“I am an Indian. I am a Muslim. I am the part you won’t recognise. But get used to me. Confident, unapologetic. my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my food, my choice; my clothes, my choice; my goals, my own; my skullcap, my choice; my hijab, my choice; my beard, my choice; get used to me.”
Far too often you have labelled me as stranger, anti-national, terrorist, sickular. You’ve called me ‘Memon ke baarati’, ‘Kasab ke bhai’, and ‘Aurangzeb ki aulaad’. You demonise my religion and impose your way of life on me. You want discriminatory legislations against my religion. From Gujarat to Muzaffarnagar, Dadri to Alwar, you unleashed your fury on innocent people.
‘Proud of Being an Indian and a Muslim’
You want to insist that Islam is not acceptable in this country. You want aggressive cultural nationalism to be forced on us, almost as if we had no right to believe, the way we believe.
You represent the forces in our society that are hell-bent on denying us a dignified existence in this country. You want me to go to Pakistan as you claim more entitlement to this land than others. It's not just an offence to the Muslims, it’s an offence to India.
Let me tell you who I am. I am a Muslim, I am a human being and I am an Indian. Islam is my way of life. I am not hateful or intolerant. I am just a Muslim. I consider religion as a medium through which we can contribute to the world.
I believe that everyone is free to practice their religion. I love this land as much as anyone else and I love the people of this land even though some don’t view me as equal. As an Indian Muslim, I am proud of both being a Muslim and an Indian.
‘Get Used to me’
I refuse to accept your constrictive definition of nationalism. I will be at the forefront of this battle that wants to twist my faith. I will respond to your hate and ignorance in the same way Muslim American Muhammad Ali responded to the bigots and hate-mongers of his time:
I am America. I am the part you won’t recognise. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.Muhammad Ali
Ali’s words give me courage in these troubled times. He is my inspiration and that’s who I want to be. Not only was he confident, but he loved his faith and he proudly represented Islam. He never missed an opportunity to tell people that he was who he was because of his faith.
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(The writer is an entrepreneur. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)