There was also a good reason for this give and take between believers and the clergy - the community’s religious bend. Explains Navaid Hamid, general secretary, Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indian, “The Muslim society is a religious oriented society and clerics have always played an important role on issues that concern the community. For 50 years the Muslim community was backward when it came to acquiring modern education. There was a huge network of madrasas which played an important role in promoting education and literacy among Indian Muslims. Because of this network, the clerics enjoyed their role as leaders of the Muslim community. In the post-1992 era, Muslims have realized the importance of modern education. Today about 65 percent of Indian Muslims are below 30. This large population is well educated and net savvy. It is exposed to global trends and sees the world with a different perspective. The age old complexes are gone.’’
This young generation has an agenda which is totally in variance with the clerics. Agrees Navaid Hamid: “Fifty percent of the so-called Muslim clerics have no mental rapport with 65 percent of the youth educated at modern institutions. This young generation has reached the conclusion that the established Muslim leadership rarely ever spoke about issues that concern them. Thus this connectivity between the established leadership and young generation has been gradually but steadily weakening’’.
That has not come in the way of clerics trying to influence voting patterns, if they can help it. In October last year three prominent Muslim clerics unleashed a fresh barrage of criticism at the ruling Congress, slamming it for mistreating their community, while at the same time dismissing suggestions they were warming up to Narendra Modi. The leaders, Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi and Maulana Abur Irfan Firangi Mahali from Uttar Pradesh, and Maulana Muhammed Wali Rahmani from Bihar said that while Narendra Modi was still to prove through his deeds that he cares for the minority community, the Congress with their several acts of omission and commission since Independence, stood thoroughly exposed for treating the community as a mere vote bank. The critical question to answer here is this: could things be changing even further? Activist and senior leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Firoz Bakht Ahmed agrees that the clerics are fast losing grip over the community – and the situation. “It is absolutely correct that the Muslim leadership is losing its grip over the community because they are no longer sincere in serving the community; they use their positions to fill up their personal coffers. They are least concerned about the welfare of the community and for them, self-promotion is paramount. After Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and former President Dr. Zakir Husain, the community has not seen any leader and there is a huge vacuum. I do not believe that clerics should be bestowed with the responsibility of leading any community but unfortunately this has become the practice and several clerics have misused their position and the faith reposed in them by the community.’’