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A Conversation with Afreen Fatima on the Plight of Indian Muslims
Channel: Omar Suleiman
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So now when you come around flying Brocato smell him the last site somewhere. So now it used to be in Manila. So Hamdulillah I mean, I have sister Afreen Fatima here from India Alhamdulillah who has been a voice of courage and a voice of inspiration personally to me and to everyone that I know. And subhanAllah in just communicating with a screen the the calmness and the courage that you radiate at the same time and your calmness is courage is is absolutely incredible. But we also don't want to diminish the plight, you know, by by praising the courage and praising the the way you've been composed. And the way you've been inspiring don't want to diminish the very real plight that you are
in right now and that our brothers and sisters in India are facing right now and it's significant and in sha Allah to Allah just for the few moments that we have, you know, we can, inshallah talk about some of these things that maybe are not known to everyone else. And inshallah you can give us our marching orders within that time, that's what we want in sha Allah to Allah for you to keep on telling us what we can do to support you in sha Allah Lazzara. So if we can kind of go back to the beginning.
I think, you know, where were you a few months ago? And where are you right now? And just on a personal level, can you kind of tell us about how you go from being an activist, mashallah, that is raising the voice of the plight of Muslims in India and also Palestine and so many other things, mashallah, you've been you've been involved in Hamdulillah, but just tell me about, like, these last few months, and then how it sort of reached this point that it's out right now.
Um, to be honest, like, you know, actually, my father himself, is a socio political
activist, and is a community leader in Allahabad. And I think, I mean, he contested Students Union Election back when he was in university, and he did not win the election. But then, like, when I was in university, and I just casually asked him once that, like, you know, I'm thinking of contesting, because I think I know,
these, these are the problems and this is how we may be able to solve it as a, as a students
initiative. And he was super supportive. And then, like, you know, he was super supportive, and he always encouraged me. And in everything, like, you know, a lot of times people would, in fact, be surprised that a Muslim father can be you know, allow his daughter to be an activist. And
so, for me, like I had just, I've just finished my master's in linguistics from Jawaharlal Nehru University. And currently, I'm working as a researcher with the Polish project.
The same time, I don't believe that I am an activist, or that I would use that label for me, but at the same time, I think, I am someone who just like, you know, writes and speaks up and
that I just can't be. I just can't be when I know something is wrong. And I just make no need feel the need that I need to step up that I need to,
like, you know, when the citizenship Amendment Act was passed, that I need to come out of my hospital room or from from my house, and be on the street and resist. And the same as with my father as well. I mean, he in he, I was in Delhi protesting citizenship Amendment Act, and he was in Allahabad, protesting the same. And
the last one month, in fact, like, you know, I had been
in fact, I cannot, I stopped using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, I stopped using any social media sites. I was preparing for my PhD, I haven't, I have my, one of my entrance exams tomorrow, and I'm not sure if I'd be able to,
I would not be able to appear for it. So I had been, like, you know, focusing on my academics focusing on my research, and I have also like written this, this report on hate crimes in the year 2021. So I was basically focusing on a more research oriented way to deal with what is happening in India. And the problem is that, you know, apart from participating in protests, mobilizing people talking to people
speeches and all of those things, I felt the need that I need to do something about it in like, you know, some real action. So, research I thought that I can write so like, you know, research and writing about these things felt like the best way possible for me. And I've been focusing on all of that I have, in fact completed the report that I was compiling on hate crimes against my own minorities in India.
And I hope it's published soon. So that's what I was doing, like, you know, the past one month, in fact, the past three, four months, and
then all of a sudden, like, you know,
the political climate hasn't like always been very hostile, especially for Muslims. And
but the past three four months has seen an escalation in in the sense that like, you know, there are
direct threat from the state itself in the form of demolitions and we saw it in Madhya Pradesh, we saw it in Delhi itself, we saw in so, in Rajasthan, in several states across India, these, this general tactic was used to silence Muslims, Muslims in India, and
so, when, on 10th of June, Friday, the protests were happening against the objectionable comments that were made against Prophet Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi salam, it was just
the the situation was, like, you know, escalating into a very tense situation in the city. And as an active member of the civil society in Allahabad, and also a community leader in Allahabad, my father, like, you know,
he's came to our house at around 8:50pm at night. And they asked him to accompany Him, to them to the police station, to talk about what had happened. And he, he readily agreed, I mean, he he did not let you know, there was no resistance from our side, because we did not have anything to feel or like, you know, and in fact, I was worried about the tense situation. And even he was worried of like, you know, what this
clash between the protesters and the police might lead to, and it always, almost always leaves leave leads to one thing that is a systemic persecution of Muslims, and one sided action against Muslims, lives, bodies, livelihoods, houses, everything, or no aspect of our lives is left the secure.
How what do we know about your father, your family right now? What's What are some things that we should know in that regard?
Have you heard from your father, any anything from your father, for your family? Initially, like, you know, for the first 24 hours of his illegal detention, we had no idea where he was placed, in which police station if he had been arrested, everything that we got to know about him was coming through right wing media channels, and that too, with sensational headlines, and like, you know, he was being portrayed into this mastermind, and the entire right wing media was like, you know, this, this media trial was happening. And at the same time, he was we had no idea where he was. He, he has blood pressure issues, he has diabetes, and he also has had heart heart issues. And he takes insulin
injection every night. And we were concerned that we can we tried to let you know, just, in fact, beg the police to just take it on, let him have his medication. But we were not able to even establish contact with him on medical drops. And then we got to know that he has been sent to many central jail, which comes in the Allahabad district.
And went to meet him my elder brother went to meet him he was he said he was fine. He said, like, you know, stay calm, don't worry, I'm fine.
And given the T is someone who is has been politically and socially active, he he's aware of how long this process can be. And he was just like, you know, trying to be strong for us and like, you know, letting us know that it's going to be a long battle. So like, you know, Don't exhaust yourself in the first in the very first round.
And then yesterday, more
My mother tried to go and meet him in the police in the jail. And the jailer said that there is no inmate named Javed Mohammed in the jail. And so we were shocked and surprised, and we had no idea where he had been taken to. And again, we got to know to like, you know, local media, that news news reports that he's been shifted to some other district. And there was no official communication that was made to us as they can family, or to the lawyers. And
so the whole, like, you know, everything that they're doing is not to like, you know, because he's guilty or like, you know, that the police has a lot of proofs against him. And they'd be able to prove that he is guilty that they also know that they won't be able to the idea is to make the process the punishment. And this is a form of a collective punishment, not just to him for speaking up, and not just to,
to give a clear message to him that he cannot be doing what he had been doing, to the entire community, to his family, to me that this is something that will not be allowed in India
last month to free him, bring him home protects you and your family and allow you to face this, with great courage as you as you have been, and keep you firm and steadfast. And your entire family. I know this isn't easy for anyone in the family, even if it's just your father
in law free him who's been jailed, obviously, the entire family suffers as a result of that. So may Allah free him and bring him back to you and protect you all law I mean, and a freedom this the sort of collective punishment, the punishment being the process, and especially home demolitions. You know, subhanAllah, as I was watching that happen,
like many of us in the world, and we were watching your home being demolished.
you know, trying to find a way to get to you, and I know a lot of people were trying to find a way to get to you
at that time, and we're fearing sort of what comes next. One of the reasons being is that it resembles quite a bit what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, right, like this idea of using home demolitions as a tactic of intimidation, and collective silence and then punishment. When did this start happening in India? Did you all know that this was about to happen in some way? I mean, what can you tell us about this new tactic of home demolitions in India?
Was it resembles a lot of the way Israeli forces in the
the settler colonial
occupation of Israel is doing in Palestine? And
the reason of it resembling is the Israeli model so much is that the name the supremacist, in fact, take inspiration from history. And
not just Israel, in fact, every oppressive fascist regime that had been there in the in history, from Nazi Germany, from Rwanda, from, like, you know, from Israel, and
so, so, the idea of demolishing as a form of demolitions as a form of collective punishment is not a new idea. It's not a new punishment that has been just introduced and my houses have my first house that has been demolished. And but I do hope it is the last inshallah
this has been happening for a very, very long time, it has like,
goes back to several decades, but
it's outright outright calls for demolition as an act of punishment towards the Muslim community. And, in fact, members of the majority community enjoying and hooting over
demolitions happening of Muslim houses and livelihoods is
is its outright presence is new. And it's outright celebration, isn't it?
the I think the biggest example would be the northeastern state of Assam in India, which is in a very serious citizenship crisis in the term in the sense that over 1000s, and 1000s of Muslims have been rendered citizens says, Yes. And
they've been facing demolitions and evictions and being called illegal migrants in their own homeland. And it's exact same model of Israel that they you know, people who own the land are being evicted from their own land.
and their houses are being demolished by the government forces and administration.
And, like, you know, I think around six months, seven months ago, just last year itself,
we heard the news of this massive eviction riots that happened in Assam and
Shahid Moreno was martyred by the security forces, and
because he, he stood there, and he tried to defend his home. And,
to this idea of punishment is not new, new to us, it like in the past three months, it is escalated more. So with BJP coming into power in several states of India, and announcing that they're here, this is their announcement towards make, you know, to the people of the country, to the to the majority community that they have
who enjoy the plight of Muslims, who in for, in fact,
enjoy, not just our persecution, but like, you know, when it's live telecast, the whole idea that my house was live telecasted on television, and every break coming down was
was to in fact, like, you know,
the egos and the satisfaction of a new majority that, that the BJP is doing what.
And I feel that it's, it's also in a way it also in a way disempowers the Muslim community, it pushes us further back, economically, financially, in every way. And
the biggest problem in all, all of this,
the most disturbing thing that you know, in all of this is, is has been that they target the poorest of the poor in order for this, the the
the most marginalized, even in the Muslim community, the people who, who, who just have like a room for that they call their home, and a small shop that they make on from on a day to day basis. And that is what is demolished. And that is what is taken away from them.
Now, please go ahead, please.
So I'm like, you know, just this idea of
enjoying and Makino,
seeing our bill our houses and like, you know, physical structure of our houses go down, gives them pleasure. And I believe that is the sole reason why that
we have been trying to let them know that it's just a structure that has been demolished. It's just that if they think that they've
they they've scared us, or that they can make, you know, demolish our fate or our belief that a better day will not follow. They're completely wrong.
Laws and lost pounds, I'll keep you strong.
You know, and so how long when I was talking about this room talking about this to a lot of people, I think the scope of this is not immediately apparent to many that are not in India right now, you know, the fact that over 200 million Muslims are there. And again, this is over 1/10 of our own, over one time, not 1/10 Over 1/10 of our own lives there. And many will will come back and say, you know, what, are you talking about genocide, you know, even even though we see genocide alerts that are being passed by international bodies now, you know, immediately the comeback will be well, there are plenty of Muslims that are living just fine. And this is very similar to the tactics of Israel
with the Palestinians to right, like, they'll show you this small community or whatever it is of Arab Israelis or Palestinians that seem to be doing well and say, See, we were a democracy, right and the irony of the largest democracy in the world and the only democracy in the Middle East or both of these in quotation marks, really mastering the art of apartheid and the art of disenfranchising in this fashion both against you know Muslim, the Muslim community
entirely in India, but other minorities as well and definitely in Palestine, as well. Though people will come back and say, you know, it doesn't seem to be all the Muslims in India. And so you point out the genocidal speech that has been given by mainstream politicians. And it's like, well, you know, that's just one fringe person. We've seen this play out over and over and over again. Right, it's the downplaying until it becomes too severe for us to combat at this point. But what is it like being a Muslim in India right now? And what?
What is the threat of genocide really? Like? Like, what are we really looking at with the Muslims in India in this regard? And what would you say to the skeptic that that says, this is just happening to a few Muslims that are causing problems?
I, I think
the only way I can frame a sentence that can be serious enough for people to understand that threat is really fairly real is that it's absolutely serious. It's, it is serious, and
the alerts that are coming out from several rights organizations, and in for, in fact, from from people like me, also, is not an exaggeration of what is happening in India. I mean, like, you know, when when, if one sits down and try to compile a list of Acts, and a list of things that the government that the Indian state, and it's the state and non state actors, along with the judiciary, along with the law enforcement, along with development authorities, as a fleet
are doing, taking on several volumes, this book can be compiled, but the list will just go on.
And I think that
though, the threat that the Indian Muslim community is experiencing, is not just a genocide that is to follow. It is of a perpetual state of genocide that the Indian Muslim community is being forced to live in.
We are in fact, living in an in a perpetual state of genocide.
I'm sorry, am I audible?
Yes, I can hear you go ahead. All right. Images a bit frozen. We can hear you. Yeah. All right.
You know, there's not just politicians who are giving speeches, and like, you know, or like, you know, some fringe monk in a saffron robe, giving speeches, it's this in its it's this massive ecosystem that is thriving on anti Muslim hatred, Islamophobia in India. And it's, it's scary to the extent that you can not know who,
who is not a part of this ecosystem. Because everyone is the entire I mean, there's just two categories in the in the majority, those who actively participate in the violence and hate against Muslims and those who are just silent spectators, and the active participants exceed
in in massive numbers, the silent spectator spectators, and both are equally
For further for people from for members of the Hindu community to silently watch over Muslims being lynched,
pogroms being planned where Muslims are butchered in broad daylight in the streets of this country.
Muslim detained arrested on false fake charges to teach Muslims a lesson specially those who are politically and aware and active in speaking
our houses being demolished.
Several several propaganda ideas that resemble the Nazi Germany love Jihad then, and is jihad in Corona jihad. I mean, everyone in the world saw the way the Tablighi Jamaat was made into a scapegoat and blamed for CO COVID-19 in India.
When, when was a pandemic and the Muslim community was blamed for the pandemic. And it's not just one thing that is happening. I mean, Muslim women was sold online on an on a virtual option. And
calls for abduction, the
direct call for murder, taking up arms, it's
it's normalized to the extent that it's scary for us. And like, you know, people can, can come and say that, Oh, you you're giving, like, you know that you that there are so many mothers slick sitting in their houses, and nothing is happening to them.
Just 10 days ago, my family was sitting in my house, and there was nothing happening to my house just 10 days ago. So the threat is imminent, it's real. And
it's going to be disastrous, if people do not take action, we do not have the take, you know, I earlier I used to say that the world needs to keep a close eye on India, I can't say that anymore. It's It's not you, the world needs to act up. before it turns into another Nazi Germany or another Rwanda. And then like, you know, people of the world will say, Well, how come How did this happen? Never get
you, you know, we are serious. And we're not exaggerating their economic.
In fact, whatever I'm saying is an understatement to the reality of what is happening in India right now.
And what's what's going on with this, you know, sort of the hijab hands, right? So some states have banned hijab, and obviously, there's now you know, we've seen this in other places, it starts with a nationwide call to ban hijab. And this, of course, coupled with the insult of the Prophet science, and then with a very real policies that are taking place here as a young Muslim woman who wears hijab, and was at the forefront of challenging the full scope of what that insulting of the messenger sallallaahu and he was an amount. How does that make you feel? And what do we take from that, you know, this sudden
pivot to this next level of religious rhetoric, but bans on hijab and trying to ban sort of the Muslim identity from public?
It's not just the hijab, I mean, all aspects of Islamic faith are being targeted, are being banned on Amazon is being banned.
This this, this transaction itself in Allahabad,
several police policemen would come to the mosques and ask the motions to lower the volume of the Assan. And to in fact, even they can just shut it down, remove the loudspeakers.
Mosques, are, of course, demolished in broad daylight.
This property in there several others robbery was made into a political issue by the right wing, and so people know about it. But there are several other mosques that are targeted, that are demolished. And
like, you know,
every physical or every public embodiment of Islamic faith is being targeted. And hijab is one of them. And it's the most recent one. It started in the southern state of Karnataka, where
college going girls were not allowed to
wear hijab in their classrooms. And it started with them sitting in protest outside of their classrooms for over a week for
an LIC, you know, begging, pleading and protesting
the school authorities to allow them to wear their hijab. And when that did not happen, the day went to the court and then the court also
traditionally, sanctions appetite. It
excludes 1000s of Muslim women, Muslim girls who had been very job to their classrooms, who had been practicing their faith to just like you know, that you can't you either practice your feet or you pursue education.
in all of this
Oh, like, you know,
it is a scary thought, this just imagining that
I might have to remove my hijab and walk out if I do have to, or that I just have to stay inside my house for the rest of my life because I can't wear my hijab in public.
And I mean, it's, it's to do with the presence of Islamic symbol and Islamic identity in public space. And it also has to do with this voyeuristic gaze of the Hindu majority, the Muslim woman's body has been sexualized that
the the act of unveiling is is is romanticized.
And that is why make you know, apps and websites like this holy days in the Holy Bible who created in the first place, and it is very disturbing, and it's very
It's a very, it's a very disturbing thought. I mean, I can't imagine I mean, my my sisters can't imagine my mother can't imagine. We just, we just can't imagine a day where, like, you know, we might be taking a look at someone might pull our hair off.
The idea just sends shivers down
and what it is, and it has been
made a reality for some of us, for some of Muslim, Karnataka and
the way the right wing ecosystem has been mean, it's just going to expand to several other parts. And it's going to come to every one of us.
May Allah protect to protect all of our sisters there. And so while I mean, I think this is one problem that we also have as a Muslim Ummah, is that we celebrate the heroes we celebrate Muskaan Allah bless her and Russia while putting the fist up in the face of all of those that were trying to prevent her from wearing a hijab we celebrate afternoon today and mashallah, you you're you're an icon to us, but sometimes I think we turn away from our sisters and brothers after some time passes, unfortunately, these things become more widespread and become more enshrined in policy. And we don't want that to happen. We want to be with you all but in the 90 Tada throughout this and may Allah
protect you protect our sisters, protect our brothers. Again, this is an attempt to remove Islam from public, remove the messages, remove the hijab, remove Islam and and in the process satisfy the cravings of fascism and SubhanAllah. Like you said, it's an ugly reality, but the majority also needs to be taken to task here that it's not, it's not okay to be passive. It's not okay to just watch this happen and to say I don't agree with it. This has reached that alarming level at this point that requires more action. So my questions I mean, I just I don't want to hold you too long. Too much longer.
What do you say to the Muslim world to your Muslim brothers and sisters that are saying you know, well this is happening here and here and hearing about the situation that situation? I don't know how I can meaningfully help and I don't know how serious this really is. What are your marching orders for us as an alma Afreen Charlottetown it's for us to to move in Charlottetown whatever whoever's watching this
i i think that
I am someone who can be giving orders or
I mean, like, you know, I might or and I
I just think that like you know, my my request to all of my Muslim brothers and sisters would be to of course first keep all of us Indian Muslims in your prayers and just
make dua for us. At the same time. I think like you know,
maybe ask you governments to take some action against India to to do something I mean, I don't really know what all can be done and what can not be done.
But there needs there needs to be a way for for the innuendo.
don't want to be held accountable for everything that it's doing. And
for it to be held answerable, and for it to be.
And for it to be
told loud and clear that this is something that could not be tolerated
when, when several Muslim countries issued statements against the
comments that were made against profits, and Oliver Salem, and the entire Muslim community in India,
like, you know, we were all happy, and like, you know,
the, the, our liberal allies and everyone, like, you know, the Muslim countries only care about the profit and not about the people, the, quote unquote, liberal allies of Muslim community in India are like, you know, saying that, Oh, but they don't care about you, and like, you know, the, the persecution that's happening, and it's just about
Prophet salallahu Salam, and this, it's just about the religion, but like, you know, we, we were,
we had the clicking of the moment of relief, that something is happening, but someone is holding this government accountable. If someone is holding it's, it's
its spokesperson who are like, you know, abusing the community, our faith, our profits in our day in and day out, and gaining TRPs over it, and like, you know,
creating, peddling hate over it, and we were just relief, that
something is happening. And so I believe that that something can happen again, and I believe that the Indian government can be held accountable, it can be
stopped, it can be, like, you know,
a lot alerted that what they are doing
is wrong, and is and that they will be held accountable, and that they can't get away with it.
So I be like, you know, there's no specific way that I, I,
there's, there's no specific way that
I can tell that like, you know, that might, you know, magic wand that might make everything disappear. And like, you know, it's it's, it's a process of over seven decades, that is unfolding and has become this monster today. And it will take a lot of time. And as for the Indian Muslim community, we are willing to fight it until the very end, we will
do this strong and we are with each other. We are like, you know, understanding the importance of that sense of community within ourselves as Indian Muslims. And I just hope and pray that the entire Ummah understands that sense of community and stand stands up for their brothers and sisters everywhere, not just in India, but in China, in Palestine, in every other part of the world where Muslims are being persecuted simply because they are Muslims.
Last time, bless you and protect you, and protect all of you. And I think as you know, you know, subhanAllah, as I've told you making dua for you, but also that we will ensure to continue to put out community action alerts for people to sort of follow the guidance of their local Indian Muslim activist groups when that exists and to put pressure, certainly pressure, pressure, pressure,
sanctions, accountability, when that can happen in sha Allah to Allah to continue to raise our collective voice and to continue to keep our collective there as and to not just pass this off as
you know, another just flashpoint for a moment but this is this is something that has been in the works for a very long time and unfortunately has the risk to become,
you know, one of the worst genocides
that we have seen in our history and so we pray that that's not the case. I have one more question for you a free now you you know, a lot of young Muslims watching this as well. What have you been doing to keep yourself sustained with with faith with iman? What have you been? What have you been doing to keep yourself strong with your faith? To fill your heart to fill your mind?
I think it has a lot to do with
it it's like you know,
It's my Amelie, you know, pester us into offering anima. And like, you know, reading Quran every day and
and like, you know, the, when when we heard the, the news that when, when we first saw the first
will also taking on our house, the
the one of the first things that my mother said was that
we does not matter, it's just a building, I mean, my brother in mind at that time, he was like, you know, reminding us of all the, all the times that we've had in that home, and my mother was like, you know, calm and she said that, and she just said on his channel magazine, she was just offering an amaz. And
it you know, it's, it's enough course, the act of worship. It's it, you know, I said in one of the interviews that I will not cry, I will not shed a single tear. But Milan was how many tears I've shed to him. And It's he who
gives the stamp and it's, it's,
one of the, like, you know,
this, this whole idea of like, you know, doing the specially, like, the entire day, when my father was being called everything, the only thing that we were repeating was husband and now when you your husband now
and so like, you know, there's this, this calm in it, and there's
and there's strength in it. And it's
it's the belief that we know that
they can know whatever injustice is happening will be brought to justice. If not, you're going in here hereafter
because I can laugh at them for everything and endless Panther bless you and protect you We ask Allah azza wa jal to
to protect you to protect your family to release your father, to sustain you with sincerity and steadfastness and and continued strength in the last panel to add a grand new a better home in general may Allah azza wa jal join you with the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, you and your family and and for those that may Allah subhanaw taala alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in India and all over the world. May Allah subhanaw taala bring out of this ummah, what was pleasing to Him, and allow us to unite upon that which is pleasing to Him. And may Allah subhanaw taala allow us to be like that one strong body with the beating heart of that love of the Prophet
sallallahu alayhi wa sallam May Allah subhanaw taala allow you SR efforting to continue to go forward and to lead us and your family to lead us and and may Allah subhanaw taala allow us to properly support you Beloved, I mean Zack Malachite on for everything and for
taking the time even I know Subhan Allah you've been having to do this a lot. But just know that you've inspired a lot of us and inshallah to Allah we will. We will heed the call that's come from you and Charlotte's and as well as our brothers and sisters and Indian child wants to continue to be by your sizing channel.
I love listening. So Mike