Naseeruddin Shah & backlash for Hijacked Political Narrative of Muslims

By Muhammed Tauqeer

This article is complimentary to an article published in The Print by Fatima Khan and triggered by comment on twitter by “I am Troll” fame award winning journalist Swati Chaturvedi “Naseeruddin Shah is speaking for himself”.

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Link to Swati’s Tweet –  Disagree #NasseruddinShah

Last week Naseeruddin Shah expressed a concern about safety of his children by referring to the killing of Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh in Bulandshahr and Govt’s priority of probing alleged cow slaughter over killing of its own officer.

 As expected, right wing supporters lambasted him on all the media platforms. Everyone right from pracharaks to politicians to journalists to bhakts were consistent in their views about how this man lived trouble free prestigious life, earned money from this very country and now calling names! Hence painted Anti-national in bold bhagwa colour.
While on the other hand secularists, liberals, leftists, centrists started cheering for their newly found hero and crying how Bollywood has been maintaining criminal silence on this hot issue of lynching and how the right wing nationalist Government is dooming the country etc. No surprises here either.

But then what is a controversy if it doesn’t give birth to a new angle that did not seem to exist in the two dimensional debates or even if existed, was atleast too silent to be noticed.

 The third dimension is religious or practicing Muslims who definitely aren’t right inclined nor secular. They are rather of opinion, “I follow my religion, you follow yours, you don’t impose your faith on me, I won’t force mine though both of us have right to preach our own faith”. Now a days this race is being wrongly labelled as hardliners by some due to ignorance ofcourse. These are the same common Muslims studying with you in your classrooms, working with you in your offices, having fun with you in the evenings, watching cricket with you, discussing politics, and celebrating same independence day as you but just avoiding those things that they feel is conflicting with core of their faith.

You can’t call them secular because they are connected to a religion. You can’t call them liberals because they won’t accept any change to the core of their faith. You can’t call them leftists because  they are believers. And you can’t call them hardliners because if you go to them with a logic and it doesn’t conflict with their faith, they’ll accept it. You simply have to call them religious or practicing Muslims. Most of you might know this already but it was important to establish the definition to eliminate scope of misinterpretation.

So what’s the surprise by the way? Why are practicing Muslims the surprise element in Naseeruddin Shah‘s case? Well you might have noticed suddenly a large number of Muslims, while supporting Naseeruddin Shah’s current stand, have been skeptical about his late realization. They are quoting his old views as well as the recent ones where he seem to distance himself from Islam and show secular credentials. Normally the same Muslims won’t have iota of an issue with any secular person at all. Then why would they have a problem with Naseeruddin Shah or Javed Akhtar for that matter?

Political Vacuum

For understanding Muslims’ issue with Naseeruddin Shah or Javed Akhtar, you’ll have to first understand their (lack of) understanding of Islam and their political status in India.

The Islamic religious leaders over the years have focused their efforts on teaching Muslims about basics of Islam like the Faith, Namaz, Fasting, Zakat, Hajj etc.. Since Indian Muslims don’t speak Arabic, the effort spent on learning the basics is more than it would ideally be. This resulted in Muslims’ not spending enough time to study Islamic History which created a major gap in their understanding of Islam’s glorious Political history. The prophet’s life was full of political events, for instance Constitution of Madina. But most of the common Indian Muslims were busy studying fundamentals and hardly came across political aspects of Islam. So they wrongly believe politics and religion are conflicting and stay away from politics assuming it would impact their religious life and eventually hereafter.

While this is a general issue, you still see some Muslim names in politics, who are they? They are mostly either secular people with Muslim names or Muslims who follow Islam as per convenience with few exceptions. Moreover the total representation of Muslims in politics has been negligible even worse than Dalits. This vacuum was exploited by secular political parties and they used Muslims for vote bank politics. So the Muslims are under represented as well as used/cheated for political gains.

Read between the lines

Practicing Muslims have absolutely zero issues with secularists or liberals in general but secularists with Muslim Names. But why? Think from a common man’s perspective, who is Naseeruddin Shah or Javed Akhtar, the answer will be a “Muslim”. So the issue is Naseer, Javed have occupied that same vacuum, may be unintentionally but they are being considered by the world as torch bearer of Muslims which is factually incorrect. And their views, expectations, arguments are considered to be that of Muslims’ irrespective of the truth that those are their personal views. Swati Chaturvedi might have failed to read between the lines here. it’s not the same case with non Muslim secular person, his/her views will always be interpreted as individual opinion unlike Naseeruddin Shah or Javed Akhtar.

So basically practicing Muslims feel their narrative is hijacked by these secularists with Muslim names and hence their desperation to reclaim it back.

Having said this, Nasseruddin Shah has every right to express his opinion and nobody can take it away from him.

 Who to blame and way forward

 There is no one but Muslims themselves to be blamed for the political vacuum created over the decades and they have to fix it themselves. Even if they decide to fix this, they’ll need at least a decade to increase political awareness among the community. In the meantime, the educated politically aware Muslims who have Islamic knowledge and were agnostic to politics till now have realized that there is no way but to get their hands dirty. They are trying to hold the fort or rather fire fighting on social media till next generation is trained to enters politics. There is a long way to go but first step has been taken. Now its upto the Muslim community to reclaim their territory and follow the pathfinders.