Friday, 2 December 2011

Muslims, a Misunderstood Community in India

From TwoCircles

By Aziz A. Mubaraki,
The Indian media published many colorful stories reporting that Madrasas are breeding grounds for Islamic terrorism and that many of them are funded by Pakistan's ISI. But the media never bothered to investigate the charges seriously. In fact we have never heard such charge against any Islamic institution having ever been proved to be true in any court of law.
India’s Muslim population, which is estimated to be as large as 150 million (the second largest in the world after Indonesia), is largely poor, illiterate, and has been victims of communal discrimination in almost all walks of life. Government-appointed inquiry commissions highlighted these miseries of Indian Muslims at least twice in recent years. Yet, India’s Muslims have remained committed to the Indian state and seek to participate in country’s mainstream political and economic life.

Living in ghettoes and backward villages Muslims often have no access to quality government, private or missionary schools. The poorer Muslim parents are left with no choice but to send their small children to madrasas where education is almost free. They send their children to madrasas to help them get at least religious education when they do not have easy access to mainstream general education.
Muslims face discrimination in education, job, housing and other fields. This discrimination has given rise to sense of alienation among many Muslims. If this discrimination is removed from the country, Muslims can positively contribute to India’s growth in all terms. But minority Muslims cannot join the mainstream unless they get help from the majority Hindu community. This open-hearted welcome gesture of mutual trust and respect must come from the Hindus first. I am sure that the gesture will surely be spontaneously reciprocated by the Muslims.
This has to be understood that there are a number of Islamic religious and political organisations across the country. But these organisations are not that popular among Muslims who traditionally prefer to support secular groups. For this reason no Islamist group has in fact been able to be involved in terrorist activities with popular Muslim support.
In fact, India's secular education system is yet to do something substantial on its part to help integrate Muslims into the mainstream society. If Muslims are offered opportunity, like other Indians, they would surely prefer modern academic education over what poorer madrasas are offering. Like all others, India’s Muslims too want to improve their standard of living and they know that modern or English education can help them reach that goal comfortably.
However, although at a low pace, traditional hurdles to Muslims’ cultural integration to the mainstream society are falling apart. For all Indians many young and dynamic Muslims have turned culture icons in recent years- be it in sports, movies and other fields. As Muslims have always maintained that they are Indians first and Muslims second, they are making serious efforts to integrate themselves into the mainstream society and win the adulation and respect of other Indians. Unless the authorities guarantee unbiased opportunities for these Muslims, they will never be able to improve their lots and participate in nation’s development.
Separatism and religious extremism hold no appeal to Indian Muslims, and the overwhelming majority of them espouse moderate doctrines. But, it’s unfortunate that mainstream Indian Media have always incorrectly portrayed minority Muslims as one obscurantist community, resorting to violence and terrorism. Bent only on how they can push up their TRP, the media never bothered to unveil the TRUTH, sadly...
(Aziz A. Mubaraki is Member, Advisory Committee, Airport Authority of India (NSC), Ministry of Civil Aviations, Government of India)

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