When the Black Lives Movement took a hold in American streets, India’s Left Liberals supported the movement wholeheartedly. Even Bollywood celebrities were moved enough to share social media posts with hashtags. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that the Black Lives Matter Movement influenced public discourse in India and even engendered its own spin-offs – replacing Black with other communities when there was an instance of injustice.
However, the recent happenings in France have seen the same vocal community staying silent over the issue. There seems to be a hesitation to condemn these atrocities with the same aggression as seen when confronting instances while involving other religious identities - Christians, Buddhists or Hindus. This reservation is hard to explain and runs against liberal values that ostensibly claim to place human dignity at the centre of its ideology. What can be more “indignified” than a 70-year-old woman being beheaded on the street? Why do left-liberals display this reserve on radical Muslim acts of barbarity which is increasing?
This silence doesn’t only damage their own credibility but it is also a disservice to the moderates in the Muslim community, which is left explaining every time when there is such an atrocity and also attacked and silenced by their co-religionists. It is a matter of reasonable expectation, that reformation that Christians underwent is essential for Islam as well, given the changing times and interconnectedness in the world. The radicalisation that persuades adherents to behead innocents is one that cannot be justified or explained. However, the apologists bring up Islamophobia, every time there is a conversation on the subject. Liberals obsessed with labels fear the tag of Islamophobe to such an extent that they reserve all comment. Compare this to their reactions when say a Hindu commits an atrocity?
Some may argue that France is too far away and there is a cultural context that comes into play. But why is there a silence on the atrocities against Hindus, Christians and even Ahmadiyas in Pakistan. The Hindu population in Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947 was 12.9 per cent, fifty-odd years later in 1998 according to the Pakistan Census the figure stood at 1.85 per cent. The Global Human Rights Defence has collected cases and evidence that show the forcible abduction and conversion of Hindu and Christian girls to Islam in Pakistan, just one of the many reasons for this decline. A man was beaten up and burnt alive on blasphemy charges yesterday in Bangladesh which was once a part of undivided India, his identity is still unknown.
Now if you raise these issues, you would be considered an anti-Muslim by left-liberals. This in its essence is real Islamophobia, the inability to speak with moral clarity on such issues, like the beheading in Paris. The Islamic world is not monolithic, to assume silence as a politically correct position discounts the presence of moderate Muslims who recognise jihad of the soul and not jihad of the sword. It would be a liberal duty to bolster these voices and not use them only to explain headscarves and other such choices.
We stand at the cusp of a very difficult time when a major religion of the world faces a crisis of reality and perception, and the two cannot be delinked from each other, as one feeds the other. There is an urgent need for reform and a premium placed on co-existence. The senior journalist Abhijit Majumder asked on Twitter “to name one place where Islam co-exists peacefully with other religions or even itself.”
This question could have been a provocative, but today when a liberal and stridently secular country like France is seeing beheadings on its streets over blasphemy, a travesty at odds with any civilised nation, this question finds resonance. And herein lies the trouble with the silence, it implicates.
In India itself, there was much outrage this past week about the young college-going girl Nikita Tomar, who was shot dead by a Muslim man, the dastardly act was captured on camera and shook people. Yet there was a silence. In another instance with no Hindu Muslim context, a young boy, Anurag Poddar was shot dead during a Durga Visarjan procession, allegedly by the Munger Police. There were images of his mother holding him in her lap with his brains splattered on the ground. There was no liberal voice that spoke up, the same voices that spoke against police brutality in the US and George Floyd case, couldn’t find the words for Anurag Poddar in Munger, Bihar. And they can't find the words for France or Samuel Paty.
The writer is a best selling novelist and award winning screenwriter. Views expressed are personal.