Born a Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India begins with a gripping private narrative that explores the roots of Islamophobia and the distress it causes to Muslims in India, who face discrimination and hatred because of their religion and look.
Ghazala Wahab, the creator of Born A Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India and Dragon on Our Doorstep. She is the chief editor of FORCE, the place she writes on homeland safety, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, left-wing extremism and spiritual extremism and contributes a column, First Particular person. She contributed a chapter on the altering profile of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir within the ebook Operation Parakram: The Struggle Unfinished. A profession journalist, Ghazala has labored with The Telegraph and Asian Age.
Ghazala Wahab weaves collectively Private narratives, Islamic historical past, non-fictional tales, information, girls, and interviews with a variety of individuals to point out how folks and state indifference, in addition to widespread bias have made Muslims really feel much more unsafe. The ebook supplies an exhaustive description of the Muslim expertise in India as perceived by the creator and the quite a few individuals she has interviewed.
Common and pervasive bias in the direction of India’s Muslims has been on the rise and could also be discovered throughout social media platforms. It’s unlucky to see such an enormous inhabitants being handled in such a blatant method in a various nation, which is falling farther and additional behind in spiritual freedom, as reported by USCIRF.
“There has at all times been discrimination, each formally and unofficially, after independence and partition, there was discrimination towards Muslims in civil providers and armed forces, and a whole lot of it was official within the sense that there was a coverage and that they shouldn’t be enrolled in sure streams of governance or intelligence providers. On the social stage, Muslims had discrimination by way of housing and discrimination in faculties and schools the place Muslim college students could be identified or discovered some type of isolation of their academic establishment.“
At a time when Non secular freedom circumstances in India are taking a drastic flip downward, we spoke to Ghazala Wahab about how Muslim id is shifting in India and the pervasive harassment and violence towards spiritual minorities.
Q: You could have been nominated for the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF E-book Prize 2022 in your ebook “Born A Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India”, which has already gained the Tata Literature Stay E-book Of The Yr award and the Atta Galatta- Bangalore Literature Pageant E-book Of The Yr award. Have you ever been anticipating such a optimistic response? What does it imply to you?
This has been shocking, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for that. I by no means imagined that I’d get any award, and I’m actually grateful for all the eye that the ebook has bought. My want is that with this consideration, hopefully, folks additionally learn it rigorously and discover one thing to mirror upon it. When folks learn, they need to have the ability to assume that possibly they’ve misunderstood sure issues about Islam, that is for each Muslims and Hindus and different religions, and possibly they should revisit their previous prejudices and notion about each the faith and the apply of faith in India.
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Q: This ebook couldn’t have arrived at a greater second when Islam and Muslims are the targets of widespread scepticism and hate within the nation. Please inform us when and the way the considered writing a ebook on such a related topic developed.
The concept of the ebook had been with me for a really very long time. I edit a month-to-month journal on nationwide safety and protection, and in the midst of my journal work, I’ve been writing extensively with reference to terrorism, inside safety, and slightly little bit of communal violence as effectively. After I was engaged on this space, I’ve at all times felt that it was not simply the Hindus who had miss giving about Islam. Even Muslims misunderstood a whole lot of issues about Islam. They used to take it (faith) as destiny. A lot of Muslims grew up on the concept of destiny, what the faith expects them to do and what’s the superb behaviour for a follower of that faith. So this concern used to hassle me, in my very own private expertise of rising up in a household which was each liberal in addition to conservative and a household which was additionally sort of negotiating its house in a contemporary world making an attempt to carry on to very deeply spiritual values.
With all this, I felt that I had one thing to say, I had an opinion on these points, and I need to put them down, so that’s how the concept of the ebook happened. So far as timing was involved, my first ebook, Dragon on Our Doorstep, got here out in 2017, and after the ebook got here out, I used to be simply sitting and questioning what to do and what ebook to put in writing subsequent as a result of while you begin writing, you get within the momentum in order that self-discipline turns into part of your life; the self-discipline of studying and reflecting after which writing, I didn’t need to lose that momentum I wished to proceed with that way of thinking, and I used to be eager to put in writing my subsequent ebook, and that’s how the ebook began.
Q: Private narrative, Islamic historical past, non-fictional tales, information, girls, and interviews all come collectively in your ebook. Had been there any challenges find the best voice? How did you discover a option to weave so many disparate concepts right into a cohesive entire?
Discovering the best voice was not a problem in any respect; that was the very first thing which was in place as a result of that is my fashion of writing even in my journal, once I write my column, it’s written within the first individual. And it’s written in an intimate method the place I discuss instantly with my readers. So I weave in a whole lot of private expertise in my writing, and I’ve been doing this for a few years now.
“The ajlafs are the bottom of the low amongst Muslims, and these are the people who find themselves demanding that they need to be recognised as Dalit Muslims. Thus, there may be an interaction each on the social stage and political stage, the place your place in society is set by the caste, whether or not it’s Muslim or every other neighborhood so, faith isn’t the largest differentiation in India lately, however caste is, on this respect. However caste can be a unifier in different respect that pasanda politics discuss, Dalit pichda ek saman Hindu ho ya Musalman (your caste will unite you and your faith is immaterial) it’s the place the politics of caste come.“
I like this fashion because it provides me some type of reference to people who find themselves studying. Even when I don’t know who the readers are, I simply really feel that if I’m writing in that intimate method and if I’m placing myself on the market in public, then I cannot be acquired cruelly, I can be acquired with empathy, and that’s the way it was very pure. My fashion of writing has been there for a very long time, the place I’ve weaved private reportage and analysis.
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Q: Please inform us about your journey as a Muslim lady author. What sort of difficulties did you face in the course of the discipline analysis in your ebook?
To be trustworthy, I didn’t face any issue as a lady; I confronted the issue of entry to sure folks, and I believe that will have occurred to anyone, regardless of gender as a result of it’s troublesome to discover a Muslim scholar who can be open to dialogue. Most Muslims are very didactic of their considering, they don’t like arguments, and so they don’t like dialogue, particularly with reference to Islam. So, discovering individuals who may have a dialogue with me and who may assist me dispel my doubts about Islam was the troublesome a part of my analysis.
The opposite troublesome half was to seek out individuals who would go on report. There have been a couple of individuals who had been very open about speaking and sharing their very own sentiments about their expertise, however a few of them didn’t need to be quoted; they had been anxious about their identify showing in print. The issue was to persuade them that they won’t be misquoted and they won’t be put out of context, however so far as gender is worried, I didn’t face any concern with that.
Q: I got here throughout this fascinating soak up your ebook that, ‘Islam was envisaged as a classless and casteless faith however couldn’t overcome the human obsession with social hierarchy and energy.’ Which do you assume has contributed extra to those caste distinctions, tradition or politics? Has the caste distinction had any impact on how Muslims are handled in India as we speak?
The caste system in India amongst Muslims is the worst-kept secret. After I was a toddler, the attitude of Islam was restricted to 3 castes, that’s, Sheikh, Syed and Pathan, as a result of marriage was desired between these three communities. So, my curiosity emerged from this, and I used to marvel if there’s a caste hierarchy in place; everyone in my household used to inform me that there isn’t any caste system.
Even once I was doing analysis for this ebook and I used to be asking folks curiously about Muslim castes, the ashraf and the ajlaf, they denied the existence of caste. It is just people who find themselves concerned or engaged within the battle for social justice amongst Muslims that discuss overtly about caste in Islam, in any other case, folks check with their caste as a ‘neighborhood’, which creates the phantasm of no caste.
And we don’t get to see how the caste system amongst Muslims impacts them. After I was researching, and I began observing and studying slightly bit extra, I realised that it was affecting the individuals who had been on the receiving finish, folks from the ajlaf caste. It was affecting them in a approach that their entry to training, their entry to employment, and their entry to upward mobility are severely restricted. Nearly all of poor Muslims come from this demographic group (ajlaf), and since they’re poor Muslims so they’re on the receiving finish of any anti-muslim violence. Every time there was Hindu-Muslim violence or an assault by the police, the Muslim individuals who undergo are often from this demographic group, so the solid performs a job on this method.
The ajlafs are the bottom of the low amongst Muslims, and these are the people who find themselves demanding that they need to be recognised as Dalit Muslims. Thus, there may be an interaction each on the social stage and political stage, the place your place in society is set by the caste, whether or not it’s Muslim or every other neighborhood so, faith isn’t the largest differentiation in India lately, however caste is, on this respect. However caste can be a unifier in different respect that pasanda politics discuss, Dalit pichda ek saman Hindu ho ya Musalman (your caste will unite you and your faith is immaterial) it’s the place the politics of caste come.
Q: In your ebook, you wrote, ‘fewer decrease caste/class Muslims, who’re second or third era converts, have began to revert to the id of their Hindu forefathers, beginning with the identify change.’ Finally, having a Muslim identify in our nation carries a sure diploma of hazard. How has discrimination towards Muslims in India elevated?
Actually, I’ve not come throughout anyone who had truly turn into a Hindu. I used to be referred to this household about whom I’ve talked about within the ebook as a result of this household had made outreach that they need to do the ghar wapasi (as a result of the ghar wapasi marketing campaign was occurring in Agra), and so they felt that by doing this, their lives and enterprise could be protected.
There has at all times been discrimination, each formally and unofficially, after independence and partition, there was discrimination towards Muslims in civil providers and armed forces, and a whole lot of it was official within the sense that there was a coverage and that they shouldn’t be enrolled in sure streams of governance or intelligence providers. On the social stage, Muslims had discrimination by way of housing and discrimination in faculties and schools the place Muslim college students could be identified or discovered some type of isolation of their academic establishment.
However what is occurring now’s that a whole lot of non-government vigilant group has emerged, which have added a layer of violence to the discrimination, they’ve operated underneath the broad umbrella of the ruling occasion, so right here discrimination has now acquired a really harmful kind, it has turn into an on a regular basis risk to Muslim’s life and livelihood. Now there may be one component of violence from this vigilante group, and the opposite is from the legislation enforcement company, they’ve turn into extra vicious in the direction of Muslims as in comparison with the previous, in previous even when any individual was discriminating towards Muslims, there was a concern that the federal government would take motion, however now that concern is now not there.
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Q: You could have written a complete chapter on Muslim girls by which you identified that Islam has tried to be as truthful because it could possibly be, by way of giving girls rights to property, to remarry, training and employment. Even if they’ve equality and liberty, Muslim girls are among the many most susceptible teams. Why do you assume that that is occurring, particularly in India?
In India, there may be an extra layer of patriarchy and really dogmatic spiritual scholarship. Each of them collectively have ensured that girls stay powerless, and they don’t query something. All religions theoretically have been kind of truthful; if we take a look at Hinduism, girls are worshipped as Devi, however that’s all in idea, in sensible when girls give up their rights to query, once they give up their proper to training, then clearly they’re on the receiving finish of anyone who wins energy. And the largest and the oldest energy group on the earth from time immemorial has been the person; as our society advanced, they had been the meals gatherer, they had been those who introduced house the bread, in order that they carried larger energy over different members of the society/communities/households, and so they have been dogmatically guarding their territory and girls have turn into a part of their territory.
That’s the reason in Islam additionally a lot effort is expanded on conserving girls subjugated by guaranteeing that girls need to put on garments in a selected approach or have to seem in public in a selected approach, a lot of effort is exerted to make sure that girls stay throughout the spiritual system and to stay secondary to the lads. So, I believe it’s a mixture of conservatism in addition to patriarchy.
Q: If you wrote about Muslim girls, you mentioned that their identities had been talked about everywhere in the nation as a result of firstly as a result of triple talaq concern and now the protest of the shaheen bagh. How do you assume this impacts the way in which folks in India contemplate and regard Muslim girls within the present state of affairs?
The present state of affairs has modified slightly bit, particularly after the CAA-NRC protest broke out, most ladies had been housewives, and girls who by no means stepped out of their homes earlier than, had been speaking to the media giving impromptu interviews and being so articulate about their place. However total, the notion stays that they’re probably the most disempowered group throughout the neighborhood, and to some extent, this notion is appropriate as a result of they’re certainly probably the most disempowered members of society. However it is usually true that a lot of Muslim girls are stepping out throughout the conservative section work they’re expressing their place, and they’re desired to stay a part of each training system in addition to the workspace.
Q. What are your hopes for Muslims as a neighborhood and for Muslim girls specifically?
What I want for Muslims is that they need to not solely examine however preserve abreast with the expertise development and ensure that the programs they choose and the time & cash they spend money on their training needs to be properly finished. The opposite factor I want is that, if Muslims are practising Muslim, they need to find out about faith on their very own, it shouldn’t be shackled, and it shouldn’t be one thing which is dictated to them by vested curiosity teams, whether or not the ulemas or conservative members of their communities within the mohallas or their households.
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I believe each of these items apply to Muslim girls additionally, and I additionally need to inform Muslim girls that in case you really feel and in case you assume that you’re being utilized by the male members of their neighborhood to additional their political agent, please take your heel and step again since you shouldn’t be used as a sacrificial lamb to a few of their agenda.
FII thanks Ghazala Wahab for her time. You possibly can observe her on Twitter.