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  Secular Hypocrisy  
 

 

By: Shachi Rairikar
July 23, 2005
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iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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Actress-turned-activist Shabana Azmi finds the opposition to the reservation for Muslim students in the Aligarh Muslim University from certain sections "unfortunate", saying the move was aimed at benefiting deserving students.

"This step will ultimately benefit 2000 deserving students," she said. Reservation for deserving students? An intellectual person like Ms. Azmi is expected to understand that reservations are meant to provide opportunity to the weaker students. If the students are really “deserving”, they should not need any reservation. Deserving students should be open to face competition and it should make no difference whether this competition comes from Hindu students or Muslim students.

She told reporters "It is unfortunate that it has been given a communal colour. It should not have had any political ramification". Ms. Azmi fails to realize that the issue has not been “given” a “communal colour”, it “is” very much “communal”. Secularism implies equal treatment to all irrespective of religious identity. Any discrimination made on the basis of religion is communal and reservation in education on the basis of religion is no exception to this basic rule.

It is unfortunate that educated, progressive, so-called secular Muslims like Ms. Azmi and her husband Javed Akhtar, who have been doing lip service to secularism and fighting against both Hindu and Muslim communalism, have always vigourously protected Muslims against Hindu communalism but have failed to show the same enthusiasm when it comes to the protection of Hindus against Muslim communalism.

While their hearts bleed for the victims of the Best Bakery, they don’t feel the same pain when Hindus are burnt alive by Muslims in the Radhabai Chawl in Mumbai. When the 58 kar sevaks were burnt alive in Godhra, these liberal secularists, who are otherwise eager to hog the limelight, did not even care to condemn it. Their efforts to take up the cause of the Hindus burnt in the Godhra carnage appears to be only for the purpose of countering the allegations of favouring Muslims.

When asked about Kashmir, Ms. Azmi feels that what is happening in Kashmir is really “extremely complicated”, that there has been a systematic attempt at “communalizing the Kashmir issue and into making it into a Hindu/Muslim case”, that we have to understand that the Kashmiri people have a “right to live in their own homeland”, that there is a “very strong movement” in Kashmir itself where people want independence and that there have been “excesses of the state”. While her sympathies seem to be with the separatist movement, no serious effort has been seen to be made from her side for the rehabilitation of the 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Hindus who have been so injudiciously driven away from their homeland.

While she finds Gadar, a film based on the backdrop of the partition, showing Pakistan in poor light, “provocative”, positioning “Muslims as the other”, no concern is felt or expressed about a film on Gujarat riots showing Hindus as communal. Is Ms. Azmi’s concern limited to the portrayal of the Muslims?

Ms. Azmi has often been reported to be upset that “every single incident of violence that happens is immediately ascribed to the Islamic terrorists” but she fails to even adequately condemn the loss of innocent lives that fall prey to this brand of terrorism. While the entire world is busy fighting mujahideens waging the holy jehad, she is not ready to even concede that a terrorism which has its roots in the tenets of the Holy Quran is “Islamic” terrorism.

Ms. Azmi has been telling the world more about Islam, that it resides in many countries around the world, that it is not a monolith, that it takes on the culture of the country in which it resides. In some places it is moderate, it is reformist, it is intolerant, it is various things, but we cannot just have one opinion of it. What she does not tell is that the popular perception of fanatic Islam is owing to the way it is practiced in majority of Muslim countries. Out of 57 nations in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, not a single country is a democracy. All the countries of the world, where Muslims form a substantial part of the population, are facing either jehadi terrorism, separatist violence or ethnic clashes.

Secularism demands equality for all irrespective of religious identities. It has no place for majority or minority status. The nation expects her leaders to practice true secularism and not the brand that so-called intellectuals, secularists practice which provides for differential treatment to majority and minorities which in turn promotes communalism.

Though her combat against communalism both Muslim and Hindu is really commendable, a hidden love for the “Muslim cause” is apparent in the conduct of Ms. Azmi. On a deeper probe the so-called “communal” and secular Hindus are forced to wonder whether she is merely a more modern, liberal and acceptable face of the Muslim communalism which she so vehemently opposes but in practice indirectly supports. Is her brand of secularism just a tactical mask to allow easy and peaceful breeding of Muslim communalism? Just like a secular and liberal Jinnah changed sides when India needed him the most, will she change her colour when the opportune time comes? Will her stress on “celebrating” the Hindu-Muslim difference hold good even when Hindus are rendered to minority?

A country which has faced vivisection on the basis of religion has every right to be cautious. A people who have been back-stabbed in the past cannot be blamed if they are skeptical in the future– once bitten twice shy. In fact, prudence demands that we be vigilant. We have been blackmailed by Muslim communalism once and have paid a heavy price for it. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.

Shachi Rairikar

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