HAVE FAITH, WILL NOT FIGHT
While last Saturday’s riots stoked resentment against Muslim leaders, two members of the community taught a few others that Islam is about humanity
Jyoti Punwani , Mumbai Mirroe, August19,2012
Even as the leaders of Saturday’s rally shrug off any responsibility for the violence, two ordinary Muslims, Shadab Siddiqui and Farooq Mapkar stood up to a number of vandals in their community and took them on single-handedly and unarmed. Both say they could not watch as the youngsters sullied the name of Islam through their misconduct.
Thirty six-year-old poetess and social activist Shadab Siddiqui was on her way to work on Saturday afternoon when she saw around 40 Muslim boys with flags, travelling on the roof of the same Harbour line train as she was on.
They were all headed to the Azad Maidan rally, and were shouting religious slogans, clambering down into compartments, leaning out and clinging on to windows.
“Other commuters were not only getting annoyed with the noise they were making, but were also worried that they could lose their limbs, or even their lives,” she said. However, every time a commuter told them to get down, the commuter ended up getting shouted at.
Shadab, who works in the office of the Avami Vikas Party (recently founded by ex-ACP Shamsher Khan Pathan), had herself sent out press releases for the rally. “We made sure to describe it as a peaceful protest, but these boys were anything but quiet. It really bothered me,” she said. She immediately called an Urdu journalist and asked him to alert the police, but nothing happened.
When the train halted at Wadala, Shadab got off and requested the railway police to take action, but they said they were helpless. Then, she marched straight to the motorman who also said he didn’t dare intervene. Feeling she had had enough, Shadab jumped onto the tracks in front of the train, sat down there, and shouted that she would not move till the boys came down. If they didn’t, she told the motorman, he could start the train and run her over. “I thought that if the boys saw a Muslim standing up against them, they would be very ashamed,” she said.
It worked. And Shadab only got up when the last boy got off the roof and into the compartment.
“Earlier, I didn’t want to go to this allmale rally,” she said. “But now I was so furious that I decided I would go to Azad Maidan, get onto the stage and tell the organisers that they had failed in their responsibility to ensure a peaceful rally.”
However, when she reached CST, Shadab found vehicles burning, and volunteers asking everyone to go home. As she entered the station, she saw that a bus had been set on fire.
“Many women and children were huddled inside the police cabin on Platform 1 for a very long time. Non-Muslims kept asking me what was going on, and I felt so ashamed. If I could, I’d talk to those boys and tell them that inconveniencing others is not Islam.”
For Farooq Mapkar, a victim of the Hari Masjid firing during the 92-93 riots, it would have been easy to join the mob of youngsters he saw misbehaving with a Hindu at Wadala station on the way back from the rally. Especially since Mapkar has been fighting for 14 years to get the policeman (a Hindu) who shot him inside Hari Masjid punished. Instead, when the youngsters got on the train, Farooq reprimanded them all the way from Wadala to Mankhurd.
The youngsters shot back, saying that Hindus had killed Muslims in Assam. “That doesn’t justify your behaviour here with innocent Hindus,” Farooq told them. “I told them my story, and also that those who have helped me the most have been non-Muslims. I explained to them that their misconduct would make it very difficult for any Muslim to expect non-Muslims to help them in future.”
Farooq said he felt that his patience had paid off when the group of once-incensed youngsters turned around and apologised to him as they got off the train.
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