By M A Siraj
Our struggle to project identity as the main issue has led to communalisation of politics and counter polarisation among the majority community which is providing a firm electoral bulwark for the BJP. Now the BJP would like the Muslims to even more enthusiastically pursue the identity agenda. So even if there are no such issues, it would pay some of the traditionally orthodox Maulvis from the Indo-Gangetic plains to take up such issues and draw out Muslim voters from the traditionally secular parties. So they bring such clerics to TV debates and pay them to assume a rabid and raucous tone to raise the Muslim viewpoint.
We must understand that in a plural society the democracy would have a generally majoritarian flavour. The minorities should learn to accommodation within by subtly shifting their weight from one side to another. This needs a high degree of sophistication and talent which is conspicuous by absence in the clerics.
It is time we promoted leaders with secular image and all-embracing acceptance. Take for instance, Jaffer Sharieff, Farook Maricar (former CM of Pondicherry and twice LS member) and another Muslim MP who won from Warangal seat four times in a row. Their constituency had no Muslim majority but they had acceptance among all and they were skilled enough to keep up touch with their constituents regardless of their faith.
One example of identity being the supreme position in our priorities could be seen in there being all India organisations for religious collectivization of Muslims not for promotion of education, employment, entrepreneurship, among them. We appear keener to invite others to Islam but less inclined to keep our flock together by fighting against poverty, disease, unemployment, illiteracy et al. In fact these maladies are taking away more from among us to other faiths than the so called Dawah is bringing the numbers to our ranks. The recent instance of Muslim girls being married away to Hindus in a Nari Niketan speaks of absence of social infrastructure.
It is time we shifted away from identity to empowerment to excellence. This will be possible only through modern education, skills, grooming of younger generation with civilities, niceties, proprieties and Islamic character. Mere training in rites and rituals and symbolism (beard, hijab, festivals, rosary beads, etc.) is not going to take the community anywhere. This agenda has to be pursued for next 60 years in order to remove the backlog of underdevelopment and come up as a community to be looked up to as a model.
Muslims in five South Indian States have shown some progress on the development rather than identity agenda for the last four decades and have achieved some success