Muslim Indian Americans reach out to fellow citizens as India advances toward genocide
By Mohammed Ahmadullah Siddiqi
The consistent deterioration of human rights, especially the fundamental rights of Muslims in Hindutva-ruled India, has caused a group of Muslim Americans to initiate an effort to inform their fellow citizens as India hurtles toward a situation akin to 1939 Germany.
Mohammed Ahmadullah Siddiqi, a retired professor of journalism and member of Islamic Horizons editorial advisory board, talked to Rasheed Ahmed, executive director of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)
MAS: Could you please describe your association with IAMC?
RA: I am currently serving as IAMC’s executive director. I was one of its co-founders in 2002, when it was established in the aftermath of the Gujarat pogroms [at that time, now-Prime Minister Narendra Modi was that state’s chief minister]. I started out as vice-president and subsequently served as president until 2010.
The Gujarat pogroms, in which thousands of Muslims were brutally massacred, men and women were burnt alive, the stomachs of pregnant women were cut open and unborn babies were killed, was a wakeup call for Muslims, especially Indian Muslims living in the U.S.
MAS. What activities is IAMC currently focusing on?
RA: Briefly, we have three objectives. First, peeling off the façade that India is still a democracy and raising the awareness of people of conscience that regular calls for the genocide of Indian Muslims goes unpunished. According to Genocide Watch, this process has begun in India.
Second, educating Muslim Americans that Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) is alive and well in the U.S., even in our neighborhoods, from local governments to congressional spaces and in the nation’s policy infrastructure, businesses and academia. We are also sounding the warning that this reality represents a serious challenge for Muslim American interests, that it is no longer just an Indian or a Muslim Indian issue.
The root of social discord and Hindu nationalism’s stronghold on most of India’s state institutions and governance is Hindutva, a militant political ideology, not the Hindu faith. To express it mildly, Muslim American inaction to blunt this danger in our neighborhoods and the policy infrastructure would be a blunder.
Third, mobilizing global opinion as a way to persuade the Indian regime to act as a responsible global citizen.
MAS: We see anti-IAMC propaganda on the internet and in some media. What is IAMC doing to combat it?
RA: Our work poses a serious challenge to our adversaries. As their propaganda has limited efficacy, it isn’t surprising that they try to shoot the messenger by attempting to discredit us when they cannot refute the facts.
We start with rebuttals and present facts and credible references in the same media spaces that originated the disinformation. If the disinformation is not retracted, we escalate it to the media’s leadership and/or senior management. We are in constant consultation with our legal team to pursue legal avenues. However, the freedoms of speech and press provide a high level of protection against slander and lies. Although we have a good success record, it’s not nearly sufficient. As this disinformation seeks to malign IAMC, there’s a strong resistance to all corrections.
MAS: One can guess that the Hindu lobby must be active against IAMC in Congress. What is being done about it? Are any Congress members listening to you? How do you inform American lawmakers? Do any Hindu lawmakers listen to you?
RA: We have an active and robust congressional outreach through our office and staff in Washington, D.C., in coordination with IAMC chapters and constituents, as well as donor outreach through the Representatives and Senators’ district offices. There is a high level of concern on Capitol Hill. Although many lawmakers have expressed their concerns publicly about the deteriorating human rights and religious freedom situation in India, due to the country’s [assumed] strategic value, there is no real shift in American policy toward it or policy impact so far.
Congress now has four Indian American Hindu Representatives in Congress. One is an open sympathizer, if not a Hindutva supporter, one is indifferent, and two have spoken against Hindu nationalism. However, their enthusiasm appears to be waning. This is where Muslim Americans can leverage their influence. Only secular Indian voices may make it politically viable for Congressional offices to speak against Hindutva.
MAS: How will the BJP’s victory in four of the five states in the recently held elections impact the Hindutva forces here in the U.S.?
RA: The impact on Hindutva forces is not so much connected to elections in India as it is a result of the silence of secular Americans, and particularly the absence of Muslim Americans’ leadership in terms of informing American politicians about the dangers to the social cohesion due to the spread of Hindu nationalism in American society.
MAS: How would you further strengthen IAMC activities to combat Hindutva here?
RA: We are engaging with progressive Americans as well as making a case that Muslim American leaders can play a critical role, for this is both an issue for the U.S. as a nation and for Muslim Americans as a community. Since Hindutva ideology is perhaps the most potent and fastest-growing Islamophobic ideology, it’s a serious threat to democratic values and Muslims worldwide.
MAS: Does IAMC appeal to Muslims only?
RA: IAMC appeals to all people of conscience, for this is not just a Muslim, Christian or Hindu issue. This is an issue of social justice for everyone.
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