TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS
In the highly polarised milieu of recent times, Salman Khurshid attempts to place Islam in the context of modernism, and the Indian Muslim in the perspective of contemporary politics. In an exclusive interview with MillenniumPost, he further opens up on his new release – Visible Muslim, Invisible Citizen
Could you throw some light on the book for our readers?
The book is simply a statement about the social, political and psychological existence of a very significant minority of our country, Muslims. I belong to that community. There is a debate of one kind or another that's taking place constantly – not always very responsible, not always very informed. I feel that most of these debates are a misrepresentation of Islam in India and all Muslims.
Therefore, one should explore which areas need to be explained and how they need to be explained and provide an easy document in people's hands so that they are genuinely interested in discovering the truth about Indian Muslims that will be available to them.
How are you expecting the readers to receive the book?
When you read it, you will decide. I hope they receive it well. It's done with honest intention and with little bit of courage. It is so easy to be misunderstood in our times, therefore, I have taken the bull by the horns and I hope people will take it for what it is – truthful, honest, objective, transparent, disclosure of what I believe.
Why is such kind of literature is important in the current socio-political context?
At any given time, when politics gets in stress and what people describe basically as 'polarisation' happens, I believe that is the time when ideologies begin to confront each other or a public opinion begins to get severely divided (or at least there a perception that it is divided). It is important that the debates be brought down in terms of decibels. Instead of being mired in mutual allegations of hate and disrespect, we should be able to talk to each other instead of talking at each other and and try to find away via media to be able to live together as a nation.
How do you work beyond theology in this book?
There isn't much theology in the book. The little bit of theology that exists, touches upon an understanding of the everyday practices of Islam. There isn't any deep theology because I am neither a scholar nor very well-versed in theological disputations. But, wherever our understanding of theology impacts the way we conduct ourselves in life, that ordinary life has an element of religious practice, religious conduct, religious behaviour. I think to that extent I have tried to understand theology with the help of tafsirs of the Quran, friends who have been able to explain to me elements of significant importance. For instance, the contribution of hadīth to our understanding of Quran and also general practices that are common amongst Muslims.
In trying to explain the Indian Muslims, what are some of the challenges you have faced?
Trying to explain is a challenge by itself as some people don't want any explanations. But the main challenge comes from Muslims themselves because if you try to explain them, they feel that you are letting them down. And if you explain about them to others, the other side thinks that you are being unfair and biased in favour of Muslims.
An outsider who claims to objective and tries to explain, they will have a better opportunity to do so without being questioned for their motives. When you are an insider and you are trying to explain, people often on the other side think you are doing it because you have some personal motive or some personal ambition.
If you caution people about things that are not good for them, or are incorrect, then they think that you are being a fifth columnist, you are letting them down or you are being unfair to your own religion etc. All these factors make things difficult.
Literarily, how do you go about deciphering the Muslim mind in a socio-political context?
For that, you have to understand the society you live in. You have to understand the political times in which you live and you have to choose how you want to retain your sanity, your identity, your personal commitments to your way of life and yet not necessarily come in conflict with the systems around you.
When the systems are responsive and sensitive and willing to accommodate you, life is obviously much easier. But if the systems begin to resist anything that you do or want to do or aspire to do then, of course, there is a fear of conflict and it could disastrous for you making things worse.
Your aspirations are not met and at the same time you also find hostility and aggression. In such context, what is the best way? Is it patience? Is it surrender? Is it bypassing? Is it retreating into a shell? These are many ways in which people react. What is best for the country and what is best for the future of all the people of the country including all minority groups is the choice that people have to make as a collective whole.
The Supreme court has issued various orders to curb mob violence. But, in the present context, it has been on the rise. As a lawyer, what is your opinion?
We can go to the courts time and time again and the courts will only do as much as we have done. The courts do not have the power to go out into the streets and enforce their orders. The orders have to be enforced by the executive, by the police, etc. Courts have the power to impose contempts, proceedings and so on but you know you can't do it every day. Ultimately, the courts can only be helpful but it has to be public opinion and you have to be able to deal with public opinion. If rightly or wrongly, public opinion goes against you, then it is a tough call in a democracy. I am confident that truth, honesty and desire for peace will ultimately prevail. There may be aberrations and periodical hiccups but we must have faith that, sooner or later, peace will prevail.