by Saroj Chadha

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has issued a statement on Sunday urging India to take urgent steps to protect the rights of its minority Muslim community. It further stated that steps must be taken to prevent the incidents of “Islamophobia” in the country. The OIC statement further went on to add that that it “condemns the recent and alarming violence against Muslims in India, resulting in the death and injury of innocent people and the arson and vandalism of mosques and Muslim-owned properties.” This has come in the wake of communal clashes that took place about two weeks ago in North East Delhi. The Indian government has already issued a statement denying these charges and has asked OIC to refrain from commenting on internal matters of the country.

OIC has 57 member countries with a total population of nearly 1.85 billion people. This makes it the second-largest intergovernmental organisation after the United Nations (UN). Its mission is to safeguard the interests of Muslims. It supports Muslim peoples’ struggles in different parts of the world including Palestine, Syria, Jammu & Kashmir and other areas across the world. However, it refrains from commenting on the status of Chinese Uyghur Muslims or their struggles. Perhaps Chinese clout, including its permanent membership status at the UN Security Council, ensures that they do not utter a word against it despite the obvious atrocities and suffering of their Muslim brethren in Xinjiang province. OIC also has nothing to say about the atrocities against some sections of Muslims themselves in many of its member countries including Pakistan. Surprisingly OIC only speaks for Muslims, be they right or wrong. That is why its credibility is low and voice very feeble.

It does not matter to OIC if the riots in North East Delhi were pre-planned by some young Muslim leaders as is now evident from the charge sheets filed against Umar Khalid, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar. While Umar Khalid gave provocative speeches exhorting Muslims to come out on streets during American President’s visit, the other two from Jamia University were directly responsible for organising the anti – CAA protests by blocking the road under Jafrabad metro station on 22-23 February 2020. This is what led to pro – CAA protests by Kapil Mishra and the communal clashes that followed in various parts of NE Delhi. OIC is neither bothered about who started the riots nor about the fact that damage to property and loss of life occurred on both sides. The other trigger for OIC’s statement was the blame that is being laid on Tablighi Jamaat for the spread of Coronavirus in the country which is as hard a reality as the existence of OIC itself. OIC has proven once again that it is a highly partisan body.

Given OIC’s double standards and singular focus on Muslims, India will not be very bothered about its statement. However, it has reignited the Hindu Muslim debate in the country which has given pseudo-liberals and Muslim leadership of all denominations a handle to vent their perceived and oft-repeated baseless grievances. This group seemed to particularly peeved because of the statement made by Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi that India was a heaven for Muslims as their constitutional, social, economic and religious rights were fully secured.

It is time for Muslims in India to introspect and see what ails their society and why some among them are thriving at increasing the communal divide in the country that is not good for anyone. Instead of agitating and beating their chest on some innocuous remark by the miniscule Hindu fringe or even a political leader, it may serve them well to understand why that remark was made. In any case, such utterings pale in front of the base political oratory and religious bigotry practiced by most Muslim political, religious and community leaders. Most anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by any non-Muslim in the country generally come as a response to a provocation by one of their own.

The other point that needs to be highlighted is this feeling of pan Muslim brotherhood across the world that seems to have become more important than one’s own country for a section of the Muslim community in India. If any international organisation runs down India or any country acts against Indian interests, it is every citizen’s duty to denounce that organisation or country and stand by the nation, internal differences notwithstanding. Somehow this is singularly missing in most Muslims in India barring some lip service. No Muslim leader of any standing has condemned the OIC statement except Mr Naqvi, instead many are using it as a tool to let down the elected government of the day.

Very few Muslim leaders have digested the fact that Jammu & Kashmir is now a full-fledged part of their country. In the current environment where nationalism is often the subject of discussions, this approach by Muslims will always be counterproductive and lead to a further worsening of communal relations. Surely the onus to correct this has to lie on the Muslim community and that too without making it conditional in any manner. If this correction is not visible, some in the country will always question their commitment to the nation. This may sound harsh but unfortunately is a hard truth.

A lot is said about the need for the government to come forward to placate the Muslim population and take steps to remove the mistrust. This is certainly needed and to be fair to the current government, it has not faulted in its effort as any rule or welfare scheme that is made has never been discretionary against any citizen or community. But the problem lies in how the minority community sees and accepts some of the decisions of the government that are taken in overall national interests. There is a clear tendency to take and forget what suits the community but to shout from the roof tops for a few that they may not be to their liking even if they are in the interest of the nation as a whole. In many cases to show their displeasure the community resorts to violent protests. The government can only educate and inform the citizens about a decision that has been taken in national interests, the understanding has to come from the individual. If some decide to be unwilling horses then there is very little the government can do.

In this current environment of Coronavirus pandemic, a lot has been said about its spread and the irresponsible part played by the ‘single source’ Markaz event in New Delhi. That brought in a lot of anger and counters from many Muslim leaders, and now OIC, despite it being a reality. Some from the community have even tried to compromise the government’s efforts in the battle against the virus. But there is another important fact stands out like a sore thumb that no Muslim is worried about. While any number of Hindu, Sikh and other social and religious organisations have come forward to help people across the nation, a similar participation by Muslim community is glaringly missing from the scene. But then this is not the first time they seem to be absent in the nation’s hour of need. This perhaps sums up the approach, attitude and mindset of the community. No government rule or effort can change that because the change has to come from within.

Finally, the real issue today is not Islamophobia but the aspirations of over 1,000 million Indian majority that were suppressed for more than eleven centuries under Mughal and British rules. They seem to have found a voice and a will to come to the fore. Unfortunately, even after independence in the first sixty-seven years, their aspirations had been suppressed due to various reasons, one of them being minority appeasement at all costs. So today when minority appeasement is passé on one hand and the voice of 1,000 million majority seems to be gathering speed for equality sans appeasement on the other, the Muslim community feels threatened. Their leaders have played on this perceived fear and exploited it to push them towards intolerance and fanaticism. If there is any phobia it is Hindutwaphobia of the minority and not Islamophobia of the majority. If instead, the 180 million decide to stand shoulder to shoulder with the 1,000 million, nothing can stop this nation from achieving the greatness that it once boasted of and perhaps more. After all the past greatness is a legacy of the total 1,800 million and any that may come in the future too will belong to the entire 1,800 million.