Dr. Kalam – Obituary with an action point for media

Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam is remembered with high reverence by Indians and the world. He is an icon for Students, Technologists, Managers, Policy makers, Politicians, and general public. Every section of the society is enthusiastic to identify him with them and flaunt him as their icon. But, he is not seen as as a icon of Muslims, Islam or at least of Indian Muslims. He is not a role model for Muslim youth.

Dr APJ the Muslim2Why should his role as a model be restricted to youth of a community? Why should he be diminished to an Islamic icon when he consistently exhibited his leadership to much wider audience overcoming many barriers. These are invalid questions. The valid answer is that Kalam may be much above a section of the society. But, the point of analysis is that why a section of the society is reluctant to own him up as a role model despite having many commonalities between him and that particular section of the society?

When Dr. Abdul Kalam was nominated for president post, Dr Rafiq Zakaria, a Islamic scholar and a Congressman – wrote in The Asian Age that presidential nominee A P J Abdul Kalam cannot be considered a Muslim. The main reasons were three. First, APJ was not involved in the affairs of the community. Second, he did not follow Islamic tenets like fasting during Ramzaan, saying namaaz five times a day. Third, Kalam referred Bhagvad Gita for guidance and was fascinated with if not devoted to Sri Krishna. Dr. Zakaria concluded that except for the fact that Dr. APJ was born with a Muslim name, there was nothing Muslim about Kalam.

The logic is treated as convoluted. But, the same logic is at work in the minds of those who are not willing to project Kalam as a role model of Muslims – before when he was living and now after he is dead.

The relevance of this question was raised by Saisuresh Sivaswamy, in his aticle in Rediff on 22nd June 2002. At present, there are constant stream of reports of Muslims bursting crackers when Pakistan wins, Muslims getting involved in crime, and Muslims creating trouble and generating public nuisance in the excuse of practicing of Islam. Muslims are cursed for reducing Hindus to refugees when not gunning them down. The fear of communal riots, and the fear of Jihadi violence is lurking the society. A real solution, uncompromising with the distorted concepts and trouble mongers, is a necessity of the day.

As part of such solution, India needs more Muslims like Dr Kalam, who represent the awesome synthesis between culture and religion. Shashi Tharoor in his article published in BBC, considers Dr. KPJ as eclectic. Dr. KPJ melded the Islam into which he was born with a strong sense of the traditions in which his civilization was anchored. Those real Muslims, according to Dr. Zakaria, may not be able to provide the solution as evident from the happenings of the Levant region. It is in this context, that Muslim youth need the role model of Dr. APJ more than any other section of the society. Islamic scholars or Congress leaders such as Dr. Zakaria need to explain Islam in the context of life and values of Dr. APJ instead of those unworthy examples of Yakub, Salman, and Owaisi.

Dr. APJ, acccording to Shashi Tharoor, offered Namaz and lived the life of a Muslim. Dr. APJ has lived a model life overcoming the narrow interpretations of Islam. Now, it is the responsibility of the media to take that model to the needy populations.

Hidden Civic Problems

Residents of many localities across major cities face a different class of civic problems in areas of mixed communities, especially during community events.  Problems list include playing, noise making, wheeling, riding vehicles without silencers, or using outdated two wheelers with two stroke engines.  The list is not exhaustive.  In fact, normal civic issues of garbage disposal, parking in front of others residents, occupying pedestrian paths, dominating public spaces such as parks and other amenities, pollution and other such problems become more intensive in these areas.   Problems such as petty fights, eve-teasing, small thefts create an uneasy environment and relationships.

Ramzan_NuisanceDevout Muslims dismiss any remote connection between the public nuisance during Muslim community events and the Islamic religion.  According to them, civic problems are created by those who deviate from the norms of festivities.  Shab-e-Barat, or Ramzan is not an occasion to play on streets either during the day or in the night.  Pray, preferably in silence, is the recommended method of celebrating such festivities.  However, there is another streak of response from the community.  Complaints by affected people or the Initiatives of authorities responding to those complaints are seen as an attempt to curb religious freedom or stifle the community.

While corruption, water, and such other problems are highlighted in everyday discussion, the problems like the ones listed above are not discussed anywhere.  Forums and activists addressing conventional familiar civic problems are not addressing these less understood invisible problems.  Hidden civic problems, have additional facets due to the interplay of religious, governance and social dynamics.  The nuisances in residential areas are yet to be understood, quantified and acted upon by the authorities.  Although the problem of public nuisances is usually dismissed as insignificant problem, authorities are forced to take action about speeding vehicles during festivities.

Here is a list of major hidden civic problems that are prevalent in India

In major cities of India, hundreds of people are fined on occasions of Shab-e-Barat and thousands of violations are recorded by surveillance cameras.  The police and district administration organize a peace march to maintain communal harmony.   Public nuisance is experienced by people in localities where people following different faiths reside.  Social interactions in these localities is often hostile.  The problem resolution mechanism in these localities is weak.  Smaller differences have potential of igniting bigger group conflicts.  Increased number of hostile social interactions is witnessed in localities having moderate to significant Muslim population.

Illegal meat market provides cheap meat to the consumers but adopts unacceptable practices such as cruelty to animals, providing unhygienic meat to consumers and disposal of meat residuals in garbage bins.  Indiscreet disposal of waste meat is enhancing the severity of the problem of stray dogs.  Cow slaughter is either illegal or restricted in majority of the states of India.  Beef supply is provided majorly by Illegal slaughter houses.   Illegal slaughter houses supply beef to internal market.  There are allegations that the illegal slaughtering is feeding to a parallel economy and even funding insurgency and terrorism.   Cruelty to animals, unhygienic meat are common in illegal slaughter houses.  During community events, cows are Halal slaughtered on streets of congested localities in violation of all legal provisions.

Love Jihad, a recent trend in the era of Jihad, is a marriage of a Muslim boy with a non-Muslim girl (read a Hindu girl) with a deceptive intent after a love affair.  This is turning to be a very confusing civic problem creating apprehensions about safety and well-being of the girl involved.  Girls from disciplined families belonging to open and pluralistic communities are marrying boys of closed dominating communities having less restrictive family life-styles.  Typically, inter religious love affairs culminate with a Hindu boy or girl usually converting to Islam or Christianity. There is a greater possibility of women(girls) being victimized in these kinds of marriages.  In many instances, women are forced to adopt a different lifestyle after the marriage in a phased manner.  There are reports of psychological pressure, physical torture and killings of woman by her close relatives .Increased encouragement to love marriages has created a conducive environment for the phenomenon of Love Jihad.  Parents are playing increasingly lesser role in the marriage, conflict resolution or divorce of their children.  They are not effective in Girls from disciplined families belonging to open and pluralistic communities are marrying boys of closed dominating communities having less restrictive family life-styles.

Induced conversions to Christianity are widespread on ground in contrast to the stated opposition of the Church towards conversion by fraudulent means.  Almost all slums, economically underprivileged areas and Dalit localities are specially focused, especially in almost all localities of major cities.  Monetary help is extended to selected individuals and families among the target populations and a soft approach is followed to create a dual religious identity without being noticed by legal systems.

Probably the most severe and well-understood problem among the category of hidden problem is the problem of sound pollution caused by Horn loudspeakers of Mosques.  The loudspeakers from mosques, and madrasas are used at least five times a day for broadcasting prayers.  Special prayers, lectures, announcements, periodic cultural programmes, songs, are additionally amplified by horn loudspeakers.  Processions are always accompanied by many horn loudspeakers mounted on a truck.  The decibel level of the noise is observed to be well above the legal limits.  It is not clear how licenses are issued for continuous use of loudspeakers violating all legal norms.  Several Supreme Court and high court judgments prohibiting Horn loud speakers in Mosques are not implemented by Government authorities and politicians.

The first thing that happens in any new locality of a city is establishment of a place of worship in the form of a totem pole, a tree, a shed or a tomb.  One individual or a small family supervises the place for months and years before a better structure is built.  Typically such structure is established in the vicinity, but just outside of a planned layout.  The amount of background work, access to official information to encroach areas is a puzzle to normal citizens.

Religious institutions, authorities and social groups are yet to synchronize their actions towards finding a solution to hidden civic problems. Although living problems are seen as separate from the religious issues, there are interlinkages between the two.  There is a widespread assumption that economic and infrastructure development would simultaneously solve the hidden civic problems.  However, such an outlook may be a self deception emanating from lack of conceptual clarity and coordinated action.

URL Aseema article July 2015