Indian Muslims should address the elephant in the room on COVID 19
Asim Ali’s recent article in The Print expressing fears of a Muslim apartheid in the wake of COVID-19 is a decades-old, classic approach of creating the image of Muslims as the 'other' and playing the victim card. This approach seeks to absolve the community of responsibility for any wrongful act by any of its members.
At the present time, every Muslim needs to stand against the Tablighi Jamaat, and vehemently denounce its heinous act of criminality. This would contribute to restoring mutual faith amongst communities. However, grandstanding of the kind in the article mentioned above, which blames the media for the marginalisation of Muslims, is an ostrich-like approach to a real threat in front of the country. It's time to call a spade a spade.
The Muslims in India are caught in a quagmire and they have only the Tablighi Jamaat to blame. The Tablighi Jamaat's congregation in Delhi was an outright criminal act, bereft of any social responsibility. The organisation has not only risked the lives of its members, but has also put at risk the health of others across the country.
It is pertinent to note that the Tablighi Jamaat is not the sole representative of Indian Muslims and its action should not be linked with the larger Muslim community. The organisation preaches a narrow interpretation of Islam to the poorer sections of Muslim society.
On the other hand, several Muslim social organisations in India have been critical of incorrect practices within the community. Labelling the entire Muslim community would be anti-national is unjust and goes against our democratic values.
At the same time, it would be naïve to dismiss all criticism of Islamic practices as Islamophobia. Instead, all Muslims should unequivocally condemn the Tablighi Jamaat and dissociate themselves from it.
Muslims in India are, by and large, a marginalised community. This marginalisation has been a political issue for decades. Muslims in India have lacked a progressive political leadership which can guide and nurture them. This is evident from official data on the share of Muslims in higher education in the country.
The share of Muslims in higher education in India is extremely low, government figures reveal. According to an all-India survey on higher education, Muslims constituted only 5 percent of students in higher education in 2017-18, although the community accounts for about 14 percent of the total population. Further, the share of Muslim teachers in higher education is only 4.9 percent.
Further, as per a survey, in northern India, the average enrolment of Muslims in non-minority universities is around 1-3 per cent.
In such a scenario, it would be wishful thinking to expect proportional representation of Muslims in government jobs. Unless political and community leaders prioritise education, we will, sadly, see organisations like the Tablighi Jamaat flourish.
It is imperative for the Union government to hold the Tablighi Jamaat and its leaders responsible. At the same time, Muslims of India must unite against such malicious organisations, and come together on issues like education and greater representation in nation-building.