Aligarh Muslim University has always been a barometer for the scholarly development of Indian Muslims. Its quaint campus has shared its glorious history with many Muslim intellectuals- the founders of the university- and has given the most esteemed alumni in the field of all educational spheres. But recently, as if following its never-ending controversial stand, it has been in the news for all the right things today’s Indian Muslims need to ponder about. They not only reflect the state of Muslims in India but the issues they’re facing within the community too.
On January 15, 2018, the students witnessed an unusual kind of outrage on social media, with all its misogynistic remarks and condemnation of the word Feminism and Azaadi because Naba Naseem, the President of Women’s College Student Union, demanded an extended timing for the girls’ hostel (Previously it was 5:30 PM in Winters and 6:30 PM in Summers) and outings for all the seven days for Abdullah Girls Hostel. The female students of the university had always been vocal about the gender stereotypes they face in the campus. But this move by Naba Naseem gained its limelight because of the different narratives people got to see on social media. Apart from bigoted loonies who posted all kind of mysogynistic remarks, the activists group which vehemently supported the move was itself divided into different threads: the Vicharak blog run by the students and ex-students of the university consider that it is intellectual dishonesty to combine two opposing ideology- Islam and feminism- while the other group, Qafila, argued that they can practice feminism and whatever the religion they believe in. One can not disagree that there are many aspects in Islam that are not compatible with intersectional feminism, like the concept of social justice and homosexuality, but one also can not reject that people with faith have their own reasons to practice what they believe in. This is a new kind of debate that the Muslim world is facing, and a thinking individual can not just reject any one line of thought and come to a conclusion. The problem lies not only in the changing definition of feminism, but also in the theocratic adherence of the community. Muslim feminists always have to prove how feminist they are, but their hypocrisy can be seen whenever they have to compromise with their religion. On the other hand, their opponents totally reject whatever they believe in and come to a conclusion. This endless-debate has led to an ideological rivalry in the community, and there seems to be no end to it.
Not much after the heated debate of feminism, there came a new blow to the University. Members of right-wing organization Hindu Yuva Vahini and BJP’s ABVP allegedly tried entering the campus to tear down Jinnah’s picture hung in the university’s union hall building. Six people of ABVP and HYV were caught by the administration and handed over to the police. The Student Union wanted them to be arrested and an FIR to be filed. But the police released the culprits some time after they were handed to them. This led to a protest by the students of AMU at the main entrance of the university. It was when the students marched towards the police station that the police lathi-charged the them. About twenty people were injured in the violence. This incident gained its widespread attention all across the country by the name “Jinnah’s Incident” and led to one of the heaviest protests the country has ever seen by the students. A thousand narratives came for the protest that followed after the lathi-charge. While the right-wingers believed that AMU students are being patriotic towards Jinnah, the students argued that it has nothing to do with Jinnah but the university’s glorious past.
Abdul Samad, a student who was present during the time of lathi charge, told Aapka Times that the protest was never about Jinnah’s picture but the state-sponsored hooliganism.
“It has nothing to do with Jinnah’s picture but our glorious past. And we’re protesting because the police lathi-charged us for no reason. This tells a lot about the state,” he said. Jinnah was given lifetime membership of students’ union in 1938 by the university.
The state of Muslims in India is degrading day by day. Growing Islamophobia has become a fuel for the ruling party to play vote politics. Broad daylight lynchings, the otherization of Muslim community, skepticism over their nationality, and radicalization of Hindus have made sane people think about the so-called secular thread of India. The incident in AMU was not new, but the hooliganism of the police over the students portrayed where India is heading to.
But the reason for the growing Islamophobia is not only media or other religious loonies, but the the people in the community itself. The most recent incident revealed one of the less talked-about issues in the Muslim community. AMU’s Nashra Ahmed, former students Omer Ghazi and Fahad Zuberi, along with two friends Bhole Vishwakarma and Sushant Taing went for an outing on June 6. Bhole shared a picture on facebook with a caption (“Naare-Takbeer Kingfisher Akbar”) that hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims, mainly AMU students. Fahad and Omer are self-professed athiests who criticized religions publicly on social media. The outcry over this incident in the campus led to death threats and an FIR under Section 295A was filed. The three students had to apologise for the “blasphemous” post that they were ‘tagged in’. The negligence and bigotry towards ex-Muslims is very much a phenomena in the community. They’re often seen as ‘others’ and their opinions and arguments are often termed as Islamophobic. The line between the progressive debates and Islamophobia has been blurred by the regressive representatives of the community. This subject is something that needs to be rationally dealt with, and should be a topic of national debate in secular institutions.