By Javed Anand
On the sunny side of the Muslim street today, you can find growing talk of the crying need for Muslim empowerment and meaningful initiatives to pull the community out of its state of hopelessness. You can meet young Muslim professionals in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and elsewhere who are not only doing well for themselves, but also actively engaged in lighting the path for others.
Read the writing on the wall: “Padho aur Badho” (“Get educated, grab opportunities”), through “Uncle’s (free tuition) classes” run by journalist-activist Firoz Ashraf in a poverty-ridden, educationally-challenged Muslim mohalla in Mumbai’s Jogeshwari suburb. Don’t be surprised if you meet young Muslim girls clad in burqas head-to-toe but dreaming of taking to the skies. “Sir, can you please guide me? I want to become an aeronautical engineer,” I was asked by one such bright spark from a poor Muslim basti in Juhu Galli last year. These are just a few examples of Muslims on the move, foot firmly on the accelerator.
But in the dingy, dark quarters of these very mohallas — in Mumbai, in Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country — you will also find those determined to drag the community on a journey into the distant past. They do so in the name of Islam, and to underestimate their hold on the Muslim mind would be naive. The Tablighi Jamaat has been at it for years and the damage it does is there to see, if you know where to look. And now, the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind has announced its resolve to enter the competition with its own “social reform committees” to promote “Islamic rules and social values”.
What are these Islamic rules? Well, banishing the TV set from your homes is one of them. Using the qiyas (reasoning by analogy) principle in Shariah , this should also mean that the Internet is a no-no as well. The message is simple: shut your windows to the world, stay away from these aala-e-shaitani (instruments of the devil), for they are gateways to the devil himself: immodesty, immorality, nudity, promiscuity. If you don’t believe people listen to such obscurantist mullahs, go take a tour of Azamgarh district in UP, where TV has been forbidden for Muslims in these villages.
Or meet the young engineer from Bhiwandi who, two years ago, chucked up his job with L&T in Bangalore. Why? Because the company would not give him time off for congregational prayers every Friday.
A few weeks ago, I was with a young Muslim professional in Pachora town in Jalgaon district of north Maharashtra. Afzal (not his real name) has a depressing story to tell. Over 80 per cent of the Muslim youth in his town are under the sway of the Tablighi Jamaat, he claims. They preach that a good Muslim must only think of zameen ke neeche aur aasman se oopar ki zindagi (life below the ground — the grave — and above the sky — heaven and hell). “With them, any talk of Muslim empowerment, Sachar Committee, what Modi did to Muslims in Gujarat is all meaningless”, Afzal laments.
Two days later, I am in Beed city in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region with a group of socially-engaged Muslims who happen to be members of the Jamaat-e-Islami. I recount to them what Afzal had told me. “The situation in our city is worse than that in Pachora,” they say, with example after example of how the Tablighis have successfully locked up young Muslim minds. Their parting shot: “Go to Amravati and you’ll find the picture there is even grimmer than what it is in Beed.”
“You don’t need to go anywhere,” says a maulana sahib from Mumbai, who describes himself as a “freelance maulana”. “I can take you on a round of well-to-do Muslims from posh Bandra and show you examples of how many young Muslim minds have been wrecked, how many futures destroyed.”
That’s the dark side of the Muslim street to which the Jamiat now proposes to make its own contribution. The Jamiat is largely a product of and draws its theological inspiration from the Darul Uloom in Deoband, which has just issued a fatwa that it is haraam (sinful) for a Muslim woman to travel beyond 48 miles, except in the company of a mehram (which means the husband or one of those close male relatives with whom sexual relations will amount to incest and is therefore strictly prohibited in Islam). It’s a fatwa that advises space-age Muslims to return to the age of the camel.
Its not just the Tablighi Jamaat, Jamiat and Darul Uloom that Muslims who wish to see their community on the move have to contend with. Let’s talk of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Ahl-e-Hadith and the Wahhabis (including its “modern” version in the person of Dr Zakir Naik) all of whom also insist that a Muslim woman must not be seen in public except when clad in burqa, head-to-toe. Imagine a district collector, superintendent of police, judge, MLA, MP, or CEO of a major firm thus attired. Let’s talk about Muslim women’s empowerment.
Source: Indian Express