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Is 'this song' more dangerous than bombs?
Thursday August 24 2006
S Gurumurthy

Last week the All India Muslim Personal Law Board vowed not to allow Muslim
children sing the National Song 'Vande Mataram' as required by none other than
the 'secular' UPA government's most 'secular' Minister, Arjun Singh.

But the ALMPLB made a generous concession in favour of 'Jana Gana Mana' saying
that Muslims had 'no problem' in singing the National Anthem. Soon other
Islamists joined to oppose 'Vande Mataram'. The reason: the song, which hails
Bharat Mata, is against Islamic principles, they said. Vande Mataram, which so
offends them, is no ordinary song but the very soul of our freedom movement.
Post freedom, 'secular' politics had hidden the role of 'Vande Mataram' from
most young Indians. So some recall of the history of this song is necessary.

When the Constituent Assembly discussed whether 'Vande Mataram' should be the
National Anthem or 'Jana Gana Mana', Pundit Nehru described the argument as
between 'Vande Mataram' and 'Jana Gana Mana' was 'unfortunate'. He said that
'Vande Mataram' was 'obviously and indisputably the premier national song of
India' with 'a great historical tradition, and intimately connected with our
struggle for freedom.' 'That position,' he said, 'it was bound to retain and no
other song can displace it.' He declared, 'Vande Mataram will continue to be the
national song par excellence.'

Muslim representatives in the Constituent Assembly agreed on this. The history
of this great song dates back to the 19th century. Rabindranath Tagore first
sang this song in the Calcutta Congress session of 1896. Later, in 1920s,
Muslim separatists began opposing the song. Still, the Congress Working
Committee, which met at Calcutta on October 26, 1937, under Nehru's leadership,
recalled that 'the song and the words thus became the symbols national
resistance to British imperialism' and asserted that they 'ever remind us of
our struggle for national freedom' -_note the words 'ever remind us'. The
present opposition to Vande Mataram is obviously a tragic replay of the Islamic
separatist ideology that emerged in 1920s, graduated as anti-national movement
in 1930s and finally led to Partition in 1940s, with the nationalist leadership
compromising with separatists at every stage.

But see the frightening contrast now. The Islamist clergy sees danger to Islam
in a song that was central to our freedom movement. But, horrifyingly, it sees
no danger in the emergence of Islamic terror, particularly the home grown one.
The clergy in Islam _ why even those claiming to be liberals among Islamists _
do not view the rise of Islamist terror as a danger to Islam. They do not see,
for instance a dangerous terror out fit like the Students Islamic Movement of
India (SIMI) as a danger to Islam. Heard of a single recognised Muslim voice
speaking a word against SIMI or SIMI-like Jihadi outfits mushrooming in this
country?

If fatwa could be issued against Islamic children singing a patriotic song, why
not issue such a one against anti-national Islamic terrorists who hurl bombs
and kill innocents? If they could ban a nationalist song, why not bombs and
bomb-throwing SIMIs. Why are they silent, deafeningly? The benevolent reason in
their favour could only be that they are as much afraid of terror. And that they
are also frightened to say that they are so afraid!

It is surprising therefore that the Islamic leadership in India is worried about
the suffix 'terror' that has got added to Islam in public discourse. So worried,
a few of them rushed to Sonia and Singh the other day, pleading that the whole
Islamic community should not be linked to terror.

Little do they realise that it is not the Indian government that links Islam to
terror. Terror is characterised as Islamic in global discourse. It does not
need a seer to find why the world sees link between terror and Islam and why
Sonias and Manmohans cannot unlink the two. First, the Islamist leadership
sidesteps and escapes what should worry them more than it worries others. That
is it is not just that all terrorists are, by accident, Muslims, but that
terror originates in some interpretation of the Islamic faith that inspires the
terrorists to turn Jihadis die and mass-kill others.

Not a single Islamic school has challenged the terror outfits for a debate on
Islam, which the leaders claim as a religion of peace and which the terrorists
claim as sanctioning terror, to establish that the terrorists are anti-Islamic!
On the other hand, the Islamist leadership escapes facing this stark reality _
of the terrorists claiming inspiration from the Islamic faith for their acts _
by pleading that it is the Islamic tag to terror that harms Islam and Muslims,
not the Islamic face of the terror itself.

Next, the world sees _ and so do most Indians _ the Islamist leaders condemning
the terror but not name and condemn the terror outfits that perpetrate terror.
The question is: when Islamic leaders call terror un-Islamic why can't they
name SIMI or LeT or the several Jihadi outfits as anti-Islamic. Understand why
the terror tag attaches to Islam and Muslims? Sooner the Islamist leaders
realise that danger to Islam comes from not such innocuous things as Vande
Mataram, but from the deafening silence of the community when SIMIs and Jihadis
do death dance in the name of Islam, the better for them and the country.

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