By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
Any demand for justice and fairplay in a democratic system of governance is unexceptionable. And to that extent the Muslims of Azamgarh, who descended on
Muslims from Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest a perceived discrimination and voice their demands for justice and fair treatment.
There is a general feeling in the Muslim community, and not only in Azamgarh, that after every terrorist act the police pick up innocent Muslim youth at random and even if they let them go after interrogation, their lives are already destroyed. They lose their jobs, marriages break down, their Muslim relatives and friends too start avoiding them, not to speak of their Hindu friends or employers. This has already happened to several Muslim youths in different parts of the country.
So one could make the case that Muslims of Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest and voice their apprehensions and demand redressal of perceived wrongs. But every right has a corresponding duty. In case of Indian citizens, it is their duty not to bring our criminal justice system, which by and large functions well enough, into disrepute. Muslims from Azamgarh were demanding judicial enquiry into the September 19 Batla House encounter. Other people, even leaders of the ruling Congress party and its ally Samajwadi Party, not to speak of opposition Communist parties, have done so in the past.
But now the case is in the courts and as of now there is no reason to believe that the court is not performing its task of ferreting out the truth of that encounter. We may not be able to boast of an exemplary judicial system, but our courts have acquitted themselves well, more so in the recent past, and even in cases of Muslims accused of involvement in terrorism.
As far as the complaints against the police go, the police should indeed show the same discretion in picking up Muslim youths as they have shown in arresting Hindus accused of
One of the worries arising out of the episode of the “Ulema Express “ – the name given to the chartered train that brought people from Azamgarh to Delhi – is the clear case of politicking involved. The worries of the Muslim residents of Azamgarh are genuine. Any authentic, well-meaning leadership would have guided them towards deep introspection as to why educated Muslim youth, particularly from Azamgarh, are getting involved into terrorist acts. Instead they are being led into total denial of the very existence of the militant fundamentalism virus imported from Saudi Arabia-Pakistan-Afghanistan region that is gradually infecting Indian Muslim youth too. There is enough evidence to suggest that this is happening, but our leaders, both political and theological, are leading the community into total denial. This does not bode well for the Indian Muslim community. The genuine worries of the Azamgarh Muslims are being channelised into wrong directions.
It would appear that the whole drama was not so much to help Azamgarh Muslims come to terms with the infection spreading rapidly in their area. What do the Muslims of Azamgarh think – one more Maulana winning a parliamentary seat will solve their problem? They must understand that this will only multiply their problems. It is the uneducated Maulanas who call themselves ulema (scholars) who have in the first place created this problem.
A 74-year-old Urdu teacher in a madrasa in Azamgarh, Shams Parvez, was quoted by a reporter as saying that he felt compelled to join the protest journey because he could not bear to see the reports brought out by police about madrasas giving Terror training to students. “Is it wrong for us to teach our children about our religion? How can they say that we impart terror education in our madrasas? As far as education is concerned, our madrasas impart lessons in Urdu, Hindi, science and even English. Why do they want to defame us and stop the education that has finally seen the light of the day in our town?” says Parvez.
Now, Mr. Pervez is right; I know that the madrasas don’t teach terror. But they apparently teach something that helps breed terror eventually, that leads their students and even those non-madrasa students who come under their spell to develop contempt for other religions, for other people; they teach Islam-supremacism. They hep their students develop a very narrow obscuratnist mentality. Is their any reason for Muslims to consider themselves superior to other religious groups? None whatsoever. Muslim community consists of only as many good and bad people as other religious communities. Islam has been as much a failure as other religions in creating better human beings. Some people are good, selfless, honest – everywhere – in every community, caste, country or region. And some are bad, selfish, dishonest again everywhere. The percentage is more or less the same. What ground is there for anyone to think otherwise? Why should any religious community consider itself superior to others? It is this supremacism – I know some Hindus too teach Hindu-supremacism and Christians and Jews teach Christian-supremacism or Jewish-supremacism- that is the culprit. It is this that impairs a person’s ability to integrate well in a multicultural society and leads to hatred and contempt for others. Terror is only one step away from there.
Do you, Mr. Parvez, teach your students that the verses in the Holy Quran that ask Muslims to kill kafirs, and Jews and Christians wherever they find them, are no longer applicable, as they had come in a particular context which has now become obsolete? Do you tell them that not all Quranic verses are of universal significance, that some of them just came to guide the prophet and his followers of the day out of a sticky situation and are no longer relevant? Or do you teach them that all verses in the Holy Quran are a patthar ki lakeer that cannot be obliterated and has to be followed to the letter by Muslims in all times and climes? Do you teach them Ijtihad,
Mr. Parvez made another significant statement too, as quoted in the press. The report in the Indian Express says: He is also upset that a student in
So t is not just madrasa products, but boys “brilliant in academics” that are being targeted by the police. In any particular case the police can be wrong, even biased and discriminatory. After all, they are only human and prone to err. But what we Muslims need to understand is that the police has a particular reason too to not only go after the madrasa-educated in terrorism-related investigations but also those who are brilliant in academics and have got their education in normal schools. Again there is a world-wide trend of Muslims in university campuses even of the West going radical. I was in the
It is easy to blame the police and the government. Not that they do not deserve that blame sometimes. But while we have to try and keep them on their toes, through peaceful protests, through political mobilisation, and so on, that is not going to solve our problems in the long run. Even the denunciations of terrorism, that some of our ulema are organising in city after city, while useful, are not going to solve our problems. We need to introspect deeply, if there is something that could be wrong with us, with our understanding of our scriptures, and if there is something we can ourselves do to ameliorate our conditions instead of merely hoping and waiting for others to pull our chestnuts out of fire.