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Muslims should respond to the divisive ‘love jihad’ campaign with friendship towards secular Hindus

By Kaleem Kawaja,

“Abhee sub kuch nahin mita shaayad
Hindu-Muslim main pyaar baaqi hai
Ek Bhaayee kaa ek Bhaayee pur
Pyar ka kuch udhaar baaqi hai “

– Jawaid Badauni

In the last about one year with the parliamentary elections in the offing, the extremist RSS elements have made an aggressive and divisive effort all over the country, especially in the north, east and west. Their tactic has consisted of circulating false news stories about Muslims in general and Muslim youth in particular as being prone to violence and prone to entrapping Hindu girls in romantic affairs with them with the objective of converting them to Islam. Regional vernacular newspapers have carried fabricated stories of Muslim youth becoming terrorists and planting bomb blasts in a variety of cities.

Muslims should respond to the divisive ‘love jihad’ campaign with friendship towards secular Hindus

Then came the widely circulated stories of Muslim youth carrying out a systematic “Love Jihad” campaign. Countless posters showing a bearded Muslim young man on a motorcycle carrying a Hindu girl on the back seat have been circulated in about a dozen states and on internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter. The posters malign the Muslim community, saying that Muslim youth roam around colleges, shopping centers, parks etc to target innocent Hindu girls’ with romantic postures, songs and gestures to entrap the Hindu girls in love affairs with them. Then they persuade the girls to marry them against the wishes of their parents and then force them to convert to Islam.

Hard core extremist Hindu activists whose numbers are very small have used the above tactics to create much tension between Hindus and Muslims throughout the country. In the states of UP, Bihar, Assam, Karnataka and Maharashtra they were successful in raising the sectarian tension to such a high pitch that communal riots broke out in many cities like Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Meerut, Saharanpur, etc. All these districts have large Muslim populations that have lived in peace and harmony for centuries with Hindus. For couple of centuries the Hindu – Jat and Muslim sub-communities in western UP have had a history of friendly relations. But these nefarious campaigns called “Bahu Beti Bachao”, “love Jihad” and communal riots have sowed so much distrust between these communities that it may take a long time to recover from.

The objective of these extremist BJP elements is very clear. They want to divide the Hindu and Muslim communities vertically to the point that they become each other’s enemies. Somewhat like 1947 when India was partitioned and when mistrust between the two communities reached an all-time high. Polarization of the two communities can reach a level where India may become a theocratic country, with very little tolerance and harmony between Hindus and Muslims.

Some Muslims may be getting angry and worried at such a harmful eventuality in the nation and they may be thinking that maybe they should separate themselves from Hindus or build their own Muslim groups to provide political and social protection to them. However the fact remains that despite such troublemaking attempts by a few nefarious extremist elements, most Hindus remain secular and treat Muslim Indians as their fellow citizens. Countless Hindus and Muslims rub shoulders in schools, colleges, offices, factories, farms, places of work and places of entertainment like melas, sporting events etc. And they have the same dreams and worries and plans to improve themselves.

The above illustration and Jawaid Badauni’s very touching couplet, describe that recently in a city in UP, a Hindu by the name Ganga Ram paid all expenses to send his friend Hayat Mohammad to Mecca for Hajj pilgrimage. Such is the deep trust and friendship between Muslims and Hindus in that town. This is true about Muslims and Hindus in large parts of India.

Indeed as the election itself showed, BJP received only 31% of the Hindu vote, which demonstrates that about 69% of Hindus did not buy the massive RSS publicity campaign to separate Muslims from Hindus. In the coming months the best strategy for Muslims should be to keep their heads cool and their tempers in check when faced with extreme provocation and instigation. Keep cool in the face of hurtful “Love Jihad” and “terrorist” labels being thrown at them by the trouble mongers.

Instead of getting angry and losing their temper Muslims should demonstrate more friendship and harmony towards the secular Hindus who are at least 69% of the Hindu population. Muslim young men should show more respect towards Hindu girls and women. Keep in check the hot heads in the Muslim community and calm them down. And do not alienate secular Hindus. Instead of playing a blame game in the Muslim media and Urdu media, let us preach interfaith harmony, while not overlooking religion based hate crimes and police brutality. Muslims should utilize the constitution and laws of India and the justice system more for their protection. Secular Hindus are likely to respond in kind because after all they are the same people as Muslims, born into the same indigenous “Gunga-Jamuna” secular culture.

A small number of Hindus who are government officials or policemen or politicians may harbor prejudice against Muslims but Muslims should learn how to manage them and neutralize them within the framework of the laws of the nation and its democratic structure. The one-thousand years of coexistence of Muslims and Hindus, the long common struggle for freedom from the colonists, the deeply common culture, traditions and heritage of Hindustan harken Muslims to accept this challenge to neutralize the nefarious provocateurs and dividers tactfully.

Look at the Bollywood movies, music, art, food, culture, and the soulful bards of yore whose traditions of peaceful coexistence flow though the veins of both Muslims and Hindus alike. In these trying times India’s Muslims should take the initiative to bring back communal harmony between the communities. Together we are the inheritors of Jawaharlal Nehru’s stirring dream of a tryst with destiny. That tryst continues and entails much struggle both from without and within.

“Zahar milta rahaa, Zahar pitay rahay
Roz murtay rahay, Roz Jitay rahay
Jub bhee dil aur dimaag pur koi dhakka lagaa
Goya zindagee ka ek dareecha kihulaa
Zindagi hamain aazmaati rahee
Aur hum bhee usay aazmaatay rahay
Goya hum bhi kisee saaz kay taar hain
Chot khaatay rahay, Gungunaatay rahay”

– Rahi Masoom Raza

(Kaleem Khwaja is the Executive Director of Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM).)