• By | Mir Abass
In December of 2019, India’s ruling party in the state of Assam, the BJP, passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), easing citizenship requirements for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Sikhs from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Notably excluded from this list are Muslims, including Rohingya refugees. And this is where the CAA comes in; non-Muslim residents of Assam who are not on the National Register of Citizens will be able to apply for citizenship, while Muslims will not qualify and will be detained in camps. This model of exclusion and deprivation against Muslims, if applied in all provinces, could leave many Indian Muslims stateless and without basic rights.
Nationalism – the Rotten Legacy of Colonialism
While India is a diverse country, with many cultural, linguistic and religious traditions, Muslim presence and rule has been integral to the fabric of every single aspect of Indian existence, from economic development to infrastructure. The centuries of Muslim rule in India are not just associated with prosperity and cultural development, but as evidenced by thriving Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain communities and places of worship, with tolerance and justice towards anyone living in the subcontinent, regardless of their faith.
It is British colonial rule that used a divide and rule policy to inspire religious and ethnic separatism in the subcontinent. And while Muslims were integral in the resistance to colonialism, from the defeat of the East India Company by Bakht Khan, to the rebellion of Tipu Sultan, the British Crown was eventually able to introduce the nation state concept through a two-nation solution to the subcontinent, sapping at the collective strength of their colony. The creation of the modern nation states in the subcontinent, with borders and the restriction of movement is an unnatural and a colonial design.
Distortion of Indian History
Hindu intellectuals, inspired by white-nationalist movements in Europe, crafted the concept of a pure Hindu identity that is being corrupted by Muslim outsiders.
This is partly why the BJP was able to field and win with a candidate who openly bragged about taking part in the destruction of a mosque, and the current home minister of India can refer to unregistered migrants in the Assam province, commonly assumed to be Muslim, as termites. This is why a BJP leader proposed the forcible shaving of the beards of Muslim men, so as to make them Hindus. The NRC and the CAA are the latest measures in this campaign of vilification and otherizing.
The treatment of India’s ruling party of its Muslim minority is no anomaly. Rather, it is part of a global picture illustrating our weakness as Muslims. What is happening with Muslims in India is no different to what the Uyghurs are facing in China, or the Rohingya in Burma, the Moro in the Philippines, the Tartar in Crimea, or the Palestinians under Zionist control. In each of these cases the construction of artificial boundaries, motivated by the cruel and arbitrary bonds of nationalism, have subjugated historically Muslim territories to the mercy of non-Muslim majorities who routinely brutalize them.
It should be no surprise that nationalist leaders wish harm upon us. Muslims, whose very identity is linked to a creed which manifested itself throughout history in opening doors, breaking borders, and unifying continents under the economic justice, societal strength, and spiritual guidance of Islam, will always pose a threat to those who wish to rule by the restrictive, divisive and selfserving dictates of man-made law.
But what must be highlighted is the tacit approval of the so-called rulers of the Muslim lands. Here are men who sit on fancy thrones, command well-equipped armies, captain large economies, and preside over fearsome surveillance, intelligence and policing apparatus, yet refuse to lift a finger to help the Muslims suffering all over the world. What can explain their complicity? These rulers are nothing more than self-serving, spineless traitors who have been propped up, financed, and imposed upon us by the very colonial powers that we had supposedly gained independence from. Their rule over the Muslim lands has done nothing other than introduce the hollow social values, exploitative economic institutions, and hateful nationalism that is part and parcel of Capitalism.
It should not be surprising that Muslim minorities are open game across the world, the Muslim rulers have made it clear that there will be no repercussions to the taking of Muslim dignity or blood. As our Beloved Messenger (saw) tells us:
“The Imam is but a shield (protection) behind whom you fight, and you protect yourself with” [Bukhari & Muslim]
In the absence of this shield, a state that commits itself to the implementation and protection of the Islamic worldview, no Muslim in any land is safe, especially those who live as minorities.
If the Gulf countries can call the oppression of the Uyghurs as appropriate counter-terrorism measures, and call the annexation of Kashmir an internal issue, then is it surprising that China and India are emboldened in their aggression against Muslims? If the prime minister of Pakistan can declare China its best friend, and “a breath of fresh air” when questioned about his silence about Muslim internment camps, what incentive will the Chinese authorities have to stop forcing a large portion of their Muslim population to apostate? And if the rulers of Turkey and Bangladesh can send paltry aid and wellwishes to the Rohingya, but not lift a finger to confront the army of Myanmar, is it surprising that their genocide will continue?
In the absence of our shield, Muslim minorities will turn to the mechanisms available for protection. Muslims in India are being encouraged by prominent politicians to embrace secularism as a means of protection against statelessness and have been encouraged to frame their resistance to the CAA not as defending their religion but defending the secular identity of India. Rohingya Muslims are forced to rely on a judgment of the International Court of Justice that ordered Myanmar to protect the Rohingya against its own genocidal policies. Imagine that: Muslims are expected to seek protection from the very regimes that are committing atrocities against them.
Those of us who have migrated to the West and have been promised the ability to practice our religion, need to internalize the fact that the promises of the Capitalist system are subject to their perceived benefit. As our hijab wearing sisters in Quebec, or France can attest, these promises are quick to break when the political landscape changes.
We do not have to accept this. Instead we must imagine a new world. There is nothing inevitable or permanent about this state of weakness. It is the result of the intellectual decline in the Ummah, which allowed the Capitalist powers to subjugate the Muslims lands, separate us from the collective systems and institutions of Islam, and divide us. This decline is reversible, our strength is within reach.
We can strive for a world in which Islam is resumed as a way of life, where the Muslim lands can be pieced together under the banner of this deen, where the other nations would know that the Ummah of Muhammad (saw), even as a minority in their lands, cannot be trifled with, as they are backed by a state that will mobilize its political, economic, diplomatic and even military strength against them in defense of these Muslims.
The system of Islam would ensure that no religious community that lives under its shade would ever have to be uprooted or made defenseless as a result of bigotry. It would ensure that its foreign policy and its relations with other nations is built upon enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. And it would ensure that if a Muslim group is being persecuted anywhere in the world, it would commit itself to preventing that oppression. As Allah (swt) commands us in the Quran: “…And if they seek help of you for the religion, then you must help” [TMQ 8:72]
We need to connect ourselves with our aqeedah, ensuring that we are forming our personality and character on the basis of a reliance on Allah alone, and obedience to His Messenger (saw). We need then be exposed to the issues facing our community, both the local youth and elders, and the global condition of the Muslims. As we examine these issues, we need to learn the ahkam of Islam, both as they apply to our individual issues, and to the Ummah as a whole. We need to use our collective platforms to call for the return of the rule of Islam in the Muslim lands, the Khilafah state, so that the oppressed all over the world, both Muslim and non-Muslim can find peace and tranquility under its shade. May Allah (swt) help us fulfill our covenant with Him. Ameen.
Meer Abass, Lecturer ; Department of English, Darpora Zaingair.