Dr Jay Dubashi
THE West is obsessed with Islam, no doubt because Islam gave them so much trouble in the past, and so many sleepless nights during the last decade, that it simply does not know how to deal with it. like Kansa who saw Lord Krishna everywhere, westerners see Islamists and Muslims everywhere, not only in their midst but also in places where there are no westerners, like, for instance, India. And since the West is used to giving advice to all and sundry, because of their so-called superior status in the world, they are always telling Indians how to deal with Muslims in their midst, as if it was a new problem.
The Economist of London has a piece on Muslims in India in its latest issue (March 2nd, 2013) in which it sees a steadily rising Muslim population continuing to fall behind, implying, of course, that the Hindus were keeping them down. Most westerners have a soft corner for Muslims, as I noticed during my long stay in London and Europe, and their magazines are no exception. They bemoan the backwardness of the Muslims and the fact that they continue to lag behind the Hindus in every respect, whether it is the share of government jobs, school or university places, and seats in politics, as if the Hindus were responsible for it. They cite the usual reports of the National Commission for Minorities – which, incidentally, is headed by a Muslim – and, of course, the Sachar report, the bible for all secularists, which shows Muslims stuck at the bottom of almost every economic or social heap.
The magazine goes on to argue that all this is due to the fact that Muslims are taken for granted by most political parties, including, of course, the Congress, which patronises them and has been using them ever since Independence for its own political benefit. This is true, of course, but why blame the Congress? Why have the Muslims allowed themselves to be exploited by the Congress? The magazine does not raise such questions but goes on to advise the Muslims to be better politically organised, that is, set up their own political party or parties, in the hope of better economic and other rewards. In other words, start another Muslim League –like party, and use it, as Jinnah and others did, to secure better rewards, meaning perhaps another Pakistan? It doesn’t say so, but it does not say many things in so many words, but the implications are clear.
The westerners do not seem to have learnt much from history – their own history and that of the Muslims. There are at least 25 Muslim nations in the world, from Algeria to Zanzibar, and they have their own political organisations and parties, almost all of them modelled on Islamic principles. They are, of course, ruled by Muslims and political organisations of Muslims. Non-Muslims have little say in their running. But what have they achieved? Out of the 25-odd Muslims countries, only half a dozen or so can be said to be functioning states, and many of them, including Pakistan, are failed states, Indonesia and, to a certain extent, Turkey, are successful states, but they are exceptions. The rest are autocracies, ruled by either entrenched dynasties or dictatorships like Syria. There is not a single country, which is a full-fledged democracy like India, and most countries are dependent on oil for their survival. Take away oil and most Islamic countries will vanish into the sands surrounding them.
Right in the midst of the Islamic block is a country called Israel, which is everything that Islamic are not. It is a full-fledged democracy – perhaps too much of a democracy for its own good – and a prosperous nation almost on par with any western country in terms of GDP and other factors, despite the fact that it is surrounded by enemies on all sides, all of them hostile Islamic nations. This has not prevented Israel from being either a democracy or a wealthy country on par with the west. The idea that you need a better political organisation to extract economic benefits, if you are a minority, has no basis in fact. There are minorities in Israel, and they are better off than the Islamic majorities in other countries. Politically, Israel is a messy democracy, with dozens of parties, but that has not affected Israel economically at all, because Israelis are a wise people, just like Hindus, who know where to draw the line, where their economic and political interests are involved.
There are, of course, minorities in Israel, just as there are minorities in other non-Islamic countries, and most of them have tried to integrate themselves with their compatriots and do not always play the separatist card. For some reasons, Muslims, even when they are not hard-core Islamists, seem to be perpetually at odds with the community or communities around them, whether it is in India, or Israel, or even amongst themselves, as in Pakistan. They seem to be perpetually at war with the world around them, or with their own kin, or find it impossible to come to terms with them. If Mr A does nto behave properly with Mr B, it is likely that Mr B will also not behave properly with Mr A. This is a law of human nature. There are differences, often vast differences, and therefore different factions in Hindu society too, but somehow we always try to patch them up, not always successfully or permanently, but at least for the time being. This is how our villages have functioned for millennia, and this is how India has survived and continues to prosper.
Perpetual resentment against the world in self-defeating and ultimately leads to nothing. This is why Muslims fare badly in societies dominated by others, for Muslims behave as if they have come to rule over everybody, because at one time they did, and have a right to do so again, no matter what their current position. Perpetual hostility to the world around you, a world in which you have to live and survive, if not prosper, is a double-edged weapon. It not only destroys the party against which it is used but also the party that uses it.
Indian Muslims, or, for that matter, Muslim minorities anywhere in the world, always behave or have always behaved as if they had no stake in the country in which they live. This may have something to do with their religion, though I do not think so. All I know is that unless you drop your separatist attitude, and try to become an integral part – I stress the word integral – of the society in which you live, you will always remain an outsider, a kind of a pariah, leading an existence that is less than normal, and therefore, bereft of any benefit to you or the society in which you live. This is what has happened to Indian Muslims, and will continue to happen as long as they do not shed their antipathy to, say, Hindus, which means to India and things Indians, for Hindus and India are synonymous.
Take the Blacks in America. For a long time, they were in the same position as Muslims in non-Muslim countries. They could have very well behaved like Muslims and shut themselves up in self-created ghettoes and refused to integrate with Whites, as many of their leaders used to advocate. They could have asked for separate schools – like Indian Muslim – or separate colleges and universities separate electorates, even separate buses and separate churches and separate neighbourhoods. But they did not. They staged prolonged agitations, many of them violent, not for separate schools but for admission to same school as Whites, same buses and same waiting rooms in railway stations, and though they still have universities and churches of their own. They have begun increasingly to share them with Whites.
Wiser counsels prevailed and the ides of a separate Black America, like separate Muslim Pakistan, was abandoned, and the Blacks said they were as good as Whites – or as bad! – and they did not want another America carved out of the old one. They could have very well asked for separate states like Louisiana – where an Indian-born American is now governor – or Mississipi or Georgia, where they have large majorities. They could have asked for reservations in legislatures and government jobs, but they did not for they were against segregation at any level, though there may have been some exceptions.
For a while, some of their politicians canvassed for presidential nomination strictly as Blacks, without realising that they constituted only about ten per cent of the electorate. Barack Obama, whose father was a Negro from Kenya, was the first Black American to realise that he could never make it to the White House if he appealed only to the Blacks. He never even mentioned his Black antecedents, though everybody could see that he was a Black. He thus became the first Black president of the United States, with twice or thrice as many votes as those of Blacks alone, Barack Obama made it clear that he was a president of all Americans, not just of the Blacks.
Indian Muslims should take a leaf out of Barack Obama’s books. They are, or should be, Indians first – which is why they are Indian Muslims, not
Muslim Indians—and everything else afterwards. Where it comes to politics, we Hindus are Indians first, and Hindus afterwards. This country is Hindu, its DNA is Hindu, and it is Hindu in its skin, as the Israelis say. They say their country, Israel, in Jewish in its skin, but that doesn’t mean every Jew in an Israeli. There are more Jews in America than in Israel, but there is no Israel in America. There will soon be more Muslims in India then in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, but the future of Muslims in India is tied up with the future of India, not the future of Indonesia. The future of Muslims in India is also tied up with the future of Hindus, just as the future of Blacks in America is tied up with the future of Whites there.
This is true of Muslims everywhere, not just in India, or America. India will suffer if the Muslims refuse to go along, but not as much as the Muslims themselves will suffer. For their own good, they must try and become an integral part of India, and of Indian society, which, of course, they are, but which unfortunately they have been led to forget by westerners like the editors of the Economist and others. And they will be the biggest sufferers if they don’t integrate.