secularism communal harmony

The genome of the oppressor lies in the oppressed. Once the oppressed gets the power and privilege he too becomes the oppressor. The bitter experience of oppression and the memory it leaves in the subconscious mind serve as fertile ground for the oppressed to turn oppressor when the equations change. In the absence of reforms and education, the origin of oppression remain alive. This change in power dynamics perpetuates an oppressor oppressed continuum. Yet, no excuse is justifiable when the oppressed turn oppressor.

The oppression can be understood in the form of specific acts of the oppressor that cause oppression and the experiences of the oppressed as a result of oppression. When the role reverses, and the oppressed becomes the oppressor, he is in a better position to understand its implications, having seen the acts of oppression and having experienced it’s impact first hand.

In democracy disagreement is but natural, but we have to be mindful that disagreement does not take the form of hate. When we allow our disagreement to mutate into hate, we are paving the ground for retribution and revenge. This is the genesis of oppression. The accumulated hate when reaches a critical mass, needs no catalyst and surfaces in its most crude form provided an opportunity. The change in power dynamics where the oppressed assumes the position of power, offers this opportunity. At the first chance the person who till yesterday was fighting against his oppression starts replicating every act that were not long ago used to torment him. In his urge to give a befitting reply he matches words with words and actions with actions. While executing his revenge slowly and gradually his transformation takes place, to the extent that one day he becomes the reincarnation of the previous oppressor.

A few days back a popular Muslim student activist gave a speech where he said “Today’s Hindu society has a rot in India”, which translates into “Bharat me Hindu samaj sad chuka hai”. The speaker didn’t qualify it with any explanation and gave a sweeping remark. Though in his speech he also talked about the need for forging alliance of like-minded people from across communities, but the damage he had caused was far more significant as only one sentence of his speech hogged all the limelight. The “Hindu society has a rot…” argument very soon became popular amongst his followers and they started quoting it everywhere, of course taking their conversation to the logical extremes.

A couple of days back another popular Muslim social media influencer copied this generalized statement while writing a post on social media. He wrote that “even if Muslims broke their fast and donate plasma, perform the last rites of the abandoned Hindu dead bodies, turn mosques into Covid centres, sell land and property to procure Oxygen cylinder for distributing among them, the Islamophobic rotten society will kill you when it gets a chance”.

When I tried to call out this post for the hate it was peddling, I was trolled. The influencer took a screenshot of my post and shared it on his wall from where his supporters launched the attack. People started calling me Jumman, Abdul, Sickular and so on. More on it later.  At first, I tried to engage with the trolls but was soon overwhelmed with the barrage of comments pouring in.

Since my counter argument didn’t find much resonance on social media and was lost in the din, I have chosen to write it here.

Any sort of generalization is wrong including the one that says the Hindu society is rotten and Islamophobic. What do we mean with this sentence? Are we saying that 100% of the Hindu society is rotten and Islamophobic? If so, what is the rationale for saying this? Have we carried out any survey? Where is the empirical evidence to corroborate this hypothesis? In the absence of any concrete evidence is it fair to tarnish the image of an entire community?

Moving on to my second argument, I question people that how do they feel when similar sweeping arguments are made against Muslims that all Muslims are terrorists? How do you feel when all Muslims are called Pakistani supporters? How do you feel when all Muslims are called Babar ki aulaad?

If we do not like such kind of generalizations, is it justifiable to make similar sweeping arguments against other community?

Moving on, let us assume just for the sake of argument that by Hindu society you do not mean the entire community but point to a large majority of those who according to you are of this mindset. Now if this was your argument, first of all, why haven’t you categorically spoken in the first place instead of giving a sweeping remark? Further to that if this was the context of your sentence then it means that there does exist a minority within the hindu society which has a different opinion on minority issues and which possibly doesn’t believe in this politics of hate. If indeed this were to be true then is it right to qualify them in the same ranks as the majority?

Being a minority ourselves we can very well understand the importance of upholding minority rights and the importance of minority opinion. By placing the minority amongst hindus who do not believe in the politics of hate in the same category as majority, are we doing justice to the minority opinion? Are we upholding minority rights? Is it not a betrayal of the trust the minority amongst hindus has placed upon us? Does it augur well for the future of any joint struggle?

Furthermore, do we comprehend the import of such extreme remarks? While the social media influencers and activists would stop after their tweet and speech, the innocent, vulnerable and volatile amongst the Muslim youth would not. They are provoked to take the argument further. What often results is a dirty obscene and vulgar dual between the blind followers of both the faith, which runs the risk of turning into a law-and-order problem.

The post by the social media influencer who had mocked Muslims for being good Samaritans was additionally bad in taste besides being wrong etymologically. He criticized Muslims for the help they were providing the needy during the pandemic and tried to ridicule them by saying their efforts will not be reciprocated. Here it is important to highlight that Muslims were doing this as part of religiously ordained Haqooq-ul Ibad and not for any return from the other community or state.

In Islam Haqooq Allah and Haqooq-ul Ibad are the two most important aspects in a life of a Muslim to complete his Eman and Faith. Haqooq Allah is the duty we owe to Allah SWT while Haqooq-ul Ibad is the duty we owe to mankind. While Haqooq Allah includes Tauheed (Profession of Faith), Salah (Prayer), Sawm (Fasting), Zakat (Alms), Haj (Pilgrimage) etc., Haqooq-ul Ibad includes amongst other things a visit to the sick.

Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The rights of the Muslim upon the Muslim are six.”When you meet him, give him the greeting of peace, when he invites you, accept his invitation, when he seeks your advice, advise him, when he sneezes and praises Allah, supplicate for mercy upon him, when he becomes ills, visit him, and when he dies follow his funeral.”

Huquq-ul Ibad is as important as Haqooq Allah, but often Muslims overlook its importance. The deficiencies of Haqooq Allah will be forgiven by Allah SWT upon asking for forgiveness, but faults of Haqooq-ul Ibaad can only be rectified if the person forgives us.

It is in fulfilment of this duty towards mankind the Muslims were investing their time wealth and energy during the pandemic. Hence any conclusion to the contrary is absolutely wrong.

Further to that, it needs to be told that its not just muslims who are helping out the needy, but even hindus, Christians and ofcourse sikhs have been doing their bit in this humanitarian crisis. We must come out of our eco chambers and appreciate the work done by the other community. Believing in the news shared among our immediate friend circle we risk falling prey to information bias.

There is yet another fault with the social media post as the term Islamophobia was used. Islamophobia word itself is etymologically wrong as it means fear of Islam while in reality it was not fear but hate that is the basis of anti-Muslim sentiments and violence. (https://voiceofmargin.com/etymology-of-islamophobia-in-the-light-of-the-holocaust-and-the-genocide-of-muslims/).

The social media influencer had avoided using the term Hindu in his post unlike the student activist who had explicitly called out the community by the name in his speech. Howsoever, smart one may perceive one’s act to be one must not forget that the post sufficiently pointed out which community it was talking about. It reeks of nothing but the same brand of dog whistle politics which the Muslims have been fighting against. In a similar act during the CAA protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the protestors could be identified by their dress, Amit Shah had said that press EVM button so hard that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh. Not to forget the repeated reference to Pakistan at the time of every election when BJP leaders warn that firecrackers would be burst in Pakistan if BJP were to loose the election. If we hate BJP and Sangh’s style of dog whistle politics how can we adopt the same style in our discourse?

Lastly, I can only pity the intellect of those calling me Jumman and Abdul. Isnt it a shame that people from the Muslim community itself are using Muslims names in abusive sense?  Isn’t it a shame the same oppressed community is resorting to oppressor tactics of trolling, delegitimizing and name calling at the slightest opportunity?

When will people understand that fight against oppression and injustice can and must coexist with a call for brotherhood and humanity and to see them as mutually exclusive is fraught with danger.

Md Aariz Imam is a Jamia Millia Islamia Alumnus and Research scholar at Magadh University


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