Will the Ramzan edition of Prime Minister’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ help placate the seething Arabs?

He asked people to pray even more this month, so that by the time Eid comes “we celebrate with as much enthusiasm as before.”

Mann ki BaatImage Courtesy:news24online.com

He may not be fasting even as a token gesture, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made sure he spares a few words of solidarity towards the Muslim community as Ramzan gets underway. Over this weekend, the PM has made sure to mention Ramzan, and ‘connect’ with the Muslim community twice already. Of course there has been no connection with those openly targeting Muslims across the country, blaming them for ‘spreading Coronavirus’, and using the Covid-19 lockdown as an excuse to carry out their hate speech, and discrimination.

Instead, the Prime Minister greeted the Muslim community in his Sunday radio talk ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and stated the obvious: “Ramzan this year is taking place while we are in the midst of the battle against Covid-19. Let’s take the right precautions today so that the coming Id-Ul-Fitr can be marked in the same way as it has been done earlier,” he said.

At first listen, it appears that the PM in his Mann Ki Baat, sounded hopeful that the Coronavirus pandemic, and/or the nationwide lockdown and the conditions emerging due to this situation will be under control in time for Eid next month.

His optimism comes as the same time as his ‘gentle reminder’ to the community that Ramzan is also a time for “patience, harmony, sensitivity” and most important, “service” toward others. “The holy month of Ramzan has begun. Last year when Ramzan was celebrated/ observed no one would have thought this Ramzan we will have to face such big troubles this time.” 

“But now that the trouble has come” the PM said there was also an ‘opportunity’ that had revealed itself. He urged everyone to “observe this Ramzan with patience, harmony, sensitivity , empathy, service to others… this time let us pray/ devotion more than before. So that by the time Eid comes, we celebrate with as much enthusiasm as before.” 

The PM said that he had “faith” that those observing the Muslim holy Month will do so as guided by the local administration. “I have faith that this Ramzan while obeying the instructions of local administrations, we will strengthen this fight against Coronavirus. We need to follow physical distancing rules more than ever,” he said in his Mann Ki Baat  telecast.

It is important to repeat here that all religious places of worship, especially of Muslim, Sikh, and Christian communities have been shut for over a month now. No religious congregations are allowed and clerics have asked people to stay home and pray. Even as the Ramzan crescent moon was sighted, this message was repeated by Muslim community leaders, and clerics once again. 

According to news reports, clerics across the country, including the  Shahi Imams of Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid in Delhi had appealed to Muslims to offer namaz during Ramzan from home, and strictly follow the lockdown guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Much before this eminent community leaders such as  Delhi Minorities Commission Chairman Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan had already written to the community to observe all the guidelines listed under the Coronavirus lockdown protocol.

The PM has noticed this and had a word of appreciation for them too, “today I also am grateful to those community leaders who have made people aware of keeping ‘two meter’ distance, staying at home…”  

As a ‘patriarch’ is wont to  sometimes compare siblings the PM reminded listeners that the Coronavirus pandemic had changed the way we celebrate community festivals. He counted the harvest festivals and community new years such as Bihu, Baisakhi, Vishu, Oriya New Year, and said that he saw how they were celebrated ‘simply, and at home,’ under the lockdown. “We saw how people stayed home and celebrated these festival…  other times they go out and celebrate joyously with friends and family.” 

A special mention was made of the Christian community celebrating, “Easter at home,” this year, he lauded those actions and said such, “responsibility towards society and country was important. That is how we will defeat the pandemic like corona”. 

This was the second time in three days that the PM had taken notice of the Muslim community. He had greeted the nation on Friday after the Ramzan moon was sighted and the beginning of the Muslim Holy month of fasting, prayer, and charity, had been officially announced across the country. 

“Ramzan Mubarak! I pray for everyone’s safety, well-being and prosperity,” he tweeted.

The attention from the Prime Minister, towards the community which has been made the target of hate, in speeches and actions, across the country is the latest, and the most elaborate since April 19. When he himself had tweeted that “COVID-19 does not see race, religion, colour, caste, creed, language or borders before striking. Our response and conduct thereafter should attach primacy to unity and brotherhood.”

This message had come after scores of Arab influencers began calling out the way the Muslim community was being treated in india under the Coronavirus lockdown. The latest is a statement from Kuwait ministers as shared by news anchor, Ahmad Alwahidah, “ Kuwait concern about the ethnic attacks against Muslims in India and calls on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the international community to take the necessary measures to stop these attacks and to preserve the rights of Muslims and inject their blood.”

He and other Arab journalists, eminent personalities, Emirati royalty, including Princess of Oman, Mona bint Fahd al Said, have been active in keeping a record of, and sharing online, the many instances of discrimination against Muslims in India. That the world is watching how India is treating its minorities once again, the attention has been so intense from the Arab nations, that Indian diplomats had to warn Indians working there, from speaking ill against the Muslim community. News reports about discrimination against Muslims in India has gone viral globally.

While the threat of a diplomatic crisis has made the PM, and his ministers take notice, the voices closer home are yet to be heard. Even those from Delhi, where the PM resides. For example, issues raised by the Delhi Minorities Commission who have alerted authorities in the deteriorating situation in the quarantine camps where Muslim inmates are denied basic amenities even as they observe Ramzan. “Saturday was the first day of the fasting month of Ramzan but the inmates at Wazirabad kept fast on empty stomachs because pre-dawn food was not supplied. Then for breaking their fast at sunset yesterday, they were provided each with just two bananas and three dates while again no pre dawn meal was provided,” said the DMC in its latest letter to the authorities. Eventually the Jamiat Ulama stepped in and provided the people with predawn food or sehri.

Perhaps, this situation too may be discussed by the highest offices of the Indian administration once the Arab world takes notice.



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