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Indian Muslim Community is Slipping Down its Relevance Ladder and Faces Existential Crisis

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Any community in a multiculturally diverse democracy, like in India, enjoys its rightful position of respect if its presence is considered essential for the overall healthy sustenance of that society. A minority in a democracy always walks a tightrope to stay relevant and important for the healthy sustenance of the society composed essentially of a majority community. In India, it is the Muslims and Hindus. The two important sections of Muslim society that are ignorant and indifferent to the significance of keeping the community relevant are the Ulema, Imams, and the political leadership. In a democracy, it is always the rule of the majority. In a rule of the majority, the minority is living in a fool’s paradise if it expects its rights delivered in a silver platter, which has never happened anywhere in the world, let alone in India. One may argue that we fight for our rights without realizing that not everything is gotten with the fight. A fight will increase bias, polarization, hatred, and more distance, pushing the minority down the ladder of relevance in society. The latest causality is the outcome of several decades of a legal battle for ownership of Babri mosque land that brought in so much hate and distance between two communities, directly helping the political ambitions of the rightwing party to benefit from this divide, ultimately making the Muslim vote and Muslims politically irrelevant. Out of 1386 BJP MLAs from 19 BJP ruled states, only four are Muslims, and out of 4120 total across India, I do not know the number of Muslim M L As, but a state of deterioration in some states is pathetic. In the 2017 UP assembly election, Muslim representation decreased from 17% to 5.6%.

“The political cleansing has been insidious for it is executed through perfectly “legitimate” and “democratic” methods. What is democracy other than the enforcement of the will of the majority?” The fact is that Hindutva’s electoral majority does not want Muslims to be politically represented, making the community politically irrelevant.

The challenges thrown here before our Ulema, Imams, community leaders, and politicians will become the questions that future generation of Muslims of India will ask if we don’t act with lions courage to trigger a revolution that will save the community from the disaster of becoming irrelevant to the nation.

The second assault is through making a community socially irrelevant. How important is the presence or absence of a community is measured by the impact of its presence in a society, its cultural practices, its participation in social activities, its voice in making significant decisions, and it’s mixing up with the majority community. The fact is that a Muslim is progressively isolated in Indian society, not because of only the polarization and hateful Islamophobic propaganda, but equally by the attitude of Muslims themselves and the total indifference of leadership, both religious and political. We are not told to mix with the majority community, develop cordial relations with non-Muslim neighbors, wish them on festivals and share pleasantries. Connectivity and goodwill are the keys to staying relevant and countering the hate propaganda against the Muslim minority in India. Have we ever heard any Khutbahs in a mosque or any religious conference by the Ulema sharing common dais, discussing the dangers of the increasing isolation of the community from the majority, and strategizing the policies for the future generations? I am seventy-six, and till now, I have not heard of Muslim Ulema or Muslim leadership fighting a case in any court for getting land for schools, colleges, hospitals, or hostels for Muslim boys or girls. We are made to believe that only building a mosque with the best of chandeliers and tallest minarets will be a gateway to Jannah. What if I say to cut down the Minarets and instead construct a school in your area attached to a mosque. Look at the Christian community, which is less than 2% in population and 10% of minorities, has 70% of educational institutions and hospitals, and still has several thousand acres of reserve land for this purpose. The Muslims with the most decadent gift of Muslim wakf properties of over 60-70 thousand crores worth have the country’s lowest educational, social, and economic status. Our shortsighted religious and political leaders spent seven decades fighting a faceless battle for Babri land and now looking forward to fighting for Mathura and Kashi.

The Babri controversy made the job of the rightwing political party very easy to polarize a large percent of moderate and well-meaning Hindu brothers to lean and vote for them. Haven’t we learned any lesson still from your masjid battles? If only the few who took this battle forward had a little vision and gifted the land as a goodwill gesture, the landscape of Indian polity would have been different. The future generations will analyze your action and judge you. You fail to realize that they have been strategically keeping you engaged in such quarrels like some controversial Masjid-Mandir issues, use of public land for Jumma Namaz on Fridays, and lynching here and there so that you don’t move an inch to strategize your future in the domain of education, social and economic development. The Muslim leaders, including all religious leaders, are in deep slumber over the issue of the fast-dwindling state of the Muslim community in India in every sphere. The first solution to make the community relevant is placing education as the number one priority. A movement on a war footing for every Imam of 300 thousand mosques, every Masjid management, and every political leader starts to discuss ways and means to spread education, including girls. How do you cut the ice by increasing the Muslim students from 1.5% in universities,3%in colleges to 10%? The entire country has nearly 990 universities and only about 7 Vice-Chancellors, none of whom are in any central universities. I happened to be on the selection of VC of one university last week, and I had to record my dissent. Economically, there is an attempt in some states to cripple Muslim businesses through boycott calls. Public banks’ help to small Muslim companies is unknown as there is no data.

The challenge before the community leadership, the Ulema and Masjid Imams, is to reorient their activities, strategies completely, and Khutbahs to give a nationwide call to dilute the poison of hate not by the reaction by good conduct, better interpersonal relations, and increasing cordiality and connectivity with non-Muslims.

To give a nationwide call that the utmost priority for Muslim men and women in education. The economic and social upliftment follows the educational advancement. No educationally backward community suppresses women’s education can occupy a high position on the ladder of relevance in society.

Give a nationwide call to madrasas to incorporate with religious education, the teaching of science, Math, languages, and social sciences, and respectable skills to earn a decent living without depending on the mercy of Masjid committees for salaries or sell vegetables on roads after being a Hafiz e Quran. Do we see the Imams on Jumma in various American Masjids, even CEOs of companies and professionals of high esteem? They communicate with the highest offices on equal footing. Does a typical Madrasa educate imam converse with an ordinary non- Muslim officer with the same confidence?

Will the religious and political leaders call in one voice that every Masjid should function as a community development center, and incompetent management should step down and make way for others. Will they give a call that no society which suppresses woman’s right to education of their choice can be relevant in modern society and would inflict its diminution?

The challenges thrown here before our Ulema, Imams, community leaders, and politicians will become the questions that future generation of Muslims of India will ask if we don’t act with lions courage to trigger a revolution that will save the community from the disaster of becoming irrelevant to the nation.

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