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Islam and Politics ( 31 Jan 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Muslim Clergy Is Conspicuous By Their Absence in the Nationwide Protests against NRC

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

31 January 2020

The Muslim clergy, that is, the Ulama are conspicuous by their absence from the nationwide protests against the NRC, CAA and NPR that are led by University students and women. Though the laws are perceived to be biased against Muslims and many believe that the laws are aimed at taking away their voting rights, a large section of Hindus also believe that the laws will affect the weaker sections of their community as well.

However, Muslims are more vocal and active against the laws and they have been fortunate to get the support of the secular Hindu community, the Sikhs, the Christians and the Dalits. Bhim Army, a Dalit organisation led by Chandrashekhar Azad has practically forged an alliance with Muslim community represented by advocate Mahmood Pracha. On the whole the movement is leaderless and Muslims have been spontaneously leading the protests with support from student leaders and activists belonging to the Hindu community. But it has been observed that the Ulama have been conspicuous by their absence from the countrywide protests though the CAA, NRC and NPR.

 In the past, the Muslim clergy have been on the forefront of every movement against laws or government policies affecting the Muslim community. They wielded immense clout among the Muslim masses so much so that the Shahi Imam Abdullah Bokhari would decide which party the Indian Muslims will vote for in an election. Earlier they were in the forefront during the 1857 revolt against the British when they had declared jihad against the British Empire and had fought an armed battle against them. Even during the legal battle over the Babri Mosque, our Ulama were actively involved. But the Babri Mosque- Ramjanmbhoomi verdict seems to have completed the disillusionment of the Muslim community with its clergy. The Muslims have realized that the ulema have no solution to their problems, rather they are a hurdle. Many Muslims have been heard saying that the Muslim community has come to this state due to the wrong policies and decisions of the ulema.

 It's not that the clergy did not want to be involved in these protests but the fact is that the Muslims learnt from their experience in Assam where over 5 lakh Muslims have been declared illegal immigrants though the Jamiat led by Badruddin Ajmal is a political force to reckon with. Mahmood Pracha who was actively involved with the Jamiat and helped many victims of NRC fight their legal battle finally decided to part with the Jamiat alleging that they were sacrificing the lives of millions for the sake of their political interests. In Delhi, Ahmad Bukhari is reported to have said that the CAA was not going to affect or harm Muslims.

The Muslims soon realized that if they trusted these clergy, they will end up as illegal immigrants and subsequently in Detention Centres. Therefore, they collectively decided not to allow the clergy to get involved in the movement against the NRC because they badly needed the support of secular Hindus, the Dalits, Christians and the Sikhs. They knew that the clergy will give the national political movement a religious colour by making it a religious issue though it is a political one. They knew that the clergy would make fiery speeches, 'full of sound and fury signifying nothing' invoking jihad against the 'kafirs' and giving examples from the Islamic history creating the impression that it was a battle between Islam and Kufr thereby alienating non-Muslims from Muslims. Another risk the movement would face by involving the clergy was that of the movement being compromised with the government. The clergy are very easy prey to government privileges like MLC or Rajya Sabha seats or monetary offers.

The religious organisations use their religious clout to put pressure on the government to get privileges for them and their kin. The youth have rediscovered their strength and the women long pushed behind the curtains have asserted their role in society by leading the protests in Shahin Bagh in Delhi and Park Circus in Kolkata. In other parts of the country too, women have taken part in the protests actively. This is against the policy of the clergy that women should not take part in public affairs of the society. But of late, some ulema have tried to cash in on the mood of Muslims and have visited the protest sites to show solidarity with the protesters. But the Muslim intelligentsia is warning protesters against falling in their trap as they may play the stooge of the government and scuttle the movement.

The protests have showed a change in the mood of the Muslim youth and have helped women assert their strength. During the Tahrir Square movement in Egypt, it was the women who had taken the lead and caused a big political change in the country.

Therefore, the new combination of the youth and woman power during the protests have sprung up new possibilities  and have created the hope of change both within the community and in the country.

S. Arshad is a regular columnist for


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