I am pained to read again and again in the Indian press the view that Muslims cannot prosper in India. That they feel frustrated when they cannot do well in their chosen profession or trade. They feel that only Hindus can get ahead in India. This is simply not the truth.
I remember a story that I first heard many years ago about the Parsis.
The Parsi community came to India over a thousand years ago, after fleeing from persecution in their homeland in the Middle-east. The Parsis landed on the shores of Gujarat and sent a message to the local Gujarati ruler requesting permission to stay there.
The ruler, wise man that he must have been, sent back a glass filled to the brim with milk as answer. This was obviously a test.
The leader of the Parsis, a wise man himself, thought for a while, then added a spoonful of sugar to the milk, stirred it without spilling a drop, and sent it back.
The Gujarati ruler was satisfied and the Parsis were allowed to stay.
The Parsi community settled in Gujarat, adopted many of the local customs but retained their distinct religious practices. The community prospered in India and India also prospered because of the Parsis.
There are many Parsis here in Mumbai, and I have come to admire and respect them very much.
Thomas Friedman has written a story that a South Asian Muslim friend related to him, in his insightful book, “The World is Flat“.
The friend’s Indian Muslim family split in 1948, half going to the newly formed Pakistan and half staying in India. When he got older he asked his father why the Indian half seemed to be doing better than the Pakistani half.
His father told him that when an Indian Muslim sees a man living in a mansion high on a hill, he says “Father, one day I will be that man.”
When a Muslim grows up in Pakistan and sees a man living in a mansion high on a hill, he says,”Father, one day I will kill that man.”
India is a land of great diversity. Many religions, many ethnicities, many languages and communities have flourished here.
But times change, the ways of doing things change, and we have to adapt to change if we are not to be left behind.
Many traditional trades have been rendered redundant by the new methods of production. But this applies not just to the Muslim community, but to all communities. It is up to Indian youth to discover new paths, to create new opportunities for themselves.
Young Muslims in India should ignore the gloomy picture of their future put before them by vested interests. They should themselves decide what they want their future to be, and work hard towards that goal. They should realize that it is possible to be successful in India.