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Monday, March 14, 2016

No country for Islamophobia

Response to No country for Islamophobia | http://MikeGhouseforIndia.blogspot.com 

This article counters ‘establishing’ a narrative that Islamophobia is alive in India, let’s review its validity. 

While some have given currency to the idea that ‘Islamophobia’ is what is causing the turmoil and a wave of intolerance in India, a majority of Indians and Indian Muslims find themselves aghast when they hear Islamophobia in India, what's that? 


The Islamophobia narrative is American in nature and its aggressive organized avatar is traced to the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979.  Indeed, there was not much talk about terrorism ascribed to Islam prior to that date.

Opportunists have always found ways to make money; there was money in turning the ugly Iran hostage situation into a broader issue, and they cultivated that it into Islam against the West.  Instead of mitigating conflicts between Iran and United States, they aggravated it, and Iran certainly piqued it further with their short-sighted rhetoric.  It was a major foreign policy blunder of America, and one of the shameful outcomes was painting Islam as a villain of the West.

No matter what the conflict was, hijacking a plane or pushing a senior citizen off a cruise liner into the ocean, or the Israel-Palestine conflict, the opportunists sold it as Islamic terrorism to substantiate their line of thinking.

When you start hearing the problems of the day slapped onto Islam and repeated again and again, you develop a phobia for Islam or anything associated with it, and this is an American narrative.

That is not an acceptable narrative in India. Islam is not a new entrant to India for Hindus and others to 'develop' fear of it; it’s assimilated well enough to be a part of the norm of the society which the article has articulated well.

Men like Subramanian Swamy, whose claims have been challenged time and again, learn the Islamophobia narrative from American opportunists, and make aggressive attempts to slap it on India.  Should we give validity to their claims?    

Not Islamophobia, but ‘Communalism’ is the Indian narrative, a word that describes tensions between two communities, in particular the Hindus and Muslims, and between Hindus and Christians and it is two way street at times. The brunt of those riots is usually borne largely by the minorities, that is the case with minorities in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, America or Brazil.  

The good news is that an overwhelming majority of Indians, regardless of their faith or caste will continue to be moderates who care about fellow beings, and focus on taking care of their families.  They (Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others) do not hate others who differ from them, they don't have the bloody time for that,  and as such Islamophobia narrative will not take root in India, unless some opportunists push for it.

Mohammad Imran writes, “
Islamophobia defines Muslims as the "Other" and to be feared. This portrays Hindus as peaceful and Muslims as violent.” We are all peaceful with a few among us who are not, so, “ we should give currency to the word "Communal" which reflects the situation, and is understood by all in India.” Islamophobia is not the word applicable in Indian context and we must not use it.  

Indian Muslims have done exceptionally well to ward off the Al-Aqaeda and reject the ISIS; it has given a big sense of relief to all Indians that “Our Muslims are with us.” Some two Lakh Imams have condemned terrorism and condemned ISIS.  Good leaders of India brag about Indian Muslims for taking a stand against the extremists from abroad.

While some rejoice (a % from all groups) tearing India apart, let's focus on putting India together, but never ever deny the problems we face. 

The Hindus, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others must be equally concerned when a few among us try to disturb the social equilibrium of the country. Instead of pointing fingers at the other, we must learn to take the responsibility to fix the problems, while sincerely acknowledging them and getting out of the denial mode.  If you and I can show the courage to use the words “We Indians” and not “them Muslims’ or “them Hindus” or “they are the problem” we would have taken the right step to restore India's pluralistic ethos. 

Should we give currency to the word “Islamophobia” in India? I think not, it is not a wise thing to do, and I appreciate the article for boldly challenging the attempts to establish Islamophobia in India.

The article, "No country for Islamophobia" was published in the Indian Express at http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/no-country-for-islamophobia/




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Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, news maker, and a speaker on 
PluralismInterfaithIslampolitics, terrorism, human rights, India, Israel-Palestine and foreign policy. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Visit him in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net for his writings at TheGhousediary.com and several blogs listed there in. www.MuslimSpeaker.com | www.Interfaithspeaker.com

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No country for Islamophobia

Courtesy - Indian Express
Written by Abdul Shaban , Abusaleh Shariff | Updated: March 15, 2016 12:24 am
The Indian ethos is one of assimilation of Islam or Islamophilia, and love and respect for the other’s religion. (Source: AP)
A leisurely walk on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and interactions with the Indian diaspora were experiences to remember. One could feel palpable apprehensions about Islam and rising Islamophobia in the West. But who had a relatively higher fear factor — the people on the street or Muslims dreading a backlash due to terrorist incidents?
Notwithstanding the deepening of communal politics in India in recent years, particularly since the ascent of the BJP, questions arise on Islamophobia and communal violence in India, especially comparisons between the situation in India and the West. Such questions are difficult to answer. Some articulate that the presence of Islam has impacted Indian Hindus, which is reflected in rising communal incidents and exclusionary and discriminatory practices against Muslims, especially in public spaces, including government jobs and positions of national importance. For academics and analysts, the situation is complex, embedded in the socio-economic history and syncretic culture of India. Our clearheaded response: Islamophobia has no relevance to India.
Is Islamophobia — “a fear of Islam” — emerging from contemporary politics or is it the manifestation of a sociological and cultural game plan? If the “fear of the unknown” or “unknown power” defines a phobia, then how can this fear be present in India, where Islam has been an integral part of society, politics and everyday life for at least a millennium? Although the crusadic encounters are well-documented, the presence of Islam in the West is recent and based on selective migration. The dominant Western culture and politics is mixed up with selective and sporadic suspicions that bubble up due to some rare but spectacular violent episodes.
The Indian ethos is one of assimilation of Islam or Islamophilia, and love and respect for the other’s religion. Indeed, religious assimilation is so conspicuous across India that it is easy to miss it altogether. It would be appropriate to highlight that the Sufi saints of the subcontinent are revered both by Muslims and Hindus. Assimilation is so strong that Hindu parents let imams at local mosques serve as traditional healers for their children, with dua or Islamic prayer. In many parts of India, Muslim marriages are solemnised by the groom tying an amulet to his bride that is known as a tali among Hindus.
One could find it surprising that Mirji of Lahore, a Muslim, laid the foundation of the Golden Temple. Shirdi Sai Baba, a Muslim by birth, is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu middle class. Premchand wrote about how on hearing the cry of a distraught woman, Syed Salar Masud Ghazi got up from his wedding to save cows. Similarly, at the Cheluvanarayana temple, devotees worship Bibi Nachiyar, the Muslim consort of Lord Vishnu. There are countless such examples across India, even in Gujarat and Maharashtra, notorious for communalism in the recent past.
If, therefore, one finds no Islamophobia, how can one explain the rising violence and discrimination against Muslims in India? The answer requires an understanding of India’s social structure and postcolonial politics. Brahminical ideology is not rooted in phobias but pollution and purity. Historically, in India, Dalits have been discriminated against not due to phobias but “pollution”. One is allowed to live at the periphery of the caste system and religious order in peace as long as one accepts the hegemony of the core. Contemporary violence against Muslims in India can be explained through the purity-pollution framework.
Muslim interests were sidelined in postcolonial caste and communal politics. In fact, they were compromised by some upper caste Muslims who denied the presence of caste among Muslims during the Constituent Assembly debates and important policy-design negotiations, when affirmative action and constitutional protections were being based on caste. The best example of this is the exclusion of Muslims from Article 341 and the presidential order of 1950.
With rising political competition, some parties employ hate — rather than fear — narratives as tools to mobilise votes. We subsume the attempt to generate demographic fears about Muslims in this category. It would be fair to point out that what we find in India is Hindutva-phobia.
However, to say that there is no attempt to create a fear of Islam in India would not be correct. One sees such attempts everyday. They employ political technologies and terminologies from the West. However, this is still largely confined to some TV channels, newspapers and social media. The Islamophilia of India constructed through syncretic practices has kept the Islamophobic narrative at bay from the masses. For Indians, it is not Islam that is scary but militant Muslims, as are militant Hindutva ideologues and practitioners.
Shaban is deputy director, TISS, Tuljapur, and honorary fellow, US-India Policy Institute, Washington, DC. Shariff is executive director, US-India Policy Institute.

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