I am cognizant of the fact that every religion has streams of pluralism as well as absolutism. There is often a conflict between what a religion actually teaches and how it is interpreted by followers. And while every religion has some heavy lifting to do in this regard, it is Islam that has the most urgent catching up to do. Given the fact that it is the world's second largest religion, and also the fastest growing one, the problem of its resistance to modernity concerns all of humanity.
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A few days ago, the Indian Prime Minister was busy promoting India as a nation of opportunities to Silicon Valley, urging the corporate giants there to invest in India. Make India digital, he roared. Within hours, Indians responded to their leader by jazzing up their Facebook profile pictures with a tricolour filter. The whole world took notice of a "modern", "upcoming", and "enterprising" India. Around the same time, back home, the other face of India was about to raise its ugly head.
For an entire week (or so) this month, India celebrated itself as "nation". An independent, unified and secular nation. All over the world, we participated in this carnival of independence as "Indians". The tri-colour temporarily overshadowed the divisions of race, caste, creed, religion and state. But alas, this carnival is now over.
Why could Muslims not be like every one else, they would ask me. I would make heroic attempts to explain the cause of distress. Why do Muslims seek to be an exception to the secular ethos of India that we all cherish as the Idea of India, was even more tiresome to respond to. Essentially while we all believed in secularism, the actual definition of secularism itself varied. To add to that confusion was the introduction of concepts such as 'pseudo secularism' and 'genuine secularism' by the BJP, an ascendent political force. So I chose to write a book about this called At Home in India: A Restatement of Indian Muslims.
The reality for many Muslims in "secular" India belies the word. However, the word is not entirely meaningless. That the Constitution acknowledges them is a source of hope for the minorities. At least on paper, they are equal citizens of the country and are thus eligible for all the rights and protections that the Constitution guarantees. Despite the endless delays of the judicial system and often biased police forces the minorities still feel they can seek recourse in the legal system.