Jug Suraiya is a veteran journalist and an Associate Editor at Times of India. What sets him apart from other writers is the generous does of humour that he sprinkles his articles with. It seems, though, that the only area where he becomes ordinary and pedestrian like many other writers is when he talks about Islamic rule and democracy. I find it pitiable that after all these years of journalistic pursuits JS appears to have understood neither Islam nor Democracy. That might sound like a harsh comment on JS but that is what he demonstrates in his article titled ‘Cry Freedom’ in the TOI.
It appears JS cannot make up is mind whether Islam is compatible with democracy or not. He also discovers that Islamism, like all other religious or fundamental ideologies, is undemocratic as democracy is generally understood. That is where the stupidity begins. First, let me make it absolutely clear: there is nothing like fundamental Islam and moderate Islam. There is Islam, period! Islam is not just a religion, it is also political guide and the Sharia is the justice system. Needless to mention, under the Islamic political system all non-muslims are secondary citizens or ‘Dhimmies’. Surprisingly, despite having a failed state like Pakistan, an Islamic republic, as a neighbour most of our intellectuals are unwilling to see the truth. And the truth is Islamic rule and democracy are NOT compatible.
Here’s how JS starts off: “But even as cheering crowds celebrate their liberation, how secure is their new-found freedom? What form of governance will replace dictatorship? Will the newly-planted seed of democracy flower or will it fall upon the barren soil of another form of repression?” If he were in a race, JS would be faulted for a wrong start. Freedom from a dictator is not the same as a desire for democracy as we understand it. What in the world makes such intellectuals believe there is a ‘newly-planted seed of democracy’? Any mullah in any corner of the world will tell you that they do not respect ‘man-made’ concepts like democracy. Therefore, an Islamic system which follows the word of God, is the only acceptable form of life and rule for Islamists.
“Contrary to the claims of Islamophobes, Islam and democracy are perfectly compatible. For example, India's large Muslim community participates in the dance of democracy with as much enthusiasm as do its co-citizens of other faiths. That said, Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, while emphasising that his newly-liberated country will be a 'moderate' Muslim state..”. What a load of rubbish! Here’s a challenge to JS: Conduct a referendum among all muslims in India and find out if they want India to be a democracy as it is or to be an Islamic republic. He will find the real answer. He is also blind to the reality that where muslims are in majority, like in Kashmir, they already want an Islamic system. It is no secret that within their own community muslims in India, despite democracy, practice their own set of codes and laws. That includes polygamy and Talaaq as he indicates will be practiced in Libya. Dance of democracy? This is another idiotic phrase coined by TOI. It almost sounds like the dance of cannibals before they feast on their hunted. Democracy is not a dance, it’s a serious process! And once again the misleading quote is about “moderate muslim state”.
The first sign of being moderate is the willingness to reform based on current realities. I wonder when intellectuals like JS will wake up and realise there is nothing moderate about a religion and its laws that are not subject to reform. Would killing of apostates be abolished in Islam? Hmmm! Killing a non-muslim in an Islamic state is not the same as killing a muslim. Homosexuals are punishable with death. Is that moderate and will that be reformed?
India’s muslims participate in the so called dance of democracy because there is no other choice. There is no way the majority Hindu community and other communities would have it any other way. If democracy survives in India it is primarily because of Hindus and Hindu tolerance and not for any other reason, despite many threats it has faced.
Let’s do a count. In India many leaders have been unseated by law or public movements or even by journalists. JS discounts this important fact. No less than a dictator like Indira Gandhi was unseated by a court and then by the people. A.R. Antulay was unseated by scams exposed by Arun Shourie. Chimanbhai Patel (Gujarat CM) was unseated by the Navnirman movement in 1974. B.S Yedyurappa has been unseated by a Lokayukta and there are many more such instances. Who claims that electoral victories wash away sins? Most recently it was J. Jayalalitha and later it was Manmohan Singh who claimed that the sins of Cash4votes was washed by the electoral victory of 2009. Why bring Modi alone into the argument? Simple, for the liberatti it is fashionable to denounce his twin electoral victories as victory of a fundamentalist. The electorate is not as stupid as JS would like us to believe, else Indira wouldn’t have lost the 1977 elections. These were all peaceful movements unlike the ones of the Arab Spring which have seen violence as the tool for change. That’s the difference between democracies and fundamentalist populations.
“But democracy is more than just the winning of elections. Democracy is not majoritarianism, the rule of the majority at the expense of the minority. A true democracy guarantees minority rights, with the individual citizen being the ultimate minority. But what if that individual elects to surrender her democratic rights not to wear a burqa, to get a job, to give her daughter an education?” Absolutely! An individual can surrender his democratic rights, the right to wear burqa and the right to remain in a closet forever. Howard Hughes lived his last years as a total recluse in the US, he didn't bother anyone. But deny a daughter education? This is where JS fails miserably to recognise that the daughter is an ‘individual’ too and she cannot be forced to give up her democratic rights till she attains an age when she can make a considered and informed decision. A daughter is not cattle for her parents to impose their closet beliefs. That’s life, Mr. JS!
“What if an individual democratically chooses to embrace an undemocratic ideology or way of life? Is such an individual an affirmation of democracy or a denial of it? Does democracy include your right democratically to renounce your democratic rights?” Sure, that individual that JS so reveres can do so as long as it does not impede or intrude others’ lives or their rights or beliefs. Yes, democracy includes your right to renounce your rights. Democracy is not an ideology that asks you to exercise your rights every step of the way BUT it does expect that you will fulfil your obligations to society because it is made up of many individuals.
Famous American satirist and comic Bill Maher in his mockumentary Religulous on relgions had this to say in the concluding part of the movie:
“The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken…..Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife……That's it. Grow up or die!”
There you are Mr.JS. In his movie, Maher discusses Christians, Jews, Muslims and even Mormons. Believe me, he has nothing to say about Hindus or Hinduism. Why? Because there is really nothing to say. So save the crap about muslims dancing in democracy in India. Given the opportunity that can change very quickly – ask an Owaisi or an Imam Bukhari. If democracy survives in India it is merely because it’s the Hindu way of life. JS is not just a misunderstander of Islam, he sounds like he’s also a misunderstander of Democracy!