Sayyed Taleef Haider
In Islamic countries, there is a focus on religious concerns and the Impact of radicalization is prominent; one cannot speak against the state. In democratic states like Pakistan, there is extreme terrorism. Somewhere, due to an Islamic government, you cannot differ on religious matters. You can’t always live happily because of the fanaticism of the Maulvis or the terror of the Muftis in other locations. One doesn’t feel secure even in a mosque or madrassa in Pakistan and worries about how Muslims are forced to live in an antagonistic atmosphere when you consider the situation in nations like China.
It is due to the extreme religious disagreements that the Muslims have turned against one another. There are conflicts between Shias and Sunnis in some places, and there are also conflicts between Wahhabis and Sunnis in some countries. In these situations, India protects the Muslims like a Dar-ul Aman, on top of which in the name of this security arrangement, the Muslims here do not even have to pay any additional Taxes like Jaziya [a capitation-tax supposedly levied on the non-Muslims of an “Islamic” Government].
Indian Muslims have the freedom to express their different opinion in the political, social, cultural, and linguistic fields and at the same time have to exercise this freedom at the government level as well. This is the biggest advantage of being an Indian Muslim. I have the same rights that a common citizen has in India. If you do not consider this as freedom, then you should look at the situation of those countries in which minorities do not have full rights, especially Muslims.
The concept of Zimmi (the protected people – non-Muislims) in the Islamic government itself is troubling. Moreover, Jiziya is collected from non-Muslims, their Zabiha Meat products sourced from slaughtering an animal in Islamic way) is not considered halal and neither can a marital relationship be established with them. It’s another matter that there is no true Islamic government in any country, including the mighty Saudi Arabia. The feeling that you have no right in any matter because you do not follow the religion of the majority is heartbreaking. When it comes to political freedom in this country, not only Muslims have been participating in politics in the 75 years of independence, but also have served as Presidents, Cabinet Ministers, MPs, MLAs, and likewise.
Every citizen of India has the same right to vote as I do, as a Muslim. In every political constituency of the city, the number of non-Muslims and Muslims is also seen to be equal. Apart from politics, if we talk about cultural freedom, here too there is immense freedom for Muslims, be it in the field of music or painting, poetry or acting.
As a Muslim, I have the freedom to participate in all these cultural fields without any pressure. Whether I play tabla or sing, act, or recite good poetry, no one will question my involvement or label it as “haram”. Due to freedom from the burden of haram and non-haram, musicians like Naushad and Zakir Hussain, actors like Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan, poets like Bashir Badar and Nida Fazli, and singers like AR Rahman were born in India.
Sufism as it stands in its current form solely exists in India, this openness that the Indian Muslims possess is, unfortunately, missing in any other part of the world. Here, there are waves of colours and textures in Sufism, which is considered taboo or haram in Islamic countries. Such interesting examples of Sufi practices and Sufi personalities are found in India which are very prominent and varied, be it Musa Suhag or Lala Arifa, Amir Khusrau or Sheikh Bahauddin Bajan. The Sufis’ Indian heritage was responsible for all of these characteristics that became part of their identity.
If we focus on one particular factor, namely economic stability, we will see that the other nations within the Indian Subcontinent do not offer many prospects for Muslims. Further, India is a rising economic power from which new companies emerge with new projects daily and the hiring is without any religious discrimination. I have found Muslims working in many sectors like Corporate, BPO, KPO, Sales, Marketing, and FMCG. We get this advantage only because we are Indian Muslims. Apart from this, Muslims get minority reservations in government jobs and minority scholarships in the field of education, due to which they can present their work in different fields in a prominent manner and at the same time they can economically support their families.
I saw the biggest advantage of being an Indian Muslim at the global level when I compared my passport with that of other countries in the world and especially within the subcontinent. Being an Indian Muslim made it very easy for me to enter numerous nations throughout the world, whereas the status of a Pakistani passport is perceived as having zero value in the world. I was regarded as more acceptable than Pakistanis in many large organizations, and institutions, particularly those in Western nations, universities, and government and semi-government agencies.
The concept of unity in diversity in India is such that Indian Muslims are not forcefully given an identity of a particular language. I had to learn the regional languages of the states I acquired my education in. The Arabic nations are deprived of the benefit of having citizens who skillfully know diverse languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, and English. India, on the other hand, has provided us, Indian Muslims to learn and reproduce our knowledge in different languages. This, I feel, instills maturity in Muslim citizens of India.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that Indians are emotional and patriotic beings. They love their motherland equally, despite having differences in religious beliefs. The Indian Ulamas, while preaching the thoughts of Islam, has always kept the love for the Indian nation as the primary teaching. This is the reason why Indian Muslims not only celebrate Eid and Bakr-eid but also Holi, Diwali, Onam, and likewise. The Indian Muslims have the openness to partake in the celebrations of their non-Muslim brothers. That is what India and Indian Muslims stand for unity.