Pandering to Islamism for votes and reaping the consequences – Tavleen Singh

Tavleen Singh“On my travels in other parts of the country I see signs of this new Islamic fanaticism and religiosity everywhere. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, to use that old cliché. In Kashmir it would have been almost impossible to see a veiled woman 30 years ago. Islamic rules there were so flexible that women prayed in mosques alongside men and Sufi shrines were places where even Hindus were allowed to worship.” – Tavleen Singh

Barkha DuttWhen Barkha Dutt asked me to appear on her show last Tuesday (August 21st) the subject for discussion was meant to be the latest reports of the Comptroller & Auditor-General. I find the CAG’s method of auditing dubious and was eager to talk about this. But, by the time I flew from Mumbai to Delhi the subject had changed to Raj Thackeray’s protest against the police handling of the recent violence at a meeting organised by the Raza Academy. On my way to the airport in Mumbai I had seen small crowds of people walking down Marine Drive carrying Maharashtra Navnirman Sena flags but had not expected the thousands who rallied to Thackeray’s call. The MNS genre of bigoted, provincial politics does not appeal to me even slightly but as someone who lives in Mumbai I understood local anger about the way in which Muslim mobs were allowed not just to run riot in the city on August 11 but to even attack policemen.

Barkha invited the Police Commissioner of Mumbai Arup Patnaik (who has since been shunted out) to be part of her show along with Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress and a member of the MNS who frothed bile every time he opened his mouth. And, there was the human rights activist, Javed Anand, and distinguished Mumbai citizen, Alyque Padamsee. Barkha began by giving the Police Commissioner a chance to explain why he had been so gentle with a mob of violent fanatics who snatched weapons out of the hands of policemen, attacked public property including a war memorial and allegedly molested police women. The Police Commissioner said his restraint came from a desire to avoid police firing in which hundreds could have been killed. He was applauded for this by the two Muslim gentlemen on the panel and Nirupam and savaged by the MNS representative and in the end the focus became policing methods and not minority fanaticism which, in my view, is a much more serious problem.

Salman RushdieIt has been fanned for decades by political parties hungry for Muslim votes and has now reached alarming levels. In some parts of India we have homegrown Taliban style groups. Remember the Christian professor in Kerala whose hand was chopped off by Muslim vigilantes who took objection to a question paper set by him? Remember the Muslim women teachers who were banned from teaching in a Kolkata college because they refused to wear the burqa? Remember the Raza Academy’s own offer of a reward of Rs 1 lakh to anyone ready to throw a slipper at Salman Rushdie if he dared to appear at the Jaipur Literary Festival? Unfortunately for the slipper-throwers the organisers of the festival were too cowardly to stand by Rushdie or the writers who read from his work at the festival. So, Muslim fanaticism won that round.

As it seems to win every round because the police and our ‘secular’ political parties consider all exhibitions of Islamist fanaticism harmless, so even when the police came under personal attack in Mumbai on August 11 they responded gently. Would they have done the same if it was MNS men who seized semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of policemen and rampaged through city streets? Mumbai’s Police Commissioner has been applauded as a hero by Muslim groups but it is exactly this kind of double-standard in policing and politics that, in my view, has allowed the spread of Islamism’s bigoted ideology across India.

Taslima NasrinThe Raza Academy is considered a ‘moderate’ Islamic group and yet it has no qualms about imposing literary censorship on writers like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen forgetting that India is not an Islamic country. And, because our political leaders are usually too cowardly to stand by the principles on which India was founded the fanatics win. This is why we have seen the gentler, more refined Islam that was born out of India’s syncretic culture disappear under veils, beards and ugly religiosity. In the 20 years that I have been an itinerant citizen of Mumbai I have seen these changes happen before my eyes in Muslim quarters of the city in the form of an increased number of veiled women and bearded men. If you chat to them, as I do, you will find that nearly all of them believe that 9/11 was the work of Zionists and that 26/11 was the work of the RSS. They have a sense of grievance that is not based on reality.

On my travels in other parts of the country I see signs of this new fanaticism and religiosity everywhere. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, to use that old cliché. In Kashmir it would have been almost impossible to see a veiled woman 30 years ago. Islamic rules there were so flexible that women prayed in mosques alongside men and Sufi shrines were places where even Hindus were allowed to worship.

NiqabIn southern India where there never used to be visible signs of difference between the attire or the surnames of Hindus and Muslims there now are. I personally started noticing them about 20 years ago in Tamil Nadu where I met Muslim women in Coimbatore who had taken to wearing salwar-kameez and speaking Urdu. The same sort of thing is happening in Maharashtra and there are madarsas in villages now that teach Urdu. In Rajasthan I have visited villages near Nagaur that look as if they belonged in Saudi Arabia. At a famous shrine near one of them I was astounded to see a board that spoke of how India was a land of darkness and superstition until Islam arrived. The shrine commemorated an Iraqi mullah who had come all the way from Baghdad to teach us barbarians about Allah’s message.

 Maulana Syed Moinuddin AshrafRaj Thackeray may be wrong to tap into Hindu anger for his own political aggrandisement but anyone who thinks that this anger does not exist needs to think again. So when the police allow Muslim mobs to go berserk in a city like Mumbai they end up pandering to a dangerous new kind of fanaticism that should never be pandered to. This is why in this writer’s book Arup Patnaik is not a hero. He should have been reprimanded for not anticipating the violence of August 11 instead of being applauded for stopping it before it spread through the city. Whatever may have happened in Assam and Burma the Raza Academy could have found a better way of protesting than gathering a mob. One mob nearly always leads to another. – Niti Central, 25 August 2012

» Tavleen Singh is an author and senior journalist with The Indian Express.

See also

One Response


    Naipaul’s musings on Vijayanagar misleading’
    William Darlymple ( Better to call him William Dushtapenpole. He uses his pen like a pole)

    This if you compare with Elst, Frawley and others who are under attack in this web site, is outright pandering to Islam. WD is worse than Elst, and others.

    Just read the presentation speech read before the Nobel Prize was given to Naipaul by the Noble chair and compare with WDs pandering write up.

    “One experience that seems to have been crucial to his literary method is his first encounter with India. He saw traces of a history that had been concealed from view when the champions of independence had to deny the misfortunes that had preceeded the English: six hundred years of Muslim imperialism that deliberately destroyed the memory of earlier civilisations and plunged the Hindus into a helplessness similar to that of the American Indians”

    Next, W. Dushtapenpole may say Chatrapathi Shivajis rule was hopeless.


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