Muslim Men Opposed At Navratri-Garba: Roots Lie In Opposition To Vande Mataram, Music Outside Mosques, One-Way Interfaith Mingling

by Swati Goel Sharma - Oct 4, 2022 05:18 PM +05:30 IST
Muslim Men Opposed At Navratri-Garba: Roots Lie In Opposition To Vande Mataram, Music Outside Mosques, One-Way Interfaith Mingling Navratri Garba in Gujarat
Snapshot
  • As long as legitimate and widespread concerns of Hindus continue to be dismissed as “Sanghi agenda”, there cannot be peace.

    There will only be suspicion and mistrust.

Muslims barred from Garba venues: On September 27, four Muslim men were reportedly thrashed at a Navratri-Garba venue in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city. Bajrang Dal, youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, took “responsibility” for the assault.

However, as no one filed a complaint with the police, nobody was booked and arrested for the incident, the police told the media.

Spokesperson for the Gujarat VHP, Hitendrasinh Rajput, justified the act of Bajrang Dal volunteers saying they were preventing “love jihad”.

“Despite being warned, four youths from another religion were spotted at a venue. Our volunteers grabbed them to prevent love jihad,” he said.

A report by The Times of India said that Bajrang Dal men had been standing outside the garba venue with placards ‘with messages against “love jihad”’.

Similar incidents of restrictions on entry of Muslim men have been reported from Madhya Pradesh. Weeks before Navratri began, MP state culture minister Usha Thakur had said that identity cards of men at garba dance venues could be checked at the entrance to prevent ‘love jihad’.

The Hindustan Times reported on 1 October that eight Muslim men were held in Indore for trying to enter garba venues by hiding their identities as per police. 

Cannot be lazily blamed on myth of ‘Hindu fascism’: While the police must act if they receive a complaint of criminal assault, the larger issue of hostility towards Muslim men at the ongoing Navratri-garba celebrations cannot be explained by lazy and prejudiced theories of ‘Hindutva-wadis fanning anti-Muslim sentiment under the current Bharatiya Janata Party rule at the centre’. 

Such theories have been peddled by several politicians, commentators and journalists on social media.

Congress supporter and Robert Vadra’s brother-in-law Tehseen Poonawalla tweeted, “I have attended Muslim weddings (both partners are Muslims) where there is Dandiya & during haldi & mehndi there is Garba. The poison BJP supporters who don't understand Western India, particularly Gujarat and Maharashtra are injecting in our society must be called out.”

Arfa Khanum Sherwani, who works for The Wire tweeted, “Hindutva Fascists are mocking, discouraging, threatening and even beating up Muslims who are/want to participate in celebrations of Hindu festivals. They are destroying the last bit of whatever has remained of India and its composite culture.”

Journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted, “TV channels  discussing whether Muslims are welcome at Garba and Dandiya are the Godses of media, killers of all that is decent and humane.”

Objective analysis of Hindu concerns: Below is an analysis of the above theories.

Concerns of ‘love jihad’ are not figments of imagination 

When Hindus object to one-way interfaith love relationships with Muslims (where men are Muslims and women are Hindus), so-called ‘liberals’ deride them as 'regressive' and being against love itself.

But would the same liberals deride BR Ambedkar for expressing similar concerns in his seminal 1945 work Pakistan, or The Partition of India, where he wrote

…the Hindus are right when they say that it is not possible to establish social contact between Hindus and Muslims because such contact can only mean contact between women from one side and men from the other.

To substantiate his point, Ambedkar compared this concern of Hindus with that of Europeans. He wrote, “It is interesting to note the argument which the Europeans who are accused by Indians for not admitting them to their clubs use to defend themselves. They say, ‘We bring our women to the clubs. If you agree to bring your women to the club, you can be admitted. We can’t expose our women to your company if you deny us the company of your women. Be ready to go fifty-fifty, then ask for entry in our clubs’.”

This skewed interfaith relationship pattern between Hindus and Muslims was one of the many reasons that Ambedkar cited to advocate complete transfer of India’s Muslim population to the proposed Pakistan.

As per Hindu groups, many Muslim men have used Garba venues during the nine-days of Navratri to trap Hindu women in relationships by introducing themselves with fake (Hindu) names, with an eventual aim of their religious conversion or sexual exploitation.

Cases of this pattern are often described with the phrase ‘love jihad’, a term coined by Christian groups in Kerala more than a decade ago. Allegations against Muslim men of trapping non-Muslim women for their conversion have been made by Christians including senior members of the Church in Kerala, Jains, Adivasis, Sikhs and Buddhists besides Hindus.

This correspondent has been extensively reporting cases of this pattern, where several women have filed police cases against men for either posing as Hindus to enter into sexual relationships with them and revealing much later that they were already married or harassing them after marriage to follow Islamic faith and customs.

An alarming number of such cases have ended up in the women either committing suicide or getting murdered by such men. 

Even in the recent arrests at Garba venues, several Muslim men were found to have used fake Hindu names to enter, which only justifies the concern of Hindus.

However, it is not desirable for a multi-cultural society to paint the entire community as potential ‘love jihadis’ for wrong-doings by some. What about genuine Garba revellers?

It is pertinent to note here that all Muslim men restricted from Garba venues were found to be single, that is, unaccompanied by women at the time of their entry.

In the parlance of hotel-and-restaurant industry, such men are called ‘stags’, and their entry is restricted at most pubs for concerns that they come to the venue only for women. 

Perhaps the young Muslim men wishing to dance at Garba venues should bring young women from their families along. It would be “fifty-fifty”, as Ambedkar put it.

Attacks on Hindu processions for music, refusal to chant Vande Mataram, treating worship of Hindu deities as haram

In almost every season of Hindu religious processions, communal violence is witnessed when such processions pass by mosques. 

The last major season of such violence was April, when Ram Navami processions were attacked with stones in several states including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal and Jharkhand. 

Such violence has been a fixture of Hindu religious processions for more than a century, that is, since more than three decades before the partition of India to create a separate Muslim country. The trigger was, and continues to be, the Ulema’s insistence that music is haram in Islam.

In the same book on Pakistan, Ambedkar wrote, “…Music may be played before a mosque in all Muslim countries without any objection…But in India the Musalmans must insist upon its stoppage for no other reason except that the Hindus claim a right to it.”

Even if this diktat on music by the Ulema is flawed, hypocritical and bigoted, the fact remains that police in all corners of the country bend to this diktat and force Hindu processions to adjust to it.

When the police chart out route for a Hindu procession, they insist that the accompanying DJ must be switched off when devotees pass by a mosque. Even the slightest digression from this rule triggers in stone-pelting on the processions in so-called ‘Muslim areas’.

If even the administration endorses this bigotry, if the only reaction from major Muslim voices to these attacks is to criticise the playing of music and entering in ‘Muslim areas’ and not the attacks, then how are Garba organisers expected to not suspect a temporary show of love towards devotional music during Navratri?

Navratri is annually observed in honour of Goddess Durga. As per the Ulema, the festival and its celebration, thus, is haram for Muslims. As per the Ulema, believers of Islam cannot bow to anyone other than Allah.

So forceful and effective this diktat is that the prohibition on Muslims against chanting of ‘Vande Mataram’ enforced by the Ulema at the beginning of 20th century in British India, continues even today. The poem contains references to goddess Durga.

In 1908, Sir Syed Ali Imam of All India Muslim League called Vande [or Bande] Mataram as a “sectarian” cry and a propaganda of “Hindu nationalism”. The Congress Party, then the largest representative of Hindus, gave in to the Ulema and declared that “only the first two stanzas should be sung” as National Song since these do not have any religious connotations. 

In the post-partitioned India, prominent Muslim seminaries such as Darul Uloom and Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind continue to stand by their fatwas that singing Vande Mataram is haram for Muslims. Attempts by various administrative bodies to popularise Vande Mataram in recent years have been met with vehement opposition from Muslim political parties and social organisations. 

A fatwa by Darul Uloom on worship of goddess Saraswati, made in the context of a controversy over Saraswati Puja in West Bengal government schools, says, “It is haram for a Muslim to participate in it. It is not lawful to help in the Puja (worship) or make donation. Hence Muslims should be concerned and try to save the children from such acts so that Muslim children are saved from polytheistic practices in the school. Or they should establish such schools that are free from such acts.”

If opposition to any gesture of piety towards any Hindu goddess is officially the position of the Ulema, if the diktats are religiously followed by the Muslim community, if even the administration gives in to their stand, then how are Garba organisers expected to not suspect a temporary gesture of devotion towards goddess Durga during Navratri?

Future of religious syncretism: The question then is, what about those Muslims who do not adhere to these religious rulings? Should they be turned away from Navratri celebrations?

This question needs to be addressed in a larger context. Again quoting from Ambedkar’s book on Pakistan, such Muslims can at best be described as those whose conversion to Islam is incomplete. 

He wrote, “…What are pointed out as common features [between Hindus and Muslims] are not the result of a conscious attempt to adopt and adapt to each other’s ways and manners to bring about social fusion. On the other hand, this uniformity is the result of certain purely mechanical causes. They are partly due to incomplete conversions. In a land like India, where the majority of the Muslim population has been recruited from caste and out-caste Hindus, the Muslimization of the convert was neither complete nor effectual, either from fear of revolt or because of the method of persuasion or insufficiency of preaching due to insufficiency of priests. There is, therefore, little wonder if great sections of the Muslim community here and there reveal their Hindu origin in their religious and social life…”

Ambedkar called this “religious amalgamation” between Hindus and Muslims the “result of a dead past which has no present and no future”.

Already, several organisations are actively pursuing the task of completing the ‘incomplete conversions’. Global movement Tablighi Jamaat, headquartered in New Delhi, is one such. It’s an aggressive proselytising organisation that takes converts as far as possible from their Hindu roots in the name of “Islamic revivalism”. 

Instead of being criticised for its goals and activities, the organisation enjoys massive support from the community including its most elite section. 

The ongoing demand of Hijab in government-run schools is another manifestation of growing popularity of an orthodox interpretation of Islam that rejects any Hindu connection of the Muslim converts as haram. 

This means that for so-called syncretism to be preserved, all markers of Islamic orthodoxy must be condemned and discarded. These would include opposition to Vande Mataram, Saraswati Puja and slogan of 'Jai Shri Ram', and insistence on Hijab, no music outside mosques and cow slaughter. These would also include popularity of slogans such as ‘sar tan se juda’ for so-called blasphemy of Islam.

Unfortunately, the outrage from the Muslim society of India against Islamic orthodoxy continues to be very cautious and quite inadequate. If voices form within the society that stand against orthodoxy strengthen, that would be a sustainable and healthy foundation for communal harmony.

As long as these sentiments continue to be dismissed as “Sanghi agenda”, there cannot be peace. There will only be suspicion and mistrust.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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