Have I Joined the Popular Front?

In the past few weeks, I have been asked over and over again, not always in jest, if I had joined the Popular Front. I am not surprised. The police investigation around the violence against the college teacher at Muvattupuzha has broken all previous records in not only the violation of human and civil rights, but also in the silence of Kerala’s enlightened intellectuals. If I recall right, only Nandigram evoked such a dense and deliberate silence from them. No wonder, anyone who speaks up against the manner in which the police is being armed and authorized against ‘bad muslims’ is immediately dubbed a supporter of the Popular Front. But I am intrigued by this simple question, by which the entire history of that person’s engagement with discussions around religion and the state is erased.

Many of the people who asked me this question know that I do have a fairly long and traceable history of engagement with emergent Muslim intellectual and political groups on the issue of re-forging modernity and democracy in Kerala in these times of globalization and Islamophobia. Some of them have read my writings on Muslim feminism, and my critique of the kind of gender reformism put forth by some of these groups, which I have argued, go no further than what was offered by the early 20th century community reformisms in Malayalee society. They are familiar with my case for Muslim feminism, precisely one aimed at criticising the kind of gender conservatism taking shape as reformism in these groups, which would only reinforce the high-Hindu reformist gender inequality rampant in today’s Kerala. In other words, they know pretty well that my dialogue with those interested in the so-called ‘Muslim question’was geared precisely in the opposite direction of that taken by those members of the Popular Front who committed the violence and now condone it indirectly. They are also aware of the fact that I am not alone in these efforts: I am only one of the many academics and intellectuals who identify with  broadly left political perspectives and who have tried to initiate such dialogues. Why, then, such a silly question?

I am in dialogue with many organizations — for example, the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishat which is very close to the CPM. Close enough to write in their publications and speak at their forums. But no one has asked me if I have joined the KSSP!I think here is where hidden, tacit fear of the ‘Muslim’ surfaces. In the eyes of these folk,KSSP stands for ‘liberal’ and therefore, to them, Iam in no danger of absorption when I enter into a dialogue with them. But not so, for the ‘Muslim’. Whether they admit it or not, to these friends of mine, the ‘Muslim’ can only be illiberal in the last analysis. Such subtleties have been much exercised recently. Thanks to our wise and saintly Chief Minister, people are left with no doubt that while there are ‘good muslims’ and ‘bad muslims’, we need to cross-check that each of our ‘good muslims’ are indeed ‘good’. In other words, there seems to be a very high likelihood that the ‘good muslims’ are only bad-muslims-in-the-waiting and they must be warned sternly enough. There are easy ways to obtain a ‘good muslim’ certificate: follow an uncouth, foul-mouthed DYFI leader; join the hordes commanded by Congress strongmen with Muslim names; join Muslim League in the times of Kunhaalikkutty. These options are plainly evident to even the blindest bat in Kerala, but many of our muslims have not been forthcoming. Since they have not opted for these routes, they must all be secretly with the Popular Front!Therefore at present, the Malayalee Muslim (who is not of the left or the Congress or the Muslim League) = Popular Front. J Devika happens to be speaking with just this kind of (Illiberal-By-Implication) Muslim. And one cannot be in dialogue with illiberalism, one can only be devoured by it — and therefore J Devika has been absorbed ideologically by the (Illiberal) Muslim.

In fairness to these people who asked me this question, I must say that the general tone of the reporting of the ongoing investigation in the Malayalam press has been below silly-level,indeed, absurd.  There is heavy talk of the ‘alternate courts’ that were allegedly set up by the Popular Front as if this were a menacing invention discovered by this group. Indeed, this is a society in which the many Christian denominations, community organizations, and indeed political parties runs parallel courts and this is common knowledge. The latest in the news was the ‘auto court’, proudly run by the CITU in north Kerala, which decided to punish the Dalit woman autorickshaw driver, Chitralekha! During that debate, there were so many who asked what was wrong with such an arrangement! However, all this excitement petered off when the Home Minister announced that the police had no news of these courts, and that his information was from the media! But no less a person than the IG,Intelligence, of the Kerala Police said on television (the show was Talking Point, aired in Kerala on 4 July 2010,on the Rosebowl Channel) that the  discourse about terrorism in Kerala was a creation of the media! But who cares? Not the political parties, in any case. They have drummed up Islamophobia nicely, and might as well make the best of it to tide over the elections!

The police are discovering more and more links each day, on the basis of books and papers found in the homes of the accused, or the offices of the Popular Front. My worst fears are indeed coming true : this silliness is turning into vicious high-handedness. The arrest of the human rights activist N. M. Siddique of National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO)  (he had filed a petition before National Human Rights Commission NHRC about incidents of police high-handedness in the investigation) on completely trumped up charges, and the raid at the office of Other Books at
Kozhikode show how malignant the scene has become. Today’s Hindu (Thiruvananthapuram edition) reported that “the raid was conducted on the basis of seizure of materials, including pamphlets, from an accused suspected to be involved … The accused, who was arrested in Aluva, was in possession of pamphlets and books published from Kozhikode.” It also admitted that
the police said that no incriminating content was found in the material seized from Other Books. Now, Other Books, which is well-known in Kerala for publishing the work of authors like Ziauddin Sardar, Fatima Mernissi, and Amina Wadud, can by no stretch of imagination, be collapsed into the Popular Front! They have represented an effort to initiate a dialogue on Islam and modernity that firmly rejects that kind of modernity that US imperialism has held up to its victims, but also firmly critiques models of Islam that freezes the interpretation of the sacred text.

Given that this dialogue is vitally important in the present context of the Muslim community of north Kerala, and given that the dominant left is infected by short-sighted political realism and hence incapable of postive action on this front, it is extremely distressing that those groups that seek to initate it are being hounded thus. The present of the Malabar Muslims resembles the opportunity that opened up to the lower-caste ezhavas in late 19th century Kerala. The opening up of the economy to the World System at that time brought great economic opportunities to section of the ezhavas, which then translated into community reformism, modernization, and community  assertion. At present, the Gulf migration since the 1970s has brought much wealth to sections of the muslims, which is now being translated into community reformism and assertion. The ezhava community reformism happened in the context of the emergence of the discourse of the modernised and secularised savarna Hindu at the heart of the emerging sense of Indian Nation, and major strands of ezhava reformism drew heavily on the ideals and models of subjecthood given in it. This brought them some gains, but certainly not full inclusion within the high-Hindu fold. Andimportantly, it failed to address the problem of emergent class inequalities. Moreover, women and their bodies were now identified at the very heart of ‘community honour’ and respectability.

It was the communist movement that profited from these failings, and indeed, the ezhavas have been the reliable bulwark of the communist party. However, this did not mean that a more liberating modernity was thereby forged for women, at least — community practices were left more or less unscarred by this association. The Malabar Muslims of the present are similarly trying to draw on the currently powerful discourse of globalized Islam. This may bring them some gains, but given that global Islam is indeed infected heavily by Arab racism, it may not offer full inclusion to the Malayalee muslim (amply confirmed by the experience of Malayalee muslim workers in the Gulf countries). Nor will it address the question of emergent class inequalities. And the placing of women at the heart of the community’s honour seems to be happening quite rapidly. Clearly, this is a moment that calls for sensitive and respectful dialogue that draws upon the lessons of history, and one that must be initiated by those who are interested in mitigating inequality and injustice within and outside communities.

At present, the CPM has been working very hard indeed to woo the Malabar Muslims away from the Muslim League and it did seem that they were indeed succeeding. Yet it is doubtful, despite the fact that the CPM’s mass organizations have been intervening in cases of unfair divorce and other issues of Muslim women, whether they have, in this process, produced a more liberating modernity. Indeed, the modernity that these efforts have upheld are little more than the early 20th century reformist ideals which have coalsced at present into Kerala’s unique kind of subtle yet iron-clad gender conservatism. This is one of the reasons why there was such bonhomie between the CPM leadership  in the north and many votaries of gender conservatism among the Muslim organizations there. For the kind of reformism that the latter espoused, that harped on  women’ s sexual purity, inculcated a deep distrust of pleasure, espoused gender roles that were either procreative or pivoted on a very gendered notion of  ‘social responsibility’, are not really different from the ‘actually-existing empowerment’ within the organizations of the dominant left. Thus the proponents of the CPM’s ‘Muslim identity politics’ were keen not to build a modernity that was more inclusive. They were quite content to recycle early 20th century modernity and use it to beat down emergent efforts to organize around issues of sexuality beyond heteronormativity. Maudany was wooed when it was time for the elections; there was no effort whatsoever to engage with his representation of Islam. The CPM which is led by people mesmerized by power and eminently short-term goals, who have no clue about the kind of social and cultural engagement necessary to sustain a movement that can claim leftist credentials,is hardly in a position to initiate a dialogue through which the Muslim community of Malabar may begin to forge for themselves a modernity that is robust enough the challenge both the  hubris of globalized Islam and the effete, consumerist ‘modernity’ offered by U S imperialism. The least they could do, however, is to stop the police from persecuting people who are initiating precisely such an effort — like the  team that built Other Books.

30 thoughts on “Have I Joined the Popular Front?”

  1. Politicians turn every event to their advantage, they are not interested in solving problems. The police, particularly in Kerala, are pawns in the hands of politicians. Nowadays even the so-called intellectuals have political affiliations. That’s why there are NO solutions, there are only problems added to problems. That’s also why those who try genuinely to solve problems face tremendous obstacles.


  2. It must have been for the first time since K. Ajitha, with her mother and father, took guns and proceeded to the forests of Keralam for the toppling of the oppressive rule, that the Kerala society looks with awe at a woman who takes a brave stand and not budges under the reign of terror unleashed by the state, that is, J Devika. She herself has predicted clearly the required long term program for the Muslim community in Malabar as follows:
    a). The CPM is led by people mesmerized by power and eminently short-term goals, who have no clue about the kind of social and cultural engagement necessary to sustain a movement that can claim leftist credentials.
    b) The CPM is hardly in a position to initiate a dialogue through which the Muslim community of Malabar may begin to forge for themselves a modernity that is robust enough to challenge both the hubris of globalized Islam and the effete, consumerist ‘modernity’ offered by U S imperialism.
    The question here is if Devika perceives the Popular front of India and/or Jamaat-e-Islami Hind as potential groups ever be able to carry out such a program or if she sees any other prospective group to carry out that historical role for the Muslim community in Malabar?


  3. Dear sajan

    certainly that is not what I am saying, if you have read my posts carefully. If someone argues that the violence against the teacher is forgivable and that the state should not punish the wrongdoers according to law, I would stand up with those who would condemn such a position. My concern is about how such violations as that committed on the teacher should be dealt with according to the law, not in violation of human rights itself. There are effective ways in which the guilty can be punished, I don’t not see why the police should be given a free hand in this — strengthening the arm of the state does not mean very well for any of us, Muslim or non-Muslim. Unfortunately, the current context is one in which all sections of political society are ruled by petty short-term electoral calculation and infected equally by predatory neoliberal capital — both these interests : islamophobia suits the interests of both.

    I’m sure you may not agree with this argument, and you are free of course to do so. Kindly do not attribute imaginary evils to me!


  4. Dear John

    From my experience of dialogue with these groups – which i have initiated with considerable care — i can say that they are not to be homogenized. I have refused to speak at events organized by the NDF when invited a couple of years back because i thought that many of their positions are not worthy of dialogue itself — one can only debate on the grounds of democracy. I have disagreed with many positions on women’s social agency taken by the women’s wing of the Jaamat, but have felt that a possibility of dialogue is still there. My effort has been to convince these interlocutors that we need to renew the whole idea of modernity in our times and not stick slavishly to sorely outdated and discriminatory models just because they took shape in the hallowed times of ‘Keraleeya Navoddhthanam’ which feminist and dalit scholars — and those writing from critical minority-community perspectives as well — have critiques threadbare. I have indeed found real possibilities for engagement with the SIO and Solidarity. While these are not independent groups, and there are major points of critique and disagreement, I think it is important for a dialogue to happen. The SIO’s presencein the queer pride march at Thrissur, I think, says something about this.

    But I refuse to classify any of these groups as ‘more’ or ‘less’ ‘advanced’ or whatever. When the then-leader of the women’s wing of the NDF tried to persuade me to speak at their meeting, I explained to her clearly my reasons for refusal, but also told her that I was willing to have a dialogue with women in her group at my house, as friends, persons trying to grapple with changing times. I think that in the present times in which many individuals from the Muslim community are trying to find their own paths, it is criminal to bundle them all into despicably homogenised categories and condemn them ruthlessly. This is the surest way of stopping the processes of modern self-building through which people give up familiar and stultifying social affiliations and embark on their own journeys of the self. Two years later, I met this woman leader; she had left the NDF with sharp differences. But she was still seeking a fresh modernity in which islam was relevant and enabling. I write so that the quests of people like her are not interrupted just because petty ambitions elsewhere need to their insatiable appetites satisfied for the time being.


  5. In our society where there was virtual slavery in the form of the oppression of the dalit castes for the luxury of the upper castes as recently as one hundred years back and where the elite masters still operate in many veiled ways to revivify the dominance, democratization in different social groups is the necessary condition for the setting up of a genuine modernity, as truly stated by Devika, on the basis of debates on the grounds of democracy. It is one thing to try to enter into a dialogue with those groups which do not have concepts of democracy in their programs or in their organizational forms but still preach it just as a short cut to power or social acceptability just as the ‘parliamentaralised’ Marxist-Leninists and another matter to shun a group with a valid mass base and a democratic credence of many years to their credit just in the name of one Kunjalikkutty. It was the Muslim League that guided the Muslim community in the poverty laden pre-Gulf migration period not Jamaat-e-Islami Hind or the splinter groups in the post babur masjid period. It must be kept in my mind that the institution of Calicut University, in the late sixties, is just one of the many sparkling instances of initiating steps for education that led them to the threshold of modernity.


    1. Dear John

      No doubt. One is not denying the Muslim League’s role, just as one would not deny the role of the SNDP or the earlt 20th century reformisms in community formation. However, the late 20th century does present new challenges, which have also altered these early formations. Certainly the ML of C H Muhammed Koya is not the Muslim League of Kunhaalikkutty. I do believe that the present day Muslim League — I mean the top leadership which makes decisions — is neither capable of, nor interested in a creative engagement with the new kinds of impulses towards modernity emerging among the Muslims of north Kerala. Of course, I do not mean to say that there are no elements within the ML who are willing and ready for such engagement; but these people have yet to come out in the open.


  6. then what about jamaat and mujahid’s so called ‘muslim navothhanam’ happened in kerala? jamaat, mujahids and popular front are the part of islamic modernity? political islam is also the product of islamic modernity.it negated the sufism and other local/regional identities ,and thus the pluralism in islam.it introduced, practiced and pressured a monolithic islam among muslims. still the jamaat and others not changed.they are not the real representatives of kerala muslim.


    1. Dear Svathvavaadi
      I think the important thing is to neither fully swallow nor completely trash the claims of such groups, but to engage in serious debate about them. And I do not think it is possible to change any formation easily.

      Let’sget real about the cultural effects of globalization: all such currents tend to efface local and regional formations, and not just global Islam. For example, the specific kind of leftist politics in Kerala has been now replaced by a certain global model of neo-liberalized social democracy. But that does not mean that this new formation has no local specificities. Indeed, I’m sure we would not claim that the People’s Planning Campaign, which incorporated distinct elements of neoliberalized third-wave social democracy is the same as say, New Labor in Britain. There is of course a family resemblance, but these are not the same. I have continued to keep up a dialogue with sections of the left aligned to the CPM still precisely because Iam against homogenising any entity — and because I do believe that there are elements on the left, especially in groups like KSSP, with who one can still discuss a leftist and open future, even as we retain our mutual disagreements.

      And your point about the shaping of a monolithic Islam is precisely why the debate should be on the grounds of democracy. Simply condemning Jamaat and other formations as purveyors of monolithic islam without engaging with them seriously will only reinforce whatever thrust towards monolithic islam. BTW, I have two points to make here. The early 20th century saw a similar drive towards creating monolithic caste communities — effacing the specific practices, especially folk and non-aryan practices — of sub-castes and installing the practices of the caste-elite after putting them through an ‘Indianization- modernization’ process (i.e. the reference of such work was emergent Indian nationalism). Now, something similar is going on within islam at present, and the point of reference is global islam. Unless we draw upon the lessons of history — recognize how the processes of community homogenizations shaped new social elitism in Kerala — such trends cannot be critiqued at all. This is just the opposite of simply condemning the present processes — which, in my mind, would be unfair and tainted by fear of the Muslim. Secondly, I think such judgments about the positions of the Jamaat needs to be read in the light of their history too. Many of these groups, I believe, have moved somewhat from extremely regressive positions — whether they have openly abandoned their ideological sources or not. I don’t think it is necessary to wait until the latter happens– just as we don’t have to wait for Stalinists to give up Stalin openly.


  7. Instances of the dialogue may be between the party and the society as it happens when fifty per cent of the seats of local bodies have been reserved for women. Now the Muslim League has to reform itself to meet the new challenges only via democratization of the party by giving more room to the women. Hence it is not just a matter of one Kunhalikkutty or CH Mohammed Koya. Compare this to the predicament, of an educated devout Muslim woman in Government service or a Muslim girl student doing higher education, on the recent instance of the attack on the college lecturer. As a legitimate member of the emerging Muslim community asserting themselves socially, the instance of the attack will have only retrograde effect by causing damage to her social self.


    1. This is why we need to make a case for a ‘reflexive modernity’ in islam as well — however I am yet to be convinced that the ML is upto this. I do know that ML women leaders are very capable, but as far as I know, their gender conservatism is phenomenal and matches that of any other conservative islamic group. The ML has put up women candidates yes, but it id doubtful if their party accommodates them except in strictly gendered roles and positions — and indeed, they have to follow a highly gendered ‘code of conduct’. I do think that the Jamaat women, if they entered panchayats, would be as assertive — and as gender conservative. Therefore i think we should get rid of the habit of portraying ML as more gender-progressive and others, less. In fact espousing gender conservatism publicly to a greater or lesser extent is a strategy through which women stay in power in Kerala. As for forcing someone into any belief or practice, these are unlawful acts which should be promptly dealt with in the interests of democracy.


  8. The kerala main stream communism before globalization also had influenced by coloniel modernity.In a way development of democratic experience can not purely separate from current capitalist practices.Both are historical.The left and their critics don’t consider this.Both macro and micro democratic pactices/experiments have its own institutional and non-istitutional experience.So the globalisatoin and modernity etc are not totally negative.so the the governmental practice of ;janakeeyaasuuthranam’has both positive and negative elements .But the ideology and practice of CPM wants criticism.No dobt.

    The religion and communist party are not same .even communist beahave like religion.The institutional communism/Stalinism may disappear at any time,but the religion is not.Religion exist creating some like racial base.So the Extremism/terrorism based on religion is not like Maoism.The polarisation of mass is the result.

    The democratization of religion is the process against institutionisation of religion.The homogenization of community,islam is result of capitalist mode of istitutioanalisation.The jamaat and so called self esteemed muslim revivalist are becoming more istitutionalised.The jamaat took total negative approach towards secular/plural democracy before because of its hardcore ideas of political islam.But when its mass base and institutions increased it compelled to take practical position in Indian reality(in other countries also).
    Their decision to vote comes late 80s.The globalization/neo liberalism also comes just after that. Erlier their votes were mainly to globalization/liberalization till 2000.It needs more explanation.so avoid here.

    Muslim league’s practical position was more better.But its degeneration made a gap.the jamaat and popular front can not break UDF LDF tricks and their electoral agenda of minority politics.They also seek a space in two fronts.Till that their anti imperialist,pro neodemocratic verbalism will continue.

    I don’t disapprove the debate with any groups. Before it try to aware the inner reality of the islam/muslims. Consider all sections among muslims.

    .sorry for my poor English
    ജെ.ദേവികക്കിതെന്തു പറ്റി? (രണ്ടാം ഭാഗം)


  9. എല്ല പൌരന്മാർക്കും ഹൃദയംഗമമായ സ്വാതന്തൃദിനാശംസകൾ!
    നമുക്ക് അഭിമാനിക്കാം ;അയൽ രാജ്യങ്ങളൂടെ ജനങ്ങൾ പട്ടാള ഭരണത്തിൻ കീഴിൽ കഴിഞ്ഞപ്പോൾ നമ്മൾ ജനാധിപത്യം കാത്തു സൂക്ഷിച്ചൂ എന്നതിൽ.ആഗോള താപമാനം,മവോവാദികളെയും, പാകിസ്താൻ ഫ്രണ്ട്സ്നേയും അഴികളിലാക്കാൻ ഒറ്റകെട്ടായി നമുക്ക് നീങ്ങാം.ജയ് ഹിന്ദ് !


  10. Dear Devika,
    Your latest article with response to many comments in this blog came into my attention very late as I was lost in some other studies. Apart from the cruel, reckless and ruthless police hunt of Muslim youth in the wake of heinous act of chopping the right hand of T.J.Joseph, the blockheaded professor and the monger of hatred, which we had discussed in our previous postings and which I don’t want to repeat, your article treads upon the new realms of (1) gender conservatism taking shape as reformism in Muslim groups like JI’s women wing which, according to your opinion, just reinforces the reformist high Hindu gender inequality in Kerala, (2) global Islam and Arab Racism, (3) The role of Other books in imparting “modernist ideas” to Keralite Muslims and (4) social reformation among Ezhava and Keralite Muslims. Before I write my rejoinder on the above mentioned four sub-topics, I want to make a humble comment on PFI and police hunt of innocent Muslim youth. Triggering point of this new incendiary hunt was a dastardly act carried out by PFI. Then PFI’s cowardice in terms of hiding the culprits and accomplices contributed in augmenting the mess at exponential rate. This incendiary hunt could have been avoided if PFI activists who were behind this heinous act were bold enough not to hide, or not cruel enough to facilitate arrest of the innocents. Reading your beautiful article, I wished if this point hadn’t got missed, though I strongly believed it wasn’t deliberate.
    I do fully agree with you that JI and its offspring are the right agents to engage in the meaningful dialogues and debates as far as Islam is concerned since they do have a crystal clear vision on Islam, India and different religions and cultures. IUML has no religious content at all except in its label. It is not at all a movement of reformation in its origin and “growth”. It did not have any contribution in the renaissance that is taking place in the Muslim world. Moreover, in its current form, IUML is not even democratic when it is compared with JI which has adopted democratic culture and methodology from top to bottom ( There are three JI ex-presidents living in Kerala while Arif Ali is presiding over it. In IUML for a change in presidency a Thanghal has to die to be replaced with another Thanghal! What is the role of concept of Thanghal in a democratic set-up? I doubt if it can claim to be secular also considering the feelings of communalism it espouses among its rank and file and the knapsack of Mullas and Maulavis it carries with it ( as we have seen at Kottakkal summit) which seems to be an intrinsicate knot that IUML is unable to untie. All the problems that the contemporary Muslims of Kerala face in terms of extremism can be traced back to the wrong policies taken by IUML one after another during the mid eighties and beginning of nineties. Disappointment and desperation among Keralite Muslim masses vented out by some in the form of violence and extremism has more to do with IUML’s failure. Only the credulous, gullible and blind followers of IUML will believe that the institution like Calicut University is IUML’s contribution. There are other universities established in Kerala before Calicut ( eg. Trivandrum) and after Calicut ( MG and Kannur). It is duty of any government to build such facilities as population grows. Moreover, IUML is a party which is doomed and destined always to be on the wrong side of the history ( Just take the examples of Partition of India, Emergency, Demolition of Babri Mosque, Bagalpur Riot, Badakara- Beypur elections, Naser Madani Issue ect) and it has nothing in its scabbard to attract the educated Muslims. Its existence itself is on the social and educational backwardness of Muslims in Kerala. It seems to be a party that is afraid of Muslims growing educationally and socially since it might cause further erosion of soil under their feet. Then how Muslims will be able to prosper if they follow Muslim League? It is and was the largest single cause for the current predicament of Indian Muslims since it had a crucial, decisive and incontrovertible role in the partition of India . It worked as a stooge in weakening the prospect of Islam at global level. Moreover, it was not able to uplift Keralite Muslims educationally and socially despite being in Power almost for 35 years although it had availed almost complete support of Keralite Muslims. Muslim League as a party became fat at the expense of Keralite Muslims. You may just compare the legacies of Muslim League to Keralite Muslims and the support Muslim League got from the Keralite Muslims. ( here legacies of Zainudheen Makhdoum, Tippu’s rule, Samuthiri, Makthi Thanghal, Vakkam Maulavi, Khilafat Movement all of which had taken place in Kerala even before Mulsim League had taken visible form in Kerala has to be subtracted. Historically, Muslims were a business community and were not a backward community in Kerala socially and economically. Muslims came as merchants and continued to be merchants for a long time. Still they do hold a say and sway in the Keralite business. Then you have to minus the roles played by all religious organizations which has been very much active in Kerala, even before the formation of Muslim Leauge, in the upliftment of Keralite Muslims. Again, the flow of Gulf money also has to be taken into consideration in social and educational surge that is being seen among Keralite Muslims. Kerala Muslims did not suffer from the traumatic tragedy of partition also. – the case would have been almost same for Muslims in other state also if there was no partition – . Except once in Tellicherry, Kerala did not have so far any major communal riot targeting annihilation of Muslim resources. Then, we may wonder how Muslims became backward in Kerala despite Muslim League being in power for 35 years?! – This is called Magic of Muslim League in Kerala! This proves Muslim League has nothing to do with the ideology of Islam ( they don’t claim it also) nor with Muslims as a community ( which they do claim fervently ). It just uses the label of “Muslim” to exploit the communal feelings of innocent Muslim masses for the benefits and vested interests of elite class clinging with them.
    Dear Devika, I won’t be able to comment on the abstract concepts of gender conservatism and reformism until I do understand what is meant by “Gender Conservatism” and “Gender Reformism”. From the perspective of nature, woman is woman and man is man. This has not changed and will not change. Rights and responsibilities of man and woman have to be balanced taking into consideration of those natural aspects. From social perspective, liberation of woman should not be liberation from the womanhood. The question of Muslim women actually needs to be discussed from Koranic perspective, since Muslim women believe in Koran, regardless of whether we agree with it or not, as Final Revelation from God. Either we have to disprove divinity of Koran or we need to interpret Koranic verses related to the women as Amina Wadood and Fathima Mernissi do. If the conventional interpretation is middle eastern centric, the interpretation given by Amina Wadood and Fathima Mernissi is euro-American centric. ( the books published by Other books lack the smell of the soil. Apart from the comfort of reading it sitting on the easy chairs for the retired elite class, I don’t think the publications from Other books will be able to contribute anything substantially in the development of new ideas or thoughts as far as Keralite Muslims are concerned in general) What we need in this respect is women-centric interpretation within the wider canvas of human-centrism taking into consideration of her nature, psychology and physiology, sociology including family, As I understood from some American women in my chat with them while I was there, why and for what most of the western and non-Muslim women are striving and working hard is to get a chance of leading the peaceful life of the Muslim Women without having any need of bearing the double burden the modernity has put on their frail shoulders in the guise of liberation and emancipation while it was only the result of capitalistic greed to commercialize the services provided by the noble institution of family! Koran clearly considers women as a privileged class. I am astonished to observe how much Koran respects women even in its selection and usage of the words itself. For rg. Just go through the verses 6-9 of Chapter 24 which deal with the issue of accusation between husband and wife each other. You will feel Koran refuses, with a kind of arrogance to an extent, to use the word “liar” when it is related to woman even while she might be lying saying “if he is of the truthful”. When man speaks he says “ if he should be among the liars” Again women calls man “liar” when she said “ indeed, he is of the liar”. Even while being accused, Koran wants man to give due respect to woman even in the selection and usage of the words! From Koranic perspective it seems man’s position in relation to woman is that of a servant who facilitates her life to make it easy and comfortable. Moreover, prophet also had said, the best among the men is the one who serves his wife in the best of all manners. If we are to disprove the divinity of Koran (which I don’t believe we can considering the invincible challenge it has posed to the humanity as a proof for the prophet-hood of Mohammad), there arises questions as to what will be the alternative, how we will be able to substantiate whatever this alternative proposes is superior to what Koran proposes, what is the authority of the alternative, on what basis Muslim women have to follow it ect. I am of the opinion that Muslim women won’t be ready to sacrifice their life at the altar of anybody’s whims and chimeras. For them, life is not to be left for anybody’s inferences and speculations. Koran has got a clear logic and sense when it unequivocally and explicitly postulated the fact of Divine Guidance from three angles. .First, human being is in need of guidance from God to know the truth as human knowledge has got its own strength and weakness, limits and limitations, frailties and flaws. Koran says: “ Nay! Verily, man does transgress all bounds since he considers himself self sufficient. Surely! Unto your Lord is your recourse (for guidance)” (96: 6-8). Again it says: “ And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little” ( 17:85) (that’s why we have got the capability to think – Otherwise, there wouldn’t have any requirement to think) Secondly, God has taken it as His own responsibility to show the straight path and provide guidance to Human kind taking into consideration of innumerable fallacious paths that lead human being astray. Koran says: “And upon Allah is the responsibility to show the straight path especially when there are way that turn aside” (16:9) Thirdly, it is Right of God to say humankind how to operate its life on this planet as both human being, earth and all the universe are creations of God. Koran says: “His is the creation and the commandment” (7:54) . For better understanding of the readers like me, I think you need to elaborate little bit more on how the position of woman in Islam as espoused JI’s women wing reinforces gender inequality like that of Uppers Hindu Castes. Moreover, in what realms you believe there is gender inequality in Islam and how the proportion has to be changed to make it equal.
    Dear Devika, I think you seems to have wrongly used the word “Arab Racism” for “Arab Nationalism”. It is first time I came to here about Arab Racism. There is nothing called Arab Racism and nobody who had any chance to travel to the middle eastern part of the world would be able to mention it. More than 96% of Arabs are Muslims. Global Islam that you had mentioned and Arab racism (which actually does not exist) won’t go hand in hand. As Alexis Carrel in his well known book “Man, the Unknown” had mentioned, Koran is the only Book that addresses the Humanity as it is without any other attributes. For eg. if you go through the Bible, you will feel it as a Book of Israelites and its god as an ethnocentric God. Secondly, appeal of Islam crosses all the borders and barriers, races and castes, colors and camouflages. Koran says: O Mankind! We have created you from a male and female. We made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is that of who is vigilant in his life. Even the nationalism, alien to Islam and Koran, was a 20th century development among Muslims imported from and implanted by the west. The Arabs and Muslims, against their own will, were brought down from the broader plain of Islam into the narrow attic of Arab and other nationalism which had a disastrous effects on the culture and civilization of humanity. 1st and 2nd WW were the result of nationalism. All the wars Europe and had faced during 18th and 19th century also were due to nationalism. Now, the proponents and exponents of nationalism understands the wreck it has caused to them and are seen trying to overcome it without admitting it to the world. This is what we see and read from the formation of European Union. Apart from the wreck it had wreaked on the society, Arab nationalism also was a fiasco. Moreover, it caused for further deterioration of Arabs. I don’t think we will be able to alienate Muslims, wherever they are, from the effect of Global Islam since all their prayers, fasting, Hajj and other cardinal observations are homogenous in nature regardless of whether you are in Turkey or in Indonesia, America or Arabia, Africa or Australia or India. Even the language that is used also is same. The set of beliefs is same. The prophets they believe are same, the Book is one and the Direction ( Qibla ) is one. Islam altogether seems to be integrating the various nations and communities into one. Even while the Muslims do piss, regardless of which part of the world you belong to, you can observe they globally comply with 8 rules taught by prophet Mohammad. ( Not to piss in a lake, nor under a tree nor in a burrow, nor on the way, Not to piss in such a way that splashes itself on any part of your own body, not to piss facing Mecca, to clean with water after pissing, if water is not available, clean with a tissue or piece of stone, enter the pissing area first with the left leg and come out of it first with the right leg…). So, let me know specifically how we will be able to disengage Muslims from the effects of global Islam, what will be its pros and cons. Finally, I have difference of opinion with you when you compared Social reformation taking place among Muslims with the social reformation that had taken place during 19th century among Ezhavas of Kerala. First of all, the social reformation among Muslims is within the boundaries of Koran and prophet’s tradition while Ezahavas of Kerala had lost whatever such a basis they had in the passage of time. Secondly, social reformation among Muslims is a continuous process globally and locally. According to Islamic doctrines, some personalities of renaissance, reformation and restoration appear in each century among Muslims as prophesied by prophet Mohammad and proven by the Muslim history. As per my study, Keralite Ezhavas originally belonged to the way of life taught by prophet Budha. ( According to Koran – Budha was a prophet (95:1, 21:85 – The thinker who came at later stages considered him as a prophet of atheism since he was against all gods except the real one – Just like Islamic principle of truth starts with “ No God” ). Kerala like Sri Lanka was a bastion of followers of Budha as we can easily understand it from the names of the places starting with or ending with Madam from Parashala to Manjeswaram. The history of Kodum-Kola-Ur ( with an original name of Musris) also will help us to unearth the history of relationship between Ezhavas and the teachings of Budha. Ezhava and Ezham of Srilanka (the real connotation between these words) also is a matter of study. The story of Maveli ( Maha Bali) which promulgates equality among human being ( quite alien to Hindu culture) also supports it. In the passage of time, Ezhavas of Kerala lost their identity and got embraced by Hindu culture. So, as long as the reformation among Ezahvas is not based on the teachings of prophet Budha, it cannot be compared at all with the social reformation taking place among Muslims. Muslim reformation is an effort to regain, retain and restore while Ezhavas was a matter of losing identity further and further. Both are totally different both in context and content.


    1. Dear Civillio

      I think I would differ from you somewhat on many points you raise. While I’m aware of the limitations of the ML especially in its present phase, I would not trash its earlier achievements so readily. Having closely read the debates around the formation of the Malappuram district, I would be very wary of dismissing the efforts of people like C H Muhammed Koya. Secondly, I do think we differ almost fully on our understandings of gender. I, as a historian of gender in Kerala, can well argue that the statement that you make, ” From the perspective of nature, woman is woman and man is man”. is precisely what the early 20th century social reformers made and in that sense, this notion of gender, and gender justice that follows it, is no different from those of the high-hindu reformisms of Kerala which shaped the Malayalee new elite. In that case, this can be expected to produce more or less the same effects as the latter. I am against naturalising gender, treating it as a given set forth by nature — and viewing women’s role as defined in terms of biology — notions of which are now highly contested. These ideas have been used extensively in the 20th century to keep women in place — to give them a limited and inferior role in the public, which were extensions of their ostensibly-‘nature-ordained’ maternal role and to deny them full membership in the public as citizens. I do that Wadud or Mernissi provide important resources against such reduction and to dismiss them as ‘eurocentric’ is to stick with an idea, which, by the way, was also of early 20th century Muslim reformism, informing the ML’s own perception of gender. I do not think, for one, that the adaptation of ideas from the west does not make anything eurocentric, necessarily. BTW, this was the most common slur used against early 20th century feminists who tried to critique high-Hindu social reformism — that they are ‘western’ and ‘alien’! For that matter almost all liberating ideologies in Kerala have been ‘foreign’ and well, ‘western’ — flowing from economic centres to Kerala at different moments in the past. I would say the same against your rubbishing of the work of Other Books — they do not ‘smell of the soil’, you claim . Really? And what smells of it? High-hindu gender reformism in Muslim garb? And I do believe that racism exists outside the white world — it does exist amply in the arab world and it would be complete denial of truth that hits anyone who visits some of the arab societies in the face. I’m worried about how you constantly quote books to me. I am an empirical researcher, and I’m interested in how faiths of different sort, religious, political and otherwise, work on the ground. While highlighting the theoretical possibilities of faith is an important exercise (something that Other Books does but perhaps not in a way that you would like), it should not be a way of obstructing our efforts to critique the manners in which these are manifest on the ground. Other Books does not do it, but unfortunately, the effect of your exposition is precisely that.

      What I often detect in these sort of responses is a reluctant to permit any kind of internal questioning of an identity. Typical of liberal identity politics, the need is for fixed and rigid identities that can be used effectively for bargaining with the state in the public domain. Historically, naturalized gender has been fundamental to the solidification of such identities in Kerala. The identity politics that characterised the new social movements, however, never installed such an identity installed for all times at their heart — and hence the huge contestation over central identities that form the very stuff of their histories. In my reckoning, the more powerful and older muslim groups in kerala tend to cling with the safe and rigidified identities of the early liberal identity politics era. The younger folk, however, do see the possibilities of a more ‘reflexive modernity’. I must say that that Iam with the latter, and not with the former — while I would apply the same standards for conservatisms, high-hindu or muslim, and refuse to say that the latter alone is regressive.


  11. The tendency to pigeonhole sb into a group just because they try to critically engage with the group is so rampant even among our intellectuals. This blog is a good example of that. Devika has not written this post as a spokesperson of Popular Front, Jamat-e-Islami or even Other Books. While she rejects the NDF outright as a non-debatable group owing to its undemocratic stance, she is concerned about the high-handedness of law-enforcing authorities under the facade of dealing with the ‘Popular Front’. Despite differences, she wants to engage herself in a debate with J-e-I, since there are really healthy grounds for that critical engagement.
    This is clear from her direct narrative. But Sajan wants to know whether the poor teacher Joseph has no human rights (As if Devika is speaking for the popular front, or for that matter, speaking about that issue) and Swathavdi needs explanation as to whether J-e-I, Mujahid and NDF come under the same Islamic modernity. (As if she endorses the policies of these groups.)
    This pigeonholing is what in a sense happened in the case of Other Books. A leading, secular (also good) Muslim Malayalam critic has once said that Other Books is ‘under’ NDF. Literally it’s true, since some NDF offices work ‘atop’ Other Books. Deshabimani reporter so quickly noticed this association of neighbourhood that s/he headlined: Book stall of Popular Front was raided.
    We can excuse the journalist, since under the burden of ideology, work shedule and prejudice, she could not help seeing the raid in that way. But can we excuse the critic, who is an intellectual who has penetration in all journals and academic fora?
    Intellectuals or what, we, as Desmond Morris said, tend to see a fellow human being as an other who’s up in arms individually and collectively to attack our narcissus.


  12. @John Civillo
    Thanks for your comments on Other Books. Would you be please kind enough to comment on few more titles brought out by Other Books to me? I would be glad if your comments are with special reference to ‘SMELL OF THE SOIL’

    Tuhfat al Mujahidin
    Pracheena Malabar
    Ayyankali Dalit leader of Organic protest
    Brhmana Marxism
    Scharinte Kerala Parisaram



  13. dear devika,

    solidification of two identities(as you say former and latter) took place at same time.solidfied former identity is not the same before it.oraganisation/institutionalisation of identity was the main reason for solidification.in other way modernising social reality is the reason.The infuence of islamicmodernity was very clear.It is queit natural.I dont blame it.The solidified your ‘former more regressive groups are also not so homogenised.The muslim masses in majoriy considered as sunnis.But really or practical life they break the barriers of sunni clergies.So the debate with them more relevant.many sunny womens dont wear pardah or like that.They go to durgahs but gain well education,go for job,sing,dance,act etc.But latter women are more bothering about strict following of ‘their religion’.

    if we measure the role of all groups in democritisation/modernisation quantitatively,the muslim league,s role is veru huge.when jamaat turned its face against indian democratic process ML involved in without any ideological barriers like jamaat.Jamaat had to amend its constitution to make it suit indian electoral process.ML’s role in muslim girl’s education and participation in politics is greater than other groups.

    the socio-political and organisatinal pressures in indian reality also have to be analised in jamaat’s changing policies.The institutionalised islam,growing masses and istitutions,presense of elite classes than before etc pressured them compete with other groups in bargaining.all their tactics to be analised considering these also.


    1. Dear Svathvavaadi

      No, I don’t debate only with people who resemble me — that isn’t really debate at all. There are of course Sunni women who may not live under the strictures of their community, well, I have many friends among them. They also generally live within the terms of the early 20th century model of gendered modernity. Those are not the people who are seeking modernity and still grappling with the question of how to keep religion relevant in their lives. And none of your points about the Muslim League affect my observation that it functions within the limits of early 20th century high-hinduised modernity. As I told you, I am not convinced about why one should necessarily be hostile to the Jamaat, and be well-disposed towards ML even before beginning the debate. I am not convinced by the common-sense generated around each of these entities. My own explorations lead me to believe that neither of these groups should be homogenized and that there are sections in both who may be interlocutors. But seeking such points cannot begin with these common sensical views of the good muslim (who is less bothered about religion) and the bad muslim (who is concerned about religion).


  14. Dear Devika,
    Thanks for response. Highly appreciated. I do have a genuine feeling of learning new things from your articles regardless of whether we agree with it each other or not. Our minds, free of prejudices and reservations, undergo for a distillation process, especially when we do have difference of opinions. I do keep my mind open to all ideas just like my senses are and I do believe closure of one’s mind is an act against one’s own nature which is worth of curse from the creator of nature itself. (Glorious Koran: 2: 88). At the same time, there is an inbuilt system of filtering set-up by nature for our senses which is not found for our minds except in terms of voluntary thought process before we absorb those ideas. So, the ideas presented in your article also undergo such a process before it is absorbed or expunged.
    Regarding IUML: I know this is a peripheral topic got intruded into this discussion through some others’ responses in this blog. So, I don’t want this to constitute a major body of our discussion as I will be closing my arguments on IUML with this posting. I don’t want to deny the right of IUML to work as a political organization as they wish. I also don’t want to deny any “achievement” that IUML might have attained as a political party, however meager it may be. In my opinion those “achievements” are not worth of mentioning at all when we compare the support that was extended to IUML by Keralite Muslims and take into consideration of their failures. Moreover, I do have concerns on their “Muslim” plank based on its own history. I do believe the historical role played by ML was terrible and disastrous as far as the people of subcontinent are concerned. The ripples of the devastation wreaked by ML as an organization are still visible in the subcontinent and I don’t think the people of the subcontinent will be able to evade its aftermaths even in distant future . My points are: IUML has no religious content except in its label. It isn’t and wasn’t a movement of reformation in its origin or growth. It did not have any role in the renaissance of Islam. It did not even produce a thinker of caliber in its whole history. It is not democratic in its current set-up. As a communal organization, its claim of being secular is also a matter of dispute considering the feelings of communalism it espouses among its rank and file as mentioned in Marad Report and the knapsack of Mullas and Maulavis it carries with it as seen in its Kottappuram Summit. Hierarchy of the organization itself is antithetical to democratic methodology and the concepts of secularism. Most of the times, IUML’s leadership looks to be a bunch of fools craving for flattery who naturally have failed in nurturing a culture of healthy criticism. I never had seen such a shameless and unwise leadership when it had organized a state level reception at Calicut airport for Kunhalikkutty on the eve of a scandal against him, regardless of whether it was true or false. (you may compare it with what Joseph’s party had done when there was a complaint against him while he was flying and what the party of Neelalohida Das Nadar had done when there was a complaint registered against him by Nalini Netto ect.)
    ML has crucial role in and has to bear the responsibility for the predicament of Muslims in the subcontinent in general and Indian Muslims in particular. It was a complete anathema for the then Islamic religious scholars of undivided India (like Abul Kalam Azad, Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, Zakir Hussein, Maudoodi ect) while it was the progeny of Nawabs and leaders like Jinnah and Liyaqat who had nothing to do with Islamic life ( It is the incurable genetic problem – It actually cheats common innocent Muslims using the label of “Muslim”). IUML’s contributions to Keralite Muslims need to be analyzed in a wider canvas of history of Keralite Muslims, their socio-economic and political background before post-independence emergence of IUML in Kerala, the historical contribution of other Muslim religious personalities an organizations, the role played by gulf money from sixties onwards, the standard of life of other communities in Kerala before 60 years and now in comparison with the standard of life of Muslims during the corresponding period and its cumulative effects, share in power Muslims of Kerala has got due to IUML factor (Share in power is not to be measured as the number of corrupt ministers IUML had in the government from time to time) and other factors in the light of Sachar Committeee and other reports, Educational backwardness of Keralite Muslims despite Ministry of Education being handled mostly by IUML and the historic upper-hand Keralite Muslims had in Kerala’s socio-economic fields. So, in my opinion , IUML’s achievements is not even worth of mentioning at all. Personally, I will not consider a person who claims a net profit of Rs. 200/- per annum for the investment of Rs. 20 million he has made as smart. Then, we need to analyze the opportunity cost of IUML as well. Furthermore, all the problems that the contemporary Muslims of Kerala face in terms of extremism can be traced back to the wrong policies taken by IUML one after another during the mid eighties and beginning of nineties. Disappointment and desperation with IUML among Keralite Muslim masses is being vented out by some in the form of violence and extremism. Apart from the above, you may just observe what is IUML’s attitude towards Maudany issue and its dense and deliberate silence on it. It proves again and again and cements the genetic problem it has and had. It is a party destined and doomed to be always on the wrong side of the history ( from partition to the issue of Maudany). Period.
    Understanding of gender and inequality: I do have deep respect towards you as the gender historian of Kerala. However, I do fail to grasp the point you make on this subject. I still did not understand what changes we have to make in the proportion to make it equal. Here the subject of discussion was the reformism that is taking place among Muslim women in Kerala. Your opinion is that it is reinforcement of conservatism in disguise. Conservatism is inclination to maintain the existing order and opposition to change in the established order. What I did mention was that reformism among Muslim women has to be discussed from Koranic perspective since Muslim women believe in Koran, regardless of whether we agree with it or not, as the final revelation from God. So, in my opinion, reformism among Muslim women, unless and until we are capable to de-Islamize them, will be three dimensional as long as they do remain “Muslim”. Regaining whatever they might have lost in the passage of time in terms of rights, responsibilities and opportunities from Islamic perspective. Retaining everything good they do enjoy from Islamic perspective resisting with teeth and nail all kinds of efforts waged in the name of “modernity”, “ feminism” ect. that may take away all the privileges that they do enjoy right now and Restoration in terms of correcting the aberrations and deviations that might have taken place in understanding Koranic verses and prophet’s sayings related to women. These acts require brass and audacity to question the existing order on the ground. It also shows will and way to change and for the change. Here, I do agree with the point that there is an ample opportunity for a wider and comprehensive women-centric interpretation of Koran in the wider canvas of human centrism. I am also against naturalising gender even though I will take into consideration of nature. The modern world also takes into consideration of those natural aspects when it assigns the duty for women. That’s why there is no country in this world with a sports team in any type of play with mixing of men and women. Naturalising of gender is quite different from considering the natural aspects of the issue. I am also against treating women as a given set forth by nature — and viewing women’s role as defined in terms of biology only even though I won’t be willing to discard biological differences for the sake of artificial homogeneity. Here, we need to understand the fact that woman is not a stand-alone phenomenon in our social life. So, whatever we may suggest and propose in this respect has to fit in well in the broader canvas of our social life as a whole. For this, we have to look into the subject holistically. This does not necessarily mean that women have to be confined within the stony walls of the house, nor does it mean a forceful expulsion from her maternal role also. This does not mean women to be given only a limited and inferior role in the public, nor does it mean the denial of the role she plays along with her other half in our private life. This does not mean denial of full membership for women in the public as citizens, nor does it mean the denial of private aspects of life which as a part constitute the fullness of our life as a whole . Prophet Mohammad’s first wife Khadija was a well known business women of Mecca and prophet Mohammad worked under her as a merchandiser. Queen of Sheba that Koran elucidates as wiser than her ministers is another example. We can see hundreds of such women personalities in the Islamic history as well. While such opportunities, rights and responsibilities are not to be denied for women as full citizens, that does not mean we have to make earning for livelihood, for example, upon the shoulder of women bound by law as a norm, as it is for men, which will render tens of millions of women helpless. I also don’t think any thing that’s coming from Europe and/or America has to be rejected as such. At the same time, we need not to swallow whatever coming from the west considering it as superior to us. We need to approach it in an analytical way. In this respect, I am sorry for making a generic comment on the books published by Other Books. I was just referring to the books written by Amina Wadood and Fathima Mernissi… With all due respect to their works, I still do hold the opinion that those books lack the smell of the soil from Islamic (since they are trying to interpret Islam – the seed that they tried to sow) and Keralite ( the soil Other Books wanted to sow the seed) perspectives.
    Dear Devika, I also won’t say Racism does not exist out side the white world. What I mentioned was that Arab Racism is a misnomer. I mentioned it from my own background as a persona who have travelled to the different parts of Arab world at different times and lived in the different parts of Arab world quite a long time. Moreover, I have gone through the set of their beliefs also in this respect. I think it is a matter of difference of perception between me and you on the term Racism itself. What I meant was there is no belief among Arabs in terms of that race accounts for difference in human character and/or ability (Eg. White Racism Vs. the Black) and that a particular race is superior to others (Eg. Jewish & Hitler’s Aryan Racism). This does not mean there is no discrimination based on nationality or religion among Arabs which also is un-Islamic since the concept of Justice constitutes the core and the crux of Islam. Moreover, 96% of modern Arabs come from a mixture of descendants of original Aariba people who had lived in Yemen and Arabia, descendants of Ishmael (first son of Abraham from Hager) who had migrated to Mecca from Egypt (Hager) and Iraq (Ishmael) and descendants of Ishaque and Jacob (Original Israelites who had inhabited in Iraq, Shaam and Egypt) and Coptics of Egypt all of whom had embraced Islam after coming of prophet Mohammad as foretold in both Torah and Injeel ( The Old and New Testaments). Now all of them are called Arabs based on the language they speak commonly and not from the racial point of view. Moreover, since more than 96% of Arabs believe in Islam, Racism never can become a main stream element in their socio-cultural life.
    I am sorry for quoting abundantly from the Book if it has disturbed you in any way. I have deep respect toward you as an empirical researcher. Actually, I also accepted prophet-hood of Mohammad from the perspective of empiricism which requires evidence from our own experiences. Prophet Mohammad is an incontrovertible experience of history. He is not a mythological character. He can be read in the complete light of the history in its minute details. Now, I wanted evidence for his prophet-hood. He as well as Koran said unequivocally and explicitly that Koran is the evidence for his prophet-hood. Then, I wanted to know if the evidence remains as it is or not. Again, I wanted if the evidence is still challengeable or not. So, I saw the standing challenge in Koran itself when it said “if you are in doubt about what we have sent down (the Koran) upon our servant (i.e., Mohammad), then produce a Sura the like thereof and call upon your witnesses and supporters other than Allah, if you are truthful… But, if you do not – and you will never be able to (Koran2: 23-24). I came to know it is an ideology that makes knowledge as a perquisite of belief, evidence as a perquisite of knowledge and the evidence subject to be challenged by any. Then I again checked if Prophet Mohammad and Koran has got any other claims that we can prove empirically. Both Mohammad and Koran had unequivocally claimed that coming of prophet Mohammad as final prophet was foretold in the Old and New Testaments. So, I personally made sure of it in both testaments as my own experience in an incontrovertible way. As an empirical researcher you have all the right to analyze how faiths of different sort, religious, political and otherwise, work on the ground and you may find contrast between theory and practice in some realms and identification of theory and practice in other realms. This contrast is not limited to faiths and religions only. It is even applicable to the laws of the state as well. This does not mean as you have rightly mentioned that we should not highlight the theoretical validity of a faith or law. I fully agree with you that it should not be a way of obstructing our efforts to critique the manners in which these are manifest on the ground. For this also, we have to rely on the theory which has got already validated as a Law from logical and scriptural perspectives. So, I also cannot be reluctant to permit any kind of internal questioning of an identity, deviated or distorted, as long as it is within the scope and parameters of the said theoretical validity which is proven empirically.
    Dear Ausaf, I am sorry for having made a generic reference on the books published by Other Books, although the intent of the comment was only applicable to the said books of Wadud and Mernissi. I have not gone through most of the books mentioned in your posting even though I know the subject matter of Thuhfathul Mujahideen. I will go through it and will give you my comment at a later stage. Thanks for bringing an inadvertent error in terms of generalization made by me into my attention.


  15. dear devika,
    the modern type of oranisational experiece been had in muslim after 20s,after muslim aikya sangham.orthodox sunnis and ‘reformist’ vahabis(mujahid) introduced ,established organisations of religion at same time.New type of institutionalisation it began.capitalist mode of religion formed from this,however the feudel relations had early existed.

    malabar muslims had divided as sunni and mujahid.still the a great number of traditional followers of islam/sunni are not very interested in two sunni organisation’s claim of real truth.This neutral minds of muslim helped league and left. In other way congress(national movement),ML and Left strenthened this neutralising process in reverse also.The liberalising muslim or islam mainly depends on these sections.

    mujahid muslims formed and expanded along with their organisation.so they are more bonded with organisational rigidity.In sunni muslims we can see defferent political openions and activists.Educated elites and middle class liberally existed in sunny mass.they got support from ML and congress and left also.
    this diversity less in mujahids.But in jamaat e islami the islam become more rigid and monolithic.More ‘purified’ islam it introduced.Homoginisation reached at peak stage in jamaat.Even in politics it not allows different openions.

    dear devika, however i think your attempt to debate with jamaatpeople is not a great mistake.You must can debate with jamaat/GIO women freely/directly.I think your engagement with solidaritymen will limit your possiblity to free continuous debate with their women.
    I wish you will find many other possibilities also for bebate with muslim women.


    1. Dear Swathvadi

      Thanks for approving of my attempts to engage with muslims. But please stop sounding like a kind uncle advising a little kid on how to cross the road. Maybe it is my female name that makes you give me a tiny little intellectual pinch, but nicely mixed with lots of kind and encouraging words! No, I am not angry — just laughing. Doesn’t matter how grownup a woman is, how much work she does to learn and grow in her mind, she’s always the little girl needing advice!


  16. dear devika,

    this is not my advice to you,but my openion.I know you studied a lot of about this than me.i shared only my doubts.i do this with male intellectual also.A person like me inside the community willhave such doubts.It is quite natural.You doubt me i cosider you as a girl.Now i think it is more better to the men like me only engage dialogue with men writers. A common man like me with less ideas can easily rise any question before men writers. Can’t we do that with woman like you? i will ask any questions/doubts before any great personality.sometime i may advice too.Any woman can question me. criticise me, advice me.i have no complex on my manhood or my qualifications,superiority or inferiority.

    this is my first experience with a great woman writer.till now i have never engaged with any other woman writers before. sorry for all.

    you says’But seeking such points cannot begin with these common sensical views of the good muslim (who is less bothered about religion) and the bad muslim (who is concerned about religion).’

    It is not the matter of good and bad muslims.I have put their religion in inverted coma.their religion is the matter.they are concerned about what religion? that’s my question.we,the people inside religion face this reality.the people like you outside community(men or women)try to understand all faces of these realities.i dont think i am fully aware of these realities.many men and women outside the community may have studied well.i know my limits.

    I think muslim and jamaat are different.jamaat”s neo conservative ideas serve neoliberal capitalist interests.its democracy and liberalism are only some quantitative .if this is an advice it is to men writers too.bye


    1. Dear Swathvaadi

      Ok, thanks for the clarification regarding the patronising tone. I do feel it doesn’t help debate at all. And I am not a great woman writer, just an ordinary hardworking woman researcher — so let us debate like friends!

      I still can’t grasp the Jamaat as a homogenised entity, the way you do — what I see are many positions within the Jamaat some of which may be described as neoconservative and others oriented away from conservatism and indeed quite firmly opposed to neoliberal capitalism. And muslim too is not a flat and singular identity — there are layers to muslimness, and there is no reason why jamaat followers should be shoved outside the muslim community because they happen to hold more conservative views. That would not be the tolerance — and much less the reciprocal understanding — that all of us love to advance as an ideal. In any case, Kerala’s muslim community does have a vibrant internal public sphere that can debate such issues — there is no reason that people outside should agonize about it (I mean myself only). My engagement with Jamaat is to share the insights i have gained from intensive study of Kerala’s social transformation of the 20th century. I would be willing to debate with ML if they were interested. But they are hardly bothered by questions of social transformation and social renewal; they are quite happy with early 20th century social reformism. therefore i have very little to share with them. Not to speak with people who are raising social questions anew would be a travesty of my ethics as a scholar.


  17. Dear Dr. Devika,

    Thank you for a nuanced exploration of issues relating to Muslim community in Kerala. It is heartening to see such engagements with religion, especially on the “woman question”. I was wondering whether you have come across critiques on the state of Muslim personal law in the “internal public sphere” you refer above.


    1. Yes indeed but not always in direct ways. A number of issues pertaining to women’s position within the community and within faith were discussed, and from the 1990s onwards. I have not studied these debates at length, but one thing that is clear is that there is huge resistance to upsetting a certain consensus about women’s gendered roles within the community; and like most other community public spheres, this too is heavily dominated by men. Many muslim women who I have spoken with on this argue that they have chosen to fight for recognition as full believers and not directly for full inclusion as equal community members because they feel that strategically, securing the first is essential to securing the second.


  18. dear devika,

    thank you.Liberal individuals in muslim community are suspicion on the engagements of ‘outsider’ intellectuals with jamaat and NDF. i also share this.
    Its reason have to be explained.

    muslim include jamaat, no doubt.But jamaat no reflects liberal face of muslim best.

    Muslim faces many external challenges(imperialist hatred agenda,islamophobia,hindu fascist threats in india,etc).The image creating by media about muslim disturb the people like you. they try to engage with different muslim group positively.I think all their interaction with any muslim are positive in a manner.But in this engagements with the neo conservative like jamaat gets upperhands.this makes barriers inthe liberalising/democritising process within the community in longterms.In short terms it may be positive.Very atractive campains,high organisational skill,hard homework on intellectual shere,planned propaganda etc are inviting intellectual impression on jamaat.Since after emergency jamaat started planned ascociation/engagement with democratic/liberal intellectuals.But it no made any positive impact in community.You say your debate with jamaat is to share your insights gained from your studies.But jamaat has a planned/well prepared but vigilant agenda on intellectual area.They started madhyamam daily to overcome the threats experienced in controversial Shabano begum case. i dont bother, like hamid chennamangaloor,about madhyamam’s influence in public concious of kerala or it will split it.Madhyamam’s presence create some positive elements.
    But inside the community jamaat and madhyamam makes negative impacts.It influence or create a type of muslim ‘public'(?) conciousness within the community(in my assessment,madhymam positive in outside community because it fill many other spaces. but negative in inside community,). so still i say the debate should be multi level using all possibilities.it may be produced more positive results.

    organisation bonded religion of jamaat is more homoginised than others.i already explained it in former comments ,but you disapproved.
    i dont think i reflects all aspiration inthe community.you may correct or some sections may be growing within jamaat as pro liberal/anti neo conservatists.I think neoconseravatism is the new religion serving neoliberalist capitalism.I am not able to analise this in detail.But the current role of islamic economy/islamic banking,insurance etc. should be analised with neoliberal economy.In an overview the jamaat supported international economic institutions are very naturally associating with globalised imperialist economy.So i am suspicion on jamaat,s Cultural/intellectual verbosity.


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