A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country.” This Biblical dictum would fit Prime Minister Narendra Modi like a glove because Indian Muslims continue to paint him in lurid colours while leaders of the global Umma shower petals of adoration on him. When Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honour, King Abdulaziz Sash, was conferred on Modi by King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the Royal Court in Riyadh on April 3, 2016, the acceptance of it was an act of supreme selflessness on the part of the Indian Prime Minister. Selfless, because any other Indian politician so honoured by the Keeper of Islam’s two holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina, would have publicised the event for Muslim votes. But Modi has been quite clear on this one point: he is not interested in Muslim votes. On the contrary, his growing unpopularity among Indian Muslims is in inverse proportion to his expanding popularity among Hindus with geometric progression. In fact, a case study for social psychologists might well be traces of masochism in the behaviour of President Mahmoud Abbas. He conferred ‘The Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ on Modi who happens to be the closest friend, indeed soulmate, of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas’s dedicated tormentor. Abbas’s obsequiousness may well be traced to his fervent hope that Modi will put in a good word to his Israeli friend. Mahmoud Abbas’s voiceless wailing is, for that reason, also inaudible. None of the GCC or other significant Arab countries are interested in the Palestinian cause ever since US and Israeli strategists have given a new blueprint for West Asia. The Sunni-Shia faultline supersedes the Arab-Israeli faultline focused on the Palestinian issue.
Iran is the only regional country single-mindedly dedicated to Palestinian rights. Iran considers Hamas as the authentic voice of Palestinian resistance. The Ramallah leadership is seen as a Western poodle. Other than fawning over Modi, Riyadh keeps a steady gaze on other power centres, near and far. Saudi princes have visited the Maldives to receive the island nation’s highest honour – ‘Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen’. The US and all its allies, out to play a helpful role in making things difficult for China’s Belt and Road initiative, are making a beeline for any real estate in the Indian ocean – Maldives, Sri Lanka, an atoll anywhere. Little wonder then, even this Muslim nation (Maldives, that is) has held Modi in a loving gaze. The ‘Nishan Izzuddeen’ has been conferred on him too. Modi, being the apple of Saudi eyes, has obviously been infectious in other GCC kingdoms. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa conferred ‘King Hamad Order of the Renaissance’ on him. The ruler of UAE, Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed, graced Modi with the ‘Order of Zayed’ medal, the Kingdom’s highest civilian order. Zayed has done one better too: He has set aside acres of land around Abu Dhabi’s grand Akshardham temple.
Modi has not left untouched the destroyed nation of Afghanistan as well. On June 4, 2016, he became the recipient of the nation’s highest award named ‘Amir Amanullah Khan’. A pity, he will not be able to catch up with Morarji Desai, the late Prime Minister who received Pakistan’s highest honour, ‘Nishan e Pakistan’ in 1990. For the self-flagellating Indian Muslims, a scrutiny of the catalogue listed above may be instructive. The lesson is not that Modi is the darling of the Muslim world. Individual Muslim countries ingratiate themselves with India, which he represents. Raw self-interest is the operating factor. That Indian Muslims are under pressure does not matter a jot to the great “umma”. That is the point. In the days of yore, these very same nations had erected a body like the Organization of Islamic Conference, but it looked operational only so long as there were competing blocks affiliated to one or the other power centre. In those days, India mattered. The Indian “Muslim” factor was of some consequence but only minimally. Did we not send a thoroughbred Muslim, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, to the OIC in Rabat and were snubbed? We fell between stools on that and other occasions.
Why did we need to have a Muslim, and none else, as ambassador to Riyadh? To neutralise the influence of the Ambassador of Pakistan who, by virtue of being Muslim, would strike a better rapport with the Saudis? Did the Americans, Europeans and the rest of the world send Muslim envoys to Riyadh? South Block’s job should have been to identify the best person for that posting – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh anybody, based on merit and not on communal considerations. You miss the basic point (they will say): there are those arrangements to be made for thousands of Haj pilgrims. Fair enough, for that kind of assistance, the mission in Jeddah could have been suitably staffed. Has not the logic of New Delhi’s appointments to that one station for the past 70 years been made to stand on its head by Modi? Despite his record with Muslims, he has been graced by award after award by the Saudis and the others on the US leash. One should not forget about Saudi monstrosity in Yemen, repression in its Eastern oil-bearing province; Bahrain where an overwhelming majority are the opposition; UAE, financing mercenaries (along with the Saudis) and firepower to destroy Yemen, once a proud, civilised nation. Is this the “Umma” from which Indian Muslims, expect Modi to have picked up lessons of peace, compassion, charity? And is this Umma of any value to Muslims in their distress, whether in Kashmir or elsewhere? Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey are all Muslim but caught in the whirlpool which is what the current world order is. When President Bill Clinton decisively intervened during the Kargil War, there was still hope that some kind of order was being sought to be imposed. That hope has dissipated in the Trump era. In brief, Muslims must remember that their holiest of shrines are elsewhere, but their salvation is here in India and its people, all of whom are under pressure. Together, we shall overcome. Hundreds of years of social and cultural commerce cannot be wilfully rubbed out.