Recently our Ex VP Mr. Hamid Ansari, on the last day of his office, made a statement that there is a state of unease and insecurity among the Muslims of India. This statement was backed by certain sections of the media. They have been going on with this narrative of insecurity among Muslims for quite some time now. They have portrayed India as a Hindu state where Muslims are oppressed and live in fear. Sadly it’s not the complete truth that is more dangerous than a total lie. The ground reality is something different.
However, is there any part of the globe where one or the other section of Muslims does not feel insecure or alienated from the country of their origin or residence?
Saudi and Middle East:
Even in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and the Middle East and North African countries, the conditions of Muslims are no better. Human rights and liberties are virtually nonexistent, especially for women. Women in these countries are largely absent from high-level political positions, restricted in marriage, divorce, and citizenship rights. They face discrimination in every walk of life. Religious minorities often find it difficult to practice their faith in public or advance in government positions.
There is a constant conflict between the various sects of Islam. Each one is trying to prove that they are the real Muslims. These countries rely heavily on judicial interpretations of Sharia law, making it difficult to protect against discrimination. In all these countries, sections of Muslims continue to feel “insecure” and resort to violence either against the state or each other. The killers and their victims, both, swear by Islam. The recent bombing of the mosque in Mosul by the ISIS is an example of this.
Do Muslims feel safe in the USA, a country founded on tolerance and freedom? Muslims here are labeled as a safety threat. One can’t simply walk around in Hijabs or with a beard and not being looked at suspiciously. In the wake of 9/11 many also believe that the government “singles out” Muslims for increased surveillance and monitoring. Similar is the case of Europe.
Do Muslims feel safe in China? Although there is a blooming friendship between China and an Islamic Pakistan, Muslims are at war with the state in the Xinjiang province of China. Muslims here are not allowed to keep beards or wear skull cup or teach their religion to their children. Fasting is banned during Ramadan. They are issued separate identity cards by the state.
Unfortunately, a few Muslims think that our neighbor Pakistan is a custodian of Muslims. However, they never talk about the 15lakh Bengali Muslims killed by Pakistan in 1971. Over the years, the Shias and Hazaras of Pakistan specifically targeted and killed by machine guns and suicide bombers like the ones in Quetta. They have been killed inside mosques and shopping markets, while on pilgrimage and even at funerals. Ahmadis have been declared illegal in an act passed in 1984.
A single fact that can change the perception of these people is that in Pakistan one has to pay taxes for Haj while in India one gets a subsidy for the same. Minorities even in the Muslim communities have equal rights in India. Shia mosques are not bombed in India. Ahmadis are not killed publicly. People are not stoned to death for so-called blasphemy and even terrorists like Ajmal Kasab are given a fair trial in India. Minority women are not raped and forced to convert in India unlike many other countries like present-day Iraq and Syria.
I have spent my childhood playing around with my Muslim friends and now as an adult, I spend my days eating biryani in their marriages and other functions. The thing I learnt was that Hindu or Muslim does not affect your relationship with fellow humans.
Above all, Journalism and politics today promote this bitterness in the name of religion. There are some fringe elements in some parts of the country trying to unsettle the Muslims but they are mostly unsuccessful. Yes, there have been incidents like the lynching at Dadri and Alwar and the killing of Muslim youth for a train seat but one has to remember that these people are a part of a country that has a large record of crimes owing to its large population. One shouldn’t bring religion into these unfortunate crimes and realize that it’s the people who are suffering.
No Muslim I know feels unsafe in India at least in my part of the country because he is a Muslim. There may be some Muslims who feel unsafe there may be some Hindus who feel unsafe but it has nothing to do with belonging to any community. It’s time to look inwards. We are victims of each other but also the protector of each other too. Muslims are not safer or more unsafe as compare to other Indians.
On a lighter note, I would say that some Muslims should feel unsafe in India when they are constantly asked on every Eid to bring Sewai for their Hindu friends and on every Bakra Eid where they are forced to bring Biryani for them.