Muslims constitute just 13.4% of India’s population, but three in four Indians overestimate their numbers. Muslims are considered disloyal to this country. But, all but two per cent of them are indeed ‘proud’ of being an Indian. Similarly, against popular belief a majority of Muslims actually disapprove of polygamy as well as ‘triple talaq’. These truths and much more come to fore in the CNN-IBN-Hindustan Times State of the Nation survey, conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
Here are six popular beliefs about Indian Muslims. Over the years, these beliefs have acquired a mythical quality. More and more people believe these without feeling any need for verification.
And here is a reality check. A special focus of the first CNN IBN-HT State of the Nation Poll was the mood of the Indian Muslims. Some questions were posed to all the 15,141 respondents in this survey carried out by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Besides, a series of special questions were asked to the 1510 Muslim respondents who fell within the random sample of the national electorate in this survey. Of these Muslims, 46% were women, 64 % from rural areas and only 42% hailed from the north Indian Hindi heartland states.
1. Myth of Muslim Population
According to the latest Census, Muslims are 13.4% of the Indian population. But this is not what people think. When asked to guess the proportion of Muslim population, only one in six persons came anywhere close to the right answer. Three-fourths of the people overestimated the Muslim population, and by a big margin. A majority of the people interviewed gave a figure well above double the real population of the Muslims. Educated people are no different from the uneducated in this respect. Muslims themselves share this myth even more than non-Muslims and overestimate their own population.
2. Myth of Extra-territorial Loyalty
This myth is not spoken about, but hinted at and whispered: The Indian Muslims are not quite loyal to this country. In this survey, all but two per cent of the Muslims said they were ‘proud’ or ‘very proud’ of being an Indian. A clear majority of Muslims said they are first an Indian and then a Muslim.
3. Myth of Islam and Democracy
Thanks to the US propaganda, this is now a global myth: Islam is not compatible with democracy. Our survey once again proves what many studies all over the world have demonstrated again and again. Three-fourth of Muslims, about the same proportion as the Hindus, are firm in their rejection of any non-democratic alternatives.
4. Myth of Muslim Personal Law
Personal Law, they say is top on the Muslim mind; they would defend it at any cost. But when asked about the most important problem for the Indian Muslims, 69 % chose livelihood issues as compared to only 4% who talked about religious matters. An overwhelming majority of Muslims, more women than men, disapprove of the practice of polygamy as well as ‘triple talaq’.
5. Myth of Muslim Appeasement
Muslims, we are told, are a pampered lot. The only trouble, of course, is that this is not what it appears to the Muslims. One out of every five Muslims interviewed in this survey said they had personally faced discrimination on religious grounds. The more educated and better-off Muslims experienced greater discrimination. Muslims experience more discrimination in educational and employment than in politics or matter religious.
6. Myth of Irreparable Hindu-Muslim Rift
This is a secular myth. Many people believed after the Gujarat massacre that this incident caused an irreparable rift between Hindus and Muslims. The survey brings some happy news from all over the country. Only 13% Muslims feel that the rift cannot be bridged, about the same feel that it made no difference in the first place. The largest number of Muslims feel Gujarat did cause serious tensions, but now things are getting back to normal.
Sanjay Kumar & Yogendra Yadav for CNN-IBN