Myths and misconceptions float around about Muslims

In recent weeks,  one heard movie-goers’ reactions after they watched ‘The Kerala Story’, and they have been on the expected lines. Films are being made to paint the community in the darkest hues.

One news report after another of supposed lovers or the live-in partners not just killing their partners but also chopping and cutting those human forms and then throwing about those cut pieces! Sheer madness! Yes, nothing short of madness.

Love affairs and the invariable fallouts have been taking place ever since human beings took off! But inevitable fall outs led to crying and sobbing sessions, followed by depression and nervous breakdowns and much more along the strain.

Rarely did one get to hear of this level of barbaric killings of partners taking place today, in these so called developed times. Perversions and frustrations and frenzied madness seem to be hitting many. Though reasons for this madness could be several but one of the prime reasons could be what’s screened on the big and the small screens.

Violence and frenzied urges and perversions, together with twisted notions and misconceptions hovering around. Not happening overnight. But definitely reaching the unthinkable limits now, in these recent years. What, with the commercial lobbies and vested political interests not just giving the go-ahead and fillip and but much more.

It gets significant to detail that several years back, bureaucrat of the J&K cadre, Parvez Dewan, was one of the first to have researched on what’s portrayed cum relayed, through Bollywood films and television serials.

And his findings exposed some very harsh truths vis-a-vis the lopsided  notions and misconceptions of the ‘other’. According to his findings:

Christians are shown in a particular negative light with their men drunk petty criminals and women in skirts that bare … women with loose morals and the smoking-drinking types. Sikhs are generally portrayed as well-meaning dullards. Dalits and the tribal community in another shade of the make-believe. Parsis are portrayed as silly and old. The Chinese settled in India are usually portrayed as evil and shown as gangsters. Muslims in another set of negatives hovering around them; invariably the villain in the movies and serials equipped with a Muslim name or surname! Muslim men shown in typically ‘Muslim’ attire. They are either old, handicapped, subordinate, sterile, impotent or homosexual. If they are not any of these, then they are producing too many children. Less than 20 per cent of the Muslim men are portrayed as young but even in this category they are depicted not only as backward but as fundamentalists, mazhab ke pakke, so much so that many of the opening shots start with a Muslim offering namaaz. Another trend, since the film Tezaab, is the portrayal of Muslim men as terrorising the local population.


I’d met and interviewed actor Farooq Sheikh twice, once in the 90s and then around 2004 – 2005. He had lashed out to the wrong portrayal of Muslims in the Bollywood films. “Film makers in Bollywood have little concern to show the actual and real haal and halaats that an Indian Muslim is going through…the actual condition of the Indian Muslims…Film-makers in Bollywood have big budgets but little sensitivity towards relevant issues.

“Today, cinema has become a commodity to be sold. Community perceptions in our films have always centred around stereotypes: the Christian character is a girl dancing or wearing short skirts, with ample indications that she’s a fast girl, Farooq Sheikh said, adding, “The Parsee is shown as blundering. The Sikh is either a soldier or eating parathas. In the case of Muslims, the characters are hardly believable. Why do they portray the Muslim man to be wearing a lungi and a vest or as a ghaddar! Sometimes, as an exception or token, one of them will be shown as patriotic so that the entire community is not misunderstood. The other stereotypes — with 300 adaabs in one film and women wearing ghararas or cooking qormas — are also absent in an average Muslim household.”

He detailed that Bollywood was no place for sensitivities: “Film industry and film making is just a dhanda today …sheer money making thing, so all this doesn’t really bother them…Today there are no film producers like K Asif, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, Mehboob sahib…Mehboob sahib had no money yet his passion drove him to make films. And Bimal Roy lived in a rented accommodation all his life. Or the fact that it took M.S. Sathyu took 20 years to repay the debt he took to make Garam Hawa. That level of commitment and passion and sensitivity is missing in today’s film producers.”


Today the situation gets compounded and dangerous. What, with commercial films made to aggravate and further expand the divides and gaps between communities.
Well, reactions along the expected strain:“Yeh picture dekh kar Musalmano se darrr lag raha hai !” (After watching this film, feeling scared of Muslims!)

We have reached such horrifying, dark times when films are being made to portray the Muslim community in the darkest hues. The actual-factual factors are getting side-lined and bypassed in the agenda-mission-motive to intensify communal polarization and divides.

Another vital aspect that stands out in today’s polluted atmosphere is this stark reality: where are the occasions for any of the interactive sessions between the Muslims and non-Muslims to get-set-going to clear the communal poison around! After all, you get to interact with each other only when you are on par. A middle-class Hindu and a Muslim can only talk or walk or eat together if they are living in the same block or in the opposite building, or working or studying together. But with lopsided ratios on these fronts, when and where to interact with each other! And not to overlook moral policing brigades and the private senas unleashed in several states to thrash Muslim men if they dare to befriend Hindu women.

Today myths and misconceptions are afloat about the Indian Muslims. Needless to say that there should have been an immediate halt to these. If misconceptions about the Muslim community could stand corrected, then communal divides would automatically lessen. But seemingly, the political lot do not want the divides to dwindle. For them, political strategies would flop!

It is indeed unfortunate that we aren’t speaking out, coming out with the stark basic fact and that is:  a person who terrorizes does not belong to any faith. He is a foot soldier. Used by political powers and the agencies and the mafia. Presumably he does not follow any faith. As no religion sanctions killings or destruction.

During the course of an earlier  given interview with me, sociologist  Professor  Imtiaz Ahmad  stressed,  “ The term  Islamic   terrorists  is a   misnomer and should  be  avoided, as it’s used  by  vested  political  interests in India to drive a  wedge  between  Hindus and  Muslims.”  Professor Ahmad  was  emphatic  that  it’s a  misconception that  more and  more  Muslims are  taking to  violence: “No, it  is  not  that  more and  more Muslims are turning into  militants. Worldwide there are  many  other  forms of  militancy  and  terrorism  that are  equally aggressive  and widespread. In  our  own country we  have  had and continue to  have  militancy  in  Kashmir and  in  the North-East, to   name  two  persistent   forms of  militancy in recent  years. Outside the country, within the South Asian region, we have  had  terrorism in  Sri Lanka and Nepal. Further away  there are also Muslim  militants who  are fighting  against  regimes  which  are wholly or largely  Muslims. It  is ironic that following  September  11, the world  seems to  have  forgotten that there are  these other terrorists. Partly,  because the  US-led war has put the  focus on Muslims and  partly  because Muslims  are  more  widespread, the  impression is gaining ground  that more and more Muslims are turning  terrorists. Actually more and  more  people in the entire world are turning into terrorists.”

And when the late scholar-activist, the late Asghar Ali Engineer, was addressing a meeting in New Delhi, he was asked for reasons for Muslims turning to  terrorist activities. This is what he had to say : “These acts of  terrorism are  political and  are  not  religious…It is  important   to  analyse the  reasons  behind   terrorist  attacks. And  the  fact is that there are  extremist fringes  in each  community…And  there   wasn’t that  hue  and cry  when  Tamil  rebels  indulged  in  violence in  Sri Lanka  or when Irish  rebels did  the  same  in the  UK!”

Why Islam, the religion, is linked to violence,  he countered  it by giving one example after another  to  prove just the contrary.  Talking  of the  period of  early Islam,  he gave  examples of how the Prophet had discouraged  violence of any type and  showed compassion even  to  his enemies, so  much so that  when  he  had  conquered Mecca, there wasn’t a drop  of  blood shed and  he’d  pardoned even  those  who  had   attacked  him or his  men. He had even pardoned  a woman who  had  not  just  killed  his  uncle  but even  chewed  his  liver. There’s  been  one instance after another  focusing  on compassion. Violence is totally discouraged in Islam, except in cases of self-defence.”

Several years back when Muslims in the Middle-East reacted rather too fiercely to the series of offensive cartoons, by attacking and burning of the Danish and Norwegian embassies, the  Qatar  based  Shaikh Yusuf Alqarzadi,  a highly respected religious leader, condemned the violent attacks. He appealed to  the Muslims to  express their unhappiness over the  offensive cartoons  in a  ‘decent and civilized’ manner: “I cannot  condone  destruction and  arson  because  they are  against  basic  human decency and  against the teachings of Islam.”