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Princeton’s Robert George and Islam

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By Jennifer S. Bryson

Princeton University professor and political philosopher Robert P. George has recently become a target of controversy, accused by some of being anti-Muslim. The critics have cited only the report Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America by Wajahat Ali which draws attention to the role of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in making grants to some vehement (and, in my view, misguided) critics of Islam and of leading Muslim organizations. George serves as one of eleven members on the Board of the Bradley Foundation. Some have inferred from this that George himself must be hostile to Islam and to Muslims. Based on this, Islamophobia Today has even gone so far as to sponsor a petition opposing the recent appointment of George to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

However, on closer examination, this inference about George is significantly mistaken. His record shows public support for respectful, informed engagement of Muslims in our society today and building partnerships with Muslims to promote public welfare on issues of shared concern. Moreover, George has, in fact, repeatedly and consistently raised his voice in defense of Islam and the rights of Muslims, and he has courageously challenged other conservatives when they have unfairly attacked the Muslim faith or its adherents.

For example, in June of 2011, when then-presidential candidate Herman Cain said that, if elected, he would permit Muslims to serve in his administration only after exacting from them a “loyalty proof” higher than that which would be required of members of other faiths, George rebuked Cain, calling his comments “wrong, foolish, and unacceptable.” They are, George said, “disrespectful of Muslims, the vast majority of whom in our country are, as Cain himself seems to acknowledge, loyal, honorable citizens; and it is incompatible with a sound understanding of religious freedom (and with the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution’s no-religious-tests clause).

Repeatedly, George, drawing on the teachings of Catholicism, has reminded his fellow Catholics of the official teaching of Catholicism on Islam, promulgated at the Second Vatican Council in 1965

The Church has a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims link their own. Although not acknowledging Jesus as God, they revere him as a prophet; his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the Day of Judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.

George and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf have collaborated repeatedly, and along the way established a relationship of tremendous mutual respect and friendship. These two men of extraordinary faith and a caliber of intellect attained by few, have found in each other a peer. The two men have plainly been influenced by each other’s writings, and they speak of each other in glowing terms. Twice they have conducted major public dialogues on the importance of Islamic-Christian understanding and cooperation, one at Princeton and one at Georgetown, as captured here on video. At George’s invitation, Shaykh Hamza has been a featured speaker at Princeton University’s annual interfaith Respect Life Sunday service. Also at George’s invitation, Shaykh Hamza contributed to a Witherspoon Institute forum on the “Social Costs of Pornography” and a book by the same name.

Shaykh Hamza has written of George:

Robert George, to me, represents what is best in the conservative movement. He is a scholar who loves the Western tradition and is committed to a higher set of values than what is presented today as morality. He is also a wonderfully modest man, despite his remarkable intellect and knowledge, and represents real Catholic ethical commitment. He is genuinely dismayed by the attacks of certain segments of the conservative Christian right on Islam. As a devout Catholic, he understands how religion is threatened today by the profoundly secular mindset that has taken over. However, he also recognizes that just as the great faith of St. Augustine and St. Aquinas is today misrepresented in the press as a religion infested with pedophiles, so too, the great faith of our saints, Imam al-Ghazali and Fakhar al-Din al-Razi, is being misrepresented as a religion rooted in terror that produces violent followers thirsting after the blood of infidels.

At Princeton University George has also helped to arrange for other Muslims, such as Abdullah Saeed, Suzy Ismail, and Ed Husain, to speak on campus. In his Princeton University courses on civil liberties George has invited Muslim clergy such as Imam Hamad Chebli of the Islamic Center of Central Jersey to speak to students on the tenets of Islam.  “Many non-Muslim students have misguided notions of what Islam actually teaches about issues such as religious freedom,” George has observed.  “I want to make sure they hear the truth about Islam from persons who speak with authority from within the faith.” Earlier this year at the university George published a series of interviews with Princeton faculty, representing different traditions of faith in the campus newspaper under the title “Keeping Faith.” His first interview in the series was with the Palestinian-American Muslim scholar Dr. Amaney Jamal of Princeton’s Department of Politics. George’s respect for Islam and esteem for his Muslim colleague shines through.

In 2009 George supported establishment of a new Islam and Civil Society Project (of which I am the Director) at the Witherspoon Institute in order to seek greater understanding of Islam and find ways to partner with Muslims on issues of shared concern such as supporting marriage and religious freedom, and he has remained a tremendous supporter of this project since its founding. The Islam and Civil Society Project has run an annual seminar on Islam since then, with the upcoming 2012 seminar focused on, “The Quran in the Modern World,” including speakers Dr. Abdullah Saeed, Dr. Mahan Mirza, and Asma Uddin. Articles I have published in my work while Director of this Islam and Civil Society Project are available here.

As a matter of full-disclosure, and as a point of pride, I should note that as George’s colleague at the Witherspoon Institute I have had the pleasure of working with him in many important causes, including the defense of the rights of Muslims. We have spoken out together against anti-Islamic opposition, to construction of mosques in American cities and against the Florida Family Association’s (FFA) boycott of sponsors of the television reality show “All American Muslim.” In a letter to the President of the FFA, we wrote that the vast majority of our Muslim fellow citizens “are good people and good Americans. They share our fundamental moral values and our commitments to democratic institutions and civil and religious liberty. They do not promote hatred of Christians and Jews and have no desire to establish an Islamic theocracy. They are as appalled as we are at the rhetoric and conduct of those of their religion who do promote hatred and who seek to undermine democratic freedoms.” We went on:

It is fundamentally unjust to tar all or most Muslims with the brush of extremism; and, as Christians and Americans, we must never countenance injustice. Moreover, effectively countering the threats posed by genuine extremists requires us to welcome, as friends and allies, Muslims who share our opposition to radicalism and violence, who value their American citizenship and American freedom just as we do, and who contribute constructively to their communities and the larger society. When we treat our Muslim fellow citizens justly, and when we welcome them as partners in our efforts on behalf of life, liberty, and human dignity, we are being true both to our Christian faith and to our American heritage

The New York Times calls George “our nation’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” Another profile of George calls him a, “Conservative Heavyweight.” To be sure, the public expression of these sentiments by a figure as important as Robert George in the American conservative movement is particularly important, and even risky to George himself, at a time when the American conservative movement is, sadly, riddled with activists espousing anti-Muslim perspectives. Indeed, as a result of expressing his support for Muslims and the rights of Muslims as fellow Americans, George has come in for his share of abuse from anti-Muslim extremists. (For example, one letter he and I received from an American in response to one of our joint articles about Muslims featured a stamp on the envelope, “Mecca delenda est,” Latin for “Mecca must be destroyed,” and the letter went on from there.) In spite of all this he has stood his ground.

Yet what about George’s position on the Bradley Foundation board? Is it inconsistent with his advocacy of the rights of Muslims and his work for Christian-Muslim cooperation? The Bradley Board discussions are confidential and, says George, “what I have to say about Bradley grants and grantees I will say to them and my colleagues on the Bradley board.” Frankly I am glad that he is part of the Bradley Board. He can have more influence by participating inside than by protesting from outside, and having so prominent a defender of Muslim rights, and of Islam as a faith, in such a visible place of honor and influence in the conservative movement sends a clear message to other conservatives that they need not, and should not, view Islam with contempt or regard their Muslim fellow citizens with suspicion.

Someone like Robert George who enjoys enormous prestige and influence in the conservative movement could easily remain quiet in the face of anti-Muslim hostility. He has little to gain personally by speaking out, and more than a little to lose. Liberals don’t like him because of his strong support for the pro-life cause and for traditional marriage. By publicly and forcefully speaking up for the rights of Muslims, he risks alienating the friends and supporters he does have, who are mainly on the right. Having had the pleasure and honor of working with him for several years, I have seen that he runs that risk because he truly believes that as a Christian he has a duty to defend the rights of those whom he never hesitates to call his “Muslim brothers and sisters”.  His appointment to USCIRF brings to this Commission a man with deep understanding of and commitment to religious freedom, who approaches his work with a strong, principled posture of fairness and respect for all religious believers. And as his track record shows, “all” for George includes Muslims.

Jennifer S. Bryson, Ph.D., is Director of the Islam and Civil Society Project at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jessica Rugg

    April 9, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    Excellent.  Thanks for the article.

  2. Avatar

    Pro

    April 9, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    Alhumdulillah, glad you posted this about Dr. George as well as the positive work he and Sh. Hamza have done. Good for you

  3. Avatar

    WaleedAhmed

    April 10, 2012 at 11:04 PM

    I watched his talk with Sh. Hamza and its hard for me to imagine how someone could make these allegations against him. He looks like a decent and honest man dedicated to building bridges.Working with people like Sh. Hamza certainly represents a bona fide attempt to reach out to the orthodox Muslim community.

  4. Pingback: Robert George's Moral Cowardice on Islamophobia | Faith in Public Life

  5. Avatar

    Muhammad

    April 11, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Appreciate the clarification, his talk with Shaykh Hamza is a must see!

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Civil Rights

Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

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CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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What Indian Students Are Saying about the CAA NRC Project – And Its Implementation

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The Modi government has been trying to paint the Citizenship Amendment Bill (now Citizenship Amendment Act- CAA) as a humanitarian gesture for religious minorities from three select countries, and Home Minister Amit Shah had claimed in Parliament that no Muslim Indian needs to fear the CAB or the proposed National Register of Citizens, before the Bill had received the President’s nod to become a law on December 12.

But the students I spoke with are far from convinced, especially after the horrific incidents that unfolded at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi and the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Mohammad Amir, a former management student at AMU fears that if the Citizenship Act remains a law, it could set a precedent for religious bias in any future policy or legislation.

“Whether AMU or Jamia, protestors are viewing the CAA through the lens of the National Register of Citizens. There is a prevailing threat that our citizenship will be snatched away just because we follow a certain religion,” said Amir.

Iqra Raza, a student of literature at St Stephen’s College believes that Muslims have already become a target. Raza says she was attacked by a few ABVP goons on her way back from an anti-CAA protest in the North Campus of Delhi University.

“I was targeted for my hijab, cornered and beaten up. I was outnumbered seven to one and there was nothing I could have done. This was within 100 metres of police deployment, and even the university guards simply looked on as I cried and shouted for help,” she recalls, adding that the incident has traumatised her severely.

Raza shared that a second-year DU undergraduate wearing a hijab was also attacked on the very same day. Just days before, Prime Minister Modi while campaigning made a very obvious dog whistle remark targeting Muslims, saying that those creating violence could be identified “by what they were wearing”.

The CAA discriminates by granting expedited citizenship on the basis of religion, and by leaving out one religion in the list of other six, its true intent may indeed be to perpetuate the exclusion of Muslims from the citizenry.

Many of those I spoke to pointed out that the CAA does not mention the word “persecuted” or “persecution” anywhere in its text. This could mean that Shah’s talk of giving new hope to those allegedly facing religious persecution is just an eyewash.

“Due to the new CAA wording, a Muslim, someone who was previously considered a citizen of India could end up as a non-citizen,” says Hena Zuberi, editor-in-chief of MuslimMatters.org and head of the Washington DC office of the human rights organisation, Justice for All.

“While the Modi government claims that this is not the intent of the Act, the loophole is visibly large, and there is ample reason to believe that the path it provides for re-citizenship was the reason it was passed by Parliament,” Zuberi further said.

After huge protests in the northeast states by people opposing the new law for separate reasons, a number of students at universities elsewhere in India came out in protest, demanding that the government withdraw the Act completely.

Students at Jamia Millia Islamia were among the first to raise their voice. When they organised a protest march from their campus to Parliament House on December 13, they were stopped by police barricades. 

According to the testimony of a student who wishes to remain anonymous, the police threatened them saying that they should protest quietly in their homes, for the streets do not belong to them to do such things.

“They first started throwing mud or chappals or bottles at us that they had picked up from the road, and then they started pelting stones,” the student recounts. Those who tried to resist the police and break through the barricades were detained. The police also fired teargas shells that day, injuring about 30-40 people, according to his testimony.

Again on December 15, when students were protesting peacefully on the Jamia campus lawns, the police opened fire according to witnesses and assaulted any student they came across, regardless of whether or not they were a part of the protest.

“They went completely berserk once they broke the gates and came inside the campus,” says Alhayyat Pasha, a journalism student at Jamia, sharing what he described as one of the most terrible experiences of his life.

“I was just studying by myself in the library reading hall when the police started coming in numbers. I don’t think I have ever been so scared, I was just constantly shaking,” he said.

While the students took shelter in the library and bolted the doors, the police constantly fired inside and threw teargas shells. This shattered the glasses on the doors and windows, through which the students managed to escape, although some were dragged and beaten up, with their phones being taken away.

“I was lucky enough to have escaped, as I went straight to the gates before the police started rounding up the others,” says Pasha. 

A research scholar in sociology at Jamia said on condition of anonymity that what the Delhi Police did was a complete violation of human rights, and illegal also because they are not allowed to enter the campus without permission, nor without female cops being present.

An Assamese by birth, she says she was deeply affected by the CAA, although the NRC is acceptable to her. She explains that most people in Assam are against the CAA for reasons different from the exclusion of Muslims as is the case elsewhere in the country. 

“The NRC, which could have brought an end to the problem of illegal immigrants and border issues plaguing the state for long, will be completely nullified if the CAA comes into action,” she said.

The researcher confessed that she wasn’t very involved in the protests led by Jamia students in any way because she did not agree with their reasons. 

“But then the course of horrific incidents that took place left a spine chilling disturbance, and I was forced to change my mind”, she alleged.

But Shamik Banerjee, a Master’s student of media governance, feels that condemning the police assault will not make any difference, and similar incidents are very likely to occur in the future.

“Delhi Police has already set a precedent when it comes to dealing with student protests, and since this is a university with a Muslim name we don’t really expect anything better from them,” Banerjee said. He added that he is an upper-caste Hindu who was never made conscious of his religion as a student in a Muslim-majority campus space in all the time he has been there.

indian students

A protest at the Aligarh Muslim University against the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 13, 2019.. | Photo Credit: Manoj Aligadhi

 

Meanwhile, similar horrors were unfolding at the Aligarh Muslim University as well. It began with a mass hunger strike against the CAA and NRC on December 12, following the passage of the Bill. On 13th, more students joined in and gathered at the Bab-e-Syed masjid to protest against the police brutality in Jamia. The police then filed an FIR against 700 students for allegedly violating Section 144, although students later claimed that Section 144 hadn’t been imposed in the area at the time. 

The government deployed the Rapid Action Force at the university entrance gates and in the early hours of dawn suspended the internet in the area.

“It was like any other normal day, until we received a message that the gate has been broken and students are being choked with teargas” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. “Aligarh had become a battleground. People were being thrashed inside the campus, teargas and stun grenades were being thrown at the students, and bikes were being smashed.”

The student said that the Rapid Action Force entered the campus and set Room 46 of the Morrison Court on fire. The students were locked inside their own residential halls and washrooms.

A law student at AMU stated that that it takes five years of blood and sweat to complete a law degree, understand a single section or amendments, and a whole lifetime to fight for and practise the same. 

“A law that makes students evacuate prestigious institutions whose admission tests take months of preparation to crack cannot be implemented or accepted,” she said, adding that she still harbours a hope that the Supreme Court will scrap the Act.

“This is exactly what the government wants, and it is extremely saddening,” said Zeeshan Abdullah Shaikh, a student of medicine at AMU. “They will not let us study, and by making us evacuate our hostels they’re already making us feel like refugees running for our lives.”

“The way they came at us, in both Jamia and Aligarh, it was like they had no regard for our lives, neither as students nor as Muslims,” another student alleged. “There have been student protests and demonstrations in other universities a lot of times, but never has there been open firing and assault to this degree. It’s clear that our Muslim names are a marker.”

Michael Kugelman is the Deputy Director of the Asia Program (specialising in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and their relations with the US) at the Wilson Center in DC, which is a non-partisan policy forum that tackles global issues through independent research and open dialogue. According to him, universities in many places and not just in India can be a hotbed of activism as it encourages different and individualistic thoughts. 

This is also why universities with large Muslim student populations will be particularly concerning to the government, based on the assumption that those students would be particularly inclined to protest and oppose the law. They would try to suppress any opposition in such cases, even if they have been largely non-violent”, he said over a short interview.

However, according to Kugelman, the Indian Muslims do happen to have a surprising ally in the cause after all: the far-right Indian Hindus that oppose the citizenship law. 

He believes as the BJP does not want to alienate Indian Hindus, it could very well prove to be completely adverse to their exclusionary policy if they’re seen protesting with the Indian Muslims on a large scale.

“That show of unity could just be the very powerful thing that unsettles the ruling party in a big way”, he said. 

CAA Protest

Speaking from the Justice for All office in Washington, DC, Zuberi also concurred with this. She said that the government wants the Muslim youth to be crushed so that no resistance takes root, and in this process, to intimidate non-Muslim youth in the hope that they will eventually drop out of the protests, thinking it doesn’t affect them in any way.

Zuberi also mentioned her fear that if students from other religious communities were to stop taking part in the protests, Muslim students might be detained indefinitely under laws like the anti-sedition law – which governments in India have often used to detain or jail people opposed to their policies. 

Mohammad Assaduzzaman, who is currently pursuing a masters in material chemistry and mineralogy at the University of Bremen, said he would feel very scared to return to India in light of all that is happening, although he added that the huge number of non-Muslims taking part in the protests has given him a lot of hope.

Yet he too expressed a similar fear: what might happen if people from other religions stop lending support to the community after a point?

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