Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes about Muslims, education, international affairs, interfaith and current affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com)
Recent outreach activities by Muslim leaders across India relay very disturbing and hopeless signs, instead of formulating a strategy to unify the Indian Muslims, these leaders are hell-bent on further dividing them into various denominations and groupings.
As per the reports based on first-person accounts and news circulating on various social media platforms, the Indian Muslims across the country are worried about their and their next generation's future in the country. The community as a whole is living under a siege mentality and is unable to fathom how to proceed further. One positive fallout of this stress is that now the common Indian Muslim is ready to come out on the streets and demands his rights and stand against the forceful establishment, in absence of any leadership.
This change amongst the common Indian Muslims started in 2019 after the finalization of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The protests, which started in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, soon spread to many other cities. A novel feature of most of these protests was that Muslim women were at the forefront of these demonstrations. More recently, after the bulldozer politics started in certain Indian states, Muslims in many cities came out once again against the establishment and stood in solidarity with one another.
However, one incongruous fact, which has emerged from these developments, is the absence of any Muslim leader, with an all-India appeal, leading these movements or even coming out in support of these people movements. This once again proves the point that after 1947 the Indian Muslims have been betrayed by their leaders – both religious and political.
The fact remains that the so-called religious leaders are busy amassing wealth in the name of their religion and expanding their empires. In addition, the social and political leaders pay lip service to the Muslims' sentiments and just appear at the right moment to get their mug shots for the photos and videos, making sentimental, not practical statements, whilst engaged in serving their political masters and enjoying their political and financial patronage.
However, a rather more worrying is the fact that recently some Muslim leaders have come out to speak against the establishment and its anti-Muslim policies, but in fact, their main aim is not to vilify the establishment but to vilify their religious opponents and divide the community on fissiparous tendencies.
Last week, one such conference was held in Hyderabad, Telangana. The main organizers and speakers at the conference looked more intent on creating divisions within the community, instead of offering any cohesive, forward-looking and practical plan to counter the anti-Muslim narratives and operations.
The reports say that most of the speakers at the conference were intent on blaming different international organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwan, Al Qaeda and ISIS for the current plight of Indian Muslims, which sounds so incongruous!
I fail to comprehend how these scholarly figures were able to draw any parallel between the international organizations and Indian Muslims. Even to make any connection of the Indian Muslims with these organizations is to make them more unsafe and open to a whole lot of criticism, added to the fact that Indian Muslims might be sympathetic to these organizations but they have never been and nor will be associated with these organizations, and so far no evidence-based study has been able to link the two. So in effect, these leaders in the name of serving the Muslim cause were making them vulnerable to more attacks.
One of the leaders even went to the extent of urging the Indian Muslims to connect with the rulers and the governments, as per the proper methodology of Islam and to advise them, instead of uprisings and protests to dethrone them and occupy their seats. I hope the incongruity of this statement will not be lost on the readers. Another speaker spoke about the qualities and patterns of Khawariji terrorists while exposing the double standards of Islamist preachers like Yusuf Qardawi, Hasan Al Banna, Syed Qutub and Abul-Ala Maududi. This too has no resonance in India, so far.
Now I come to another of the so-called 'Muslim' conference, which took place in Mumbai on 12 May and was addressed by about 35 Muslim religious, social and political leaders. At the end of the daylong conference, they issued a statement, one point of which read: "The meeting of the Muslim Community leadership appreciates the courage of local Muslim leaders for resisting the evil designs of Fascist forces and thwarting their plans of creating large scale violence against Muslims. It is observed that Muslims organizing themselves to defend their lives and properties is a positive sign. The meeting calls upon Muslim leadership to organize at local levels and continuously review the situation in their respective cities. An organized approach towards such planned attacks on Muslims will be the best possible way to thwart the plans of the Fascist forces in a situation where unfortunately the state declines to do its duty of protecting the Minorities."
The third one of these conferences is to be held in New Delhi on 21 May, organized by a consultative Muslim body and supported by a religious and socio-cultural organization - which till a decade ago banned its members from participating in the democratic and parliamentary process of India and a fledgling political party and a religious denomination. And yet another one is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 29 May under the banner of Muslim intellectuals (sic).
Coming back to the statement issued after the Mumbai conference, one can take heart from the sentiments expressed by the community's leaders who have recognized the efforts by the common Indian Muslims to come out against the tyrannical rulers and urged them to organize themselves. But in reality, these common Muslims have been made and in future too will be made the sacrificial scapegoat again, whilst these so-called leaders remain ensconced in their luxurious homes with no threat either financial or physical looming over their heads.
I have written and spoken many times in the past that the Indian Muslims have to adopt not a reactive but a proactive strategy to counter any campaigns against them. To construct and manage such an apparatus, which keeps an eye on the planning of aggressors and plans a counter-strategy, you have to be equipped with monitoring, research and media teams, within the constitutional framework of the country, to counter the opposition's efforts.
But alas, none of our leaders is ready to adopt such an approach and the biggest irony is that even if the Indian Muslims agree to adopt such a strategy, then it will have to be led by the so-called religious leaders eschewing their religious denominational differences and act and behave as one monolith religion, as others view you, not as being Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e Hadith etc.
Going by the past experiences, one is not very hopeful that they may be ready to do so. Instead like what happened at the Hyderabad conference, they are ready to further widen the gulf between different religious denominations and claim their superiority over one another. (IANS)