How a more mature and politically-savvy Muslim community is gradually replacing its traditional leadership with a more responsible and responsive new leadership. Steadily ignoring the anti-Muslim rhetoric and measures of the Hindutva government and refusing to become a tool in the hands of political parties as well as their own politicians, India’s Muslims are charting for themselves a whole new path of restraint and relentless hard work for collective progress
HANIF LAKDAWALA | Caravan Daily
- AIMIM nearly rejected outside Hyderabad by Muslims in various elections
- Triple Talaq is a non issue with the Muslim community in general in spite of the extensive media coverage
- Anti-Muslim policies and measures by the BJP Government hardly elicit any response from the community
- Television media raising provocative issues hardly catch the Muslim community attention
There is a subtle and certain change underway in India’s Muslim community. The community seems to have totally shed the tendency to get provoked by emotional issues. In the past emotional issues were used as cash cow by its own leadership and political leadership of the country. The community has been maintaining a restrained and matured approach in spite of grave provocations.
The past three years suggest a discernible shift among the Muslim masses towards a restrained and constructive approach towards various political, social and economic issues confronting the community.
At the grass roots level, there is discernible shift in the community leadership. A new leadership is gradually replacing the old order. From 1980’s to 2010, the media, particularly electronic media, has projected certain Muslim politicians, organizations and a group of Muslim intelligentsia as the real face and representatives of the community. Traditional Ulema at the grass-roots level were projected as fanatics and living in the past.
Post 2012 when the electronic media lifted its pretense of unbiased coverage and started openly projecting a communal, Hindutva agenda and actively polarized the Indian society, the community started looking inwards. At the mirco level, survival strategies have been put in place. What are these strategies that kept the community calm in the face of grave external provocations?
The biggest surviving mechanism Indian Muslims have adopted is strengthening their most basic institutions such as local madrassa and its local welfare and charitable committees. The community has outright rejected high-profile and high-capital projects. Instead the micro-level madrassa and welfare committees are being supported. Many such local madrassas also provide a sense of direction and security to Muslims about their religious identity. Welfare and charitable committees are providing them with education and healthcare support and make them socially cohesive.
Most local mosques and their imams offer basic Quran and Arabic classes which fulfills the basic needs of religious security. In various Muslim mohallas one can easily locate a small madrassa providing the most basic teachings of Islam. Any local madrassa boasts 20 to 50 enrollments, with learning various essential elements of Islam. These madrassas do not charge any fee to the students as it is either funded by the local mosque trust or jamaat.
Welfare at Grassroots Level
Every Muslim mohalla (neighborhood) also has a small local welfare and charitable committee doing the social work at the grass-root level. For instance, at Nagpada, in south Mumbai, a Muslim dominated area, a few local Muslims got control of a municipal garden under municipal sponsorship scheme. Gradually with the help of a few donors and other welfare organizations such as Khidmat Charitable Trust, Noorani Foundation etc, educational scholarship, healthcare, kidney dialysis center, reading room, charitable dispensary etc are all being provided free or at nominal rates.
TRAC Survey and Muslim Leadership
This writer through, Trends Research and Analysis Centre (TRAC), a Mumbai based research agency, conducted a survey to find out the credibility of the Muslim leadership at various levels working for the community and consuming its resources. The survey covers Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Pune.
The sample size was 418 respondents, all Muslims, across diverse demographic profiles. A 10-point staple scale (-5 to +5) was used to find out the most credible leadership to represent the community. The survey reveals that local imam and Madrassa teacher enjoy the highest credibility with 4.0 rating on a scale of 1 to 5.
One of the respondents said: “At least, we are connected with our Deen (religion) thanks to them and their selfless service that too at a very meager salary.” 65% of the mosque imam’s salary is below Rs 7,000 per month. Many supplement their meager salary by doing some odd jobs. One of the Imams sells Attar and perfumes outside the mosque. Another imam repairs watches. Yet another imam is working as a watchman in a shopping complex.
Politicians at the Bottom
The lowest rating in the survey, not surprisingly, is that of Muslim politicians and Muslim political parties at -4. The reason given by a large number of respondents in the survey is that Muslim politicians have become extremely rich, have fancy cars and large properties.
Their contribution is minimum for the community’s welfare. The image of Muslim politician is of a person who is more interested in Vasuli (Recovery) than community support. The Muslim politicians have all lost their credibility by solely relying on emotional issues without doing any grass-root work in their constituencies. Those who have grass-root work they always get the support in the form of community votes irrespective of the political party they represent or join.
The second rank, according to survey, with 3.5 rating, is that of local social workers who are selflessly working through small welfare committees at the mohalla level. The range of social work these local committees offer includes, educational scholarship, free coaching, human rights issues, legal aid, working amongst prisoners, healthcare, matrimonial services, social and psychological counseling, entrepreneurial development etc. They offer these services while working at a very meager salary.
Islamic or religious organizations, ranked sixth with a rating of 2.0, have lost their prime position. Still, they have tremendous following. These organizations are fighting the survival battle as they have not been able to upgrade themselves and are failing to attract the younger generation.
Majority of Islamic or religious organizations are still relying on old literature which has become more or less outdated. None of these Islamic or religious organizations have introduced path-breaking literature, philosophy or methodology which can attract young Muslim masses in large numbers.
Changing Role of Muslim Organizations
Organizations representing the community at the national or regional level is ranked seventh with the rating of 1.5. These organizations are very fast losing their credibility as most of the time they are dormant and lack imagination and innovations in tackling the issues which they claim represents the community. Infighting and political ambitions of a few within the rank of these organizations have led to the decline in their credibility.
Those who have got negative ratings include leaders and trustees who are in possession of Wakf properties with rating of -.2 The general image is that thousand of crores worth Wakf properties are being siphoned off for personal use without any benefit to the community.
The rating of Muslim intelligentsia (professionals, influential and educated Muslims and with lots of clout in social circles) is also negative with -1. Reasons given by the respondents are that their knowledge of Islam is superficial; they are self centered, media oriented and away from the community mainstream.
High and mid level Muslim Government servants and Muslim Bureaucrats are also negatively ranked with -1 rating. According to respondents that are more concerned about their job and hardly participate in the community projects.
Thus the trends indicate a discernible shift in the approach of the community towards emotional and political issues and acceptance of non-glamorous leadership at the grass-root level. It’s a positive development which will benefits India’s Muslims in the long run.
Hanif Lakdawala is a Mumbai-based community activist, educationist and Director of Trends Research and Analysis Centre (TRAC), a Mumbai based research agency. He can be reached at [email protected]