive of the government has to be identified and stopped before matters go out of hand and all of us become hypnotised with fascist ideologies. We have seen even bloodshed in the name of religion 72 years back, that divided landmasses efficiently, and all of us have come to terms to it.
We, as Muslims, expect you all to support us, and all the students of various colleges, who are on their journey of bringing down the unconstitutional, draconian Act, which threatens the very existence of our identity.
India is ours as much as yours. Our forefathers drained their blood and fought selflessly for a free India, irrespective of caste, creed and religion; that is now going out of our hands. The spirit of secularism that beautifies our country and is the envy of many, is now rusting before our very eyes and needs to be saved before it crumbles. Let us not fall trap to the ideology of one religion-one nation and preserve the very edifice of what India rests on – Diversity!
Let’s not divide ourselves as Muslims and Hindus but, as good and bad persons; the very principle of humanity.