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If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: never lie to yourself.           

~ Paulo Coelho

UP elections are over and the results are out. They are surprising for some of us who have become used to living our lives in slumber. But for those who had their eyes open, the result in UP was neither unexpected nor sudden. It is the result of 90 years of dedicated effort by countless people who will remain unknown but whose effort bore fruit beyond their dreams. We Muslims on the other hand, remained content with complaining and begging. The world changed but we remained stuck in a world that no longer exists. UP election result was (or should be) enough to wake us from the deepest slumber so that we learn to deal with the new world in which we find ourselves. Unless we do that, the results will be far worse than what we may imagine.

So, what must be done now that we are faced with this fait accompli?

The principles of resilience are three:

  1. Face the brutal facts without mincing words or looking through rose tinted glasses.
  2. Identify critical areas of impact and work on them. Not everything is equally important.
  3. Make necessary changes no matter how painful.

This is the framework which I am going to try to follow.

The Brutal Facts

BJP won a landslide victory. All the analysts were wrong. More than being divided, the Muslim presence in politics and the way it was portrayed to others, resulted in the Hindu vote getting consolidated behind the BJP. Muslims have become the bogeyman of Indian politics and it appears that the mere presence of a Muslim candidate is enough to bring out the worst fantasies in the minds of others. That none of this is based on fact is not important. Rumors don’t needfacts to thrive. I am not going to make a long list of all that is wrong with the situation of Muslims today. I think we have the intelligence to see that. I will suffice to say that if we don’t wake up and do what needs to be done, no matter how painful, we are going to enter an era of darkness that none of us has faced in living memory. Our fate is quite literally in our own hands.

The truth is not difficult to see but difficult to swallow.

~ Mirza Yawar Baig

Muslims must understand that their development and future in the country is not restricted to government largesse or elections. It is in our hands and depends on the overall sentiment about us as people, as neighbors, as fellow citizens. Today all this is at an all-time low. I don’t say that this is entirely our fault. A lot of it is the result of systematic propaganda against Islam and Muslims which our neighbors believed. However, our inward looking and exclusionist stances have facilitated the misunderstandings and stereotypes. When people don’t know you personally it is easy to believe the worst about you. This has happened to us and this must change.

Elections apart, we simply have to win the hearts of the person on the street, the person next door and the person sitting next to us at work. If we do that well, then the sentiment will protect us from those who seek to harm us. We need to be seen as beneficial for all people. Incidentally this is what Allahﷻ described us and our mission – selected for the benefit of people. We need to therefore redefine how we look at ourselves vis-à-vis others and decide what we need to do to change the negative image into a positive one.

“In order to change an existing paradigm, you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”      ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

All change is painful. Drastic change is even more painful. But the most painful is annihilation. That is what must be remembered when we want to complain about what I am about to propose. Annihilation, not literally but in every other way as productive, influential and important citizens of the country. We are facing a future where when the words of the Constitution are spoken, “We the people of India”, 200 million citizens will not be included in the term, ‘We the people.’ Once again, if that comes to pass, it will be with our active or tacit agreement. Nobody to blame but ourselves.

I believe that there are three areas we must address urgently.

  1. Societal impact
  2. Approach to religion
  3. Political presence
  4. Changes for Societal Impact

Become beneficial and be seen as beneficial. The way to the heart is through the belly as they say. This means that people need to feel and taste the goodness of anything to believe it. Words are cheap and today we are looking at a society that has become intensely cynical and has no trust in anyone’s words. Action speaks; not just louder than words but it is the only thing that speaks. People don’t care what you say until they see what you do. The change must come within our community. We must shed our exclusivist image and communicate with others (non-Muslims). Talk to your neighbors, colleagues, customers. Just talk. Not talk theology but just normal everyday talk. Help them even if they don’t help you. Be good to them even if they are not. Greet them in their terms and thank them for any service; for example, thank the taxi driver, the bus driver, check-in and check-out person, the waiter, the doorman, anyone. Thanking increases blessing and changes hearts. This must be done such that people change their perception about us.

I know this is difficult especially in a society that has become very polarized and Muslims are denied housing and jobs. It is difficult but that is why it is even more critical to do it. As for polarizing society, it is good to remind ourselves that we are equally responsible for it with less justification because polarization is suicide for a minority, yet we did it and allowed it to happen. That is the reason we must change this perception by being genuine and approaching our fellow countrymen and women with love, respect, openness and acceptance. It is critically important to give this message to our children who mirror what they hear at home. Listening to the young ones of all communities tells you a sorry tale about the kind of psychological conditioning that is taking place in our homes. All of us, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Esai (Christian) – remember the song?? Today these are empty words. I weep when I recall my own childhood when a friend was simply a friend. His name wasn’t a flag to his caste. We lived in each other’s homes, ate each other’s food, called each other’s parents, Amma, Mataji, Dadji, Papa, Baba. Where did we lose it all?

When the truth must be spoken, silence is culpable.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must set up a fund to create the following institutions open to everyone:

Legal Aid Cell

  1. Establish Legal Aid Cells in every city and take up cases of all those who need legal aid – not only Muslims
  2. Make a list of cases that need to be tackled in order of priority and ease of winning
  3. Make Law a primary study focus for students
  4. Ensure that no attack on anyone goes unchallenged
  5. Because injustice to one is injustice to all

Focus on education

  1. Set up high quality English medium schools which teach vocational skills
  2. Open them to everyone – not only Muslims
  3. Make it compulsory for every child to go to these schools until the high school level
  4. Make Madrassas only for higher education – graduation and above. Not for primary and secondary education
  5. Make every child a potential entrepreneur

Employment

  1. Set up a Zero Interest Venture Capital Fund and an Advisory Council to help startups
  2. Open both to everyone – not only Muslims
  3. Send our youth into the army and police both at officer and serviceman levels. This will inculcate discipline and a sense of belonging to the nation, both of which are missing today
  4. Teaching, judiciary, journalism & media are professions of choice
  5. Zero unemployment is possible with entrepreneurship

Social Development Fund

  1. Set up a Social Development Fund to help anyone in need – not only Muslims
  2. Focus on prisoners who need bail, hospital expenses, clean water, sewage, housing, vocational education, entrepreneurial development, orphans, widows
  3. Focus on women’s economic and educational development to ensure empowerment of women
  4. Demonstrate the real face of Islam to the world of helping everyone to be well

Funding for all the above

  1. Central collection of Zakat Funds.
  2. Capitalizing of Awqaf (Religious endowments).
  3. Voluntary contribution of Rs. 100 per person per month.
  4. Additional charitable donations.
  5. Approach to religion

Change our ways

The change must begin within us, individually, within our families and within our community. We need to clean up our lives of all forms of disobedience of Allahﷻ and ensure that we spread goodness all around us. Islam doesn’t distinguish between Muslim and non-Muslim when it comes to justice or welfare. Neither must we. Our presence must be seen as a blessing in the community we live in, our cities and villages. This message must be spread by all of us in our different capacities. The major share of this lies on the Ulama who have access to the Friday congregations. Their message must be about distinguishing ourselves through service, bringing hearts together and against every form of divisive thought, ideology and message. We need to root out the social evils that our society is plagued with, chief among them being alcoholism, gambling and ostentation. Our ostentatious weddings are a case in point. To celebrate weddings the way we do when our own people are as poor and deprived as they are is immoral and criminal. To participate in such functions is to aid and abet the crime.These are destroying us at all levels and must be forcibly stopped if persuasion doesn’t work.

We must not only consciously not propagate differences and divisiveness but we must forcefully do the opposite. Preach and promote by word and action, inclusiveness, acceptance and brotherhood. Universal brotherhood, because that is the way of Islam. Universal brotherhood is a message that is unique to Islam. That and mercy and forgiveness from one person to another. These two must be revived urgently because our lives are currently desolated and deprived of both. Today, let alone preaching divisiveness with respect to non-Muslims, we preach it with respect to Muslims who don’t belong to our particular cult, juristic order (Madhab), culture or region. This is completely Haraam. It is not in the scope of this article to quote from the Qur’an and Sunnah to prove my statement but there are plenty of lectures of mine with all references that you can listen to.

Secondly on the national front the following actions must be taken with respect to our Madrassas and the AIMPLB. Our Madrassas are a symbol of great dedication but very poor quality. The result is that graduates are maladjusted and incapable of being productive members of society and are looked down upon and treated with disdain. To change this, we need to change what we teach and how we do it.

Madrassa Education

  1. Set up a Central Madrassa Board to ensure the following:
  2. All Madrassa teachers must be qualified to teach & have a teaching degree. Our Madrassas are perhaps the only schools where teachers need not be trained to teach. This is so incredibly insane that I feel ashamed to write it.
  3. Corporal punishment to be banned and punishable if practiced.
  4. Madrassas only for higher (college) education. Not earlier.
  5. Centralized curriculum, syllabus and examination system. Present curriculum and syllabi to be redesigned to make them current, relevant and effective. Please see my paper on this.
  6. Centralized management of funds by the Madrassa Board so that funds can be allotted to those who need them and not be squandered by those who happen to have the ability to raise them.
  7. Transparency in all matters and merit being the only consideration.
  8. Establish the Maktab system to educate children in Islam. This is very successfully practiced in South Africa, the UK and elsewhere and can be replicated in India.

AIMPLB

  1. AIMPLB to abolish triple Talaq and not oppose UCC. Let the government introduce the UCC which will be debated nationally in which we can also participate. No need to say anything until then. The image of being regressive must be changed.
  2. AIMPLB membership must be democratized and operations made much more efficient and relevant.
  3. AIMPLB to be the sole dispenser of Fatwas on any matter. All random Fatwa dispensers to be stopped.
  4. No knee jerk reactions and no working in slow motion.

Subsidies& Reservations

  1. Demand that the Hajj Subsidy be abolished. It is a subsidy to Air India, not to Muslims. Refuse to take it.
  2. Hajj is not Fardh on anyone who can’t afford it. We don’t need to give our detractors another stick to beat us with.
  3. Any travel agent can get us better fares than Air India.
  4. Demand that Hajj Committee be abolished. It gives little benefit and with the removal of the Hajj Subsidy its purpose will vanish.
  5. Ditto for all Reservations. We don’t need them. Nobody respects beggars. We need to become self-sufficient. Reservations have never solved anyone’s problems and they won’t solve ours. They are yet one more stick for our detractors to beat with.

 

  1. Political presence

Leave politics as contestants

UP elections have proved that as things stand Muslim presence in politics as contestants only serves to drive everyone into the arms of the Hindutva brigade. Their absence will enable those who stand for principles instead of caste to have a voice to try to steer Indian politics away from a purely caste-based contest. This may sound drastic but I believe our situation today has reached such a desperate state that we need to consider drastic changes. Like invasive surgery and chemotherapy despite the pain and evil after effects become acceptable when life is at stake, I believe we have reached a stage today where our survival as viable, functioning members of society as Citizens of India seems to be at stake.

As I mentioned earlier, it appears that in the future, when the words of the Constitution are spoken, ‘We the people of India’, somehow 200 million citizens will not be included in this definition. So, we should not stand for election any more at least for a five-year period. If you are not there, you can’t become the bogey man.Muslims must break out of it. We must reject all extremist talk and ideas. Polarization may help some individuals but it is suicide for the community. We must partner and cooperate with all those who stand for justice, human rights, dignity and solidarity of the nation.

Conclusion

I believe the time has come for Indian Muslims to rethink their very existence in this country. We are Indians by choice. We love our country and want to contribute to its development. Therefore, it is time to stop living in isolation and start participating in every aspect of life in our country as CONTRIBUTORS. Not merely whine and complain about negative things that happen to us but do nothing positive to help others.Nobody can harm us – unless we allow it. All this will take time and effort. All this will be painful at least to some. All this needs serious investment of funds. But without it, we will cease to exist as relevant and significant members of this society.

The writing is on the wall. The choice is ours.

Mirza Yawar Baig is based in Hyderabad, India and is the founder and President of Yawar Baig & Associates; an international leadership consulting organization. He can be reached at yawar@yawarbaig.com

8 Comments

  1. Moin Qureshi says:

    Absolutely right, if we need to be recognised at all.
    I wish this article reaches at least 2 million, so that some turbidity is seen.
    And would recommend the NRIs to take the lead and fill some gaps.

    I am ready to Change for my country – India, so that we are included in the words of constitution – “We the People of India”.

    A good wakeup call.

    Many thanks Yawar Bhai.

  2. Feroz Khan says:

    A profound article. And true to the core. A typical Yawar Baig article.

    What he said here I have been saying for 10 years now. That India has largely become communal, we are polarised and that where ever muslim politicians go, they unite all hindus under one banner (and I respect their unity and solidarity). We too are to blame for this polarisation and communalisation – we let the divisive forces devide us, we got swayed with the communal and emotional banter of politicians and we stood by watching while the carpet was being pulled from underneath our feet.

    I too remember fondly how we socialised and shared with our hindu friends and neighbours. Some of my best friends were, and are, hindus and christians and I am not sure if my younger generation can say the same now.

    We need to come into the mainstream, we need to integrate ourselves with the development of the nation and we need to contribute. In short, we NEED to become a true muslim and live as one. Then the whole world will love us.

    Now that YB has made this much needed clarion call to the community, I am afraid the first people to crucify him will be our own people (I hope I am wrong). Not the hindus. The educated class will however embrace his message Inshallah. That’s the silver lining.

    May Allah helps us do and become what YB aspires us to do and become.

  3. K SHESHU BABU says:

    A holistic approach includes Muslims to integrate with all exploited classes and work for a united forum with dalits, adivasis, backward classes and deprived sections. They should not feel pressurised from hindutva forces whose main aim is to alienate them and profit on communal divide. If all the exploited forces unite, not only Muslims, but every deprived and oppressed section of society stands to gain and defeat communal forces both Hindu and Muslim or other religion. Hence, unity should be the motto ..!

  4. I sincerely found this article very very relevant. Baig sahab has touched upon all the aspects in intricate details. Let me tell you that my best friend is a Muslim and he is Major in Indian Army. That boy right from our college days spoke almost all the things that Baig sahab has mentioned in the article. He was not considered a good Muslim by our other fellow Muslim classmates but he never changed his point of view. Both of us wanted to join Indian Army but I failed and he succeeded. The first thing that came in my mind once I started reading this article was HIM getting bullied by other Muslim batch mates on his ideologies. See, where he is now , a glorified Major in Indian Army !!

  5. JazakAllah. Excellent article must reach to billions across india and abroad.Every muslim must rise above the ego to serve the ummah.

  6. I think there’s some value to the suggestions in this article, but this: “Nobody can harm us – unless we allow it!” I’m not sure this individual understands the impact of sectarian violence against minority groups, regardless of which religion/race they belong to.

  7. Ahmad Rashid Shervani says:

    Ahmad Rashid Shervani

    April 7, 2017 at 10 am

    “Dekhiye taqreer ki lezzat ki joe uss ne kahaa,
    Main ne yeh jaana ki jaissay yeh hi mere dil men hai”.

    I agree with Yawar Baig Saheb, WORD FOR WORD.

    The most positive, sensible views coming from a Muslim.
    I say this, because most Muslims are like what BIJOY has described.
    They deride any Muslim who ever says anything at-all sensible.
    They just want to keep saying (and, what is worse, just keep hearing) that :
    “Shaitaan-ir-Rajeem, Kuffaar o Mushrikeen yaani Hinduon, Yahoodiyon,
    Eesaaiyon, waghaira, waghaira ke saath milkar
    SOCHEE-SAMJHEE, KHAUFNAAK, KHATARNAAK MUSLIM-DUSHMAN
    SAAZISH KARTA REHTA HAI”.
    Bas yehi Musalmaanon ka ‘Eemaan-e-Mujammil’ hoe kar reh gaya hai.

    Apni koee himaaqat toe inkoe nazar hee naheen aati, bhoolay se bhee naheen.

    I am with Yawar Baig. No. behind Yawar Baig in every way,
    Would do all I can, Whatever I can.

  8. Ozma Siddiqui says:

    I read your article with a lot of interest particularly as I have just come back from vacationing in India in the aftermath of the recently held elections.

    Interestingly, in the small city I come from, Muslims were most worried about the closing down of the slaughterhouses than anything else!

    You have put down a comprehensive road map for the road we must now take, but unfortunately, the majority of the Muslims I have come across tend to go deeper into their holes rather than come out and face the music.

    They feel threatened, paranoid and are overcome with all sorts of feelings of inferiority. Secondly,the vast majority of them are illiterate as in uneducated and what’s more, blissful in their ignorance! Nobody really wants to take the highway and think across religious or social prejudices. The result is that while the non-Muslims and those Muslims who have decided to jump on to their bandwagon are enjoying success at all levels, the other sections are steadily sliding downward. The sad thing is that they themselves are unaware of the abyss they have created for themselves and which is ready to swallow them whole.

    I totally agree with the idea that Muslims in general should stop thinking of themselves as exclusive. They need to tread the fine line of keeping their identity intact and yet integrating with society as a whole. It is a tall order and few will be able to do it. Some Muslims have swung to the other extreme and actually married their sons and daughters into successful non-Muslim families. There seems to be enough satisfaction on both sides to ensure that these alliances last giving rise to the chance that more people will follow in their footsteps. This appears to be a frightening scenario. But then, look among the Muslims: how many of our boys really want to be successful young men? What do they have to offer in the way of amenities, a steady job, good salary and a stable environment? I was appalled by at least two instances of boys had gotten married and yet had no steady income to talk of! What kind of decisions are these? There is certainly no focus here and the desperation of the girls is beyond imagination. There is yet another case of a boy who is mentally and physically disabled from birth but whose marriage has been settled. What kind of life will the girl expect to live if at all? The boy comes from a family who has recently come into money and now feel that everything is possible if they can name the right price. Would this have happened among the non-Muslims?

    Complacency will be the death of Muslims in India. There needs to be a concerted effort to wake them up. People are still into attending weddings and funerals instead of thinking about how to make any progress. Considering the agricultural town that it is, most men are at home most days of the week. I have never seen such an idle crowd in any of my sojourns abroad. When people do not work, there is no productivity. Neither do they understand the pleasures or the challenges that real work can afford. And of course, nor is there any source of a proper income. Children grow up with a mediocre education because the father is against sending them outside the town; they live and are happy with the occasional gifts sent by their more successful relatives; the petty chatter starts and ends with the ‘gali’ they live on or ‘ghettos’ as these mohallas have come to be known as. And their little lives end with a whimper. The rest of their time is spent fearing what will become of them or then driving fear into others. And there you have the whole of it. Considering that 80% of India’s population lives in villages and small towns with the bulk of Muslims in these areas, that is the scenario one is faced with when one comes across Muslims in India.

    You have a very good plan but it needs to be executed with a large number of like-minded people based in India itself. Otherwise, it will remain on paper.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking article. I thoroughly enjoyed it and sincerely hope some good will come out of it.