In a recent article published in the Pakistani edition of The Tribune Akaar Patel laments:
In India, the Muslim lives on sufferance. It is the Hindu who has freedom to attack India and its culture, its vulgarity. The Muslim who objects to something, no matter that it is obvious and visible, must qualify his argument.
He is referring to the recent controversy that was followed by the publication of an article written by Shahrukh Khan in which he wrote that sometimes he has to bear the brunt of belonging to the Muslim community and how he feels alienated in his own country.
Although at a later stage the matter did get blown out of proportion people like Akaar who think Muslims are particularly targeted, and an average Muslim is not as free to criticize India as an average Hindu are either purposely stoking communal pathos, or don’t get the complete picture (hard to believe actually).
Shahrukh Khan’s ruminations took a controversial turn when Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, after reading Shahrukh Khan’s thoughts, suggested that India should provide sufficient security to the superstar and he shouldn’t be treated as a second class citizen just because he belongs to the Muslim community. Malik said:
He (Khan) is born an Indian and would like to remain an Indian. But I will request the Indian government to provide him security
Even here it shouldn’t be a problem. After all, Shahrukh Khan has no control over what Rehman Malik says in his own country.
Recently the superstar got into an argument with a security man in a Mumbai stadium, and although he was the one who continuously threatened and abused the security man, he later on claimed the guard misbehaved with him and his kids because he belongs to the minority community. This incident he has also talked about in the recent article. Now and then he makes a big deal of how he was frisked at a US airport because his name matched with that of a terrorist. Add to this Rehman Malik and you have enough fodder for social and electronic media debates. But this in no way defines the position of an average Indian Muslim.
Just like any other community in India, the Muslims get enough space to create nuisance. Salman Rushdie cannot attend cultural events despite enjoying a considerable fan following. Muslim crowd runs berserk at Azaad Maidan, vandalizing a revered structure and killing a pregnant policewoman. Kamal Haasan is having to run from pillar to post to show his movie in which he has shown Islamic terrorists. The majority community is constantly made to feel guilty and forced to pander to the whims and fancies of the Muslim community. Despite being a secular country the majority community is incessantly preached upon and judged. And while Muslims do all these things, nobody tells them they should go to Pakistan. Is there any other Muslim majority country where a minority community gets to create so much nuisance?
Here I’m not saying only Muslims cause mischief – Hindus, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs – every community, given a chance, does its bit. It’s wrong to say that Muslims always have to explain their actions.
Coming back to why such statements get blown out of proportion when Muslims are involved. First, unlike any other community, you don’t elicit cross border responses. Would Rehman Malik make the same suggestions if a non-Muslim had expressed his or her disenchantment with India? What if Amitabh Bachchan had said he feels targeted in Mumbai as a north Indian? What if Sunny Deol had said that as a Sikh he doesn’t get much respect in India. And these are real problems faced by real people.
There are lots of conflicting interests in India, and every community has one or another grievance. Why does it become a bigger problem with Muslims? One, they play the victim card more often than any other community. Two, yes, they remain politically exploited, from within, and from outside. Three, it’s people like Akaar Patel who constantly stem into the community that look, you are being constantly victimized and given an underhanded treatment by the majority community.
All these factors create lots of resentment among the majority community, and then even innocuous statements such as the recent one made by Shahrukh Khan, are blown out of proportion.