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'Osama embarrassed Indian Muslims'
For two decades now, Indian Muslims have been victims of the terror narrative in India, vulnerable to suspicion, stigmatisation and police harassment after every attack. Osama bin Laden's death is unlikely to bring them much relief. As long as anti-India groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaishe-Mohammed flourish in Pakistan, Indian Muslims will get the short end of the stick in a communalised atmosphere, say writers and thinkers from the community.
"Those who think that terrorism will die now that Osama is gone are living in a fool's paradise," warns Kamal Farooqi, member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board. "There are groups that will use his death and the way the Americans humiliated his dead body to fan the flames of anger and violence. Osama's death will not bring peace for Indian Muslims. "
Aijaz Ilmi, chairman, editorial board of the Kanpurbased Urdu newspaper, Daily Siyasat, says: "Terrorism in India has nothing to do with Osama or al-Qaida. Unless the ideology of terror prevalent in the Af-Pak region is tackled, the threat to India will continue and Muslims will remain in the line of fire here. "
Community leaders point out that Indian Muslims never bought into Osama's ideology of terror as a means to an end. While there may have been some empathy for him as a symbol of anti-American sentiment, his methods were abhorred as anti-Islam. "Osama turned out to be an embarrassment for Muslims because of what they suffered after 9/11, " says historian Mushir-ul-Hasan. "Not only did they have to deal with suspicion and discrimination, more Muslims have died in the war against terror than non-Muslims. "
There is a deep sense of injustice at the manner in which Indian Muslims have been sucked into the terror narrative despite this, with many bluntly pinning the blame on a prevailing "communal mindset". Manzoor Alam, secretary general, All India Milli Conference, doesn't mince his words. "There are plenty of communal police officials. Even if there's a small blast, our agencies blame the Indian Mujahideen or other Muslim groups within minutes, without evidence. Muslims are picked up because of their beards, their dress, their names, purely on the whimsicality of the police. That's why they feel insecure, " he says.
Mufti Mukarram, imam of Delhi's Fatehpuri Masjid, agrees. "Indian Muslims are not terrorists. They've been branded as terrorists. Yes, many have been arrested after terror attacks but nothing has been proved against any of them. The police target them first and then tailor the investigation to try and prove them guilty. Yeh farzi khel hai (it's all a game). "
Anger levels are particularly high after recent revelations about the bomb blasts in Malegaon, Ajmer Sharief and Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid. Members of the RSS and a breakaway group called Abhinav Bharat have been chargesheeted for these attacks. It raises questions about the role of the local police in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. It also underlines the plight of dozens of Muslim youths who have been languishing in jail for several years for crimes they didn't commit.
Former Rajya Sabha MP Shahid Siddiqi believes that Muslims are paying the price for the creation of Pakistan. "It has nothing to do with Osama or terror. It is to do with Partition. Muslims are viewed with suspicion by the power elite and the new middle class because of Pakistan. There is an unstated conspiracy to marginalise them and keep them in poverty and ignorance, " he insists.
Social activist Tanweer Alam blasts the attempts to link terrorism to Islam. "I believe that terror has no religion and it is unjustified to link one community with terror. Like every other community, there are some bad eggs among Indian Muslims too. It is wrong to hold the entire community responsible, " he says.
He believes firmly that Indian Muslims want to be and should be mainstreamed. "Indian Muslims should not be equated with Pakistani Muslims, " he says. "Indian Muslims are part of the Indian society and Indian society is ahead of and more mature than Pakistani society. The global umma concept has limited appeal here. Our politicians must help to change the perception of Indian Muslims instead of using them as vote banks. "
According to Jamia Milia Islamia University vice chancellor Najib Jung, Muslims in India are increasingly annoyed with efforts to link them with global terror. "Indian Muslims are looking to make a life here. They are part of the Indian collage. Like everybody else, they too want to get ahead and prosper. Indian Muslims realised a long time ago that Pakistan is no longer part of the equation. Hopefully, Hindus will realise it too so that the growing communal divide is bridged," he says.
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