‘Muslims Want Socio-Economic Growth – Not Religious Appeasement’
Indian Muslims’ attitude in last few years shows strong preference for socio-economic issues over religious ones.
This week, sixteen foreigners were arrested in Prayagraj for violating visa rules. This takes the total number of foreigners held for visa violation to 619, almost all of them associated with the Tablighi Jamaat. This step comes after a long campaign of vilification of Indian Muslims holding them ‘responsible’ for the spread of coronavirus in India.
Those vilifying Muslims also hold the previous regimes at the Centre responsible for not making the Tablighi Jamaat accountable for the supposedly decades-long violations of visa rules by its members for the sake of ‘appeasement politics’.
What Muslims Have Had to ‘Trade’ in ‘Appeasement’ Bargain: Socio-Economic Progress
This assertion of so-called ‘Muslim appeasement’ has been made in perhaps all the Islamophobic narratives.
The ‘secular’ governments are held responsible for having ignored the ‘threats’ to Hindus so as to ‘appease’ Muslim voters. This narrative is often debunked by reiterating the socio-economic plight of the Indian Muslims or empirically ‘proving’ that Muslims do not vote en masse in elections.
In the midst of these allegations and their debunking, what gets ignored is that even if we accept the allegations of the hardline right-wingers’ as ‘facts’, Muslims have been appeased in India as a religious, and not a political community, bargaining for their socio-economic upliftment.
From Haj Subsidy to Shah Bano Verdict: Trajectory of ‘Appeasement’
Beginning chronologically, the Haj subsidy started by the Jawaharlal Nehru government in 1959, is an oft-raised example of Muslim ‘appeasement’. Haj subsidy was financial aid indirectly given to Muslims who went on the Haj. In 2012, the Supreme Court directed the government to gradually reduce the subsidy and scrap it by 2022. In January 2018, the Modi government finally scrapped it. The point to be noted here is that the subsidy in no way served to uplift Muslims socially or economically.
It might have helped Muslims go on a religious pilgrimage, but Muslims going or not going for pilgrimage hardly made any difference to the community’s socio-economic condition.
Another classic example given to illustrate the Muslim ‘appeasement’ theory is the Rajiv Gandhi government bringing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 to nullify the Supreme Court’s 1985 judgment in Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum.
The Supreme Court’s judgment was followed by protests by conservative sections of the Muslim society. Subsequently, the Rajiv Gandhi government, under pressure, brought about this law, hence trying to ‘appease’ Muslims by assuring them that the Muslim Personal Law would not be touched – and thus, the clergy will continue to enjoy their hold on the Muslim masses. Again, as in the case of the Haj subsidy, this ‘appeasement’ in no way helped to uplift the community in socio-economic terms.
‘Appeasement of a Religious Organisation With No Intention of Socio-Economic Development’
Rajiv Gandhi didn’t stop there. In 1988, the Indian government banned the import of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. The book was considered ‘blasphemous’ by many Muslims. Prior to being banned, a few Muslim politicians had met Rajiv Gandhi on the issue. Rajiv Gandhi conceded. Yet again, this ‘appeasement’ of Muslims had no grounds in common with their socio-economic upliftment.
In a similar vein, the declaration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as a ‘National Holiday’ in 1990, or an official celebration of the 18th century king Tipu Sultan’s birthday in Karnataka, is hardly of any real consequence.
Even in the current case of the Tablighi Jamaat, if it is accepted that the previous governments ignored violation of visa rules by Jamaat members to ‘appease’ Muslims, it was indeed an ‘appeasement’ of a religious organisation with no link whatsoever with the community's socio-economic development.
Why Ayodhya Verdict Didn’t Stir Muslims But CAA Did
The ‘appeasement’ of Muslims, if any, was thus limited to the religious domain. It did nothing to improve their socio-economic conditions.
As documented in the Sachar Committee Report of 2006, the overall socio-economic conditions of Muslims only deteriorated.
The Muslim community’s response, at least in the recent years, have indicated a strong preference towards socio-economic issues over religious ones. The scrapping of Haj subsidy, the enacting of Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 or even the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ayodhya title-suit did not evoke any uproar among Muslims.
Whereas the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, which has the potential to adversely affect their political, and consequently socio-economic rights, triggered a pan-India mass movement.
It is high time that the propaganda of Muslim ‘appeasement’ be viewed through this lens as well. More than anyone else, it will help the Muslim community itself to appreciate the distinction between the religious and socio-economic issues, and the necessity of focussing on the latter.
(Iqbal Salahkar is a student of Aligarh Muslim University. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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