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:

In the days since the long nights and days of Mumbai terror strikes, a volcano of raw emotions has erupted all across the land. From the streets of Mumbai to the open spaces around India gate in Delhi, the citizens of India are coming out in large numbers to protest against the state of our country’s security and the lackadaisical attitude of the politicians towards issues that are of importance to the Indian citizen.
The reaction to the current strikes has been more strong because:
1) we really seem to have got to the rock bottom and are now trying to rise up and fight back 
2) the strikes for the first time have hurt the affluent and the well connected so the reaction has come from the well heeled who till now were content to give only a few sound bites to the media.
There can be no doubt about the depth of the emotion and the severity of the anger of the denizens of India’s main cities and towns, one must at these times remember that a even larger number of India’s citizens live outside the comparatively privileged borders of these cities, big and small. The media would do well to record authentically the reactions and coping mechanisms of these Indians too,especially, in areas where populations of the two communities live together and where the nature of the local economy ties them in closer bonds then perhaps in the cities where seperate ‘mohallas’ have become the norm.

Equally important would be to highlight and present to the public the steps,big and small, taken by members of the Muslim community to protest these attacks and to condemn them.Media all too often teeters between the extremes of either an over kill or complete oversight. While many of us in the majority community, have often protested the ‘silence’ of the Muslims in the face of this terror that derives its succor from extreme Islamic ideology, not enough of us give credit to the community when they do speak out against it.In the last few months the clergy (mainly Deobandis) have made public statements that must be given due media time so that just as negative ideas and viewpoints gain currecy due to over exposure so do the positive trends get a chance at taking roots by reaching all corners of the country.

Some main items that caught my attention:

1)The meet of the clerics and Muslims in Delhi condemning terrorism (some months ago…I have not kept a record of the exact dates).

2) The meet recently in Hyderabad where muslims from all over the country gathered to listen to a similar condemnation of terror.

3) The statement a few months ago from Deoband asking muslims to refrian from cow slaughter if it goes against the sentiments of the majority community or flouts any laws of the land.

4) The clergy asking the people,in the wake of the recent Mumbai terror attacks, to wear black arm bands to express their sorrow and stand against the terror.

5) The latest call by the Deoband clerics to Muslims not to slaughetr any cows this Eid in order to respect the sentiments of the Hindus. 

These may not sound like much given the scale of the trouble but small steps can lead to big strides and some start has to be made to knock down the walls of mutual suspicion and distrust.