By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
The disconnect is almost total. The police and the national media say one thing. The Muslim Press something entirely different. The national media is rejoicing that the culprits of terror bombings in Delhi, Rajasthan and Bombay have been caught and some killed in an encounter at Batla House in Delhi. Naturally if this is so it is a moment of joy; tinged with sorrow, of course, for the innocent victims of senseless terrorist attacks. But a moment of joy nevertheless, as there will be no more terrorist bombings and blasts taking lives and limbs of innocent people any more.
But the Muslim intelligentsia and Press don’t share this joy. Those caught and killed were Muslim. It is simply impossible for Muslims, practitioners of this great religion of peace, to have been involved in such dastardly acts. The police and the government are out to get our educated youth who are on an upward trajectory, seeking to make something of their lives. This reasoning is being proffered again and again throughout the Muslim Press, in different words and different idioms and different styles, but the story line is the same. The encounter was fake. The celebrated police officer killed was shot from behind, hence by other policemen themselves and not in a genuine encounter. The police story is entirely concocted, the media too is fabricating new stories everyday and they are all out to get us.
Now the police versions have proved wrong and fabricated on many occasions. The national media too, in its race for TRP ratings or circulation, doesn’t care too much for finding out the truth before putting it out. Alleged terrorists and killers are just terrorists and killers, even if they be fathers of murdered daughters, in the new milieu in which our media functions. So treating police-version-based media stories with a bucketful of salt is in order. No one is a terrorist or murderer until proven guilty in a court of law or indeed courts of law as there are superior courts too which sometimes overturn judgments of lower courts. Even in advanced countries of the West with better judicial and investigative systems, people have been found to be innocent, not only after convictions, but also after death sentences have already been carried out. So scepticism is in order and healthy.
But in the case of Indian Muslim intelligentsia and Press, one detects something more than simple, healthy scepticism. It is a state of total denial. One would have thought that with the world media in the last several years saturated with stories of Muslim brutality, of how Muslims are at each others’ and everybody else’s throats nearly everywhere in the world, particularly in the Muslim world, we would have become inured to the idea of Muslims being capable to extreme and senseless violence. But no, we are just victims; the world is out to get us.
We have even forgotten out history. We killed even the best of our Khalifas (successors to Prophet Mohammad PBUH), called Khulafa-e-Rashedeen. Then not long after the Prophet’s death, we killed his grand children and every member of their families, while torturing them with hunger and thirst first, and of course we continued to call ourselves Muslim and great believers in the religion that had been revealed by God to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Indeed half the world called the killers of Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) children Mohammedans until recently. Are we all killers of Prophet Mohammad’s family members? Yes, indeed, as long as we revere their killers, who were scions of the biggest enemies of Islam and the Prophet, and continue to accept their children and grand children as legitimate Khalifas. Indeed we not only killed prophet’s family but also allowed his system of complete equality of all human beings to be subverted. We accepted not only his killer to become his khalifa but also allowed him to set up a dynasty in compete violation of Islam’s basic rule of complete equality of all human beings and a rule by consultation (in short and in modern terminology, democracy). We also allowed the monarchy thus created to create a new institution of clergy, Mullahs and Maulanas, who then fabricated a lot of so-called Ahadees (plural of Hadees, Sayings of the Prophet), as they were unable to bring about changes in the Holy Quran to justify their un-Islamic rule over a so-called Muslim people.
Why is the narration of all this history relevant today? Well, it shows we are capable of total self-delusion. Most of us genuinely believe we are Muslims, while following the religious system created by the inveterate enemies of Islam. All the enemies of Islam joined Islam after Muslim victory over Mecca, following the age-old theory, ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. For once, the Prophet’s insight and intuition failed him. Unable to foresee what was going to be the consequence for Islam and for his own family, he forgave them and let them join the fold of Islam and become equal members of the Muslim society. As a prophet charged with the spreading of Islam he could have hardly refused to take them in his fold. But he could have easily got rid of them by punishing them as war criminals. These people had committed horrendous war crimes, something that is just not acceptable to Islam. They had even mutilated dead bodies of people very close and dear to the Prophet himself. What prophet did was perhaps the greatest act of generosity and forgiveness that history has seen. But the result has been disastrous for Islam. We Muslims have been following a religious system created by inveterate enemies of Islam, in the name of Islam.
This has made us capable of the greatest self-delusion. This attitude permeates all that we do or think. We just won’t accept facts. In the present case it is a fact that a section of Indian Muslims has for quite some time been radicalised enough to want to create an Islamic Khilafat in India and the world. This started, of course, with Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, the founder-ideologue of Jamaat-e-Islami. So this madness has been going on for over half a century. It first infected mostly elderly people but has now travelled down to the young, largely following the fashion in the West and financed by Wahhabi money coming from Saudi Arabia in unlimited quantities since the mid 1970s. Any particular young Muslim has been engaged in terrorism or not we cannot say until evidence against him is presented in the courts of law and a verdict is delivered. But the fact that a section of our youth, particularly the educated ones, have been thinking and expressing radical thoughts cannot be denied.
Is it a crime to think radical thoughts, one young man I was arguing with along these lines asked me the other day. No, I told him, it’s not a crime at all. But if you are known to be thinking and expressing those radical and indeed crazy thoughts, someone may be justified in suspecting you of radical acts and investigating your possible involvement. How does the society know that you have not started walking your talk? The peace and security of the society cannot be jeopardised for the interests of the individual. Some innocents also do and will suffer in the process. That is something the larger society cannot help. It would be best, of course, that we minimize what is known with that horrible term ‘collateral damage’. But the society’s primary interest lies in safeguarding the interests of the entire society.
Let us Muslims come out of our stupor and accept that there is a possibility that some of our youths may have been radicalised, partly out of Islamic fundamentalist propaganda and partly because we elders in the Muslim society, the intelligentsia and the leadership, have not apprised them of the facts of life. We have not given them the bigger picture. We have allowed them to become obsessed with victimhood. We turned the demolition of a disused mosque in 1992 as an issue of our identity. We reacted as if our very religious freedom was at stake. We failed to see and recognise and tell our youth that tens of thousands of mosques, madrasas and dargahs are functioning perfectly well and indeed we are opening new madrasas and building new mosques everyday. We behaved as if we were worshippers of the bricks the Babri mosque was built of and not namaziz who could pray in the wilderness, in the sea, in air, in moving trains, everywhere, for the God we worship is a universal energy, a universal intelligence, supreme wisdom, an abstract, not confined to space and time.
Similarly now we are behaving as if all Muslim youngsters going in for higher education have been rounded up and ‘encountered’. For all we know now, the national media and the police may be wrong and the Muslim Press right in this particular case. If we feel strongly about the innocence of these youths, let us fight their cases in courts of law and also courts of public opinion with all the vigour required. But let us not forget the blessings this country bestows on us. Let us not forget that millions of our youth are going about their business with perfect ease. Millions of us are engaged in the business of our choice. Scores of us have reached the top in the professions of their choice. Even in businesses like film-making and acting that depend for their success on the goodwill of millions of people, Muslims have reached the top. This country guarantees us constitutional equality and protection of the law. The implementation may be faulty, even occasionally prejudiced. Some guardians of law may not understand their constitutional duties and allow their personal prejudices to cloud their judgement. But let us not forget that the system we have is right. We only need to make sure that it performs well.
Think of the Muslim countries in our neighbourhood and beyond. What kind of constitutional rights do they give to their religious minorities? Can a Hindu become the President of Pakistan or Bangladesh? Can a Hindu even build a single temple in Saudi Arabia? Are Muslims, the majority community, fighting for their rights in these countries, as the Hindus, the majority community, fight for our rights here in India? Who brought the horrendous crimes perpetrated in Gujarat to the national and even international consciousness? Surely not the Muslim Press. It was the national and, if you like, the Hindu media that did it. Some Hindus, even at the cost of their patriotism being questioned, seek to fight our case.
And we, what do we do? It is our religious duty to fight for the rights of the oppressed, in a constitutional manner, of course, and within the ambit of the law. We could have at least articulated the grievances of these oppressed people in so-called Islamic lands. But not only we do nothing ourselves, we even condemn and excoriate the one lady who staked her life to highlight the plight of religious minorities in Bangladesh. She should have been our heroine. We should have garlanded her when she sought protection in our land. She has been doing what we should have been doing, fighting for the rights of religious minorities in Bangladesh. But we throw rotten eggs and chappals at her. In fact our elected representatives do that, shamelessly enough, and take pride in that affront.
The so-called Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid -- a relic of the Mughal rule surviving on account of a strange fascination of our Hindu leaders with beards -- has called for an all-Muslim parties meet on October 14 to discuss the situation arising out of the Batla House encounter. All the bearded fuddy-duddies have accepted and will be deliberating their next course of action. I hope they will remember that the security and future prosperity of the Muslim community depends not so much on the shape of the next government but on the amount of goodwill we have in the hearts of our neighbours from the majority community. It is this that we have been putting at stake by refusing to accept the very possibility of a few hotheads among us taking to the route of evil. We can continue to say that this particular individual is not guilty in our estimation or that this particular police or media theory does not seem right, but if we discount the very possibility of any Muslims being involved in acts of terrorism as we are doing now, we stand to lose the goodwill of our neighbours. That is a much worse situation than that of a seemingly friendly or not so friendly government coming to power or losing power. Governments will come and go. Political parties will gain and lose power. But we have to live with our neighbours; let us not lose their goodwill through stupidity and worse.