By Chetan Bhagat
30 June 2013
Dear caretakers of Indian Muslims (includes secular parties, once-communal parties, confused allies, maulvis, Muslim welfare organizations and generally anybody these days),
You are probably wondering who I am. After all, I don't have a name like Ahmed or Saeed or Mirza, anything that will clearly establish me as a Muslim. You forget, this writer also writes fiction. So perhaps I, or what I say here, is nothing but a fabrication. However, maybe there's something useful in there for all you well-wishers.
Everyone seems to care for Muslims, but no one actually wants to listen to us, particularly the youth. I keep hearing political leaders promising to uplift us. I don't know how they plan to uplift us and only us, without uplifting the nation. But then, I am a nobody, what do I know?
I see them wear Muslim caps, perhaps to show us that they really do mean to improve our lives. However, a cap on your head doesn't change anybody's life. Using what's inside your head might. You haven't. For why else do we continue to be one of the most backward communities in India?
It is not like India has a shortage of Muslim achievers. There are Muslim stars in almost every field. These people achieved what they did without any cap-wearing politician helping them. They had a modern outlook and a desire to come up in life. We need a leader who understands this, and inspires us to do better. We need jobs. We need good schools and colleges. We need a good, clean home with power and water. We need a decent standard of living. We don't need it as a handout. We are willing to work hard for it. Just, if you can, create the opportunities to do so.
What makes you think all a leader has to do is wear a cap, dole out some freebies, speak empty words and expect us all to vote in a pack? What are we, a herd of sheep? Does the God we pray to make us all part of one flock when it comes to politics? Is that India? Last I heard we are not a religious republic. We are a democratic republic. So treat us like democratic citizens.
You know what hurts? We do not have a strong modern Indian Muslim voice. If I am an Indian Muslim, who believes in ambition, scientific way of thinking, entrepreneurship, empowerment, progress and personal freedoms, where do I go? Which party is backing that? Can someone give me a leader who represents my aspirations?
I cannot tell you the frustration we feel. It is bad enough we find it difficult to rent an apartment, the police frisks us with greater attentiveness and we have to bear the occasional jibes. But what is truly sick is this: you guys claim to care for us but are only reinforcing that we are backward and doomed to remain so. Because of you, people feel that we vote in a herd and are keeping India backward. You, our caretakers, have led people to think we care only about religion and not about corruption and development. It isn't true. Corruption is stealing, and stealing is sin. No true Muslim or progressive Indian can support it. Don't hide your sins behind your fake caring for us. We know you neither care for India, nor for Islam.
Maybe I am being too harsh, and some of you are indeed well intentioned. But realize the consequences every time you slot us by our religion. There is more to us than that.
If you truly want to help, there is one area where you could. We have a wonderful religion. However, like any religion, the interpretation of it can be orthodox or liberal. In many parts of the world, there's an extremely strict interpretation of Islam in daily life. India is more liberal, and many Muslims would prefer to keep it this way. Can you support us in that? Don't let our religious heads, extreme voices and fundamentalists control our lives, for that isn't the essence of India. If you can do that, we will back you. You will truly be our representatives if you promote real progress - through empowerment and modernisation of our community. The Indian Muslim has evolved. It is time you do too.