-Ibrahim Hafeezur Rehman
No amount of repression, oppression and exploitation anywhere can justify the killings of innocent across any community or group. While in a secular society such as India it is the first and foremost duty of the majority to protect the rights and aspirations of minorities it is also equally important for minorities to send a message across that they stand against any wrong committed by their own commune.
Jihad a much abused term nowadays appears in the Holy Quran only in a few places. However in the current context it has become the raison d’être of a small segment of society that seeks refuge in a selfish, self proclaimed and self ordained interpretation of the word. Quran while sparingly and exceptionally using the word Jihad for actual defence (and not aggression), whenever there is injustice combined with aggression from the other side, talks and emphasises on the real Jihad with ones’ wants, desires and moral weaknesses. The irony is that the process of distorting the word entails falsely aligning the term to the tenets of religion along with specific or local socio-political contexts and then invoking it in the name of the Beneficent and Merciful. The people and governments that use this word as an instrument for their politics and ideology are miniscule in number and need to be ostracised at all levels. Therefore it is imperative for the Muslim community in India to rise vociferously to oppose this barbaric and heinous invocation in the name of Religion and God.
It must be pointed out that the Muslim community at large has always condemned all acts of terrorising or killing the innocent. The problem is that such condemnation or opposition to the malaise often gets drowned firstly in the repeated din of the actions and voices of so called Jihadis and secondly by the equally pernicious and parallel voices and actions of fringe elements in other communities who seize the opportunity to further their agenda often getting the fuel for fire from the so called Jihadis. In essence both these groups work towards a common cause of confusing, polarising and damaging the majority that does not believe in their evil machinations. The rhetoric and frenzy of these groups is primarily directed towards inflaming passions using the evil actions of each other as evidence for proving to the masses that their ideology and strategy is right and promoting the belief that they are working for the larger benefit of the community of which they are a part.
The actions of so called Jihadis require from a major chunk of humanity in general and Muslims in particular to concertedly, proactively and loudly act against these groups. The process has to be started at individual level and the needis to aggressively as well as repeatedly voice our condemnation without allowing it to be biased by the shenanigans of fringe elements gleefully lying in wait across other communities. The battle against this crime and reinforced voicing has to come from whatever individual position and platform that we can avail. That means we need to organise ourselves at two levels: one within the community to actively work and condemn the fake propaganda and ideology that is espoused by such terrorist groups or individuals; and the other to do outreach across communities seeking to emphasise and carry forward the message of peace and togetherness.
In an already polarised atmosphere it is indeed important that Muslims do not get drawn into issues which are created primarily to further the polarization and are devised by fringe groups to promote their negative agenda. The entire controversy surrounding Jinnah’s portrait in AMU is an example of such tactics. Owing to his controversial role after being denied the first tenure of Prime Ministership of prospective free India by Nehru and Patel, Mr. Jinnah’s demanding partition has been the principal cause of Indian Muslims not admiring him. The irony on the other hand is that in matters of his personal conduct, as expressly evident by his unabashedly part-taking of pork and enjoying his drink he was hardly a person who followed or even respected the mandatory practices envisioned in Islam. Gandhi and Patel were more Muslim in their public conduct and personal practice. Naturally the Ulema of Muslim community found themselves more comfortable with them than with Mr. Jinnah. Hence Muslims in India look up to Gandhi or the numerous other national leaders with a sense of native belonging than any of the oligarchy that is credited in India with formation of Pakistan.
Peering into the Muslim community itself, we see the sterling role played by Muslim leaders in opposing the division of the country. Thus leaders such as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (popularly called “Frontier Gandhi”), Maulana Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman and Hafiz Mohd Ibrahim have been a source of inspiration for all who believe in the brotherhood of pan Indian communities and unity of the country. It is of important bearing to remember that Frontier Gandhi having opposed Jinnah and preferring to continue living in his native place that came under territorial jurisdiction of newly formed Pakistan, was made to languish in jail for many years, in Pakistan. Out of a life of around 90 years, this man was made to spend a total of 45 years in prison, first for opposing the British and fighting for Freedom of India and thereafter for continued espousing of the cause of brotherhood of pan Indian communities. Across the border, Maulana Hifzur Rehman continued to oppose the division of the country even when Gandhi and all other Congress leaders had reconciled to it by passing a resolution in its favour. A decade earlier, in United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh) Hafiz Mohd Ibrahim defeated the Muslim League in a historic by-election (1939) in which Jinnah himself, personally campaigned against him. This Bijnore 1939 Election was talked of in the House of Commons debates as evidence of the Indian Muslim masses not really supporting the two-nation theory. Thus is the legacy of sacrifices and actions of Indian Muslims who are now threatened with false clubbing with the likes of Jinnah at best and so called Jihadis at worst.
The way forward lies with individuals and groups in Muslims who can play an important part by coming out actively and vociferously on any negative action of terrorists or so called Jihadis. They may also need to explain a particular situation giving the right perspective and further raise their voice against unnecessary distortion, ghettoization or misrepresentation by individual or groups within or across communities. India with one of the largest populations of Muslims can indeed lead the way in clearly spelling out that Islam and all its true followers are bearers of message of peace and strong believers in brotherhood and humanism.