THE DIS­AP­PEAR­ING MUS­LIM

It’s an aw­ful in­dict­ment of who we have be­come that Khur­shid feels he had to write this book to jus­tify the place of Mus­lims in India

India Today - - UPFRONT - By Shougat Das­gupta

Salman Khur­shid, the prom­i­nent lawyer, Congress leader and for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, po­si­tions his new book, Vis­i­ble Mus­lim, In­vis­i­ble Cit­i­zen, as a re­sponse to his col­league Shashi Tha­roor’s re­cent tome, Why I Am A Hindu.

But, as Khur­shid quickly ac­knowl­edges, his task is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent. Tha­roor made a valiant, if per­plex­ing, bid to dis­tin­guish his re­li­gious faith from Hindutva. But who re­ally be­lieves Hindutva is about re­li­gion rather than pol­i­tics, con­cerned with ar­ti­cles of faith rather than a power grab, a the­o­log­i­cal move­ment rather than a su­prem­a­cist, ma­jori­tar­ian as­ser­tion? Tha­roor seeks to jus­tify his pri­vate re­li­gios­ity, his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of his faith, while Khur­shid takes it upon him­self to jus­tify the faith, Is­lam it­self, and to jus­tify the place of Mus­lims in India. It’s an aw­ful in­dict­ment of who we have be­come that Khur­shid feels com­pelled to take on this task “pri­mar­ily for the ben­e­fit of Hin­dus, many of whom in re­cent years have been forced to mis­un­der­stand Mus­lims and Is­lam”. For Mus­lims, Khur­shid sug­gests that they ask them­selves—as if such a ques­tion were not al­ready be­ing asked and is in­deed per­pet­ual and with­out an­swer—“how to con­tinue the ad­her­ence to their fun­da­men­tal be­liefs and yet make their re­li­gion com­pat­i­ble with mod­ern times”.

By set­ting him­self such an oner­ous, di­dac­tic task, Khur­shid ham­strings him­self and his book, pro­duc­ing a rather dry, oc­ca­sion­ally dull, primer to some of the dis­cus­sions tak­ing place in the ed­i­to­rial col­umns of na­tional news­pa­pers and the draw­ing rooms of the high-minded. In one chap­ter, he re­pro­duces (al­most in its entirety) a se­ries of pieces pub­lished in the In­dian Ex­press

about the ac­cel­er­ated ‘dis­ap­pear­ing’ of Mus­lims from pub­lic life. Un­for­tu­nately, it is in th­ese ex­tended quotes

that one finds any pas­sion, rather than in Khur­shid’s own too-ju­di­cious prose. Listen, for in­stance, to Saeed Naqvi’s con­dem­na­tion of Ra­machan­dra Guha’s mud­dle­headed, in­vid­i­ous ar­gu­ment that a burkha and tr­ishul are some­how anal­o­gous: “he (Guha) is a crea­ture of un-in­sti­tu­tion­alised apartheid which means sep­a­rate devel­op­ment... the un­de­ni­able truth will be that he has grown up only with his ilk.” Irena Ak­bar is al­to­gether cooler, a mock­ing eye­brow raised: “While the hard­liner’s ‘good Mus­lim’ eats only veg­eta­bles, chants ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, is seen nowhere near a cow, and speaks chaste Hindi; the elite left-lib­eral’s ‘good Mus­lim’ eats biryani, ke­babs, re­cites Urdu poetry and or­gan­ises ghazal evenings... When he/she be­gins to de­fend the burkha or the topi, let alone wear one, he/ she be­comes ‘too Mus­lim’ for com­fort.” Sham­sur Rah­man Faruqi makes much the same point as Ak­bar: “Per­son­ally, I am against the burkha, the hi­jab, the skull­cap, the un­kempt beard, the whole works... At the same time, I do ad­mire ev­ery at­tempt by a mi­nor­ity in a democ­racy to make a state­ment of its iden­tity.”

This is the crux of Khur­shid’s book, so neatly en­cap­su­lated in its ti­tle. For Mus­lims to be ac­cept­able as cit­i­zens of India, they must be in­vis­i­ble. As Rah­man points out (in the op-ed Khur­shid quotes), the “marginal­i­sa­tion of Mus­lims has been an on­go­ing project since shortly af­ter Par­ti­tion, though not with such ven­omous in­ten­sity as of to­day”. Surely the marginal­i­sa­tion is no longer on­go­ing but com­plete. Mus­lims, at 15 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, have next to no rep­re­sen­ta­tion in India’s Par­lia­ment. At the same time, sundry po­lit­i­cal lead­ers call rou­tinely for Mus­lims to be sent to Pak­istan.

In another of his lengthy quo­ta­tions, Khur­shid shows that Jin­nah (rich irony) wanted to par­ti­tion India only to recre­ate Pak­istan in India’s im­age. While the Hindutva bri­gade (rich irony) pur­port to de­spise Pak­istan, all the while work­ing to create an In­dian fac­sim­ile. Khur­shid shows, though any­one who is pay­ing at­ten­tion al­ready knows, that our lead­ers are push­ing Mus­lims away, alien­at­ing them, in­sult­ing them and then de­mand­ing that they ex­press their love for a nation whose in­clu­sive ideals have been ran­sacked. ■

Vis­i­ble Mus­lim, In­vis­i­ble Cit­i­zen By Salman Khur­shid RUPA `595; 308 pages

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