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Modi’s praise of Islam means nothing for India

Devanik Saha
Devanik SahaMar 19, 2016 | 15:16

Modi’s praise of Islam means nothing for India

Muslims and Modi have an innate connection. However successful he may become as a prime minister, the hoopla around his and BJP's views on Muslims will always attract headlines and turn heads both ways.

In his speech at the World Sufi Conference held earlier this week, he said, "None of Allah's 99 names stand for violence and asserted the fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion and the two should be de-linked. This is an extraordinary event of great importance to the world, at a critical time for humanity. At a time when the dark shadow of violence is becoming longer, you are the noor, or the light of hope."

Post his touching and politically correct speech, Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with discussions - praising him for reaching out to Muslims, calling it obligatory tokenism, betrayal of Hindutva ideology, among others.

Whatever Modi feels about Islam personally is immaterial, however, analysing his speech holistically, his speech is unlikely to achieve anything and should not be celebrated. Here are five reasons why:

1.    No need to praise a religion: First and foremost, there should be no need for the prime minister to praise a particular religion, which appears an attempt to re-affirm India's secular credentials and constitutional principles. Whether or not the BJP is harming those credentials is a debate for another day, but praise of Islam and praising his praise of Islam only provide credence to the fact that Modi is a Hindu prime minister.

This can be compared to the frenzy which the media seems to have acquired in the past two years - highlighting inter-religious activities - a Muslim girl winning a Gita contest, a Hindu family adopting Muslim kids, translation of Hanuman Chalisa, among others. These incidences should be appreciated, but highlighting them time and again, portrays that these are some supernatural acts as opposed to a person doing it out of interest.

2.    Effect on BJP's Hindutva image: The 2014 Lok Sabha results was considered a mandate for the BJP for its promise of economic development with a special focus on pushing forward Hindutva, promoting India's Hindu identity, which was diluted during the prime-ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His praise of Islam hasn't gone down well with the Hindutva ideologues, radicals and extremists, who voted for Modi to push forward their vision for establishing India as a land of Hindus. A prominent right-wing voice on Twitter called it an ideological betrayal.

Furthermore, given BJP and Sangh Parivar's past, it is also unlikely that moderates and liberals, who dislike Modi and BJP for their Hindu nationalism, will come over to the BJP's side and consider BJP a a secular party. Such attempts by Modi to please moderates and Muslims are unlikely to yield any efforts and will mostly be seen as mere lip service.

3.    No impact on his supporters: In response to Modi's speech, journalist Rana Ayyub tweeted "Brilliant speech by PMO India. Hope the bigots who abuse Muslims in India claiming to be his Bhakts take some lessons". Quite an utopian statement to tweet, but undoubtedly, Modi's speech won't have any effect on his ardent Hindutva followers, many of whom indulge in hate mongering against Muslims on social media platforms.

A clear example to substantiate this is Modi's Beti Padhao Beti Bachao Abhiyan, which aims to empower girls. When he launched the campaign, his followers on Twitter praised him, RTed his posts and promoted hashtags, and many of them (including females), regularly indulge in abusing and threatening women journalists with rape and violence - the irony being that the most prominent ones are followed by Modi himself.

Therefore, his speech at the conference is unlikely to change his followers' mindset.

4.    No crackdown on fringe groups: Ever since BJP's rise to power, aided by its covert support, the Hindu fringe groups have risen to prominence, intensely drunk in the lethal cocktail of belligerent Hindutva and unbridled vigilantism - forming Gau Raksha Dals, lynching Muslim men based on random suspicion, and running campaigns for an Islam-free India, among others.For instance, in a recent incident, the Centre intervened to revoke the NSA Act that was invoked against Bajrang Dal leader Vivek Premi, who had allegedly paraded a Muslim man and beat him on the streets.

5.    Hate speech: Fringe groups are a far cry, even MPs and MLAs' sheer hatred against Muslims is visibly palpable. In a condolence meeting in Agra over the killing of a VHP activist, BJP MP Babu Lal said: "Don't try to test us. We will not tolerate insults to the community. We do not want unrest at any cost, but if you want to test Hindus, then let's decide a date and take on Muslims". The recently held by-poll in communally tense Muzaffarnagar saw the BJP candidate talking about love jihad, eve-teasing and honour of Hindu women being at risk, to polarise voters. Far from taking action, none of the leaders have come forward to condemn such statements.

In the all-important assembly polls in UP in 2017, rumours are doing the rounds that Yogi Adityanath, who has openly spoken against Muslims several times, might be projected as the party's CM candidate. Till the time Modi keeps his senses oblivious to such hate mongers and the party doesn't take serious action, any speech by him praising Islam and promoting peace and harmony does not warrant any celebration.

Last updated: March 19, 2016 | 22:06
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