Mr Modi, Arab world visit won't cut it for Indian Muslims

The PM, like everybody else, will not be judged by the brilliant speeches he makes, or by the gestures that he makes abroad.

 |  2-minute read |   18-08-2015
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Those who believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi will help him build bridges with the Muslim community in India, or change the perception that Indian Muslims have about him, have got it wrong. As far as Modi and his relations with the community, or for that matter any community are concerned, he will be judged on what he does within the country and not for the signals that he tries to send by fraternising with leaders from the Muslim world.

Zafar Sareshwala might have reasons to pat himself on the back for organising the prime minister's highly successful visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - the first by an Indian premier since Indira Gandhi visited the desert kingdom way back in 1981. But if Sareshwala and the host of other political commentators believe that in one swoop the visit to the mosque in Abu Dhabi has helped change perceptions in a community that remains, by and large, wary of the prime minister, they need to think again.

It's a fallacy to believe that Indians Muslims take their cue from leaders outside the country when it comes to making their political choices. There is no concept of a Pope or papacy in Islam, and nobody has the moral or political authority to issue an edict to the entire Muslim community. Relations between governments or heads of governments have no bearing on the political leanings of any particular community.

The Saudi royal family by virtue of being the custodian of two of the holiest shrines in Islam does carry respect among a section of the Muslims, but its political actions like the bombing of Shia rebels in Yemen or its reported support to the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group does not resonate with a large number of people who share their faith with them.

Modi, like everybody else, will not be judged by the brilliant speeches he makes, or by the gestures that he makes abroad. The Indian electorate, Hindus and Muslims alike, will judge him on what he does within the country.

The prime minister has every right to try and change perceptions about himself, but the place to do it is not in the Arab world but in India. He can do so by healing wounds, by reaching out to those who have been the victims of communal violence and hatred, by punishing all those responsible for it, and by not being selective in dispensing justice or punishment. He can begin by asking the Gujarat government to take back its plea asking for Maya Kodnani's death sentence to be commuted to life and by directing the National Investigation Agency (NIA) not to go soft on those responsible for the Malegaon and Mecca Masjid bomb blasts.

Writer

Javed M Ansari Javed M Ansari @javedmansari

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst.

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