By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
22 June 2022
Do Muslims Really Have A Double Face; A Moderate One For Popular Consumption And A ‘Real’ One When They Are In A Majority?
1. Muslims physically threatened Saad Ansari for his post on Prophet Muhammad.
2. Instead of rational arguments, Muslim orthodoxy is increasingly using threats to have its way.
3. The silence of Hindu liberals and Muslim champions is being loudly heard.
4. Can there be a meaningful fight against rising intolerance of the majority without at the same time pointing out the levels of intolerance within the Muslim community?
Saad Ansari arrested for sharing post, supporting suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. Twitter
A frenzied crowd calling itself Ashiq-e-Rasool (Lovers of the Prophet) menacingly surrounds a house in Bhiwandi, a predominantly Muslim suburb in Mumbai. They are angry about a post which was put up by a young boy indirectly supporting BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma, now suspended from the party for her uncharitable remarks on Prophet Muhammad. This young boy, an engineering student by the name of Saad Ansari is religiously agnostic and asked Muslims to grow up rather than behave like overgrown kids over the issue of blasphemy. In his post, he asked the following question to Muslims: “A 50 year old man marrying a 6-9 year old kid is clear child abuse….. I don’t know how you people support this. Will you give your 6-year-old daughter to a 50-year-old man? (Think about it)”.
There can be a number of ways in which Muslims could have responded to the anxiety of this young Muslim boy. They could have told him about the historical context when such marriages were common place or they could have argued (like many Barelvis do) that some of the things that the Prophet did is beyond human comprehension and hence it is futile to talk about them. But then, any rational and civic behaviour is too much to ask from some Muslims these days. They surrounded his house, abused and slapped him and forced him to recite the Shahada (the belief in oneness of God). Not content, they formally lodged a complaint against him on the basis of which he was arrested by the Mumbai police.
Saad Ansari is a young boy of exemplary courage and he must be saluted for that. But imagine the moral vacuousness of the crowd which forced him to chant the first Kalima. These are the same Muslims who repeat ad nauseam that Islam cannot be forced on anyone. They argue that Islam is about submission and that it spread through its teaching of justice and fairness rather than through force. And yet, they have no compunction to force it on one of their own who dares to question the dominant understanding of Islam. Do Muslims really have a double face; a moderate one for popular consumption and a ‘real’ one when they are in a majority? In the context of Bhiwandi, the majoritarian Muslim impulse was that it will not brook any sort of divergence from their understanding of the Prophet or Islam.
Moderate Muslims have consistently called out the intolerance within the Muslim community. Being Muslims, they know that without the space for dissent, the community would remain mired in a mentality which is truly antediluvian. It will never face up to modern challenges, like embracing modern ideas of dissent and freedom of expression.
Anyone who seeks to tinker with the dominant ideational pattern within Muslims is labelled as a heretic who is conspiring to defame the community. This is not just the story of Saad Ansari; it has been the story of many before him, including Hamid Dalwai and Asghar Ali Engineer. They too had to face social ostracism and what not from the community simply because they were arguing for social and religious reform.
When religious chauvinism overwhelms the mind, one does not simply demand laws on blasphemy but also primarily curbs any moderate or dissenting voices within the community. We can clearly see it is not just Nupur Sharma who is being threatened but also young Muslims like Saad are forced to keep silent, to remain in the little cocoon which has been made for them.
There was a lot of noise about Nupur Sharma but then we have complete silence on the issue of Saad Ansari. Where are the voices of Muslim journalists and social media influencers who always write about Muslim victimization? Why don’t they write about the threats and bullying of Saad Ansari? But then, it is too much to expect this from them. Instead of educating Muslims to dissociate from the politics of blasphemy, they were actively fanning it. The only Muslim there is to write about is the Muslim victim; all other issues of concern within the community have disappeared into thin air.
More importantly, where are the Hindu liberals who were teaching the Muslim moderates to understand the pain of the community during the Nupur Sharma episode. Why are they not condemning what happened to Saad? Why are their pens silent now? We know why. Their pens only move when the victim is a Muslim and the aggressor is a Hindu. Incidents which happen with the likes of Saad do not fit their narrative and hence such stories are conveniently dropped. Intolerance is never a one- way street. If we have to call out the intolerance of the majority community, nothing should stop us from calling out the intolerance within also.
Decades earlier, Hamid Dalwai was bold enough to realize and write about how both forms of intolerance feed upon each other and must be fought together. Moderate Muslims have always made this connection. Liberal Hindus would be better off without telling us what to do and what political positions to take. They are no one to lecture us on how to understand the pain of the Muslims in the given political context. As Muslims, we feel and experience this pain each passing day. But that has not blinded us to overlook what is happening in the community in the name of protecting Islam.
I pity those who bullied Saad into reciting the Kalima. If the intention was to re-instil faith into this Muslim youth, then they have already failed. For faith is not something which can be imposed from the outside. The obverse might actually happen. Saad will never to able to reconcile his faith in Islam as he has seen the thuggery that the followers of this religion are capable of.
A regular contributor to NewAgeIslam.com, Arshad Alam is a writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia.
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