From the very moment it became clear that the terrorists who attacked India recently in Mumbai were Pakistanis, Indian Muslim anger against Pakistan and the godfathers of terror in that county has been expressing itself in a variety of ways. They are particularly angry that these marauders have been maligning the fair name of Islam and its image as a religion of peace. They seem to instinctively understand that Indian Muslims’ peaceful co-existence and continued integration in the national mainstream is not in the interest of Pakistan’s permanent establishment. It negates the Two-Nation Theory on which their country is ideologically based. They keep trying - and, fortunately for us, failing - to instigate communal violence on any pretext that may become available to them. They did that in the aftermath of Bombay riots in 1993. Dawood Ibrahim-organised serial blasts took 250 civilian lives and caused 700 injuries alongside massive economic disruption but India refused to fall in the Pakistani trap. Our country is displaying the same commitment to secularism now and thanks God for that.
Muslims recognise the reasons behind Pakistani desperation to attack our secularism, our tolerance and national cohesion, our growing prosperity. India presents a complete contrast to their divided house, virtually every ethnic community seeking to secede, every sect bent upon destroying every other sect, killing its members in as large numbers as possible. Only the day before yesterday a Sunni suicide-bomber killed 20 Shias in a mosque in an event that has become routine in that country. Hence the Mumbai Muslims’ refusal to bury the Pakistani dead in their graveyards, refusal to mourn the loss of Babri Masjid on December 6 this year, which has become an annual event, a sort of another Muharram since 1992. Muslim fury at a clear Pakistani attempt to foment wider violence against them resulted in their participation in large numbers in fellow-citizen’s efforts to show solidarity with the families of those who had died in the latest invasion of our territory – 40 out of 172 killed were Muslims – and condemn the barbaric atrocities while paying homage to those brave policemen and commandos who laid down their lives in the service of nation.
But as we open the Urdu newspapers on 6 th of December, we find the editorial pages recycling the same material they keep doing every year on this Moharram II day, the same bemoaning of the “shahadat”(martyrdom) of the Babri mosque, without explaining how can bricks and mortar become “shaheed”- will they go to Jannat, one naturally wonders. You won’t find any of these newspapers ever bemoaning the “shahadat” in Saudi Arabia of Islam’s holiest shrines and greatest heritage buildings, that were living proofs of the historicity of many events in Islam’s and Prophet Mohammad’s life (PBUH).
Then you find Rashtriya Sahara reproducing historian Amareesh Mishra’s conspiracy theories about Mumbai terror being the work of Israeli and Hindu Zionists’ handiwork. You open your mailbox and find several Muslims enthusiastically lapping up Mishraji’s theories and circulating them. Just sample one sentence of what a widely-circulated e-mail by convenor of the Mumbai-based Muslim Intellectual Forum, Firoze Mithiborwala, reads: “As far as the terrorists who attacked Mumbai are concerned, they are in all likelihood… controlled by the American CIA, the Pakistani ISI and the Israeli MOSSAD.”
As Zulkif Manzoor, a Ramanujan Fellow at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore has been quoted in The Hindustan Times as saying: “Such poisoned opinion has only helped to strengthen prejudices (against Muslims).” Clearly our intellectuals are forgetting that Amareesh Mishra is a Kanyakubaja Brahmin and can say what he will, but we can’t, not at this time.
Now does this mean that we are second class citizens; we don’t have the same rights as Brahmins or others? No it doesn’t mean that at all. We are and have been free to express ourselves in whatever way we will; our newspapers have been spreading venom for long - part of the reason why we have alienated ourselves to a certain extent from some sections of society and also injected cynicism in the minds of some of our youth. Mercifully, not many non-Muslims read Urdu newspapers. More mercy, not many of our own youth read Urdu newspapers either; that would have poisoned their minds beyond redemption perhaps.
We have been free and have misused our freedom to the hilt. What is different this time then? Well, as theatre personality Amir Reza Khan explained in a NDTV discussion, right now WE ARE AT WAR. And this war has been declared by a country inhabited by fellow-Muslims and not only in our name but also in the name of our religion. They have been posing as saviours of Indian Muslims and practitioners of Islam. Rules of the game are different in a war. We do, therefore, need to wear on our sleeves not only our patriotism but also a few verses of the Holy Quran preaching peace and opposing violence. As actor Shah Rukh Khan pointed out in his interview with Barkha Dutt on NDTV, it is not only Muslims in India, but all over the world who are being called upon to explain that Islam is not a religion of violence.
To those who love to spread conspiracy theories here is one that is more grounded in reality and common sense. Backed by US Imperialism, Christian crusaders and Israeli Zionism, Saudi Arabia has for decades been damaging Islam, not only destroying Islam’s heritage buildings, but also spending billions of dollars to spreading a view of Islam that says that Muslims should not only kill all non-Muslims but also those Muslims who do not believe in this murderous version of Islam. Like the known enemies of Islam from the time of the first crusades, this Saudi Islam believes that Islam spread with the power of the sword that the Prophet and his successors wielded. Now use your imagination and you can easily surmise what the Crusader, Zionist game is in protecting the Saudi regime and promoting Saudi Islam, even after 9/11, while they destroyed the only bastion of secular and tolerant Islam in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on a manifestly false pretext, and turned it into a Saudi or Iranian version of sectarian and intolerant Islam.
Fortunately the common Muslim understands the need of the hour that some of our intellectuals and journalists do not. I would appeal to Muslims to continue to walk the extra mile in condemning the Mumbai attacks and distancing themselves and their religion from Osama bin Laden’s or Hafiz Saeed’s version of Islam that has spawned Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and similar scourges.
Sultan Shahin, editor, NewAgeIslam.com