In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful
We Beseech of Allah to Bestow His Choicest Peace and
Blessings upon our Leader and Master Muhammad (S.A.W.)
وَقُلْ جَاءَ الْحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ الْبَاطِلُ ۚ إِنَّ الْبَاطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقًا
And say, “Truth has come, and falsehood has departed.
Indeed, is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart.”
[Qur’an 17: 81]
All thanks and praises are due to Allah [S.W.T], Our Lord, Creator, and Sustainer. We express our gratitude to Allah for granting us this occasion to gather here in safety and security, for His Remembrance and Reflection on our responsibility towards His Creation.
- Citizenship Amendment Act [CAA] and National Registry Certification [NRC]
In today’s khutbah presentation we focus our attention on the plight of Muslims in India, especially after the Indian Parliament has passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act [CAA] and National Registry Certification [NRC] legislation. These laws place Muslims, a politically and economically marginalized community in India, at risk of becoming stateless. This legislation, for the first time, introduces religion as a factor in determining citizenship, and thus stands in violation of the Indian Constitution.
In this khutbah presentation I will attempt to answer 3 questions:
- What danger does this legislation pose for Muslims in India?
- Why are Muslims oppressed and marginalized in India?
- How are Muslims responding to these latest challenges?
It is important to state that India is not a Hindu theocratic state, although Hindu nationalists have always defined India as a Hindu nation, just like Jews have defined Israel as a Jewish nation. Hinduism is a great and ancient religion. It is one of humankind’s greatest spiritual treasures. This current state of affairs has nothing to do with Hinduism – it has to do with an ideology called Hindutva. Hindutva ideology is an exclusivist, anti-Muslim, ethno-cultural nationalist expression that selectively employs Hindu religious symbols for political gain.
In providing answers to these questions it will entail that we have some understanding of the nature of the forces at play and the kind of story or narrative they want to shape for as always, the truth is the first casualty in any such struggle.
With an unassailable parliamentary majority in place, the Hindutva leaning BJP party saw its road clear to implement a series of reforms aimed at fulfilling its avowed dream of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. Such a religious government has little regard for the diversity and plurality of ethnicities, cultures, religions, and languages that comprise contemporary India. Justice and fairness towards all are clearly not amongst its better tendencies.
Currently, these Hindutva espousing ideologues have Islam and Muslims in India fixed in their cross hairs. Evidence for this arises from the treatment meted out to the people of Kashmir, the relegation of the status of the Urdu language, the threatening rhetoric about the future of Muslim Personal law in India, the frantic efforts to expunge any positive mention of Muslim contribution to the rise of modern India, as well the outlawing of religious conversions and marriages across confessional lines. These anti-Muslim activities however, reach their apotheosis with the introduction of the CAA and the NRC.
- Apartheid India
None of these issues to date have evoked the kind of responses as seen with the introduction of the CAA. This legislation is a game changer. Suddenly, Muslims who hitherto had been very subdued, have found their voice. The BJP never envisaged the opposition this legislation would evoke from both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This is, in essence, statutory discrimination. It is discrimination based on religion, written into law. Here in South Africa, we had a name for such form of state-craft; we called it Apartheid.
The BJP thought the vast majority of Indians would accept this legislation, as it is so anti-Muslim in its sentiment. It is clearly a sentiment not endorsed by the thousands of protests and rallies, the like of which India has never seen before. CAA is India’s Apartheid moment.
If you are a refugee or an illegal immigrant, and have no documents to verify your potential citizenship claim, you could be arrested and placed in a concentration camp before being deported. If you belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian or Parsi faiths, you would have nothing to fear; your request for citizenship could be fast tracked. If, however, you are a Muslim, you could be deported.
People who have lived in India for generations have similar fears. Many citizens are poor, illiterate, and not by the means to secure birth certificates or proof of descent that distressingly
must go back three generations. This demand reaches a level of absurdity, as it is supposed to be applied in a country where most births been recorded for the first time ever only over the last 30 years or so! Besides deportation, statelessness means the state is not obliged to protect you, you are not entitled to any state resources covering health, housing, social welfare, schools, jobs, etc. and, you are also disenfranchised in the process. For all intents and purposes, you are a non-person, you do not exist; you live in state of limbo; is that not what made the Rohingya so vulnerable In Rakhine State in Myanmar and what made the genocide there possible? Muslims in India are facing an existential crisis and they have all the reason to protest mightily at this nefarious piece of legislation.
- Fascist India: Why are Muslims and other minorities victimized.
Turning to our second concern about why Muslims are so despised and marginalized in India today, takes us to the rise of the BJP as a political force and the triumph of Modi as a strong man bolstered by big Indian Capital as an answer to all of India’s complex social and political problems. The Indian economy has tanked. It has failed to meet the needs of a growing population. Minorities, identifiable by race, caste, religion, gender, etc., are cast as scapegoats and held responsible for all the frustration caused by inept governance; no sane people believe this will solve India’s problems but of course it is a lie big enough to rile up sections of the population to justify hate and violence against minorities. Like Trump, these Indian politicians just have to play to their base of faithful devotees to secure their positions of power once again at the next election.
Acloser study of Indian society shows how vast sectors of the Hindu population have been mobilized over the years into identifiable publics which display a sense of grievance to be avenged. Their sense of security is enhanced around an open embrace of vigilante behavior. They anoint themselves with ideas of “purity” whilst preserving notions of “disgust” and “offence” to split themselves off from others. This gives rise to a form of “vigilante publics”, with displays of cohesion and solidarity within themselves and a robust muscular embodied approach intended to intimidate others. Any suggestion to them of the disruption of this favorable power dynamic must be answered swiftly and violently with no room for display of any guilt or conscience at all.
Their cadre-based nature of recruitment and infiltration into all segments of Indian society and enforcing consent for their views through violence and even murder if need be, is a worrying development. Right from the outset the composition, structure and modus operandi of these organizations were modelled on Nazi and Fascist practices. The Hindutva leaders of these bodies were open admirers of Hitler and Mussolini. They created their own version of storm troopers, brown shirts and violent thugs, such as RSS, Shiv Shena, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, VHP (World Hindu Council), the ultra-militant Bajrang Dal etc. They showed complete disregard for anyone not of their own faith or ideological inclinations. They act with impunity knowing that the law enforcement agencies will turn a blind eye to their excesses, for they are doing the state’s dirty work.
Their practices are in many ways reminiscent of what happened to Afro-Americans in the deep south of America. They feel licensed to inflict pain, maim and murder Muslim men and rape Muslim women. These are modern versions of terrorism which tell Muslims, “you are unwelcome in India and you survive here only at our wish.”
Ideologues who manipulate these extra-parliamentary forces thrive on prescribing simple slogans like “Make America Great Again”. In India, these slogans take the form of “anti-nationals”, “termites”, “infiltrators” etc. all forms of language intended to dehumanize the other. This sets the scene for violence and even genocide later, as their supporters’ conscience has already been desensitized.
- Fighting the false narrative created about Muslims in India
A false image is created of a Muslim minority being responsible for all of India’s ills. Muslims are blamed for India’s Partition into India and Pakistan. They are suspected of terrorism and their loyalty to the land is questioned. Their positive contribution is downplayed. They are persecuted through communal violence whilst there is failure of the state of its primary duty to protect all its citizens; this uncontrolled violence and genocide occurs because the state colludes with violent forces it released in the first instance, but then loses control over them.
Muslims comprise 14% of India’s population, yet can claim ownership of only 2-3 % of
India’s wealth. Muslims are at the bottom of the rung by every conceivable metric of social development. They are underrepresented in the police, army, security forces, judiciary, academic positions, and any other position of influence and standing in the country.
Since 9/11, Islamophobia has reared its ugly head more in Modi’s India than in Trump’s America. Thus, it is not surprising that acts of urban terror are often blamed on Muslims. Security and intelligence agencies are so obsessed with Muslim terror that right-wing Hindutva terrorism occurring right under their noses fails to get their attention.
Communal riots are nothing new to India, and many innocent Hindu and Muslim lives have been lost. Perhaps the most devastating of these communal riots has been the 2002 riots in Gujarat, whilst the present Prime Minister of India was the then Chief Minister of this populous state. I will spare you the horrific and painful details in this presentation, but suffice to say even the unborn children were not spared this barbarity, as their pregnant mothers’ wombs were mercilessly ripped open.
I refer you here to the recent testimony of Dr Aakhshi Sanjiv Bhatt, delivered at a U.S congressional hearing. Dr Bhatt is the daughter of Sanjiv Bhatt, a whistleblower and ex-Indian police officer, who is the sole surviving witness to the state’s complicit role and function in the 2002 mass genocide of Muslims in the state of Gujarat.
Hindutva espousing Indians feel emasculated about Partition and blame Muslims for the carving of Colonial India into two states; a Muslim-Pakistan and a secular multi-religious India. Revisionist Historians however hold the upper caste aristocratic Hindu leaders, Gandhi and Nehru, just as responsible for the chaos of Partition as the Muslim League leader Mohamed Ali Jinnah.
Representative democracy and universal adult franchise, was non-existent at the time of Partition. Only 3 % of Muslims were eligible to vote. This included the landed gentry, the literate, and the wealthy. By no stretch of imagination could one call this a democratic exercise, representative of the will of all Muslims prior to Partition in 1947.
It would pay BJP followers today to pause and take note that its forerunner, the Hindu Mahasaba, was in fact in a coalition government with the Muslim League before partition. The common thread in political thinking they shared was that India is composed of two nations, not one! In other words, they were on the side that relished the prospect of India dividing itself into Hindu and Muslim enclaves!
A good example of how the BJP actively disregards the positive contribution Muslims have made to Modern India is the re-writing of history texts for Indian learners. Any positive references to Muslims, stemming prior to Moghul times or thereafter, after, are expunged. Indian students will not learn about the Mogul ruler Akbar and his tolerant, pluralistic, and ecumenical approach to religions, nor would they learn about Tippu Sultan, the Muslim General who fought the British Invaders, but who also restored Hindu Temples.
Indian learners will not learn about the first Indian struggle for Independence in 1857, and the outstanding contribution of Molvi Liaquat Ali, neither would they learn about the bravery of a Muslim Commander in the 1965 war against Pakistan, Havaldar Abdul Hamid, who was posthumously awarded with India’s highest military honors, the Param Vir Chakra.
They will also not learn about a Zakir Hussain or Avul Pakir Jainulabideen Abdul Kalam, both of whom served as State Presidents in a post-Partition India. They will not be exposed to the fact that the latter was chiefly responsible for India’s entry into the world as a nuclear power. Known as the “missile man”, he was almost singlehandedly responsible for developing India’s defensive missile capacity as it stands today.
Many deaths In India have been caused by vigilante groups formed to protect cows in India. These depraved, barbaric acts of violence should be condemned by all. Any individual caught up in the cattle trade or found eating beef is a target to be lynched. Many Hindus also eat beef. It is a little-known fact that the beef trade in India is largely under the control of Hindus. India is also the world’s second largest exporter of cattle. These cattle are not exported to be reared as sacred animals.
Since its electoral victory, the BJP has stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status as the only Muslim Majority state in India, jailed all its elected political leaders, increased its security force
presence, unleashed severe economic hardship on all of Kashmir’s residents, and shut down all communication for all its inhabitants. India is an occupying force which does not belong in Kashmir.
Vigilante violence reaches its climax with the sacrilegious destruction and vandalism of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992. Independent observers agree that there is no certainty in the claim by Hindutva ideologues that the Babri mosque site is the original birth site of The Hindu deity Ram. This is a political and not a religious claim. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision (which is not entirely unfavorable to Muslims) emboldens right wing political ambitions; whether it can heal the rifts between religious communities remains to be seen.
This brings us to the third question. Just how are Muslims and other minorities responding to these challenges? Did the BJP foresee these challenges? What does this very physical display of defiance portray for democracy in India?)
With what has been discussed so far, one could be excused for thinking that the position of Muslims and other oppressed minorities in India is a depressing and difficult one. There have, however, been many hopeful signs of people becoming informed, confident, responsible and resilient by the day.
These anti-CAA protests started at Jamia Milla University in Delhi and at that bastion of Muslim
learning and culture, the Aligarh Muslim University.
It is gratifying to note the solidarity emerging between Muslims and people of all faiths, castes and classes. Muslims and other minority groups have learnt to employ national symbols such as the, The Tricolor Flag, the national anthem, which was sung from the steps of the Jama Masjid in Delhi and, India’s Constitution, whichMadhav Khosla, describes as the tool that built a civic culture in Independent India and “gave Indians a grammar of democracy”.
Let us also acknowledge the role of mothers protesting at Shaheen Bagh in the Capital, a place of protest rapidly developing into a node of iconic significance. An outstanding feature of the struggle is the role of women; brave, motivated, fearless and courageous. They placed themselves as human shields against police brutality as videos gone viral have shown so clearly. We are mighty proud of these “Mothers of India”!
An outstanding feature of the current protests is how poetry, art and music have been incorporated into the struggle. Culture speaks a common language. Politics and an unrefined religious consciousness divides, separates; it can also lead to bigotry and prejudice.
Culturally, Muslims have much in common with their non-Muslim neighbors. Whether it be the
poem turned into song by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hum dekhenge, (We shall see.), therallying cry of Hum kaagiz nahi di khaaye! (We will not show documents!), the use of the Urdu term Azadi (freedom), or thepoem by Hussain Hayder, main Hindustani Musulman ho!, (I am a Hindustani Muslim!), these have all served to foster a spirit of unity.
For the first time Muslims are articulating an identity based on patriotism, inclusivity, being comfortable with secularism, being at ease with a pluralistic understanding of faith.
When one witnesses the movement on the streets of India one cannot fail to be reminded of a poem in Arabic which captures this activity:
haraka baraka, al harakatul zawahir
any movement is a blessing, the movement of the exterior
blesses what is in the interior
One’s protest takes on an embodied existence. This physical activity transforms a person’s character making it more resilient with difficulties experienced.
My words of support for those enduring these difficult times in India comes from 2 sources:
- Surah 17 verse 81 as I alluded to earlier. It establishes a relationship between hope and truth. Hope is something intrinsic to us. It reflects a state of Allah Consciousness or taqwa; a true believer never despairs of the Help of Allah. Truth on the other hand is extrinsic to us. It must reign, it must govern, but often it is suppressed or hidden. It is our duty to make it manifest. [ surah bani Israel]
- surah 24, verse 55:
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُم مِّن بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا ۚ يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا. يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا ۚ وَمَن كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds, that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth, just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them[therein]
their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then those are the defiantly disobedient. 24:55 [ surah nuh]
It is the alignment of hope with truth that ensures eventual triumph!
Al-Nu’man ibn Bashir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5665, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2586
· I conclude by appealing to all of us to express our solidarity with the minorities under difficulty in India. Where Hindutva spreads hatred and animosity towards Muslims and other minorities, we promote our vision of a society based on respect and embrace (and not mere tolerance!) of all faiths, and a deep and abiding love for the common humanity we share. Our Love for the land and the soil is no less intense than that expressed by the Hindutva; our faith teaches us to honor it by walking on its surface with humility and to respect it as a home and support for all of Allah’s Creation.
· We need to keep ourselves informed of what is happening in India. We must support the stand taken by PAAF [People against Apartheid and Fascism] and exercise greater vigilance against the propaganda spread by the Indian state as it tries to find acceptance for its views amongst its allies, including here in South Africa.
· As citizens living in a democratic dispensation, foremost on our agenda, is promoting patriotism, building better relationships with our neighbors, consciously promoting anti-communalism, fighting corruption and bribery, and honoring and respecting women, who are the victims of violence perpetuated through outdated cultural and religious attitudes.
Let me end off by saying that sometimes a crisis can bring out the worst in us, but it can also be a catalyst for bringing to the fore the latent good in us.
Balbir Singh, an M.A. graduate, was one the first volunteers to rush to the RSS’s call to demolish the Babri Musjid. Little did he realize that his initial steps would signify for him the start of his road to Damascus. These days he is known as Mohammad Amir. He compensates for his former actions by preaching a message of peace and harmony. This is by far more superior than the several mosques he has since built for it is not from the brick and mortar of mosques or temples, but the human heart from which emanates warmth and goodness towards all.
Reading List / Bibliography
- Genocide Watch: India https://www.genocidewatch.com/home/category/India downloaded 06/01/2020
- Shakuntala Banaji Vigilante Publics: Orientalism, Modernity and Hindutva Fascism in India https://doi.org/10.1080/13183222.2018.1463349
- Mona G. Mehta From Gandhi to Gurus: The Rise of the ‘Guru-Sphere’ https://doi.org/10.1080/00856401.2017.1302047
- Paola Baccheta Sacred Space in Conflict in India: The Babri Masjid Affair. Growth and Change Vol 31 No. 2 9Spring 2000, pp255-284
- Dexter Filkins, Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi’s India, The New Yorker December 2 2019
- Eliza Griswold The Violent Toll Of Hindu Nationalism In India, The New Yorker March 5, 2019
- Balraj Puri Indian Muslims since Partition, Economic and Political Weekly October 2,1993
- Ramesh Thakur, India in the World: Neither Rich, Powerful, nor Principled –
- Rupa Subramanya, Facts Don’t Back The Argument That Most Indian Muslims Wanted Partition https://www.huffingtonpost.in 2017 June 19
- Ajaz Ashraf, India’s Muslims and the Price of Partition, The New Yorker Times, August, 18, 2017
- Maya Michandani, Digital hatred, real violence: Majoritarian radicalization and social media in India, https://www.orfonline.org/research/43665
- Anantanand Rambachan Hinduism, Hindutva and the Contest for the Meaning of Hindu Identity: Swami Vivekananda and V.D Savarkar .http://www.irenees.net/bdf_fiche-analyse-878_en.html
- Pankaj Mishra, Why Western Thinkers Struggle With the Subcontinent, Foreign Affairs, November, 1, 2013
- Pankaj Mishra, NS Essay-How the British invented Hinduism, NewStatesmanAmerica , August, 26, 2002
- Pratap Banu Mehta, Modi Pushes India into Revolt; A new Law Upends What it Means to be Indian, Foreign Affairs, December 20, 2019
- Hilal Ahmed, Who represents India’s Muslims? Thanks to CAA, we now know the answer.
The Print, January,17 2020
- Pratab Bhanu Mehta, Winning Kashmir and Losing India. How Modi is Gutting Democracy
Foreign Affairs, September 20, 2019
- Kanchan Chandra, The Roots of Hindu Nationalism’s Triumph in India: What the BJP Learned from Congress Party, Foreign Affairs September 11, 2019
- Shivam Mij , The people’s occupation of Shaheen Bagh speaks truth to power,
The Print, January 20, 2020
- Thomas Van Damme, The Use and Misuse of History and Archeology in the Ayodhya Dispute, University Gent https://www.academia.edu/6042055/The_Use_and_Misuse_of_History_and_Archaeolo
- Ira Trivedi India’s Beef with Beef, Foreign Affairs January, 7 2015
- Ratna Kapur, The “Ayodhya” Case: Hindu Majoritarianism and the Right to Religious Liberty, 29 Md. J. Int’l L. 305 (2014). Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/mjil/vol29/iss1/14