Indian Muslims & “Intolerance”

By Tarushi Aswani for Times
What’s with this over speculated phrase? What is all the hype about? Why is “Intolerance” garnering such attention? Deciphering “Intolerance”, most dictionaries define it as the act of giving up the notion of tolerance or to stop tolerating situations and attitudes that offend them.

In the wake of the horrendous lynching that choked the family of Mohammed Akhlaq and left them lifeless, wishing for death to come sooner, “Intolerance” or unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one’s own has made it to the headlines everywhere. With nearly 25 writers returning their awards, protesting against what they believe is a climate of rising intolerance in the country that has pricked the central government.

In this climate of bans and increasing restrictions to what Indians can have access to in India, lie fears of a growing wave of Majoritarianism and perilous conditions and consequences for minorities, particularly affecting Muslims.

With the kind of loathsome and pessimistic attitude that some religious organizations blurt out to the Muslim population in India, in my opinion, absolutely no one can and even hope to practice “Tolerance” the way Indian Muslims do. Speaking of tolerance now, I am blissfully reminded of how I came across an auto driver named Sattar Khan, a practicing Muslim, who had figures of Ganesha fixed inside his auto. On asking he revealed that those Ganesha stickers were of the previous owner. This is what I would call religious tolerance. Having total control over oneself, when it comes to respecting the religion of another.

Another experience that made me rethink about how India treats its Muslims would be, when I happened to come across the pamphlet of a political party stuck on wall that said “Aao Ram Mandir Ke Gunehgaaro Se Badla Lein”. As awful as it sounds, I certainly think we can discern the reference that is made in this slogan. I as an Indian, not as a Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh (going in the order of population), fail to understand that how can one cast an entire community to atrocities based on the misconduct of a single member of the same community.

Be it the horrific incident of beating Akhlaq to death in Dadri, the disgustingly shameful act of rape of a Kashmiri Muslim bride in 1990 by an Indian Army soldier, the tearing of pages of the Holy Quran in Uttar Pradesh or the forceful stuffing of food into the mouth of a Muslim during his Ramadan fast by RSS workers, Muslims are seen as the weeds of society in India. This heinous attitude towards them is only met by their silence. Silence, they maintain when they are treated as outsiders in their very own country.

But this is not where it all ends, in everyday lives, wherever it is learnt that he or she is a Muslim, the person has to undergo situations which people of other religions are not accustomed to. Very recently, my eye met the occurrence of a scenario where a bearded Muslim man was thoroughly frisked, frisked more than other entrants to the metro station were. The man then argued as to why he was frisked in a manner that made him uncomfortable and the only reply he received was, “For Security Reasons Sir”.

In this motive of treating Muslims as security threats or outsiders, religious organizations stand as champions. RSS mouthpiece “Panchjanya”, in its edition just after the lynching in Dadri, defended the crime of this homicide. Stooping to a further new low, “Panchajanya” said “Vedas order the killing of “sinners” who slaughter cows”. Reading it even from a neutral perspective, this “Vedic” statement sounds insensitive to me.

The world sketches Islam as an extremist and violent religion, whereas what The Holy Quran says in one of its chapters Surah Al-Kafirun, a chapter about those who are not believers of Islam says, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” (109:6).

This clearly draws lines of separation of interests, that a Muslim should mind his religion and the believer of the other faith should mind his religion. Yet we categorize Islam as being extremist and orthodox.

The evidence is enough to comprehend, whose ideologies are extremist and whose are peaceful. Islamic ideologies instill patience and tolerance in its believers. Muslims are very much a part of the nation as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs or Buddhists are. Tolerance on their part is a virtue that they exhibit, but that does not imply that they are made to succumb to it, in dire situations of desperate circumstances.


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