The Unapologetic Indian Muslim: Sabiha Farhat

Guest Post by SABIHA FARHAT

These are tough times for muslims in India.  But now that I look back and shed my ‘liberal’ prejudices – muslims were never acceptable as ‘who they were’ in Indian society.  I had always blamed my mother for not giving me proper lunch box to carry to school.  But the truth is that even in class 5, no student ate from my tiffin and gradually I started going to the play field in recess rather than enjoying a meal under the big Peepal tree.  After that I took tiffin only when I prepared it myself, that was class 11 & 12.  But even then the girls would hardly eat from my lunch box.  We did sit together but no one touched my food.  Was I the Untouchable?

The deeper I dig into my childhood the more I find such instances.  Our neighbours often commended my mother on keeping the house ‘so clean despite being a Muslim’. Now I remember how much effort went into scrubbing the floors.  My mother scrubbed them in the morning and she made me, her eldest child, scrub them in the evening. None of my girlfriends nor their mothers cleaned their floors in evening, cleaning was a morning chore except in our house.  Now I know why – it was all an effort to prove that we were just as clean as any of the Hindu families around us.  We were always trying to please our Hindu neighbours but they kept on demanding more and more.  The entire effort went to waste when our neighbours visited but refused to recognize a ‘clean muslim home’.  All they would say was, “but you are not like Muslims”.  Imagine, they were ‘seeing’ our house every day but they refused to accept it as ‘reality’, they continued to believe in the stereotype of a ‘dirty muslim household’.  The reality, the truth that they “saw” would just not register over their belief! Why? Because they wanted to believe in their “narrative” of supremacy.

When I was in class 6 or 7, that famous India-Pakistan cricket match happened, in which Javed Miandad hit a six on the last ball.  There we were, glued to the television waiting to applaud for India and in my heart, for my secret crush – Ravi Shastri too.  But Javed Miandad spoiled it all for us, I remember my brother cried when we lost that match.  The next day in school when everyone was discussing cricket, I was shut up by simply being told – “oh, you must have celebrated yesterday, after all, your side won.”  I was stunned into silence. Everyone had presumed that ‘my’ side was the ‘Pakistani side’.  Where did all this come from?  From my class mates who were my age, 12 or 13, with similar middle class backgrounds or were they mouthing their parents’ presumptions?  I had forgotten these incidents and moved on but now, the aggressive Hindu has forced me to look back – I realise how desperately I had wanted to ‘belong’ to my friends but I was denied entry into the club that somehow had more claim to India and Indian-ness than me. The message that I took home that day was – ‘I was different so I did not  belong’.  This is the same ‘difference’ which a Dalit, a Scheduled caste or any person from a minority community feels. As a person of minority, one has to struggle to be recognized as ‘equal citizens’ of India.  This recognition has been particularly denied to Muslims in India.  The message is not just that we do not ‘belong’, we are also assumed to be ‘traitors and allies of Pakistan’ thus making us ‘unpatriotic’.  One is alienated from the mainstream, her self-worth as an ‘individual’ is denied, it instills in the minority the order of second grade citizenship. All this happens at a very early age, an impressionable age. It made me more vulnerable and was perhaps my first experience of being told about my second grade status in my own country, a country, which the school text book reminds us is the biggest democracy in the world.  I was alienated in a shared space – ‘my’ school.  I was assumed to be ‘unpatriotic’ at the age of 12 or 13.

And so I did the next best thing, I tried to merge and be like everyone else. I started rebelling from my own religious background.  I studied translations of quran and found flaws with respect to women’s status in it, slowly I developed a “sort of” feminist narrative on Islam. In it, I found elements of Patriarchy, Misogyny, Gender Inequality and all other flaws of an organized religion.  I did not realize that I was still following the ‘Hindu’ narrative about a muslim.  I argued with my father, when all he wanted was that I pray to God, once a day.  I gave up my religion by the age of 17 when girls around me were still fasting for Santoshi mata or Guruwaar or Shani dev or some other diety.  At 17 you only understand ‘liberal’ in a skin-deep sense. So I became liberal in the way I dressed, ate and lived my college life, completely aligning myself with upper caste Hindus.  I should have been shocked at my “religious hindu girl friends” but I was not.  I was a ‘subject’ of the Hindu Brahminical narrative.  So strong was the grip of this majoritarian narrative that I, a rebel-muslim, failed to question my friends.  But a questioning mind cannot be dulled. Sooner than later I discovered the flaws in Hinduism, it too had misogyny, gender in-equality and patriarchy.  I realised that a ‘liberal Hindu’ mindset is just a disguise for a ‘Brahminical’ mindset.  If liberalism does not allow you to break the barriers of race and caste, if it does not filter out hatred for minorities than how can you call yourself a liberal?

During my college days, I lived in my jeans and tees, much like any other urban girl.  At every introduction, at every mention of my name – I was told, “oh! But you do not look like a muslim.” What does a muslim woman look like? Again, I was not acceptable as a non-hijab wearing modern muslim woman!  They saw me every day yet denied my modern identity.  I was ‘invisible’ to them.  They wanted to stick to notions of a ‘hijab wearing muslim woman’ and when I did not conform to their narrative, they called me an exception!  Just like our ‘clean home’ was an exception, my ‘patriotism’ was an exception, my ‘modern identity’ too was an exception! But why? Because stereotypes create Islamophobia and Islamophobia simply helps to establish Hindu Supremacy.

So well disguised was this denial of my identity that initially I was pleased at my ‘liberal identity’ but slowly I began to feel some anger as these remarks were thrown at me often. Things changed drastically when I went to study Film & Television at Jamia Millia Islamia University.  Now that I look back, I feel I got into the prestigious institute because in my interview, I was able to present to the panel, a positive review of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, it was a ‘liberal’ panel of interviewers.  The book was banned in India but my father had managed to bring a copy home which he kept hidden from us.  I read it secretly at night.  Maybe my approach to Satanic verses helped me. Once I joined the course, my mind opened up to new experiences, this is where I began to understand the concepts of ‘othering’, ‘us & them’.  But by now I was so used to following the Hindu narrative about Muslims that I constantly judged Muslim students outside my center as conservative, hard-core fundamentalists.  Anyone who had a beard was a fundamentalist and I did not want to associate myself with him.  So strong is the grip of this narrative on me that even today I want to tell Muslim men to be ‘more normal’, to be like anyone else and merge in the mainstream.  Why should they have beards? Why should the women wear burqa? Why do they look different? Why don’t we give (hindus) the Ram mandir?  Why don’t we change our profession from being butchers to some other? When it came to matters of identity I was calling ourselves – ‘them’.   The penny dropped.  When did I start subscribing to the majoritarian narrative and criticizing people for the way they dressed, ate, earned their living? Why was I pleased at being a liberal Muslim? Were my neighbours and colleagues friendly because I did not look like a Muslim? What if I wore a hijab and was a practicing muslim?  Recently a ‘muslim senior citizen’ was denied a seat in a delhi metro! Isn’t it alienation in a shared public space?  What then happens in other such spaces – schools, colleges and offices – is anybody’s guess.

The deeper I dug, the more I realized how convoluted were my own thoughts about myself.  Infact my entire family scrutinizes and criticizes conservative Muslims ruthlessly while singing classical Bhajans at friend’s ‘Pujas’.  Is it an attempt to appease them? We celebrate Holi and Diwali like all Hindus.  My daughter lights up the house with lights and diyas on Diwali and our neighbours appreciate it.  But on Eid, ours is the only house that is lit up, no neighbor has accepted Eid as their own festival.  Clearly the majority has never wanted to please its minority but is very loud and vocal on ‘appeasement of minorities’.   Ironically, a narrative of ‘Hindu victimhood’ has been at play since 1980s, it has led to several riots in which more muslims have been killed than hindus.  Every riot sets back the minority community by at least a generation.  It takes away the home that was built over a period of 20 years, it takes away savings, security, livelihood, not to mention lives of loved ones. I will not even touch on rapes and arrests of innocent muslims.  But the Hindu goes on believing in his ‘victimhood’ and in his acts of faith.  To the muslim, he repeats the same questions why do Muslims live in ghettos? Remember what happened to Akhlaq who did not live in a ghetto? Why does the muslim community not help their women? Muslim women need as much help as Hindu women.  Why are they so conservative? Why are there separate laws for muslims? Are there?!!!! Why don’t the muslims want uniform civil code?  Really!!!??? All muslims may not be terrorists but all terrorists are muslims??!!! Only as much as all rioters are Hindus.  Are the gau-rakshaks not bhakshaks? Clearly these Hindus have not known any muslim, nor do they know their own faith.

Muslims in India face a double-edged sword of Economic and Cultural alienation.  They are pushed to live in ghettos, they have spent past 70 years in fear of riots. Only those who are willing to give up their religion (like me) and merge with Brahminical narrative can hope to rise economically and socially.  They are Psychologically crushed by attacks on their cultural practices, eating habits, dressing style and professions.  They are easy targets for the police and the mob.  They can be lynched, beaten up, killed in encounter or be in jail for 23 years before being declared innocent.  They can’t rent a house, get their child admitted to a good school or a house help to work for them.

Who will take the blame for this narrative of ‘othering’ the Indian Muslim?  An average liberal hindu is upset when people like me refuse to follow his narrative.  He is horrified that I have decided to ‘De-subjectify’ myself and assert my equal status, my first-grade citizenship in India.  My ‘liberal Hindu’ friend expects people like me to not raise my voice – for he alone has the right to criticise ‘his PM’, ‘his government’, ‘his army’ and ‘his motherland’?!!! He does not want me to react to communal killings or state atrocities, not even state policies. He simply does not want me to have an opinion forget criticizing political ideologies. He is also not willing to look at facts, figures, documents, history.  He is the one who eats eggs, fish, chicken, mutton and pork, he drinks scotch, he is well dressed, he is educated and has a white collar job. Infact he even relishes my Biryani.  He is the one whose daughter can choose to marry anyone except a muslim man…

And lastly he expects me to be grateful to him for allowing me to live in India, imagine what my life would be in Pakistan?!!!

Let us make it clear that I or the Indian muslims have nothing to be grateful for, to the hindus in India.  That we refuse to play your game in the name of ‘liberal forces’.  You are not liberal if you have deep seated hatred for minorities.  India, world’s biggest democracy is a farce, it is a mis-recognition of the system of democracy.  True democracy in India can only be established through its minorities  – a solidarity of  religious, caste and indigenous minorities.

P.S. By any chance, if you feel threatened by burqa or a skull cap and beard – so be it! I’m not going to change till I want to. Deal with it.

Sabiha Farhat is a television professional and writer based in Delhi.

91 thoughts on “The Unapologetic Indian Muslim: Sabiha Farhat

    1. This is a true picture what writer has portrayed very clearly. But fact is the same as hardly this brhminical mindset is going to accept. India is moving towards worst ever time line, in my view. Oh God! Kindly help us.

  1. since childhood i only have come across 4 muslim who became my friends out of which two are bangladeshis while two others are childhood friend, one which was lone muslim in my class and other in my apartment, now i have two kids studying in two different schools and they still have no muslim friends as there is only one muslim studying in those classes, dont know what is going on, how my kids would come to know about muslim culture and traditions and celebrate Eid Diwali together, unfortunate muslims are still not coming to proper schools.

    1. Sourav

      Your children do not need to have Muslim friends to learn about ‘Muslim’ culture and tradition. The point about Eid not becoming a pan-Indian festival, is only a metaphor for the ‘otherness’ we Hindus reserve for ‘Muslim’ cultural elements. We fail to teach our kids that anything other than the rituals and customs we ourselves believe in or practise, are just as natural. That is where the alienation begins.

      You talk about not having enough students from Muslim communities. Have you ever stopped to think why that is the case?

  2. Thank you, Sabiha. I would have asked you not to stereotype ‘liberal Hindus’, except that this stereotype is becoming more and more an expression of the reality.

    1. sabiha

      Yes Alakambasu, i did not want to stereotype ‘liberal hindus’ that is why you will find this word in quotes throughout the article. It was very difficult for me to mention my colleagues and friends as ‘liberal hindus’. Did not want to use the religion at all. But these are difficult times and the article targets the bigotry.

  3. Satya chandel

    like your words just tried to go back in 1986 in which i have gone to my muslim friend Shariq Inayati , I have Vivek Kalia too with me we were from Huddard public school,Kanpur.
    When Tea was on on the table , we do not know what to do, but in the last we drink it all with cookies,thanks Farhat .

  4. siddutta

    Dear Ms Farhat,

    Liberal hindus (Gandhi, Nehru) failed to prevent partition. It was a liberal hindu (Rajiv) who opened the locks of Babri Masjid and also kicked-off his campaign from Ayodhya (Ram rajya is coming). Today the only safe places for a “loud and proud” Muslim would be in the South and East. Laluprasad (and fellow travellers like Mamata, Naveen, KCR, and Pinarayi Vijayan) can show Hindutva-vadis the finger. After them, the deluge will surely follow.

    For a liberal Hindu perspective on the Muslim threat (presumably as the fertile ground that helps breed Hindutva consciousness), I would like to draw your attention to Saurav Kumar’s “The Yogi and his hymns of hate” article in the Fountain Ink (http://fountainink.in/?p=8930):

    “One of the quotable quotes on Adityanath’s website translates as: “Hindutva is the consciousness of India. Any attack on it is an invitation for annihilation.” Such sentiments enjoy massive support in UP, partly because people like Aditynath and parties like BJP are among the few to deal head on with the question of Islamic radicalism.

    Other political parties and the liberal brigade are silent, embalmed in the shroud of their own hypocrisy. It is a real threat in the eyes of the people; the evidence abounds. When neighbourhood mosques in Bihar and UP broadcast sermons on the creation of an Islamic State in India, or declare terrorists killed across the world as martyrs, and this goes unchecked, BJP propaganda starts to ring true.”

    warm regards

    1. Shahjahan Raza khan

      Hlo bro Firstly in India there is nothing like Taliban,ISIS or Al-qaeda so I don’t see any point to question Indian Muslims as raised by Leaders like Yogi adityanath.I believe that people like yogi adityanath r encouraging Indian Muslims to become terrorist in other way because without knowing the origin of terrorism people like Yogiji talks ‘Islamic terrorism’ n ‘Islamic radicalism’ he might be very knowledgeful in any other field but he is a very little knowledge about the initiation of terrorism that’s what causing lot of trouble for him not the Muslims but his little knowledge

    2. Azeem Khan

      Dear Siddutta,

      You seems to have painted a picture which don’t exist. Which Mosque in India have supported Islamic State or Terrorist ? If so is the case, how can you just sit and watch and don’t file a criminal complaint..?? For heavens sake don’t pump hatred by falsefully making majority of this Country realize that they have any sort of threat from Muslims ? We are as much a part of India and our DNA is more nationalist than others who chose to migrate to otherside of the line leaving their motherland.

      1. It happened in Chennai when Osama Bin Laden was killed. Special prayers were conducted in many mosques in Chennai. Many regular muslims whom I would consider my fellow citizens/friends the other day took part in that prayers. Their justification, however bad Osama’s deeds were but he remained true to Islam, in the same breath I was told though terrorism has no religion. Am confused.

        1. Just do not judge me by my earlier comment above. I appreciate the author’s angst and dismay at her being looked as the other. Just wanted to assure the author there exist many who would do good hundred times to you for the goodness you show. Interestingly our closest family friends was a muslim family in the neighbourhood. Surprising to every one that my mother a very orthodox Hindu and the friend’s father a orthodox Muslim (who was some kind of head in local mosque) till date has enormous affection and love for both the families. It was our loss that the family moved to Andhra. After that my mom has never been so close to anyone but still in touch with the family in Andhra. That uncle (yes, I call him uncle only) whenever he visits Chennai prefers to stay in our house instead of the accommodation provided by local muslims or at the mosque. I am not saying this to prove as the author said that “we approve of you” assertion but to instill positivism in people like Ms. Sabiha that beyond the differences genuine relationships exist.

  5. Dj

    I am just too conscious of Muslims. When I think of them I think they are unadjusting and keep talking about koran and Allah as means to evade oneness in topics like national songs yoga etc. We dont see this problem in other minorities. We dont hate minorities but think from our side too, the majority is being squashed by people like owaisi and parties like congress. Also in Muslim dominant regions minority Hindus like kashmiri pandits get worst treated in their own country.

    1. Sabiha Farhat

      Like I said DJ you really need to meet more Muslims. I practice yoga, the sivananda school of yoga, I know many mantras, i know the positive aspects of Hindu religion. I celebrate holi and Diwali. Do you know anything from the quran, have you tried to understand it, can you recite anything from it, do you celebrate Eid, can you do the head-stand? Let’s not believe in propaganda, let’s do a reality check. Do you know 80,000 kashmiris have been killed till now, have you asked their religion. It is time we got to know each other better. Let’s not be afraid of each other.

      1. Dj

        M sorry but I address something called appeasement and holier than thou mindset. Hindu did to Muslims becomes news and Muslims to Hindus well yu and political parties obviously don’t care. How convenient to put it below the rug. It’s a bitter truth of this country. Whether yu believe it or not it’s a big enough wedge.

        As an example what ram Mandir means to Hindus is equivalent to Mecca for yu, do you know such issues make a mindset In Hindus?
        My relatives say they dont know whether they will live to see it happen. There is a genuine dislike because we know that babri masjid doesn have that big importance, I don’t say what happened was right but Muslim heads went too far with this. It was easy for Hindus to have opinions. Like Muslims have opinions on modi inspite of sit clearance, so do Hindus on ram Mandir terrorism riots yoga Bharat mata ki jai. When we hear issues we also have opinions. Other minorities don’t have problems – see my point!!! Please understand mt point instead of teaching me! I may have an opinion thats different from yours but doesn mean I am wrong.

        Do you know how Hindus are treated in Muslims majority places? Let’s first think why we have only Muslim topic why not other minorities. Plz Google issues happening all over world like London sweden us Germany france. All these places have an alarming growing of extreme rights like indian extreme hindus. They too ask – Why can’t equality prevail? Why can’t we live equally? Why can’t we practice peace? Why isis modules are getting busted from ats team India?
        I may not have read Quran but i have spent time outside India and I know for a fact that Muslims face same problems everywhere. I know what gazwae hind is, and believe me, in us I have seen Americans saying that they are scared because maybe 90% Muslims are peace loving but 10% do 9/11 26/11 Bombay riots Berlin Paris nice Brussels etc. I hear tarek Fateh and ayaan hirsi make so valid points in debates on why introspection is needed, I encourage yu hear them too. I never understood why fateh is abused by Muslims and admired abroad?

        I have attended seminars where Muslims have accepted that certain Quran interpretations incite violence like when yu are in majority subdue minority, and so many other things. Fortunately internet has many videos of Muslim professors debating many lines of Quran, so to answer you- I don’t need to read Quran. There is even a 1 hour discovery channel episode of decoding quran- as yo why it is inviting violence.

        In the end I have just one thing to say, people are much more educated and aware of what’s happening everywhere, and they are aware of what they are pepper against. Worse I can go is write this hear. Worse anyone else reading can go is kill me for writing- if yu know what I mean.

        They are reasons why I and people like me are conscious. It’s time Muslims should introspect.

      2. Dj

        Also I think many of my comments won’t make it to public view due to your moderation. But all is true.

    2. DJ you have lumped all minorities together and questioned why (1) Muslims are ‘unadjusting’, (2) keep talking about ‘Koran’ and Allah, (3) evade ‘oneness’ in national songs, yoga etc. Did you realize you have listed same majoritarian prejudices prevalent among many Hindus which this article has tried to highlight. Would you also please explain: (1) what you mean by ‘oneness’ and ‘unadjusting’. (2) How is Mr Owaisi ‘squashing the majority’ – would help if you give an example. (3) If ‘Kashmiri pandits get worst treated in their own country’ shouldn’t we be asking the government to come up with policies to reverse the situation when for centuries pandits and Muslims lived as one Kashmiri community. Lastly, just like pandits, Muslims also deserve to be treated as equal citizens of this country. It is time for non-Muslims to do some introspection and open our minds and hearts.

      1. Dj

        Muslims in Kashmir were the ones to drive out Pandits. They want own country. Please talk facts otherwise there is no point of debate.

    3. SYD

      I think if Muslims are given equal opportunities the solution will be
      Insight.
      Nowhere in the world it is done as
      In India I, e soft injustice is
      Done by denying the opportunities.
      India will not develop till the Muslim
      Minorities are lifted.
      Teaching of misguided history such as
      The Aurangzeb the great, is not at all
      Represented. They represent him as a
      Anti Hindu Kong which is not so.
      U mentioned of Owaisi. What he says he
      Just exposes the problem. I am not his fan
      He is as corrupt as other politician, but
      He at least expose us the hidden agenda

    4. Taj mohammed Khan

      Sir’ Muslims are unadjusting to what? Why it is required from them to adjust to something neither constitutional nor moral? What is your reasoning for every government inauguration with Pooja and Mantra. Haven’t they adjusted to all this. They talk about Allah and Quran. Yes, they do, why shouldn’t they? Do you want them to talk about something they don’t belive in. Your logic is funny. What do you cosider oneness? A factory produced human, with identical body, face, brain and beliefs. When will you learn to live with human diversity? Sir, read the history of Kashmir before shouting out loud foul. Also try to learn about root causes of Islamic radicalisation and the oil. But please take off the spectacles of Islamophobia.

  6. Sana Rizvi

    Thank you Sabiha for voicing so many emotions, thoughts , feelings and more of what I have gone through/ felt, over the years but never been able to articulate. So grateful for this sensitive and well written piece.

  7. Dear Sabiha,
    Thank you for this piece which puts forward so articulately so many emotions, feelings , thoughts that I have felt/ gone through over the years but was never able to voice or put together myself.
    So well written and befitting for the times we live in.

  8. A Rationalist Ex-Muslim

    I am a Muslim male by birth and grew up in a small town in Kerala. There was a considerable Muslim population were I lived and I never had to face religion-based discrimination in school or college. We shared lunch boxes, we visited each others’ homes, we spoke on land-line phones for hours, and we all cheered for India without feeling like an ‘other’. Those were the 90s, and despite Babri, secularism was thought to be a big deal, and Chacha Nehru was an NCERT icon.

    Interestingly, my most trying times came from my own religion, based on which I became a staunch monotheist. I thought long and hard during school days about the existence of God and not having recourse to the internet or Richard Dawkins at the time, I concluded that there has to be a god, and it can’t be many since multiple omnipotent gods didn’t make any logical sense. Thus I was convinced about the truth of my own religion, but was respectful to others beliefs mostly out of consideration to not to hurt their fragile but superstitious feelings.

    But alongwith those beliefs, I also took for granted the superiority of men over women as taught by Islam, and was normalized to the idea of cruel controlling masculinity through my father who was a tyrant to everyone and especially towards my mother.

    I’m much older today and daresay wiser. I’ve seen discrimination based on my name after moving to a different state where people want to know my last name before we talk about renting their houses. I’ve travelled in trains and had great conversations with fellow Indians who at some point confided in my about some ‘muslim’ person who was obviously a terrible fellow. I haven’t however moved North enough to see the kind of discrimination and atrocities that people with Muslim names have to go through.

    Islamophobia is real and it is terrible, and politicians who fan hatred are not good humans, nor is their anger rational. As a citizen of this country it makes me angry and helpless to hear the Islamophobia peddled by the ruling majority. It is wrong and it should be fought against. This is my country as much as anyone else irrespective of which religion they were born into.

    However – Islam as a religion is a dangerous and regressive set of beliefs. I remain Muslim only for my family, but otherwise I’m only convinced by empiricism, science, equality, liberty, and kindness to all, with which Islam as a philosophy is at odds with. It promotes in-groups and out-groups, violent patriarchy, and a superstitious mental slavery towards an arrogant, cruel, male, and voyeuristic god.

    As people, Muslims are victimized by our own religion. It kills anyone in its kind who is brave enough to say the truth of apostasy. It forces its women to cover themselves in hijabs, and live under the control of male chauvinism. There is nothing to be proud about these things. To be discriminated in the name of the religion that we were born into – that is a double whammy of unfairness – now we have to deal with the oppression of our own religion, and we have to deal with systemic discrimination based on the lottery of birth.

    However we shouldn’t forget that as informed adults, it is our responsibility to think and question the beliefs we were born into. To feel victimized about our beliefs and not question its morality is as cowardly as those who are blinded by hatred based on stereotypes. Muslims are not bad humans, just like tall people are not bad humans, or people who eat fish are not bad humans. But Islam is a terrible religion, (and all religions are cruel and superstitious), and there is nothing to be proud about that.

    1. I don’t think we can blame Islam for what Muslims do. It took me almost a decade to find out the discrepancies between what Islam teaches and what Muslims do. Therefore, I don’t agree with your statement, “Islam as a religion is a dangerous and regressive set of beliefs”. But I agree that Muslim communities need reform.

      1. A Rationalist Ex-Muslim

        Abansal, that sentiment do not make sense to me. Muslims are a group of people around the world – there is no genetic similarity, no one nationality, no shared cultural history, no geographical ties, and they were not even part of the same empires from history. The only thing that ties this disparate group of people is the beliefs that bind them. If you think Muslim communities need reform, then it can only mean that the shared belief that ties them need to change, which I very much agree. Otherwise, these people are a statistically diverse sample of people about which it is impossible to make any common judgements about.

        It is Islam and its cultural baggage and its power structures – the mullahs and mukris, the extremist preachers, a belief in jihad, the promise of a paradise that speaks to the dreams of ancient, parched, and war-torn desert men – these are all based on the beliefs that are propagated by Islam. That is their common tie.

        But if you’re thinking about the strife in the middle-east, while Islamic beliefs have a huge role to play in it, it is the strife of a political and geographical class of people. It just happened to be that most of them are Muslims, and the history of their strife is tied deeply to their Islamic past, but if you extrapolate that to all Muslims around the world – how can that be? they are not even the same people!

        The middle-eastern crisis won’t fix by reforming Muslim communities (if that is even a coherent concept). It requires a geopolitical solution. However, if you mean reforming the base beliefs that underpin a lot of their backwardness, then we are talking about Islam the belief system and not Muslims the people. This difference is crucial. And if we don’t make that distinction, we are not only being unfair to the victims of this religion and hurting them, but we simply prolonging the problem.

        Attack the idea, not the people.

      2. naush

        I totally agree with you Abansal. What ‘most’ Indian muslims follow is a concoction of cultural practises and Islam. Alot of people target the supremacy of the men folks in Islam – however they tend to ignore that in a time period when girl babies were burried alive (which unfortunately is true in India, even today) – Islam not only forbide it – but also ensured her rights in property !

    2. shaturya

      Dear Sabiha and Rationalist Ex-Muslim ,

      I greatly appreciate your reading about the Indian society and understanding about Islam. You did not or could not disclose your identity speaks about the state of Islam .

      From a Hindu point of view , Muslims hold a view what is propagated by Mullahs. The religious leaders hold unusually very large space of Muslim opinion. Socially, Hindus view Muslims through a prism of Mullahs. And , I daresay, even progressive Muslims have always allowed these religious leaders to represent them. Not many Muslim voices were heard against when Rajiv Gandhi brought in a particularly regressive constitutional amendment in Shayra bano case to appease Muslim religious leaders. During Bangladesh war , Muslim support in India to Sheikh Mujiburrahman was near absent. Further, anything happening in Arab countries elicit much more interest in Indian Muslims ( Why not Muslim Indians, point to ponder!). Further, I have seen even young school going girls taking to wearing hijab under the Arabic influence .

      These are the few things which form a social group opinion about Muslims among Hindus and is readily exploited by politicians.

      My regret is that enlightened leaders among Muslims ( and Hindus as well) never campaigned against ‘accommodating ‘ the minorities . They should have gone for truly secular constitution , separating religion and caste from the state. This would have truly integrated everyone into the state-country.
      The greed for power was the prime reasons for so called opinion-leaders of all communities for peddling for favours in the name of identity and it gradually pushed and pushing the people into separate silos with concomitant results.

      It is still not too late. All reasonable and rational people should campaign for truly secular governance with no place of differentiation on the basis of religion ,caste and creed .

      1. A Rationalist Ex-Muslim

        Shaturya – I’m a coward who is afraid to put my name on permanent record on the internet as an apostate. As you rightly pointed out, that truly speaks to the state of Islam. I’m frightened by the recent lynchings of rationalist muslims who dared to speak out and were killed in Muslim majority countries.

        However, Sabiha I believe has the courage to be open about her thoughts and is not hiding through a pseudonym. I applaud her for that while I don’t completely agree with her thoughts. I am culturally a Muslim – which is a product of my birth and upbringing, and I have roots in this community and their troubles are my troubles. But unlike Sabiha I am not a believer and in my ideal world religions don’t exist.

        A truly secular government is impossible in a religious society. We get the governments and systems we deserve. The politicians and not separate from their polity; to change them we have to change the very people themselves. Religion is an exclusionist concept that demands primary and utter loyalty from its subjects. It is fundamentally at odds with an equal, free, and scientific society. This is as true in the United States as it is in India. All attempts at constitutionally mandating secularism is bound to fail because we can’t really legislate away people’s stupidity, biases, and prejudices.

        I vote for abolishing religion, caste, and creed, and not through laws, but a long painful education of the masses in empiricism, science, civil societies, and the promise of an utopia of the commons.

        1. shaturya

          You are not a coward . You are just being practical for there are other priorities also in life.

          I agree that a truly secular government , ideally speaking, is not possible. But , we can get to that as close as possible through constitutional means, as a first and practical step towards a livable society. We can only think of immediate steps which are within the realm of possibility. And also , the Indian constitution , despite problems in its implementation , has contributed substantially towards the higher values being practiced in the society now .

          I know that there are problems in so called Hindu ( why so called Hindu? because Hinduism is fundamentally different from ecclesiastical religions like Islam, Christianity or Judaism. There aren’t any dos or don’ts, or any book to be followed or any concept of following anything. But about that later.) society as well of caste or tribes etc. But since Sabiha explored the differentiation between Hindu and Muslim, so I limited myself to this only. Sabha’s dilemma arose from the fact despite her best attempts , she ( a Muslim) remained one of ‘them’, an outsider.
          While empathising with her fully ,my take on that is social opinions are formed through visible symbols which work as stereotypes. Muslim stereotypes are Burqa, Mullah and women being excluded from praying in Masjids etc. This was unfortunately contributed by even progressive Muslims by not speaking against religious conservatism. Very sadly, in my limited interactions with Muslim intelligentsia meetings , I was told that Muslims should not go public in their problems of religious conservatism as this will give opportunity to the Government to meddle in their affairs.This attitude led to the ascendancy of religious conservatism in Muslims . One result being that even little girls being forced to wear Hijab.

          ( The above gave opportunity to the equally condemnable thought of religious fundamentalism among Hindus to sow the seeds of counter conservatism at the expense of Muslims and I dread this.)
          Muslims should stop looking towards Arab for inspiration. Like it or not, there are opinion leaders among Muslims in India who abide by arabic diktats for social transformation. Indian Muslims should call themselves Muslim Indians as they are basically Indians and have nothing in common with Arabic muslims or Indonesian Muslims culturally.

  9. Amandeep Singh

    I too belong to a minority and am a liberal in beliefs. My problem is not exclusion from Hindu mainstream but merger with it. Though I don’t feel that any individual be bound in any identity. Born in a Sikh family I gave up my religious identity long ago yet I feel the diversity being threatened by clamor of Hindu uniformity.

  10. It was nice to read your perspective. Very candid and very refreshing! However, I have a few thoughts –

    Since Independence, all the so-called ‘secular’ parties have been pandering to the Muslims and doling out appeasement schemes, which have done more harm than good (Shah Bano case, for starters). I feel that educated and progressive Muslims like you should stand up to them and question them for treating Muslims like a votebank. Instead of appeasing, why not do something good for them that will uplift them? Why do they assume all Muslims think the same and vote the same? My Bohra friend from Malabar Hill does NOT vote the same way my Sunni tailor from Bihar does! Shiv Sena has followed a similar policy. Instead of actually doing something good for lower middle class Maharashtrians (educating them, training them, providing jobs) they focus on surface appeasement like renaming stations and building statues. That’s not gonna help.

    In this scenario, please tell me which party talks about Hindus except the BJP? Congress talks about Muslims; SP talks Muslim+Yadav, BSP talks Muslims+Dalit. None of them actually does anything good for Muslims. Hinduism is constantly derided and mocked by (so-called) liberals, leftists, Ambedkarites, missionaries and foreign media. We don’t want any privileges or special treatment. The average Hindu in this country is fed up. And yes, you should feel grateful. Whenever Muslims are in the majority in ANY region, the minorities have a very, very strong reason to be scared (eg. Pakistan, Bangladesh, even Kashmir).

    Let me spell it out for you – BJP will keep sweeping elections and keep ruling until secularism in this country equals appeasement.

    Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis are also minorities. However, I don’t see them complaining. Parsis, despite coming from Iran hundreds of years ago, have assimilated happily in India and contribute positively to the society. We don’t see any radicalized youths from their communities. Why is it that one particular community continues to feel sidelined and alienated and uses that as an excuse to behave this way?

    Lastly, neither I not my fellow countrymen hate the average Muslim out there. At least not the ones who are not a threat to the society. Regardless of whether they have beards or wear burkhas. It’s the radicalized 1% that is giving a bad name to all the good 99%.

    1. sabiha

      Hi dear teenager,

      It is important to talk to you. You read your comments and you will find contradictions. You talk of ‘appeasement of muslims’ and you mention Shah bano case!!! Do you know what happened in Shah bano case, an old woman who was being divorced wanted alimony from her husband. The husband went to a qazi or for your understanding let’s say a maulana who quoted a vague islamic text to deny this alimony. The woman went to court. We – all the progressive Indian muslims stood up for her, there was endless debate in newspapers and Doordarshan, SIMI – students islamic movement of india – stood up for her, a politician Arif Mohammed Khan stood up for her, Law Commission member – Tahir Mahmood sent representations to Supreme court – we all wanted a law for muslim women granting them rights to alimony after divorce. But the court went with the Maulana’s verdict!!! Congress government fired Arif Mohammed Khan, SIMI was banned, Law Commission ignored the reports and demands of its own member Tahir Mahmood. And we were left to the whims and fancies of Maulanas. We needed a law. We asked for it. But the government denied. You think Muslims were happy with Shah bano case?!!!! We were defeated and ditched by our government. This is what all governments have done to muslims. No one has ever stood by them. You know what is appeasement – Reservation – 86% of hindus – of different castes are covered under reservation. I am not. Now the jats too will get reservation, i hope you will look at that as appeasement. Also check the history of Hindu Code Bill. How it was reformed and When. While the muslim personal laws have not even been written down. Check the Hindu Undivided family act if you want to know of appeasement to hindus.

      You second point is about political parties talking about religious communities – who stands up for whom? Should it be this way? I think the political parties should be about ISSUES like employment, education, health, space research, medical research, safe drinking water, green and clean cities and much more.

      And why do you think I should be grateful to you? This country belongs to me as much as to you. What have you done for this country that I have not?

      Next – You talk of being scared of muslims. Do you know how many riots have taken place? obviously more muslims have been killed than hindus if we collect data of all the past riots between two communities. You talk about muslim majority states – where are they? UP, MP, Punjab, Goa, TN, Kerala, WB….? You mention Kashmir – you forget it is Jammu and Kashmir (with Laddakh) Do you know how many Kashmiris have been killed by our own forces?

      Lastly you mention other minorities – Sikhs, Buddhists & Jains. Do you know about anti-sikh riots? Who killed them – it was hindus who killed sikhs not muslims. Ask a Sikh if he has a problem with hindus or not. Buddhists are running a campaign to NOT be clubbed with ‘Hindus’. You can verify all that I have told you. But do not go by propaganda.

      Please, it is my request – read, read, verify and then form your opinion. You are our future, if you start using the divisive language – India has no future.

      1. shaturya

        Dear Sabiha,
        I empathise with you .However, ( and a little unfortunately) social groups tend to behave because of stereotypes formed and believed by them. The stereotypes are formed over time and through gradual publicity ( various means of publicity ). The active behaviour and actions thereon are generally the result of immediate provocations , sometimes deliberate.

        The stereotypes about Muslims are naturally formed because of Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan for Muslims and also because of Madarsas, Burqas and Urdu ( Railway Stations’name are written in Urdu also in Muslim dominated areas, giving the impression of Urdu being a language of Muslims).

        Now coming back to Shayra Bano case, yes, some progressive Muslim did support the alimony granted by court to Shayra Bano, there were equally vocal group of conservative Muslims who opposed it. And , the government of the day, very sadly , caved in to the conservative opinion and amended the law.

        As regards reservations, you are spot on . If the basis of reservation is just birth ( the logic of traditionally weaker sections of society is crap, I agree), Muslims should also be given reservations. This is one area where all governments have been looking sheepish.

        One more point before I sign off is why Indian Muslims, why not Muslim Indian.

  11. Nilay

    Dear Sabiha,

    The Taj Mahal is as much Indian as the Meenakshi temple; Kathak is as much Indian as Kathakali; and Biryani is as much Indian as Pulao. So do not let any Hindu ever tell you that you are any less an Indian than she is just because you believe in Khuda and Paigambar, instead of Shiva and Vishnu.

    Most ordinary Hindus are so ignorant and insensitive about Muslims that silence is no longer an option. So, thanks for speaking out.

    More power to you!

    Your non-Muslim Indian ally

  12. Not Hindutva

    A piece so true, it was sometimes difficult to read and acknowledge. Truly sorry that any person has to face this in a righteous Republic.

  13. Ibrahim

    This agony is faced by every middle and upper class muslim in India. So is by educated Muslims. Everytime he has to prove his patriotism, secularism and to the effect that he is not sterio type . On the other side, he is compared to any negative personality and put into litmus test, whenever and wherever some incidences occurs. Really tight rope walk every time.

  14. This is the biggest need of the hour…friends…!!

    “My problem with what’s happening in the country is not about BJP and Congress, or JNU and anti-nationalism, or Jats and reservation, or Hindu Extremism and Muslim Extremism, or Beef Ban & Porn Ban, or Kejriwal and Modi, or Ravish and that ‘India wants to know’ guy….
    My problem is our mind space being occupied with futile, useless, fruitless, negative, regressive thinking…..
    In an age when this country should be thinking of inventions and ideas, we are discussing subjects mentioned above…
    Why isn’t the government and media talking about it?
    Why the subject of debate is not development?
    Why isn’t RSS talking about it?
    Why aren’t the Hindus talking about it.
    Why aren’t the Muslims talking about it?
    Why the news channels aren’t focusing on it?
    Why Indians on face book not discussing it?
    Or spreading that idea to the world??
    Saffron or Green, Beef or Chicken, Porn or Sanskari channels, Temples or Mosques, Jats or Kashmiris aren’t tools of development..
    These subjects of conversations are anti-development….
    And anything that’s anti-development is Anti-National at least for me…..
    I want to see my India look better than Switzerland…..
    I want my India to do better than the US in the Olympics…..
    I want to see my India more civilized than the most civilized country in this world…..
    I want my India to be more innovative than Japan…..
    I want my India to be more safe for woman than Copenhagen, Denmark…..
    I want my India to be more open minded than Canada….
    I want my India to be better than what it is today….
    And not worse…
    And that can only happen when we start thinking productive….
    Else we will all be wasting time doing something that is useless and futile.

    1. Priyanka Upadhyaya

      Dear Sabiha, I feel such a sense of validation after reading your article. It had come to a point that I would feel outnumbered among my peers arguing on the side of all you wrote but after reading this I feel a lot of conviction when I say that the concept of ‘them v/s us’ shouldn’t exist.
      With the new wave of ‘hindutva’ sweeping through our country whenever people like me who truly believe in secularism as a way of life try to oppose ethnic division, we are made to shut up with arguments that are similar to what you described.
      Everyone, be it a staunch saffronist, a 5 time namaz doer, a church goer, a buddha devotee, a gurdwara goer or any other religion follower should realise that all we really want is to deal with our daily lives with a minimum of hassle.
      All these issues are brought to the fore as important by people who want to achieve power by proclaiming that they can do something about this so called injustice being perpetrated by one religion on another.
      As Indians we should be positive towards a uniform civil code and it is my hope that younger generations understand the importance of understanding each others’ faith instead of dividing themselves over different ways of worship.

  15. Chitrita

    Thank you for the anger you have expressed. If there was ever a time to be unapologetic and defiant, this is it. There has been just too much normalising of Hindu biases all these years. And even though it must have been exhausting to write this piece, thank you for doing so.

  16. Peter

    PARTITION of INDIA was the Biggest Blunder & Crime Committed by Gora Paid Puppets Agents Jinnah ,Nehru,Villu Bhai Patel, Raja Ji etc.The Side effects of the POISON of PARTITION are appearing in INDIA after 70 years where RSS Bijrang Shiv Sena Anti Romeo and Gau Rakhsha
    Terrorist are planning Mob Lynching openly without fear of Police, Court or Legal Action.
    WHAT a shame INDIAN CITIZENS face their Life in Danger in their own country?

  17. Sudha

    What a wonderful piece- poignant and relevant to the times. Hard truths that most of us often brush under the carpet.

  18. Do you know why “Muslims were never acceptable as ‘who they were’ in Indian society”? Try to find out. Also there were and are plenty of Muslims who were and are acceptable and accepted as ‘who they were’ and are in Indian society. They were accepted as they behaved as part of the Indian society. . .

    1. Aditya Nigam

      Udaybhanu, If you are a Muslim in India today,you really do not need to ‘go and find out’, you simply have to to be one and you know it. It sounds pretty condescending for a Hindu name-bearer to ask a Muslim name-bearer to ‘try and find out’. Let us not be smug and self-satisfied when the whole world (including Indians from different parts of the country) acknowledges Indians as the most racist, xenophobic, casteist and communal. Let us try and do some introspection.

      1. siddutta

        “Let us not be smug and self-satisfied when the whole world……acknowledges Indians as the most racist, xenophobic, casteist and communal”

        Dear Prof Nigam, I am a self-confessed admirer of your work and this is also “your house” and we need to respect that. Nonetheless the above statement may cause confusion since Muslims (and other minorities) are also Indians, no? It is perhaps preferable to point out that the above apellation (most racist etc.) is restricted only to “Hindu name-bearer” type of people (such as the respondent above).

        warm regards

  19. Ibrahim Ahmad

    Sabiha, you have hit the nail on the head. I believe that over 20 crore Indian Muslims are as much Indian as anybody else. They have been living here for centuries and will be around for centuries. I also believe that most of my country men see me as equal, but its the fringe that is creating the noise and the disharmony. Let our government and the ‘majority’ (which is now beginning to look like the Taliban and IS next door) see us and treat us anyway they want, but that will only make us better and stronger Indian citizens and Muslims. History has always proved that. Jai Hind

  20. Asif iqbal

    The whole Minority Majority should be resisted by Muslims in India. Since this is the divide that creates difference . Political parties conveniently try to pretend they are protecting the minorities but the fact is that Minority units are only filling the coffers of a few Minority leaders who have always played on division of various sects and groups. It’s high time Muslims reject the status of Minority and demand closure of the Minority ministry which is created to harm the interest. Anyways secular nation always means state and religion are seperate and govt has no business to interfere in religious affairs. They have no business to worry about triple talaq, imposing languages, impose yoga, eating beef /dogmeat or drinking cow urine. It’s purely the choice of people. It’s high time liberalism and liberty is exercised by every Indian in the country for a prosperous and strong India. Swarna Bharat Party(SBP) is the only hope for a free and liberal India.

  21. A A Faruque

    The religious right wing should realise that when “liberal” Muslims call for reformation of the faith (ban on blasphemy laws, introduction of UCC etc), this has nothing to do with them. You did away (or were forced to do away) with your regressive laws. We were betrayed by the pseudo-secular appeasing politicians of the time.

    We could care less about the religious right’s self-righteous smuggery now! Your dream of a saffronised India will never be realised as it would require a total breakdown of our constitution. And no right wing party can do it (one of the main reasons for the rise of the religious right has been lack of a suitable alternative and not just the “pseudo-development” rhetoric). For the rest of our truly “secular” brethren (across religion), we will march on, side by side, towards progress and prosperity. Peace!

  22. Shrikant Kumar Mahapatra

    What has been written may be partly true. But how such prejudice has come needs to be understood. I am a senior citizen. During my school days during 60s and early 70s I had few class mates. Some time I visited three houses and found them dirty as compared to our house. I being a vegetarian, I get a different smell of meat in there houses. So it got imprinted in my brain from my childhood that these people are dirty. But after I started my job, I made friends with fee Muslim and visiting there house during Eid. So now my approach has changed. Secondly, many a time I have observed that, when Pakistan win a match against India, some of the Muslim celebrate with fire crackers. So instead of blaming Hindus for such attitude towards Muslim, the majority Muslim should change other Muslim who are responsible for such prejudice.

    1. Taj mohammed Khan

      Sir, those Muslim houses you visited in your childhood, how was their financial condition? Did you ever think about the real reason? No one like to live dirty. If the smell of meat imprinted in your minds as dirty, because you are a vegetarian, than it is your prejudice, most of the world population is non vegetarian. What is the big deal? It is only food habit. About the cricket, did you ever take it as a game only, not the religious crusade. Where is the sprit of real game “let the best team win”. Muslim can support and cheer for English team, Australian team, New Zealand team but not Pakistani team. Why not sir, isn’t it just a game. But at the end you too were quick to burden the Muslims to your liking.

  23. Raghav

    Sabiha

    While I am no one to question your narrative, you are almost taking away the right of ‘others’ to have their own narratives. India is not an Island and is part of larger world. The day you will see secular Saudi Arabia and secular Iran where people, if they wish would freely be able to enjoy a glass of whisky here and their with friends, many of things would change. But who am I again to challenge the narratives of others. You not being able to share your food with your friends in school , could have had huge impacts upon your way of thinking but did you ever try to eat the food from a girl who came from a community who are invloved in manual scavenging?

    Playing victim is your right but may be there is point in looking inwards too. How many times have you heard a woman of Syeds marrying non-muslims or Dalits ? Are their any liberal muslims who are appreciative of having Hindu Dalit son in law in family of Shahi Imam?

    1. Sabiha Farhat

      Raghav,

      You are judging me by my name. That’s the whole point of the article. How do you know I haven’t eaten from a manual scavenger’s house or a leper’s house or tribal’s house? How do you know i am not married to a Dalit? Go on judging me by my name but you can’t go far unless you address your blindspots.

  24. K SHESHU BABU

    The anger, the anguish, the disgust, the disdain, the alienation, the isolation , the eluding compassion, and yet, some optimism ..a moving piece

    ‘ Gham sey ab ghabrana kaisey ….gham sau baar milaa..! ‘

    SAHIR

  25. Pingback: The Unapologetic Indian Muslim: Sabiha Farhat | Books & Beyond

  26. Dr. Faiz Ahmad.

    This article is like a wake up …Slap on my face.
    All my life ,I have tried to be more Indian ,more Hindu , more liberal , more secular , more vocal about patriotism than anyone around me.
    I used to read the Bhagwat Gita ,more than I read the holy Koran .
    But this article made me realise that ,all my life I was living someone else’s life.
    Someone else was controlling my narrative.
    I don’t need to apologise for being Muslim just because some crazy man is a terrorist , just like no Hindu should feel guilty about the fact that ram Singh of nirbhaya fame was a Hindu.
    If India continues on the path it has chosen through popular mandate , it’s going to end up at worst like Yugoslavia and at best a Hindu version of Pakistan or Burma.
    At least Muslims can’t be blamed for that as well.

  27. Eshe Bahiti

    hi Sabiha….every single word of your write up speaks of your honesty n strength..you touched the core not only of the issue..but more importantly of our individuality… how correct i was in saying ..ek quirdaar khwaab sa, ek shakhsiyat Himaalay si..!!

  28. Gora Bhattacharjee

    This is a stunning piece; every word is an indictment of the putrid disgusting Hindu nationalism that overwhelms us today. Sabiha, all power to you and all of us fighting this. It is true that we have never been a modern integrated society but hope still persists, because it must. We will get there.

  29. Avinash

    Iwhen in postal training centre, we four lived in one room, one Parvej and three devout Hindus, guess what I forced Parvej to offer Namaj as he was not able to feel at peace sometimes, it worked and he said that he felt better. Don’t feel that disheartened Sabiha , honest and sincere persons always have a tough task ahead but let me assure you that there are people who will accept for what you are. But if you want a perfect world out there , I’m sorry there will be none. Neither there has been not there will be one. You don’t need to be thankful for any right that you have as a citizen of this country nor you need to show yourself as someone else but have faith in this nation, I know I may sound like an idealistic Preacher but that’s what the way is , I have also faced a lot of discriminations but that doesn’t mean that I say it is A vs B , it is a clash of ideas and may be we will win and maybe not but as Gandhi ji said hate the sin only and not the sinner , do something that sinner may be reformed, accusations and blame game will only divide the society further.

  30. Avinash

    when in postal training centre, we four lived in one room, one Parvej and three devout Hindus, guess what I forced Parvej to offer Namaj as he was not able to feel at peace sometimes, it worked and he said that he felt better. Don’t feel that disheartened Sabiha , honest and sincere persons always have a tough task ahead but let me assure you that there are people who will accept for what you are. But if you want a perfect world out there , I’m sorry there will be none. Neither there has been not there will be one. You don’t need to be thankful for any right that you have as a citizen of this country nor you need to show yourself as someone else but have faith in this nation, I know I may sound like an idealistic Preacher but that’s what the way is , I have also faced a lot of discriminations but that doesn’t mean that I say it is A vs B , it is a clash of ideas and may be we will win and maybe not but as Gandhi ji said hate the sin only and not the sinner , do something that sinner may be reformed, accusations and blame game will only divide the society further.

  31. SOMNATH MITRA

    Adding another gem.. Heard often from the conversation of the ” progressive Bengali’s” … Bangali (Bengali) na (or) Musalman ..as if only Hindu Bengali speaking ones are Bangali and other Bengali speaking Muslims are Mussalman..after 34 years of ” progressive communist” rule such notion of identity really sucks!!!!!!

  32. Dr WALIULLAH

    liberal Muslims in India are like “dhobi ka kutta’, na ghar ka na ghat ka”. what ms sabiha has written may be true for liberal Muslims living in posh Delhi colonies with Hindu majority but not all Indian Muslims feel the same. our hindu friends liked chicken biryani and mutton korma of our lunch box. I never felt any discrimination for being Muslim anywhere in India. Lastly being a Muslim is different from other religions, you are not a minority or a religious group begging for privileges. Being Muslim is being helper and guide for all human beings. Islam doesn’t teach its followers to call themselves minorities begging for their rights. Allah says the earth belongs to me and If you will follow my commandments, you will be the winner or the dominant “ghalib”.

  33. Arindam Chatterji

    I am sick of people playing victims. The victims of Eid are animals. The day they claim their right to live, where will you stand ?

    You said kids did not share your lunchbox. May I ask you how comfortable would you feel to share lunchbox with a man who cooks pork on daily basis?

  34. Mohammad

    I really wonder today when professional and even senior Management level citizens take pride to laud PM, let alone his past history and so open to criticize Mahatma Gandhi.. Interesting, by the time Modi is our PM, all efforts of Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of our nation seems to be false and only only what RSS or such think tanks dictate thru their allies is Right !

  35. Ghulam Faruki

    Sabiha’s fierce independence must be applauded. While liberalism in Muslims is a good thing, a liberalism that is enforced on us by majoritarian attitudes​ is not good. True liberalism subsumes mutual respect for each other’s cultures. But we make many sacrifices because we have to get jobs and we have to keep jobs and we want to be accepted by our neighbors in mixed neighborhoods. C’est la vie!

  36. I could punch a thousand holes in this morally repugnant piece you have written but leave it, I will just talk about burqa:

    I dislike burka, deal with it, I would find it to be a normal cultural dress if no woman in the world is being jailed for not wearing it.

  37. Saladin

    Ms Sabiha,

    Thanks a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    May Allah bless you here and hereafter for taking it head on, which many Muslim leaders failed to express. I am a very proud Muslim and I never tried to appease a Hindu by behaving like him, because I am proud of my faith and very proud of our legacy. Muslims ruled Indian subcontinent for more than 800 Years. So if we have to believe RSS fake history that Muslims somehow converted Hindus by force, my question is, How come Hindus are in majority today? and why not Muslims supported lower caste people to take on the upper caste? if we wanted to harm them. No, these are all lies fed by RSS extremists and well taken by majority Hindus. But the fact is we gave them equality, treated them fairly and look at the history, every Muslim king had huge portion of Hindu ministry, even for the sake of argument if we agree to RSS extremists propaganda, then upper caste Hindus are equally criminal in subjugating local masses.
    There are tons of things to mention but a word is enough for a wise. But I dont see that in majority of Hindus. My personal experience, when Mumbai attack happened, me and my colleagues, and our supervisor went for lunch as usual, while coming back, he straight away asked me,hey how come these people do this? as if I know them or as if I agree with their action. I was very angry but I hold it back and told him, let me ask you few questions, what you will do if your family wiped out in front of you by burning, raping and police and administration doing nothing to stop these animals, instead putting you in jail by framing or not filing an FIR against those animals. He was quite, no answer, I said, I am not saying what they (Mumbai attackers) have done is justifiable but this could be one of the reason to push people to such a heinous action. As far as Islam is concerned this is anyway a huge sin which is off-course more than a crime.
    I gave him all the details about Islam comparing with Vedas, and I must say this, he is my best friend now, but people like him a rational mind is very less among Hindus, though we see them taking good degrees but they certainly lack honest and rational thinking.

    Everybody know for a fact that all the riots in India have been well orchestrated by Hindu extremists including blasts, but nobody called them Hindu Terrorists, Indian CBI and intelligence know for a fact that Hindu extremists train, nurture and provide full political backing to rioters and hate speakers. BJP a brain child of RSS extremists formed on the basis of Muslims bloodshed. Still we dont see any shame feeling among Hindus, instead they happily elect Hindu extremists with no shame. I personally believe that if a dog bites 10 Muslims, even he will be awarded a nationalist award and can be made an MLA or will be given a highest post in the government. Not to mention the Cow terrorism against Muslims and interestingly Hindu beef exporters and sellers are exceptions.

    It is certainly high time for Muslims to take a strong stand, be unapologetic and taking our rightful position in the country and also contribute in the nation building by taking the education as the best means.

    I once again thank you wholeheartedly!!!!!

    I request you to post my comment, since I want the Hindus of our nation know what we think of them and the situation around us!

  38. Manas

    I think she has focused too much on petty prejudices (sort of like biharis can’t speak good eglish, tamils will get angry at you for speaking hindi, punjabis are angry jerks who will hit you for no reason, north eastern women are easy, britsh people eat only potatoes, all the irish are drunkards) ……….. and failed remarkably on introspection (which is atleast my first requirement before I consider any one a liberal. It has little to do with what you choose to wear. Pretty much all the Sikh Ive met wear their turban religiously, and yet they’ve been one of the most liberal group I’ve met. Being a declared atheist doesnt automatically make you a liberal) …. I think we are being euphemistic or evasive or trying to find a united front where little scope exists for one, when we use the word “minorities” in context of discrimination here …. let’s call it out, this kind of apprehension against a specific group is reasonably unique against muslims, and held by even other minority groups and a global phenomenon not in the least specific to India.

    Personally I believe that it has to do with the idea of theocracies. Almost all the other states (even if not individuals) have adopted the idea of a secular state. Even when demanded by individuals, no one seriously believes that a Christian majority country would impose canonical laws by writ, or a Hindu Rashtra would constitute the tenets of Manu Smriti, even with all the right wing posturing. …. but Islam is the only case where the possibility of establishment of a theocracy is demonstrable. That is the underlying logic of all anti-muslim right wing trolls. So it is not about being “liberal” per say, but the idea of old world theocracies is severely repugnant to the liberal and conservative subscribers of a secular state, alike.

    As a kid I used to think that all muslims have a personal butchery in their backyard. I don’t anymore. But I would be severely disappointed if some person whom I might have insulted as an ignorant kid by bringing up the subject, thinks that my current understanding of complex issues sociology and geopolitics is based entirely on that.

  39. Indo-American Muslim

    To: A Rationalist Ex-Muslim and Sabiha Farhat
    From: Indo-American Muslim
    Your frustration is valid. However, it is unfair to blame Islam for what Muslims today portray it to be. If a person is sick, do you kill the person or treat him? To be a patriotic Indian, one does not have to think/believe/act /speak/dress/eat like the majority. Rather, there must be mutual respect for what each group is and intermingling without merging into one entity.
    The blame for Muslim behavior goes largely to the maulanas, muftis who are stuck with the 1000 year old “makkhi copy scholarship” rather than a dynamic problem solving approach mandated by the Qur’an. Many of the laws relating to women’s rights are not in tune with the Quran’s intended purpose, but the maulanas do not have the courage to “bell the cat”.
    Individual Muslims can’t escape the blame either. Any one who ponders, contemplates and applies rational thinking to Qur’an and the practice of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) — and every Muslim is required to do so–would find a lot of reforms needed in Muslim masses. Overwhelming majority of devout Muslims are only focused on rituals rather than the practical aspects taught by their religion including human brotherhood, respect for life, pluralism, respect for all beliefs/practices, establishment of justice with peace, women’s rights, cooperation with all in promotion of good and prevention of evil.

  40. This piece has “Two nation theory” written all over it. Sabiha Farhat, its you (you means you, not Indian muslims) and people like you who identify as Islamists.

    You are blaming ‘the others’ for problems going around your community, why muslims live in ghettos? Look at the example of Waste Bengal, I dont think any non muslim govt. in the world, be it Justin Trudeau or anyone, could get any close to be pro-muslim as that. Even in Canada, only the role of left to center govt. is empowering muslim clergy, not progressive values in muslim community, That is pushing muslims to make shariya controlled zones and ghettos.

    There is an empirical formula to test any theory, that is, you start with assuming that what you propose is right, try to analyse your observations and the results track you back to a contradiction, then the theory is proven wrong. Lets say your theory of ‘most problems of muslim community is because of bigotry against muslims as people by the non muslims’ was indeed true, then why is it that even the most muslim favouring, far left govt. face the same problems? Often times a perfectly reasonable criticism of Islamic practice and doctrine gets conflated with bigotry against muslims as people.

    Bigotry against muslims and people is alive and kicking, whether in western liberal democracy or India, though for the west has a shorter history, only due post globalisation era, compared to India that has a very long history. We must unequivocally ridicule any such sentiment, its our duty as a nation.
    But you targeting ‘liberal’ non muslims (not the fringe) you are empowering the same clergy which must be held responsible for the situations of muslims are currently in. And please dont play the ‘talk about your own’ card, of course we talk about our own issues and social ills but the only difference between the two is, when we talk about our own, at least we defeat the bad ideas on the debate, we have been able to legislate laws to end discrimination (although I grant you full space to talk about the reality on the ground) but when we talk about muslim issues, forget about ground reality, we are attacked by all the sides, from a liberal muslim’s allegation of bigotry to fringe’s death threats. And because our liberal voices are silent by Islamists like you, our side of the fringe is getting empowered. Because lets face the reality, if its only the fringe of our side like Yogi etc. who have the courage to take on the Islamic radicals head on, the general public is ready to compromise some of their individual freedoms to pick them as their leader. Understand the concept of ‘deal breaker’?

    Of course not all muslims subscribe to the bad ideas that somehow are related to the religious doctrine or Islamic traditions, like the doctrine of armed jihad, dominance of shariya and segregation of muslim and kufr, but for gods sake lets be honest that there exists a problem. We must also be very honest discussing about the Hindu fringe, gaurakshak vigils have everything to do with the religious dogmatism of Hindu religion, well of course not all Hindus subscribe to those ideas either. Recognition is the first step to cure, not passing the blame. Just by recognising the truth that cow vigilantism has roots in religious dogma, we disable the people from covering it up, and you’d find and I am sure in near future these vigilantes will end up in jail, not because of the politicians but because of liberals like us who still have a better say in our society unlike yours.

    Why Liberals arent comfortable seeing their daughters married off to a muslim man, first off, its a baseless allegation to put ‘liberal’ word in there. Secondly, you can say that yes many Hindu parents are uncomfortable with it even today(when intercaste marriages are quite common), but lets examine why it hasnt changed? Its because in an interfaith marriage with a muslim man, In case of any dispute the final arbitrator becomes AIMPLB not the courts and every reasonable non muslim has a very valid case that this unconstitutional yet legally empowered body has nothing to offer to a non muslim individual just like Khap has nothing to offer to a dalit, yes its the fear of security of their girl child (no one is guaranteeing the girl’s secure future married off to a Hindu man either) but at least a middle class family can approach court in a case of a dispute.

    Also the use of this derogatory term ‘brahminical’ is despicable. Can you put forward a credible example of institutionalised discrimination against caste/creed. I once asked a JNU friend to explain to me the use of this term, the response was about institutionalised caste/religion based discrimination, yet he couldnt produce a single credible evidence to back that up, except the statistics about disproportionate representation of Brahmins in the corporate and ruling class which is despicable, its the same propaganda which Nazis ran against the Jews of Germany about their disproportionate representation in Corporate, media, judiciary etc.

    “True democracy in India can only be established through its minorities – a solidarity of religious, caste and indigenous minorities.” what a truck load of crap it is.
    Secret ballet democracy is not an indigenous idea, this idea originated from the west, the great french revolution, its about individual freedom and separation of religion and state.

    Individual freedom is the true indicator of the state of democracy in India, do you want to discuss the role of muslim community in that? Lol sure, anytime.

    If you consider yourself to be a liberal then you must stand up for liberal principles. The determining factor for you shouldnt be how it affects muslim’s struggle against Hindus, it should always be on principles.

    Though its a nice piece of garbage and would get you applauds from regressive and uninformed people.

  41. Ashish Chaddha

    In your point of view , Army in Kashmir will remain cuprit regardless of how much army has tried to be with common man and Stone pelters will remain your heroes who will not leave a single opportunity to exploit the situation. You will selectively choose the incidents which suit your version. Same applies to this majority of of India. They will stick to their version of truth and will selectively choose the incidents for remaining stick to their point of view.
    True charachter of a community reflects from how well it treats its minority. Examples are numerous. Kashmir, Pakistan, almost 50 countries where your religion is in majority. You stay exposed. Playing victim when in minority will not take it any further.
    Why people have this opinion of muslims and not of Jains, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Jews who are minuscule minority deserves some introspection.

  42. DJ

    I thinks your thoughts are pretty one sided. I left amlot of comments but since they are blocked by moderation, i would say that you want your opinion to be heard but you hide others’.

  43. yash

    @Sabiha, Compare the population of minorities in Pakistan at 1947 and in 2017. The same story in Bangladesh,Kashmir. Dont you think Hindus need to be wary of Muslims?

  44. ASHOK KUMAR

    I was deeply touched by this article. All Hindus should introspect. Does Hinduism stands for demeaning people of other faiths? Never. Then why this discrimination towards Muslims?
    No doubt this attitude is a fall over of Partition and the poison which the RSS injected in the society. Minorities are our precious assets and I salute them for their patriotism.

  45. Md Sharib Ahmad

    True, that touches the heart. Infact the ideas of soft target eventually arose in the mind of majority is the worst nightmare in all.

  46. Lovely article. Religious divide is a cruel reality of India. Not only has it existed since a long time, its roots may have grown deeper. Part of the reason is political. We as a nation have made several mistakes:
    1)We tried to showcase religious harmony, while papering over the divide that existed. Problems can be resolved only by identifying them, not by hiding
    2)Left kept branding the right as anti-minority, and the right kept pushing for an an even stronger pro-majority identity – in tandem
    3)Our citizens chose to buy the above narrative created by the left & the right

    Caveat: I’m a BJP supporter & my views may be coloured to that extent.

  47. No name

    Went through the article and the comments mentioned. The title says you are ‘unapologetic’. Why apologize? You are a Muslim so be it. No one is asking for an apology from you for what ever faith you follow. The real problem is extremism and biased, opinionated, and a very skewed versions of perception; from both sides, as a matter of fact every side not just Hindu and Muslim,
    Yes, every faith is good in their own way, and bad in their own way. This is a personal representation based on personal experience. However, the truth is universal.

    The truth is India is a democratic, Free, and Republic country despite of all the incidents. It is, was, and will remain that way.

    Coming to communal narrative, I have seen both sides in riots. Both sides are equally unapologetic of the deeds they do. So no one has the right to blow trumpet of their religion. When chips are down no one is good.

    My take would be let’s put opinions aside, personal agenda and experiences aside and aim towards making a better society for the future generations to come.

    Let us focus on a society which has space only for merit, talent, and intelligence rather than minority, reservations, and victims. Can it be that tough?

  48. A very well written article, I and those who live in a cosmopolitan atmosphere can feel the pain of the writer. The so called educated, secular and liberal Muslims have to live in an apologetic manner to appease their non-muslims counterpart for no fault of theirs. This fire of hatred is because of the partition of India, which the majority feels that only muslims are responsible for it. The irony with Indian muslims is that who have migrated from India to west Pakistan they are called as Mahajir by the majority of Pakistanis and those who migrated to East Pakistan were called Biharis by the majority in East Pakistan and those Muslims who chose to remain in India are recognized as Pakistanis by the majority of population. Muslims are feeling isolated and going through an identity crisis in India as they have to prove again and again their affiliation to their mother country.

    Having said that I would say that the blame is on majority of us for not being able to win the hearts and confidence of our non-muslims brothers. Pointing fingers on them is easy but we should also introspect where we went wrong. Why they hate us? We should step into their shoes and think. Apart from partition what are the other causes. We are more illiterate compare to the other communities, our contribution to national economy is near to zero compare to our population. We don’t like rules and regulation impose on us. We are more concerned about beyond the sky and below the earth philosophy. For us Earth is a temporary sojourn so we don’t want to excel here, we spend our entire energy pleasing God and destroying His creations.

    Today we are soft and easy target all around the world. Who is responsible for it? Why don’t we think? Blaming others for our turmoil won’t solve our problems. We should introspect and learn to accept our mistakes.

  49. ASHOK SHARMA

    दिल को छू लेने वाला आलेख, कभी नहीं भूल पाउंगा।
    विश्व के हर उस इंसान के उद्गगार इसमें हैं, जिसने दुनिया के किसी भी कोने में किसी भी तरह के भेदभाव को झेला है।

  50. Anshuman Jangi

    Sabiha as a Dubai born Indian immigrant in the US, I can tell you I have felt every one if these feelings. I am sorry you have to suffer thiis in you own home country. As a short haired Sikh with a relatively HIndu sounding name, it is easier for me to mix in India, but I can tell you in the Midwestern United States its uncanny how much I have found myself thinking exactly like you in the context of the majority here. I finished my high school, college, basically my entire young adulthood here, I care about the US, I think of myself as an American but I find myself constantly justifying it to myself and others. IT SUCKS

  51. Saurav

    This is not due to you being clean or dirty or being hindu or muslim , we hindus (i think majority of your classmates) in our home we see non-veg with a differnt mind set , we used to have different utensils for non veg in that we eat and coock , we dont even touch other things after eating non -veg and in our community (specially hindu community) we think that it is usual for you (muslims) to eat non-veg and use the same utensils , so we are adviced not to share our lunchbox.

    1. Aditya Nigam

      I like the way Saurav you completely whitewash the caste – and hence impurity/ dirt/ filth – question in your response. First there is no Hindu community (who, you say, don’t even ‘touch’ other things after eating non-veg). Bengalis, Assamese, Oriyas for example, across castes eat non-veg with great relish and it is part of their regular diet. And this includes the brahmans. Brahmans and upper castes in the northern hills too eat meat quite frequently. Most of those Hindus who adhere to vegetarianism have an attitude of impurity of the type that you mention – and links straight to notions of purity/ pollution, dirt and what these Hindus see as lower caste practices or practices of ‘others. Caste structures the very being of a Hindu.

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