Read this article in Dubai’s newspaper Gulf News,yesterday. It was a refreshing change to read an article about India’s Muslims that went against the ‘herd opinion’ of Indian Muslims as a huge monolithic community that is uniformaly persecuted and denied every possible right in an ‘ over whelmingly’ (newspapers overseas love to define India thus) Hindu nation.The ‘crying ,moaning brigade’ is usually led by Kuldip Nayyar with endless articles quoting from the Sachar Report that has become a self- perpetuating,Hydra like entity. While the disadvantages of the community are for real,the discourse, in the media and elsewhere, usually glosses over the real reasons for this .Atleast this article dispels some of the myths and also hands back to the Muslim community its due role in uplifting its own lot. Hopefully this kind of an enabling discourse will be internalised by the Muslims here and thus diminish the exploitation of their condition by political parties and leaders of all hues.(simply61)

  • What do India’s Muslims want?
  • by Taberez Ahmed Neyazi

  • The 30th general session of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind on Nov-ember 3 endorsed a fatwa of 2006 by the influential Darul Uloom seminary at Deoband that calls on Muslims not to sing Vande Mataram, the national song of India, as it is in violation of Islam’s faith in monotheism. Since the Jamiat’s session was attended by the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, it has become a cause of political controversy.

The right-wing opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is accusing the ruling government of legitimising the stance of the Jamiat against singing the Vande Mataram. This raises many questions: Can Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind speak on behalf of the entire Indian Muslim community? Do Indian Muslims need to look beyond religious issues and think more in terms of constructive issues such as education and economic development?

Rather than issuing a fatwa against illiteracy and ignorance, Muslim organisations in India seem busy quibbling about matters that might not be of immediate interest to the majority of the Muslim community.

The Sachar Committee report released in 2006 is indicative of the deprivation of Muslims in comparison to other minorities in India. Though Muslims constitute 13.4 per cent of India’s population, their representation in government occupations is a mere 4.9 per cent, and in the civil services their share is as low as 3.2 per cent. Similarly, only 3.4 per cent of the Muslim population comprises graduates.

Is it because of the discriminatory policies of the Indian state towards the Muslim community? Or is it because of other social and political factors?

Instead of completely blaming the Indian state for the ills of Indian Muslims, there is a need to analyse other internal factors.

Ghetto mentality

One noteworthy issue is the prevalence of a ghetto mentality among the majority of Indian Muslims. Muslims in India have failed to take advantage of opportunities that have unfolded because of the internalisation of a self-depreciatory image of themselves. This image has largely been created by the Muslim political and religious elite in order to present themselves as the representatives of an otherwise internally divided community.

Thus, despite the objective conditions available to compete in the public services as equal citizens, India’s Muslims exert themselves mainly in business. They are largely self-employed, paying little attention to higher education. This has provided opportunities to so-called defenders of minority rights to provide a political undertone to the issue by playing up the card of a suppressed and oppressed minority. This hardly highlights the underlying problems responsible for the marginalisation of the community in India.

It can only be hoped that Indian Muslims free themselves of the divisive politics of their leaders and follow more constructive and goal-oriented politics. This hope does not seem unreasonable given the rise of a sizeable Muslim middle class and its growing power. Though there already existed middle classes among India’s Muslims before, this class has undergone significant changes in the past 50 years; it has moved from being a traditional landed elite to a class of salaried employees, intellectuals, businessmen and traders. Many of them might well share the feeling, imaginary or real, that they are excluded from the mainstream and are discriminated against. But they would not agree to resolve their grievances through violent means. The new middle classes are less religiously-oriented yet ideologically committed to reformist Islam. They are not swayed by emotional politics and religious zealots; instead they prefer to send their children to public schools or convents.

Contributing factors

These transformations in the Indian Muslim middle classes are taking place because of a number of reasons such as the rapid growth of the Indian economy, the rise of literacy, and the migration of Muslims to the Gulf states and other countries for jobs.

Historically, there always existed moderate and reformist Muslims, albeit with a muffled voice. However, only during the last ten years have these reformist elements come into the mainstream. They are determined that the discourse on Islam must no longer be hijacked by radicals or the so-called defenders of Islam. This is quite evident from the fact that the politics of fatwas is losing its significance. India’s Muslims are gradually becoming more individualist in orientation. Not surprisingly, contrary to the fatwa issued by the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid to vote for the BJP in the general elections of 2004, Muslims rightly voted for other secular parties.

Thus, faced with grievances, they prefer to resolve them through democratic means rather than taking to arms. It is their faith in institutional and democratic means that has kept them away from reactionary politics even in the wake of the worst killings of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.

Looking at all these positive developments, one can only hope that the recent controversy will die naturally with India’s Muslims choosing to engage with more important issues of literacy, economic and political development.

Taberez Ahmed Neyazi is a Researcher in the South Asian Studies Programme, National University of Singapore. He will join the East-West Centre, Honolulu as a visiting fellow from February 2010.

The original article is at this site: