Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

MUHARRAM - SAFAR 1424 H
MARCH 2004
Volume 17-03 No : 207

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Editorial


A Lollipop Worth Rejecting
Secular Intolerance

A Lollipop Worth Rejecting

Some lessons from the two decades long Hindutva campaign are yet to be learnt, it seems. The withdrawn order for shut-down of government schools for the latter half of Fridays is one indication of what our politicians think of Muslims. They continue to think that while other communities have to be wooed with offer of water, power, schools, borewells and roads, the Muslim votes are up for grab by just handing them the emotional lollipops such as a half-day break for Friday prayers.

It is indeed a sorry spectacle that such a sick mindset still afflicts the politicians of the ilk of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is reminiscent of how former Congress Chief Minister of UP, Veer Bahadur Singh made a half-baked announcement conferring the second official status for Urdu in 1989 at the height of the campaign for demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. He thus handed over UP to Hindutva forces on a platter. Nothing was later heard about the second official language ordinance.

What potential of virulent propaganda and electoral mileage the move had, has already been made evident from the sampling of reactions that emerged between the short interregnum of the announcement and the withdrawal. What however is not fathomable is that why parties and politicians still treat Muslims only as a community which needs breaks for Friday prayers, can be wooed with grand Iftaars during Ramazan, holiday for birthdays of personalities of yore or the promise of a mushaira or special trains for Urs. V. P. Singh made a similar announcement from the ramparts of the historic Lal Qila on Independence Day in 1990 and lent a huge handle to the Sangh Parivar to cry from roof-tops about 'Muslim appeasement'.

Friday prayers might be integral to Muslim faith and practices, but not to the extent of it claiming half a day of break from school. Yadav's government in its election driven foolishness has gone a step further. It foisted an unnecessary holiday on all Government schools, certainly an outrageous concession that nobody deserves and demands. And a political savvy CM should have anticipated its negative fall-out in simple terms of public perception where the discredited Hindutva Parivar is just waiting for follies of other regimes rather than building up on its own dubiously creditable record in India's largest state.

Such 'sops' bring Muslims only the fake satisfaction of official recognition for their faith. Nothing beyond that. And its political cost is huge beyond imagination. Unless Muslims learn to defuse their identity related urges and couch their demands in general idiom, they are likely to be misled by politicians of the ilk of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

For the present, it is difficult to term the retraced move even as one stemming from political naivete. Yadav must look for black sheep among the inner circles of his political advisors who work at the behest of Sangh Parivar and undermine his position among the larger Hindu masses who, for sure, look for maturity in their leaders.

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Secular Intolerance

The French ban on wearing of Hijab (symbolised by the women's headscarf in most of the Western countries) by Muslim school girls is an instance of extreme intolerance by a society that claims itself to be free, secular, and champion of liberty and fraternity. Dress, dietary dos and don'ts, names and mode of worship are integral part of one's religious identity. But the French Parliamentary ban on wearing of headscarves, turbans, skull caps and cross in a conspicuous manner in Government schools is all likely to foster more separatist sentiments among school children.

Minorities, be they linguistic or religious, dread the assimilation as much as they fear exclusion. They tread on the narrow ledge between the two and only a perceptive government could discern the difference between them. By legislating on such a minor issue, France has ventured into an arena where it is likely to make the minorities seek exclusion under the threat of assimilation. It will in no way help the five million strong Muslim minority to bring up their kids the French way by opening their own schools. Government schools, lycee in case of French, are as much the best guarantee for French Muslims to learn the French way of life as for the French children to learn to respect the diversity which stems from the colonial past of their own existence. Muslims, mainly from North Africa, are in France not because of their choice, but because France owes them the place.

It is perhaps a case of secularism needing a re-interpretation. The need is felt even more urgently in context to France which has shown extreme intolerance of concepts and things perceived to be non-French, though in this case, Muslims tend to confuse it with hard-boiled French secularism. Secularism is as much about accommodating religious diversity and personal religious symbols as rejecting the state's partisan behaviour in matters religious.

It is in this spirit that the Muslims would like France to have a re-look at her intolerant secularism. France had elevated its stature in the estimation of Muslims by showing its back to US President George Bush's jingoism. A minor issue should not allow this goodwill to be frittered.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Letters to the Editor Community Initiative Globe Watch Event Diary Trends Muslim Perspectives Metro Mail Men, Missions and Machines Muharram Children's Corner Heritage Children's Corner Quran Speaks to You Hadith Fast Farword Special Space Opinion Guidelines Our Dialogue Miscellany Reflections Lessons to Learn Soul Talk Rights and Wrongs View Point Matrimonial
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