Hate-filled and suspicious looks in the wake of July 11 train bombings in Bombay have added to the woes of Indian Muslims, who have been already decrying decades of negligence and discrimination, lamenting that West-styled Islamophobia has been set in motion.
“We are law-abiding citizens, but the whole community is being targeted with suspicion now,” Azimuddin, 40, a physician who with dozens of neighbors rushed to help victims of one bombed train that had just pulled out of Nayanagar station, told The Washington Post on Monday, August 14.
“Every one of us is (now) a question mark.”
Though the Indian police is not quite for sure that the grisly bombings were the work of Muslims, the cumulative impact of the bombings on Muslim communities is palpable.
“Of course I’m angry. I’m 52 years old, and I grew up in a Bombay of friendship and compassion. That’s gone now,” said Abdul Majid, who owns a small construction company.
“We are all against terrorism, but how are terrorists born? If you torture people and deny them jobs and education long enough, you create terrorists.”
Muslims have been decrying for years that they comprise only a tiny percentage of police, army officers, public servants and public university students, blaming the Hindu-dominated government for marginalization and ill-treatment unlike other minorities.
Best-selling Indian weekly Outlook ran a cover story last week on a 15 percent literacy gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Most people interviewed by the Post said they believed the bombings were the work of sophisticated international terrorists, not the result of homegrown, pent-up Muslim frustrations.
Indians said Islamophobia was passed on to them by the West.
“This Islamophobia is being imported from the West and filtering like a poison into India’s bloodstream,” said Mahesh Bhatt, a Bollywood producer.
Bhatt complained that when his film crew flew to Dubai for a shoot last week, the sole Muslim, a choreographer, was singled out by police for questioning about his passport and travel.
Indian press reports said that the government had ordered special scrutiny of Muslims who travel abroad, including white-collar employees of multinational companies. The police denied the reports.
There have been numerous pre-dawn raids after the train bombings in a dozen of Muslim communities in Mombay, which led to the arrests of at several hundreds youths.
“I am a Hindu and I sit and eat together with the Muslims in the next shop. They are not terrorists, they are my friends,” Shok Seth, 45, a pharmacist, told the American daily.
A senior government official in New Delhi, said it would be a grave mistake to equate India’s sizable 140 million Muslims, making up make up about 15 percent of the population, with terrorism.
“To say that Indian Muslims are becoming terrorists, nothing could be a more dangerous assumption,” the official, who requested anonymity, told the Post.
He said no Indian Muslims had been found to be involved in Al-Qaeda to date.
“There is a fundamental ethos shared by the majority of Muslims and Hindus,” he said. “At the end of the day, the vast majority of both groups see through the game.”
Everyone interviewed by the Post in the Muslim district of Mahin in Bombay, where one train was bombed, condemned the grisly attacks.
Residents have further rushed to help the victims.
“Some brand this as a terror spot, but they should have seen how people came out with bedsheets to carry the wounded and the dead,” said Deepak Talwar, 46, a lawyer in Mahin.
Islam preaches harmony, and that is the only way for us all to survive.”