Voices for reform within any community are most effective when they come from with the community itself.
It is easier for community members to accept, or at least listen to such voices because there is no fear of an 'outsider' trying to impose a cultural or religious hegemonisation.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy's Brahmo Sabha was able to rid Hinduism of evil practices such as sati and child marriage because he rose from within Hinduism to tell followers of the religion that what they were doing in the name of faith was actually against faith itself.
Voice from Within: Raja Ram Mohan Roy helped introduce reforms in Hinduism. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
It is in this light that former Parliamentarian Arif Mohammad Khan's voice assumes great importance.
He is telling members of the Muslim community to look within, shun a victim syndrome and assert themselves as equal — and modern — citizens of India.
Khan's line of thinking is in sync with what the BJP and Narendra Modi have asserted post-the 2019 General Elections vis-à-vis Muslims.
It would thus help Modi's dream of winning Sabka Vishwas to give Khan a more prominent position within the party's larger scheme of things — perhaps even nominate Khan as the next President of India.
President Ram Nath Kovind's five-year term ends in 2022. It is then that the BJP can give Khan a reach for the presidential office and use his modern thought and visionary skills to initiate far-reaching reforms within the community on issues such as Triple Talaq and Nikah Halala, even as the party undertakes the umpteen measures it has initiated to reach out. Connecting madrasas to mainstream education and providing five crore scholarships to students from the minority community are some such steps that the BJP has already taken.
Khan would be perfectly in sync with these.
Khan also speaks a secular language — and the finest thing is that he has been speaking the same language since 1986.
Khan quit the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet as Minister of State after the government decided to overturn the Supreme Court judgment in the Shah Bano case by bringing a legislation in Parliament. Gandhi had first asked Khan to defend the Supreme Court decision in Parliament — but when pressure from Muslim fundamentalists grew, Gandhi chose to overturn the decision. Khan, whose speech defending the SC order was unanimously hailed, refused to remain part of a government that he saw opting for a communal — and deeply misogynistic — politics, pandering to the egos of male maulanas and maulvis.
Look within: Arif Mohd Khan is asking the Muslim community to modernise with reforms. (Source: YouTube screengrab)
He stepped down. He left power, its privileges and perks, for a principle he believed in — and he stands by that decision many years later.
Khan has repeatedly said he only believes in the Constitution of India and that religion has been selectively used and abused for politics by many. This fits well into the BJP's larger narrative too.
But Khan has also questioned why only a Muslim should represent Muslims. He believes this is akin to falling for the colonial trap of separate electorates. We agree. To our mind, the enlightened and erudite Khan is a good Presidential candidate for all, Hindus, Muslims, moderns, getting-there, et al.
His name is Khan. And he may be our next President.