• Aslam Abdullah

Non-Resident Muslim Indians and Muslims in India

The pic shows a Hindu journalist working for the Assam police jumping on the dead body of a Muslim labor shot dead by the authorities.

Scores of Muslim individuals and organizations abroad feel concerned about the deteriorating Muslim situation in India. Yet, not a day passes without the killing, lynching, looting, and discrimination against them. The perpetrators include religious Hindus shouting Jay Shri Ram outdoing each other in organizing violence and attacking Islam and its religious leaders. Yet, the police support the violent Hindu mobs, and the judiciary does not take effective action. Political leadership, by their silence, encourages the organized hooligans and endorses the continued tirage against Muslims.

Rape, burning of religious places and holy books, lynching, looting are the common tactics hooligans use to intimidate Muslims. Their purpose is to drive Muslims away from their ancestral homes, occupy their homes, and turn their places of worship into temples.

As is customary, Muslim Indians living abroad express shock, raise concerns, and donate to help the victims. During the last 40 years, Muslim NRIs have donated over a billion dollars to serve their community in education, rehabilitation, and relief. Yet, they could not establish institutions to empower Muslims politically and economically. Muslim Indians do not have vibrant media, grassroots-based political organizations, financial consortiums to help young entrepreneurs, and a faith narrative that may inspire the younger generation to rise and claim their rights in a secular democracy.

Muslims in India live in perpetual fear, not sure if their claim to their Indianness is valid in the country where they have lived for a thousand years. But, unfortunately, none of what Muslim NRI's contribute, and Muslim Indians raise in funds help Muslims regain their confidence in their ability to live as a dignified community.

The responsibility lies both on religious and modern educated elites. None of them invested in using the tools and the methods to empower their community comprehensively. The religious elites believe that Muslims would overcome their miseries by filling the masajid and accepting the seventh-century interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah. The modern educated leadership argues that modern education would solve all their problems.

Only a few realize that when a community forgets its reason for existence and its sense of belonging to ideals that made it what it used to be in the past, it loses its self-respect and willingness to survive and face the hardship. Rather than solving its problems, it relies on others to save it from a slow death. It divides itself into factions on non-issues and focuses on negating each other. In the words of Muslim scripture, each section ridicules the other and considers itself the only genuine voice of the faith and the community.

Muslim NRI's reason for their presence abroad is mainly their education and intellect. They could have used these resources to provide pragmatic leadership to Muslim Indians through building institutions in India and informing the people in their new countries about the Muslim situation in India. Yet on both fronts, they have failed miserably. The poverty level among Muslims in India is stagnant. The education has come mainly due to governmental efforts, with Muslim NRI's little to contribute. In a country of 1.4 billion with over 200 million Muslim population, about 25,000 religious madrasas and some 300 modern educational institutions are not enough to make Muslims a vibrant community in India.

NRI's could have pooled their resources to strategize Muslim renaissance in India, and they could have used their presence abroad to make people aware of Muslim Indian plight. Yet, the vision of their organization and leaders was myopic. Many could not see beyond their self-interests, or ethnicity, or region. The result is obvious. Despite spending billions of dollars, they are not better than politically and economically as a community.

Suppose they are serious in intervening for Muslims in India. In that case, they may have to think outside the box and boldly take action to protect their communities in India from the ordeal they have been going through. Otherwise, the efforts would be no more than running water in a sieve. Perhaps, it is time Muslim NRI's who care for their community and have a vision for its empowerment reconnect, leaving aside their egos and developing a strategy to uplift their beleaguered community.

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