Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mumbai Aftermath: An Idea for Celebrating Eid

Since the terrorist began their rampage in Mumbai a week ago, I have grown sick of reading about how India stands at the verge of Hindu-Muslim "sectarian" or "religious" violence. Every British and American editorial attempts to explain why US and EU cannot act again Pakistan by linking the hypothetical ramifications of all action to a Hindu-Muslim war in India. It is time - I believe - to stop the hypocrisy and to really consider Indian in a fair, just and equitable fashion: and yes that means both Indian Hindus and Muslims. However, just this once, I would like to speak of Indian Muslims, partly because of circumstances but mostly because we are running up to Eid-ul-Azha or Bakrid next week.

For all of my life, I have watched politicians of all persuasions feed the victim discourse in the country. The secularlists will admit no fault on part of the Indian Muslims, even while there was ethnic cleansing in J&K and Mumbai became the earliest testing ground for jihadi violence. Meanwhile, the right wingers demand proof - again and again, and always insufficient - of loyalty to the nation from Indian Muslims. And over all of it looms the grim shadow of Partition, the one event that seems to be the monkey on our backs: Indian Muslims either live on apparently victimised minority margins or are viewed with suspicion for their apparently divided loyalty. Such has been the political discourse of my life time.

Yet in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, for the first time in my life, that discourse appears to be changing. The impetus comes not from the politicians but from the most conservative parts of the Indian Muslim community. There may be any number of motivations for it, but for the first time, I don't feel I am fighting alone - or for a lost cause - when I speak up against Islamophobia in Europe and USA, and on behalf of Muslim citizens of India.

A couple of days ago, the leaders of the Mumbai's Muslim community refused to bury the Mumbai killers on religious grounds. This - despite its PR value - is a significant theological shift as it puts into practice the oft repeated platitude of Islam being a religion of peace. The only reason for refusing the bodies has been the terrorist's violent and vile actions. Finally, the religious leaders of the Islamic community in India are walking the walk, as well as talking the talk.

And then the most stunning announcement that I can remember came today: The All India Organisations of Imams of Mosques (AIOIMs)has appealed that next week's Bakrid be celebrated in a sober way. That Muslims wear black ribbons and especially denounced the killing of Jews during the Mumbai attacks. The organisation has asked all muftis and imams to denounce the Mumbai killings - and especially the killing of the Jews at the Nariman house - during the Friday prayers.

It is supremely significant that both these steps come in the run-up to Bakrid. The festival marks the Biblical episode when God asked Abraham to sacrifice what he loved most. Abraham took his son, aiming to kill him as a sacrifice, but at the last moment a miracle saved Isaac and replaced him with a goat. Muslims celebrate that same miracle at Bakrid every year.

And this year - despite the sorrow and horror of Mumbai - marks a tremendous shift. The two decisions by Muslim religious bodies are unprecedented but welcome.

We in India have always cherished our Muslim heroes: Shahid Hameed, APJ Abdul Kalam, Mohammad Azharuddin, Shahrukh Khan. We have clung to these heroes when we run out of arguments for our secularist democracy. Yet there has always been a dark side: political leaders like Farukh Abdullah who presided over ethnic cleansing, and the obscurantists who took to streets at the time of the Shah Bano case, and the self-professed liberal secularists who have done as much damage to our social fabric as the Hindu fundamentalists. Through it all, the Muslim religious and political leadership has been lacking, and the community has been forced to turn to obscurantists, opportunists, ideologues and idiots for guidance.

This is why these two decisions by Islamic religious bodies are so important for us as a nation. For once, the religious, the most conservative parts of the Indian Muslim society have taken a clear stance: India over religion! India before Islam! India over history!

It is time to acknowledge, respect, appreciate that step. And to support it with all our strength.

Here is an idea: Bakrid commemorates a miracle based on sacrifice. In the Bible, God asks Abraham to sacrifice what is dearest to him. In response, Abraham takes up his son Isaac as sacrifice to the divinity. At the last moment, having tested Abraham's faith, God replaces Isaac with a lamb, acknowledging the spirit that drives Abraham's sacrifice.

Given AIOIM and the religious trusts stance on the Mumbai massacre, there has already been a sacrifice made by religious leaders of the Indian Muslim community. Theologically, they have chosen to challenge all the major contemporary orthodoxies by refusing burial to the terrorists. Make no mistake: this seemingly small decision pits Indian Muslims against all major theological schools of the Islamic world. How ironic that once again the Indian Muslims have been called to prove their devotion - this time to the nation-state rather to God - and once again the bulk of them are willing to repeat Abraham's sacrifice.

It is sentimental to talk of Abrahamic miracles in this day and age. But perhaps Mumbai has given us that opportunity and perhaps the need for such miracles. This year, let us honour that choice. How about if every Indian Muslim who celebrates Eid in a "sober way" puts a candle in their window on that day?

And what if the rest of India honours that choice of a "black" Eid, by lighting a similar candle in our windows, regardless of our religion.

After all, at the end of Abraham's sacrifice, there was unity and celebration. Perhaps this is the year, ALL Indians can commemorate the Abrahamic sacrifice, and be joined in the unity that results from such faith!


  1. Sorry to note that you are one sided. Even after all these attacks, with fingers pointing towards Pakistan and Jihadi, if Indian muslims don;t react, it would have been a naked truth to the Indians, that they were not Indians. Their loyaltly is first towards Islam and Umma. Untill that changes, we are not going to see any sea change. Asking Bakrid to be celebrated in a Sober way, you say is a Big step?? When the whole nation is mourning, this cannot even be considered as a good gesture, it was a natural thing to do. How come all countries with muslim minorities face problems. They are either a turbulent minority or a violent majority. Parsis, jains, Buddhists, Sikhs are all minorities and have not created these problems. Nor are Hindus in other parts of the world where they are minorities, including Pakistan. Let us accept that the root cause of this problem is the doctrination in Islam. Until you see this fact, we can only be keyboard warriors and not understand the real problem.

  2. Seems you are driven by prejudice and hate rather than facts. The Indian Muslims have already taken ACTION. Refusing burial ceremonies is the initiation of a HUGE battle against the jihadi ummah. And here is another FACT for you: count the number of Indian Muslims who have carried out terrorist attacks against India. And then count the number of Indian Muslim soldiers, policemen and officers who put themselves on the line AS INDIANS for the country. The "reality" should be obvious even to bigots like you.
    And talking of "minorities creating trouble" WHERE were you in the 1980s when the so-called "Sikh problem" was going on? And ever hear of the "Christian" armed militias in the North East? Seems that you want to pin your bigotry on Muslims rather than considering factors beyond Islamophobia.
    Btw, if you are SUCH a patriot, why hide behind "anonymous" id on the blogosphere?

  3. 1. "Refusing burial rights to TERRORISTS - who have killed over 200 innocent lives" - A GREAT ACTION POINT??.
    2.What action was taken by Muslim leaders against MUSLIMS, who exterminated the Kashmir Pandits.
    3. When you do ratios, pls do a comparitive study of ratios. Count Hindu terrorists, if any, and the number of Hindus in the army, police Vs. Muslim terrorits and the muslims in army. We know which is more significant.
    4. How was Sikh terrorists handled? With appeasements and soft talks? Where were you during Operation Blue Star? Terrorism can be handled with only one language. Are you willing to accept that?
    5. Yes, actions by Christians in NE is condemnable. Terrorism from any community, whether Hindu, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs have to be dealt with a firm hand. Are we doing this with Muslims, when we did it for Sikhs? How come Afzal Guru is still alive? Where are these Muslim leaders? Why have they not issued statements against him?
    6. My name is Suresh, I did not feel like registering on your site, as I may not frequent here.
    7. One last question to you, if Muslims truly feel Indian, why are they opposed to the Uniform Civil code? WHy are there Shiya and Sunni personal law boards?

    I have replied to you point by point. I expect the same level of objective reply from you, rather than abusing me as a Bigot, on no Grounds. Be balanced and be clear.

  4. Suresh - you dont have to register to leave comments here. I would also suggest you do some reading on your history and contemporary politics. However, I will respond to your points:

    1. Refusing to bury Muslims is a HUGE theological step that pits Indian Muslims against ALL other Muslim theology schools. It is as historic a social/cultural/theological act as Martin Luther's stand that split the Christian church.

    2.And what action was taken by Hindu leaders against those who killed Sikhs in 1984? Indian politicians have long played the politics of death - dating back to the nationalist movement. NOW that we have been given an opportunity to break with that past, people like you are too short-sighted and narrow-minded to sieze that for ALL India and ALL Indians.

    3. I am not comparing "ratios" but simply pointing out that out of 150 million Indian Muslims, the jihadis cant find 12 of them to attack India. That says far greater things about the depth of loyalty Indian Muslims have for India. To doubt the loyalty of Indian Muslims - not on individual basis but as a collective - is an act of treason and disrespect to the hundreds of thousands of army personnel who practise their faith, fight and die for India; of scientists, entrepreneurs and professional contribute to our economic, cultural and scientific might, and identify themselves as Indian Muslims.

    4. Re: Punjab problem, I suggest you go back and read history. Operation Blue Star was ONE action taken under extreme duress and based on specific intelligence that a Pakistani attack was imminent to simultaneously cut off the J&K "chicken neck." Punjab was NOT solved by army action at Blue Star but years later thanks to a comprehensive set of political, economic, cultural and military solutions.

    5. How many Muslims have asked for Afzal Guru's life? Other than some JKLF loons, hardly any. You are blaming Indian Muslims for the politics of death that is played by ALL political parties. And why dont you go do your reading: Indian Muslims have repeatedly spoken against Guru AND jihadis. Trouble is people like you are not interested in listening.

    7. Re why dont we have a Uniform Civil Code - I support the UCC but why dont you ask yourself why Roman Catholics cant divorce in India when they can in a Catholic countries in Europe. That too is a casualty of political posturing. And if you look at the splits between the Muslim Personal Law boards (there are over eight of them), most Indian Muslims would rather have access to modern civil law. When vote bank politics blocks them from UCC and civil law changes, Indian Muslims use splits in the personal law boards to modernise the laws.

    If you look past the hate, the problem is NOT Indian Muslims but the politicians who use prejudice and ignorance to keep themselves in power. And for me that is an act of treason!

  5. Sunny, I have done enough reading on History, dont think I need classes from you.

    1. Except Sunny Singh, NO other Leader across the world recognises this as a THEOLOGICAL Shift. Comparison with the act of Martin Luther is purely day dreaming. And if refusing Burial is the Greatest Theological Shift, I am sorry to say your view is highly myopic. And who are they pitted against by doing this? IF they are Indians, they better act Indian. If refusing Burial rights for these terrorists is seen as a great sacrifice, that only shows the extent to which we have accepted their previous acts.

    2. Yes, I agree that Congress shielded all those leaders. It is a national Shame.

    3. You did ask me to look at the ratios in your first reply. Please remember what you write. To compare muslims with the 100s and thousands of army men, just does'nt make sense to me. What are you trying to convey here. I am not saying all 150 millions are terrorists. Did I? You are making assumptions that suit you. I am talking about the frequent attacks, that have been pointed towards SIMI and Indian Mujahideen. Are they Hindu organizations?

    4. I think, sitting at London, you seem to have forgotten / ignorant of India's geography. Chicken neck in India refers to the small strip of land that connects North East with Rest of India. When did Pakistan come on this side of India? This is news to me. And you quote this as the reason for Military action. Sorry, i request you to study Geography along with your History. The end to Terrorist action was brought about by killing of Bhindranwale.

    5. Wow! What an argument. If muslims were to ask for Afzal Guru's life, it would mean a contempt of Supreme Court. Even a Kindergarten child would know this and not do it. You are skirting my question. HOW MANY MUSLIM LEADERS HAVE ASKED FOR HANGING OF AFZAL GURU. NOBODY. When the other political parties and majority of the citizens demand this, as true Indians the Muslim leaders must join this too. Where are their leaders on this issue?

    6. What point are you trying to drive here. I am asking for a Uniform Civil Code, which would bring Christians also under the law. The muslims and their Ummahs are opposed to this. Why dont you answer this question?

    I agree that Politics certainly drives many disasters. Appeasements are done to encourage muslims. Why not they come out and oppose this in open. There are many journalists like you, who convenietly try to skirt issues, by quoting and connecting things ( Chicken neck, Muslims and the whole of Indian Army, Catholics and UCC) that are untrue, so that you can draw the "information drought" citizens of this country into your western view of India. I am sorry to see your arguments.

  6. Suresh - this is my final response mostly because this is completely circular as you refuse to bother with facts. You want to debate, then do so on facts rather than ill-informed prejudices. Moreover you are offensive and have increasingly shown yourself as a bigot.

    1. READ the analysts rather than gossip rags. Pretty much every major political scientist and IR theorist has noticed that huge theological shift that has occurred post-Mumbai and its ramifications are still being considered. It is also the latest in a long string of decisions by religious leaders that clearly differentiate between Indian Muslims and those abroad.

    As regard "greater sacrifice" that you demand: those 200 Mumbai dead you are so upset about also include a lot of Indian Muslims! The death list is easily available: look it up! I assume you aren't concerned with them because in your mind they dont count!

    2. Your hate filled agenda demands that Indian Muslims prostrate themselves to some mythical standard YOU in your bigotry set them rather than looking at how they contribute to the country. And why this special standard of loyalty for the Muslims? How many Hindus do you test with this standard?

    3. I asked you to COUNT the number of Indian Muslims caught as terrorists and compare that to the numbers that serve the country. LEARN to READ!

    2. SIMI needs to be brought in check, no one doubts that. On the other hand, even American intelligence sources (WIDELY reported in the media) indicate that "Indian Mujahadeen" is a front for LeT and most likely not an indigenous group (just the same as the "Deccan Mujahadeen").

    4. READ your bloody geography before you start making snide remarks and stupid assumptions. The chicken neck is the narrow strip of land that connects to Kashmir! And read up on the DOZENS of military and intelligence accounts of why this was threatened and thus precipitated Op Blue Star. That strip of land has been called that in military and political parlance for DECADES, in part because even on the map it LOOKS like the NECK of the country.

    Your snide comments mean very little when all they have done so far is expose your ignorance.

    4. And once again read your history: "terrorist action" continued WELL beyond Bhindranwale's death.

    5. Once again, Muslim citizens have spoken up again and again for action - and that includes Guru's hanging. Bigots like you aren't listening!

    And WHICH Muslim leaders are you talking about? Salman Khursheed? Or Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi? Seems they are too busy playing politics of death!

    6. Really? "The muslims and their Ummahs are opposed" to UCC? Have you done a poll? WHO is this Ummah? Those who are split to form the Ismaili personal law board in order to modernise civil law that Indian Parliament (and politicians) wont let them reform legally? Or the Shia PLB who refuse the triple talaq? Or the AIM women's personal law board which refuses large parts of the sharia civil law and refuses the authority of the obscurantist imams?

    The reason I mentioned the Catholics is because the Catholic Church in the Vatican refuses to accept the UCC for Indian Catholics. Are you going to question the loyalty of Indian Catholics as well? Or is that a privilege you have specially granted Indian Muslims?

    You talk "appeasement" - how often do you refuse presents when they are being dished out to you? But why not also talk of dalit appeasement? And OBC appeasement? And upper caste appeasement? And regional appeasement? ALL parties chase after dodgy elements of the society for short term gain, but it seems bigots like you are happy to only hold Muslims responsible.

    Finally, given your little tirade at the end, I suppose your best friend is Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. Why stop at "western view of India" and not also talk of "parkati" and "lipstick powder pahni mahilaye."

    Bigots like you LIKE to remain ignorant and prejudiced, and you harm India more than anyone else.

  7. to Anonymous: who is killing who in Orissa, just to name an example? There are extremists everywhere, and Hindus are not an exception. When are we going to be able to look beyond religion?

  8. Sunny and Suresh, read thru your thread. Both of you have valid points, but both of you have'nt said what is the way forward.

  9. Prakash, please read the post again. I suggested a very small symbolic gesture of unity at the end of it for ALL Indians.

    There are many ways forward and I have written about them before/and will write new posts on that. For the moment, the biggest need is unity within the citizenry. Hence my suggestion of a tiny symbolic gesture of unity.

  10. Prakash, I could write about the way forward. My comments are not being posted here, atleast two of them were'nt ( I dont know about this one). I wish there was more transparency. We could probably use some other forum for this I guess.

    I agree with Sunny that this gesture is symbolic towards unity. I objected the fact of calling this a "Stunning Announcement" and a " Huge Battle".

    I have no doubt that as citizens we must all unite beyond religious borders. I have many muslim friends too, and have had disucssions about the way forward. But what is the way? How are we going to stop this brainwashing by the Jihadis? How are we going to handle the political games? That, I strongly feel will have to come from the individual community, who are being targetted today, whether it is Hindus or muslims or Christians, becuase that is the only way to clear any wrong assumptions people may have - Suresh

  11. Sunny, Suresh - Read your posts, both of you seem to have toned down. Good to see the debate converging. Atleast the way ahead seems to be clear. Thanks both of you for this "food for thought"

  12. Hey Prakash, thanks for your Summary. Atleast both me and Sunny agree on one point :), that unity is the way forward.

    Sunny, could you post a blog about your thoughts on how this Unity could be achieved? - Suresh