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Why Muslims Need A Better Social Deal

Blood and genes from central Asia, middle east, Arabian Peninsula, horn of Africa flows in Goa and has historically become part of the rich and diverse genetic pool

Nandkumar M Kamat

This article on Bakri Id day is aimed to negate and neutralize Islamophobia and address the genuine aspirations of my Muslim friends who never fail to recognise any good work for their community. Blood and genes from central Asia, middle east, Arabian Peninsula, horn of Africa flows in Goa and has historically become part of the rich and diverse genetic pool. But we don’t see a community similar to Navayat Muslims here.

Muslims society gets very sporadic notices in the local media. I have closely seen the laudable and silent work of All Goa Muslim Zamaat, Jamaat Islami Hind Goa branch and Board of Islamic education for past twenty years. They have assured me full support to complete my bilingual historical novel on Prophet Muhammad- PBUH.  To the credit of the government a state minority commission with fair representation to Muslims was constituted but it is yet to take off for want of office, staff and funds.

Goa is one of the few states which does not have a Wakf board. It is a legitimate right of the Muslims even if they may not have any Wakf property. Hopefully the new Haj house would soon come up close to the Dabolim international airport but the Haj quota for Muslims from Goa need to be increased. The Muslims in Goa need a just and fair new social deal to enable them to contribute as equal citizens in multicultural Goan society undergoing rapid and palpable demographic transition. Huge investment is required to improve the housing conditions of shelter poor Muslims, to support the education of their children and for improving their skill sets and employment chances. It is shameful for the secular Goan society that the Muslims are still fighting over humanitarian and social justice issues like ‘kabarastans’.

It is amazing to see some Catholic dominated areas irrationally opposing another minority in their backyard looking for a small piece of land to bury their dead. This is totally against Goa’s traditions. Goans have forgotten that the Kadambas of Goa in 11th century had patronised the Yemenese Muslims and had allotted them land grants to build mosques. The Muslims were even permitted to charge taxes on ships to run the mosque. No government and political parties in future would be in a position to ignore the voices of Muslims in Goa. If there is Islamophobia emerging in Goan society then it needs to be nipped in the bud because it would completely spoil the reputation of this peaceful state depending on tourism.

The social tables of decennial census in March 2021 would show Muslim population in Goa reaching 15 percent or about two and half lakhs. The Muslims in Goa are divided in three segments – the minority Shiites or the Khojas from Iran the followers of  Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Sunnis who comprise local Goan Muslims and the migrant neo Goan Muslims. Thus Goa has become an interesting melting pot for the Asian Muslims. Muslims from other parts of western and south India are migrating to peaceful Goa in large numbers because they find this state very peaceful except for some aberrations like the misguided riots at Sanvordem.

The Portuguese common civil code in not applicable to migrant Muslims. The last generation of Goan Muslims may adhere to it but they would not like it to be imposed on the migrant neo Goan Muslim population. It is very heartening to see the growth of enterprising Muslims and their enterprises in highly urbanised Goa. The Muslim parents are also supporting higher education for their children as one can see from the increasing number of young Muslim women in college campuses and University. These young Muslim women know that in a competitive society they have no alternative to higher education. The state government needs to increase free ships, scholarships and fellowships for local Muslim students desiring to go upto PhD level.

There has been no audit since Liberation of Goa to survey the poor conditions under which Muslims live especially in major towns. About 43 Muslim families from Panaji had given me a representation when I had prepared a report on Basic Services For Urban Poor under the JNNURM scheme in 2010. They had sought better housing under the 15 point programme of the PM. Nothing has been done in any municipal or village Panchayat area to address the issue of shelter poor Muslims. I know that beyond a point the Muslim community is hesitant to agitate because they are afraid that their genuine demands may be given a communal and anti national colour by some elements.

But after 2021 the Muslims in Goa would not be able to tolerate decades of injustice. They would be far more united and vocal than they are now and they need to be given their legitimate political, social and cultural space if we aim to build a truly inclusive, progressive and peaceful state. Islam is an astounding religion and Muslims in Goa have also contributed handsomely in all spheres for the development of this state. Therefore, instead of gimmicks, symbolism and slogans it is important that the government strengthens the state minority commission and orders it to prepare a comprehensive new social deal for the Muslim population in the state.

When Digamabar Kamat was CM, I had reminded him that state government forgets the Muslim population when government advertisements are issued to greet different communities on the occasion of their important festivals. He immediately changed the policy and from 2008 state government began to issue advertisements to greet the Muslim population on their major festivals. Both Congress and BJP showed consistency in this decision. Such things are good for a maturing democracy.

A well-educated, vibrant, productive , enterprising creative and happy Muslim society in Goa would send a loud and clear message to a terrified world grappling with growing incidents of Islamophobia. Goa is on right side of the history so far and need to be on the right side of future history by opening the real participative power of our constitution to fulfil all the aspirations of god-fearing Muslims in Goa. The positive externalities of such actions would be enjoyed by our future generations. Goans need to read more about our Islamic heritage and the real authentic history of Islamic culture and civilization. Wish your Muslim friends today and make them feel integrated and fully at peace in Goa.

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