Amid on-going elections, JIH V-P Prof. Salim Engineer asks Muslims to play an active role in India’s progress and countering hatred, regardless of electoral outcome

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By Anwarulhaq Baig

NEW DELHI—At a time when some leaders and political parties are trying to vitiate the atmosphere by taking up divisive issues in their political speeches and rallies in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) has given a clarion call to Muslims to fulfill their responsibility as the ‘best Ummah’ (the best community) by working for the welfare of the entire humanity, upholding justice, and contributing towards the betterment of the country as responsible citizens, regardless of the electoral outcome.

The appeal was made by JIH Vice President Prof. Mohammed Salim Engineer while speaking at a gathering of intellectuals, academicians, social and political activists at the JIH headquarters here a week ago.

An advocate of communal amity and interfaith dialogue, Prof. Salim offered a comprehensive analysis of the current socio-political scenario and dwelt about what role the Muslims as a community can play for betterment of the society.  The event, attended by various community leaders and members, focused on the ongoing elections and the broader implications for the country’s democracy and social fabric.

Crucial elections for the largest democracy

Stating that there were 97 crores (970 million) registered voters, including an estimated 14 crore(140 million) Muslim voters out of a total of 140 crore (1400 million) population of India that made it the largest democracy of the world, Prof. Salim pointed out that the elections, spanning over one and a half months, are a testament to the scale and complexity of the democratic process in India. Polling has already been completed in four phases, covering 381 out of 543 seats, and the results will be declared on June 4.

Democratic values under threat

Deeply concerned about the erosion of democratic values over the past decade, Prof. Salim attributed this decline to the policies and attitudes of the current ruling powers.

He lamented the weakening of democratic institutions and the fraying fabric of mutual love and security, particularly for Muslims, who have become increasingly targeted. He said, “The situation our society has been facing over the last decade due to the policies and attitude of those in power, is extremely concerning.”

The JIH leader warned that these negative changes are not only detrimental to Muslims but pose a significant threat to the entire nation. The weakening of social bonds and the rise of fear and insecurity among Muslims, he asserted, are major obstacles to the country’s progress and peace. “The mutual love and respect that used to bind the citizens of this country are under severe threat, especially for the Muslim community, which has been disproportionately targeted,” he said.

Prof. Salim highlighted the need for Muslims to actively participate in the democratic process as responsible citizens, advocating for justice, peace, and progress for all. He stated, “The damage done at the social level is so immense that it will take a long time and concerted efforts to repair it,” But, he asserted, “Our role is to protect the foundations of our democracy and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Three potential post-poll scenarios

Emphasizing that the present polling is not just another political event but a defining moment for the country, Prof. Salim asserted that the outcome would shape the future of democracy and social harmony in India. He outlined three potential scenarios post-election, each carrying different implications for the country and the Muslims.

First, the incumbent forces, which he considers a threat to the country and a major challenge for Muslims, could return to power with renewed strength. “These forces, with their divisive agenda, will further harm the social fabric and democratic foundations of our nation. This would plunge the nation into further turmoil and difficulties, posing more problems for the minority community,” he cautioned.

In the second scenario, the current ruling forces might see a reduction in their power, leading to a weaker government dependent on alliances. While this would slow their agenda, Prof. Salim noted that they could still manipulate and misuse governmental institutions to retain influence.

The third and most desired scenario, according to Prof. Salim, is a victory for the opposition alliance. This outcome, he argued, would not be a complete solution but a significant step towards restoring democratic values and social harmony. “This is our wish and effort, and it is evident from the elections held so far that there is a possibility for this outcome too,” he added.

If the opposition comes to power, he advised against too much complacency, as the root causes of the present predicament can be traced back to the policies and actions of past governments who call them ‘secular parties’ spanning over six decades. At the same time, he ruled out despondency if the incumbent forces retain power, asserting that the community has the strength to overcome challenges.

Despite challenges, rejecting despair and upholding hope 

Addressing the broader challenges, Prof. Salim warned against the pessimistic belief that a government against their wishes would spell disaster for Islam and Muslims. He asserted, “Whether the government is formed according to our wishes or against them, we must maintain a positive approach as responsible citizens of this country as well as members of Muslim Ummah”.

The JIH leader cautioned, “This perception of hopelessness that if incumbent forces will come to power, everything will be finished – no elections, no Islam, no Muslims will remain – is not based on reality. It is this mind-set of despair that is most dangerous for us”.

Acknowledging the rising tide of Islamophobia and misconceptions about Islam worldwide, Prof. Salim underscored the urgency of countering these narratives through exemplary conduct and character. “Islam’s true strength lies in its ethical teachings,” he asserted. “When individuals and societies embrace Islam, their moral fabric is elevated, and no force can withstand the power of virtuous character,” he added.

Quoting from the Quran, he reminded the audience of their responsibility as the ‘best Ummah’ to work for the welfare of humanity, uphold justice, human dignity, and guide the country towards progress and prosperity in this world and the hereafter. “When we move forward with this concept, the current challenges will not seem so daunting. They appear formidable only because we have confined our thinking,” Prof. Salim explained.

The JIH leader reiterated, “Fear and despair should not find a place in our hearts or in other citizens of the country. We have the strength and power to face any situation. We believe in Allah and His infinite power. No matter how difficult the circumstances are, we should play our role in every situation.” He underscored the importance of this firm, hopeful spirit, rooted in faith – creating the right environment to fulfill responsibilities as engaged citizens while taking the message of Islam’s true teachings to the masses.  He reminded the audience that the real challenge lies in both maintaining their character and role as responsible citizens and members of the Muslim Ummah.

Engagement and constructive participation

Regardless of the election outcome, Prof. Salim urged cooperation and vigilance – appreciating the good while firmly criticizing the wrong, based on principles rather than prejudices. 

Calling for continuous engagement with elected representatives, regardless of their political affiliation, he emphasized that even if the election results are not favourable, Muslims should engage constructively with the government and representatives. He said, “Now even if we have voted against him, in the capacity of being our representative, keeping an eye on him, questioning him, appreciating the good things about him, it is the responsibility of every citizen.”

The JIH leader clarified, “Our engagement should not be to achieve any benefit, but because he is our representative. Similarly, our opposition should be based on principles and for the welfare of the country. We must ensure that our engagement aims at improving governance and protecting democratic and human values.”

The same responsibility, he added, extends to whichever government is formed – to keenly monitor and work towards course correction when required. “If the government is formed against our wishes, then it is not that we will lose all connection with it. As a responsible citizen, we have to keep an eye on the formed government, take responsibility for its every action and make every possible effort to improve it.”

Role of the Muslim Ummah: Broader mission

Prof. Salim stressed that the Muslim community should not view the election results or the three potentials situations solely through the lens of community victory or defeat. “We are more than just a community. We are an Ummah, a group with a purpose and mission that go beyond the narrow community interests,” he said.

He also urged the gathering, and Muslims nationwide, to move beyond a limited “community” mind-set and embrace their greater role with a greater mission, to work for the welfare of all people of the country, to promote justice, dignity, pluralism and to convey the message of Islam through their actions and character. “We need to showcase the moral strength of Islam and dispel the false narratives of hatred against us,” he said.

Combating Misconceptions and a call to positive action       

Acknowledging increasing hatred and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims, Prof. Salim advocated responding with compassion rather than resentment.  “While a small segment might harbour animosity towards Muslims out of ignorance or misguided ideologies, the vast majority is open to understanding and embracing the truth of Islam, provided it is presented through exemplary conduct and character,” he remarked.

He emphasized that Indian society has yet to truly experience the moral power of Islam’s teachings and Muslims’ conduct. Promoting this through enhanced interaction and good conduct, he said, should be a key long-term goal.  

The JIH leader pointed out that despite the challenges, there remains a positive aspect within Indian society – a large population that believes in God and religion and possesses the wisdom to accept the truth. He stressed the need to present the true teachings of Islam and its moral values to counter the widespread misconceptions and propaganda against Muslims.

Emphasizing the importance of building deep connections with fellow citizens, Prof. Salim encouraged Muslims to reach out, engage in dialogue, and build trust through their actions. “We are not anyone’s enemies or rivals. Islam is a mercy for the whole world, and a Muslim who believes in it will remain a mercy for the people wherever he lives. Many people are victims of misinformation and propaganda,” he added.

Concluding his speech, Prof. Salim advised Muslims to remain hopeful and positive, regardless of the election outcomes. “Our relationship with the people of this country should be a deep bond. Elections will come and go, governments will be formed, but our fundamental and long-term responsibility is to foster closer ties with all fellow citizens and ensure the message of Islam reaches them through our noble conduct,” he elaborated.

Prof. Salim called for engagement with all sections, including those propagating hatred against Muslims, not out of any vested interest but with the sincere intent of reforming them and conveying the truth. He reminded the audience that most people harbour misconceptions about Islam due to lack of correct information or half-truth. He reminded them of their responsibilities as citizens and members of the Muslim Ummah, calling for continued efforts towards the welfare and progress of the country. “Let us pray to Allah to fulfill our responsibilities and to grant good outcomes for us and for our country,” he concluded.

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