Picture this, a non-Muslim neta visits a mosque or embraces a cleric and poses for a photo op. The narrative stitched will be largely of secularism, inclusion and, to a certain extent from the critical voices, appeasement. But a Muslim neta visiting a non-Islamic establishment or embracing/clicking a picture with a yogi or priest will be immediately termed blasphemy and unacceptable.
The Left has taken umbrage to CH Ibrahim Kutty’s pictures with UP CM Yogi Adityanath. They have even demanded that his candidature be withdrawn citing his proximity with Yogi. Ibrahim Kutty is an independent candidate from Perambra who is backed by the IUML. Kutty though continues to maintain that there can be ‘friendship beyond politics’.
Take the case of KNA Khader of the IUML who is the IUML candidate from Guruvayur constituency in the forthcoming Kerala Assembly elections. Khader visited the Guruvayur Temple on the campaign trail and prayed outside the temple seeking blessings from Lord Guruvayurappan and said, “Lord Guruvayurappan will certainly read my mind and has blessed me” and that the god “will certainly accept the ‘avilpothi’ (offering of flat rice) from this ‘Kuchela’ (young boy who is a friend of Lord Krishna)”. This has been termed un-Islamic by Sunni organisations that have traditionally backed the IUML.
The Sunni Yuvajana Sangam (SYS) state secretary Abdul Hameed Faizy has in a Facebook post objected to Khader’s actions and his words. He has also gone on to say that, ‘If Secularism means accepting customs and beliefs from other religions, we don’t need such secularism.’ If a Hindu Neta doing namaz is secularism then why can’t KNA Khader pray at Guruvayoor temple? A photo of a Hindu neta with an imam is secular but the image of a Muslim Leader with Yogi is communal? What logic is this? And how is such a practice and narrative allowed space? A member of the biggest sect of the second largest majority in the country refuses to accept Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas. Has the AIMIM voiced dissent? Will the All India Muslim Personal Law board agree or disagree? The term ‘secularism’ has been debased by political leaders and parties just like the word ‘minority’ has been conveniently attached to Muslims and replaced Muslims in the political lexicon.
In fact with roughly 300 million in number and about 22% of the population, Muslims are not a minority in India. They are the 2nd largest majority and should henceforth be called thus. Now, it is a worrying sign if majority of the Muslim leadership in India agrees with Abdul Hameed and opposes KNA Khader’s actions. Tolerance, inclusion, syncretism is a two-way street. Political parties and organisations should not be allowed to play communal politics disguised as working for the upliftment of a particular section or community. Why was a Waris Pathan forced to apologise for saying Ganpati Bappa Morya in 2018?
While Hindu leaders in public life are seen visiting various religious institutions and engaging with religious leaders across faiths, to find a Muslim or Christian leader at a non-Muslim or non-Christian religious institution or rubbing shoulders with a non-Muslim or non-Christian religious leader is rare. When the issue is raised then freedom of choice and freedom to practice, propagate religion/faith replaces the secularism narrative. Raising this issue makes many, uncomfortable and queasy. Many would just want to gloss over the matter or simply look the other way. That makes it convenient for those who want to use this reluctance and perhaps apologetic attitude to their advantage. In the garb of freedom and secularism it allows them to push their own selfish and communal agenda. Time this is called out. Time we re-fresh the political lexicon and the terms of engagement. Time to revisit what is truly secular and who truly are minority. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vishwas applies to all.