Once in the US, it so happened that a lady was being chased by a dog. She ran until the dog was stopped and made to run for its life by a brave young man. Looking in awe, among the spectators, was a young journalist. ‘You are a brave guy. You must be featured in the newspaper. ‘Brave young American saves lady from dog’, is the headline I am planning on. Hearing this, the lad said ‘Sorry, but I am not an American.’ ‘Oh is it?’, Where are you from?’ asked the journo. ‘I am from the Middle East,’ replied the man. ‘Oh… so, are you a Muslim?’ ‘Yes, very much’, he admitted. ‘Oh, nice to see you. Please read tomorrow’s edition of my newspaper’, said the journo handing over his card. The next day, however, the young man was flabbergasted to see the headline which read, ‘A terrorist terrorizes a dog!’
That was a joke, of course. But the way the world is looking at Muslims today is not much different from the perspective of the imaginative journalist in the joke. ‘Not all Muslims are terrorists,’ admit supporters of Islam. This is countered by its critics who say ‘But most, if not all, of the terrorists are Muslims!’
Islam is at the height of unpopularity today. Muslims are regarded with great skepticism and the credibility of Islam seems to be at stake. Recently, my distinguished friend M J Akbar answered this with a lot of vitality in his article, ‘Is credibility of Islam at stake’? But not many were moved by it.
The skepticism Islam is encountering globally, is a strange phenomenon. To rebuild the credibility of the religion it is important that the terrorists—call them ‘Islamists’, ‘Islamic terrorist’, or just a ‘terrorist’—stop making use of Islam as a pillar of their propaganda. Until and unless this subsides, the credibility of Islam, I fear, would certainly be at stake. And no justification of Islam would truly help. All would certainly be seen by its critics as‘propaganda’.
Islam is certainly ‘a religion of peace’. It has in it a great ‘passion’ for peace. But that peace is not to be equalized with conventional peace which others, mostly non-Muslims or ‘kafirs’, understand. Like Christianity, Islam is a religion which talks of exclusivity. The greatest gift of being a Muslim, or rather converting to it, is the prospect of ‘heaven’— a heaven which is full of ‘virgin girls and boys’ and where there is a ‘river of milk’ and all that which is never found in Arabia.
Islam’s core maxim is simple. In Arabic it reads ‘Lailaha Illalah, Mahamdurasullah’, which means ‘No God but Allah, and no Prophet but Mohammad’. This clearly states that Islam recognizes no other religion and shuns all gods and prophets. It is stated very clearly in Islam that though Moses and Jesus were also among the prophets, they were intended for a different time and now only Mohammad is to be follow and only Allah deserves worship.
Of recent, the Muslims in India have started justifying acts of violence by terrorists as ‘a result of their frustration and alienation’. They say Muslims have been looked down upon; they have been deprived economically. Special privileges have been demanded for which is being justified by using the Justice Sachar Committee report. While the Sachar report explains the state of Muslims, it totally fails in stating the reasons behind this. Muslims themselves are responsible for their situation, as it is they who pursue religious education instead of the conventional education system.
I am a Brahmin. But to be more specific I am a Gowda Saraswat Brahmin (GSB). From time immemorial, our people have been deprived and have faced constant struggle. History says that our ancestors lived on the banks of the river Saraswati, and when the river dried up we moved to various parts of the country. First the Mughals, and later the Portuguese, persecuted us. A lot of our numbers were converted first to Islam and then to Christianity, forcefully.
Today, we have a modest population. Our composite population in this country would not be more than six lakh. We form a faction of the population, but we have had no special privileges. Starting from the 1950s, we were deprived of education and many were forced to change their surnames because they were denied education.
In the name of providing special privileges to the lower classes, we were deprived. Given this, we had every right to resort to arms and fight and kill people of the lower castes. But that we didn’t do it is a historical fact. The contribution of my community is vibrantly visible. Three distinguished banks of this country were founded by GSBs. First private medical college was founded by Dr. TMA Pai was himself as GSB.
A great many of those who built India’s IT industry are fellow GSBs. Without any privileges, whatsoever, we found our way. As a community, we contributed so much and so well to the economy of this country and that is something none can negate.
But how did the GSBs achieve so much and contribute even more? Why didn’t they resort to arms, malign the government, and resort to anti-government actions? The reason is simple—we believed in ourselves. We know very well that India is our nation. We love this land and are passionate enough to contribute to its greatness. Instead of asking for opportunities, we created them. Not only GSBs; there are several other communities who have made similar contributions under identical conditions.
I am baffled when I read Muslim writers who talk of deprivation. If they were deprived then how is it that India had Muslims as Prime Ministers and Presidents? Who is stopping them? No one—that’s for sure.
The only thing that is keeping Muslims from accomplishments is their mindset. If not all, a majority of Muslims of this country believe that ‘they were the rulers of this land’. They still seek to identify themselves with the Mughals. Until that mindset is remedied, and until they recognize themselves not as Muslims but as Indians first, their deprivation will continue against all odds. Even no matter of appeasements, or reservations, will work.
I categorize Muslims of this country into two. The first, are the Indian Muslims—the people who think themselves as Indians first and Muslims later. The second category is the Muslims of India—Muslims who think of themselves as Muslims first and last. Muslims of India are the real problem that needs to be handled properly.
Indian Muslims have contributed lot to this land. Dr. Zakir Hussain and Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam are distinguished personalities who belong to this category. All Hindus, including those in the RSS, and Bajarang Dal, appreciate and honor them. The Muslims of India, however, still look at the fanatic seminaries of ‘Darul-Uloom’ and the ‘Wahhabi’ school of thought, for their greatness. You can never convince the Muslims of India until they shed their ‘rulers-of-India’ mindset and come to terms with the modern world and contribute proactively to THEIR nation’s progress.