There is a stereotype of what a Muslim looks like, dresses, behaves and thinks. Hence every conversation/discussion or debate with any perceived Muslim starts with certain prejudices or certain assumptions of the boundaries of the discourse and taboo topics which are best left out.
Time to catch up!
Behold the millennial or new cultural Muslims. They are bold, they are smart, they delve into areas of theology which their parents and grandparents considered off limits or best left to the mullahs. They are techno-savvy and have no qualms about picking up blasphemous issues with risks to their lives and that of their families. They do it out of a fierce sense of social justice and political equality and they do it out of immense love for all communities so that civilisations and cultures progress towards more pluralistic and tolerant societies.
The stereotype about Muslims needs to be broken – on one end the picture perfect ”jihadi” terrorist brandishing an AK-47 or the (niqaab posh) veiled ”jihadi” brides luring youngsters and on the other end of the spectrum the bumbling, ignorant, squawking, verse spouting, offensive-in-a-jiffy, bearded Muslim with equally ignorant and caged / indoctrinated hijab- wearing, brash, confident women/wives/sisters/mothers/daughters.
The new cultural Muslims are not afraid to find the essence of the original ”message” from the deserts of Arabia even if it means digging up contradictory verses, or antique manuscripts which point to a human intervention while copying verses onto parchment, sheepskin, cattle bones, rocks, palm leaves, or leather skins.
They don’t mind questioning, being critical or skeptical about stories handed down since centuries in the folklore, myth, legends, stories, metaphors, proverbs or sayings – the prevalent medium in those times of preserving literature. They keep going to the core intentions of those narratives and subverting the images of fierce and brutal Muslim invaders singed into the psyche of many populations who bore the brunt of pillaging with those of philosophical, scientific-minded astronomers, alchemists, medical practitioners, botanists, mathematicians, and theological dissenters.
The new cultural Muslims are fiercely secular who believe that religion is a private matter and any open display of beliefs borders on bigotry, domination or a sense of superiority and should not be not be encouraged or appeased. Rather the secularism of the constitutions of their respective countries should be upheld in every phase of daily life. This will create a paradigm shift in regions where religion is a political tool and a mass indoctrination campaign.
The new cultural Muslims are action oriented who explore new ways of upholding the message of humanism in all religions through charity or volunteer work across communities irrespective of caste, creed, gender or belief system. They are bringing new meanings and new interpretations to animal rights, women’s rights, child rights and gay rights in Islam. They don’t mind exploring assisted suicides or pledging their bodies to medical science after death thus upending the notion that there is an afterlife and everything that we do in this life is actually reward for the next.
They have pledged to get their communities out of the medieval mindset and take them on par with other belief systems which evolved with modern times and contributed greatly to the advancement of humankind instead of staying wrapped in regressive philosophies and regressive cultural practices. Those evolved belief systems went onto to develop medical research and chance upon life-saving discoveries and technological inventions. The cultural Muslims have sworn to get their communities out of the choke hold of the mullah/politician alliance and develop community leaders who will not hesitate to pull up families, mosques, ideologues which resort to extremism and fanaticism and end up plunging entire generations into bloody gore and mayhem scarring the collective psyche of peaceful communities by giving them the legacy of historical wounds, one of which is my hometown.
The new cultural Muslims are exactly what is needed in the world right now. They follow the Mutazalli traditions of the great medieval scholars Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and the formidable Ibn Khuldun who gave preference to primacy of reason rather than advocating the backward theological policy of primacy of the text. They are the new game changers and they are growing in numbers. They can bring back the tradition of ”ijtihad” which was very crucial to early Islamic era and without which it has ossified and frozen in time, completely out of sync with the needs of the ”ummah” in modern times.
The state needs to listen to these cultural Muslims who are paving the way forward for a new leadership among Indian Muslims and Muslims everywhere. There is an existential war between regressive Islamists who are not averse to using nuclear, chemical and biological warfare against populations whether Muslim or not and in this battle for secularism, freedom of speech and pluralism, it is these cultural Muslims who are in the front line and bearing the brunt of vicious smear campaigns, vitriolic online trolling and even machete attacks and beheading/stabbings.
It is the responsibility of every nation state who wants the secular fabric of their country to be preserved and the responsibility of every rational, logical, democratic citizen to listen, protect, defend and promote these cultural Muslims. This is the only way for a more peaceful world, a more tolerant Islam, a more understanding Western civilisation and a more pluralistic approach to belief systems.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
A friend saw scope for dark humour in the instruction given to Haryana cops to go sniffing around biryani stands in Muslim dominated Mewat and use detection/ deduction to determine whether it’s made of beef that is allowed (buffalo) or that which lands you in prison (cow, bull, bullock). One can imagine some cops making a hearty meal of their licence to investigate fragrant biryani, he said, suggesting a cartoon depicting policemen engaged in the business of biryani “takeaways”.
But the joke would fall flat on the targeted people, especially now that women, including a minor from Haryana, have said they were raped and their rapists said this was done because they ate beef. One just has to examine the written literature of the cow protection outfits to see it’s not just love of cow that is part of the ideological agenda but also targeting a particular community. Read also the writings of M S Golwalkar, the supreme guide of the RSS, to which Haryana’s chief minister M L Khattar belongs, to clear any confusion whether this is blind cow bhakti or something darker. All these incidents are also designed to show Mewat’s Muslims their place in the world.
According to the 2012 livestock census of India the number of buffaloes in Mewat were 2,28,972 while there were 33,765 cattle which includes cows. That means people are overwhelmingly more likely to consume buffalo meat during Bakrid (mutton is currently at Rs 450 a kilo in the NCR region hence out of the reach of many) or in their regular lives. But since buffalo and cow meat looks similar (referred to as “bade ka gosht”) people could just be randomly humiliated, attacked and terrorised over what is part of their diet.
What’s been happening in Haryana should be a national embarrassment. In end June this year a video surfaced of two men in Haryana, both members of the minority community, being forced to eat cow dung by cow protection brigands. The video of the thrashing of Dalits in Una, Gujarat was an embarrassment for the BJP/RSS as the community is viewed as a potential and growing vote bank. The Haryana footage does not directly damage them since Muslims are not an existing or potential voter bloc for them. But the footage has had serious consequences. It’s been circulated widely among the minority community including people in the Kashmir Valley that too will have another wretched Eid in 2016.
Let’s also use this occasion to recall that the rage in display for the last two months actually began to burst out around Eid ul Adha last year in the Valley. Then people took to slaughtering cows as a mark of protest against the resurrection of a 153-year-old ban on beef by a Jammu court. Since mutton is the preferred meat in Kashmir this was a reaction to the assertion of the cow agenda. Violence broke out, curfew was imposed and communications snapped.
On October 19, 2015, Zahid Ahmad Bhatt, a Kashmiri trucker died from the 70% burn injuries received, when his vehicle was attacked by a mob in Udhampur that claimed he was dealing in cow meat. Again, protests were called in the Valley and curfew imposed.
Then in March 2016, four Kashmiri students in Rajasthan had to be picked up by the police when a mob claimed they were cooking beef in their hostels. It was a story that was widely circulated in the Valley and TV channels played footage of four terrified boys explaining they had not cooked beef.
Do we therefore really imagine that the actions of the state in Haryana and reports of women being raped over beef would not fuel the narrative of Muslims being targeted in secular India? Do we believe that incidents like the Dadri lynching on September 28 last year have not impacted the psyche of an entire community? Or that people have forgotten the horrific image of a 12-year-old boy strung up from a tree in Jharkhand by the cow protection brigades in March this year?
There is a narrative of trauma being built up around these incidents across the country, from Haryana to Kashmir, undermining the ideas of magnanimity that have held India together. This is not a happy Eid.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
SRINAGAR: A grenade attack by terrorists in Anantnag's Sherbagh police station killed one civilian and left 14 people including three cops critically wounded shortly after the state government decided to impose curfew+ in all 10 Kashmir districts to prevent any outbreak of violence.
The valley will hardly see any Eid festivities on Tuesday with the state, after a high-level meeting of all security agencies, deciding to use drones, choppers+ and high-resolution cameras to monitor the situation and prevent movement of separatists, violent mobs and protesters during Eid.
The decision was taken following a call by the separatists for a march to the Srinagar office of the UN, officials said. This would be the first time in 26 years since the onset of militancy in 1990 that there would be no Eid gatherings at Idgah and Hazratbal shrines. The state also ordered shutdown of internet services of all telecom networks and mobile telephony except state-run BSNL for the next 72 hours.
The Army has been put on standby and will step in if there is fresh outbreak of violence in the valley. which has been witnessing widespread unrest for over two months leading to death of over 75 people so far, official sources said. Troops have already been stationed at vantage points in rural areas which have a history of violent protests.
Meanwhile, in the ongoing Poonch encounter, a fourth terrorist was killed, holed up in a semi-finished government building on Monday. On Sunday, three Pakistani fidayeen were killed in a day-long firefight with security forces. One cop was also killed.
Sources said two groups consisting of four fidayeen each had sneaked in from the LoC and taken shelter in a government building and an under-construction private house in Poonch town.
Defence spokesman at 16 Corp, Col N Hari, said the gun battle is still on. But he refused to give the number of terrorists in the vacant building.
The decision to completely ban the internet was taken after a review of the prevailing law and order situation, sources said. They said Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone and Reliance have been ordered to shut down their services+ with immediate effect for 72 hours. BSNL too has been asked to stop its broadband services for internet.
Where is love of Pakistan for Kashmiris ? Still no offer for asylum. So, Pakistan doesn''t want Kashmiris, they lust only for the land. None of the Kashmiris also showed any intetest in migrating to Pakistan. Ha ha.Aranya Deb
However, post-paid BSNL connections, which are mainly used by the police, Army and government officials, have been kept out of the purview of the ban, sources said.
Mobile telephony was banned immediately after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commanderBurhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8 which set off the current spiral of violence in the Valley. It was partially restored on July 27 followed by opening of only broadband