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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 6, Dated February 12, 2011
CULTURE & SOCIETY  
ISLAM

What Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi and Veena Malik have in common

These two newly public figures might teach Muslims to stop feeling eternally outraged, says SABBAH HAJI

We shall overcome Vastanvi and Malik

PHOTO (LEFT): INDIAN EXPRESS ARCHIVES

AS A YOUNG, relatively serious Muslim, I’m interested in news stories and opinions pertaining to Islam. Especially in the current climate where Islam is not really given the benefit of authentic, objective appraisal. It interests me to see the reportage on Islam.

Which is why it has been more than a little disheartening to see two big news stories doing the rounds in the subcontinent of late — stories that are in themselves quite inane, yet reflect all too faithfully what is wrong with a) the Islamic Ummah itself, and b) the way it is projected in the mainstream media.

I speak of the controversy generated by Pakistan’s Veena Malik and her appearance on the Indian reality show Bigg Boss. And the situation related to Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, the recently appointed ‘Mohtamim’ or rector of the Dar ul-Uloom, Deoband, who resigned after some of ‘the good Muslims of India’ made a fair bit of noise in response to his reported statements on Gujarat. (Irony: Everybody knows Veena Malik. Very few, self included, had even heard of Maulana Vastanvi.)

Let us first examine Ms Malik’s case. We all know of the ‘slut-shaming’ hue and cry the Pakistani media and masses subjected her to. Some bright, sane voices in Pakistan (Sana Saleem, Shyema Sajjad, Raza Rumi and Urooj Zia come to mind) have spoken against the treatment meted out to her, but unfortunately, we aren’t hearing too many others.

The furore over Malik’s behaviour in Bigg Boss is not limited to Pakistan; Muslims across the region seem to have taken personal affront to it. (I can cite examples from my own moderate, well educated Muslim family and community.) How does Malik’s participation in a show make her the representative of either her country or her religion? Why the hysteria over something that should concern no one but Malik herself? And what’s with this frankly ridiculous Islamic moral policing? One’s faith is a personal thing and in the context of Islam specifically, you will not be held responsible for something someone else has done — so please back off. ‘Nafsi-nafsi’ as the saying goes. (Or to use the vernacular: ‘Whose father what goes?’)

Malik, in a teary-fiery confrontation with a certain Mufti Abdul on a recent news show, was spot on when she said whatever she had done was between her God and her. There are far bigger problems with Islam as it is practised today than anything a starlet/cricketer/ actor/politician/academic does in his or her personal life. And while I may not approve of Malik personally, that’s my opinion and I cannot foist it on her — especially using ‘Islam’ to browbeat her with. In fact, let me say this: I respect Veena Malik for her courage, for standing up for herself in the face of a vicious attack. And I thumb my nose at the mullahs and other self-righteous thekedaars of Islam. My request to Muslims everywhere is to look to yourself, mind your own business and conduct your jihad the way it was intended – in the context of ‘struggle against your own self’.

Which brings us to Vastanvi. What did he really say? He said yes, Gujarat 2002 happened; it is 2011 now and since the state is doing well economically, it stands to reason that Muslims in the state are also doing okay; there is development and we should take this positive and move forward. Nothing wrong with that. No eulogy or praise for Narendra Modi, no reference to his being faultless in the 2002 riots and the general horror of the time. But, offence must be taken. Hot-headed loonies decided that the Gujarat card was being undermined. ‘Muslims are the victims! Always the victims!’ and how dare a forward-thinking educationist change the subject?

Frankly speaking, the Dar ul-Uloom, its administration and opinions don’t figure in a regular Muslim’s day-to-day life. One does not look to it for daily guidance. It may be India’s most historic and renowned seat of Islamic learning, but it is more commonly perceived as ‘that Muslim joint where they hand out unsavoury fatwas from time to time’.

Which is why, had Vastanvi’s tepid remarks in some interview not been played up and given their current tabloidy-political-communal-controversial tint, none of us would have cared too much. But add some choppy editing and a sensational headline — and behold, you have an ‘Islam-Gujarat-Mullah-Modi’ controversy to sell newspapers with.

Does it affect the common Muslim if Vastanvi says Gujarat has developed under Modi? Can we stop feeling all Muslims are being crushed

I don’t care what the administrator of a religious body said — especially since it was essentially neutral and non-newsworthy. Does it affect the common Muslim if Vastanvi says Gujarat has developed under Modi? (Well, hasn’t it?) Can we stop feeling that all Muslims are being crushed underfoot when, in fact, they may not be — or that 2002 was a unique occurrence and not the norm? Muslims: stop playing victims where it isn’t warranted. Media: stop your silly shenanigans. There’s too much noise when all one should hear is a big yawn.

A closing thought. There are a significant number of Muslims who think along reasonable lines, do not fall for every old provocation, know their religion for what it is and do not nod at what a cleric or scholar has to say. To them: it’s time to stop being a ‘silent majority’. It’s time to stand up and speak out. All this outrage is, frankly, outrageous.

PS: Please turn up the volume and watch the hilarious tribute video to Veena Malik created by DJ Shahrukh. Phrases that we can take away from Malik’s epic interview and laugh forever over: ‘Agar-magar, jazbaati, bosa, bos-o-kinaar, husn-o-jamaal, fohosh and Mufti Sahab! Yeh kya baat hui?’

Haji is a writer and works with Haji Amina Trust in Jammu & Kashmir


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