Muslims are no longer vote bank
2 May, 2011
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
Indian Muslims have often been dubbed as vote bank. The 170 million strong Indian Muslim community living from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Assam to Gujarat have been given a very negative term of vote bank.
BJP and Sangh have parroted this notion for the last several decades. There was some truth into their accusation to a certain extent. And it was reinforced by the myopic worldview of the so called Muslim leaders and clergy that wanted to be relevant.
But things seem to have changed a lot and for better for the community. With increased literacy level and influence of newfound affluence among a large section of them they feel empowered to speak up their mind and do what they believe is right.
Merely religious considerations are no longer the only criteria for Muslims in the country to vote for one party or the other. They feel that the issues that affect commoners like them are going to affect them too as a citizen of India. No longer, they say, their votes will be decided on the whims of motley of religious leaders of the likes of Ahmad Bukhari, the so called Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid or Mufti Mukarram another imam of another historical mosque in Delhi.
So far Muslim clergy had a major say on Muslims’ voting pattern. It was a common knowledge that before every election leaders of major political parties would start visiting known and little known seminaries in different parts of India. Darul Uloom at Deoband was always an important destination for any political party seeking Muslim votes. The same was the case with Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow.
Even smaller madrasas would be visited by political leaders of all political parties to ensure that they actually deliver the message of their leaders from big seminaries to common Muslims. Muslims usually followed the diktats of the mullahs from these seminaries.
This was more true in case of illiterate Muslims living in poorest of Muslim neighborhoods that dot almost every city across the nation. Even educated Muslims too got swayed by the fatwas that these mullahs issued before every election. But for poor and uneducated Muslim masses they used to take the diktats almost with religious zeal.
Till very recently Muslim clergy in India had an overwhelming influence on the community. They used this influence among Muslim masses to further their personal interests. It is needless to say that money was a deciding factor as to which way these great maulanas would go during the election.
Before every election exclusive Muslim political parties mushroom. A number of so called Muslim political parties have come into being this time too. The most prominent being the Ulama Council, an outfit of some obscure maulanas who have been running their madrasas that churn out half educated mullahs.
The so called leaders of ulama council who managed two highly publicized rallies in Delhi and Lucknow on an emotive issue of Batla House encounter believe that they can win parliamentary election on their own in a few constituencies. But it cannot be more than day dreaming by people who have been educated in outdated syllabus.
Madrasa syllabuses that are still in vogue are at least three hundred year old. There has been no revision, no introduction of new developments in their syllabus during the last three hundred years or so. Mullah Nizamuddin introduced the syllabus in early eighteenth century. But most of the books he selected for syllabus were hundreds of centuries old.
To be true most of the books taught in madrasas, be it that of jurisprudence (fiqh) or reasoning or for that matter literature were written and compiled from seven to ten centuries ago. It is needles to say that these books don’t make much sense in today’s world.
At times the lack of any revision make the whole subject a laughing stock. These madrasas still teach as to how to treat slaves and what are the rights of ummul walad (child born from a slave woman).
But luckily for common Muslims and unluckily for the Muslim clergy, common Muslims no longer follow their diktats with the same religious zeal that they used to show earlier. It is not to say that common Muslims don’t want Muslim parliamentarians.
They want them in droves, at least as many Muslims in Parliament and state assemblies that is closer to their ratio in country’s population. But they want well educated Muslims to represent them and not what an ulama council or any other religious organization may like to impose on them.
This time around 4.3 crore first time voters are going to cast their votes in favour of one party or the other. Out of these first time voters there are at least 65 lakh first time young Muslim voters who would also be using their franchise in general and assembly elections.
Their issues and problems are same like any other youth in the country and they are not going to take any interference from clergy laying down. For them education, employment and a good life means as much as for any other teen in the country. Religious preferences are important but come later for them.