No Real ‘Secularism’ Here

A survey conducted by the Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Shahid Siddiqui has concluded that 70 per cent of Muslims oppose the nuke deal with the United States. This survey by Urdu Weekly has increased the problems for SP, which is getting cosier with Congress on the deal. The Muslim clerics have also voiced the same opinion and have even thanked Mayawati, CM of Uttar Pradesh, for not backing the deal.

The politics that has been played in the last few days was totally stupid and of opportunism. If the deal allows India to conduct the nuclear test in the future, then there should be no problem in going ahead with the deal. The nuclear deal and other questions of foreign policy should be opposed or defended on their own merits. Sadly, both the government and its opponents have played fast and loose with the Muslim card, to the detriment of the community’s larger interest.


The deal was blocked by Left parties for a long time. Now when the Prime Minister has decided to go ahead with the deal, the Muslim card is being played by those who oppose the deal. I have always felt that Muslims are always used by the political parties and the present scenario is no different. Playing the Muslim card has always been given high priority by the ‘secular forces’ in the country. It is sometimes felt that if a party follows a minority appeasement policy, then the party is “secular” by default. Leading Muslim clerics visited Mayawati on July 2 and thanked her for not supporting the deal, urging the PM to not take any further step as it was ‘anti Muslim’. Could we get any more narrow minded? Each political party, which champions the cause of Muslims is ‘secular’ but if you voice a Hindu opinion you are automatically ‘communal’. This secular versus communal politics is creating new ripples in the political arena.


For the past three years, Mayawati has maintained a studied silence on the deal despite its supposed “anti-Muslim” character. Now that an alliance between the SP and the Congress is looking increasingly likely, she seems to be discovering that she can no longer afford to sit on the fence. “The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is adamant to sign the nuclear deal with the U.S at the cost of much cheaper gas from Iran but Muslims would never accept the deal”, she declared at a press conference in Lucknow recently. MK Pandhe, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), warned the SP against supporting the UPA Government on the nuclear issue because, he claimed, “a majority of the Muslim masses are against the deal”. I would like to ask these political parties: are your objections to the deal based on some reasoning or you object just because it is “anti-Muslim”? If it is based on some reasoning then they can consult few experts and question the PM as well as seek clarification. But if the opposition is based on some blind ideological obduracy then politics has reached yet another nadir in our country.


I will also like to ask few questions to the Muslims and the parties which are dragging Muslims on this issue. What do they mean when they say that “the deal is anti Muslim”? Have they studied the deal or are blindly following their leaders’ opinion? The survey conducted by Urdu weekly also said that the 85 per cent Muslims called America their biggest enemy. I hope this is not the reason of the deal being ‘anti-Muslim’. I would also like to press that, ideally, religion should take a backseat when there is an issue of national concern. But sadly, that is not happening in India.


At this juncture I would also like to draw your attention to a survey that was conducted by The Indian Express, CNN-IBN and CSDS last year. The survey showed that the division among Muslims on the deal approximated the divisions in the larger population – 19 per cent supported the deal and 15 per cent were opposed to it. In other words, the survey found no evidence to support the argument of a monolithic ‘Muslim opinion’ against the deal. Mayawati’s Muslim MLAs admit that they know little about the deal. They aren’t alone. Only 26 per cent of all those polled in The Indian Express survey admitted to knowing about it. The majority of the population has no idea about the deal and yet they are backing their leaders. Muztaba Siddiqui, BSP MLA from Soroan in Allahabad, said the nuclear deal was harmful for Muslims” because it had been made “with the specific purpose of harassing Muslims”. SP MLA Ziauddin Rizvi said, “The deal is an international issue and it will not affect the Muslims’ political view. Back home, our only focus is how to stop the RSS-backed BJP from coming to power.” Such doltish comments, coming from the community’s leaders, sum it all. If these are the only reasons behind the deal being ‘anti Muslim’, then I support the deal at all cost.


The Muslim leaders need to change their attitude towards the issues that concern the nation and should not declare everything ‘anti Muslim’ on the basis of nothing. It is high time that liberal Muslims become the voice of their community and save their community from becoming a mere toy in the hands of selfish political parties. Don’t expect the political parties to change their ways; just remember that they will always indulge in the ‘secular’ politics.


Rishabh Srivastava

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