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Asaduddin Owaisi: Is he the leader Indian Muslims have been waiting for?
He might be representing a single constituency but he speaks for millions of Muslims in India. His voice resonates with the oppressed and weaker sections of the Muslim community
Sunday January 11, 2015 11:31 PM, Dr. Ajmal

Around 15-16 years ago, I remember reading an article in The Hindu written by an Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. The article –titled 'In search of Muslim Leader' – detailed how much Indian Muslims are in search of a leader of their own, who could take them through the tumultuous journey of practicing faith with respectful living in a partial and polarized India.

Asaduddin Owaisi

I don't remember what made me like that article so much, though I was just in my teens then (I am 33 today), so much so that I had that paper cutting preserved for years. Was it that I had seen riots during those early years? Was it that I happened to see the attempted burning down of the mosque right opposite my house? Was it the vivid news pictures of the demolition of Babri Masjid? I cannot confirm, but what I can say is that there was a sense of helplessness and a desire that someone can seek justice and retribution for the sufferings we had undergone just because we were Muslims.

There were leaders of the stature of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who guided Indian Muslims during the painful periods of Partition, but with the steady rise of the right wing in the post-Independence era, we lacked a leader who could stand up and tell on the face of the fanatics that we as Muslims are also equal citizens here.

Owaisi: Not just a leader from Hyderabad
For the last 10 years, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Musalimeen (AIMIM) Member of Parliament from Hyderabad Asaduddin Owaisi has been in the public eye and Muslims have known him and have seen him take issues with passion and emotion, rarely seen among any other Muslim politician. And, it is this time-tested narration that Muslims are willing to believe in and thereby, trusting him for their leadership.

Having read some of the accusations against his background, even though I don't know him, my personal opinion is: a person who has wealth, a good education, a guaranteed Lok Sabha seat, doesn't have to take so many risks to get more of what he has, except that he believes in what he speaks and it is his faith which moves him to do what he is doing.

He might be representing a single constituency but he speaks for millions of Muslims in India. His voice resonates with the oppressed and weaker sections of the Muslim community. Owaisi has spoken on various issues, such as Equal Muslim Rights, Reservation, Terrorism from Pakistan, etc, which are issues of importance for the community. What he means for the Muslim community is not just as a leader but also as a glimmer of hope.

When Owaisi can, why can't we?
The westernized Indian or a Hindutva loving Indian, might very well be comfortable with a Muslim who looks westernized with a tie and a suit, but would loath a practicing Muslims who has a beard and might well wear a Sherwani or Kurta Pyjama. Didn't it happen after Gujarat riots that Muslims lived in such a state of fear that they worked under Hindu names, practically renouncing religion from their external lives.

It is this psychological cage, which Owaisi crushes whenever he raises and speaks. It is what we see in every act of his defiance? Here is a practicing Muslim, who is educated, who is willing to speak what he feels correct even under duress, who has risen through the political ranks and questioning the Hindutva masters, who in effect is both successful in bridging his religious and secular life. In him, the Muslims see a hope of not just a leader, but of a similar life, that if Owaisi can, why can't we?

If Zakir Naik through his speeches, logically convinced the Muslims that Islam can be practiced in modern times, it is through the defiance of Owaisi that Muslims are knowing that they can practice their religion and be full citizens of India even under pressure.

The debased Taslima Nasreen had tweeted accusing "Owaisi as making Terrorists". How wrong and foolish is she!

When young Muslims see Owaisi, they see a leader who is standing up to oppression and a leader, who is delivering – or at least trying his best – to remove the hopelessness and negativism that pushes young men to become extremists. In reality, Owaisi is showing the way against extremism through a practical way.

Between a scholar and a politician
As much as Owaisi addressed external issues affecting Muslims, he also raised fairly important issues related to women rights, their education, etc in various speeches. He openly condemned the terrorism of the players such as LeT in 26/11 calling for their punishment not only in India but also on Pakistani channels, which is what majority of Muslims of India had been saying for years.

When scholars were giving lectures on Muslims to pay Zakat (compulsory charity) it was this politician, who was working on reservation in education and jobs, so that Muslim can earn in the first place.

He supported the oppressed Muslims globally, especially during the Arab Spring and Gaza Assault. When some scholars under the influence of Saudi, and other Muslim countries, justified the killings of thousands of innocents in Rabaa Massacre in Egypt, Owaisi and also his brother stood up to condemn it unequivocally saying - I quote – "Their petro dollars won't help them on the day of judgment" and likewise, when the other groups supported by Iran tried to fan off Shia-Sunni conflict, Owaisi reminded that the greater threat Indian Muslims are facing from the Hindutva right wing than the political supremacy played out in West Asia

When the Shahi Imam of Delhi passed on the "hereditary" leadership to his son, he condemned it and said there is no papal legacy in Islam, and challenged the Shahi Imaam and his likes of scholars, to prove by winning a seat in the municipality elections for their claim to represent Muslims. A worthy "Owaisi Test" for lot of empty speakers including scholars who claim to represent Muslims!

Ghar Wapsi
Notwithstanding this, the biased media had called a string of Muslims to criticize Owaisi follow his Ghar Wapsi statement, including one speaker from Hyderabad who told Owaisi shouldn't get involved in matters of religion. Though the message of "Every Child being Born in Fitra (natural state of worshiping God)" could have been better explained metaphorically than as a Muslim in a political context, there was no reason for the speaker to say that Owaisi shouldn't speak on religion.

If that is the case, the speaker in question himself doesn't have any certified credentials to speak on Islam. And also, how many of the scholars speak on matters of politics without even knowing current affairs.

Any Muslim can speak on issues which affect them whether it be religion – given that he gives proofs from the sources of Islam (Quran and Sunnah as understood by the initial generation of Muslims) or politics – given that he can substantiate his interpretation through authenticated news.

Media is wanting Muslims to think that Owaisi is giving Muslims a bad name, in effect, asking Muslims not to forgive him for any minor mistakes ... can the media tell us with what face does it ask the killers of Muslims in Gujarat, to be forgiven and accepted as honored government members?

Is he the leader Indian Muslims have been waiting for?
Owaisi, for many, might mean a lot of things, some might want him dead for what he is, some might label him a hate monger, some a fundamentalist or a terrorist – whatever the world might think of him, Muslims generally appreciate and admire him for his fearless speeches protecting the right of the community he represents.

By far, no single politician in post Independence India has captured the imagination and respect of Muslims as this man has, and he might well be the leader Muslims all along have been searching for.

[Passionate about Islam, politics and issues connected to the welfare of Muslims, Dr Ajmal is a medical practitioner and after obtaining Diploma in Islamic Banking and Finance, he started the firm WealthCity, which advices on Islamic Investments for Indian Muslims.]

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