Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the chief of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah and the alleged mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, has invited Shah Rukh Khan and other Muslims facing discrimination in India on account of their religious identity to cross over the border and stay in Pakistan. Saeed claimed that “discrimination against minorities in India” was a proof that “Modi’s India” is no longer secular but rather a fascist Hindu state.
“We welcome Indian intellectuals raising voices against intolerance inflicted by Hindu extremists if and whenever they come to Pakistan. We would be pleased to demonstrate to them JuD’s ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts for minorities living in Pakistan,” Saeed said.
It’s interesting to note that Hafiz Saeed has claimed on Twitter that his organisation is involved in activities to safeguard the lives of minorities in Pakistan. Transparency demands that Saeed furnishes evidence to effectively establish the work JuD has done to protect the persecuted lot of Ahmadiyyas, Shias, Hindus and Christians.
Ordinance XX, promulgated during the reign of General Zia-ul-Haq, prevents Ahmadiyyas from posing or claiming to be Muslims. If they do so then they will attract imprisonment for as many as three years. Has Hafiz Saeed or his men ever taken out a rally to pressurise the Pakistani government to repeal Ordinance XX? Even Abdus Salam, the first Pakistani to win the Nobel Prize (Physics) in 1979, cannot be called a Muslim without attracting legal penalty simply because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect.
The blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been constantly utilised to settle scores with minorities. “Since the 1990s, scores of Christians have been convicted for desecrating the Koran (Quran) or for blasphemy,” says aBBC news report (July 22, 2015). Asia Bibi, a Christian woman has been on death row since five years on allegations of insulting Prophet Muhammad, a charge which she vehemently denies. She has been publicly threatened by people from her own village who have vowed to kill her. When Punjab governor Salman Taseer spoke in her favour opposing the blasphemy laws, he was assassinated by his security guard Mumtaz Qadri who was hailed as a hero by many in Pakistan.
Thousands of Pakistani Hindus have fled their country fearing persecution. Several hundred of Hindu families left Pakistan way back in the 1970s and have settled in the Pakistani Mohalla camp in New Delhi’s Sanjay Colony. In spite of such atrocities, Hafiz Saeed and the JuD have remained silent. Instead there have been hate speeches against India, calling for the country’s annihilation. What is worse, Hafiz Saeed stands accused of orchestrating one of the bloodiest terror attacks in India. He has no moral standing to comment on the recent events which have unfolded in India.
The murder of Muhammad Akhlaq on the suspicion of beef-consumption and the recent tirade against Shah Rukh Khan by the likes of Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi ought to be condemned. But condemnation holds no value if it’s coming from a discredited individual like Hafiz Saeed. There are credible voices in Pakistan like journalist Hassan Nisar whose take on the tolerance debate in India would be much respected. But we refuse to listen to Hafiz Saeed and the only thing that we, as Indians, demand is that he should be investigated and prosecuted for 26/11 in which more than 150 people lost their lives.
As far as Shah Rukh Khan is concerned, the actor is wise enough to deal with these kinds of politically motivated attacks. In 2010, SRK had said that Pakistani players were most welcome to represent Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League (IPL). This led to the Shiv Sena attacking Shah Rukh and accusing him of a Pakistan bias. It also threatened preventing the release of Shah Rukh’s film My name is Khan, but SRK didn’t give in to the bullying and the film released to packed theatres with Indians across the country rejecting Bal Thackeray’s low level politics.
While the storylines of Shah Rukh Khan’s films have tried to address the stigmas associated with being a Muslim, the actions of men like Hafiz Saeed have earned Muslims a bad name. In My name is Khan,SRK portrayed the role of Rizwan Khan who is suffering from Asperger’s syndrome. The film depicts his journey across the US post-September 11 terror attacks to eventually meet the American president and say “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”
Enacting the role of a Muslim hockey player in Chak De! India, Shah Rukh’s character Kabir Khan leads the Indian women’s hockey team to World Cup victory after he was himself accused of selling out to Pakistan in a match several years ago.
Shah Rukh’s characters defy the political roadmap of Hafiz Saeed who is mostly busy in anti-India activities and instigating Indian Muslims to rise in revolt against their own country. Had SRK been living in Pakistan with his wife Gauri Khan and bowing his head in front of an idol of Ganesha, the same Hafiz Saeed would have refused to recognise him as a Muslim and perhaps even forced him into exile.
A debate on tolerance in Indian society is much needed and while it is open to participation from all corners, Hafiz Saeed and his ilk better stay quiet and stop preaching since they are merely interested in wrecking havoc in India by encashing on the politically volatile atmosphere.
(This article was originally published in DailyO.)