Need of the Hour: An Intellectual Renaissance

Iqbal Ansari, son of the oldest litigant in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case
Hashim Ansari, welcomed the Ayodhya verdict 
It is high time for present-day Muslim youth in India to stop following their community leaders blindly

Raamish Siddiqui

In a landmark judgement today, the Supreme Court pronounced the verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid dispute paving the way for a historic milestone. The apex Court ordered the Centre to set up a trust for temple construction and allotted an alternate land for mosque.
This issue, one of the most acrimonious issues of our times, has been the centrepiece of spiteful propaganda. Those with vested interests have made every attempt for this to be a perennial reason for strife and discord.
The partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 on grounds of religion left deep scars. The two communities – Hindus and Muslims – who were so close to each other and fought side by side during India’s Freedom Struggle turned into adversaries.
In the aftermath of this partition, the mutual feelings of love, harmony and fraternity were replaced by resentment, distrust and suspicion. The destruction of the disputed structure saw a spate of reactions amongst the Muslims. However in reality, Muslims could have taken this up as a second chance to restore harmony. They should have wholeheartedly accepted the proposition of building a temple and relocated the mosque to elsewhere. There are ample examples in the Muslim world where mosques have been relocated. This formula has already been adopted by the Islamic countries who wanted to re-plan their cities to cater to the growing needs of their economy.
Religion is a discipline which makes its adherents a peaceful member of the society. On the contrary, religion was seen as a divisive force. The Indian Muslim leadership could not give a positive frame of thought to the community throughout the Ayodhya episode. The community leaders should have let go off the baggage from the past and played their part in steering the nation towards its growth. Instead, they remained enmeshed in negative sentiments and based all their actions in keeping with the resentment they harboured. A nation is a composite of its culture, society, faiths and history. The preservation of culture and history and the belief in a religion or faith are two distinct aspects of the existence of any society.
The Arab world for example has begun to heavily invest in restoring their history. But this does not mean that they have forsaken their religion. I had once visited a multicultural event in Dubai where I paid a visit to the Egypt Hall. I was startled to see how Egypt despite being a Muslim country had still restored what was once an integral part of their culture. This was a great lesson. Egypt has been the home ground for Muslim Brotherhood and radical adoption of religion but all this did not deter them from rightfully honouring their history and culture, which is what set them apart as a nation.
As Indian Muslims, we have to play a positive role in the development of our nation and preservation of the pristine culture of our country. India has always been a home ground for spirituality and enlightenment. As an Indian, we have it within us to be tolerant and respectful of one another while striving to become our better selves.
The Muslim community leaders have damaged the sentiments of the social fabric a great deal by misleading the emotions of common man. It is high time for present-day Muslim youth in India to stop following the community leaders blindly. They must rise to contribute to the well-being of their homeland. The Europe of Middle-ages, when clergy’s ancient beliefs held sway and intellectual oppression had reached its peak, became the birth place for Renaissance, which changed the way the world functioned.
Renaissance had paved way for the human society to embark on the threshold of a modern civilisation, the outcome of which is the vast progress and development we witness today. It altered the thinking of Europeans forever, and those who were living in intellectual ghettos went on to discover the whole wide world. The Indian Muslim community today is in dire need of a similar intellectual renaissance so that they can be brought out of the depths of age-old biases and prejudices to see the light of the day. But the beginning of such a movement is first realising the mistakes of the past.
(The writer is author of The True Face of Islam)