Letters to the Editor...from The Hindu dated 19th Aug 2008 ...pertinent to note "the divide" ....
Muslims in India
Actor-turned-social activist Shabana Azmi has claimed in an interview that she has been unable to buy a flat in Mumbai, like actor Saif Ali Khan, because she is a Muslim. Such an observation has come not from a fanatic or fundamentalist but from a five-time National Film Award winner. She is right in pointing out that our politicians promote a stereotypical image of the Muslim community and do not allow moderate Muslim voices to be heard. One fails to understand why she did not mention the media.
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It is disheartening to hear that Ms Azmi is not able to buy a house in Mumbai because she is a Muslim. Very often, our leaders give a call to Muslims to join the mainstream. If Shabana’s case is any indication, one can understand how difficult it is even for a moderate Muslim to join the mainstream. But for the fair and unbiased report of the Rajinder Sachar Committee, the truth about the plight of Muslims would not have come to light. How can one say India is progressing when millions, including the minorities, are neglected? The more their due in the polity is denied, the more their alienation will be.
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Ms Azmi’s remark that the Indian polity has been unfair to Muslims is uncharitable. Ms Azmi is the recipient of many government honours. India has had four Muslim Presidents. Many Muslims serve as Ministers and occupy high offices. Bollywood is dominated by the three Khans. Remarks like the ones made by Ms Azmi only serve to widen the social divide.
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Ms Azmi made no mention of Muslim women who have been discriminated against in the name of religion in Independent India. How come she did not point a finger at the clergy who issued a fatwa against a rape victim? She should set her house in order before accusing fellow Indians.
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The actor’s comments were uncalled for. Many Indian Muslims, including her, have risen to great heights because of the secular and liberal policies followed by the country. Her comments are ill-timed and come at a time when the country is passing through a turbulent period and the Amarnath Shrine Board row is threatening to divide the people on communal and sectarian lines.
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Ms Azmi, who claims she has been brought up in a liberal family, has shocked us by saying Muslims are discriminated against in India. If the Indian polity is unfair, how is it that the film industry is dominated by Muslims?