By Firoz Bakht Ahmed
The unceremonious way in which the liberal Maulana Salman Nadvi of the AIMPLB (All India Muslim Personal Law Board) has been ejected out for supporting the cause of Ram temple, is a testimony to the fact that the community is still in the clutches of these rabble-rousing clerics, simply because he called a spade a spade and offered an amicable formula for an out of court settlement of the Mandir-Masjid issue. In the same insensible way, the AIMPLB had created hassles in the triple Talaq issue.
Maulana Salman Husaini Nadvi, while visiting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, extended support to the construction of Ram temple. He told that according to Hambali tenet of Islam, a mosque can be removed. He also hinted at an out of court settlement. However, the AIMPLB completely castigated it saying that the struggle for the reconstruction of Babri Masjid continues and the appeal in Supreme Court is being fought rigorously with all the resources at the disposal of the Board. According to him, this kind of mental block will let the 400-year impasse continue. According to Maulana Nadwi, he would meet Hindu faith leaders in Ayodhya to discuss the Babri Masjid case in March.
Little has changed in the Muslim world since Allama Iqbal made his revolutionary plea in “Shikwa” for the reconstruction of Muslim thought, states my friend and politician, Salman Khurshid. The inherent conflict between liberals and ultraconservatives continues everywhere, but in India, it has acquired a unique complexity.
It is really appalling to see the television channels today hovering around the lumpen clerics of All India Muslim Personal Law Board who are certainly not the voice of sanity but insanity! It is owing to such obscurantist platforms pretending to represent Muslims that the Islam baiters have a field day. They dictate terms and espouse views on issues that extend from the public domain of Indian Muslims to the privacy of their bedroom. They are wise and venerable men but their physical appearance on television and in newspapers just confirms the unjust prejudices against the community. Stoke a controversy involving Indian Muslims and the usual suspects start emerging from the murky and infested woodwork of the AIMPLB.
For a start, most Hindus make up their mind about Muslims on the basis of the Muslim faces they see and the Muslim voices they hear in the media which invariably are 80-90-year old men insisting on the status quo. These men (women not seen!) seem to come from antediluvian times. They are a set of disgruntled, disorganised and divided individuals. All that AIMPLB has managed, is tarnish the image of Indian Muslims.
Most negative statements the media quotes on behalf of the board are taken to as trusted by the community. Truth is that an average Muslim is not governed by them. What the board says is a non-issue for him. The five personal law boards AIMPLB, AIMPLB Jadeed of the Barelvi sect, AIMPLB (women) and the Shia Muslim Personal Law Board, are no more than a mockery.
The board is a tower of Babel whose members are incapable of taking a unanimous decision besides indulging in messy deals. A smooth Babri Masjid transaction with Swami Jyendra Saraswati assured two board members Rajya Sabha seats by the then ruling BJP.
A common Muslim has always objected to the AIMPLB’s plea of representing the community. What’s still more shocking is the manner in which the media takes each and every word of the Muslim board as gospel giving them larger than life importance than their extremely dwarfed and iniquitous impression on the Muslim community. Indian Muslims face multiple problems, possibly more than any other prominent religious group.
Some of the baggage they carry is owing to the angle at which the majority community views them which, in fact, is negative, inaccurate, retrogressive, made of half-truths, propaganda, outright lies and cooked up charges. The other baggage is a result of their own inaction giving rise to lip-serving and opportunistic interlocutors in the form of the personal law boards.
Religious but moderate people in the community believe that the community has to address issues like birth control, Purdah system, taking interest from banks etc in its own interest. The AIMPLB should hold a referendum on such important issues. Broadly, the board’s members are incapable of saying anything that is less than fundamentalist, orthodox, damaging and inflaming.
But the tragedy is that in the din of chaotic pandemonium, the voice of sanity, like that of Maulana Nadvi, is lost and the media pays no heed to it. Fact is that for those Muslims who choose to embrace modernity, the AIMPLB is an anachronism. What’s still more shocking is that by projecting the entire community as obscurantist, the board even harms the cause of the faithful whom it claims to serve. The plight of the average Indian Muslims stems primarily from the myths and misconceptions that the majority community nurtures them with fuel and fire added by our uncompromising clerics.
Firoz Bakht Ahmed, grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, is a social commentator.