Q: What do you feel are the major issues facing Muslims in India today?
A: I’ve studied this issue in detail and have written about it extensively. There’s only one reason for the overall backwardness of the Indian Muslims, and that is their backwardness in education. By education here I mean secular education. There are madrasas in every Muslim locality, but madrasas only tell you about religion, about how to pray and so on. But to understand how to live in this world, how to live in society, requires more than madrasa education. It requires secular education.
Muslims always complain of discrimination. Now, what is this ‘discrimination’? The fact is that Muslims are backward in secular education, because of which they can’t compete with others. And if you can’t compete with others, it is but natural that you can’t get jobs and avail of many other opportunities. All these jobs and other opportunities are for those who are trained in modern disciplines, and especially for those who have professional education. But Muslims are backward in modern education. Many of them don’t even know what professional education means. This is the basic reason for their backwardness.
Some Muslims have now started entering the field of secular education. They began setting up modern schools. But it proved to be a non-starter. Why? Because they started Muslim schools, Muslim colleges, Muslim universities. All these Muslim institutions are nothing but ghettos. They are ghetto schools, ghetto colleges, ghetto universities. This kind of ghettoized education cannot help you in the modern age.
Q: Do you think that all madrasas should be converted into good, secular, modern schools?
A: No. Never. Madrasas are doing good service, in their field, to provide people with religious knowledge. That’s also an important need. I don’t complain against madrasas. I only say that there is another field of learning—modern, secular education—which is directly related to jobs and other opportunities that needs to be also promoted. I don’t subscribe to the notion that madrasas should be ‘modernised’. No, not at all.
Q: In the last several decades, Muslims seem to have gone back in modern education. Are Muslims alone responsible for this, or is there the hand of the establishment in pushing Muslims backward in this regard?
A: This thesis of others being responsible is completely wrong. Muslims are themselves responsible for this. Their leaders are responsible. No one else is responsible. There’s a verse in the Quran that says: “Man shall have only that for which he strives.” (53:39) From this we learn that everyone achieves according to his or her own effort. It is wrong to say that others are responsible for Muslim backwardness. It is totally, completely wrong. The basic reason for Muslim backwardness is that Muslim leaders failed to provide Muslims with modern thinking. So, basically, Muslim leaders are responsible.
Q: What do you feel about the recent mushrooming of Muslim-led political parties in India in the context of the decline of Muslim political representation? Do you support this? Will it help increase Muslim political representation?
A: It is a fact that Muslim political representation has declined. But the blame for this goes to Muslims themselves. It is not because of any discrimination or anything else. The sole reason is that Muslim voters are divided. There is no unity among Muslims.
Q: Do you support the formation of Muslim political parties? Some people say that it will further alienate Muslims, rather than help them.
A: Muslim political parties are not the solution. It will not help Muslims. Setting up such parties will only increase their problems. In the past, Muslims set up many political parties, but they all failed to serve any positive purpose.
Q: What is the future of Islam in India?
A: The future of Islam is always bright—and everywhere, not only in India. But this is an irrelevant question, because Islam is a concern of God. God Himself is the Guardian of Islam. He Himself is the Protector of Islam. So, there’s no question at all about Islam’s future. If there is any question, it is about the future of the Muslim community. Islam and Muslims are two very different things. Islam is an ideology, while Muslims are a community just like any other community.
Q: What do you feel about the stereotyping of Muslims as terrorists in the media?
A: Here, too, I blame Muslims. Why? Because Muslims always react negatively. For example, when Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was published, they raised a huge hue and cry, demanding that Rushdie be killed. That is terrorism. How can you demand that an author be killed? You have no right to do so. Who are you? Only the judicial system can give a verdict. You can’t take the law into your hands. You have no right to demand “Kill Rushdie!” You can respond to him by publishing a book in reply to his. You can take his case to the court, if you like. But how can you demand that he be killed? This is sheer terrorism.
So, when Muslims demand that this or that person be killed, they are engaged in acts of terrorism. They are constantly demanding that someone or the other be killed. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail. In Pakistan, for instance, they’ve killed I don’t know how many people in this way, without any judicial verdict. This is terrorism. According to my definition, terrorism is the use of arms by agencies other than the state.
Q: What advice would you give to Muslims in the face of media misrepresentation of Islam, which has, in the past, led to massive Muslim protests?
A: When some time ago, some cartoons were published in Denmark and Muslims were enraged, I wrote an article titled Muslims Must Ignore Cartoons. I said that Muslims should simply ignore such things. So, I say ignore the cartoons. Ignore Rushdie. Don’t waste your time on these things. There are so many other things that require your full attention—education, dawah work and so on. Avoid and ignore all the cartoons and so on, so that you can use your energies for all these constructive things.