Calling all secular Muslims – Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar EttethThe reason of Indian Muslim leadership’s credibility gap is intellectual poverty, excessive scriptural dependence, poor education and Hinduphobia. – Ravi Shankar

Politics is the art of meeting great expectations by creating and protecting institutions. The Constitution was drawn up to meet the expectations of newborn India. Politics also betrays institutions; the Preamble, which defined the country as a ‘sovereign democratic republic’, was amended during the Emergency to “sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic”.

‘Sovereign’ and ‘democratic’ are running on all cylinders. ‘Socialist’ is out of oxygen. The contentious part is ‘Secular’, first disapproved by Nehru and added by his daughter later. Nationalists insist that India belongs to Hindus and secularism is execrable Leftist twaddle, meant to entrench ideological supremacy. India is 80 percent Hindu and 13.4 per cent Muslim. Since Hindus are the big brothers, liberals plead it’s woke to be secular. Why don’t they expect Muslims to be secular, too?

The liberal argument that the majority ghettoised Muslims is taradiddle because Hindutva, with its senas and trolls, is a recent phenomenon. The 19th century Islamic reformer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had accused the British of maligning Muslims as the real force behind the 1857 Mutiny. For decades, the Congress party had positioned itself as the Muhammad Ali of Indian Muslims. It had distinguished leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Badruddin Tyabji, Dr Zakir Husain, Jinnah et al. Suraiyya Tyabji, who designed the Indian national flag, was Muslim.

With such eminent figures in their pantheon, why do Indian Muslims lack a universally acceptable contemporary face to intellect-shame wrestlers and filmy barnacles riding the saffron gravy train? Indian secularists are predominantly Hindu. The current Indian Muslim leadership is identified with the Owaisis, Deobandis and Tablighis instead of Azad or Tyabji. The Jamaat’s contagious conduct has painted Islam an unkind shade of green. Paradoxically, the Muslim voices against Hindutva come from the pro-Modi Arab world, which provides jobs to millions of Hindus.

The reason of Indian Muslim leadership’s credibility gap is intellectual poverty, excessive scriptural dependence, poor education and Hinduphobia. Theologists dictate personal laws. Deeply paranoid about science, the mullahs drive away doctors and inoculation staff with stones and curses. Muslims rue that the vicious chorus of Hindutva drowns their voices; yet there is no Muslim Ramachandra Guha, Arundhati Roy or Rajmohan Gandhi to make their case. It’s not enough to take refuge in the “We are all Indians” argument and expect the minority politics genie to get back into the bottle—the conversation was Constitutionally polarised decades ago.

Perhaps, the Mohammedan needs a 21st century Sir Syed, whose reformist emphasis was on Mu’tazila—a rationalist and liberal interpretation of the Quran, making it relatable to science and modernism. The Indian Muslim can take the place he deserves only by being a secular Indian willing to engage the nationalist conversation by taking a cosmopolitan position. This means looking outwards when someone else is looking in. – The New Indian Express, 26 April 2020

Ravi Shankar is an author and cartoonist and writes a weekly column for The New Indian Express.

Irrfan Khan

Irrfan Khan’s Islam: The internationally acclaimed actor believed that faith is about introspection – OpIndia Staff

Actor Irrfan Khan died on Wednesday, April 29th in Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, where he was being treated for a colon infection. The versatile actor, one of Indian cinema’s most respected thespians, battled a tumour for several months and had returned to Mumbai some months ago after being treated in London. 

Netizens not only remembered his magnificent acting career but also the progressive ideas of Irrfan Khan, who had time-and-again expressed his idea of practising religion, despite being well aware of the fact that he would be admonished by the hardliners.

On July 25, 2016, Irrfan Khan had appeared on Times Now’s ‘The Newshour’ show with then Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, where he took part in a discussion expressing his ideas on Islam and his own way of practising his faith.

In the debate, Irrfan had shared his experience of being a Muslim and topics such as Ramzan and Roza were also discussed along with the issues of terrorism and the global perspectives. The other panellists on the debate were Mohandas Pai, Zafar Sareshwala, Mufti Mohd Manzur Ziyaee of the Haji Ali Dargah Trust and Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani, President, Muslim Political Council of India.

The debate was on the backdrop of a controversy which had erupted after actor Irrfan Khan had made certain comments on the need of observing Roza during the Ramzan and also sacrificing animals during the Islamic festival of Bakrid.

In 2016, during an event in Jaipur, Irrfan Khan had stated that in today’s practises, the actual meaning of Qurbani (sacrifice) has been lost. He had added that purchasing a goat from the market and killing it after two days is not Qurbani. He had added that the essence of the Islamic festival is about giving up, sacrificing something that is important to oneself. Khan had faced widespread criticism from Islamic clerics and even the AIMPLB for his remarks.

Muslims are fighting against terrorism

At around 1.40 minutes of the show, Irrfan Khan speaking to Arnab Goswami said, “We don’t see the whole picture. There is a huge chunk of the Muslim population that is fighting against terrorism. We only see Muslims in India. When you go abroad, you see there are people who are fighting terror… and trying to put Islam, the way they have understood, in the right perspective”.

“The way I have understood Islam is through some incidents. And there are various delicate experiences that teach you these philosophies, which have multiple layers. It’s not a single dimension and that’s why it continues for years and years,” he said, revealing some incidents that he heard in his childhood.

Irrfan Khan added that the ideas have become transactional and the seeking part has been eliminated in the religion. “Mercy and compassion are the basis of Islam”, said Irrfan Khan as he spoke about the misconceptions people have about Islam and terrorism.

One should introspect before performing rituals

In every religion, there is an aspect of practice and there is an aspect of discovery, said actor Khan. When you stop seeking, the practices take over, added Irrfan Khan. In the show, Irrfan’s challenged the clerics about some of the rituals observed by Muslims during Ramzan and Muharram.

Irrfan had openly said that instead of observing fast during the month of Ramzan, people should rather introspect. He has also spoken against sacrifice during Muharram and how one is supposed to mourn in that period and not celebrate it like a festival.

“Rather than fasting during Ramzan, people should self-introspect. Animals are being slaughtered on the name of Qurbani,” Irrfan had said in the show.

Faith is a house with many rooms: Irrfan Khan

At around 45th minute of the show, Irrfan Khan while talking about the subject of faith, presented his views on Islam and faith by citing a reference from his Oscar-winning film Life of Pi. Khan said, “A dialogue from the film says, ‘Faith is a house with many rooms.’ The other person asks him, “Is there no room for doubt?’’ He says, “Plenty, on every floor. Doubt is a useful thing, it keeps your faith alive. Until and unless you test, your faith is not alive. That is what I do. I test. I test my teachings and I experience myself, that’s how you work on your soul.”

We do not need mediators to seek God

Later, Khan said that he did not need mediators to seek God, to which the maulana replied saying that intermediation was necessary. Questioning the maulana present in the debate, Irrfan Khan had said why does he need anyone in the middle to understand his faith. My faith is between me and my God, he said.

When the Maulana said, you need Quran and a knowledgeable cleric to help someone understand the religion, Khan said he will himself try and introspect about his religion and he did not need a middleman to connect him with the god.

“One man comes and he imparts his understanding of the Quran, a second man comes and he can give a different understanding, and the third man can give a third understanding. Take translation, for example, the same thing is interpreted in various ways, and that sometimes sends people down the wrong path,” Irrfan Khan had noted in the interview. – OpIndia, 29 April 2020

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