New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 12, 2015
• Why Trump must be trumped: Donald Trump is to America what Islamic State is to Islam
By Dipankar Gupta
• ‘Are you inviting any Muslims...?’
By Shobhaa’s Take
Why Trump must be trumped: Donald Trump is to America what Islamic State is to Islam
By Dipankar Gupta
December 11, 2015
NEW YORK: In the fitness of things, we should return the favour and refuse Donald Trump a visa to India. Pollution levels may have already frightened him off, but if he is the tough guy he claims to be, he might still want to come over. But for the record, whether he applies for it or not, we should loudly announce that Trump has been denied “anticipatory visa” and is no longer welcome in democratic India. This might hurt him a lot, but no Taj Mahal and no Red Fort for the bad, bad boy.
The more Trump gains in his presidential race, the better our democracy looks. No serious contender for prime ministership in India could ever say that we should shut out Muslims from entering India. Such a person may not only earn the displeasure of the Election Commission but would have to protest, again and again, that the press has, as usual, misread simple sentences.
But not Trump. He claims it is his brimming-over common sense that led him to the truth that Muslims must be kept out of America; the home of the brave, the free, and the Christians. He said this with a passion as if struck by a revelation, no less. The rule of thumb for spotting a fascist is when a person proclaims that his religion is the most tolerant, the most merciful.
Yet just because opinions of this kind are popular, does not make them democratic. The basic principles of our Constitution, and of other peace seeking countries, is the protection of minoritiesof all kinds. This is why democracy is not just a set of irritating rules; it actually has a civilising mission.
So majoritarianism does not democracy make. It is a cliché to recall the horror of an elected leader like Hitler, but it is a true story and its lessons should be heeded. If democracy were only about majorities, then watch out. The minority today could become extinct tomorrow and a fresh minority might emerge.
When that happens, a cocky majoritarian might suddenly become a squirming minority. Unchecked majority opinion is compelled, by its very logic, to make fresh minorities all the time; else how would this prejudice survive?
What these majoritarian leaders refuse to realise is how similar they are to the people they publicly detest. As Imam Sohaib Sultan, first full time Muslim Coordinator and Chaplain of Princeton University said: “Donald Trump is to America what ISIS is to Islam.” Both undermine the essence of the cause they purportedly stand for; in one case religion and in the other, democracy.
In fact, democracy does best when extremism is undone by people of the same faith, whether Hindu, Sikh, Islamic or atheist. They get the courage to do this because they are assured of continuous support from society, from the state and, most of all, by those others who are differently religious.
On the other hand, if only Sikhs, Muslims or Hindus are expected to fight hotheads within their faiths, and the rest of society waits as if an opera is on, or as if they are being tested, that is when democracy goes wrong. If a community is isolated from the rest then the majority in the minority will be afraid to crack the bad eggs within.
Democracy needs to remember that within every minority group there is a majority waiting to come out. It is not patronising that does it; it is not daring them to prove it to others that does it; it is simply treating all citizens as equals that gives the majority in minority groups the guts to claim glory.
This is in plain sight and easy to believe because, at the end of the day when the bodies are counted, it is the majority in troubled minorities who pay the highest price. The bread that falls off your plate nearly always lands on the buttered side.
Everything about Trump reeks of cultivated carelessness; from his windtossed hairdo to his grasp of facts. It does not bother him that roughly 5,800 active American servicemen identify themselves as Muslims. CNN reported this week that American Muslims alerted law enforcement agencies of more terrorist suspects than US intelligence has. Try if you must, but it would be difficult to top that.
The majority in the minority desperately want to be citizens, like the rest. When they hesitate, it is because common street corner prejudices, such as those of Trump, make them defensive. Treat them as citizens and they are eager to step out; smear and tar them with the same brush, and they become defensive.
In India alone we have so many instances when it was the majority in the minority that actually did the job. For example, Sikh militancy was finally pushed back when the long suffering majority, encouraged by V P Singh’s message and the concerted action of the police, came out in the open and flouted the Khalistani call to boycott elections.
Recall also how Muslims in India famously ignored the call Imam Bukhari once gave to boycott the Republic Day parade. For those with short term memories, think of how Asaduddin Owaisi was rejected in recent Bihar elections.
Democracy should enliven such histories constantly, but, sadly, it lets ugly majoritarianism rub them out.
It is true, our evil manners live in brass, but our virtues we write in water.
‘Are you inviting any Muslims...?’
By Shobhaa’s Take
Dec 12, 2015
We can keep trying to sweep the subliminal changes taking place right under our noses, under the carpet and pretend nothing’s going on. Or we can face up to this newly-scripted narrative and decide how we want to negotiate it.
There’s going to be a wedding in the family next year and everybody is busy with the tedious business of organising, micro-managing, assigning, delegating and so on. At one such harrowing meeting (more a war room than a family conference), a young voice spoke up... and all of us froze. Mind you, it was a genuine and very innocent question minus any political sub-text. But what a question! Asked the beautiful young girl, “Are you inviting any Muslims to the wedding...?” I thought I hadn’t heard right. Since the question came out of nowhere, I was naturally taken off-guard. My first reaction was to burst out laughing. Yup. It was that absurd! On the other hand, the fact that it had been asked at all and with such disarming candour, made me do a double take. So is that what it has come to? Will we soon be sifting our friends and creating different categories — Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians... others?
Earlier in the week, I had attended another family wedding. This one had an interesting mix — Jewish-Catholic-Hindu. Invitees greeted the glowing young couple at a charming poolside reception, and nobody noticed it was an inter-faith union. The intimate registered court marriage had taken care of any awkward “compromises”, while the rest of the festivities remained joyful and religion-neutral. Guests blessed the couple, ate the cake, raised toasts, had a relaxed time, while the bride crooned a love song to her brand new husband and danced cheek-to-cheek with him. This is how it has always been in the Mumbai I grew up in. Now it looks like there’s a time bomb ticking.
The impact of the young girl’s question hit me later. She had spontaneously voiced what was uppermost in her mind. There was no agenda at all. Paradoxically, this made it far worse! Such a loaded question had never been asked before. It was simply unthinkable! But now that it is out there and has been tabled, how are we going to deal with it? I made a few weak jokes at that unexpected moment. But the question had jolted me. The more I listen to young people chatting these days, the higher my concern. Instead of religious barriers disappearing, they are getting progressively strengthened. When Vikram Seth mentioned how his Muslim and Christian friends were feeling vulnerable and “threatened” these days (during the course of our conversation at the just concluded Times Lit Fest), his impassioned remarks were heard loud and clear... but not reported.
I got home and found a young woman waiting to be interviewed for a job. I asked her the standard questions — name, address, work experience. She said, “My name is Meera.” She looked embarrassed. I could tell she was lying. Poor girl. She didn’t stand much of a chance getting a job by revealing her real name, “Meherunissa”.
We can keep trying to sweep the subliminal changes taking place right under our noses, under the carpet and pretend nothing’s going on. Or we can face up to this newly-scripted narrative and decide how we want to negotiate it. I have obviously been living in some la la land and had not bothered to take off my rose tinted glasses. Or else, the young girl’s question would not have disturbed me as much. The young have the guts to say it like it is. My generation pretends. The young can articulate today’s realities with a level of brutal honesty that’s missing in us oldies who are not such goldies.
I came home and looked at the tentative list. I saw it with different eyes. Suddenly, I was looking at surnames... not at human beings who are friends. It was the first time I was forcing myself to use a filter. Till that moment, I hadn’t invested even a micro-second of my time figuring out religious categories. But since catering is involved, the only category I had focused on was the broad, standard vegetarian/non-vegetarian.
I will be attending another inter-faith wedding soon. This one is Muslim-Christian. The modalities have been worked out well in advance. The bride and groom are all set to party with their hip, cool, cosmopolitan friends — some local, some foreign. This is how it happens globally. And yet, the young girl’s question is haunting me. Should I have asked, “Are you inviting Hindus to the wedding...?” Too late for that! The invitation came months ago. I accepted instantly. These are not just my old friends, I consider them family. Not for a moment have either of us stopped to question one another’s beliefs. That’s what love and acceptance are all about. That’s what the world should be all about. It clearly isn’t!
A couple of months from now, our moment of truth will arrive. Perhaps, by then, this troubling question will no longer haunt me. It will be a time to rejoice and renew faith of a different kind. A faith that goes well beyond religion and in the process becomes the most beautiful belief system in the world. It’s called love.