Monday, October 20, 2008

Response to MV Kamath's article in "The Organiser" on Muslim

Mr.M.V.Kamath wrote an article "When will Muslims join the mainstream?" apparently at the following URL:

I have written a short reply to that:

Dear Mr.Kamath
It is fallacious to assume that Muslims are not part of the mainstream. The first question is, what on earth is mainstream? If it is some kind monolithic superhighway expecting everyone to follow a jet speed, then why does everyone need to enter it? In India, despite having such superhighways we still have bullock carts and camel carts slowly traversing all the wrong and right paths and no one minds. What I mean is, let us first define what is mainstream?

Secondly, why does representations in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha become the yardstick of any community's progress? That's really absurd. How about the representation in business, corporations, health sector, education, arts, sciences, music, literature, media, motor mechanics, academics, manufacturing, civil services, sports? Is there any sector among the above, which is not represented by Muslims? In some of them in fact, they have done exceptionally well. Yes, their proportions maybe less than what it should be, but there are several reasons for it: (A) They certainly need to work harder than what they have done so far, and (B) there is some amount of bias in the mainstream corporations and institutions against Muslims (you may disagree but its a well-known fact). But yes, even that bias can be fought if you struggle harder.

It is stupidity again to assume that you are mainstream only if you can sing Vande Mataram. No one should be forced to prove one's love for the motherland simply by singing a poem. My children and many other Muslim children in Delhi happily go to mainstream schools where they start the day with Hindu prayers, and I don't mind that. I would like to invite you to come to Delhi’s Muslim-dominated Jamia Nagar area where I live, and please stand on the street early in the morning: you will observe that there is not a single mainstream school of Delhi whose bus doesn’t come to this area to pick up Muslim children. Do all these children, when they start their day in school, keep their mouth shut when Vande Mataram is being recited?

Prophet Muhammad has said that to love your mother land is a sign of faith (iman). So, loving your country is part of religion too for Muslims. But unfortunately, the media (such as “Organizer”) will never highlight such positive aspects of the community. I believe in (and agree with) India's constitution, which I hope every mainstream Indian does. The constitution defines India as a secular country, and gives everyone the right to follow his or her own religion, culture, language and norms. Singing Vande Matram (as far as I know) is not an essential item in the constitution. Through that song, you can pledge your love and respect to the country. If I want to express my love and respect to Mother India in Urdu, Bengali or Kannada (because expressing something in your mother tongue brings out your emotions better), I have the right to do that. If I find Vande Mataram's sanskrit too difficult to follow, why can't I sing a similar song in Assamese for instance? Many "Muslim" schools in India start their day with Iqbal's Sare jahan se achchha - can that song be considered less in patriotism than Vande Mataram?

Also, having a Muslim President or vice-president or Prime Minister is the least of Muslims' concern today. It does not mean anything – its lip service. It is the middle level secretariat that runs the govt. and this country. That's the sector that needs reforms and a better representation of all communities.

Yousuf Saeed
New Delhi
October 20, 2008