Saturday, March 19, 2016
Javed Anand - Good Sufi, Bad Muslim
So we know now, in case we did not know it already: Bollywood celebrity and outgoing Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Javed Akhtar, is a “Good Muslim”, and so are the Sufis who invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to grace the World Sufi Forum in Delhi on Thursday. Asaduddin Owaisi of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen on the other hand, as all of us always knew, is a “Bad Muslim”.
Actor and Modi-bhakt Anupam Kher says it just like it is: “Bharat Mata ki jai!” is the “only real test” of who is a desh premi and who is not. Self-proclaimed atheist Akhtar and the Sufis have passed the test with flying colours. In his last speech in the Rajya Sabha, Akhtar theatrically recited the magic mantra not once but thrice. At the World Sufi Forum, Modi’s elaborate “Islam means peace” homily was greeted with repeated chants of “Bharat Mata ki jai”. (Thankfully, no one offered a “Muslim cap” to Modi, a man otherwise known to don every other type of headgear when it suits him).
Owaisi, on the other hand, has declared in a speech that while he has no issues with saying “Jai Hind”, he will not put himself through Hindutva’s nationalism test even if someone held a knife to his throat. Taking a cue from his party chief, on March 16 an MIM legislator, Waris Pathan, refused to say “Bharat Mata ki jai” in the Maharashtra Assembly. The refusal created a huge furore wherein along with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena coalition, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party joined the chorus against Pathan. He was suspended from the Assembly for the entire budget session.
No one, however, seemed in the least concerned over Shiv Sena MLA Gulabrao Patil hurling the following at Pathan: “Is desh mein rehna hai, kutto, to Vande Mataram bolna hoga" If you want to stay in this country, dogs, you will have to sing Vande Mataram. Having spoken in the plural, it is anybody’s guess whether Patil was referring to the MIM in particular or Indian Muslims in general. As an afterthought a day later, on the demand raised by the Congress party’s leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, the Speaker agreed to delete the Sena legislator’s obnoxious remark from the Assembly’s record.
Everyone must be patriotic, and patriotism will be defined by the bully, those who can shout the loudest, have their way. You will be tested on not just the slogans you raise but on those you do not raise. Patriotism will be forced by the BJP and its parivar, but not just by them. If you are deemed to be not patriotic enough, be very afraid, also, of the Congress.
— Indian Express, lead editorial
Chanting the refrain
The Sufis assembled at the Delhi meet will no doubt maintain, as many other Muslims do, that “Bharat Mata ki jai!” has nothing to do with religion; it’s about love for the nation. They argue moreover that Muslims who oppose the slogan are falling into a trap set by the Sangh Parivar. The Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh, has expressed the same opinion. Such reasoning is problematic as it skirts several critical questions.
From the Hyderabad Central University, to Jawaharlal Nehru University, to everywhere else, the Sanghis, who to their eternal shame had nothing to do with India’s freedom struggle, have now delegated to themselves the sole supreme authority to judge who is a patriot and who is not using a simple four-word test.
Why is “Jai Hind”, “Jai Bharat” or “Hindustan Zindabad” not enough? Why is the singing of the national anthem not enough? Which Constitutional principle, which law of the land, is violated if some Muslims genuinely believe that saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is against the teachings of Islam? Why is it that Muslims who have no difficulty in saying the same words, at an Arvind Kejriwal rally for example, have a problem with Hindutva’s diktat? Is the nationalism bogey not simply an insidious ploy to push secular democratic India towards Hindu Rashtra?
Why can’t the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party see what’s amply clear not only to the Left parties (“A single slogan cannot ever become the sole patriotism test of citizens”: Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary, Sitaram Yechury) but also sections of the media? Take, for example, the lead editorial in the March 18 edition of The Indian Express under the headline: “Hand of the bully: Congress must take responsibility for its role in the disgraceful suspension from the Maharashtra Assembly of Waris Pathan”: The article starts with:
“Everyone must be patriotic, and patriotism will be defined by the bully, those who can shout the loudest, have their way. You will be tested on not just the slogans you raise but on those you do not raise. Patriotism will be forced by the BJP and its parivar, but not just by them. If you are deemed to be not patriotic enough, be very afraid, also, of the Congress.”
And the lead editorial in The Asian Age warns: “Were the Maharashtra Assembly mood to gain force… we would be going astray as a people and bringing upon ourselves every curse that wakes in the wake of the wilful distortion of the historical record.”
Through their unsolicited "Bharat Mata ki jai" chant in Parliament and at the Sufi Forum, Javed Akhtar and the Sufis have built their distance not only from “Bad Muslims” but also from millions of Hindus who refuse to endorse the claim of Hindu Nationalists that this, and this slogan alone, is the real test of every Indians’ love for and loyalty to his country.
At an informal gathering of Kanhaiya Kumar and a few JNU students on the campus about a week ago, one of them asked: we students at JNU, Hyderabad University and elsewhere have been fighting Hindutva’s menace; why are Muslim leaders and organisations so silent when they too should be concerned about the same thing?
About Owaisi and his party with a blatantly Muslim communal agenda, the less said the better. If anything, the MIM’s politics is rich material for a case study on how not to combat Hindutva’s designs. For many Muslims across the country, it is an article of faith that the MIM is in cahoots with the BJP-RSS as both benefit from spreading the poison of communalism. Some even talk of crores changing hands.
But what might Javed Akhtar and the Sufis have to say in response to the query by the JNU student? If not as a Muslim, what stopped Akhtar from speaking out against the growing witch-hunt, doctored videos by TV channels, takeover of not just educational campuses but even court premises by lynch mobs with state connivance? Not earlier, when academics, writers and artists (many of them atheists, though not communists) returned awards in protest, nor in his speech in the Rajya Sabha?
His speech said nothing more than what could be expected from a detached sage having descended from some ashram in the Himalayas for a brief glance at the state of the nation. Words of wisdom totally bereft of any reference, except obliquely, to the ugly climate being built up in the country with active encouragement from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-directed, Modi-led, BJP-dominated, NDA government at the Centre.
What history tells us: As for the Sufis who took pains to ingratiate themselves with the prime minister, here’s an interesting bit of history. Among the main players in the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board who organised the World Sufi Forum are the management and direct beneficiaries of the dargahs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya (Delhi) and Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (Ajmer). Anyone familiar with the life and times of these saints will tell you that keeping a distance, never cozying up or currying favours, from the powers that be was almost an obsession with the Sufis.
During his lifetime, Hazrat Nizamuddin was witness to the rise and fall of eight different sultans who occupied the throne. It is well-known that the saint strongly disapproved of, and actively discouraged, any of these sultans even from paying a royal visit to his abode. Amir Khusro, the most renowned disciple of the saint, was also an officer in the court of Jalaluddin Khilji. Khusro came to know that eager to somehow seek the Hazrat Nizamuddin’s blessings, was planning on visiting the saint in disguise. Khusro leaked the news to Hazrat Nizamuddin who promptly left the city to foil the sultan’s surreptitious plan.
Furious with such “treachery” and “disclosure of state secret”, Khilji demanded an explanation from Khusro. This is what the latter said in his defence: “I had to choose between betraying my peer and betraying you. In betraying my peer I would have lost my imaan (faith); in betraying you I stand to lose only my jaan (life). I would sooner lose my jaan than myimaan”. An impressed Khilji forgave Khusro his great betrayal.
Recounting this incident from history, a devout Sufi practitioner told Sabrang India: “You could say that in hosting the prime minister, the organisers of the World Sufi Forum have betrayed their Chisti tradition (the silsala to which most of the Sufis in India belonged), if not theirimaan.
Among the many Sufi silsilas (orders) there were some who stood aloof from power, even spoke truth to power. Others provided legitimacy to the ruler of the day. While Hazrat Nizamuddin and Khwaja Moinuddin belonged to the former category, the organisers of the Delhi meet who otherwise swear by these very saints have chosen a contrary path.
Moving forward: Through their unsolicited "Bharat Mata ki jai" chant in Parliament and at the Sufi Forum, Javed Akhtar and the Sufis have built their distance not only from “Bad Muslims” but also from millions of Hindus who refuse to endorse the claim of Hindu Nationalists that this, and this slogan alone, is the real test of every Indians’ love for and loyalty to his country.
The growing influence of Saudi Arabia-fuelled rigid and intolerant version of Islam should be a matter of concern for all Indians, Muslims particularly. The AIUMB could have played a very positive role in preserving India’s syncretic tradition, stemming the Wahhabi tide. But from the brand of Sufism on display at the Delhi meet, it is seems that the answer for Indian Muslims lies elsewhere.
Perhaps they should give some thought to what Omid Safi, an American professor of Islamic studies wrote some years ago in the American context, but which is equally relevant in our present context: “If our public discourse about religion and politics is to evolve to a more subtle, and accurate, space, it must get to the point where religious voices that speak from the depths and heights of all spiritual traditions can do more than simply acquiesce in the face of the Empire. They can, and should, speak for the weak, and give voice to the voiceless”.
Or, closer home, they could pay heed to two liberation theologists from Pakistan, Junaid S Ahmed and Sania Sufi: “Muslims must dig through the Islamic canon for a discourse far more liberating than merely the negation of beheadings or senseless violence or intolerance”.https://sabrangindia.in/article/%E2%80%98good-sufi%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98bad-muslim%E2%80%99
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