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HVK Archives: 'Minority is not a nice term; it's time we redefine it'

'Minority is not a nice term; it's time we redefine it' - The Free Press Journal

Tufail Ahmed ()
29 August 1997

Title: 'Minority is not a nice term; it's time we redefine it'
Author: Tufail Ahmed
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: August 29, 1997

Despite the pioneering work on caste-like divisions among Muslims by
sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed of Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Press and the
academic world treat Muslims as a homogeneous community, thereby neglecting
the social discrimination suffered by their subgroups. The term 'minority'
has been in frequent use, ignoring its negative impact on the 'collective
psyche' of all those who believe in Islam. Excessive use of the word
'minority' by writers and journalists engenders - in the long run - an
'inferiority complex' (at least at the collective subconscious level) among
the Muslims, thereby preventing enterprise and mercantilism among them.

The South Indian Muslims who have been flee from any 'minority syndrome'
have been able to contribute substantially to the economic life of the
nation while their northern counterparts remain emotionally engaged in
issues which are less real and mainly religion and politics.

Compared to Muslims, the Christians - and, especially, the Parsis do not
exhibit any 'minority consciousness' (except for the fact that the latter
are a worried lot about their diminishing numbers). They have performed
significantly in business and industry. The term 'minority' came into
vogue after introduction of parliamentary democracy, in which the numerical
strength of different communities is significant power. The word 'minority'
is derived from the Latin word 'minor' and the suffix 'ity' -- meaning the
smaller in number of two aggregates which constitute a whole. Going by
this numeric definition, a social group may or may not be socially
subjugated or politically influential.

The blacks in pre-apartheid South Africa were politically subjugated,
though they constituted a numerical majority. On the contrary, the Muslims
under the Mughal rule in India were numerically small but a politically
dominant group.

The Muslim agenda in India demands at best the establishment of an Urdu
university or a Minority Financial Corporation, and not the establishment
of a chain of industrial training institutes for the education and training
of the children of poor artisans and technicians. Yet, all the problems
faced by the Muslim elite are shared by the entire community. The recent
outburst of the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr C. M. Ibrahim, that "minority
and secular leaders are being attacked by the Press", should be seen in
this context.

A minority status carried with it an exclusion from full participation in
the collective life of a society. This status is, therefore, derived from
its subordinate relation to some dominant group, which need not be a
numeric majority.

The Tibetans, living under Chinese occupation, fully qualify for minority
status and, therefore, their subjugation warrants the attention of the
world community. A minority can be racial, linguistic, religious or caste
group, if it is differentiated and discriminated because of any of these
factors. A group may be a minority either by choice or by compulsion.
Dalits in India are die first sociological minority, given the highest
degree of persisting historical discrimination, social prejudices and
forced exclusion from mainstream life. They are a minority by compulsion.
In the case of Muslims, the term minority has been used mainly as a
political residue of the Partition.

The Muslims in India are, unfortunately, a minority more by choice and less
by compulsion. Unlike the Dalits who have been marginalised in the
socio-economic and political life of the country for centuries, the Muslims
have no history of political subjugation or social boycott. The Muslims
also enjoy a strong sense of history and culture which is an essential
prerequisite for a community to take voluntary initiatives. And unlike the
Dalits, Muslims carry no social stigma which could potentially inhibit
economic enterprise in the community.

Fortunately, the new generation of Muslims in colleges and universities is
beginning to understand the political practice of their self-preserving
leaders. It is high time the young generation shed its "sick status,"
which is more psychological than real.

This will help the Muslims youths to be psychologically free and
industrious, and contribute to the economic progress of the community. - CNF.

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