Indian Muslims since 1947 have faced a continuous onslaught on the community, which have increased in recent times, but the way forward has to be found by the community itself
IT seems as if the Indian Muslims are under a collective siege from the external as well as internal forces and pressures. External pressure is being applied from the outside to weaken it psychologically, lessen the morale of its followers and instead of allowing them to focus their energies on the community’s and country’s progress, they are thrown challenges continuously, to counter which a lot of energy and resources of the community are ill spent.
However, it would be better if the Muslim community instead of turning the issues into an existential one, introspects and analyse the factors which are responsible for the community’s current fate and dilemmas faced by it. The strategy to tackle the issues should be a multi-pronged one, with clear and identifiable inputs, ensuring maximum tangible outcomes. The problems faced by Indian Muslims are social, political, economic and religious, thus the strategy to handle them should be a multi-pronged one.
The political developments during the last five years, and in particular since last May ‘19 in India, have forced almost all Muslims, community’s intellectuals, sympathisers, leaders and well-wishers to turn into a pessimist. They brood on many recent political developments and reaction of the Muslim religious and community leaders to the issues. However, this brooding is not accompanied by any affirmative action by them. This pessimist attitude and a feeling of despondency do not bode well for the community. Instead, what is needed at the moment is neither self-pity nor brooding, but to self-introspect sincerely. Identify and analyse the issues, which afflict the community, and seek out pragmatic solutions, which may bode well for the community and the country, both.
The answer to most of the ills faced by the community lies in introspection and analysing the issues, which have held the community despondent and backward so far, in depth and with sincerity. The first step should be to prioritise the issues. Altruistically speaking, first, the community should try to present a unified image, not fraught by sectional differences.
Issues faced by Muslims
A movement should be started within the community to eschew its sectional and denominational divide, by its religious leaders. Others see the Muslims as a monolith community, not a faction ridden one. So, if we are seen as one, then we should act as one. This is easier said than done and would require a lot of efforts and tolerance amongst our clerics and their followers.
Secondly, the community should adopt a proactive approach not a reactionary one to handle issues at hand. At the political level, people who do not represent the community sincerely should not be promoted and tolerated as representing the community. Only sincere, committed and result-oriented individuals should be allowed to be part of the decision-making and delivery mechanism process on behalf of 14 million Muslims.
Thirdly, it should try to forge sustainable links with other minorities in the country like Parsis, Sikhs and Christians. It should try to learn from these minorities, as to how they have fared well in educational, social and economic sectors, utilising their community’s resources and guidance by their leaders. This collaboration will also help further the principles of tolerance and coexistence.
Fourthly, Muslims should engage in sincere self-introspection and try to reform the community of customs and practices, which are detrimental to the growth of the community as a whole, besides being un-Islamic, such as curbing wasteful expenditure on marriages and other religious functions. They’ll have to focus more on image building of the community by promoting cleanliness and education, two issues that have been stressed again and again in the Holy Quran.
And lastly, the message to change the community’s psyche and approach on issues facing it should be conveyed in a logical and easily understandable format to all, by a committee of elders representing all the factions and schools of thought of the community besides the political and social activists.
At the political front, Muslims should adopt a multi-dimensional strategy, strengthening the secular and democratic forces of the country, assured of the support of 63% secular and right thinking population of India.
Key to Emancipation
As far as being an active player in the county’s political process is concerned, we should nurture and motivate our youngsters to involve themselves in the political activities, shoulder to shoulder with the secular forces. We seldom engage with our political representatives constructively. We should try to form a proactive relationship with the politicians, to ensure that besides raising our grievances with our representatives we are seen as part of the team, which delivers the results on their behalf in their constituency. We’ll have to build a committed cohort of leaders, who reflect the true aspirations of the community besides striving to empower it both educationally and politically.
A key factor identified for the plight of the community is the lack of education amongst Muslims. In reality, during the last 25 years or so the educational consciousness amongst Muslims has increased and the community is much more educated than previously. However, we still have to focus our energies on and plan for educating the children at the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder. We need to strengthen our schools and colleges at village and district level, ensure delivery of quality education to all sections of the community, besides a zero dropout rate. This will need coordinated efforts and counselling, both. For this to be achieved, instead of looking up to the government, we should initiate our own efforts.
It’s a fact that Muslims have a school and college in every city and town of India. But most of them are not equipped to the modern standards or don’t have the faculty which could ensure delivery of quality education. The need is to chart out a comprehensive plan for making these institutes functional and productive. This could be achieved through an all-India umbrella body, which should be tasked to ensure how to impart quality education to all at the lowest cost through available infrastructure.
During the last 25 years or so, a number of educational and social organisations managed by Muslims have sprung-up in every nook and corner of the country. But in reality, most of these initiatives are confined to individual self-promotion and lack enough professional attitude and commitment to perform and deliver. The task should be to bring all such organisations at a common platform, and pooling their human and financial resources, hammer out a deliverable strategy which is in tune with the current demands and aspirations of the people and which fulfil the community’s and society’s needs pragmatically.
Besides education, the proposed all-India body should also represent the Muslims at every conceivable charity work, whether be it a natural calamity or supporting the government’s various social drives or feeding the poor or providing care to the ailing. We need to emerge as a community, which should be seen at the forefront of every welfare event, helping out shoulder to shoulder with our brethren.
Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He was also associated with BBC Urdu Service and Khaleej Times of Dubai. He writes on Muslims, educational, international affairs, interfaith and current affairs.
This article was originally published on Kashmir Observer. Views in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect CGS policy.