While growing up, a common remark I used to hear was, “You don’t look like a Muslim!”. An innocent-sounding comment back then and I didn’t really understand its implications. It was expected to be taken as a compliment. It was only much later that I realised what such a simple statement insinuated. I didn’t wear the common identity markers of Muslims like the hijab, burqa, head cover, surma, or other hallmarks that are associated with the community.
In the past few years, the meaning of that remark has metamorphosed into something else for me. What they actually meant was, “Your appearance doesn’t make me uncomfortable.” I have seen this innocuous-sounding comment transform into a full-fledged Hindutva project.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which makes no bones about being an organisation driven by the Sangh ideology, has taken many steps that aim at invisibilising the minority Indian Muslim population of India. It has launched a systematic project to limit minority voices and impose restrictions on their religious expression and identity markers in a bid to make the community invisible from public spaces and unofficially push them to the status of secondary citizens.
Stereotyping of Indian Muslim in pop culture
Indian films over the years have played a major role in pushing a particular image of the bad Muslim. A typical bad Muslim is mostly bearded, wears a skull cap, and more often than not has coal-lined eyes, all of which are supposed to be symbols of religious fanaticism rather than normal expressions of religiosity.
On the other hand, the burqa, which is a cover used by practising Muslim women, has been an object of ridicule in most movies, mostly worn to carry on some shady business. The “good” Muslim, on the other hand, is someone who has a religion-neutral appearance, devoid of any religious markers, an ideal representative of secularism, who offers aartis and occasionally dances in Visarjans, abuses Pakistanis whenever possible and eventually dies for the country fighting Pakistan, because what better test of patriotism can an average Indian Muslim have?
These stereotypes, propagated and emboldened over the years, are now a part of pop culture, with regular appearances in newsrooms, films, and even Tik Tok videos. Any deviation from this image is considered nothing less than an act of treason.
This story was originally published in thenewsminute.com . Read the full story here