Islamic Perspectives

Muslim fears and talk of reform can’t go hand-in-hand

 Mohammad Azeemullah
Muslims are as much respectful to laws of the country as any other citizen of India. They have as much rights enshrined in the constitution as those of others.

All of what comes under the purview of civil and criminal laws, Muslims, as citizens of India, follow obediently and religiously.

All of their day-to-day economic activities, banking, life insurance,, are governed by laws of the country. There is no sense of unease among Muslims in obeying them.

In fact, they don’t bother whether all those affairs of daily life are Islamic or un-Islamic. Yet, media discourse around Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is articulated in such a way that makes many of us believe that Muslims are more loyal to Islamic systems of justice than the law of the land.  

This misplaced public perception is tragic. Muslims have been given as many rights to practise their religion as other communities. Articles 15 and 25 of the Constitution testify to the fact.  

Muslim fears

Muslims live in perpetual fear of poverty and communal violence, of constantly being suspected of being sympathisers of “terrorists” and reckless beef eaters. At times attempts are made to scare Muslims through fabrication of terms like love jihad. The frightening spectre of ghar wapsi,    is just one more addition to the anti-Muslim weaponry. The anxiety is so ingrained among them that the community has become guilty-ridden. Some women even avoid to travel in hijab (veil) lest they be singled out and harmed.

Against this background of insecurity, any talk about reforms concerning Muslim community such as triple talaaq, or modernisation of madrasa system of education, or the idea of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is counter productive.   

Fear and reform are contradictory

Fear and reforms are antithetical to each other. Both cannot go together. To bring about social reform, first it is necessary to create a congenial atmosphere. Unfortunately, on this front, the Modi government has miserably failed. Instead, rhetoric from leaders of the ruling party has only fueled suspicion.

Muslims in India are highly adaptive. They are uniquely different from Arabs. The way they participate in social and political affairs of the state bears witness to their democratic and secular credentials. Their looks and habits, tastes and dress, conventions and traditions are purely indigenous and are similar to those of any other community in the country.

Muslims are not hostile to reforms provided the community is taken into confidence. Already the voices of thousands have come to the fore to review the context of triple talaaq in one sitting. However, there are still many who fear the intentions behind such reforms.

‘While Muslims breathe in fear, the very overtures of reforms by BJP government stand hollow. Sarfraz Adil, a medical practitioner, expresses his concern: “They are the same people who never say a single word to support an old, tired lady, Zakia Jafri during her long struggle to get justice for the brutal murder of her husband and other fellow residents of Gulberg society.Where were they sleeping when hundreds of Muslim women were gang-raped in communal riots from the 2002 Gujarat carnage to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots? Why did they not come in support of a girl, Zahira Shaikh, who was fighting cases for justice against the beasts who set Best Bakery on fire where 28 people were burnt alive. Uttering talaaq to a woman is a lesser offence in comparison to the above crimes.They have nothing to do with the worsening situation of Muslim women.”

Sarfraz Adil’s are the shared feelings of anguish of Muslims. The government, if it wills, has both resources and opportunities at its disposal to address the most critical grievance, fear, of the community. So long as a sense of deprivation persists, the authenticity of reforms will ever remain doubtful. And that is not adorable for a nation looking forward to be a super power.

The aurhor teaches in the College of Education,
Islamic University of Al-Asmariya, Zliten, Libya.