#TalkToAMuslim Campaign Evokes Both Hope and Despair

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AMUSU President Maskoor Ahmad Usmani

Ghazanfar Abbas | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI: For the last one week, social media crusaders, celebrities, poets and writers have been running a campaign #TalkToAMuslim on Twitter. Their aim is obvious — to counter Islamophobia and the current climate of hate against Muslims in the country.

Launched spontaneously after BJP and its top leaders ‘flogged’ Congress president Rahul Gandhi over his meeting with a group of Muslim intellectuals, the #TalkToAMuslim campaign received mixed responses from social media users. More importantly, it also evoked both hope and sorrow.

Hope: That all is not lost in the secular, plural India. There is a big section of the society that does not approve BJP’s sinister strategy to ‘outcaste’ Muslims from the political, democratic sphere.

Sorrow: Isn’t it sad and ironic that a need is felt to interact with a community that has been living in the mainland of the country – not in mountains or jungles – for around 1300 years? For about 800 years, members of this community had ruled the plural India. With a population of around 180 million (14.9%), Muslims constitute the second largest religious community in the country’s total 1.3 billion population and have been part of country’s multicultural diversity for centuries.

The campaign #TalkToAMuslim soon became viral with people carrying placards with messages like “I Am Indian Muslim, I Am Human Too, You Can Talk To Me”, “I Am An Indian, I Am An Atheist, I Talk to A Muslim”, “I Am An Indian, I Am A Hindu, I Talk To Muslims” and hashtag #TalkToAMuslim written on them tweeted and also shared on other social media platforms. The campaign has attracted positive as well as negative responses.

In support of the campaign, Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar tweeted, “We were not the ones shocked into hysterical spasms that a leader of opposition ‘talked’ to a group of Muslims. BJP was. BJP was so hysterical that it began to lie publicly about what that conversation was. So we were forced to point out the obvious. That it’s ok to #TalkToAMuslim.”

Several people from across all religious faiths who are supporting the campaign feel that the campaign is needed because the hate crime against Muslims is regularly growing and they are being lynched on the basis of their identity.

Several people also re-tweeted India Spend’s two latest tweets after the killing of a cattle trader Akbar Khan who was lynched on suspicion of cow smuggling on Friday (20th July) in Rajasthan’s Alwar district – to bring home the point that Muslims need to be taken along, not alienated.

“This is the 7th cattle-related hate crime reported from Rajasthan in 8 years, and the 87th incident in India. Since 2010–the start of our database on such crimes–34 persons have been killed and at least 240 injured in attacks. 56% of the attacked and 88% of victims were Muslim,” India Spend tweeted.

As per India Spend’s data base on hate and cow related crimes along with several other media reports, since 2010, 98% of such incidents of violence occurred after BJP came to power in the centre and Narendra Modi assumed office as Prime Minister in 2014 and 88% of those killed in these attacks were Muslims – mostly in BJP ruled states for alleged smuggling, slaughter, and eating of beef.

 

Contrary to the views of Swara Bhaskar, Bollywood veteran Anupam Kher, who has not condemned any lynching incident or hate crime against Muslims in last four years termed the campaign as “ridiculous”.

“I have come from a family who never told me that they are another religion. We have respected all religions and that (#TalkToAMuslim) is a ridiculous campaign,” Anupam commented.

Vinit Goenka, Former National Co-Convener of Information Technology Cell of BJP wrote in his opinion piece “Can hashtags like #TalkToAMuslim really help, or are they just a social media fad?” on The Print website: “#TalkToAMuslim is a non-issue hashtag and a mere social media fad. It is a blatant attempt by a few self-appointed vice-chancellors of morality on social media to alienate over 180 million Muslims brothers and sisters of India.”

Hindus and Muslims Need to Increase Interaction 

But eminent social activist and academician Prof. Apoorvananda Jha of Delhi University feels there is an urgent need to increase interaction between Hindus and Muslims.

Talking to Caravan Daily, Prof. Jha, who has been very vocal against lynching of and hate against Muslims in recent years, denounced the view that the campaign was an attempt to alienate or isolate Muslims. He rather emphasized on the interaction of both communities.

He said that there is a large number of Hindus who have not known what it means to be a Muslim.

“If you look at current situation, there is a huge gap between Hindus and Muslims, which has not been created by Muslims. Hindus have so many misconceptions like Muslims live a dirty life, they are violent, Muslim men marry four times etc etc. So, there is an image of Muslims among Hindus which has been forwarded to them through generations. They are also unaware of religious and cultural diversities within the Muslims.”

“This strangeness needs to be removed and Hindus need to come forward because the political ideology based on demonizing Muslims is currently constructing a narrative of ‘Hindu identity’ that is based on opposing Muslims and hate for Muslims,” he said.

Citing a campaign named “Mere Ghar Aao”, launched by human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi couple of years ago, Prof. Jha said, “It was curated and two-way interfaith interactions where I saw that after spending 20-25 years of their life many Hindu youths were first time spening a whole day with any Muslim family.”

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