Indian Muslims are making waves. A.R. Rahman, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and Sania Mirza are winning kudos for themselves and their country. There are scores of other Indian Muslim achievers. The Pathan brothers came from a muezzin's home who did not have the means to even get a pair of shoes for such brilliant kids.
Another Indian Muslim, Azim Premji, is set to rub shoulders with US President Barack Obama. And Shah Rukh Khan, the king of Bollywood, was the first Indian to be invited to the Golden Globes to present an award.
But if you happen to be an Indian Muslim reading Urdu newspapers, you may never be able to realize these success stories. What you will read day after day will be traumatic memories of some riots in Gujarat or a Batla House incident in Delhi or discrimination against Muslims in some obscure corner of the country.
Almost three months after the Batla House shooting involving suspected terrorists, an Urdu newspaper with around a dozen supplements ran a full-page report on what happened there and also imagined conspiracy theories behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, conspiracy theories have become a part of the Muslim psyche in India.
With such depressing news unleashed on unassuming minds of the community, Muslims have become pessimistic to say the least. Almost all Urdu papers and the community media churn out similar news with impunity.
After the Batla House incident, the Muslim community acted as if it was orphaned. They behaved as if it was the end of the road for them. Many felt that way and even worse after the 2002 Gujarat riots, the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition and earlier violence elsewhere.
But Muslim leaders and clergy that continue to have a stranglehold on the community have neither tried to fight the pessimism among their people nor tried to do something that can give hope to Muslim youth. On the other hand, they have tried to push negativism deeper in the Muslim psyche by carelessly railing against the Indian government and Hindu groups. They have tried to put the blame for Muslim backwardness on successive governments and divisive politics of the Sangh Parivar, avoiding questions about their own contribution to the community.
The notion is not without basis. Governments over the years have largely neglected Muslims. The Sangh Parivar's hate campaign has also contributed to alienating them.
But the major blame for the Indian Muslim's psychological alienation and backwardness must lie with their leaders and clergy for whom good news is not good enough to take them to their people. Bad news is good propaganda tool. Bad news gives them reasons to perpetuate their negative mentality.
They would talk about lack of literacy and lack of job opportunities among Muslims but not about how that literacy level among Muslims in seven states including Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh is more than that of other communities. They will talk about discrimination against Muslims but never say a word about how Khorakiwallas, Premjis, Hamid Sheikhs, Allanas and thousands of other Muslims have made a mark in their fields. Achievers in the eyes of clergy and community leaders are collaborators.
Indian Muslims need new age leaders to guide the community, leaders who are not educated in madrassas that teach syllabus prepared over 700 years ago, without little or no exposure to modern educational or scientific developments. They need leaders from grassroots level, not from religious families. I hope the community gets such leaders pretty soon.
(Syed Ubaidur Rahman is the editor of Khabrein.Info. He is based in New Delhi.)