West Bengal

The Hypocritical Silence Of Bengal’s Politicians, Media And Civil Society On Firhad Hakim’s Islamism Is Deafening

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jul 10, 2024, 04:45 PM | Updated 04:45 PM IST

Firhad Hakim, right, at the religious event last week.
Firhad Hakim, right, at the religious event last week.
  • Hakim’s statements and call for conversions to Islam are deeply troubling and ought to alarm all non-Muslims.
  • Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, who is also a senior minister, stirred a controversy last week by abusing non-Muslims as ‘blighted’ and calling for their conversion to Islam. 

    A few Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders protested Hakim’s egregious statement and condemned it. Many social media users also expressed their outrage and called upon Hakim to apologise and take back his statement. 

    Hakim had, while speaking at a tilawat (recitations from the Quran) programme held at a government auditorium in Kolkata last week, said that non-Muslims were blighted and would not go to heaven (jannat), which is reserved only for Muslims. 

    Hakim, who holds the urban development, housing and municipal affairs portfolios and is a close confidante of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, spoke like an Islamist when he said that a Muslim will ensure his smooth journey to jannat if he can convert even one non-Muslim to Islam. 

    “The blighted (or unfortunate) ones who are not Muslims and who have not been blessed by Allah need to be made aware of the teachings of the Quran. Even if one non-Muslim can be converted, then the path to jannat will become absolutely easy,” said Hakim

    He then gave a call for extending dawat-e-Islam (invitation to convert to Islam) to all non-Muslims. “We are fortunate to be born into Islam. We have grown up as Muslims. But we have to extend the invitation to Islam (extend dawat-e-Islam) to the unfortunate who have not been born into Islam and have not embraced Islam. Doing so will make Allah happy,” he explained to the gathering amid loud chants of Allah-u-akbar.

    Hakim also revelled, like a Muslim majoritarian, in Muslim muscle-flexing. “It feels so good. We feel so strong and powerful to see thousands of people wearing (skull) caps. We feel that Islam is united, and nobody can suppress us,” he said to loud cheers from the Muslims present.

    Surprisingly, save for the initial reactions from some BJP leaders and social media users, Hakim’s atrocious and condemnable statements did not make any news. 

    Bengal’s notoriously servile mainstream media — newspapers and TV channels — blacked out the news. Hakim’s appalling and shameful statements did not find any mention in any media. 

    Ditto for Bengal’s sycophantic civil society which turns a blind eye to all transgressions, including rape and molestation of women, murders, corruption and worse, by ruling Trinamool Congress leaders and functionaries. 

    The state’s so-called buddhijibis (intellectuals) and bhadraloks (the genteel class), academics and others who pose as civil society leaders and who are quick to condemn communalism have disgraced themselves by keeping silent on Hakim’s blatant and radical Islamism and his abuse of non-Muslims. His statements were downright communal, but no one protested.

    Banerjee, and all Trinamool leaders, chose to completely ignore Hakim’s abominable remarks. That’s understandable because Hakim is a Muslim leader and Muslims form the core support base of the Trinamool. 

    Rebuking Hakim, as Banerjee should rightly have done, would have angered Muslims and the Trinamool chief simply cannot afford to do that. 

    What needs to be understood here is that what Hakim said, no matter how obnoxious it may appear to non-Muslims, is actually considered by many Muslims, especially the radicals, to be a ‘holy’ duty of Muslims. Islam places a premium on converting non-Muslims and promises jannat to those who do so. 

    Thus, to reprimand Hakim will amount to, albeit indirectly, criticising Islam and its commandments. And Banerjee, for obvious reasons, cannot do that. Far from it, she has to appease Muslims to stay on in power. 

    However, had a Hindu politician said the same thing at a Hindu religious gathering, all hell would have broken loose. 

    Had a Hindu politician, especially one from the BJP, labelled non-Hindus as “unfortunate” and “blighted”, and called upon Hindus to convert non-Hindus to the Sanatan faith, Banerjee would have led the loud condemnations. And Bengal’s media and civil society would have faithfully followed her. 

    Imagine a BJP leader in, say, Uttar Pradesh calling all Muslims as ‘blighted’ and exhorting Hindus to convert Muslims to Sanatan Dharma. A huge thunderous cacophony would have rung out across the country condemning such remarks and demanding an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. For good measure, the so-called seculars and liberals in the country would have even tried to internationalise it. 

    But nothing happens when Hakim abuses non-Muslims and asks for their conversion to Islam. The seculars and liberals dig their hands in the sand and go completely silent. 

    However, while the silence of Banerjee, her ‘godi’ media, Bengal’s buddhijibis and civil society is understandable, what is confounding is the inability or unwillingness of the BJP to make this a big issue. 

    The atrociously Islamist statements of a senior Bengal minister and close aide of Banerjee should have been made into a national issue. BJP leaders across the country ought to have spoken out and protested vociferously against it. 

    BJP units in all states ought to have launched a sustained campaign against Hakim and Banerjee, and called out the hypocrisy of the media, civil society and so-called seculars and liberals who have failed to condemn Hakim. 

    The Bengal BJP ought to have organised statewide protests, staged demonstrations and dharnas, and made a huge hue and cry over Hakim’s statements. Instead, all that a few BJP leaders did was to post statements on social media against Hakim. 

    The reason why it was necessary to highlight Hakim’s Islamist statements is because they were dangerous and needed to be called out and condemned.

    Islamic communalism and majoritarianism is a real and present danger, and should be recognised as such. This was also a good opportunity to hold up the hypocrisy of civil society when it comes to standing against Islamists. 

    Hakim’s atrocious statements and call for conversions to Islam are deeply troubling and ought to alarm all non-Muslims. The BJP ought to have shamed Hakim and all Islamists, and created awareness among non-Muslims, especially Hindus, about the sinister designs of Islamists like Hakim. 

    But the BJP let this opportunity go by. One really wonders why. 

    Also read: Senior Bengal Minister’s Open Call To Convert Non-Muslims To Islam Is Deeply Problematic

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