This is a rejoinder to an article entitled No Excuses, Please, For What Happened At Nizamuddin Markaz. I am responding for two reasons: 1. This article is on a platform that bears  more credibility than the others, 2. The author is a ‘Senior Journalist and Political Analyst’. Truth be told, I do not know the writer- as he doesn’t know me or most of the people of the one-size-fits-all ‘Muslim community’. As a citizen of India, it is one of the dark days of my life today when I have to respond as a “Muslim” as my only identity. In a sense, I appreciate the author for breaking my silence of convenience, as well as, for forwarding the sentiments of many others. Although, it is appalling that you, dear sir echo the same pernicious mistake as most of your colleagues raise with this perceived homogeneity against this beleaguered identity of a muslim.

Let me start with quoting your conclusion in verbatim before I start responding.‘‘We can no longer afford to exist in isolation. The way forward is integration and assimilation with social responsibility. The community cannot be at odds with the rest of the country. If Muslims want equal opportunities, they need to be equal participants in the national effort. As Muslims, we cannot and must not be seen as obstructionists who are perennially at odds with the system. What is good for the country is good for everybody, including Muslims.’’When you read this again, do you find any problem with it? Please bear with me.

  1. We can no longer afford to exist in isolation.

The Muslim: Why not? Have you looked around in your apartment, or the posh and not-so-posh colonies in and around any city in India? Affordable or not, we already live in isolation, in a country where Emraan Hashmi can be denied a flat for having a muslim name. That has always been the case- there could be many reasons for it- non-vegetarianism, non-satvikism, our women dress differently and are not perceived to be liberated etc. etc. But that does not isolate us. Pray think about it, can a religious group of a third world country comprising of many poor and illiterate muslims isolate us any further? This markaz that you are talking about, is known to be extremely apolitical. Being apolitical is the worst kind of politics and a privilege in this day and time, which it can afford to have. The markaz, which everyone is hurling  verdicts upon   has never even  given one official statement on the communal riots that took place a few weeks ago, or mob-lynchings or any similar incident, despite the fact that it has followers everywhere. Amusingly,they only have unknowingly  chosen to testify to  Christopher Hitchens’s analogy about Periclean Greeks’  use of the term idiotis, which means ‘a person indifferent to public affairs’, without any connotation of stupidity or subabnormality. So, we are really talking about a quasi-sufi travelling group that is indifferent to public affairs. Does that mean I am defending them? Absolutely not. But the bigger question is why do I need to   take a stand? Pray tell me, I am a religious muslim who was not part of the congregation as were most of us. Many of us aren’t as religious, many oppose the ideology tooth and nail. But now all of us are supposed to rise to the occasion and thus take a stand  because we can no longer afford to exist in isolation. Failing to do so would be tantamount to defending them, regardless of our individual beliefs risking existence in isolation.

  1. The community cannot be at odds with the rest of the country.

 

The Muslim: Even Deoband, the parent legal school of Tableeghi Jamaat has open differences with it, so even they do not identify with them as their “community”. What should this one-size-fits-all community do “to not be perennially at “odds” with the rest of the country?  You have already narrated the various instances where different groups have flouted the rules, but does that mean that it pedestals  them at odds with the country? The Nizamuddin incident is at odds with the community itself but you have willingly chosen to condone that perspective. . Maybe because you stay a lot with your ‘well-meaning’ friends in journalism comfortably alluding  the  Nizamuddin incident as  being  a part of a larger conspiracy to undermine and harm the country through bio-Jihad. You say that you are ashamed of them, but pray tell me how exactly are they ‘well meaning’?  Are we talking about naïve class six students or journalists? Let me narrate  you a story of what happened with me in class 6. This was 1996, my closest friend asked the other friend who ran to the washroom while we were playing, ‘ye to bata choti masjid jaa raha hai ya badi?’ I heard it clearly but pretended as if I hadn’t. They are still my friends. Should I expect everyone to be the same? Should I consider them ‘rest of the country’ or should I consider these remarks also came from ‘well-meaning’ countrymen and women?

  1. ‘We cannot and must not be seen as obstructionists who are perennially at odds with the system’

The Muslim: Obstructionists? Dictionary.com says obstructionist means a person who deliberately delays or prevents progress. Still, it’s so sweet that you use the word ‘we’ here for solidarity but ‘perennial’ sort of takes it away. Please tell me if you have known that muslims have requested the government not to test, treat or isolate the people at the Markaz? Does mere defending the act, based on true, tubular or even silly premises such as they did not get the time to leave the markaz mean that they are obstructionists? Obstructionists to what, precisely? And  that one is  tempted to ask how dare you use the word perennial here?

Why shouldn’t the muslim ‘community’ be expected to defend anyone in these times of enormous  trust deficit? Where we can be lynched and the lynchers garlanded and paraded with the Indian flag, We are still waiting for the trials, and more importantly- a single word of regret from the higher ups in the government. The thoughts that crosses every right thinking muslim when he/she receives whatsapp forwards, reads the newspapers, watches belligerent TV anchors pointing figures, is what Nelson Mandela spoke about years ago- ‘We slaughter one another in the stereotypes and mistrust that linger in our heads, ‘and the words of hate we spew from our lips. We slaughter one another in the responses that some of us give to efforts aimed at bettering the lives of the poor.’

By the way, a senior member of the ruling party has a habit of explaining how the word perennial can be sized in  anywhere. No, I am not accusing you of saying the same thing but cherry picking is an art and every artist has his own style of picking cherries.

 

  1. “Failure to do so would mean not only encouraging people to act irresponsibly but also provide fodder to those intent on giving the issue a communal twist by spinning out conspiracy theories.”

The Muslim: Frankly, that is the least of our problems. We will keep apologising but it would never be enough. There will always be a commit or omit to apologize for (Period).. We are tired. While those accused in Malegaon blasts join the ruling class, we are charged with sedition if we save children with oxygen tanks. There are many official statements, some from markaz associates that they will cooperate. However, this won’t be enough, nothing would be enough. Most of the muslim community members are busy arranging food and resources for the lockdown. In addition, we also have to shoulder  the burden of correcting mainstream news media and listening to the sermons and prescriptions of almost all the prime time channels. We encourage people to speak against us by our mere existence, nothing else. Wasn’t a mainstream news channel showing innumerable varieties  of jihad that “we” have brought upon the world before the Covid cacophony started?  So, Nizamuddin was not needed to label  it a Corona Jihad. No. There are too many options to choose from and give that spin. We cannot start unexisting when the whole money, machinery, power and politics confront   Most of us barely  have jobs, and many of us are  wait perennially for the next decision that would penalise us for belonging to a certain faith. Again, there are options to choose from. There are children whose parents were killed in riots, people who have lost their homes and businesses. How do we assure a girl child that she will not be the next victim of an abominable crime because of her religious identity and gender? The normalization of police atrocities are visible everywhere (and is not restricted to muslims alone). The same was  was unleashed on December 15 in college libraries and hostels and now with the migrants. How do we tell them that the rest of the country and the government stands by you during these tough times? That you are a citizen first. Let us stop this façade that one can provide fodder to a systematic intent of demonizing a community.

 

  1. “If Muslims want equal opportunities, they need to be equal participants in the national effort.”

The Muslim: We cannot justify our ‘participation’ because we were always a part. It is the sustained effort to undermine ‘our part’ , is what is taxing now. From the freedom struggle to Bollywood to space research to business tycoons, we are just not equal participants but contributors as well. Yet as a tax paying citizen,  I cannot complain if I am denied equal opportunity, because my identity as a Muslim undermines all my efforts, closes all doors. Yes, it is all upto “them”. Of course. So let me narrate an incident, a couple of my clean shaven friends were talking in English in the metro with a couple of urdu words thrown in between. This poky guy (the creepy ones who are always keen on looking at others and hearing them on their face) asks a couple of questions and then their names. On hearing Zaid and Abdullah, he puts on an awkward smirk and says- arey ye to Pakistani cricket team sounding names hain. This is 2013. This looks like a small incident, just like the one I mentioned earlier. Our opportunities are also a story of such small amalgamated  incidents. We do want our equal opportunities by being equal participants, but does that include slamming thalis or switching off lights or similar  stuff? No, I am not ridiculing the efforts for unity and solidarity but let us begin at home. One is reminded of Mustapha Mond’s reply to a renegade in Brave New World, ‘One can’t have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for. You’re paying for it, Mr Watson—paying because you happen to be too much interested in beauty. I was too much interested in truth; I paid too.’

I know that this is a rude reply but it is from a nobody who is tired of standing in the witness box for no fault of his. Religious/not every human being is different. The muslims have hundreds of factions and beliefs in India. We are equally tired of the faulty binary where we have to choose between APJ Abdul Kalam Azad and Yaqub Menon (or any silly fellows from the curated list). We couldn’t care less. We just want to live outside this witness box. We don’t want sermons on how to and how not to behave. You know, let me cry out in Shylock’s rendition of Shakespeare’s words, ‘He hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?..’

May I  repeat, our existence is a mistake we cannot undo. Please bear with me and stop collectivizing a heterogenous community and its responses as if clash of civilizations is the only holy concept. Finally, let yourself be  reminded   that more Jews were killed due to the ravaging and pathogenic hatred during Black death, than the black death itself. Let history be taught again, social cohesion is prescribed to the one who believes in systematic hate and not to the one who  are the victims of  hate. That the  uncharitable remarks extrapolated to an entire  community  emanating from an unfortunate incident is even more calamitous and  self propagatory than any virus or human congregation.

Abu Aaidah is a health activist. Email: abuaaidah19@gmail.com


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One Comment

  1. Avatar Thamilkanal R R says:

    As a journalist from Chennai, it was not easy to get an opinion regarding TJ related one in this times. This one point is most important in fake news spreaders who are the most we can understand. In this context This long letter is not a proper one but more irrelevant in specific.