Islam In India: ‘Silent Majority’ Versus The ‘Organised Minority’

Islam In India: ‘Silent Majority’ Versus The ‘Organised Minority’

by Arshia Malik - Monday, January 9, 2023 05:38 PM IST
Islam In India: ‘Silent Majority’ Versus The ‘Organised Minority’The 'organised minority' is engaged in a disinformation, digital warfare against non-Muslims.
  • The 'silent majority' will have to prevail over the 'organised minority', but will they?

It is important to understand that the Muslim world is not a monolith, despite Islam's claim of a universal ummah, or the universality of its message, or the similar markers of the way it is practised across continents, countries, geographical regions — plateaus, valleys, plains, even oceanic islands.

There is a 'silent majority' within Islam — Muslims who do not subscribe to it being a ‘religion of war’.

Unfortunately, the stereotypical narrative is dominated by the ‘organised minority', the 'agenda groups' as I call them or the 'rabble rousers' at the top of the pyramid of the Muslim world that Omar Saif Ghobash refers to in his book Letters to a Young Muslim.

This 'organised minority' is engaged in a disinformation, digital warfare against non-Muslims: Jews, Christians, Hindus, and even Islam’s minorities like the Shias, the Ahmediyyas, while recruiting more cannon fodder in the ‘Olympics’ of Muslim oppression.

Maajid Nawaz, former Hizbut Tahrir member, who propagated the group's views for 12 years in Britain and exported radicalism to Denmark and Pakistan, mentions the popularising of the narrative of violence by the 'organised minority' in his dialogue with Sam Harris in Islam and the Future of Tolerance.

Both influencers and authors use an interesting image of concentric circles starting with the jihadists and militant Islamists in the centre, and the moderate Muslims who may not support radical outfits but do not necessarily correspond to secular, democratic, or humanistic values in a larger circle.

And of course, the 'silent majority' that can best be described as citizens who happen to be Muslims, not necessarily identifying primarily as Muslims when interacting with the world in general in the largest circle.

According to Maajid Nawaz, Islamism and jihadism are politicised, and the contemporary readings of Islam and jihad have been weaponised in this ‘Olympics’ of Muslim oppression, and digital clash of civilisations.

For clarity, Islamism is the desire to impose any of those traditional readings on society, which translates to the desire to enforce a version of Sharia laws. Jihadism is the use of force to spread the above desire (Islamism).

There are political Islamists who seek to impose their views through the ballot box, biding their time until they can infiltrate the institutions of society from within. Another version of political Islamists is revolutionary Islamists who seek change from outside the system in one clean sweep.

Jihadists are a minority of Muslims in the world, yet the most organised and powerful and they dominate the discourse because they are violent. Even among them there is a classification — global jihadists like ISIS and regional jihadists like Hamas and Hezbollah restricted to geographical and demographic focus.

Reading this, one can see the immense challenge in front of the Indian subcontinent in countering this 'organised minority' and its various chapters in the numerous Indian cities and towns which have an Internet connection and are fertile grounds for the various internal insurgencies currently plaguing the Indic secular landscape.

For progressive Muslims who fight for secular, democratic and gender-equal, humanistic values this poses a near-impossible challenge on the road to reform and modernisation of Islam and Muslims.

Much as the religiously conservative 'silent majority' are a useful ally against jihadists and Islamists, political and revolutionary both, they may and do however oppose the reformers on gender rights, equality, and honour killings.

This 'silent majority' is very vocal against Al Qaeda and ISIS for hijacking their religion, what they call an errant politicisation of Islam.

When it comes to voting for Islamist parties they do not want an elected state party to impose their religion, because they want to retain the right to have their own understanding of what religious conservatism means. Case in point is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt losing elections.

These religious conservatives could be called fundamentalists also who support death for apostates, are extremely conservative in their own families and lifestyles; their beliefs rooted in the archaic interpretation of Sharia, a medieval, tribal desire to punish the out-group (everyone dissenting from their views) justified by their religious scriptures.

The fundamentalists may not necessarily subscribe to the belief in the ideological project of Islamist groups of codifying Sharia as law and imposing it on society, but they may not be on board for progressive ideas.

That is why the reform-minded liberal Muslims have a hard task of challenging the Islamists and jihadists, while advancing human rights and democratic culture among the majority conservative religious Muslims.

This must be borne in mind by Indian policy makers, jurists and other influencers — the fundamentalists, the religiously conservative Muslims may show solidarity in the fight against jihadist and Islamists, but they will resist reform or modernisation.

Progressive Muslims tend to point to historical and contemporary pluralism in scriptural reasoning which challenges the rigidity of violent, fundamentalist, or ideological dogma.

For example, for the conservative religious Muslims having a dialogue with the Hindu majority with all their subgroups, sects and political factions is more problematic than jihadists killing children in Jammu or Islamists advocating beheadings in their 'sar tan se juda' rallies.

Even as progressive reform-minded liberal Muslims develop the fortitude to work for progressive ideas, laws and attitudes within the Muslim community, they stoically face the posturing and lazy labels of 'fraternising with the enemy' from the elite Muslim 'organised minority' — the privileged Muslims who are disconnected from the realities of the ordinary Muslims and how they suffer from the totalitarianism of radical, political Islam.

The 'silent majority' will have to prevail over the 'organised minority', but will they?

Arshia Malik is a columnist and commentator on social issues with particular emphasis on Islam in the Indian subcontinent.
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