Let The Schools Begin, Please
By Nawaz Gul Qanungo
12 October, 2010
Indian Muslims would do well in putting some serious, tangible efforts in improving education among Muslims. It is the only workable means towards facing the endless onslaught of the Sangh. And, meanwhile, the Hurriyat would do well by listening to the sane voices calling for the reopening of schools for our children. The dangers of not doing so, in the long term, are categorically existential ones
“Don’t judge a car by its driver,” said the one and only Zakir Abdul Karim Naik. “If you want to judge how good is the latest model of the Mercedes car and a person who does not know how to drive sits at the steering wheel and bangs up the car, who will you blame? The car or the driver? But naturally, the driver. To analyze how good the car is, a person should not look at the driver but see the ability and features of the car. How fast is it, what is its average fuel consumption, what are the safety measures, etc.” His actual argument was that Islam couldn’t be judged by its followers.
Now, cut to the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court which on September 30, 2010 pronounced its verdict on the title suits relating to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. Justice Sudhir Agarwal has been quoted as saying (The Indian Express, October 6, 2010): “Whether Lord Ram was born and was a personality in history, as a matter of fact cannot be investigated in a Court of Law,” Justice Agarwal begins. “Simple logic is that failing to find evidence to something does not necessarily result in that the thing does not exist.” If you have heard enough of Naik, including his argument supporting the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban, you would appreciate that either Dr Naik and Justice Agarwal both went to the same school, or both their respective schools remained continually shut due to incessant hartals.
Khushwant Singh once wrote about Naik: “His arguments never rise above the level of high school debates.” He is right, so far a huge lot of arguments Naik makes are concerned. “Juvenile” is the word Singh used for Naik’s arguments. Consider this one, which Naik calls the “example of twin sisters” and provides as one of the reasons why women should wear the hijab: “Suppose two sisters who are twins, and who are equally beautiful, walk down the street. One of them is attired in the Islamic hijab i.e. the complete body is covered, except for the face and the hands up to the wrists. The other sister is wearing western clothes, a mini skirt or shorts. Just around the corner there is a hooligan or ruffian who is waiting for a catch, to tease a girl. Whom will he tease? The girl wearing the Islamic Hijab or the girl wearing the skirt or the mini? Naturally he will tease the girl wearing the skirt or the mini. Such dresses are an indirect invitation to the opposite sex for teasing and molestation. The Qur’an rightly says that hijab prevents women from being molested.”
Naik takes this “example” from a verse of the Quran. But he chooses the verse to buttress an argument of his which derides, essentially dumbs down, the context in which the question is usually asked, which is something pertaining to individual freedom and liberty and the ability to enjoy and afford that liberty.
Now, face the question Justice Agarwal poses next in his verdict: “Nobody can dare to ask such questions for such pious and reverent beliefs in other religions like Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad Saheb, etc...then where is the question of asking such an evidence in the matter of religious faith and belief which is not just a few hundred years old but travels in the history of several thousands of years,” he questions. He quotes the dispute of Al Aqsa in Jerusalem where the Far Mosque is “treated the third most pious place by Muslims since they believe that Prophet Mohammad descended there after visiting Heaven”. “Nobody even doubts their faith,” he says. (Ibid.) Thank heavens much of Islam has got to do with history’s broad daylight. Wonder what, otherwise, could have been the arguments of the likes of Naik.
A few years back, in the local neighbourhood, in Srinagar, a provision store keeper was watching TV at his shop. Islamic scholar Israr Ahmed – he was alive then, by the way – was being shown giving a lecture. In a while, the shopkeeper exclaimed: Wuchh haz, toti kiah gow nafrah aasun! “Now, here is a man!” He was impressed by Ahmed’s intellectual depth, he said. What did he think about Naik? Su ti chhu jaan, magar ore kati waati... “He too is fine but no match for this man,” he replied. This is not, however, to accept in totality the politics of Israr Ahmed and neither is it to reject all that Naik stands for.
The historical and political dynamics underlying the movement that culminated in the criminal act of the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 and what has been termed its legalisation in the form of the verdict of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010 is something that goes far, far beyond the basic legality of the gross vandalism wrought up on the historical structure by those thousands of so called kar sevaks led by Advani & Co.
Back home, Tehreek e Hurriyat chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani said: “The issue is close to the hearts of Muslims around the world. But I fervently appeal to the Muslims of Kashmir to let the Muslim Personal Law Board fight the case in the Indian courts and not take any steps that may harm the ongoing freedom movement in Kashmir.”
Kashmiris we all know are a people who do not see their future, or their past, with India. An event in Palestine evokes reaction in the valley more easily than something happening anywhere in India. But that the Indian state denied Kashmir its daily freedom was not the only challenge New Delhi posed on the curfewed day of September 30, 2010, when the latest Ayodhya verdict was announced.
The danger that India’s Hindutvavaadis have come to pose today is not essentially from the Hindu religion or something related to just the Indian Muslims. Far from it, though we haven’t yet, at the larger level, come to mention the many massacres, some of them state-sponsored, of Muslims across India at various times in post-1947 India. But how the once-despised, disregarded Hindutva brigade – horrifying and perilously ensconced as it now seems to be within the very soul of the Indian nation state – has come to define the character of the country it has infested so successfully is a juggernaut that can blow to smithereens the hopelessly uneducated, apparently benign bunch of morons who think of themselves, even with a sense of religious enlightenment, as the fans and “followers” of Naik. Naik may be doing well for himself but the followers he seems to be winning among countless Muslims seem more of a liability. For, any defence of the restoration of the Babri Masjid must deal also with the might and complexity of the history and politics of hatred of the Sangh, with all its extrapolations, and not just the historical crime it perpetrated on that fateful December 6. Mercedes-car arguments will fall short by a long, appalling distance.
Indian Muslims would do well in putting some serious, tangible efforts in improving education among Muslims. It is the only workable means towards facing the endless onslaught of the Sangh. And, meanwhile, the Hurriyat would do well by listening to the sane voices calling for the reopening of schools for our children. The dangers of not doing so, in the long term, are categorically existential ones.
The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. Follow him at www.drqanungo.blogspot.com