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Home > Communalism Repository > The Jamaatis’ new robes

New political parties and forums of the Muslim right in India

The Jamaatis’ new robes

by Javed Anand, 29 April 2011

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Deccan Chronicle

Indian Muslims just got luckier. Already spoilt for choice, the Spring of 2011 has brought two fresh bonanzas for the country’s “second largest majority”. One comes gift-wrapped as a brand new political party; the other is a forum of Muslim advocates of Maharashtra. Many compliments of the season, Badhai ho badhai!

But hang on a moment. It perhaps is too early to exult. The Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) invitation to a party has met with more jeers than cheers. Not many Muslims, it appears, are keen on singing Happy Birthday to the new-born named Welfare Party of India. The Muslim advocates’ meet in Mumbai on a Friday (April 22) saw the enthusiastic participation of around 300 advocates from all over Maharashtra. The stars of the show were two retired Muslim judges from the Mumbai high court: Justice Bilal Nakzi and Justice Shafi Parkar. But outside the venue the reception was mixed.

Let’s take the second one first. What on earth is the meaning of a separate Muslim lawyers’ forum? What’s coming next: Muslim doctors’ forum, Muslim journalists’ forum, Muslim IAS/IPS officers’ forum, Muslim consumers’ forum? Thane city’s advocate Abdul Kalam explains the rationale for such a forum thus: “After the communal riots, it has been found that Hindu advocates are reluctant to fight cases of Muslim victims or accused. We don’t say that all non-Muslim advocates are biased, but during moments of crisis, many upright advocates have developed cold feet”.

Is that so? What about Kapil Sibal, Shanti Bhushan, Anil Divan, P.P. Rao, M.S. Ganesh, Kamini Jaiswal, Sanjay Parikh, Aspi Chinoy, Navroze Seervai, Gautam Patel, Mihir Desai, Aparna Bhatt and Ramesh Pukhrambam, all of whom have contributed time and talent pro bono, fighting for justice to the Muslim victims and punishment to the perpetrators of the state-sponsored 2002 Gujarat carnage? What about Teesta Setalvad and her non-religious organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), which for over nine years has led the Gujarat victims’ struggle for justice from the front? What about Mukul Sinha, the lawyer from Ahmedabad, and the hours and days that he has spent before the Nanavati-Shah-Mehta inquiry commission?

As for the JI and its new baby, the Welfare Party of India (WPI), if you’ve never heard of Syed Abu Ala Maududi, the maulana who founded the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1941, here’s a crash course. Throughout his life Maududi preached that unlike other religions, Islam is not just about worship and religious rituals like prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. Instead, Islam is a revolutionary ideology; to be a Muslim is to be a revolutionary committed to debunking man-made ideas (democracy etc.), institutions (Parliament etc.) and laws (Constitution etc.) and striving by every means possible to establishing Allah’s rule (Islamic state etc.) and Allah’s laws (Sharia etc.).

This is what every Jamaati has fervently believed and preached for the last 70 years.

Among those who were deeply impressed by Maududi was a person named Syed Qutb of Egypt who proceeded to argue that striving by “every means possible” includes killing those who are Muslims only in name in the interest of ushering Allah’s sovereignty on earth.

Now that the same JI has chosen to place itself at the service of man-made laws, should we not welcome this change of mind and heart? We should if the JI were to publicly declare that Maududi’s views now belong to a library that houses outdated, intolerant, outrageous ideology. But that’s not what the JI is telling us. Instead, it wants us to believe that the WPI is a secular, democratic entity, never mind the fact that 11 out of its 16 office-bearers are Jamaati stalwarts.

That’s reason number one for the non-Jamaati Muslims’ lack of enthusiasm. To many of them, the JI-WPI relationship looks like a mirror image of the RSS-BJP equation. The goal is the same: infiltrating the institutions of democracy for subverting the constitutional spirit from within.

But the facade is all too transparent: How much cover can you expect from one of WPI’s several vice-presidents, including a Christian priest who chanted the Gayatri Mantra at the party’s launch, to provide? Some Muslims see him as the WPI’s Sikander Bakht!

Reason number two: Less than two years ago, in July 2009, we saw the Popular Front of India (home in south India to ex-Students Islamic Movement of India leaders and activists following the ban on the radical outfit) give birth to the Secular Democratic Party of India. Simi, remember, emerged from the womb of the JI in the early ’70s, and the PFI still draws inspiration from Maulana Maududi and Syed Qutb of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. In its spare time, the PFI runs a moral police enforcing Islam on Muslims in a manner that might make the Bajrang Dal and the Ram Sene envious. Ask Kerala’s Muslims.

Adding to the Indian Muslim’s embarrassment of riches is the All-India United Democratic Front of India floated by the Assam-based Badruddin Ajmal of the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind in 2005. And let’s not forget the nearly half-a-dozen Muslim organisations in Uttar Pradesh that have sprouted in recent years.

What then should Indian Muslims expect from this abundance of Muslim-floated parties? Ideologically speaking, it means secularism by daylight, Sharia after dark. Politically speaking, at best they’ll cancel each other out; eat into votes of mainstream parties that swear by secularism. At worst, they’ll provide propaganda fodder to Hindutva, feed Islamophobia.

The increasing political disempowerment of India’s Muslims in Parliament and in the Assemblies, continuing discrimination and “red zoning” are no doubt problems crying to be addressed. But a cancer cell like proliferation of Muslim parties will, if anything, compound the malady.

* Javed Anand is co-editor of Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy