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During his 2015 State of the Union address to Congress, President Obama called for respecting human dignity. This call was met with applause. Obama then called for a rejection of anti-Semitism. Again, uproarious applause ensued. In the very next sentence, Obama called for a rejection of offensive Muslim stereotypes. Suddenly, dead silence. Apparently every politician and government official in the room, whether Democrat or Republican, was on board with stereotyping and profiling Muslims.
Fast forward to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. A father and mother of a slain American Muslim soldier spoke about their sacrifices for the country. And everyone there cheered and has been cheering ever since. Besides them, the convention included five other Muslim speakers including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Sherman Jackson, who both referenced hate and prejudice against Muslims in their addresses while Democratic Party members cheered.
So why the difference? What changed between Obama’s 2015 State of the Union and the 2016 DNC? Why did Obama’s call for tolerance get the silent treatment but the same call is cheered and championed a year later?
As American Muslims, should we attribute this shift in attitudes to Hillary Clinton and the DNC organizers? Should we thank them for bringing about a new commitment from Democrats for diversity and tolerance of different faiths?
In reality, our actual benefactor — the one who is really responsible for putting Khizr and Ghazala Khan on stage that night — is someone much more orange in hue.
Here is a question: Would the Clinton campaign and the DNC have showcased seven different Muslims in the course of the convention if Donald Trump hadn’t made bigotry against Muslims so central to his campaign? There is no way to tell for sure, but if we understand the nature of oppositional politics in this country, there is much to suggest that American Muslims should be thanking Trump.
The “Islam Means Peace” Rule
As in the world of physics, in the world of presidential politics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Trump’s action is that he broke a long-standing rule about how to talk about Muslims in political discourse. I call it the “Islam Means Peace” Rule (or IMP Rule for short): You can denounce “radical Muslims.” You can imply that there are “extremist” interpretations of Islam and “violent Islamists” who adopt those interpretations. But you must never, ever imply that Islam itself is the problem. You must never, ever suggest that Muslims in general are terrorists or are sympathetic to terrorism. You must insist that “Islam means peace.”
In one of the first speeches that Bush made after the 9/11 attacks, he laid out the IMP Rule and thereby set the tone for respectable political dialogue about Islam and Muslims for the next 15 years. Throughout this time, there were always the Pamela Gellers on the right and the Bill Mahers on the left who shrilly warned that the problem was not “radical Islam” but Islam itself. But these voices were roundly ignored by a mainstream media committed to the Rule. Previous Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney also stuck closely to the Rule, but Trump became the first mainstream politician on the national stage to flout IMP in his clumsy crusade against “political correctness.” Instead of limiting his remarks to the “radicals,” his pronouncements are directed to Muslims more broadly. This is why the Muslim community around the world sees Trump as an apocalyptic harbinger of doom and destruction. The good news is, as a violator of the IMP Rule, Trump is seen by other politicians, both Democrat and Republican, as well as the mainstream media in the same light that most Muslims see him: As an uncouth bigot who must be opposed at every turn.
The Power of IMP
Understanding the IMP Rule and its power is the key to seeing how beneficial Trump really is to American Muslims. The most powerful moral narrative in the American conscience is the fight against racism. Racism is seen as the ultimate evil, universally regarding as a threat to civilization. The two greatest historical manifestations of evil in the collective American understanding is slavery and Nazism, and both manifestations were animated by racial discrimination. As Muslims, we recognize this as a part of our moral compass as well, as the Prophet specifically called out the damaging ignorance and backwardness of mistreating others on the basis of skin color.
In the context of skin color, the odiousness of racism is clear, but outside that context, things become more murky. The racism narrative is so powerful that all varieties of interest groups and political parties attempt to tap into that narrative in order to mobilize people for their particular cause. The LGBT activist movement, for example, has been very explicit about this. Frank Bruni, the NYT’s first openly gay op-ed columnist, has argued that discrimination against people on the basis of sexual tendencies is tantamount to discrimination on the basis of skin color and that LGBT activists must use the language of the civil rights movement in order to advance their cause.
Muslims too have taken advantage of the racism narrative, arguing that discrimination on the basis of religious belief is tantamount to discrimination on the basis of skin color. But simply making the argument is not enough for society at large to believe that these are instances of racism and vile prejudice. The public has to be convinced that the group in question is the subject of systematic abuse, subjugation, violence, and unjust treatment in general.
The purpose of the IMP Rule then is to prevent the public from seeing Muslims in this light. The Rule is meant to project an image of Muslim tolerance, even celebration. This is important because, without this rosy image, many of the policies and regulations that were implemented against the American Muslim community and Muslim societies abroad in the aftermath of 9/11 would be seen for what they are: unjust targeting and systematic violence against one particular group of people.
For the public to see this treatment for what it is would make the idea of “Islamophobia” as a subgenre of racism that much more compelling to the average American, who is, due to the racism narrative, highly sensitive to anything with the slightest semblance of racial prejudice. And once the average American gets even a whiff of that and starts to see Muslims as victims, that would create a chain reaction of support and political mobilization for wider Muslim acceptance. This is why Trump has been and will continue to be a boon for American Muslims so long as he keeps up his heavy-handed, off-the-wall demonizing of Islam and Muslims.
Obama, Master of IMP
For President Obama, the IMP Rule has been monumentally important. Well-off and politically connected American Muslims are reluctant to believe this, but Obama has been a disaster for American Muslim rights. There has not been a single substantive anti-Muslim policy created under the Bush administration that has not been continued, expanded, or accelerated by the Obama administration.
In terms of foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan continue to suffer from the presence of a US military force. Obama’s infamous drone program has extended this death and destruction to Northwest Pakistan as well as Yemen, Somalia, and other Muslim regions. Libya, of course, was invaded under Obama’s directive and has been smoldering ever since. Under Obama, Israel felt at ease brutally pummeling a besieged Gaza in three separate operations, genocidal aggression that Obama awarded with record amounts of military aid stuffed into the pockets of the Israeli murder machine. And the failings of the Obama administration to broker peace in Syria while also tacitly supporting the bloody military coup in Egypt and the Sisi regime has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster.
Hand in hand with the terror Obama has unleashed against Muslims abroad are his domestic “anti-terror” policies, policies which for all intents and purposes target Muslims and attack their civil rights. Obama’s Orwellian CVE program, which essentially saddles the entire Muslim community with assumed guilt for terrorism, is only the tip of the iceberg. His FBI has perfected and regularized an aggressive Muslim entrapment program which was used only sparingly in the Bush years. His NSA datamines Muslim online activity and communication and feeds that information to other agencies which disproportionately and unfairly target Muslims. Local police departments have, through generous grants and guidance from Obama’s DHS, spied on Muslims and created databases cataloging Muslims and their day-to-day activities. The secret No-Fly list, which lists predominantly Muslims, none of whom have any proven ties to terrorism, has ballooned to at least ten times its size under Obama.
By any objective standard, Obama has been a much worse president for Muslims than Bush Jr. But the American Muslim community itself seems to be completely unaware of this and will bitterly deny it. This is because they have fallen into the seductive web of the IMP Rule. Obama perfected the Rule. He made the Rule into a fine art. His paeans to the American Muslim community and even Islam as a religion are unmatched. That’s why Muslims love him — no politician has spoken more glowingly and more eloquently in praise of Muslims. No president has appointed more Muslims into his administration or invited more Muslims to have iftar or Eid dinner at the White House. Clearly a president who goes out of his way to recognize and celebrate Muslims is not actively curtailing their rights and sabotaging their interests!
Alas, the truth is not as picturesque as those lavish White House iftars would lead us to believe. What Obama has proven is the efficacy of the iron fist when it is wearing a velvet glove. The IMP Rule is precisely that velvet glove, and Obama has worn it masterfully. As a result, the “anti-terror” programs — which have stripped American Muslims of so many of their civil rights and which the Bush-era Democrats denounced as the “Shredding of the Constitution” — overnight transformed into bipartisan consensus once Obama endorsed them. And it is that bipartisan consensus that has increasingly shifted public sentiment against Muslims over the past eight years, up until last year’s State of the Union, where even calls for basic civility towards Muslims were met with cold, indifferent silence from the nation’s lawmakers.
But Trump has changed all that. Trump has no patience for the niceties of velvet. His talk of monitoring Muslims and controlling their movement in and out of the country have plenty of precedent in Obama’s policies. Ironically, in fact, Obama’s policies are sometimes even worse than what Trump claims to want to do as president. The only thing that is novel about Trump is the way he talks about Muslims. And as Muslims, we should welcome this frankness. Strategically speaking, we should prefer a president who will wear his hatred of us on his sleeve as opposed to one who smiles in our face while implementing all manner of policy against us under the table. Better the devil you know.
What If Trump Wins?
If Trump wins the presidency, the Democrats will likely latch on to the Muslim cause like never before. We saw shades of this during the Bush terms. Glenn Greenwald said it best:
“The Democrats have been opposed to so many things when Bush was President that they, since 2009, stand up and cheer when President Obama does them. I know that because I was working on civil liberties during the Bush Administration. Things like droning people to death, even Americans, on the grounds that they’re terrorists without having to go to court and present evidence. Obviously, not just keeping Guantanamo open, but continuing to imprison people without charges. These are all things, certainly spying on people without warrants, that Democrats pretended to oppose when George Bush was in the Oval Office that they now either quietly acquiesce to or vocally support now that there is a Democrat in power.”
As journalists like Greenwald have noted time and again, in the Bush days, the Democratic establishment actually took on pro-Muslim causes like closing Guantanamo Bay and opposing Muslim profiling and detention programs. But as soon as Obama became president, all that righteous concern went out the window. The Democrats no longer had any reason to oppose anti-Muslim policies once they were in power. And the GOP saw an opportunity to portray any last vestige of pro-Muslim sentiment on the parts of Obama and the Dems as being “soft on terror,” which had the expected outcome of making Obama even more reluctant to do anything substantial to roll back, much less overturn, the bevy of programs infringing on Muslim rights.
A Trump president, however, will bring that righteous pro-Muslim fervor back with a vengeance. The initiative to feature the Khan family at the DNC and the media success that followed proved to the Dems that they can once again use American Muslims as a stick to beat their GOP counterparts. The fact that Trump is so overtly bigoted, the fact that he shuns the IMP Rule so shamelessly, will only make Democrats respond with that much more sanctimonious intensity.
If Trump is president, expect a significant uptick in mosque visits from the Dems. Expect a lot more Congressional pushback on anti-Muslim policies that have hitherto enjoyed bipartisan support. Expect a lot more positive media coverage on the Muslim community in general.
Muslims are also worried that a President Trump means he will implement the ludicrous anti-Muslim policies he has proposed on the campaign trail, e.g., implementing special Muslim ID badges and banning Muslims from entering the country. This rhetoric should be taken for what it is: grandstanding bluster with no real chance of materialization. As I have argued elsewhere, the Obama administration has already facilitated far-reaching measures to catalogue and track religiously observant Muslims in this country, which is functionally equivalent to the issuing of ID badges, so Trump wouldn’t be adding much to what his predecessor has done already. Besides this, even if Trump wanted to force Muslims to get ID badges, he would face a firestorm of political opposition. Similarly with banning Muslims from the country, a proposal that even GOP leaders have denounced.
Only God knows, but to the contrary, four years of Trump could mean American Muslims as an identity group finally attain that elusive mainstream status, where it becomes politically incorrect to even imply that Muslims are inherently inclined to terrorism and therefore must be profiled, monitored, detained without charges, and controlled.
What About Hate Crimes?
Some have argued that if Trump were to win, that would vindicate his anti-Muslim rhetoric and bring out the worst in violent racists. Certainly, there has been an increase in violence directed at Muslims since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015. But, there has also been a marked increase in terror attacks on Western soil in this same time period. The national debate on Syrian refugees has also played a significant part in stoking nativist anti-Muslim bias. Outside of Trump’s rhetoric, both of these factors could independently account for at least some, if not most, of the increase in anti-Muslim violence.
But if, God forbid, the rate of such terror attacks remains consistent over the next four years, wouldn’t it be far better to have someone in the Oval Office who is less vitriolic to Muslims than Trump?
This is debatable. In actuality, there is not a clear correlation between presidential rhetoric and tenor, on the one hand, and hate crimes and bias, on the other. Obama’s presidency provides the perfect example of this. People expected that race relations would significantly improve upon the election of the first black president, when, as it turns out, the exact opposite occurred. Anti-black racism has significantly increased during Obama’s two terms than in prior years. There has been a surge in the number of white supremacist chapters and “patriot” groups around the country, which also correlates with an increase in bias attacks against different minority groups, including Muslims.
How do we explain this seemingly paradoxical increase in racism and violence under Obama? Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests that much of the increase is tied to the anxieties of beleaguered working-class and middle-class white people who have suffered due to increasing income inequality and other economic factors. As these groups perceive society to become more diverse and less white, they react with anger and violence directed at those minorities imagined to be most threatening. In this way, paradoxically, a black president in power can increase anti-black racism while a white conservative, even bigoted president in power can actually decrease it.
A Trump presidency could have the same effect on anti-Muslim bias. Having him in office would do much to appease these racist white factions, which would lower anxieties and ease tensions, potentially resulting in less negativity towards Muslims and mosques.
Hate Crime Under Obama: The Case of Park51
As further insight into this dynamic, consider the year 2010, which saw 53 mosque attacks that year, whereas 2015, the year of the rise of Trump, saw 78 (data and bar chart below can be found here). Back in 2010, ISIS had not yet emerged and there had not been a single major Muslim-related terror incident in the US or Europe that year. 2015, in contrast, saw ten of them with death tolls in the hundreds and nearly around-the-clock media coverage throughout the year, not to mention the Syrian refugee crisis to boot. Why, then, was 2010 a horrendous year for American mosques with such a seemingly Muslim-friendly president in the White House?
Well, this was also the year of the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, where a Muslim community center and mosque, Park51, was planned to be built two blocks away from the World Trade Center site. There was an uproar from both Democratic and Republican national leaders arguing that building a mosque in that place was a “violation of sacred ground.” At first President Obama seemed to support the building of the mosque, but after getting blasted by Republicans, he later backtracked and clarified that he would not comment on “the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.”
This incident perfectly encapsulates the dynamics of American political discourse surrounding Muslims. When Republicans are not in power, they have great incentive to portray Dems as soft on terror and, like trained puppies, the Dems respond with cold indifference, if not outright callousness, to Muslims and their interests. This creates an antagonistic bipartisan consensus on Muslim issues which further feeds public paranoia and an atmosphere of anti-Muslim hate, which inevitably leads to mosque attacks and other acts of bias.
What If Clinton Wins?
A Clinton presidency would further anger white supremacists and other bias groups, making them feel like the walls are quickly closing in on them. This could have devastating results, as the GOP would, in the interests of oppositionalism and reactionary politics, shift further in the direction of nativism and racially-charged rhetoric in order to capitalize on the raw emotions of their disaffected base. They would also continue to paint Democrats as soft on terror, as the anti-Muslim elements across the country would be incensed, not quieted, that their beloved crusader failed in his White House bid.
In reaction to this, Clinton would shift right as well, which would all but ensure the continuation and likely expansion of Obama’s anti-Muslim policies. Of course, this would all be done with smiles and White House iftars galore, i.e., the IMP Rule in all its slimy glory.
Even without this shift, Clinton has more than proven herself to be hostile to Muslim interests, both abroad and at home, even more so than Obama, which is saying something in itself. Like Trump, she has embraced the term “radical Islam” and believes that a muscular surveillance state is key to national security and fighting “homegrown terror.” She has proven herself to be an arch-Zionist, even more antagonistic to Palestinian life than Bush, Obama, or Trump. Her hawkish stance toward the Middle East should be enough by itself to give any conscionable Muslim pause for concern. She has demonstrated support for the US-funded dictators across the Arab world, and has even befriended them.
Does all this mean that Muslims should vote for the odious Donald Trump? Muslims should definitely consider voting third party in at least the non-swing states. But if one is planning to vote for either Clinton or Trump in a swing state, then hopefully I have presented good reasons to consider voting for Trump over Clinton in particular. In strategic terms, sometimes going against the most outwardly obvious path is what will yield the most fruit at the end.
And, of course, there may be other reasons unrelated to Muslim interests to support Clinton over Trump, though as commentators like Mobeen Vaid have argued, American Muslims need to reconsider their reflexive alignment with liberals, while developing a political culture which is based on or at least informed by their religious values, instead of simply parroting “Red vs. Blue” political bickering.
Putting these concerns aside and focusing on the issue of which candidate, Trump or Clinton, is relatively better for Muslims in the short and long term, there is no question.
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Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir
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Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace.I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work.Click To Tweet
– Imam Zaid Shakir
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The New Scramble For Africa
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Africa is a blessed continent with resources and biodiversity that would impress anyone. Africa’s history in Islam (while neglected) played a major role, it was home to the first country to welcome the Muslims and allow them to practice freely. After the spread of Islam trough traders, regions across Africa became hubs for knowledge and trade. The richest man in history hailed from Africa and was Muslim, and his name was Mansa Musa. The riches of Africa have always sought after. People from all over the world have aimed to to do business or exploit the blessed continent. Unfortunately, the history of Africa is filled with strife, bloodshed, slavery, and holocausts. This rings true till today. The purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past, be it Arab influence or colonization. The events going on today needs out attention, we have ignored the struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa long enough.
The first major scramble for Africa was in the 19th century, when Europe carved it up like it was their property. The second was during the cold war, when East and West seek allegiances of newly independent African states. We are witnessing a third scramble that is less obvious, and more behind the scenes with “investments” and “wars”. It can be described as a cold war between China and America.
Some see the resources they have like oil, chocolate, rare earth minerals, diamonds, etc. as a blessing (investors mostly), but to the people living through this every day it is a curse. Oil or mineral dependent countries in Africa suffer from enclave industrialization, limited diversity in their economy, and vulnerability to price shock. While this is happening, they see decay in their agriculture, manufacturing, and other trades. The continent is still traumatized by five centuries of exploitation. It is no easy obstacle to overcome. What we are seeing will only get worse as oil production is expected to peak in 2025, world scarcity will increase, and we will see more wars around oil. For the last decade, China has been using “soft power,” basically using money for leverage. This comes in the form of aid, trade, infrastructure projects, and loans. This is a plot to make them a superpower in the region. America, on the other hand, is doing what it has been doing since 1776, it is confronting Africa as a “battlefield,” basically running operations or anti-terrorism projects in dozens of countries that the American public is unaware of.
One example is South Sudan, and the American campaign to split the Muslim country of Sudan to two. Before the split, China reportedly had invested $20 billion in Sudan. With American interventions occurring, China watched the events unfold. After the split the newly inaugurated president of South Sudan flew to China to secure an $8 billion investment. By 2013, China controlled 40% of their largest crude oil producers and was importing 77% of the country’s output. After unrest and bloodshed occurring in Libya, Mali, Sudan, etc, China has established a stronger effort with peacekeeping officers to protect their oil interest. As one superpower implements one tactic, another superpower follows its traditional method. Last year in Niger, American soldiers, including two commandos, were killed. This was surprising to me as I was unaware of American military operation in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world with Muslims making 98% of its population.
We have seen a dangerous rise of commandos in Africa. In 2006, under Bush, 1% of deployed commandos were in Africa, by 2011 under Obama it had risen to 3%. It does not stop there, before stepping down from office, in 2016, 16.5% of American commandos deployed were deployed in Africa.
In 2006, only 70 special ops were deployed across the continent, in 2014 we have 700 deployed special ops in Africa. “None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem. Despite this declaration, despite the deaths of soldiers in Niger, U.S. commandos keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat.
In March of 2018, the New York Times released an article of 10 unreported attacks of American troops between 2015 and 2017. Despite these attacks and distrust towards the region, the Pentagon built a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, regardless of the people’s concerns towards a base being built near their home. Our worldly desires is fueling this new scramble for Africa. Our need for resources, technology, and fuel comes at a cost. This cost manifests itself as the development of the rentier state (eventually developing into a kleptocracy across Africa, professional soldiers ruling the resource-rich lands or an expansion of the “war on terror”.
Here are a few theoretical solutions, some are to be initiated by the government and some rely on people-power movements. The government needs to reduce corruption and that can be done through a menu of policies created to control and maintain corruption. Controlling corruption can be done through; changing the selections of national agents, modifying the rewards and punishments systems, and restructuring the relations between national agents and users to reduce monopolies. Another venue the government can explore is directly distributing resource revenues to the people. This is practiced in Alaska, and has been wildly successful. Finally, the government can invest the resource revenues in social development. Harnessing the revenues for human development to include education, healthcare, job training, and housing will lift up the urban and rural poor.
The people can pressure the government to pursue any of those ideas mentioned. A power-people movement can look different depending on the need. One idea is that consumers in the West to boycott African minerals due to corruption and/or exploitation. This can develop into “smart boycotts” where we use internet hedge funds to attack corporations that exploit and feed into corruption. Developing campaigns like “blood diamonds” in the past have been proven effective to generate awareness and bring vital change. The same was done with the ivory, and now even China has laws making the product illegal.
People-power movements work and have helped locals rid of unwanted corporations in their region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a leader of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, he rallied against the abuses of the Nigerian military regime and the oil pollution created by multi-national companies, which resulted in a change of consciousness for the better.
In his words: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”
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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 and ‘Hindu 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.