‘Those Who Insult Prophet Have Agendas, Muslims Must Not Fall Into Their Trap’

Maulana Qamar Sultan, a 52-year-old Shia cleric from Ghaziabad (UP), says the Quran did not call for violence when Prophet was called names in Mecca

Let me start with a famous story from the life of Prophet Muhammad. The story goes that an old woman in Mecca would throw garbage on the doorstep of the Prophet in defiance of his message, and one day she fell sick and could not throw the garbage. The Prophet visited her to know her wellbeing. She was so awe-struck by his character that she accepted his Prophet-hood and embraced Islam.

The moral of the story is: you do not reciprocate hateful gestures with hate. If you want a different outcome, hate should be dealt with differently.

Besides, the Prophet in his entire lifetime never commanded any war because he was being disrespected by those people. Even the Quran never commanded the Prophet for the same.

On the contrary, when the Prophet was called names by the people of Mecca, the Quran replied with words, not with any call for violence or retribution.

When the Prophet was called ignorant, the Quran stated, “He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom.” ~ (3:164)

When he was called mad, the Quran said: “By the grace of your Lord, you ˹O Prophet˺ are not insane.” ~ (68:2). There are various such replies all over the Quran rebutting the insults thrown at the Prophet, but there’s not a single verse that says that Muslims should wage war against the people of Mecca for insulting him.

Maulana Qamar Sultan counsels restraint to all law-abiding citizens of the country

It is evident from history that all great personalities faced love and hate from the people they served. We have the example of Mahatma Gandhi, a personality who is revered across the world but he became the victim of hate. The opinion about Gandhi is still divided as there’s one group of people in this country who have little respect for him and heaps insults on him while worshipping his killer.

ALSO READ: ‘Victims Of Religious Violence Are Always From Poorer Section’

Those who insult the Prophet have hidden agendas. They want Muslims to retaliate. It is high time Muslims understood this and avoid falling into their trap. We should be cautious and not protest violently but should take a different way of protest. I strongly condemn all the killings and violence committed in the name of the Prophet.

However, I would also like to present the counterargument to the whole case through some pertinent questions. Why do we expect only Muslims to be subservient and not protest over insulting remarks made on their Prophet? Why aren’t we acknowledging the restraints shown by those crores of Muslims who didn’t vent their anger publicly but protested silently? Why are Muslims being lynched openly? The questions go on…

I realize the blame game will not solve the problem, but we have to be objective in our approach. This country belongs to everyone. Our Constitution is clear about unifying the people. It has gone to the level of respecting the sentiments of people, belonging to different castes, creeds, tribes, and religions.

We should follow the Constitution in its letter and spirit. We should stop making offensive comments about others and we should also stop reacting if such comments are made. If we want a peaceful nation everyone must show restraint.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘BJP Wants Muslims to React Violently; They Haven’t Taken The Bait’

Sohail Hashmi, a Delhi-based writer, filmmaker and heritage activist, says the reaction of Gulf countries on hate speech in India is extremely selective

There are two sides to the issue of the BJP spokespersons indulging in hate speech. One, the set pattern of aggression or victimhood driven by the same and ultimate purpose: communal polarisation. Second, that they can make highly derogatory statements from public platforms, and no action will be taken against them.

This would repeatedly amount to total violation of all laws, provocative declarations, triggering an atmosphere of violence and animosity towards a community. But, no action will ever be taken.

The Prime Minister says that we must preserve our diversity, but his rank and file is constantly doing the opposite: violence, putting houses on fire, attacking religious places, stopping namaz in public spaces, lynching etc. There is lip service, but the pattern continues.

This time, there has been outrage in the Gulf countries. The hate speech and actions against the minorities in our country have become regular. They transgressed the limits this time because they attacked the founder of a religion. Basically, yet again, they are merely testing the ground. The overall project is to provoke the minorities to come out on the streets and perhaps turn violent, and then they can be blamed and condemned, and another wave of polarization can be manufactured.

ALSO READ: ‘Bulldozer Is The New Symbol Of Communal Oppression’

The minorities, till this day, have not fallen to this sinister bait, since the last eight years. They simply refused to play this game. And, yet, violence has happened in Kanpur this time.

The vice president was visiting the Gulf countries. A dinner for him has been reportedly called off. Many stores out there have stopped selling Indian products. If the situation becomes too bad, they might stop importing Indian products.

Besides, there are millions of skilled and migrant professionals and workers in the Gulf who sustain the Indian economy by pumping back billions in foreign exchange. This is no small change. With mass unemployment on the rise in contemporary India, across the class spectrum, and especially hitting the poor and workers the most, what will happen if there is enforced migration from the Gulf, back to India, adding to the intense and widespread economic crisis and joblessness here.

The BJP spokespersons have not been punished. Suspension etc, is no punishment in a country where riots have happened and many times the victims have been hounded, as in North-east Delhi. Or, the manner they have put charges against people who are simply peaceful dissenters, like the young Muslim scholars from JNU, Jamia Millia Islamia etc, currently languishing in jail for such a long time.

They can brandish guns, indulge routinely in hate speech, provoke violence – but nothing will ever happen to them. They will always get away.

As for the reaction of the Gulf countries, it seems that as and when repeated assaults on human and democratic rights happen in India, they look the other way. The moment the Prophet is attacked, they express outrage. While such attacks and hate speech should be universally condemned and punished, and this goes for all religions, it would be worthwhile if the Gulf countries also take up the routine and relentless assaults on the very existence of the peaceful minorities in India — under the current regime. That would mark a significant departure.

Considering that most ot the countries in the Gulf are autocracies, it is not really expected that they would care for democratic rights anywhere in the world.

As told to Amit Sengupta

Indian Muslims Are Anxious, Leaders Busy In Blame Game

As per the reports based on first-person accounts and news circulating on various social media platforms, the Indian Muslims across the country are worried about their and their future generation’s future in the country.

The community as a whole is living under a siege mentality and is unable to fathom how to proceed further. One positive fallout of this stress is that now the common Indian Muslim is ready to come out on the streets and demands his rights and stand against the forceful establishment, in absence of any leadership.

This change amongst the common Indian Muslims started in 2019 after the finalisation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The protests, which started from Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, soon spread to many other cities. A novel feature of most of these protests was that Muslim women were at the forefront of these demonstrations.

More recently, after the bulldozer politics started in certain Indian states, Muslims in many cities came out once again against the establishment and stood in solidarity with one another.

However, one incongruous fact, which has emerged from these developments, is the absence of any Muslim leader, with an all-India appeal, leading these movements or even coming out in support of these people movements. This once again proves the point that after 1947 the Indian Muslims have been betrayed by their own leaders-both religious and political.

The fact remains that the so-called religious leaders are busy in amassing wealth in the name of the religion and expanding their personal empires. In addition, the social and political leaders pay lip-service to the Muslims’ sentiments and just appear at the right moment to get their mug shots for the photos and videos, making sentimental not practical statements, whilst engaged in serving their political masters and enjoying their political and financial patronage.

ALSO READ: ‘Bulldozer Is The New Symbol Of Muslim Persecution’

However, a rather more worrying is the fact that recently some Muslim leaders have come out to speak against the establishment and its anti-Muslim policies, but in fact their main aim is not to vilify the establishment, but to vilify their religious opponents and divide the community on fissiparous tendencies.

Last week one such conference was held in Hyderabad, Telangana. The main organisers and speakers at the conference looked more intent on creating divisions within the community, instead of offering any cohesive, forward looking and practical plan to counter the anti-Muslim narratives and operations.

The reports say that most of the speakers at the conference were intent on blaming different international organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwan, Al Qaeda and ISIS for the current plight of Indian Muslims, which sounds so incongruous!

One fails to comprehend how these scholarly figures were able to draw any parallel between the international organisations and Indian Muslims. Even to make any connection of the Indian Muslims with these organisations is to make them more unsafe and open to a whole lot of criticism, added to the fact that Indian Muslims might be sympathetic to these organisations but they have never been and nor will be associated with these organisations, and so far no evidence-based study has been able to link the two. So in effect, these leaders in the name of serving the Muslim cause were making them vulnerable to more attacks.

One of the leaders even went to the extent of urging the Indian Muslims to connect with the rulers and the governments, as per the proper methodology of Islam and to advise them, instead of uprisings and protests to dethrone them and occupy their seats. I hope the incongruity of this statement will not be lost to the readers.

Another speaker spoke about the qualities and patterns of Khawariji terrorists, while exposing the double standards of Islamist preachers like Yusuf Qardawi, Hasan Al Banna, Syed Qutub and Abul-Ala Maududi. This too has no resonance in India, so far.

Now coming to another of these so-called ‘Muslim’ conferences, which took place in Mumbai on 12 May and was addressed by about 35 Muslim religious, social and political leaders. At the end of the day long conference they issued a statement, one point of which read: “The meeting of the Muslim Community leadership appreciates the courage of local Muslim leaders for resisting the evil designs of Fascist forces and thwarting their plans of creating large scale violence against Muslims. It is observed that Muslims organising themselves to defend their lives and properties is a positive sign. The meeting calls upon Muslim leadership to organise at local levels and continuously review the situation at your respective cities. An organised approach towards such planned attacks on Muslims will be the best possible way to thwart the plans of the Fascist forces in a situation where unfortunately the state declines to do its duty of protecting the Minorities”.

The third one of these conferences is to be held in New Delhi on 21 May, organised by a consultative Muslim body and supported by a religious and socio-cultural organisation — which till a decade ago banned its members from participating in the democratic and parliamentary process of India and a fledgling political party and a religious denomination. And yet another one is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 29 May under the banner of Muslims intellectuals (sic).

Coming back to the statement issued after the Mumbai conference, one can take heart from the sentiments expressed by the community’s leaders who have recognised the efforts by the common Indian Muslims to come out against the tyrannical rulers and urged them to organise themselves. But in reality these common Muslims have been made and in future too will be made the sacrificial scapegoat again, whilst these so-called leaders remain ensconced in their luxurious homes with no threat either financial or physical looming over their heads.

have written and spoken many times in the past that the Indian Muslims have to adopt not a reactive but a proactive strategy to counter any campaigns against them. To construct and manage such an apparatus, which keeps an eye on the planning of aggressors and plan a counter strategy, you have to be equipped with monitoring, research and media teams, within the constitutional framework of the country, to counter the opposition’s efforts.

But alas none of our leaders is ready to adopt such an approach and the biggest irony is that even if the Indian Muslims agree to adopt such a strategy, then it will have to be led by the so-called religious leaders eschewing their religious denominational differences and act and behave as One monolith religion, as others view you, not as being Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e Hadith etc.

Going by the past experiences, one is not very hopeful that they may be ready to do so. Instead like what happened at the Hyderabad conference, they are ready to further widen the gulf between different religious denominations and claim their superiority over one another.

‘Indian Muslims Must Remain Patient, Seek Guidance From Quran’

Maulana Qamar Sultan Rizvi Jarchavi, a 52-year-old Shia cleric from Ghaziabad (UP), offers counsel in these difficult times for the Muslims in India

Muslims in India are going through one of the most challenging times in the history of the country. They have been at the centre of a series controversies such as CAA, hijab, halal, loudspeakers, hate speeches and many more. They are being insulted, disparaged, belittled and have been pushed into a corner. They have come to a point when they feel they can’t take it any longer.

While Muslims are at the receiving end, the majority community needs to spare a few moments and think about the deteriorating, hateful situation that the country has fallen into. They need to do some soul-searching to see whether this hatred is part of Indian tradition or is it something new, premeditated occurrence.

There is another angle to view the whole problem. It’s in the innate nature of human beings when we attain absolute power, we also acquire the fear of losing it. This whole circumstance gives the birth of an idea of setting up a permanent authority, which we also call establishment.

It is commonly observed that to consolidate more power, establishments often look for foes. If they don’t find them, they create such enemies. This whole situation can be likened to an example of a raging bull. He needs opponents to prove its strength. If he doesn’t find one, it rams into poles and pillars to use his energy. So, it’s in the training and nature of the establishment to perform like this. Sometimes, this yields positive results like justice and other times, causes atrocities.

Jarchavi wants a unanimous leadership to emerge among Indian Muslims

We have seen how Muslim rulers oppressed their own Muslim subjects. In the Islamic history, we have an infamous incident of Karbala when Yazid martyred the family members of Prophet Muhammad. In the current times, we have witnessed Muslim rulers like Saddam Hussein and many others who crushed their own people. It shows that the power doesn’t care about right and wrong. It aims to remain unchallenged and wants everyone bow to its might.

ALSO READ: ‘Muslims In UP Are Ill At Ease With Yogi’

Thus, when Muslims are suppressed under the might and power of the establishment, they should turn towards Allah. They need to supplicate in front of him. Muslims have forgotten the power of supplications. We must not forget how help came from Allah in the battle of Badr. Though Muslims were a few hundred in numbers and their enemies were thrice as big yet they won the battle.

Muslims must remember the famous story of the Year of the Elephant. When Abraha al-Ashram led a military expedition to destroy the Kaaba, Prophet Muhammad’s grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, who was the caretaker of the Kaaba, realized he can’t fight the forces of Abraha, so he supplicated. The Quran (Chapter 105) has drawn this incident that how Allah answered his du’a and Abraha and his army were destroyed.

Indian Muslims need to have this much trust in Allah when they raise their hands for du’a.

Besides, we need to end the discord within. We are too involved in settling the issue of minor Islamic jurisprudence that we have forgot to follow the main message of Quran. “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not quarrel with one another lest you should lose courage and your power depart. Be patient, surely Allah is with those who remain patient.” (Quran, 8:46)

Muslims also need to choose a unanimous leader who will lead the community in the country. In the absence of a true leadership, we have come to the point when we can’t address either our Islamic issues or worldly issues.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

Don’t Support Allowing Burqa or Hijab

‘I Will Advise My Muslim Sisters To Choose Education Over Hijab’

Saniya Khan, 23, a practising Muslim from Karnataka, says hijab row is the creation of political vested interests and students must not play into their hands

I am a devout Muslim who wears burqa every time I step out of my house. Yet, I don’t support allowing burqa or hijab in schools. This statement might sound confusing to many of your readers but allow me to explain my position.

I firmly believe that an ostensible display of religious practices should be kept away from schools or workplace where certain protocols are followed to bring about a uniformity an impartiality. Whether burqa, hijab or a tilak, one should refrain from carrying one’s religious identity on the sleeve in a classroom.

You may mistake me as a liberal but I am not; far from it. I am deeply religious and I wear burqa in public space. However, as soon as I enter the office premises, I take it off. For, a workplace has a decorum and propriety that needs to be followed if you choose to join in.

Having said that, I know this hijab controversy has been deliberately created to fulfil the agendas of political parties. The whole issue could have been resolved right when it started but the state elections are due the next year and I strongly suspect that a social experiment is being conducted by some vested interest to polarise society so that they can swing the elections in their favour.

ALSO READ: ‘All Women Must Support Muslim Girls On Hijab’

I see the issue has now spread and spilled over to other parts of the country. A few days ago, my sisters came home from college and informed us that how there was a sense of fear among Muslim girls. Though the college administration hasn’t issued any diktat against burqa or hijab, there were fewer girls wearing burqa in the college. This whole incident shows how much importance these girls give to the education; they are ready to set aside their religious practice for the sake of education.

This episode also gives a message to school and college administration to not deny education to women over a piece of clothing. Women are fighting to get their due status in society and they know they can achieve it through education only. We women have fought a long battle to come to this level. But, if the college administration or the government will decide to reduce our access to education institutions over the matter of hijab or jeans, it will be the defeat of the country. This will expose the hollowness of our leaders’ promise to the right to education, particularly girls’ education

My message is for those schoolgirls also that even they are deeply religious and believe that wearing hijab in schools is their fundamental right, it should be set aside for now. Because, it is serving the purpose of one-kind-of ideology which wants to create a deep rift in the society and in this whole controversy only Muslims are being marginalised.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

Online Hate Campaign Against Indian Pacer

‘Men In Blue Should Take A Knee For Mohd Shami Too’

Noida-based cricket fan Tausif Alam (35) is less surprised and more disappointed by the online hate campaign against Indian pacer Mohammad Shami

This whole online hate campaign against Mohammad Shami is totally against the spirit of any game. However, this is not the first time a player has been targeted for not performing in the game. We have witnessed similar criticism of players in the past. But, Shami’s targeting is peculiar in the sense that his religious identity is being dragged into it.

For me, those online comments are laughable that Shami underperformed because he was playing against Pakistan. Though I am trying to laugh it off, it shows how opinionated people are about Muslims in India. And the scrutiny they constantly face.

Shami is a fabulous cricketer. He has performed for India in many matches, bringing glory to the team. He has been in superb form and that’s why he was picked for T-20 WC squad. But, just one bad balling spell against Pakistan and he was attacked online for his religion and his loyalty to the country.

This shows the journey we, as a country, have covered. However, this kind of behaviour is not particularly reserved for Muslims, but Dalits too. Just a few months ago, when the Indian women hockey team lost against Argentina in the semi-final match at the Tokyo Olympics, they were attacked in a similar manner. It was said that the team lost because it had “too many Dalit players”.

ALSO READ: ‘Fabindia Is Not The Target, Muslims Are’

I believe that we have to bring this sanity in our home, especially in India-Pakistan match. We pass on the culture to our children. Enthusiasm for a game is fine but it shouldn’t transcend the limit and become some sort-of mania. We should learn from the players. Beyond the media hype and posturing, those Indian and Pakistani players were so friendly with each other on field; we all saw those pictures from how Rizwan and Babar Azam hugged Virat Kohli after winning the match. Shahnawaz Dahaani, another Pakistani player, was posting picture with Dhoni on his Twitter account.

Another sad thing was the response of Shami’s team-mates and the team management towards the whole issue. Neither Virat Kohli nor BCCI tweeted in support of Shami. They seemed to have buried their heads in the sand.

The most ironical part was ‘taking the knee’ by team India before the match for ‘Black lives matter’ in America. Team India which was showing solidarity for a cause in a far-off land hasn’t spoken a word about atrocities in their own country. They couldn’t even muster courage to show similar solidarity to their own team-mate who was being targeted post-match. There is a reminder for team India that ‘black lives matter’ is an American issue while their own country is facing a similar crisis of sorts. They must understand that taking the knee is not a photo op but represents a cause.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

Festive Clothing Line

‘We Know Fabindia Is Not The Target, Muslim Community Is’

TK Rajalakshmi, a Delhi-based senior journalist, finds targeting of a festive clothing line for its Urdu title regressive. But she also feels Fabindia should have fought back the bullies

It is evident that the intention of the BJP MP, Tejasvi Surya, who targeted Fabindia for their clothing line ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’, was communal in nature. People are not dumb; they understand which community is being targeted when you accuse an ad of ‘defacing’ Diwali because it uses an Urdu title. (It is another matter that part of the title was itself not spelled correctly by both the MP and Fabindia) The media is replete with similar instances in the country nowadays targeting the minority community, either in direct or indirect forms.

Hindustani is an amalgamation of Hindi and Urdu and spoken in many parts of India. The Urdu vocabulary reflects in a lot of Hindustani words that we use in our daily interactions, like zindagi, darwaza, tareef, rang etc. One good example is halwa, part and parcel of Hindu religious rituals and festival food, which is of central Asian origin. Does that mean we boycott it too till we find a new indigenous term for halwa. That way even Hind and thus Hindu too are Persian words. Why can’t we see that it is all about amalgamation of culture or languages over the centuries, and how it has evolved over time?

Urdu itself is part of the two dozen recognised official languages in the country. It is spoken in many states as well. Does that have no sanctity? All languages enrich communication and widen forms of expression and thought. To associate a language with a particular religion and therefore damn it, is unthinkable in the 21st century.

I also found it bewildering on the part of Fabindia to withdraw the ad and issue a clarification that ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’ was not its Diwali collection. They should have filed a case of criminal intimidation against the MP. There is a rule of law in the country. In fact the state government or the courts should have taken suo moto cognizance on the issue against the MP. By not doing so, anyone can in the name of majoritarian culture bully others on the flimsiest of grounds while the rest watch on.

ALSO READ: ‘CAA. Love Jihad,,, Where Will The Hounding Stop?’

Fabindia is a fairly big brand with retail chains around the country. They should have stood their ground. I doubt if the controversy would have hit their popularity or profits. But by withdrawing their ad instead of fighting back it may well have an adverse impact. What kind of a message are they giving to their patrons and their suppliers, some of whom may belong to the minority community, by succumbing to the pressure?

This whole thing of what is indigenous and what is not is a bogus argument. Many festivals in India are celebrated by all. That’s part of our syncretic culture. Rather than being proud of the rich diversity of language, religion, attire etc, there are people who want to impose a bland homogeneity on us.

Does the MP himself not wear western clothes or Kurta? If he wants to be purely indigenous, he should wear only what people wore in ancient India and abandon all modern apparel, accoutrements technology including use of the smart phone. Will he?

Of course, such attacks are motivated. People are not fools, everybody knows who is targeted in such attacks. Be it the recent Fabindia ad now or the popular jewelry label Tanishq earlier (for showing an inter-faith marriage) last year. The greatest Urdu poet-lyricists of our country from Ghalib to Sahir, Firaq or Kaifi Azmi have given such great verses and songs. Are they not part of our heritage? Or should we boycott them too? Honestly, this has gone too far.

I don’t understand why other apparel brands did not come together and speak up against such bullying. Today it is Fabindia, tomorrow it will be one of them. It’s leading from one level to the other all because you want to target a particular community and constantly make them feel like secondary citizens. Where is all this going to lead us?

In his address to the nation on achieving the 100-crore vaccination mark against Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to encourage ‘Made in India’ products. Fab India products are sourced from all local manufactures in the country. They have a significant role to play in popularising block prints etc in cities and they have played some role to popularise rural artisanwork and craft. The ruling political class should look inwards when some of it leaders make such clarion calls that willy nilly might affect those concerns. People from all walks of life ought to speak up against this.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

Coexistence, A Unifying Factor For Indians

A recent survey throws contradictory and unbelievable findings, yet it also underlines how an Indian really feels

For most political parties, sociologists and psephologists what a common Indian on the street thinks matters most. It is an insight into a common man’s psyche, which allows them to strategies and formulate new plans and narratives. Though the political parties are able to set the narrative for their own narrow agendas yet they are unable to control the common perceptions and thinking among the populace.

Studies like a recent one by the US-based Pew Research Centre’s Survey of Religion across India, helps not just the narrative formulators but also offers a peep into the common man’s psyche. The recent Pew study based on nearly 30,000 face-to-face interviews of adults conducted in 17 languages between late 2019 and early 2020 (pre-COVID-19), finds that Indians of all religious backgrounds overwhelmingly say they are very free to practice their faiths.

Religious Tolerance

Indians see religious tolerance as a central part of who they are as a nation. Across the major religious groups, most people say it is very important to respect all religions to be “truly Indian.” And tolerance is a religious as well as a civic value: Indians are united in the view that respecting other religions is a very important part of what it means to be a member of their own religious community.

Yet, despite sharing certain values and religious beliefs – as well as living in the same country, under the same constitution – members of India’s major religious communities often don’t feel they have much in common with one another. The majority of Hindus see themselves as very different from Muslims (66%), and most Muslims return the sentiment, saying they are very different from Hindus (64%).


Indians, then, simultaneously express enthusiasm for religious tolerance and a consistent preference for keeping their religious communities in segregated spheres meaning they live together yet separately. These two sentiments may seem paradoxical, but for many Indians they are not.

Indeed, many take both positions, saying it is important to be tolerant of others and expressing a desire to limit personal connections across religious lines. Indians who favour a religiously segregated society also overwhelmingly emphasise religious tolerance as a core value.

ALSO READ: Indian Education Needs Remodelling

In other words, Indians’ concept of religious tolerance does not necessarily involve the mixing of religious communities. While people in some countries may aspire to create a “melting pot” of different religious identities, many Indians seem to prefer a country more like a patchwork fabric, with clear lines between groups.

This is what I ascribe to the syncretic Indian values, which you’ll not be able to see in any western society. The Indians in spite of all differences and antagonisms try to view themselves as colours of a rainbow, which India is and this is what makes India, united.

Dimensions of Hindu nationalism in India

The survey reports that Hindus tend to see their religious identity and Indian national identity as closely intertwined: Nearly two-thirds of Hindus (64%) say it is very important to be Hindu to be “truly” Indian.

Most Hindus (59%) also link Indian identity with being able to speak Hindi. And these two dimensions of national identity – being able to speak Hindi and being a Hindu – are closely connected. Among Hindus who say it is very important to be Hindu to be truly Indian, almost 80% also say it is very important to speak Hindi to be truly Indian.

Overall, among those who voted in the 2019 elections, three-in-ten Hindus take all three positions: saying it is very important to be Hindu to be truly Indian; saying the same about speaking Hindi; and casting their ballot for the BJP.

Indian Muslims

Vast majority of India’s Muslims say Indian culture is superior. Today, India’s Muslims almost unanimously say they are very proud to be Indian (95%), and they express great enthusiasm for Indian culture: 85% agree with the statement that “Indian people are not perfect, but Indian culture is superior to others”.

Overall, one-in-five Muslims say they have personally faced religious discrimination recently, but views vary by region. Relatively few Muslims say their community faces “a lot” of discrimination in India (24%). In fact, the share is similar to the share of Hindus who say Hindus face widespread religious discrimination in India (21%).

In addition, most Muslims across the country (65%), along with an identical share of Hindus (65%), see communal violence as a very big national problem.

Muslims’ desire for religious segregation does not preclude tolerance of other groups – again similar to the pattern seen among Hindus. Indeed, a majority of Muslims who favour separate religious courts for their community say religious diversity benefits India.

South v/s North

The survey consistently found that people in the South (the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, and the union territory of Puducherry) differ from Indians elsewhere in the country in their views on religion, politics and identity.

For example, by a variety of measures, people in the South are somewhat less religious than those in other regions – 69% say religion is very important in their lives, versus 92% in the Central part of the country.

Hindu nationalist sentiments also appear to have less of a foothold in the South. Among Hindus, those in the South (42%) are far less likely than those in Central states (83%) or the North (69%) to say being Hindu is very important to be truly Indian. And in the 2019 parliamentary elections, the BJP’s lowest vote share came from the South. In the survey, just 19% of Hindus in the region say they voted for the BJP, compared with roughly two-thirds in the Northern (68%) and Central (65%) parts of the country who say they voted for the ruling party.

Other Contentious Issues

Most Indian Muslims opposed triple talaq. 56% said Muslim men should not be allowed to divorce this way. Still, 37% of Indian Muslims say they support triple talaq, with Muslim men (42%) more likely than Muslim women (32%) to take this position. A majority of Muslim women (61%) opposed triple talaq.

Similarly many Indians, across a range of religious groups, say it is very important to stop people in their community from marrying into other religious groups. Roughly two-thirds of Hindus in India want to prevent interreligious marriages of Hindu women (67%) or Hindu men (65%). Even larger shares of Muslims feel similarly: 80% say it is very important to stop Muslim women from marrying outside their religion, and 76% say it is very important to stop Muslim men from doing so.

The survey throws up many findings which may sound contradictory and unbelievable, yet they represent the true feelings of Indians, however convoluted they may be. And this contradictory yet assimilating feeling is what makes India what it is.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)