23 March, 2010

Nai Subh - Muslim Leadership

This series was started to pave the way for a morning of dignity. First, a detailed status report was presented followed by its causes. We are heading towards a discussion of remedies. However, unless we reckon with the realities around us we cannot even chalk out a corrective course. The current segment, Recognition, presents truths without whose acceptance we cannot adopt corrective measures.

In earlier issues we recognized the importance of a culture of learning, of hard – and smart – work, of the need to stand up and assert. In this issue we take a pause to recognize that matters have still not gone out of hand; that there is hope yet, that we are not alone. More we discuss the role of our social leadership.

Some material for this issue is derived from the author’s Urdu audio presentation, KHITAB, available from SPRAT .

In this column the author has – and generally other liberal writers of MG have – criticized and questioned the role of the clergy for the state of Muslim community. We will continue to do so. Equally we must recognize that our intellectuals and liberals, our wealthy and scholars have a role to play, too, in the upliftment of the community.

We have highlighted how our general intolerance causes brain drain of our best from our midst. That said, we may ask, why do these “brainy bodies” return to the “Muslim ghettos” when the Hindutva terrorists make life hard for them? And if they must, do they not owe it to the community to uplift it, to work for it?
Social Leadership

European renaissance, Christian, Budhist and Hindu reformist movements were not clergy-driven either. By and large such initiatives have come from the secular, liberal, progressive people, with some occasional helping hand by the informed clergy. Predominance of clergy on a society ought to also imply absence of social leadership. Aren’t we – teachers, writers, engineers, doctors, managers, traders and industrialists – guilty of leaving the community solely in the lap of the clergy?

Do we have social traditions of Europe or America where thinkers, writers, teachers would hold public lectures on street sides, publish pamphlets on social issues? People like Prof Harold Laski, Bertrand Russell and Karl Marx related with people directly and were not content with armchair philosophizing and complaining. They took public stand against the order of the day, often at considerable personal risks.

Similarly do we have craftsmen teaching their master crafts? Managers holding forth on the myriad arts of management? Our master electricians, mechanics and plumbers giving weekly tips on their skills? All for free? The contemporary Muslim tragedy is that while our clergy is simply incapable of empowering the community, those that can, have no time or taste for it.

What prevents our liberals from working for the community, or rather, why don’t they do so? More often it is the lack of love for fellow Muslims, lack of self-esteem and absence of pride in their heritage. This article beseeches the secular, liberal and intellectual Muslims to recognize their duty to the community. Thereby they will also be serving the nation and the humanity, besides improving their own stock.


The obstacles they face include fierce resistance to change by our masses. Yes, but do we not meet with similar resistance at our work places, from our labour force and markets? Don’t we adopt, innovate and work through these with perseverance?

“Yes, I want to serve but my liberalism attracts “kufr ka fatwa” and I am ostracized. Well, any reform, in so far as it disturbs status quo – and the vested interests nurturing on it – is fundamentally a rebellion. And rebels run some risks. Suffering criticism is the price for leadership the reformist must pay. Courage is the hallmark of a leader.

If stalwarts like Sir Syed were not spared can we expect better? Guess who opposed him? No less a person that Shamsul Ulema Maulana Shibli Nomani [probably explaining why Nadwa opposed “patlon walon ki” modern education!] and by Maulana Abulkalam Azad. [Ironically Delhi’s ulema once opposed Maulana Shibli himself and Maulana Azad was prevented from leading Eid prayers by Calcutta Muslims]. Even then another religious person, Maulana Hali, supported him. The Quran declares [Al Baqr-62]: “Those who believe in God and the Day of Judgement, and do good deeds, will be rewarded and have nothing to fear”

Muslim Heroes

Notice also that the heroes of Muslim world have seldom been clergymen: Mustafa Kamal, Arafat, Gadaffi, Saddam, Nasser, Jinnah.. And they all ended up securing broad endorsement by their clergy. Or take our famous sportsmen, musicians, performing artistes, generals? If they succeeded the community owned them up. Sincerity pays after all.

The fierce resistance the likes of Dalwai, Rushdie, Tasleema et al faced was in some measure due to the fact that while they criticized and derided the community, they contributed little. If Muslims can accept Marxism and leftism and can forgive Jinnah’s alcohol and pork, Kamal Pasha’s revolutionary dictats and Gadaffi’s women body-guards there is hope that we will be accepted, too; that our work will make some difference, given due persistence, love, understanding and a deep sense of belonging. The heroes we cited fiercely loved their communities and suffered and sacrificed for them.

Our higher knowledge and skills have made us islands of affluence, not rivers of prosperity. As a result we can never enjoy the fulfillment of social life, shall remain rootless and belong neither here nor there. Muslim achievers, therefore, are not Muslim leaders.

Distancing from common Muslims is only as justified as, for instance, the keeping away from our old-fashioned, uneducated parents, to appear our “modern” friends. Conversely do we give up reforming our children merely because they dislike it? So, if we care and belong, we must fight and not give up easily.

Why Be Apologetic?

Cheap, ill-informed derision of one’s own, specially for the appeasement of others, is an unpardonable sin, even by secular and professional standards. Far too often we become apologetic on our failings. While we must reform ourselves let’s not forget that our failures are not unique.

If we are genuine rationalists, reformists and liberals then we must have the guts to tell the non-Muslim critiques [Hindus, Christians, Jews, Jains.. what ails them.] The Shah Nawaz and Naqvi variety of secularism is sheer sellout. Instead of being outright apologetic we may explain historic background and exceptions. For instance we can argue our case with non-Muslims against the following common secular accusations:

* “Muslims wear their religion on their sleeve”. In fact the Orientals – Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims – are all less secular by temperament. A lot of Hindu practices easily pass for fundamentalism: upvaas [weekly fasts], vegetarianism, tilak, hanging pictures of deities, wearing the janoi [thread]. So do the Sikhs and Jains. So how do skull cap and beard make Muslims fundamentalists?
* “Muslims preach and seek converts.” So do Christians. People of the book [followers of codified religions] usually do. Proselytizing is a part of their religion.
* Purdah: This has a geo-political background. Marwadis observe purdah too. People of the desert often cover their bodies worldwide. Ghoongat is a variant of purdah.
* Polygamy: Even government sponsored research shows greater occurrence of polygamy in some sections of Hindus. Islam officially sanctions what men worldwide unofficially practice. And how about polyandry?
* Inheritance: These rules in Muslims are better than those of several other communities
* Treatment of women: Well, women are not allowed in several temples, during menstruation Hindu families often virtually ostracize their women, Swami Narayan sect Gurus consider even the shadow of woman unholy, VHP actually supports Sati and child marriage, female foeticide is more of a Hindu phenomenon.
* Filth and Hygiene: NCAER supported research shows that for a given level of income Muslims fare better in toilet hygiene.
* Population growth: This is largely an income-linked issue. Hindu tribals, Rajputs, and several other sects have similar or even higher population ratios. Prosperous Muslims produce no more children than prosperous Hindus.
* Crime index: Yes, Indian Muslims rank higher, prorata, but again there is a distinct impact of denial of economic opportunities and social justice. Gujarat’s state apartheid, for instance, directly contributes to Muslim crime. The Nithari killers Surinder and Moninder and Jack the Rippers, must shame any community in history books.
* Religious Hegemony: Each community has faced such cycles of retrograde violence and decay. Christians committed worse barbarities against Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Budhists.. Who committed the genocide of the Jews and colonized vast populations? Indeed, Jews themselves are pretty fundamentalist people, particularly those residing in the US. Similarly Hindus? Despite that the apostle of non-violence arose amongst them, anti-Sikh riots of Delhi and Gujarat genocide are Hindu doings. Recurring communal riots of India usually result from Hindu hegemony. And what about the exploitation of Dalits for centuries?
* Kafir: Even in the wider meaning is not just a Muslim idea. Hindus have their Mulechch and Christians their infidels.
* Jihad is violence sanctioned by Quran: what is Gita’s Mahabharata then? Its TV serial matched a common Hollywood war film.
* Terrorists / suicide bombers are Muslims; even children and women are used: Well, the first famous suicide bomber was Rajiv’s killer, a LTTE woman? And who are the Naxals [just in March 07 they killed over a 100] and Nagas? Then what about state terrorism by Gujarat, Israel, the US? Who is terrorizing the Palestinians in their own homes or who killed Shaikh Ahmed Yaseen of Hamas in his village? Isn't Israel’s Ariel Sharon a famous former terrorist? US is openly threatening several Muslim nations. Its policy against Iran’s nuclear pursuit is nothing but hegemony. Who produced the nomenclature “Axis of Evil”?
* Muslims epitomize self-suffering: Not entirely true. Sanyas of Hindus, abstinence of Christians, Tapasya - indefinite fast - leading to death, in Jains are more severe examples.

So it is time Muslim liberals and other secular achievers recognized that the backwardness and obscurantism of Muslims is a reflection no less of their own apathy and indifference. That unless they assume their role and assert themselves, their wailing is unjustified.



? Is it true that Muslims tend to Islamize their states?

£ We are not sure what is meant by Islamizing, but yes, most Muslim monarchies and dictatorships end up introducing the sharia as state law. Pakistan and India parted on similar premises but while India stayed secular Pak became theocratic. So did Bangladesh in many ways. Nepal with 80% as Hindus - and the only Hindu rashtra - on the other hand, became a secular state by choice. Notice, however, that Muslim democracies generally adopt more secular statecraft: Egypt, Malaysia, Tunisia, Turkey, for instance.

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