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Mainstream, VOL LX No 22, New Delhi, May 21, 2022

On Muslims and Muslim Politics | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 21 May 2022, by Arup Kumar Sen

Some stereotyped images of Muslims and Muslim politics have been built in the public discourse by ideologues of Hindutva and the mainstream media in India. A recent book, Siyasi Muslims: A Story of Political Islams in India (Penguin Viking, 2019), by Hilal Ahmed deconstructs such popular images of the Muslim community.

While answering some imaginary questions in his book, Hilal Ahmed enlightened us about the Muslim community and their politics. How do we make sense of the Muslims of India? Let us answer the question in the words of Ahmed: “We are forced to imagine Muslims as one homogeneous community. This book is an attempt to demonstrate that Muslims are divided on caste, class and regional lines, which actually determine their politics”.

In addressing the dominant view that Muslims do not participate in secular political activities, Ahmed argued: “…Actually, Muslims are always recognized only as Muslims. Their active participation in secular politics is ignored. It is very important to realize the fact that Muslims, like any other community in India, participate in all forms of politics without giving up their identities”.

Why are Muslims only concerned with their own interests? Ahmed countered this biased view of Muslims: “This is not true. The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)-Lokniti surveys show that Muslim communities recognize unemployment, poverty and the lack of educational facilities as serious concerns of everyday life. Muslim assertions of this kind are never recorded and discussed in public discourse”.

Ahmed enlightened us about the problematic relationship of sharia laws with the everyday lives of the Muslims: “Muslim communities follow a highly localized set of norms and rules to manage their everyday lives, which are often described as ‘gair sharia’, or anti-sharia, by the ulema”.

Hilal Ahmed’s seminal book addressed other misconceptions about Muslims and Muslim politics in India, which are preached by the politics of Hindutva. Even the ‘secular’ intellectuals often circulate biased views of the Muslim community. Ahmed’s discourse may be treated as a guide to liberate our ‘locked minds’ from such ‘modern myths’.

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