In India, the debate over Islamophobia is often framed in terms of whether or not Muslims are actually a part of India’s secular, liberal, secular-minded culture, and whether they are simply a “foreign” presence.
The latter is the narrative that has been dominant since the mid-20th century.
That narrative is often reinforced by politicians, academics, and even the media, who use the term “Islamophobia” to describe Muslim citizens who have different opinions, practices, and beliefs.
For the past decade, this narrative has been at the forefront of the political debate, as the Hindu nationalist BJP (BJP) has made the Muslim community one of its main electoral platforms.
The history of the term Islamophobia can be traced back to the early 1980s.
While many in India and the world used the term Muslimophobia to describe the prejudice against Muslims, Muslims themselves were often accused of perpetuating the same negative stereotype.
This narrative was first put forward by a prominent Muslim scholar, Maulana Abdul Basit, who, in 1981, coined the term ‘Islamophobia’ to describe India’s ‘cultural prejudices’ against Muslims.
The term ‘Muslimophobia’ was coined to refer to the negative stereotypes that were prevalent in the Indian context, such as that Muslims were “foreign,” “dirty,” and “dirty people.”
In the context of India, Muslims were also said to be “evil,” “evil Hindus,” “machiavellian,” and even “terrorists.”
The term ‘terrorism’ was added to this list in 1985 when India outlawed the Muslim League (ML) and declared the party a terrorist organization.
The term “terrorist” became a common derogatory label to describe Muslims.
In 1984, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi banned the Muslim Students Union (MUSU) from taking part in the National Students Union elections and issued an order against its leaders, including Maulana Basit.
The MUSU was banned for a period of seven years under this order, until 1992.
The MUSUs political leaders and leaders in the Muslim communities were charged under Section 153 (a) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for inciting communal hatred.
Under Section 153, it was a crime to incite a riot, create disorder, or disturb the peace.
In other words, the law was meant to curb the free speech of Muslim political parties and leaders.
In the meantime, the term ”Islamophobia” came to describe a negative stereotype of Muslims that was common among many Muslims in India.
In 1991, a group of academics, academics and politicians from across the political spectrum came together to draft the Constitution, which called for the prohibition of religious and cultural discrimination and the creation of an Islamic republic in India, as well as the establishment of a Muslim homeland in Pakistan.
This document was ratified in 1993 by the Indian Parliament.
The Constitution, in fact, was the first piece of legislation to address the question of whether Muslim citizens of India were part of the country’s secular culture and what role Islam played in India’s identity and culture.
In 2001, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, proposed amendments to the Constitution to specifically exclude the Muslim majority communities from this provision, and proposed a bill in the Lok Sabha in 2002 to amend the Constitution so that the Muslim minority communities would be allowed to participate in the elections.
The debate around the definition of Islamophobia in India has been ongoing for years.
In 2007, the Indian Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (Bjp) to change the definition from ‘Muslim’ to ‘nationalist’ to avoid the “misuse of the word” to describe minorities.
In 2010, a case was filed in the Supreme Court by a Muslim group challenging the constitutional definition of the meaning of Islam.
In 2012, in a landmark case, the Supreme court rejected the petition filed in 2015 by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the ruling Muslim body, in which the Supreme Supreme Court argued that the definition and definition of ”Islam” should be limited to “a religious belief and a set of practices, practices and institutions that reflect the history, identity, language and history of Islam.”
The Supreme Court also observed that the term does not include the concept of “Islamic culture.”
In a separate case, it also said that the “concept of Islamic culture” should be used only when the definition is being used as an umbrella term to encompass a wide range of Muslim cultural practices and traditions.
As the Indian and global discourse around Islamophobia has intensified, many Muslim organisations, intellectuals, politicians, and citizens have joined the fray.
These voices have highlighted the fact that the debate about Islamophobia cannot be framed solely in terms, but also needs to be taken into account in terms that are broader and inclusive.