I am a Muslim, an Atheist, an Anarchist: Salmaan Mohammed

Guest Post by Salmaan Mohammed

[ Salmaan Mohammed, a twenty five year old philosophy student was arrested in Thiruvananthapuram on 19 August 2014 for sedition, and for allegedly dishonouring the national flag and national anthem. The complaint against him originated as a response to his refusing to stand while the national anthem was played in a cinema during a screening. Salman is currently out on bail, but still faces the prospect of a life term in prison if he is found guilty of sedition by the judicial process. We at Kafila have been in touch with Salman and he has recently sent us a translation of an audio interview he did after coming out of prison on bail so that the world outside Kerala (and those who do not read or speak Malayalam) can understand what he has been thinking.]

The  soundcloud audio extract ‘Go to Pakistan? Why?” is a brief interview given by him after being out on bail.

Salmaan’s friend, Gilbert Sebastian, who contributes to the Facebook Page – ‘Justice for Salman’ – writes, introducing Salmaan –

“With his anarchist perspective, he (Salman) fails to appreciate the democratic content of the anti-imperialist nationalism in the context of a Third World country like India. But his viewpoint is definitely very democratic, true to his anarchist viewpoint which consistently opposes every kind of power structure whether before a revolution or after it!”

Interview with Salmaan Mohammed (translated by Dileep Raj)

Salmaan: ..I am an anarchist..such a person..a man like me..was put into prison..for 35 days..saying that I was a Pakistani spy..Why am I not a Chinese spy? Why am I a Pakistani spy? That is because of my religion..”

Interviewer: Were you unhappy about this? were you sad thinking public might think ill of you?”

Salmaan : I am not worried about what public might think about me..My face book page is my message..I have made sure that I have clearly articulated my political positions there..They knocked on my door at 12 o clock in the night and took me away..What democracy is this?”

Interviewer: So you are saying that you would have presented yourself during the day time if they had asked you to do so..?”

Salmaan: of course..

Interviewer: your father says that you are not a religious believer..That you are a rationalist..”

Salmaan: .No, I am not a rationalist, I am an atheist..Rationalists in Kerala are Islamophobics.
I am not a rationalist or a secularist..I am an atheist.. Atheism is not equivalent to rationalism..These are two different things..I am an atheist as well as a Muslim..”

Interviewer: What did this imprisonment teach you?”

Salmaan: Prison life is fabulous..Imprisonment is in fact an ontological violence..A lot of innocent persons are there in the prison solely because they don’t have money to pay for the bail..So called thieves doesn’t have nationality .. they liked somebody like me very much..That’s why I took my time coming out.. I bid farewell to everybody, they asked, ‘Salman, when will meet agian?’ ”

Interviewer: Did you conclude that people inside are much much better than people outside?”

Salmaan: Such a comparison can never be  made.There are ‘good’ people outside as well as inside

22 thoughts on “I am a Muslim, an Atheist, an Anarchist: Salmaan Mohammed”

  1. Salman, meaning peace, believes there is no god but god and he does not believe in god, he does not believe in any power structure and he believes in highly controlled, hierarchal power structures like the face-book corporation. Something terrible happened to him. He should have not been arrested for not standing.

    Sometimes I wonder why does the state assumes respect is like an erection? Why does one has to stand erect to show respect? Why can’t one show respect while lying down? Does by sitting one show disrespect? Is it not an Indian tradition of showing respect while sitting? Buddha sat, so did Shiva, Laxmi sat, so did Saraswati. When and how did the relationship between orthostasis and respect emerge? Even in an ancient court people would bow down in front of a sovereign to show respect. Does anyone remember standing chin up, chest out, stomach in, in attention towards one’s elders to show respect? Why can’t people hug each other when the national anthem is playing as a mark of respect?

    Why is a place like a cinema hall used for propagation of nationalist feelings? Where did this custom start? Who started it? Cinema hall is a place to consume entertainment, just like, a temple or a mosque are places to consume piety. Could the state suggest to play the national anthem before and after the fajr namaz or the evening kirtan and arrest those who do not comply?

    Salman, meaning peace, thought one could show respect while sitting. In a majoritarian state, it is only the will of majority that counts. Unless the Indian majority feels they can happily masturbate while hearing national anthem and still not feel disrespectful to the song, or have flavoured tri-color condoms to make love in the name and glory of the nation
    Salman may as well have to spend the rest of his life in jail for his foolishly-wise act.

    The state may wisely fool itself into believing Salman was wrong. Tagore belongs to all of us not just the state or Priety Zinta. Why can’t we take charge of national anthem. Why can’t we play national anthem in front of the courts, the parliament, in front of the passing cavalcades of VVIP’s, in police stations and in front of Preity Zinta’s house for 100 hours at a gap of every fifteen minutes each. Why can’t we bombard the police stations with complaints about hundreds of thousand’s of officials and Priety Zinta if they or she were to even for a moment not stand erect to tagore’s words. Let us respect the state and tagore, let us respect majority and also all postures of human body. And let us not equate a posture with a feeling. Standing is a posture. Respect is a feeling. The real question is did Priety Zinta feel an emotion of respect while standing for the anthem waiting for bang-bang to begin?

    It seems like while the national anthem was being played just before the start of film bang-bang, Ms Zinta was looking at Salman and feeling outraged at his posture, she did not show any respect to the national anthem in the first place.

    For all we know Salman might have felt proud while sitting for the anthem. How can one determine and produce inconclusive evidence for what one feels?


  2. Dear Sengupta, Second line of the text carries a mistake. What’s happening to your English? You will soon lose your moral birth right to correct everyone’s English in their public posts.

    You got sacred it seems mentioning the name of the interviewer.

    We love your new style of journalism.”We at kafila”.



    1. Dear Ramesh,

      Thanks for pointing out the need to look at the ‘second line of the text’. I have never made the claim that anything I write or edit is infallible, and not open to correction. It would have been helpful if you had pointed out what the error was. I have tried to correct whatever error that I could spot. I always welcome suggestions for improvement. I do not have any moral birth right to correct anyone. And one cannot lose what one does not have. The text that Salmaan sent me did not have the name of the interviewer, if he had, I would have happily used it. If you know the name, please send it to me, and I will cross check with Salmaan, and if it is the correct name, and if we have the consent of the interviewer, I will put it up.

      Thank you for admiring the expression ‘We at Kafila’. We at Kafila are quite fond of we at Kafila. :)




  3. “Salmaan: .No, I am not a rationalist, I am an atheist..Rationalists in Kerala are Islamophobics.” what is he trying to say?? You can’t criticize Islam?? Why? But its justified to criticize and ‘disrespect’ nationalism.(irespect his freedom) I think both nationalism and religion are based on some imaginary ideas to bring ppl closer and take control over them. Nothing should be immune to criticism.


    1. Dear Avinash, it would be great if someone were to send us Sanal Edamaruku’s email address and contacts, so that we can contact him and ask him to contribute a post. If you have his contacts, please do send them in.


  4. Though I do not condone treason or sedition of any kind, I can understand an atheist anarchist refusing to stand up for the national anthem, but would he hoot?

    When the honourable court asserts that the absence of verticality during the anthem is ‘worse than murder’, an observation on the ontological violence of imprisonment is probably not the appropriate response. Still, I’m sure it would have gone down big with the local police who are drawn almost exclusively from the Advanced Metaphysics course of Kerala University.


  5. @ Shuddhabrata Sengupta, thanks for posting the comment. Probably you can contact him on his twitter handle: @SanalEdamaruku


  6. Hi Shuddha, I think Ramesh is pointing to this line of yours “dishonouring the national flag and national anthem”. Shouldn’t it be ‘the national anthem’? Maybe I am wrong – just my half a penny’s worth.


    1. If you read that sentence, he says: he is not a rationalist, not a secularist, but an atheist. An atheist is a secularist & a secularist is a rationalist. That is what I understand from that line.(If I am wrong, then I agree with you that it isnt respectable.)


  7. I think his insights are too deep for an average Indian who sees individuals only from saffron or green colored eyes based on the accident of their birth. He was screwed since his name is Salman (sounds Muslim), whatever his philosophical beliefs are do not matter, its to dense to understand anyway.

    Try asking the difference between rationalism and atheism to a nationalist “patriot”. To them all of the rest (who do not agree with them) are paki loving, pseudo secular, Marxist, anti national, jhollawalla, JNU, commie, traitors who own the paid media and hate our dear development lord Modiji!

    – A sad Gujarati.

    PS: And yes, suggesting for rationality is appeasement of a certain community.


  8. I had read in Mathrubhumi (Malayalam News Paper) that a Salmaan Mohammed’s Hindu friend was also arrested on the same charges a few days after his arrest (I cannot recollect his name now). Kerala is ruled by Congress lead UPA and Muslim League a major partner in the Govt. So the incident has got nothing to do with the Religion.


  9. I think and as far as I know long back the Supreme court of India gave a judgement in a case that cinema hall is not a place to play National Anthem before the star or after the movie. i think if a good lawyer does some research he will find out. if this proved in a court then I am sure Salman will be freed with honour.


  10. I live in Toronto, Canada. I go to see movies in cinema halls many time. In the last 14 years of my stay in this country and countries like US and European nowhere National anthem is played in cinema halls. Are Indians more patriotic?.


  11. Reblogged this on The Passenger and commented:
    If China or North Korea had done such a thing, the world media would have been all over them – highlighting the media prejudices against them. Not that North Korea is scott-free; perhaps far from it, but an incident of similar kind there might have only reinforced the perspective that the world media-audience has about them.

    However, when the State lashes down on its citizens like an aristrocrat manner; in an otherwise perceived as a ‘democratic’ country like India, even such comparisons would frown eyebrows.

    Talk about media-prejudices, media-perceptions, media-trials and media-chickening-away.


  12. I feel he’s confusing the state with the anthem. When the anthem plays, it’s a tribute, in part, to the scores who died while fighting for India’s independence. Standing up is the minimum courtesy one can extend to them. One may care little for the state and yet show respect to the anthem.


  13. The most important point Salman makes here ,(though not quite unheard of),is that “Rationalists in Kerala are Islamophobics.”
    In such a context,it is understandable that an atheist burdened with Muslim identity wants to get dissociated from a variety of branded rationalism! Dismissing such a possibility as non-existent is like someone saying that ‘Islamic feminism’ is an epistemological mishap.


  14. The most important point Salman tries to make here is that Rationalists in Kerala are Islamophobics. It is not quite unheard of ,though! Rubbishing his claim of being both a Muslim and atheist as nonsensical is more or less akin to the ‘rationalistic’ dismissal of the idea of Islamic feminism as mere epistemological fantasy.


  15. for god’s sake — go read and do your homework — this person has been writing on islamic anarchism for over 17 years…

    He’s a self-identifying Muslim anarchist and wrote his MA on the topic of islam and anarchism, their relationships and their resonances. He’s currently doing his PhD. from what i understand and was born in Egypt, but lived all over including having spent time with the indigenous Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico…
    His book on Islam, Anarchism, Indigeneity, colonialism/imperialism to say the least (etc.), comes out relatively soon and is particularly interesting, given the social movement perspectives he takes with an emphasis on what is referred to as Decolonization and Reindigenization with respect to indigenous peoples of the Americas…Right now he’s working on the biopolitics or the political-economy of queer Muslim gender and sexuality and i do believe in a talk he said his work for the phd is ethnographically based in Egypt and the US and Canada…
    please some of his works below…he also has an article in Arabic that he published last year, titled عن الهيمنة، هيمنة الهيمنة، والأناركية الإسلامية which i attached the link to below …
    1) His thesis titled anarca-Islam quite a few years back (and it is what he calls an anarchic interpretation of islam and islamic interpretation of anarchism) and that is due out as a book this year here: http://theanarchistlibrary. org/library/mohamed-jean- veneuse-anarca-islam the thesis has been transformed into a book to published through akpress & minor compositions… can be found here…http://www.akpress.org/ islam-anarchism.html
    2) Here is an article he wrote regarding the June 30th events in Egypt…It’s available here: http://tahriricn.wordpress. com/2013/07/09/egypt-goodbye- welcome-my-revolutionegypt- the-military-the-brotherhood- tamarod/
    The article is also available on the blog and the occupy wall street/nyc site: http:// mohamedjeanveneuse.blogspot. com
    4) Here’s an article in Arabic that he wrote: عن الهيمنة، هيمنة الهيمنة، والأناركية الإسلامية…http://anarchisminarabic.blogspot.ca
    5) Here’s a paper he wrote and that got published in an anarchist academic journal regarding Sayyid-Sally (the first official transgendered case in Egypt) — http://www.anarchist- developments.org/index.php/ adcs/article/view/17


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