Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mazhab ki larai?

Ashish'da used to come over once a month, and every time he came, I was advised to go to the other room. We had only two rooms, so Ashish'da and dad talked late into the night discussing something serious, while I would spend a curious time in the other room, wondering why I was kept away. I was allowed to meet every other friend of my dad but those late night visits by Ashish'da meant we had to switch off all the lights and pretend to be asleep.

Much later my dad told me that he was a guerrilla fighter who fought for some ultra leftist ideologies. He was a student of the regional engineering college in Durgapur, and they had a group of people engaged in extremist activities. My dad befriended him when they had come to burn the library of the A-Zone Boys' School, where my dad was a librarian. Somehow he convinced them against it, and sold them the idea that anarchism that cuts off your own limbs will serve you no purpose and eventually paralyse you. A library is a repository of knowledge, and no matter which ideology you belong to, you cannot act like the Romans. Remember when they burnt to ashes the entire Greek effort at ancient science? That took us back a thousand years. In your fight against the corrupt system of governance, where every government official from a peon to a policeman is corrupt, go ahead and kill those guys, but don't destroy schools and libraries and public property. If you ever come to power, you will have to build everything from scratch again.

I can't imagine how he managed to brainwash a group of charged, young boys away from that day's destruction, but he sure earned the status of mentor to these isolated bunch. He used to lend Ashish'da some books, and also tried convincing him that mainstream politics was the only way to come and fight the cancer that had gripped our country. The guerrillas, naxals as they were known then, most of them brilliant students, died a lonely death, and perhaps Ashish'da too, killed mercilessly by the West Bengal police.

That was then. Discontent about various issues have ensured that the world has always had extremists fighting for something or the other. The fighters of this generation, however, seem to have lost their reason. The advocates of pan-islamism today tell their cadres that they will go to jannat if they kill innocent people in another country. The operatives themselves are brainless today as opposed to the naxals of yore. They have lost their faculty of independent thought and operate on weird propaganda created by their mentors. Pan-islamism. A term very few countries are ready to utter. There's oil and there are friendly Islamic countries, so tread softly. Call them jihadis, terrorists, extremists, whatever, but do not utter that word. It is going to be the fight for the next few centuries, and any sociologist worth his/her salt will tell you where we are headed: Islam versus the rest of the world. A particular violent streak of Islam, which has otherwise seen great spiritual heights during the sufi movement, or has been the seat of learning for many centuries when Europe was plunged in sheer darkness. We haven't forgotten the Baghdad where scientific text was preserved in Arabic and later translated into Latin to pass on to Europe, hailed to be the continent of modern science. We haven't forgotten the Mirza Ghalibs and the Saahir Ludhianvis. We still love Gulzarsaab and Javed Akhtar's lyrics. We expect Aamir Khan to create magic in every new film. But somewhere, somehow, today's extremists want us to remember only WTC, the Bamiyan destruction, the killing of Daniel Pearl, or the latest Mumbai carnage. Every time a Muslim name is uttered, your first reaction is of doubt.

Who has to fight it? Definitely not MJ Akbar, who is busy lambasting the people in power from an almost overt soft corner for the jihadis and their "cause." After every attack or dastardly act by the Muslim terrorists, he has, instead of directly condemning it, somehow tried to find another viewpoint. We definitely do not need him in this fight. And we cannot fight this fight. It is for the Muslims to come forward and fight this fight for themselves. Muslims who consider themselves as Indian as any Indian. Who don't hoist Pakistani flags inside India. The normal, everyday Muslim who has come out of the ghetto and the burqa. Who, when they delve into their deep rooted culture of music, art, and architecture, can put to shame many wannabes today. Where are they? Why is it that the Kasabs have come to the fore and the Naseeruddin Shahs and Shabana Azmis have taken a back seat? Why can't Ghulam Ali come to India any more and why can't so many of us Hindus, Christians, Sikhs fall at his feet again?

Naseer saab's powerful performance in A Wednesday was so realistic, I can say with conviction that he acted the role of the angry common man from his heart. It almost came across as a scream from a person who is on the wrong side by mistake. And I don't know what the script writer had in mind, but the character there is definitely an irritated common Muslim man. He says "mazhab" for religion, and that gives him away. When he says cockroaches are infesting my home, he means both India and his religion.

Only a common Muslim man who looks like anybody else, eats what we all eat, listens to the same music as others, and is living in constant fear as any other Indian can help us overcome this new menace. We cannot push them away by constant racial profiling everywhere. A pious Muslim with a long beard entering a mall with a backpack isn't carrying a gun. Don't make him feel like a terrorist by stripping him naked and emptying his bag in full public view. Don't push further away the only people who can help you in this fight. The clean-shaved man that you allowed to pass, can be another Kasab or Ismail Khan. He can also be an LTTE bomber, a ULFA operative, or one of these newbie Maoists from Andhra who is clueless about where Karl Marx or Mao Dze Dong advocated bombing people shopping in a mall.


Pinku said...

So you saw Wednesday and felt the same way I did too.

That the lines Naseer uttered were said from the heart.

I agree that the Muslims need to speak up against this brutal attack on their religion for that is what it is.

From preaching the 'love of allah' it has become the 'hater of man'.

and I think somewhere its happening too. The Muslim bodies are making it known that they are Indian Muslims and happy to be so. Pakistan doesnt need to save them or fight on their behalf nor do mercenaries like Kasab. Thank you very much.

Lazyani said...

Great to know that you are thinking on these lines and I am not an isolated idealist. Of late, the Hate game has got so big that the common man is tempted to take on the softest target in retaliation -- his next door Muslim neighbour, someone with whom he had grown up with sharing the Pujor Prasad and Biryani of Id.

That is precisely the trap that these hate mongerers would want us to get into and we have to guard against. For as you very rightly say, they are our biggest ally in this war.

On a personal note, remember Masood and Mehmood da? Our childhoods are incomplete without them, isn't it?

Atanu said...

Loved reading this essay. You have expressed your anguish very well. Just one thing: maybe you meant Gulzar's poetry in Urdu, but Gulzar is not a Muslim. His real name is Sampooran Singh Kalra, and is a Sikh by religion.

Oreen said...

thanks, Atanu...
i was under the impression that he is a Muslim all this while :(

Anonymous said...

All this is fine (though heavy) but where is the one on Mashi!!

That's being pending for a while now and definitely deserves more attention than that prick of an ideology!

Aurora Sky said...

what a well written article...ur writings have become so social and political in nature now..

btw, u didn't even wish me on my bday..

writerzblock said...

I really liked your essay and the message of the common Muslim man being the only one who can help us in this war against terrorism. Its probably true in today's scenario.

To play devil's advocate, isn't this the same tolerant and passive attitude of us Indians, over the last several centuries, that has ultimately led to this anti-Hindu and anti-India sentiment itself?

Today, everyone takes shelter under some racial/casteist umbrella and then makes demands on the country.

Look at the Gujjars for example. Just an example. No offence meant to anybody. Are they a potential Al-Quaida-like faction in the budding ? Will they too, in a few decades, turn around and stab their own motherland in the back because their demands are not met some day?

I think we should put an end to tolerance. Those who want to live in India should accept the country the way it is. Those who don't are free to move to a land where their religion is a majority.

And the odds are, everybody stays put in India, because all said and done, their women enjoy freedom, and their children are much safer here, (and are beneficiaries of such privileges as education quotas), as they probably cannot dream of in other countries.

With regards,
A thoroughly frustrated Indian

Oreen said...

india has suddenly become a little less tolerant than it used to be... from the swift, no-compromise action of the NSGs to the recent stern action against the petroleum strikes, we are suddenly emerging as a zero tolerance nation. let's hope, that is...

also shows we have moved after that kandahar hijack.

it will take us long to reach the coldblooded levels that Russia and Israel have reached, but we will reach there soon...like Russia crushed the Aslan Mazkhadov-led rebels, and Israel is now pounding the Hamas and will then destroy the Lebanese Hezbollahs, we too will move into PoK and destroy the LeT soon. and then we all will corner the Talibs and hang each one publicly on the streets . . .

i remain an eternally hopeful indian :-)

writerzblock said...

Hi Oreen,
So we emerge as Taliban Ver 2.0 ?! Or did I detect a hint of sarcasm in your response?

But you're right..India is less tolerant that it used to be, and I am glad about it.
Tolerance = Meekness
Meekness = Death (its survival of the fittest, you see1)

White Magpie said...

Umm..Men of action are, after all, only the instruments of men of thought.

Pinku said...

I hear you are visiting my city soon...do make sure to find time to meet us too!!!

addled said...

A Wednesday... a very touching movie... that spoke the common man's mind right from his heart! Also came just at the right time... well thought and written!

Anonymous said...

Anyone here (or anywhere) identifying with A Wednesday lacks the grit (and guts) to battle it out in the open. Our need for a hero has always been accentuated by the appearance of such bizarre charecters who seem to have the power of Neo or Morpheus.

The fact is we die one death and it doesn't hurt beyond a couple of seconds, even when it ocurs in the most gruesome manner. And that's it. If you got that, you don't need a comic Superman to ease your worries & pains.

You need yourself to tend your garden - that nameless gentleman on the rooftop will scarcely be of help.

Pinku said...

Anonymous says

"Anyone here (or anywhere) identifying with A Wednesday lacks the grit (and guts) to battle it out in the open. "

I rest my case.