On July 30, two bodies were wrapped in the unstitched cloth in which Muslims go to their grave. One was hailed a national hero, his body draped in the national flag, the other was hanged in jail. As the morality play of good versus evil unfolded before our eyes, the two deaths seemed to bring about a sort of national catharsis, of different sorts, for different reasons. It must be the most curious coincidence that former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Bombay blast convict Yakub Memon ended up being buried on the same day.
There’s no escaping the ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim’ stereotype in the world’s largest democracy with the third largest Muslim population in the world. The phrase, ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim’, was first used by former US president George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 and picked up as the title of his masterly work by political scientist and anthropologist Mahmood Mamdani. His book, published in 2005, was titled Good Muslim Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. One of the central points of the work is that the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not markers of religious purity or the lack thereof. They are a judgement of their utility to US foreign policy, based upon which images are constructed.