Indian Muslim Leader Urges Dialogue with Government on Contentious Issues

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ARIF-ALIBy Hassan Cheruppa

JEDDAH – A prominent Indian Muslim leader said that India’s democracy and pluralism has the potential and inherent strength to defeat all attempts to saffronize the world’s largest democracy.

T. Arifali, president of the Kerala state unit of Jamaat-e-Islami and chairman of Madhymam and Media One Group, said that Muslims and other minorities in India need not to be scared of the Hindu nationalist government led by Narendra Modi. “The government of Modi cannot go ahead with better governance without recognizing the country’s secular fabric and the rich cultural diversity of the 1.25 billion-strong pluralist society. Though it was inevitable for the nationalist forces to whip up communal frenzy and play the majority card to win power, it would be very difficult for them to maintain the same tempo while ruling the country,” he said while reacting to the recent statement of Modi commending the patriotism of Indian Muslims. peaking to CNN, Modi had said that Indian Muslims will live and die for India, and will not dance to the tune of Al-Qaeda.

Arifali, who is on a short visit to Saudi Arabia, said the leader of the ruling party, which came to power with a Hindutva agenda, was forced to acknowledge the realities of India’s history, traditions and heritage at least for the sake of governance.

“It is evident from this that no party can enforce fascism on India. Centuries-old pluralism, unity in diversity and peaceful coexistence are integral to the foundation of India, and hence, it is impossible to impose a single culture unilaterally on the people of this great nation.” Arifali suggested that India’s major Muslims organizations should take the initiative to hold dialogue with the Modi government on contentious issues so as to address their concerns as well as to convince the government on the need to backtrack from Hindutva agenda for serving the nation’s broader interests. He noted that Muslim rulers have done nothing, especially for the welfare of Muslims, and for the benefit all sections of people.

“What Modi said was simply the recognition of Muslim’s unique role and remarkable contributions in Indian history. They stood by India as a stellar pillar in all critical junctures whether it was foreign invasion or war with the neighboring country, and this eventually resulted even to their backwardness in all spheres of life. “When British colonialists captured power, they saw them as No. 1 enemies of India and fought against them tooth and nail. Anti-British mentality was the major reason for the backwardness of Muslims, and this was evident from the fact that at the beginning of British rule, the literacy rate among Muslims was 93 percent but when they had quit India, it dropped to 11 percent. This is mainly because of their rejection of even the education system introduced by the British rulers.

“After partition, most of the educated, elite and affluent people left for Pakistan and there was no educational activity among the remaining Muslims, especially in the northern part of the country,” he said while pointing out to the historic reasons for Muslim backwardness. While drawing attention to the call of the Hindu nationalist leaders to transform India into a Hindu state, Arifali said that India’s secular polity will defeat such ulterior designs of the Sangh Parivar, which refers to the family of Hindu nationalist organizations. “These forces describe Modi’s government as the ‘first Hindu government’ that has come to power in India after 10 centuries, including eight-century rule of Muslims and two-century rule of the British. But, the Indian pluralist society cannot embrace such agendas,” he said while noting that Modi came to power with the ruling alliance garnering only 38 percent of votes mainly because of the split of secular parties, which managed to score 62 percent of votes.

He also called on the secular forces to rally together to defeat the onslaught of Parivar on the country’s history and culture as well as on the religious identity of minorities. Arifali noted that his organization is playing a vital role in highlighting the tolerant and moderate image of Islam and enabling Muslims’ peaceful coexistence with other sections of the society. “We are in the forefront of other mainstream Muslim organizations and different schools of thought in upholding communal amity and peaceful and harmonious living with followers of other religions and cultures. We are keen to follow a balanced and moderate approach and as such not even a single member of the organization has been found involved in any communal riots or militant activities.”

Arifali, who is also a well-known orator, said that his organization believes that dialogue and interaction are the strongest weapons to promote communal harmony in India’s pluralist society. “We conduct open dialogue to listen as well as to be listened but not for having an upper hand in argument. We see the interfaith dialogue initiative, launched by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, as a major driving force in establishing global peace and harmony.”

Arifali, who has been at the helm of the organization for 10 years in a row, said that the organization has ambitious action plan to close the Muslim community ranks and channelize their resources for the nation building process. “We are keen to promote amity and harmonious relations with other religious communities, besides extending humanitarian assistance in order to alleviate the suffering of all sections of the society irrespective of religious and other considerations,” he said while citing an example that the organization had spent relief aid worth 25 million rupees for tsunami victims, of which 98 percent of the beneficiaries were non-Muslims.

Arifali also spoke about the organization’s different activities to protect environment, avoid extravagance in the name of marriage parties, and fight for the just causes of the weaker sections. While vowing full support to the Kerala government’s bold steps to ban liquor and curb abuse of drugs, he said that Madhyamam publications and Media One TV channel are doing a commendable job in fighting this social menace. Madhyamam and Gulf Madhyamam dailies, being published in Malayalam language with a total of 17 editions, are among the leading newspapers in India and the Gulf, with nearly one million readers. — HA/IINA

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