By Ahmad Khan
This 27th July marked the 5th death anniversary of India’s 11th president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. As an answer to a voguish question asked in high school quizzes, APJ in APJ Abdul Kalam stands for Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen.
There is a discursive obsession in the right-wing discourse when it comes to his Arabic name which also has two Tamil words. They use the name as a rhetorical defense against being Islamophobic. They say that they just hate Kasab—one of the participants in the 26/11 Mumbai attack—but they do not hate Kalam. And their veneration for Kalam is an alibi that they aren’t Islamophobic. This binary is despotic.
It overburdens Indian Muslims to adopt the idea of being a perfect Muslim—whether it be in patriotism or collaborating with the establishment. It also imposes the idea that any Muslim slightly lesser than Kalam can be hated.
In consequence, a Muslim who has to fit in the idea of being a perfect Muslim cannot do Chakka Jaam—blocking roads in protest—even if they have to protest against a law that could send them to a detention camp and they cannot be vocal about their identity even if they are being attacked for it.
In contrast to it, being a perfect Muslim would mean working for education and Scientific temperament amongst the Muslim community for the progress of the country as a whole but not speaking against their systematic marginalisation and impending genocide. It means proving patriotism by singing Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s poem Vande Mataram, which was later adopted as the national song of India in 1937 but failing to prove citizenship even by living in the country for decades.
True acceptance means that even if a Muslim is not like Kalam, they must still be treated with dignity and not treated as a second-class citizen. In truth, not every Muslim would excel in aerospace and Physics as they are just another human being.
Moreover, the right-wing discourse would patronize Muslims that they should aspire to become Kalam, but they would justify the hate crimes against them. For them, Muslims have the right to exist only if they are patriotic or dead. It resonates well with the headline of an article published by the American magazine, The New Republic on May 15, 2017, “The Only Good Muslim Is a Dead Muslim.”