#BeingMuslimNow: Why Naseeruddin Shah is Wrong on Several Counts | Mahtab Alam

Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah’s much advertised article was published on Friday in Hindustan Times as its concluding part of the series titled, #BeingMuslimNow. I am saying “much advertised” because before it was actually published twitter was abuzz with the message: “Don’t miss Naseeruddin Shah’s piece #BeingMuslimNow in @htTweets tomorrow. His deeply felt, personal, powerful account will move you.”

Naturally, it was the first thing I read as soon as I woke up on Friday. After reading, my first reaction was: it is nothing more than rant of a privileged Muslim, which irked some of my friends. Title of the article was in the form of a statement, ‘I cannot recall a time when Muslims were suspected en masse of being unpatriotic’.

To begin with, I found Naseer Sahab’s statement quite ironic. Because, what he does not tell us is that his own industry is partly responsible for creating this environment of distrust and suspicion about Indian Muslims. There are dozens of films which directly or indirectly try to convey that, “All Muslims are not Terrorist, but Every terrorist is a Muslim.” In fact, Naseer sahab’s own much celebrated film “A Wednesday” is a classic example of it. “A Wednesday” not only demonise Muslims (by portraying them as terrorists) but also promotes vigilantism. While reading Naseer sahab’s piece I was reminded by Kabir’s famous doha :

Karta raha so kyo raha, ab kari kyo pachhataye

Boye ped babul ka, so amua kaha se paaye

Two reviews of the film can be read here and here. And here is what I have to say to Naseer sahab directly:

Of Constant Suspicion
Naseer Sahab, you might not recall a time when Muslims were suspected en masse but the fact is that majority of Muslims across India are seen and portrayed as unpatriotic and potential terrorist for decades now. It was your privilege (and up to some extent mine) that you were not subjected to such treatment till few years ago. But that will not change the reality. Just to give an example, I am sure you must have heard of Bengali speaking Muslims from Assam? If not, please try finding out about their plight. I am sorry, if I am asking you to inquire about a ‘far removed’ subject. Alternatively, you can visit Mumbra and Shivaji Nagar localities of Mumbai.

About Sanitation and Hygiene
Naseer Sahab, you say: “Indian Muslims’ indifference, particularly among the economically weaker sections, to education or hygiene need not be reiterated nor the fact that they have no one but themselves to blame for these ills.”
Really, Naseer Sahab? Apart from blaming the victims and under privileged, have you have ever wondered why that is happening? Forget Sachar Committee Report, just read brief baseline surveys (conducted by the government funded ICSSR) of Muslim concentrated areas such as Seelampur (Delhi), Araria (Bihar) and Pakur (Jharkhand). All easily available online free of cost and I have hyperlinked the above. Research suggests Muslims are more likely to use toilets they have lesser infant mortality despite being poorer. You can have a look of the research paper here.

Religion as Solace
Naseer sahib, for you and many of my non-practicing, non-believer, agnostic and atheist friends religion might be the/a problem. But we must not forget for masses it is a solace, an instrument to maintain their sanity in wake of injustice. To illustrate my example, let me cite just two examples:

1. Victims of Hashimpura massacre (22, May 1987: UP) believe that if they don’t get justice in this world, they will certainly get it in life after death on the day of judgement. And this what have kept them fighting for justice.

2. Similar is the case of victims of Nellie massacre (18 Feb 1983, Assam). If you don’t believe me please watch Subasri Krishnan’s documentary, What the Fields Remember ( a PSBT production : 2015).

I often feel had it not been their faith in religion/spirituality they would have killed themselves long back. I know, it can argued that there is much violence because of religion. True. But to say violence is only because of religion is not true.

Beyond Celebration of Victimhood
Naseer sahib, you write: “It seems essential for Muslims in India to get over the feeling of victimisation they are in now; it is a trap all too easy to stumble into – we must determine to stop feeling persecuted, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding…”

Here once again, you are totally removed from the ground realities. Muslims across the country, have been working ‘Beyond Celebration of Victimhood’, from Gujarat to Assam. We just have to come out of comfort zones and cocoons in order to understand these developments. In this regard, to begin with I would request you to have a look of two research based book: 1. Being Muslim and Working for Peace (Raphael Susewind) and Justice Before Reconciliation (Dipankar Gupta).

For your information, Muslims, especially youth—across gender, are claiming and reclaiming their rights as equal citizens of this country.

‘Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se’
Like you, I also feel reform is needed in our societies. However, unlike you I am not ‘dejected’. That’s because I can see thousands of Muslim youth working on the ground silently, removed from media hype. There are lots of positive stories and that’s what give me hope. Since you have referred to (Allama) Iqbal towards the end of your article, let me also quote him. I am not dejected because, I strongly feel, as Iqbal said:

Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se

Zara Nam Ho To Ye Mitti Bohat Zarkhaiz Hai Saqi.

I sincerely hope soon you will join this ‘Kisht-e-Weeran’ in order to achieve the required reform. I will be more than happy to assist you, if I can at all!

Mahtab Alam

Mahtab Alam

Mahtab Alam is an activist-turned-journalist and writer. He writes on issues related to politics, law, literature and human rights. Formerly he was a senior Campaigner with Amnesty International India. Currently, Alam is Executive Editor with The Wire Urdu. He tweets @MahtabNama

  • Kasim

    Well written and compiled. Great article connected to ground reality. Pray for your success, safety and prosperity of all fellow human beings.

  • Nadeem Khan

    Superbly written, most appropriate response to Naseer’s thoughts. You are a senior respected Muslim (as the name suggest)but that doesn’t really mean that whatever you say or thing would be correct. You need to recheck and repair your perspectives.

  • Naved

    If he is not a practising Muslim at least he is upfront and candid on that. If somebody is a practising Muslim, religion does not allow him to blow his own trumpet. If country’s finest actor who is a well read man himself is not a practising Muslim it does not mean he has no rights to speak on particular section of the community. Opinion should not be turned into vilification. Actor was just opining there is nothing in the article so outrageous. The problem is we as a society reacts we don’t behave the moment we do that, ability to comprehend falls flat. Nasser saab was actually acknowledging the fact Muslim had been victimised. That is why, he is asking question to the community within. Is asking for introspection can put anybody in rage? It’s a fact, right from 1857 Muslims had been put to utter atrocities and had been marginalised aggressively but why the people are so aggressive on the community what kind of ideologies Muslims as a community had been nurturing from the last two hundred years after the Last Mughal had been dethroned. Why Muslims ruled for 700 years? What went wrong within is a question to be pondered over that is what all Nasser saab is trying to put across. Either Muslims reacts as victim or behaves as a survivor those who had victimised the community they want the Muslims should react as a victim

  • Mahtab Alam

    Naved sahab, have I raised any question about him being a non-practing Muslim ? Am I against introspection ? If yes, plz let me know where? I will be more than happy to correct myself.



      Mahtab bhai religion as a solace you clearly mention religion is a problem for non practising muslims like nasser saab infact nasser saab never said religion is a problem for him . If we comprehend his article all he is asking for introspection within the community .

  • G M Ammanagi

    Good, the discussion must continue so that more and more think about this problem impartially. This issue affects all of us irrespective our religion. No man is an island !

  • peerzada nouman

    i am an indian muslim , i just want to ask a question ,however its not much related to this topic
    recently kulbushan yadav declared that terrorist activities in baluchistan area were conducted by RAW ,which means india seems to be more terroristic than any other country because you have all the proofs available here , and ajmal kasab , afzal guru cases were without proofs , they didnt declared officially by providing a video message as done by kulbushan . what can you say about this why are they still deaf ,why indian media didnt highlighted this issue ,you might say this is crazy , this guy is writing far away from topic , well the reality is i know these cases and schemes happen everyday in india and nobody seems to be willing to fight for his / her own rights .every indian non muslim has terroristic image for a pakistani citizen , one day same will be the image of ours , we cant do anything , we are being stopped from our own faith , eating beef is a sin while raping a muslim woman who is having fast then killing her , is this a joke ?.there are hundred thousands of illegal activities these people do in a legal way .we are being filled by hate against muslim countries and at the same time we are used as culprits

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