With this article of mine, I not only want to draw my readers attention to the radical discrimination that Indian Muslims face in our country today - because of the religion they follow – but also want to make a point that Muslims wearing a skull cap, a hijab, a kaftan, a turban - or any form of Muslim religious gear - and who follow the religion of Islam are not terrorists for God sake. Indeed, it is the misfortune of this community that almost all terrorists are Muslims!!
Yesterday, I got this opportunity to participate in an interactive discussion on the sets of "We the People", organised by NDTV and anchored by the impromptus Barkha Dutt. The highlight of the discussions was "How Muslims are stereotyped in Indian society today". The show included panelists such as Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar, Soha Ali Khan, Alyque Padamsee, Kabir Khan, including two clergymen- one representing the so-called moderate Muslim and the other a conservative Muslim.
On the lighter note, just before Barkha Dutt (the anchor) was about to set the ball rolling on this show, Karan Johar - a famous anchor of the television program ‘Coffee with Karan’ and the maker of blockbuster movies such as ‘My name is Khan’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota hain’ – broke out in an irritant cough….to which Alyque Padamsee very wittingly commented saying that, “Rather than calling this show ‘We the People’….why not call it ‘Coughing with Karan.” Now that’s what I call superb comic timing.
After that short hiccup, Barkha managed to gather pin-drop-silence on the sets, and the show set-off with Shah Rukh Khan’s (SRK) message to the people of India. Using the medium of national television, SRK said that, “We definitely need the clergymen to tell us what is right and what is wrong and keep us updated with our culture and religion…but at the same time, the same people should keep in mind the changing social, political and economic issues of this country.” SRK stressed on the need for change in thoughts and to cut-out the orthodox mindset in society. Moreover he said that, we shouldn’t force anyone to do things they do not want to do….live and let live was the message he implicitly conveyed to the people.
'Terrorism has no religion’
However cliché it may sound….but I simply want to reiterate the point that terrorism indeed has no religion. Muslims cannot be branded as anti-social elements, because of a few people who through inflammatory speeches in the name of Allah lure and intimidate young, uneducated, unemployed Muslims to brutally kill innocent people. The biggest example is Ajmal Kasab, who is the lone terrorists caught after the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai. In his confession, Ajmal confessed that he was poor and as a kid he was passionate of playing with guns and money. To fulfill his families needs and his personal passion, he took up to terrorism. Remember, the handlers simply brainwash young minds to accomplish their dirty motives of destroying the world.
Bollywoodisation of Terrorism
Besides this, I would also blame Bollywood movies for sensitizing this issue even further. Portraying Muslim characters in movies as men with long beard, wearing a skull-cap and carrying weapons, while showing the Hindu or the Christian character in the film as peace-making people, adds to the aggression and hatred towards the Muslim community.
Why can’t the Muslim character in a film just be there as a character and not to be someone who is there to make a political statement or to create Islamaphobia among the people? Why does he have to be someone who is playing a terrorist – as seen in Fanaa, Mission Kashmir, New York – or a Muslim lover who falls in love with a Hindu girl and how religious controversies erupts in the story from thereon – as seen in Veer-Zara. Most horrible is when Karan Johar’s movie ‘Kurbaan’ glorified the terrorist, as played by the protagonist of the film, Saif Ali Khan.
These are a few of my thoughts on how we negatively portray and represent Muslims in society today. Rather than just letting the good man live his ways….we create aggression and fear inside him…eventually coaxing him to become an extremists taking radical steps towards wrongful doings.
So let us live and let live!!
Note: Don’t forget to catch this show (We the People) live on NDTV on 7th March 2010 at 8p.m sharp.