Response to: "Middle Class Muslims in Urban India"

Middle Class Muslims in Urban India
Negotiating Prejudice and Bigotry

The article “Young, Middle Class, and Muslim in Urban India” provides insights which one does not normally hear about or read in the media.

The question that worries many of us is how young Muslims are dealing with the prejudice that has grown in recent years. Meera Rizvi’s article shows that even as bigotry is an everyday phenomenon, the educated urban Muslim at least is not getting crushed. They – young men and women – in different occupational settings are finding different ways to cope with discrimination and build their careers. It is interesting and gives hope that often they are supported by members of the majority community as well.

The theme of the middle class Muslims who want to build their lives in Rizvi’s article is similar to the one published in the Mint some months ago (“Joining the India Story: The Rise of the Muslim Middle”). In that article, the author, Ashwaq Masoodi, presented evidence – with secondary data and life stories – of a rising Muslim middle class in entrepreneurship and salaried positions. That article emphasised only the economic and only fleetingly referred to the everyday discrimination that this middle class had to endure, but the stories the two authors tell are broadly similar.

Both articles confirm one thing that has been noticed for some years now. Middle class Muslims now more than ever before have purposefully decided to acquire occupational skills through high education to climb the income leader. However, in today dismal employment situation that cannot be an easy thing to achieve.

Interesting – a relief too – as these two detailed pieces, there is still the larger question that should worry us. What Rizvi and Masoodi tell us may be true of the urban educated (or the more resolute among them), but what about the poor and lower middle class in the towns and villages? Are they too “building solidarities” (as Rizvi writes) and moving ahead? Or are they falling behind economically and socially as the social fabric begins to be strained every day?

You do not have to refer to the horrific stories about lynching to know that the Muslim poor are now in a difficult situation.

One needs more explorations among different economic groups in different settings to get a clearer sense of how India’s largest minority population is negotiating the present in the economic arena. But for now one must appreciate the insights that Rizvi has given us in telling a story which the mainstream media has largely ignored so far.

Hemant Kumar, Mumbai
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