‘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

‘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%).

Tolerance

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)