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Muslims in India must choose between Talibanic Islam and being true Indians

Muslims in India must choose between Talibanic Islam and being true Indians

Author: Tavleen Singh
Publication: India Today
Date: November 19, 2001

If it had not been for the hate mail my last piece on Indian Muslims provoked I might not have felt the need to write again on the subject. Let us say that the letters inspired me because they came as proof that what I wrote about Indian Muslims needing to distance themselves from Taliban-type Islam needed to be said. Let me give you just one small sample of the sort of prose that has filled my mailbox since that last article appeared three weeks ago. "It was the Britishers who brought all the 6,000 castes and combined them into one Hindu community. It was the Britishers who made them to stand because neither Hinduism had any base of religion nor any sane person will prefer this religion which worship mouse, elephants etc and inflicted worst crimes in human history for at least 5,000 years on Dalits and Shudras who in reality are real Indians."

This letter was from a Muslim gentleman from Mumbai whose contempt for Hinduism was matched by his praise of Talibanic Islam. In his view, if there is a utopia on earth it is Saudi Arabia, where "Hindus, Muslims and Christians work and earn their livelihood peacefully without any Bal Thackeray". Other letter-writers expressed their contempt not just for the Hindu religion but for what they considered the physical inferiorities of Indians when compared with Arabs. Muslims, according to them, were tall and fair and handsome and could (naturally, therefore) easily conquer the small, dark, cowardly people of poor old Hindoostan.

So, in my view, it is sad but alas true that although there are civilised, moderate Muslims in India who do not think this way, the semi-literate, madarsa-educated, lower middle-class Muslim is increasingly being encouraged to think along these lines. This image of himself and his religion as fundamentally superior to the local Indian product is, in our currently troubled times, taking a battering. So more and more Muslims are seeking refuge in what Salman Rushdie recently described as "paranoid Islam".

In a recent article in the New York Times, Rushdie wrote, "This paranoid Islam which blames outsiders, 'infidels', for all the ills of Muslim societies, and whose proposed remedy is the closing of those societies to the rival project of modernity, is presently the fastest growing version of Islam in the world."

Paranoid Islam is certainly our problem in India. A long, evil collaboration between the mullahs and "secular" political parties like the Congress has resulted in an atmosphere of extraordinary paranoia among ordinary Muslims. The mullah fed a sense of separateness and superiority-we have one God, one Prophet and look at those mad Hindus with their thousands-and the Congress fed post-Partition insecurity. Politically the result was - till the Yadavs crashed the tea party - a permanent, paranoid Congress vote bank. Reliable at election time and unquestioning afterwards, even if it was mainly Muslims who died in the communal riots that occurred under "secular" Congress governments. Paranoia rarely allows rational thought, so although the Babri Masjid came down under a Congress government, the average Muslim blames the mob (read: BJP, Shiv Sena) rather than those who should have protected the mosque from it.

If paranoia and an offensive sense of religious and racial superiority is part of the Indian Muslim problem an equally important part is the inability to deal with modernity. While the lowest of Hindu castes now try to educate their children and acquire the tools of modernity, Muslims seem to be moving backwards into some kind of medieval idea of right and wrong, good and evil. It is through this medieval prism that much of the modern world is seen. So although there was no TV in the times of the Prophet he apparently banned it. Why then does Osama bin Laden use it to talk to the world, you ask. There is confusion and, curiously, anger at the question. TV is banned in Islam, full stop.

Modern, paranoid Islam is all about bans. Women are banned from doing everything other than being born and producing babies. They can't get educated, can't work, can't go shopping without a male relative, can't get medical treatment, can't do anything that would put them in touch with modernity, reason or just being human.

It is terrifying that this kind of Islam has admirers in India. Terrifying that the average madarsa-educated Muslim is encouraged to believe that there is something pure and wonderful about this version of his religion which reduces women to being semi-human. Muslims who wrote to protest against my last piece attacked me mainly for questioning their patriotism. This I never did then and am not doing now. What I am questioning is their ability to be Indians and supporters of the Taliban and bin Laden at the same time. Is that possible without justifying the Islamic terrorism India has faced from Afghanistan and Pakistan? Indian Muslims face a choice between paranoid, pan-Islamism and being Indian. It is time they made it.

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