Friday, 17 November 2006

Rejecting mindless pacifiers

There were two news items today on the Haj subsidy – one heartening and one depressing.
First, the depressing one. The government has decided to increase the subsidy cover for Haj pilgrims which will, in effect, allow 10,000 more Muslims to be covered. This is clearly a ploy ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections.
The heartening news. The Indian Express has reported that several Muslim religious scholars and leaders have criticized the subsidy and asked for the money (Rs 180 crore at last count) to be used for schools, healthcare and other basic infrastructure for the community’s welfare. They’ve termed the subsidy un-Islamic because according to the Quran, only those Muslims who can afford to go on Haj should do so.
Now there can be issues whether the state should spend money on the uplift of certain communities (religious or caste-based), but clearly there is a realization among Muslims that this subsidy is ridiculous and does not help the community in any way. That it is nothing but votebank politics and is only creating resentment against them. Maybe that realization was already there but what is positive is that they are now coming out openly criticising it.
What is significant is that this criticism is not coming from the sophisticated liberal Muslims – the Mushirul Hasans, Shabana Azmis, Javed Akhtars and their like – but from people like Maulana Mehmood Madani, general secretary of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, S Q R Ilyas, convenor of the Babri Masjid Committee and a senior member of the All India Personal Law Board, Mohammad Owais, CEO of the Haj Committee and Mufti Nazeer-ud-din, who runs the Darul Aloom Rehimiya, which is supposed to be Kashmir’s biggest seminary. These people probably have more clout with the community than the seminar circuit Muslims. Come to think of it, one has never heard these Muslims ever raising this point?
It is time now for other Muslims to take up this line of argument and generate awareness in the community that Haj subsidies, holidays for Friday prayers and bans on books is not what will help uplift it. Those will only continue to keep it in physical and social ghettos. Rs 180 crore is a lot of money. It shouldn’t be wasted on mindless sops.

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