Two back-to-back incidents of involving Muslims celebrating Hindi festivals have brought the issue of religious intolerance at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in focus again.
Last week, a Muslim journalist associated with a news portal posted a tweet wishing her followers Holi, in which she said “she would play Holi saying Bismillah”.
Soon, a barrage of criticism followed calling it non-Islamic, with some users even wishing her death.
Some said she was indulging in ‘Shirk’ (the sin of practising polytheism in Islam), some said she was insulting Islam, while others wished for her death. Users took particular umbrage to her saying “Bismillah” along with a Hindu festival’s name. “Say Bismillah and drink alcohol, it will become halal,” taunted one.
It turns out that it wasn’t only the social media users but even students at the Muslim university who were left angry at the tweet. So much that around 40-50 male students created ruckus outside a venue where the journalist was scheduled to give a talk and shouted and held placards saying ‘Arfa Go back’.
The news of the protest, in fact, was shared on Twitter by the editor of the portal she is associated with.
The journalist was among the speakers invited for the Women Leadership Summit 2019 organised by the university Women’s College Students Union, scheduled to take place from 26 to 28 March. The speakers include Arundhati Roy, Vrinda Grover and Teesta Setalvad.
A portal that covers issues in the Muslim community reported that “no one from the administration of the University intervened to stop this chaos”. It also said that the students were led by the vice-president of the AMU students’ union (AMUSU).
For a university that wears its religion on its sleeves, such an incident isn’t surprising, though it needs to be called out.
A few months ago on Shivaratri, a similar controversy had erupted. A banner was put up in the university campus in the students union’s name, that read ‘AMU Students Union greets all Shiva devotees’.
The content of the banner did not go down well with a number of people who took to social media in protest.
A Facebook post by Hamza Sufyan, vice-president of the students’ union and a mass communication student as per his profile, said, “Some people may someday hoist a saffron flag on the Union Hall as well. #FakeSecularism”.
Another post said, “why Muslims everytime try to prove there Nationalism and Secularism, But as usual question has been diverted to Islam and in accordance with Islam President Union is right [sic].”
Another mocked it with a post saying, “Will you get Babri Masjid back by feeding [them] oranges?”
Several others commented how the secular fabric of the university was violated with this banner and how this act was a forced attempt to make Muslims ‘prove’ their nationalism or secularism to the masses.
The claim that the secular fabric would be violated by a Shivratri banner, in a university that has forced non-Muslims to comply with the Islamic fasting norms of Ramzan for decades “in the name of tradition”, does not seem to hold substance.
Issues of non-Muslim students at the AMU have been coming to the fore lately, ranging from their in the midst of many mosques to the rise of a ‘Hindu student leader’ at the university. The Holi and Shivrati rows are only the latest.