August 11, 2020
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An Appeal To My Fellow Muslims

Yes, the community has some causes to complain, but that should not become an all-consuming obsessive persecution complex. There is need to rise above the sense of victimhood, minority status, and conspiracy theories. It is time to acknowledge that w

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An Appeal To My Fellow Muslims

Of  late, desperate acts of violence have come to be seen as a response borne out of a feeling of helplessness against injustice done to a person or a community. Everybody--the perpetrators of violence, some sections of civil society and even the political class--seem to interpret violence as a backlash or a spontaneous swell of anger against some other act of atrocity.

Thus the anti-Sikh riot of 1984 was seen as a repercussion of the assassination of the then Prime Minister of India, which in turn was said to have been a result of Operation Blue Star and the alleged wrongs committed against a particular community in Punjab. Similarly, the series of bomb blasts we see across Indian cities are in some quarters thought to be a 'genuine' reaction of a people psychologically traumatized and forced into a desperate situation because of discriminatory practices and communal riots like the one in Gujarat in 2002 which, in turn, was seen as a logical outburst against the gruesome attack on the kar sevaks traveling on the Sabarmati Express. Recently, reacting to the all consuming insecurity among the Muslims in the backdrop of Gujarat-2002, one commentator wondered why the Muslims in India made so much 'fuss' over the bloodshed. He argued that it was nothing in comparison to the killing and vandalism committed on the Hindu population by the Muslim rulers during medieval period.

This is how we think and reason about the bane of violence and counter violence. There are people who carry so much hatred and frustration in their heart that even the blood of whole of the humanity cannot satiate their thirst and anger. But if one incident of macabre violence is accepted as a defensible reaction to some earlier act of brutality, which is also thought to be a result of some previous act of violence, there would be no end to the course of violence and retribution. Each grim act of violence will precipitate more serious acts of violence and there will be blood and gore all around us.

If you believe in God, you know that an act of villainy never goes unpunished. In fact, justice is meted out to the good and evil, oppressed and oppressor, in routine course whether we believe in the divine mechanism or not. If we think that the big and powerful pass off easily, we need to penetrate through the thick walls of riches and success to see the universal applicability of the principle of justice. The infallible law of the effects of our every deed in our lives catches up with everybody. Indiscriminately and immediately.  

However, the intent here is not to advocate a philosophy of inaction or to suggest that one should wait for the divine to intercede. As human agency, our primary duty is action, and more specifically positive action to snap the pernicious cycle of bloodletting. And that line of action can be working for peace and forgiving the bully, an alternative to the perpetual cycle of revenge and retribution. It can be loving your enemy, entering into a dialogue with him, praying to God to bless him. For many of us it will be difficult to even think on this course. How can we think of loving the enemy who torched our homes and ruined our lives? How can we love the fellow who slaughtered our brothers and raped and seared the womb of our pregnant women? How can we invoke our inner inspirations of grace for such a person and have a new start?

But forgiving and loving our enemy and the neigbour is perhaps the only option we have for permanent peace. And it does not require one to be superhuman to conceive and practice it. It's the most practical and immediate solution to our complex society and communities enmeshed in the mortifying welter of violence.

Rhonda Byrne, a self-help guru, says all our joy depends upon the frequency of love. When we love, we are in complete and utter harmony with the universe. And our ability to generate feelings of love is unlimited. 'Love everyone you can. Focus only on things you love, feel love, and you will experience that love and joy coming back to you -- multiplied…As you radiate love, it will appear as though the entire universe is doing every thing for you, moving every joyful thing to you, and moving every good person to you. In truth it is,' says Byrne. This is the secret to a great relationship with others.

When we think and see the posters depicting demolition of the Babri Masjid, a common sight on the walls of the narrow alleys of Muslim localities, we are telling ourselves that we are victims, that we are sinned against, that we are helpless, that we should fight. Yes, it is true that those involved in the demolition of Babri Masjid might be roaming the streets of your neighborhood with impunity. It is true that while those suspected behind the 1993 Bombay bombings are all convicted and put behind bars, the rioters who bled the innocent Muslims on the roads of Bombay in 1992-93 continue to be free. It is true that while those who have been allegedly involved in the Godhra train carnage were sentenced with the severest of punishment, those who orchestrated 'spontaneous' riots thereafter have grown continuously stronger through the years. .

But while there is need to work for a fair legal justice system, there is also need for the community to not act as if these issues need to be resolved first before it can look inwards and move on with their lives. The more we think and talk of Babri Masjid, Gujarat riots and 'fake' encounters, the more feelings of frustration, helplessness and victim-hood we create. Today our lives as a collective is full of negativity and the more we concentrate on negativity, the more darkness and gloom we produce around ourselves. We seem to have become exactly what the enemies of peace and harmony want us to feel: insecure and disturbed. They do not want to banish us from India; they want us to live as second status citizen, holed in crammed ghettos where the basic amenities and civil facilities are not available; they want us to live not as free citizens of secular democratic India but as marginalized, alienated men, withdrawn into a self-conceived corner of fear and vulnerability. 

A person or a community focussed only on the dark side of life and issues, repeatedly re-living and revisiting the misfortunes and disappointments of the past, is actually praying for similar misfortune and disappointments in the future. 'If you go back over your life and focus on the difficulties from the past, you are just bringing more difficult circumstances to you now. Let it all go, no matter what it is,' says Byrne. Against this statement, examine the discourse of the Muslim community, educated or uneducated, or the discourse of our leaders, and you will perhaps find nothing but grievances, anger and complaints which seem to only provoke some of the Muslim youth into committing acts which endanger the lives of all the millions of Muslims...   

Life is simply reflecting and giving us back exactly what we are focusing on with our individual and collective thought.  When we only focus on persecution, minority status, discrimination, a conspiracy to annihilate us -- our educated youth and our leadership -- and other such things, we are attracting more of them in our individual and collective life.  

Let us therefore reflect on the fact that compared to the Muslims in any other country of the world, we have the most peaceful of existence. We have all freedoms and opportunities enshrined in the Indian Constitution -- something which Muslims of many other countries cannot even think of.  Let us focus on the fact that millions of Muslims are living with peace and dignity in India's small villages, kasbas and towns. Let us focus on the scope for educational advancement, economic development and political opportunities. 

This positive approach will dissolve all the darkness, discord and hatred in our heart. This will give us a capacity to forget excesses wreaked on us. This will help us wipe the baggage of the past from the blackboard of life, allow us to live in the present and start afresh. If we ruminate despairingly on the wrong committed on us, we will remain stuck there mentally and emotionally and not get out of it. There is a lesson to be learnt from the economic success of the Punjabi community after the hardships experienced by them during, and in the aftermath of, Partition. Someone who's studied the subject says that their X-factor is their never-say-die spirit. Take away their homes, businesses, money, peace -- as we saw in the aftermath of partition -- yet they would not sit down to mope or curse their fate. They will not be frozen in the past, they will not spend their lives bemoaning that they have been wronged.  Such an attitude allows you to start afresh, to reconcile with the aberrations and to move forward. This way you harness only positives within you and that brings more happiness, peace, joy, abundance and harmony in your life. 

Asif Jalal, an IPS officer, is SSP, district Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh.

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