Take in…Takeout… and Take Him Out

Shafeeq R. Mahajir

If we take in someone, we indicate that that someone stands accepted. Takeout is when consumables, usually food and drink, are bought, carried away for consumption elsewhere. Take him out however indicates, in some subtly sinister terminology, eliminating someone. In chess, we take out pieces from the boardgame.

Someone copied me a Twitter message. It showed a Sikh gentleman. The accompanying message was when after 9/11, whatever that was in fact, since there are States, United States and Deep States involved, Sikhs were attacked, they did not say they were not Muslims, because that would imply it was acceptable to attack Muslims, i.e., someone other than themselves. They stood their ground, as Sikhs have always done, from Guru Nanak to Khalsa Aid. The sender pointed out that was Sikh bravery. What was interesting however, was a Hindu gentleman’s response to that tweet.

This gentleman had two Indian flags displayed as DP I think it is called. He responded with a picture of Zakir Naik, with a printed message (suggesting spoken by Zakir Naik) (which read): The whole world will become Muslim, Quran will be its Constitution, etc. His comment, referring to the Sikh-related tweet, was “Sikhs are doing it but Muslims say this,” meaning Muslims say whatever the printed matter accompanying Zakir Naik’s picture conveyed.

One, we have all heard of Akhand Bharat, a greater India encompassing some surrounding areas as well. We have also heard people speak of the Hindu Nation, transcending national borders. Many Hindus want a Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu World. They are fully entitled to hold those views, though the Constitution requires citizens to subscribe to, cherish and honour its ideals, which suggest a more inclusive, pluralistic set-up. This entitlement to hold those views is because we in India have freedom of thought, belief and expression, of conscience and speech which many so-called “Muslim” countries don’t. And people have every right to exercise that freedom.  That is generally held acceptable.  An alternative viewpoint, however, is not for some obscure, or not so obscure, reason, afforded the same status. The Constitution also requires citizens to foster goodwill, and respect our composite cultural heritage. Some people do not. It can be said they are defaulting on their Constitutional duties.

Point is, Zakir Naik is one person, and in exile at that. Right or wrong, he says what he thinks. He has that right. This twitter gentleman attributes, to Muslims as a class, accountability, for what Zakir Naik says. He seeks, knowingly or unknowingly, to paint them in un-Indian, or hostile, colours, and that has the effect of demonising them. He is oblivious to the thought that such painting paints him in colours not Constitutional.

Taking this gentleman’s view, let us extrapolate. Not one, many Hindus have desired a Hindu Rashtra, hope to establish a worldwide Hindu Nation. Many express thoughts against minorities, some actually express mean thoughts, and selective official action is alleged in many instances. Some people have defamatorily of an entire class, even insinuated Muslims are terrorists! Would this man attribute to all Hindus what those divisive, exclusionist Hindus say and do? No he would not.  Why not? Is it because they are persons this man identifies with?

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Who is Zakir Naik? A preacher who expounds on (his version of) Islam. He is just that, no more. And wanting an Islamic world, realizable or not for him, desirable or not for others, possible or not in fact, is a thought he can legitimately hold and express.

What of those who desire a Hindu Rashtra, seek the establishment of a worldwide Hindu Nation? Those are neither just the odd preacher nor are in exile: they operate freely in India and abroad, many may have NSG protection, are accorded status and privilege, and range across the spectrum, from political heavyweights to serving bureaucrats, countless media anchors, allegedly heavily funded, also not infrequently found among officials in institutions of governance: they too have the freedom of thought, conscience, and speech. And every right to exercise that freedom, within the legal framework, not so as to violate Constitutional requirements.

So will this gentleman attribute canards or Islamophobic expressions to Hindus as a class? No he won’t, because for him, they belong, while Muslims don’t: manifestation of a discriminatory approach, perceptible in many spheres now, bane of our nationhood, destructive as a policy. In the context of a recent set of regrettable events involving one “media” channel, one wonders whether such people should merely be called Islamophobes or some new term coined.

This type would hope someone would take out all those who do not look like them, dress like them, talk like them, eat like them, worship like them. Recall one politician said “they” can be identified by their clothes?  Another invited Muslims to go to either Pakistan or Qabristan? They say it is a tribute to the spontaneity of truth that we never say someone has blurted out a lie. It is always the truth that is blurted out. These were all referring to the take them out scheme of things. Na rahay baans na bajay baansuri !

There is a legitimate Islamic view as well. Islam has a holy book, the Qur’an, which reveals the most all-encompassing cosmopolitan stand anywhere: Allah declares that there is no people on earth to whom a Messenger has not been sent, and some are named. Requires revered figures of every faith be spoken of with respect. Declares racist-free inclusion: the white is not superior to the black, Arab not superior to non-Arab, the noblest are those best in conduct… Dictates the requirements of justice… Details the equality of men and women… Speaks of the Big Bang Theory, interstellar planetary orbits, the anthropic structure of the earth, contains areas covering legal regulations, inheritance principles, health foods and pharmacology, embryology, economic principles on how wealth must flow from areas of higher concentration to those of lower concentration, not vice versa via interest… umpteen matters many of which modern science and economic theorists “discovered” in relatively recent times… and, of course, rules of defensive war, treatment of prisoners, prohibition of harming non-combatants… even (contrary to what Islamophobes claim) on “slaves” (never were any people captured and enslaved as Westerners captured enslaving people of Africa and elsewhere, and used for forced labour: “slaves” were what non-combatant denizens of conquered territories were called and held as (since there were no concentration camps for holding POWs, nor any State with funds to house clothe and feed them), with stipulations that they be afforded humane treatment, be fed what the “master” eats, clothed as the “master” is clothed, educated ones could secure their freedom by agreeing to teach others, and for many sins the expiation was that slaves be freed so that the practice of having slaves ends and thereafter they are free citizens integrated into society… far too many matters to be attributed to any individual, containing details modern science only discovered fourteen centuries after the Revelation, hence obviously a text Divine in origin. (This is not to paint positively the horrifying treatment often meted out to slaves, in pre-Islamic Arabia: we are speaking of the period after the advent of Islam).

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When a Muslim says he believes Allah created the world and hence Allah’s writ must prevail in the world, he is merely giving expression to his view of what another fellow citizen, a Hindu, might hold, citing Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva. Or a Christian might hold, citing God. Or an atheist might hold, citing his belief that there is no god at all. Or anyone else might, claiming anything.

They are welcome to their views, as I am to mine. I cannot take out my counterparts, nor can they take out theirs. They can dislike me, despise me, hate me, all of which is permissible, though politically as well as Constitutionally unacceptable, extremely unfortunate and even socially unhealthy. Trouble is, far too often these negative thoughts get translated to action words, and those then metamorphose to hate, even leading to hate-crime. That crosses the line, is illegal, and actionable (whether action is actually taken or not being relevant not only in the philosophy of law and its development, but also very much material in applied law and the steering of nations to development or doom).

One reads that some AGPs, representing Government before the Foreigners’ Tribunals were removed. It is suggested that this was allegedly because a large number of citizens from a traditional vote bank of one party did not qualify as Indian citizens. Ironically, that could mean the AGPs were good at their job! Is it that to take in people application of law excluded, those who applied the law that operated to the non-inclusion had to be taken out?!

The take out theorists must exit. Those willing to take in alternative viewpoints must be ensured their political, social, physical, intellectual, academic and articulative space. Restricting space for politics that seek to include those with different ideological preferences, harms pluralism, is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court can become pro-active in this area. There should be more space for free and safely made alternative expressions in a democratic set-up. It is in coming together that nationhood and national strength lies. Divided, we fall, goes the saying. Those who seek to divide, do a distinct disservice not only to the Indian nation, but to the Constitution they are mandated to honour.

As the poet wrote,

He drew a circle that shut me out:

Heretic! rebel! A thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

That is our country’s need today. Jai Hind.

Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a Hyderabad-based nationally known lawyer.

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