A few years earlier I got to hear that the “21st century belongs to the women of Muslim heritage.” – Jimmy Bangash ( an LGBT British-Pakistani activist in London). To understand what he meant I visited his Facebook page and I understood he was right. This past decade has seen a rise in Muslim voices talking about their lived experiences, how living under sharia affected them, how much the regressive traditions in Islam oppress our own and how much reform we need in Islam.
But to talk about taboo topics, or even normally dissent against the narrative of centuries, and orthodoxy means the Muslim voices expose themselves to threats, ostracism, online trolling, offline harassment, and even death. Yet every month has seen the dissenting Muslim community grow by leaps and bounds, across the globe, talking about sharia laws, integration with other religious diversities, assimilation with the laws of the country rather than divine laws, the burqa and the hijab, inheritance rights, the dhimmitude of women in Islam, the PostModerm cultural relativism that gives a clean chit to radicals and terrorists by well-intentioned “useful idiots” catering to the victimhood mentality and Olympics of Oppression of the Ummah, and putting the blame all the time on colonialism and imperialist history.
If you ask this growing community of atheists, agnostics, critical believers, cultural Muslims, dissenters, reformers, etc why they do it despite the hardships, they will tell you they do it for their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, scores of neighbours, friends and the victims of “honour killings” who cannot speak out now. They also do it for the male Muslim who somehow finds himself as the preserver of the patriarchal attitudes of a desert culture who draws a boundary at assimilating with the pagan cultures of other lands; the very cultures that provided relief and a safe haven for the Prophet’s family from persecution and who welcomed the Abhrahamaic religion but found their own indigenous ones wiped out. The male Muslims have absorbed this past conquest as their pride and identity, vanquished for the time being but eventually rising in victory through jihad.
In these binary times of right and left, far-right and far-left, it is important to note that dissenting voices are not bringing down Islam or pitching it against other cultures or religions, but solely aiming to rescue its victims which happen to be Muslims themselves first and then non-Muslims given the derogatory label of infidel be it the Jew or the Hindu. These dissenting voices, following the glorious traditions of skepticism and heresy in medieval Islam right through modern times in some countries, are the few who have evolved enough to see the greater malaise, and patterns of violence done to women and men in the name of Islam everywhere — be it in the Indian subcontinent, multicultural Britain, integrated France, Germany, Holland or the conservative Middle East.
With India changing or rather awakening to its past before the invasions and conquests, it is necessary for reformist Muslims to speak out more than ever and prove that they have a stake in the civilizational state of India as much as any other community; and for that Indian Muslims will have to acknowledge there is a problem with how Islam has been “hijacked” by the radicals and used as a weapon to attain that utopic paradise which has been ever elusive to the Muslims since the 7th century, despite the proselytizing and the bloodshedding. It is also necessary for the Indian majority to realize the struggle that reformers in Islam have been going through, not just battling the radicals amongst themselves but the moderates too who believe it is blasphemy to even consider there could be something wrong with the Quran, or the Hadith or the Sira or the whole concept of a New Medina, Islamic State or even a borderless Ummah. Both sides have to realize that 966 million Hindus cannot be nuked and 200 million Muslims cannot be pushed into the sea. They have to live together, their divide was a British policy under the ‘Shadow of the Great Game‘ between Russia and Britain and the carving up of India into the first Islamic State (Pakistan) was just British policy of keeping the Russians from having access to the Indian subcontinent.
So not forgetting the civilizational wounds, standing up to the legacy of non-violence, and listening to the change-makers of Muslim heritage should be India’s moment in the New Year of 2021.
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