20 March, 2010

A Muslim Dilemma

It was about 14 months ago that over 2,000 innocent Muslims were killed, about 700 children orphaned and women disrobed in Gandhi's Gujarat. Nearly a lakh dwellings and commercial establishments were destroyed causing incalculable loss of livelihood. Ridiculous compensation and virtual non-prosecution added insult to injury. Far from feeling remorse, those responsible for this were actually rewarded with political power by an otherwise calculating and intelligent Gujarati Hindu society.
How were the hate-mongers so quickly able to mobilize large masses of thinking Hindus to hurt the Muslims? Undoubtedly there must be deep seated prejudice against them. This oppression, sadly, is global: from Palestine to Iraq it is the story of the Muslim plight. Isn't it time Muslims asked how the erstwhile rulers landed in such pitiable situation?

Dr Nejatullah Siddiqui of King Abdulaziz University lists threat to security, illiteracy and poverty as the three most serious issues of the Muslim world. Dr Mahathir Mohammed has repeatedly held Muslim obscurantism responsible for halting Muslim progress. Shockingly, he says, automobiles and even electricity were forbidden at one time. No wonder, the industrial revolution passed the community by.

Credible evidence indicates that Muslims lag behind in several crucial areas of contemporary life. A comparison of Nobel Prizes won by Muslims vis-?-vis the Jews, for instance, is frightening: the Nobel per million Jews counts over a 100 times more than that for the Muslims virtually in every field.

How many Muslims can be counted scaling the peaks of the Himalayas, measuring the depths of the Pacific, traversing the vastness of the space, or in cutting edge science and technology? Where are the world's best universities, hospitals, parks, libraries, laboratories? And which Muslim countries are the world's most functional democracies, have independent press and judiciary, empower their women, encourage independent professional and worker's associations?

Arab Human Development Report authored by distinguished Arab Muslims and sponsored by UNDP, makes dismal reading: 65 million illiterates of which 70% are women; PC and internet usage less than 1%, R & D investment minimal, combined Arab GDP of $531 billion [1999] lagging way behind just Spain's $595 billion, and the index of civil liberties and religious freedom ranking poorly.

Hating the West has not prevented using telephone, television, computer, car, airplane, railway, camera and 200 other items of daily use, none of which was invented by a Muslim. Indeed, if Muslims were to boycott non-Muslim therapy, they wouldn't live long as much of modern diagnosis and treatment - from stethoscope to MRI - are the creation of the Western world.

Were Muslims like this always? From 7th century through well into 12th century AD Muslims produced world class stalwarts in several contemporary fields of knowledge. Facilitators of the European renaissance Muslims enriched the world with significant advances in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, philosophy, geometry and chemistry. India is dotted with their creations: Tajmahal, Gol Gombuz, Charminar, Lal Quila.. Their massive contribution encompassing everything from administration, urban planning, architecture, civic amenities to literature, dress, music, food and mannerisms.. has incredibly improved Indian lifestyle. Even the Gujarati language borrows heavily from Arabic and Persian. But are today's Muslims the deserving heir to the legacy of these champions of knowledge, inquiry, exploration, justice, truth and industry?

Tujhe aaba se apne koi nisbat ho naheen sakti - ke too guftar, woh kirdar, too sabit, woh sayyara [Allama Iqbal admonished: you can have no connection with your ancestors, for you talk, while they worked, you are static while they were dynamic.]

So, does their backwardness give the VHP, the Israeli aggressors, Bush and Blair the license to murder and maim Muslims? Most certainly, no. These violators of human rights are outright criminals and must be dealt with as such. I beg to say, nevertheless, that this oppression only indicates a part of the problem: the EXTERNAL one.

Muslims must ask why they are the target worldwide and how do their tormentors get away with it? One word answer: DISPENSABILITY. In half a century Indian Muslims did not give unto themselves one national newspaper, TV channel, a large commercial bank, a major university. Ahmedabad's one million Muslims have only one girls college and none for boys! Of about 250 IAS and 150 IPS officers of Gujarat there are just eight Muslim recruits. Gujarat has no Muslim minister, nor is likely to have one in a long time. The Muslim presence in the Parliament has shrunk considerably, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Except in some pockets of the South it is rare to find multi-disciplinary hospitals, working men's / women's hostels, decent gardens and recreation parks, wide, clean roads, first rate schools and libraries in Muslim areas. Thanks to Hindutva, now even the rich Muslim must live in an undeveloped mohalla.

The poor Muslim must queue up in charitable hospitals, schools and welfare centres run by the so-called Kafirs. As a banker I have known Muslim borrowers raising expensive credit privately from the Mahajan who against their collateral raised cheaper credit from the bank. The claimants to the legacy of the Rahmatul Lil Alameen [Blessing for the world] are not now even Rahmatul Lil Muslimeen.

Zoya Hassan commissioned ORG-Marg survey profiled Muslim women's literacy at 40% [falling to 15% in the North] with barely 3.5% managing to reach the college "Talabal ilma fareezatun ala kulli muslimin wa muslimatin" [learning is obligatory on Muslim men and women] is completely forgotten. On an average Muslim girls are married at 15, much to their chagrin. NCAER survey places the pre- and post-natal Muslim women expense near the bottom in India. The future Muslim is destined to be born of the illiterate and the impoverished mother. Painful indicators of the new Dalits of India.

Don't most Muslims, as individuals, treat their ailments to prolong this life, study medicine and engineering, [instead of Hifz and Qirat], and seek immigration to Western countries [instead of, say, to Somalia and Bangladesh], vie for best paying jobs and dealerships irrespective of whether Muslim or Kafir managed? While the privileged ones cultivate their paradise on earth, the poor is left behind with sermons on puritanical religiosity and promise of eternal paradise - as if misery on earth is the only route to the bliss of heavens. Collective myopia, mass hypocrisy and insensitivity to suffering are thus legitimized. To become productive Muslims must focus on Huqooq-al-Ibad [duty to fellow-humans] and Muslim empowerment should merit temporal, secular treatment, keeping religion in the personal domain.

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