Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Coexistence and Conflict: Hindu Muslim Relations in India

Hindu-Muslim tension in India today. (thebigdurian/Flickr)

Hindu-Muslim tension in India today. (thebigdurian/Flickr)

QUESTION

As a Member of Parliament you have been very active. You mentioned the vote banks, and I think that is a very key issue. What role have you played, Shabana Azmi, in educating the politicians and trying to keep away this Hindu/Muslim problem-educating the politicians and trying to convince them not to use it as a ploy to further their own interests?

SHABANA AZMI

You see I wonder what we need to do in regard to that because politicians use that as a very real thing because they are really looking for vote banks all of the time. But I think that there is a mistake in thinking that Muslims vote en masse, and I think it is this belief-that Muslims vote as a block-which leads to manipulation by the parties. Actually if you look at the pattern, and that is where systematic work needs to be done, you see that the pattern of Muslim voting is often the same as that of the majority. In many instance they voted along with the majority, but yet they are treated as a vote bank, and that leads to their manipulation. And that is where we need to do further work.

Regarding the education of the politician…the politician jolly well knows the truth of the situation. Because of her or his own political gain, he is working toward destroying the secular fabric of the country and that is bad news.

QUESTION

Hello, my family is originally from UP and we later went to Pakistan. That is where I was born, in Karachi, but I grew up my entire life in Brooklyn-so I’m a New Yorker. I actually live around here. I am a medical student at Cornell Medical School, and the reason why that detail is relevant is because more and more I see among my well-educated and socially responsible peers an interest in these social and political issues, but also confusion as to how to go about implementing our concerns. I go to lecture after lecture, and participate in discussion after discussion, however I am not sure how that is helping the world.

SHABANA AZMI

You know it is helping the world. The fact that you are raising questions, the fact that you are attending the fact that you care-that is really central to the concern, that you care-and obviously there are no easy answers, but the fact that you are making an attempt is important. And that is what I really would like to see, that every single one of us would see that we have a stake in this, that civil society has a stake in this, and that all of us have a responsibility in whatever way to deal with this. You know, I think constantly we have been told to love our neighbors as ourselves, and I think that is a problem. I don’t think you need to love your neighbor as yourself. You should not kill him and you should not destroy his property. As long as you can see that certain ground rules are there, that should be enough. We should then be able to see that law and order are maintained. Hindus and Muslims are different…I am not saying better or worse…I am saying different. Men and women are different…not better or worse…but different…and that difference needs to be celebrated. It should not become a way of beating the other community. Law and order should be maintained; the guilty should be punished; the government should be doing their job. And as people we have to rise above that and constantly try and address differences. There are bound to be differences, and because there are differences the world is so much more interesting, and we have to be able to address this.

QUESTION (continued...)

I know all of this is affecting the world somehow in a philosophical sort of sense…but the reason that I personally went into medicine was that I wanted to feel at the end of the day that I had accomplished something and made a difference. So I was wondering if you have any suggestions for the young people in your audience as to how we can participate in this movement.

SHABANA AZMI

You know firstly I want to say that I am so glad that there are so many young faces today. That is important, because youth traditionally is against the establishment and youth really should be coming together to say, “no, we do not want what is happening to continue”-and just the fact that you are present and that you can work in very important ways, particularly in the countries of our neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal. We need to develop what is a South Asian identity and to say that that is important. That is what we need to build together rather than be burdened by what is happening at the political level of the country. And so you have to make conscious efforts to build these associations, form study groups, have cultural festivals or whatever.