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Let’s talk to Owaisi, not jail him!

Thursday, January 10, 2013
Tavleen Singh

WHAT has worried me most about the manner in which Akbaruddin Owaisi’s latest hate speech has been dealt with is that everyone appears to have missed the point.  It is not his being jailed that matters but what he said in his speech and more than his speech what matters is the applause it evoked form his huge audience. It is the huge crowds that greeted him at Hyderabad airport when he returned from London that we need to think about and not the condemnation of his speech by Muslims of liberal bent.

Incidentally, it is intriguing that a man with such an Islamist approach to life should go to a godless, Western city like London at all but to analyze why so many dedicated Islamists flock to London for holidays and healthcare would need a separate column, so today I am going to stick to analyzing Owaisi’s speech.

‘Communal’ viewpoint
What makes the speech important is not that Owaisi made it. He is a provincial politician of no current national relevance and so many of my more ‘secular’ brethren will I am sure label me ‘communal’ for even bothering to analyze it. But, according to my ‘communal’ viewpoint what makes the speech important is that it reflects the thinking of a worryingly large number of lower middle class, semi-educated Indian Muslims. I have met them in the bazaars of Moradabad and Lucknow and in the bazaars of Delhi and Mumbai and what has annoyed me every time is their contempt for India.

This comes out in exactly the way Owaisi said it in his speech and this is what makes this speech so important. At one point in his diatribe against India and Indians, he said that those who said Muslims should go to another country did not realize that if they went they would take with them the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the Qutab Minar. “And, what will be left here then? A broken Ram temple in Ayodhya and some naked statues in Ajanta and Ellora.”

Analyze this comment and you see what ordinary Muslims across the Indian sub-continent have long believed that there was nothing worth preserving of India’s ancient civilization. Until Islam arrived, they believe, India was a cultural and civilizational desert and if you try arguing that this is illiterate rubbish, as I often have done, then the conversation ends or the subject gets changed. 

We should have been talking of these things long ago but because in the interests of ‘secularism’ the contribution of ancient India to the civilization of the world is ignored in Indian schools there are not enough Hindus who can talk about it. Muslims, on the other hand, have their history hammered into their heads from the time they are small children in the ‘madrassa’ and even at home so they have a confidence about who they are. This would be fine if it stopped there, but it is usually accompanied by contempt for India because of a deep disdain for the Hindus religion with its polytheism and its idols.

This brings us to the part of his speech for which Owaisi is now in jail.  He said to cheers and derisive laughter from his audience, “They have many gods… Ram, Lakshman, Durga, Ganesha… and every month they give birth to a new one. Who is Bhagyalakshmi… but leave it, I do not want to ruin the auspicious atmosphere of this gathering by taking their abominable names.” 

Then came more insults about how Hindus and their ‘sacred mother cow’ that they sell in the bazaars, and that the police permit until Muslims come forward to buy them. If Muslims did not eat beef, he added contemptuously, then the ‘mata’ of the Hindus would eat up every blade of grass in India and it would become a desert.

Analyze this part of the speech and what you find is not just scorn for India’s main religious traditions, but a hatred of them. Yet if someone like me (and I am not a Hindu) ever dares point out in my columns that there are flaws in the Islamic idea that it alone has all the religious answers or that it is hard in the 21st century to believe in prophets and revealed religions then I get labeled ‘communal’.

Instead of labeling, if we discussed the ideas of men like Akbaruddin Owaisi we would find that it would give us a chance to understand what India should stand for and stand up against.

The fundamental idea of India is that, despite being mostly Hindu in population, it stands for freedom of worship and that this necessarily entails respect for everyone’s religious ideas, no matter how stupid they may be. So although Owaisi’s speech would have been acceptable, and applauded, in Saudi Arabia it has no place in India. It is unfortunate that because of a dominance of leftists and liberals in India’s intellectual space these things are not only never acknowledged but viewed as politically incorrect.

Please remember that the party to which Akbaruddin Owaisi belongs, that is virtually his family party, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Musalmeen (MIM) was until recently a member of the UPA government.

The Congress Party flaunts is disdain for ‘communal’ Hindu political parties, but never hesitates to ally with dangerously sectarian Muslim groupings, including the one in Kerala that was responsible for chopping off a teacher’s hand because they objected to a text on the Prophet Mohammed.

Mindset of Muslims
Akbaruddin Owaisi’s speech gives us a chance to start a discussion on whether Islamism is acceptable in India or not. Islamism is the religious ideology of Owaisi and his political party and since they get elected, over and over again, in Hyderabad they must be allowed to express their ideology.

The idea of India includes not just freedom of worship but freedom of speech, so Owaisi has a right to say what he did. Instead of throwing him in jail thereby making him an even bigger hero in the eyes of his constituents would it not have been better for us to have discussed his ideas publicly and made him explain exactly what he meant?

Only a real debate will help change the mindset of Muslims who continue to be taught a version of Indian history that is blinkered, bigoted and untruthful and that teaches them to believe that India is worthy only of their contempt except when it is ruled by Muslims.

It is more than time that this changed but for it to happen we need political will and so far there is no sign of it.

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