Volume 15-06 No:174
With no political agenda before them, the traditional Muslim parties afflicted with amoebic propensity to fragment and Muslim leadership totally incapable of cogently articulating its views on issues of vital interest, the Muslim votes in Tamil Nadu have been totally adrift in Tamil Nadu. While everyone agrees that Muslim sympathies have largely been with the DMK all through the last three and half decades, the advent of the BJP on the electoral scene has brought about one change. Now the axis of preference for Muslims has turned from DMK versus AIADMK to siding with any alliance that keeps the BJP out of its fold.
It has had two major consequences. It obscured all issues other than communalism to mobilize the Muslim votes and led to ideological bankruptcy. Second, Muslim leaders became stooges in the hands of the leaders of the two alliances who engineered rifts, splits and divisions in the Muslim parties. Consequently, the community’s electoral strength suffered erosion and legislative representation in the Assembly came down poll after polls. (Muslims constitute 5.75 per cent of the population.) The last month’s Assembly polls saw seven Muslims being elected. Of these three belong to DMK, two to AIADMK, one to Indian National League and one to Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC).
In 1956, the states were restructured and the Muslim League which had a dominant say in the community’s political affairs till independence, could not win a single seat in 1957 and 1962 elections. In 1967 it entered into an alliance with the DMK and won three seats in the 234-member Assembly. In 1971, the number rose to six, and in 1977 went down to one, in 1980 to nil and in 1984 to two.
In 1988, the Muslim League split into two factions, the other called as Indian Union Muslim League (Latheef) led by M. A. Latheef at the state level, which returned four members in 1989 and nil in 1991 in alliance with DMK. In 1993, IUML national leader Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait was expelled from the IUML and he formed the Indian National League (INL). The INL returned five members in 1996 in alliance with DMK, whereas the Muslim League was conspicuous by its absence in all these elections.
The advocates of a separate Muslim party were baffled by the lukewarm attitude of their own community, as a sizeable Muslim population opted either for DMK or AIADMK. But now the opponents of a separate Muslim party are also equally baffled by the indifferent attitude of the two mainstream Dravidian parties, which cannot be dubbed as communal. The Muslim parties, both IUML and INL have been relegated to a position of just one seat. Moreover, there is a strong concern in the community with DMK and AIADMK declining to give any proportional representation to Muslims while allotting the tickets in their own parties, though the community had been whole-heartedly supporting one party or the other, depending upon the BJP factor.
In the meantime, both the IUML and INL have suffered splits, but of course of no consequence. Surprisingly, it is generally believed that it was only DMK, which has been engineering defections in these parties. First it encouraged Latheef to come out of the IUML fold. Then a faction led by Amanullah Khan, formed Tamil Maanila Desiya League which has been faithful to DMK Supremo. The defection of three MLAs of INL is also believed to be the handiwork of DMK, though there is no clear evidence to that effect. The Tamil Maanila Desiya League was pushed to the background with the entry of J. M. Haroon’s Muslim United Jamaat.
Haroon’s party was allotted three seats and the Desiya League one. When Desiya League people protested and asked for more, instead of consoling them by symbolic lollipops of one or two additional seats, the DMK chief preferred to dump the party.
Haroon carries a lot of clout in the community. His newly formed political party, the Muslim United Jamaat could have made a maiden entry into the Assembly purely on his personal popularity, but the indirect relationship with BJP had come his way.
Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Khazagam (TMMK) has a good following in southern districts, but its real political strength is still uncertain as it has so far avoided testing the electoral waters. Its earlier support to AIADMK was in consonance with the sentiments of the Muslim community. Its withdrawal of support later, did not make any impact, it coming at a stage when the community had already made up its mind to support AIADMK.
A change in the attitude of Muslims at this stage would have been possible, only if the DMK snapped its relationship with the BJP, but that was not to be. Among other Muslim organisations, All India Milli Council launched a mass contact programme to mobilise support in favour of AIADMK front mainly to protest against the unholy alliance between the DMK and BJP. Though it could campaign only on a limited scale, due to lack of cadre, it received good response in all the places they worked. In one or two places the Council was instrumental in the victory of the candidates of AIADMK front.
In the meantime, a feeling is gaining ground in the community that a major Muslim party like Muslim League or any major group should contest the future elections without any alliance, emerge strongly by consolidating the Muslim votes and come out with a bargaining power as the Pattaali Makkal Katchi led by Dr. Ramdoss has done in the early days of its inception. Now it has attained a major position in the Tamil Nadu politics. In spite of this dilemma, the Muslim community of Tamil Nadu, by and large, cast its lot with AIADMK- led alliance.
Muslim representation went up substantially in Kerala Assembly this time with 28 individuals winning the elections held for the 140-member Assembly on May 10. The Indian Union Muslim League with its 16 MLAs emerged as the second largest group in the United Democratic Front which won 99 seats. And independent Muslim MLA too has pledged its support to the Muslim League Legislature party.
The Muslim votes consolidated behind the UDF as LDF government was perceived as anti minority due to its discriminatory policies in sanctioning educational institutions during its 5-year tenure. Significantly, education minister in the outgoing LDF ministry P. J. Joseph who was the butt of the minority criticism for his discriminatory allotment was defeated in the elections. The Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), the organization of the OBC Ezhava community and the Muslim Educational Society (MES) had accused Joseph of bias. The call of Abdul Nazir Mahdani, the PDP leader in Coimbatore jail, to support UDF also played a big role in the elections. The BJP which was anticipated to open its account in Kerala, also failed to do so. It could not increase its vote tally either.
Dr. M. K. Muneer of IUML won the elections from the Malappuram constituency with the highest margin in the state.
The strength of Muslim candidates was 21 in the last Assembly. Following are the names of Muslim MLAs in the new Assembly.
From the Indian Union Muslim League: Dr. M. K. Muneer (Malappuram); P. K. Kunhalikutty (Kuttippuram); E. T. Mohammed Basheer, (Tirur), K. Kutty Ahammed Kutty (Tirurangadi); K. N. A Khader, (Kondotty); Ishak Kurickal, (Manjery), P. K. Abdul Rab (Thanur); Nalakath Soopy, (Perinthalmanna); T. P. M. Sahir (Calicut-2); C. Mammooty, (Koduvally); C. Moyinkutty, (Thiruvampady); Cherkalam Abdulla (Manjeswar); C. T. Ahmed Ali (Kasargodu); P. K. K. Bava, (Guruvayur); Klathil Abdulla, (Mannarkaddu); V. K. Ebrahimkunju, (Mattancherry). From Congress (I): M. M. Hassan (Kayamkulam); Varkala Kahar, (Varkala); K. Mohammedali, (Aluva), T. H. Musthafa Kunnathunadu); C. P. Mohammed (Pattambi); A. D. Musthafa (Peravur), Aryadan Muhammed, (Nilambur); From Congress (J): rebel candidate M. A. Vahid (Kazhakkuttam), From CPI (Marxist) Manjalamkuzhy Ali, (Mankada), V. K.C. Mommed Koya (Beypore), From Nationalist Congress Party: V. C. Kabeer (Ottappalam), From Revolutionary Socialist Party, A. A. Azeez (Eravipuram).
Unfortunately, there is no Muslim woman MLA in the house. Three Muslim women candidates put up by the Left were defeated while the IUML shied away from giving tickets to any woman.
Many a time a person is judged not by what he practises but by his name. Salim Sabuvala, the only mobile bookseller in Mumbai who sells progressive/protest literature as a profession was recently arrested by Mumbai police on the complaint of BJP workers who did not like a Muslim selling them literature.
The books, Namdeo Dhasal’s award-winning Golpitha, Govind Pansare’s Shivaji Kon Hota, Prof M M Deshmukh’s Shivrajya and Ramdas aani Peshwai, and Sacchi Ramayan, a translation of Periyar Ramaswamy’s Ramayan-The True Story. It was these books that invited the wrath of the BJP at the Kherwadi Ambedkar Jayanti rally where Salim had put up a pavement stall.
Police hauled Salim and his books, accompanied by angry BJP members, to the Nirmal Nagar police station. The unique thing about Salim’s roving bookstall is that it doesn’t stock anything apart from protest literature. Ask him why and the 41-year-old Burhani College dropout has no reply. It just never occurred to him to stock anything else, given his ultra-Left background from the time he was a college student.
Today Salim is a member of no group. But he is one of those rare survivors of the Marxist-Leninist movement who still believes in the Revolution. Of course, he’s too modest to regard his toil and labour as a contribution to the movement. “It’s a small business to supplement my income,” he says. Nor is he overly proud of the solidarity he has received after his detention. “It’s not me, it’s because the books are part of the movement that so many people protested.”
Police just went by the name and arrested him not realising that his leftist friends would take them to task. A written apology from P. N. Suryavanshi, senior police inspector of Nirmal Nagar Police Station, and a statement from Home Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, promising action against the concerned police officer led to the end of series of protest by the leftist groups.
The Salim episode clearly exposes the Mumbai police’s biased behaviour against Muslims which was brought into focus by the Srikrishna Commission. Here, a leftist was arrested because police mistook him as a Muslim. When they realised their mistake, an apology was immediately given. But if an ordinary Muslim was involved what would have happened to him is everyone’s guess.
Washington: A report compiled by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research shows that U.S. Muslims are theological conservatives with a mixed view of American life.
On the positive side, 99 per cent agree either “strongly” (82%) or “somewhat” that “America is a technologically advanced society that we can learn from. Moreover, 35 per cent feel strongly that America is an example for freedom and democracy, and 42 per cent concur “somewhat” with this statement. However, two-thirds are either strongly (28%) or somewhat (39%) of the opinion that America is an immoral, corrupt society. African-American Muslims, who account for 30 per cent of the followers of Islam, most forcefully expressed this view. Of this group, 39 percent agreed “strongly” with the claim that “America” is immoral. By contrast, only 23 per cent of the southern Indian immigrants or their descendants share this feeling as adamantly, according to the Hartford report. On the other hand, only 15 per cent of the US Muslims agreed strongly with the statement that American society was hostile to their faith. Another 42 percent, however, told researchers that this was “somewhat” true. Compared with Europe, the Muslim population in America is still relatively small. Germany whose population of 82 million is less than one third as large as that of the U.S. have 3.2 million Muslim residents. France, population 60 million, has four million Muslims forming the second-largest religious group there. In the Netherlands scores of churches have been converted because their former Christian members had deserted them.
“In many European countries church attendance is so low that the day does not seem far off when weekly worshipers of the Islamic faith will outnumber regular churchgoers,” IDEA, a Protestant wire-service, predicted years ago.
In the United States, 46 percent of Christians attend services at least once a week, compared with one-tenth of church members in many Western European countries. Nevertheless, it is still considerably less than the 76 percent of Muslim men who go to mosque for Friday prayers in America.
Like Christians, American Muslims are by no means a homogenous group. There are 40 different Islamic denominations of which the Islamic Society of North America is the largest. Of the 1,209 U.S. mosques 27 per cent adhere to it.
The average membership of an American mosque numbers 1,625. This is 25 percent more than in 1994 when the Hartford Institute conducted its last survey of American mosques. This brings the number of U.S. Muslims associated with a house of worship to two million, out of a total of seven million. Courtesy: UPI