Friday, November 27, 2009

Muslims cannot digest the idea of honouring womanhood and can't sing Vande Mataram

Vande Mataram. Why the clergy crib?

The fatwa brigade is out again. This round in the company of the redoubtable Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who has displayed an exceptional expertise in blowing hot and cold in the face of mounting pressure on national security.

That the Deoband intellectuals could not find anything more significant and meaningful for the community, it claims to represent, than raising the bogey of Vande Mataram, to raise before the Home Minister underlines the crisis facing the Muslim clergy. It is in a time warp. It has no sense of timing or priority. If a Muslim should or should not sing Vande Mataram can be debated endlessly. There are people like AR Rahman and Arif Mohammad Khan, in modern times who find it elevating to sing the soul-stirring song. Post-independent India has seen social reformers and intellectuals like MC Chagla, Hamid Delvi, etc, pleading tirelessly to their community to join the national mainstream. The liberal leadership of Indian Muslims has often found it difficult to carry the Muslim masses with it, as the more orthodox held sway over their political decision-making. This helped cynical political bargain by the self-appointed champions of minority rights like Congress and Communist parties, which keep Muslims in perpetual bondage of vote-bank politics even as this game damaged and undermined the community-economically, educationally and even socially.

The mullahs, however, found the gamble rewarding because it helped them tighten their stranglehold. Out of this bargain developed the penchant of the Muslim clergy to issue fatwas on all and sundry issues, of late, making it a matter of general ridicule. The growing criticism from within the community against the fatwa regime had in recent years made the clergy a little wary, especially on issuing fatwas on social issues. The latest one on Vande Mataram for this reason sounded more a pre-meditated publicity stunt than a matter of real concern.

Muslims were in any case not hotly debating if they should sing or chant, worship or pray on Vande Mataram. The Muslims, who joined hand in hand singing the great national song in their fight against the British, early 20th century in their desire to rescind Bengal Partition, were not less religious than the present-day mullahs.

The real problem with the mullah is his medieval attitude towards woman. He cannot digest the idea of honouring womanhood, her dignity, in the form of a goddess, mother or motherland. It seems more a pathological deformity than religious rigidity. It has more to do with treating woman as an object, a chattel than a source of inspiration, grace and creativity. This is his anathema with the concept of motherland also.

It is surprising that he is not able to salute the land that gave him birth, that continues to give him succour and sustenance. This is in other words called gratitude or patriotism. It is a non-negotiable paradigm, Vande Mataram is only a literal translation of an Indian's feelings, attitude and attachment to this land on whose abode he finds his fulfilment and meaning in life. To deny this is to deny ones own identity, ones claim to be its citizen and an equal partner to its growth and prosperity.

By issuing a fatwa barring its followers singing Vande Mataram, the mullah is chopping off his community away from its own ancestral right. Thankfully, the members of the community have better sense. These mullahs no more represent or call the shot in the community. It is time for them to realise their irrelevance or for the community to show them their place. A Muslim becomes a better Muslim when he owns and belongs to the land of his birth.

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