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Before You #TalkToAMuslim, I Want You to Listen to Me. I am An Indian Muslim.

I don’t understand why I am being put into quarantine like some dangerous, predatory ‘unique’ breed with a set of problems that are ‘mine’ alone. As if problems of equal wages, employment, pollution and inequality are just my problems and not the entire nation’s

Zoya Mateen | News18.com

Updated:July 19, 2018, 7:46 PM IST
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Before You #TalkToAMuslim, I Want You to Listen to Me. I am An Indian Muslim.
I don’t understand why I am being put into quarantine like some dangerous, predatory ‘unique’ breed with a set of problems that are ‘mine’ alone. As if problems of equal wages, employment, pollution and inequality are just my problems and not the entire nation’s
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I am an Indian Muslim. I am also someone who has lived her entire life in a neighborhood where mine was the only Muslim family. I have grown up with my Hindu friends in endless evenings of hopscotch and ‘pitthu’.

My childhood is colored with memories of making rangolis, lighting Diwali dias, spraying Holi colors with my neighbors as much as it’s filled with memories of Eid daawats of Biryani and Sewaiyen. This is my life.

So why do people on Twitter suddenly want to #TalkToAMuslim? Do they feel they are doing us some kind of favour?

Well, from now on, every time a neighbor knocks my door for a conversation, every message from a friend and every plate of halwa puri an Aunty brings to my doorstep — I'll wonder if they are doing it out of a favor — all because of a particular hashtag. Suddenly something as seamless as talking, is a matter of ‘taking a step’ of engaging with ‘others’. Muslims are now the 'others'.

So is it because you need to save the Muslims that you need to talk to them? You know, because who would if you don't?

I am tired of the all of the stereotypes on Muslims.

Do a bunch of skull-capped mullahs scratching their beards in fury on TV debates represent Muslims? No! So why do we need to ‘#talktoamuslim’?

I don’t understand why I am being put into quarantine like I am some dangerous, predatory ‘unique’ breed — with a set of problems that are ‘mine’ alone.

So why am I the problem? Have I become the elephant in the room?

I do not want to be your obsession, the media’s or even the government's. I don’t want to be the perfect fodder for prime television debates, of Twitter trends or anything else, and I certainly don’t want your sympathy or some sort of trending affirmative action from you. It patronizes me. It agitates me to realize that from now on every conversation I’ll have is going to reverberate with undertones of ‘conscious engagement’.

In the dance of politics, we seem to be religionizing everything-- our choices as an individual, our food preferences and now, even the conversations. To me, such instances bear a striking resemblance to the art of divisional politics advocated in the Colonial regime. It compels one to wonder, if a new era of ‘divide and rule’ is setting upon the secular fabric of India. Perhaps, it has.

It is not in the nature of most of us, at least those of us who matter, to worry about our identities in our daily interactions. That is one of the wonderful things about being Indian— that to a large extent any on - paper differences dissolve —and we look at each other as part of the same country. Or, so I thought.

And, it is also true that it is unclear if a movement such as this can bring about reform to those virulent parts of society that seek only to divide and sow distrust. At the same time it is pertinent to question why the movement came to be in the first place. What are the things that can really make a difference— while encouraging the seamless fabric of Indianness that binds us all? Especially in the face of these toxic polarization agendas.

It would seem that the movement is massively missing the point. Most people (In this case, Hindus) do talk, work, share laughs and ever lasting friendships with Muslims. What people need to understand is that (and it cuts across identities),  fighting for rights and against injustice is the way forward. It doesn’t seem to be anyone’s concern anymore.

If people are made aware of their basic duty to do so, then many problems today will be on their way to getting resolved. It's that sense of solidarity and empathy that needs to be pushed for. And perhaps, not to misleadingly break the ice when there is none.

This systematic process of othering an entire community— to ghettoize our presence and for some reason glorifying the act of engaging with us— does not mean anything, no matter how well your intentions may be.

Because here’s the thing, talking to any citizen, including the Muslims is not a crime or a big deal. Lynching, murdering and inciting violence on these lines, however is. Mainstreaming hatred and normalizing it to such great extent is.

 
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