Kalanthai Peer Mohamed’s depiction of the Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) as a radical organisation and his narration of contemporary politics in Tamil Nadu (“The changing face of Tamil Nadu’s Muslim politics”, Aug. 5) exposes his prejudiced mindset.

The TMMK, a mass-based social advocacy outfit, is neither radical nor a sectarian organisation. Its office bearers and members are drawn from various schools of thoughts in the Muslim society. The ideology of the TMMK is not imported as alleged in the interview. The TMMK’s constitution declares that all its activities will be in consonance with the Indian Constitution.

The interview fails to mention that the formation of the Hindu Munnani in the early 1980s, signalled through the Mandaikadu riots, was the turning point for communal harmony in Tamil Nadu. The post-Babri Masjid demolition period saw the Muslim community being at the receiving end in several aspects. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Indian National League (INL) turned a blind eye to the sufferings of the Muslim community. It was at this juncture that certain Muslim social activists decided to struggle for the rights in a constitutional and democratic manner. This led to the formation of the TMMK in 1995.

Bridge builder

TMMK made sincere efforts to build bridges across communities. Through its wide network, the TMMK is the largest donor of blood in the State. The majority of the recipients of our blood are our non-Muslim brethren. The 100-odd ambulances of the TMMK have saved the life of several Indians irrespective of religion or caste in places inaccessible to commercial ambulances. Former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was so impressed by our ambulance service that he donated two ambulances from his own funds. When the tsunami reduced coastal Tamil Nadu to a graveyard, the relief measures of the TMMK where appreciated by one and all, including the Prime Minister.

The core point of the interview is the defective assessment that the Muslim community has no representatives to articulate the moderate viewpoint. The TMMK has stood at the forefront for all issues concerning the people of Tamil Nadu in general and Muslims in particular. The TMMK also initiated, agitated and achieved the 3.5 per cent exclusive reservation for the community.

The interview misrepresents few instances of protest to bring disrepute to the TMMK. Innocence of Muslims was a hate film deliberately produced to denigrate Islam and the TMMK’s justifiable constitutional protest against such an insensitive act has been misrepresented in the interview. In its opposition to the film Vishwaroopam, the TMMK used constitutional instruments, the executive and the judiciary, to get its grievances redressed.

Regarding the Amina Wadud episode, the TMMK had never issued any threats to anyone. However, I would also like to point out that an overwhelming majority of Muslims consider her views outside the teachings of Islam. That the Islamic studies department created by the endowment of the JBSA Trust chose to invite her is highly regrettable. It is akin to the Periyar study chair at a university inviting an RSS ideologue to speak on Periyarism.

While describing the murder of Selvaraj at Coimbatore in 1997 and the subsequent bomb blasts, the interview conveniently forgets to mention the murder of 19 Muslim youths in the aftermath of the murder and the looting of Muslim establishments and houses. Then it mentions that this incident was a turning point in the communalisation of Muslim politics in Tamil Nadu, which is not true. When the DMK allied with the BJP in 1999, the massive conference on July 4 that year, entitled Muslims Right to Livelihood conference, conducted by the TMMK at the Marina provided the platform for the AIADMK to form a secular front against the DMK-BJP alliance.

Wide support

Yes, the face of Muslim politics has changed but not in a radical manner. Today, the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the political party founded by members of the TMMK is a secular party committed to weeding out corruption. The MMK enjoys the support of not only the Muslim community but also all other communities, which is far wider and stronger than what the IUML and the INL enjoyed in their heydays. This is proved by the fact that the IUML and the INL contested elections in the symbol of either the DMK or the AIADMK whereas the MMK fought the Assembly elections in its own symbol and earned popular support to win two seats. Is a predominantly Muslim party fighting the elections on its own symbol extreme politics? To subjectively brand anything radical may bring fame to a writer but history bears evidence to truth always.

(The writer is Legislative Party Leader, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, and senior leader, Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam.)

Kalanthai Peer Mohamed responds:

My interview was aimed at not only presenting a critical perspective on Muslim organisations but also to express anguish at how their activities have impacted upon a plural society and created fault lines within the community. The fall of the IUML and the rise of Wahhabism have become testing times for Muslims in Tamil Nadu. I reiterate that Muslim fundamentalism is to an extent a response to Hindutva. But should this blind us to the fact that Wahhabists have seized this opportunity to pose as the sole spokesmen of Muslims? TMMK needs to work on more constructive methods to bring together Muslims. TMMK has the potential to do so but the fact that the silencing of Amina Wadud gives such comfort to its senior leader shows that it has some distance to go. Is there any Prophetic tradition that prohibits expression of different viewpoints? Will not the silencing of Dr. Wadud give our fraternal communities the impression that Islamic scholars have no answers to her questions? The end result of protesting against Vishwaroopam was to make a blockbuster of a sure flop. Muslim organisations need to work toward ridding the unfair slurs cast on the community and build a fresh understanding among communities in a plural society.

(Kalanthai Peer Mohamed is a Tamil writer, commentator and observer of Muslim politics and culture.)

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