Guest Post by FAHAD HASHMI
‘It was all very well to say “Drink me”, but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not”; for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that, if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison,” it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.’
(Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland)
The dissection of state and church by the scalpel of human ingenuity has been one of the most important achievements of human history. However, there has also been relentless endeavour for the reversal of this phenomenon by religio-political parties. Such parties often try to enter the political arena under the guise of a secular name. In 2011, Jamaat-e Islami of India, called Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), came up with its own political party titled Welfare Party of India (WPI). A couple of months back the Parliamentary Board of WPI has declared that it would fight election in ten states of India. This has sent a ripple of apprehension as well as excitement among the students of political Islam, and those circles having interest in Islamism. The obvious reason is that participation in elections by JIH was taboo until very recently. There are a few questions that are making the rounds. How come it is going to embrace taghoot (idolatry) all of a sudden? By Jamaat’s definition of this term, parliament is the throne of taghoot, and constitution is the binary opposite of the Quran. How should one understand coming up of the Welfare Party against the backdrop of Jamaat’s own ideology? How is it ‘the party’, as it claims to be, with a difference now?
These questions are not out of place if one takes into account the ideology on which the whole edifice of Jamaat is premised. There are two poles—Islam and Jahilliya (literally, ignorance, used to signify the time before Islam, or the state of those who have not accepted Islam) around which the entire discourse of Jamaat revolves, and a perpetual tension hangs between the binary opposites. . To Maududi—the architect of Jamaat, sovereignty rests with God that ought not to be shared by human beings. That implies that the principle on which today’s modern nation state is based is ‘people’s dominion over people’, which is patently against the sovereignty of God. Therefore, to Maududi and his followers, the nation state quintessentially epitomises jahiliyya, the fountainhead of all evils and usurper of God’s sovereignty. Following from this, according to Maududi, Muslims should believe in God not only in the metaphysical realm but in political realm too. Armed with this ideology, Jamaat has been working for the establishment of an Islamic state since its inception. The notion of jahiliyya which is vague and amorphous, at Islamism’s disposal makes Jamaat’s ideology single, exclusive and highly problematic in any political arena where multiplicity of ideologies is contesting. For demonising one’s opponent anything could be labelled jahiliyya, viz. democracy, secularism, modernity, ideologies, and so forth. This helps us in understanding Jamaat in terms of a totalitarian party. If one reads some of the booklets penned by Maududi, and particularly his reductionist reading of jihad, one realises in no time that totalitarianism is written into the very fabric of his ideology.
It is easy for a student of political Islam to infer that the formation of WPI is only a tactical move by JIH in order to use the institutions and the procedures of democracy to have a say in the country’s politics. The usage of democracy, human rights and other such words is meant for putting up a secular and liberal face. For a good deal of time Jamaat has regularly been searching ways and means of ‘going public’. To this end it is forging intra as well as inter-religious alliances at local and national levels, and has been engaged in a good deal of welfare programmes for widening its social base and getting social legitimacy. The question needs asking: is coming up of WPI an effort, on JIH’s part, to capture the power of the state through ballot box in the long run? It is too early to answer such questions. Since Jamaat-e -Islami of India along with its siblings in Pakistan and Bangladesh are species of the same genus, therefore, the least one could say about it in India is that it holds the same aspiration of altering the political landscape of the country. Coming to power is remotely impossible in India even in distant future either at national or regional level. However, it would try getting political clout, and having its say in politics after having widened its base in Muslim dominated constituencies over the course of time.
One of the objectives entailed in article 2 of the constitution of the WPI is ‘promotion of ethical values and high moral standards in the political system and other realms of public life’. The above objective smacks of ushering in a morally upright and a puritan society based on Jamaat’s particular understanding of Islam. One finds Student Islamic Organisation (SIO), JIH’s student wing, and Hindu right wingers on the same page on14th February every year. The latter takes recourse to physical violence while the former resorts to moral persuasion fused with intimidation of ‘other-worldly’ punishments, in targeting couples in parks, on college campuses and other such places. Lately, JIH was leading the religious campaign in endorsing the judgement of the Supreme Court against LGBT’s rights. In an interview to Tehelka’s Karuna John, one of the general secretaries of WPI has talked about bringing blasphemy law in India; has tacitly justified forced exile of M F Hussain, and also has argued about banning internet for stopping western obscenity. There have always been possibilities of aligning with Right by parties engaged in value-based politics. People have written about Jamaat’s closed door meetings with Hindu Mahasabha in Gujarat in 1960s. The aim was to devise ways for coming together of the two on a common platform for countering secular, progressive and socialist ‘menace’ of the country. Morning shows the day!
There is no denying the fact that there have been many aberrations in the practises of secularism. And these aberrations have left a permanent scar on the psyche of the community. But that does not call for getting carried away by rhetoric and demagoguery of such religio-political parties who are always ready to cash in on such sentiments. They are masters of alluring people by employing lofty ideas and tall claims which are out of touch with time as well as reality. Such parties have a vested interest in making us believe that every contested issue is between faith and atheism. The traditional religious establishment has regularly been at odds with the understanding as well as interpretation of Islam that Jamaat has been busy in propagating. Coming up of such political parties will only harm Left and Liberal constituencies, wherever Jamaat would field its candidates, by wooing Muslim voters in the name of ‘values’, community and Islam. That would certainly strengthen the parties on the right of political spectrum. This happened in South Kota and Hawa Mahal in Rajasthan in the previous assembly election where BJP candidates swept the respective seats. It would only be making a fool of us giving acceptance to such budding political parties. It is high time we used our own discretion seeing the miasmic pall of hindutva and communal uncertainties which permanently hang on our head and whose threat is always thick in air. Jumping on this latest bandwagon of WPI would only be an exercise in futility. Let us work hard and hope that we do not see Narendra Modi or any other of that ilk becoming prime minister of the country. Is it not time for us to heed to Iqbal’s couplet?
Watan ki fikr kar nada.n mosibat aane vali hai
Teri barbadio.n ke mashware hai.n aasmano.n me
Worry about your country, O ignorant one!
The heavens are conspiring your destruction
(Fahad Hashmi is an M.Phil student of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi)