Being a Muslim in Contemporary India

SOCIETY

The seeds of hatred against Muslims are giving enough fruit in the contemporary times, when an ordinary Muslim citizen is hated, stereotyped and rebuked in all spheres of life. In an ambience of mistrust can shared living become a lived reality?

Shehnaz is an independent researcher working in the field of education.

Image Source : thecompanion

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince the last couple of years, incidences of intolerance against the Muslim community seem to be multiplying. We find ourselves in a milieu where hate messages against Muslims don’t take much time and spread easily. This is impacting the overall behaviour of society towards Muslims. What I am going to share in this article are a series of personal experiences and anecdotes that occurred in the lives of my mother and me in the past couple of months.  These incidences may be personal in nature but certainly enable us to get a chance to reflect upon our times. All these incidences occurred much before the Phulwama attacks but they show how poisonous thoughts have been inflicted on people’s hearts and how people have started carrying consolidated disgust towards Muslims over the last couple of years. I don’t think we can justify any kind of hate filled behaviour towards any human being. Hate associated disgust, violence or crime are not worthy of being tolerated and any human being should not have an ambience that exploits or discriminates against him/ her because of her caste/ class or religion.  If society carries such negative and dangerous sentiments about the Muslim community, it is a matter of collective concern.

When Stereotypes Block Vision

A few days ago, my mother was going to attend a large fair in the locality when the incident that I am about to narrate unfolded. My maternal uncle was also with her. My maternal uncle has a long beard and by looking at him anyone can easily guess that he is a Muslim. While returning from the fair, both of them took a bus and paid eighty Rupees to the conductor as fare. They got a seat and sat there. Suddenly a lady and a man got on to the bus. Both of them were in their late forties. They asked my mother and my maternal uncle to shift and give them space to sit. Since there were only two seats and it was a long journey, my mother refused to shift and told them that there was no space. My mother is 60 years old and my maternal uncle is around 55.  While refusing to move because of the lack of space, my mother and uncle began to get abused and all sorts of taunts associated to being Muslim were hurled at them. They started arguing that Muslims never sacrificed or adjusted and were always selfish and non-compromising. My mother felt very bad but didn’t say anything to them. After returning from there, she kept discussing that incident again and again. And I told her that whatever she did was right. We should give our seats to people only under certain circumstances like to someone who is sick, a lady with a newborn baby or a very aged person but since she and my uncle are already aged, there was no logic in standing up and offering their seats to them.

Protest against lynching / Image Credit : PTI

Ignorance Gives Birth to Hate

Another instance is also of similar kind. One day my mother was returning from the market. She took a shared auto. After she got into the auto, there was space left for two people.  The auto moved and stopped at a distance where a young girl was waiting. The girl wanted to get into the auto but she saw my mother sitting in the auto and assuming that my mother was a Muslim said, “Oh! I am scared. She seems to be a Muslim.” The girl instead of sitting next to my mother preferred sitting on the seat in front of my mother. This time my mother didn’t remain silent and told the girl how her own children had many non-Muslim friends.  When my mother narrated me this incidence, I felt like knowing from that girl why she held such a negative idea about Muslims or what was it regarding Muslims that made her afraid.

The Muslim: A Foreigner

Thirdly, an interesting incident happened when I was sitting in a shared auto. Suddenly two ladies wearing Hijaabs came in front of the auto but they didn’t enter into the auto due to some reasons. Seeing them another lady who was already sitting in the auto said to her friend “Oh Muslim ladies, I am too scared of Muslims.” Then she turned towards me and asked, “Aren’t you a Muslim? You are not, right? I just remained silent.

The three incidents I have shared above could look trivial but they are an indication about how some people in society have started perceiving Muslims and how Muslims are compelled to listen to so many hateful remarks, stereotypes, abuses and ridiculing while traveling, attending a class, watching a movie, using a public toilet, travelling in flight or even ordering food in a restaurant.

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We need to think and reflect on these instances. Muslims are not creatures to feel afraid of and neither are they necessarily inhuman. They too are humans and like people of any religion, most of them are wonderful people while some are negative or destructive by mind-set.  You will find some good people and some bad people. Taunting Muslims, rebuking them and forming stereotypes about them are breaking the social fabric. Let’s not discriminate and exploit each other because of religion or caste, it’s time for society to look at Muslims transcending stereotypes.

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