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What YOU can do for the Muslims of India

Mother story

“Allāh is your Protector, and He is the best of helpers.”[1]

Troubling footage has spread across social media of unarmed women defiantly protecting a defenceless young man from assault by Indian police officers. These warrior women were seen bravely standing up to armed men, who were dressed in combat fatigues and body armour.

This recent violent police crackdown occurred on 15 December 2019 in response to a peaceful protest by students at the Jamia Milia Islamia (JMI) university. Students were protesting against the latest ploy by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its agenda of Hindu supremacy and the creation of a Hindu state.

The BJP has introduced what it has called the ‘Hindu Rasthra’ –  the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) – which was passed by the Indian Parliament on 11 December 2019. It provides a pathway to gain Indian nationality, but only for non-Muslims seeking asylum from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. The CAA is in dissonance with the principles of pluralism and secularism found in the Constitution of India. Muslim students at JMI voiced their disagreement and concern with the direction India is travelling toward.

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Students recalled the night-long police assault in which they were beaten with batons. Students also reported live bullets being fired alongside tear gas shells. Testimony was also given to media outlets that the heavily armed police units who stormed the university campus and an onsite mosque appeared to be in “revenge mode”. Furthermore, police officers vandalised university property and hurled abuse at the students using terms such as “terrorists”, with police also shouting “thrash the bastards”. [2]

A picture of police officers chasing the students is also telling. The picture shows a middle-aged policeman (on the far right of the picture) wearing a cricket helmet, and the leading policeman at the centre of the picture leading the charge wearing a crash helmet. This evidently shows that the police came to JMI not to keep the peace or maintain order, but to fight. This image of a disorderly and frenzied mob of policemen is precisely the making of a pogrom: when authority ceases to be impartial.

The disproportionate force meted out to students at JMI was not isolated. Police brutality also occurred at the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, with similar details emerging. Students and lecturers reported that police called the Muslim protestors “khatana” – which means circumcised – whilst shouting “Jai Shri Ram”, which translates to “hail Lord Ram”. [3]

Non-Muslim voices of resistance

Harsh Mander, a human rights activist, spoke to the Guardian:

“The openness of the Islamophobia of the police here is what really troubles me. We’ve transitioned from vigilante lynching, where the government created an enabling environment for hate, into the state actually doing it itself. What this citizenship act and the police response to the protests makes clear is this government has declared war on its Muslim citizens.”

Mander was not alone in raising a non-Muslim voice. Booker Prize winner Arundati Roy also joined the resistance and rhetorically asked her fellow Indians:

“Are we going to stand in line once again, obediently, and comply with the policy that eerily resembles the 1935 Nuremberg Laws of the Third Reich? If we do, India will cease to exist. We are faced with the biggest challenge since Independence. Stand up. Please. Stand up.”[4]

People responded as peaceful protests spread like wildfire across India in the largest demonstration of defiance since Modi’s Hindu nationalist party came to power. Muslim protestors were joined by their Hindu countrymen in rejecting the divisive and discriminatory law. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee led a rally in Kolkata against the CAA. Banerjee said:

“They will have to implement CAB and NRC in Bengal over my dead body.”[5]

For many Muslims in India, the fear is not only the CAA, but the trajectory India is on. The CAA is the latest attempt by the BJP to marginalise India’s Muslims, with other ploys attempting to indoctrinate the next generation of Indians. A school run by the Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ran a play in which children re-enacted the demolition of Babri Mosque.[6] Senior BJP officials were chief guests at the play in which the narrator commented on the enthusiasm with which the children demolished the mosque: “They start demolishing the structure with anything they can get their hands on.” Shiv Vishwanathan, a sociologist, called it “obscene”, saying that education was presented as propaganda and harmed the innocence of the children.[7]

The CAA is seen a precursor to a National Register of Citizens, in which Indian nationality will only be given to those who are able to substantiate their right to lawfully live in India with documentary evidence.

In the state of Assam, a pilot version of this policy has seen some 2 million people face being stateless following exclusion from the National Register of Citizens. People who were once Indians have now been turned into illegal immigrants.[8] The real terror is that this is Modi’s plan for India’s 200 million Muslims.

This sense of foreboding has only been amplified by the building of detention centres across Assam for the nearly two million people stripped of their citizenship following the National Register of Citizens.[9] Despite their centuries-old ties to the land, many Muslims across India are wondering if they will be next.

History casts a shadow

Huddled in their homes, forbidden from their democratic and constitutional right to protest, some Muslims may pensively recall the riots of Gujarat that occurred under the governorship of Modi. On February 27, 2002, a train coach carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire at Godhra station in Gujurat. After 58 people died, Modi moved quickly and blamed Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the Inter-Services Intelligence) without evidence. To further stoke tensions in an already febrile atmosphere, Modi had the charred bodies paraded in the main city of Ahmedabad. What followed was predictable: thousands of Muslims were butchered. Mobs of Hindu men dragged mothers and daughters from their homes and raped them. One ring leader, Babu Bajrangi, boasted how he had slit open the womb of a pregnant Muslim woman.[10]

Muslim Indians will also be looking nervously at history. The genocides of Bosnia and Rwanda loom large. According to Stanton’s stages of genocide, the Citizens Amendment Act has now placed Indian Muslims on stage seven: preparation. The next stage is persecution: the beginning of murders. Thereafter: wholesale elimination.[11]

India on the world stage

The Prime Minister of India straddles the global stage as the leader of the world’s biggest democracy. India’s international reputation dictates that Modi cannot act in isolation nor should the Citizen Amendment Act be seen in isolation. Modi is feted across the globe and is unlikely to risk India’s international standing without the prior tacit approval from key world leaders. (The lack of outrage or even a raised eyebrow from world leaders is startling.) Furthermore, the Act must be seen in the context of rising domestic anti-Muslim vigilantism and growing global anti-Muslim sentiment. Modi’s moves must be set against the lack of meaningful action against his usurping of Jammu and Kashmir and the global impotence against China’s detention of 1 million Muslim Uyghurs. Essentially, the former gave Modi the green light to execute his plan against India’s Muslims, whilst the latter told him the world powers would let him get away with it.

Another video has also gone viral of a Muslim Uyghur child being beaten and mocked.[12] Perhaps the common thread between these two viral videos is the sense of Muslim helplessness and moral outrage that such crimes can occur in what are considered enlightened times. Perhaps the ugly truth is that these are savage times in which barbarians rule with an iron fist.

However, Muslims should have no fear of future but should be confident, placing all their trust in Allāh, the King of kings, Lord of the Throne who said:

“And remember when you were few and oppressed in the land, fearing that people might abduct you, but He sheltered you, supported you with His victory, and provided you with good things – that you might be grateful.”[13]

Rather, those who should be alarmed are the tyrants. It is their hearts that should be panic-stricken by the words of our noble Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) who said:

“Fear the prayer of the oppressed for between it and Allāh there is no barrier.”[14]

What these barbarians have not reckoned with is you. What they have failed to factor in is that this Muslim nation is brimming with intelligent and innovative individuals who will use their initiative to find lawful means to resist injustice. These barbarians cannot even imagine the courage bursting in your heart or the outrage in your soul. Use your zeal. Shine a light on India, China, and elsewhere, for it is only in darkness that the devils delight.

But what can WE do to help?

Crises like the ones mentioned above are a test for three types of people at once: those committing the injustice, those on the immediate receiving end of it, and the onlookers—which is the majority of us. One of the most successful traps of shaytān is to lull us into a blissful ignorance, wishfully thinking that we will not be held responsible for oppression simply because we are not committing it directly ourselves. Injustice relies on spectators doing and saying nothing. Another trap is for us to comfort ourselves with the fallacy of not doing what we can, simply because we are unable to fix an injustice fully.

The scholars of Islamic legal theory and ethics have clarified these fallacies in a succinct maxim: al-maysūr lā yasqut bil-ma’sūr – the obligation to do that which is doable is not lifted due to the presence of that which is not doable. This is similar to the principle: mā lā yudraku kuluhu lā yutraku julluhu – that which cannot be achieved completely must not be forsaken fully. These principles essentially warn us against the perfectionist fallacy; just because there are 1,000 things that are required to be done in order to “fix” a particular problem (be it the Uyghurs, Kashmir, Indian Muslim oppression, Syria, and so on) and we are able to only address 2 or 3 of those, we are not permitted to leave them, rather we are obligated to do what is in our ability and sphere of influence.

It is also important to remember our primary objective:

And when a community among them said, “Why do you advise [or warn] a people whom Allah is [about] to destroy or to punish with a severe punishment?” they [the advisors] said, “To be absolved before your Lord and perhaps they may fear Him.”[15]

We are not in charge of the outcome, but our main concern should be doing whatever is in our ability and our sphere of influence, so that we may have an excuse before Allāh when He asks us what we did to help those being oppressed. It is not enough to say we did not do that which was out of our ability, but Allāh judges according to what percentage of our potential for activism we utilised.

So bearing that in mind, here are some things that we can and must definitely try and do in order to help our brothers and sisters in India, and elsewhere.

I. Sincere Du’ā

This is something that every one of us can do, and it is the weapon of the believer. It is undoutebly confirmed as a means to an end, and anyone who belittles this important means indeed has traces of hypocrisy in their heart. Since Allāh is the Owner of everything, He is able to bring about any change He wills, but He is testing us which of us is going to put effort into the means for positive change—of which du’ā is an undeniable one.

This includes seeking out the times and situations where du’ā is most beloved to Allāh, and most likely to be accepted. For example, if you are an Imām you can carry out Qunūt al-Nāzila with your congregation, as per the sunnah of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).[16] If you are not an Imām, then ask your local masjid or prayer rooms to do so. This article explains Qunūt al-Nāzila and its rulings in more detail: https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/aleppoisdying-time-for-qunut/.

II. Lobby your local politicians and government departments

Election season is over and now is the time to build those relationships with our newly elected MPs. Almost every one of us is able to send a simple message to our MP to issue a statement of condemnation of the treatment of Muslims in India by the BJP. They can be easily contacted via www.theyworkforyou.com.

Furthermore, we can also send a message to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to issue a statement to make their condemnation clear and put pressure on the Indian government. Their social media information can be found here.[17]

The United Kingdom in particular is an important country on the world’s stage so those living here have a greater duty to lobby those working and speaking on our behalf to represent us.

Again – do not fall for the trap of shaytān to make you think this will ‘do nothing’ because our primary concern is not the material outcome but lifting the obligation to use any means at our disposal to make a change.

III. Encourage public figures to issue a statement

It may come as a surprise to some, but statements of condemnation of perpetrators and support for victims, from politicians, governments and even celebrities do make an impact. Look at the example of Arsenal Football Club midfielder Mesut Ozil’s condemnation of the silence over the treatment of Uyghurs in East Turkestan by the Chinese state.[18]

This simple act has led to a furious reaction by the Chinese state, including reportedly cancelling the broadcasting of Arsenal matches costing millions, removing him from their version of the Pro Evolution Soccer game, accusing him of being misled by ‘fake news’, and removing his fan club from Chinese search engines.

This was just one man – don’t tell me our voices cannot make an impact.

This also includes identifying Indian celebrities to raise awareness and issue messages of support. Apartheid was dismantled in South Africa because the country was treated like a pariah.

IV. Raise general awareness yourself

Each one of us has the blessing/curse of a mobile phone and an online persona on social media platforms whether we know it or not. The democratisation of the news agenda by social media has made it such that ordinary people such as you and I, can be involved in making something become too loud for the traditional brokers of knowledge and power to ignore it. There have been many examples of this.

How do we exercise this power? Share this and any other news or calls to action about an important issue to your networks, and encourage them to spread awareness. When you come across an important narrative, piece of news, or call to action on a social media platform, chances are that its algorithms are testing its ‘engagement’ potential, to increase ‘time spent on site’—the single metric all advertising-run apps or sites are geared to maximise. This means that if you just scroll past it, the algorithm will not show that thing to more people. But if you stop on it, click the link, engage with it (like, comment, share), then the algorithm will show that same post on the timelines of a larger and larger number of people. This is one way we can ALL help something go viral.

And do not think “What is the point of sharing negativity and bad news?!” Making inkār (condemnation) of a munkar is in and of itself an act of worship, and sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zones in order to speak out even if it brings us moral anxiety or temporary sadness. It is of course counterproductive to focus on that and ignore everything else that we can practically do, but it is just as counterproductive to ignore this act as well.

Part of this is also following and signal-boosting key activists and NGOs on the ground that are doing the hard work of reporting what is happening, sometimes at risk to their own lives. Look for advocacy groups for particular causes, such as Stand With Kashmir, Americans With Kashmir, Talk to East Turkestan, and CAGE in the UK for example.

V. Send messages of support to those affected by injustices

Never underestimate the power of moral support. Even Allāh (subhānahu wa tal’ālā) gave moral support to His beloved Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘walayhi wa sallam) when he was being attacked:

“Nun. By the pen and what they inscribe,

You are not, [O Muhammad], by the favour of your Lord, a madman.

And indeed, for you is a reward uninterrupted.

And indeed, you are of a great moral character.”[19]

Find people on social media platforms and also physically through friends and relatives, and send messages of support to them letting them know that their brothers and sisters are thinking of them, making du’ā for them, and doing all that they can to help them. One of the most poisonous feelings fostered by Muslims suffering far away is the feeling that the Ummah has forsaken them—let them know this is not the case.

VI. Charity

Find reputable registered charities that are carrying out work to help alleviate the suffering of those facing injustices. We all talk the talk but let us put our money where our mouths are.

We need to increase our financial muscle. Make the intention that a portion of your wealth (in addition to zakāt) will be used to aid the Muslims in East Turkestan and India, for example. Research ways to do so; charities which launch legal challenges for instance, and carry out important systemic and institutional work. Help the creation and funding of think tanks and lobbies to carry out this work.

VII. Find out about and organise BDS action

Hit them where it hurts – economics. Boycott, Divestment & Sanction is a tried and tested method of putting pressure on perpetrators of injustice. However, this cannot be as generic as “boycott Indian companies” because this would end up likely harming the victims! Only specific, extreme Hindutva nationalist families of businesses support the BJP and Modi’s crimes. Find out who these are using reputable sources and create campaigns in your areas.

VIII. Write to media outlets to cover these stories

Ask the major newspapers and sites to cover what is happening in India right now. For example, here are the email addresses of editors of top newspapers in the US: https://publicize.co/databases/list-of-top-100-newspaper-contact-information/ and in the UK: https://media.info/uk/newspapers.

IX. Help them get internet access back 

Write to or tweet Vodafone, for example, and ask why it is complicit with BJP in restricting internet and phone access to Indians in parts of Delhi,[20]  as it had done during the Egyptian uprising against Mubarak. @VodafoneGroup @vodafone @VodafoneUK @VodafoneIN are some twitter handles you can use.

Also think of innovative ways for the people of Kashmir to gain access to the internet. They are currently in the longest internet blackout in history conducted by a “democracy”.

X. Create the next generation of major change tomorrow today

Salāh al-Dīn Ayyūbī did not wake up one day and decide to liberate al-Quds (Jerusalem). He was the culmination of generations educated and nurtured to have a vision for great change. We must prepare our next generation to lead the change that will happen tomorrow.

Embed in their hearts the love for the Dīn, love for justice, being concerned with what is happening around the world, so they are prepared to take their position as leaders of mankind once again. This requires them to be raised with a leadership mindset and not feel disempowered by the challenges we see but empowered to think creatively for leading change in tomorrow’s world.

XI. Be creative

Create plays or short films to highlight Muslim history of India: Muslims are not guests in India, they’ve been there from day one. Create and publish stories and other creative content to highlight what is going on and how people can help. Everyone is given to different skills and thinks creatively in different ways – whether it is writing articles, stories, poems, drawing pictures, paintings, or sculpting, or whatever talen you have – use it to help others.

Gene Sharpe is an expert on non-violent action, and has created a list of 207 ways to “get rid of a dictator”.[21] You can find it here: http://www.citizenshandbook.org/get_rid_of_a_dictator.html. How can you materialise some of these for the issues facing the Ummah today?

Share your ideas for practical steps we can take to: (i) have a justification before Allāh if we are asked what we did within our ability and sphere of influence; and (ii) help alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Al-Qur’ān 3:150

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/heard-gunfire-jamia-students-detail-police-attack-campus-191218063347967.html

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/18/india-clamps-down-against-citizenship-law-protests

[4] https://scroll.in/latest/947060/arundhati-roy-urges-citizens-to-stand-up-against-implementation-of-citizenship-act-nrc

[5] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/over-my-dead-body-mamata-banerjee-leads-mega-rally-against-citizenship-act/story-vCCiJ4AsuipTUzlzDuaiuM.html

[6] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-50819792

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-50819792

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/aug/31/india-almost-2m-people-left-off-assam-register-of-citizens

[9] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/assam-india-detention-camps-bangladesh-nrc-list-a9099251.html

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/narendra-modi-massacre-next-prime-minister-india

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_stages_of_genocide

[12] https://mobile.twitter.com/Woppa1Woppa/status/1206015299771781120

[13] Al-Qur’ān 8:26

[14] Narrated by Ahmad, 12140; classed as hasan by al-Albānī in Sahīh al-Targhīb wa al-Tarhīb, 2231

[15] Al-Qur’ān 7:164

[16] https://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/aleppoisdying-time-for-qunut/

[17] https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office/about/social-media-use

[18] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/ozil-on-uyghur-where-are-the-muslims/

[19] Al-Qur’ān 68:1-4

[20] https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/newsindia/mobile-internet-suspended-in-parts-of-delhi-airtel-and-vodafone-confirm-as-caa-protests-sweep-country/ar-BBY9aQK?li=AAggbRN

[21] http://www.citizenshandbook.org/get_rid_of_a_dictator.html

Mother story

About Dr Izzadeen Chowdhury

3 comments

  1. Assalamualaikum,
    I’m from India, we Muslims in India are leaving in fear. There’s too hatredness around here. They are seizing our properties & killing our brothers. The world leaders especially the Arab world is a mute spectator. No one is raising their voice against the oppression. I request the Muslim world to do something against this oppression.

  2. Jzk Allah Khair . I am inspired by your article so much I am going to share it on social media .

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