Monday, May 05, 2008


Guilty until proven innocent. That seems to be the approach of law enforcement agencies towards a lot of Muslims in the lower socio-economic class in India. As the Sachar Committee Report of the Indian government points out, Muslims bear the twin burden of accusations of being “anti-national” and “appeased” at the same time.
What is often under-examined thanks to some of the noise the Hindutva brigade drums up about Muslim appeasement is that Muslims in fact face a lot of
structural violence in India; something that has gone up in the Islamophobic environment created after 9/11.

A recent question that appeared in a
history exam of the Ranchi University is of a piece with this structural violence. Apart from reflecting an utter and complete lack of academic rigour, it reflects the hardening stereotypes of Islam and Muslims, all happily fueled by the media, a distorted teaching of Indian history and of course the propaganda of the saffron agency.

The question in the university exam was, “Prophet Mohammed started his career as a trader and ended as a raider. Comment.”

There are so many prejudices and assumptions built into that statement that it is worrisome that the person who framed it was teaching. He or she has since been debarred.


Sathej said...

Well, a nice point raised. Structural violence is indeed a bane that Muslims have to predominantly deal with in the post 9/11 world. But, coming to the particular case of the History question, it could be argued that the person who set the paper had that view in his mind and the question didn't say "Justify". The answer could well be a disagreement giving logical counterpoints. Maybe, this is not that typical an example of structural violence. Of course, if the person concerned distorted historically proved facts and taught them as such, he ought to be pulled up. But an opinion could well be countered.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Sathej, Thats sort of my point. It is worrisome that a university professor could hold such a narrow view. He/she might've wanted students to deconstruct the statement but the question doesn't acknowledge anywhere that this is not merely a trader or a raider, it is one man who influenced millions of people around the world with a new religion. I'm not an apologist for Indian Muslims. I'm merely apalled by the spirit of the question. Surely the founder of a religion has more identities and a greater historical significance than as "trader or raider."

Sathej said...

Hello Alaphia,
Yes, if the Professor merely dismissed the Prophet as a 'traider and raider', his depth of understanding is indeed a worrisome issue.His contributions deserve a better way of looking at.Objectively anaylysing the question,it seems poorly framed-something to the effect of "Shakespeare began his career as a stable boy and ended it by being a non-prolific writer in his last years."It amounts to trivialising the contributions of a great man.
The true intentions of the Professor-be it a clear case of religious intolerance or a case of plain poor understanding, ought to be looked at and in either case, the behaviour is condemnable.
Its indeed sad that people get carried away and tend to generalize rather too fast, leading to such instances, and sometimes graver cases of structured violence.