Stalled dream for historical reasons, of building intellectual leadership in Muslim community is now silently, strongly and slowly taking shape in a southern state of India, Karnataka. For reasons such as social, political and religious which can collectively be termed as historic, the process of developing intellectualism on mass scale and intellectual leadership in Islam community was on the halt.
In 2016, December, leading social activist, writer and advocate Syeda Khushtara Banu, popularly known in the public circle as Banu Mushtaq and her journalist acquaintance, Irshad Uppinangady gave a thought of building an intellectual forum for Muslim community in Karnataka. “I and Irshad deliberated extensively on developing intellectual leadership in the community in entirety. This was discussed in December 2015 during - left thinkers’ organised social event Jana Nudi at Mangaluru,” recalled Banu in a conversation with independent news website Samachara.
The discussion gathered seriousness to a note that it inspired Banu and other like-minded people to float an intellectual forum what they call as Muslim
. It’s now a fledgling forum with one year old and with 500 members in its fold. The forum has got noteworthy Muslim intellectuals like Rahamat Tarikere as its guiding spirits along with a few others.
According to Banu, implementing Rajinder Sachar Committee report in the state is a primary priority of the forum. Rajinder Sachar Committee was commissioned in 2005 by the erstwhile Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prepare a report on social, economic and education condition of Muslims in India. The committee submitted its 403 page report on November 30, 2006 to the lower house. The committee highlighted the plight of Muslims in the county and recommended suggestions and methodology to invigorate the community.
This nascent intellectual forum is now working out to teach report or make populace understand contents of report and urgency of materialising it. As a part of this project, the forum is now convening seminars across Karnataka. “So far, we have organised seminars in Davanagere, Bengaluru and Hassan. We have members in all districts accept Kodagu. We are yet to establish consolidated contacts in this district.” We will fast-track this process and will hold seminars in other districts. In the beginning, the members of the forum will be taught on Sachar report which will then only help in expansion of understanding among common Muslims in Karnataka.” Banu informs.
At present, forum has secular minds as its members. The Muslim community for certain historic reasons has caught in the web of religious problems post separation and post independence. There is in fact role of majority community too for Islam community to remain in stagnant waters. Islam phobia is a new addition to this in the post soviet era after the birth of so called Islam terrorism. The religious spin to the interpretation of Koran is also jeopardising the community growth.
Rahamat Tarikere, recipient of Kendra Sahitya Academy award is a guiding spirit of this
. He is one of the members of Guiding Committee of the forum. “Building ‘thriving intellectualism’ and ‘intellectual leadership’ among Muslim mass is what forum hopes to achieve,” says Tarikere. “But, if you ask me how we achieve it, I have no answer currently”.
Movement should evolve on its own. Looking at the time and scenarios movement faces, strategies are woven. However, Tarikere has a unique idea of taking assistance from rational religious leaders of the community to provide rational interpretation on Islam’s religious text. Movement or forum in the name of intellectualism cannot at one go hammer beliefs of religious Muslims. Rather, it is a gentle way to take help from religious leaders to slowly dismantle ill beliefs set in the minds due to indoctrination of misinterpreted Koran.
Tarikere sternly objected for a view that Islam has religious problems from centuries. He pointed that contribution of Muslim leaders for the independence movement is notable and rationality along with religious belief is what Islam had in the past. “Abdul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed Azad, a freedom fighter and political leader during independence movement is an epitome of intellectualism and religious scholarship.” But post-partition, for certain historical reasons, this was scuttled, Tarikere observed.
Muslim community from past many decades remained in lower middle-class strata and this is not giving a bed to intellectualism to thrive. Education is what is needed and emerging of middle class in large scale in the community will drive them to pursue education, he opined. The forum headed by Professor Muzaffar Assadi largely aims to accomplish social, economic, political changes in the community.
Banu says, forum took stiff stand on triple talaq and it is suppressing women rights by patriarchal or male dominant society. Other issues of Islam will also be addressed gradually. Muneer Katipalla, state president of Democratic Youth Federation of India, and secretary of this forum says forum will try to ensure constitutional rights of Muslims.