Meet Maryam, India’s Malala

Published: April 22, 2015
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12-year-old Indian Muslim girl named Maryam won a contest by answering all the questions asked in the Bhagwad Gita. PHOTO: ZEE MEDIA

Recently, a 12-year-old Indian Muslim girl named Maryam won a contest by answering all the questions asked in the Bhagwad Gita. This is the first time in India’s history that a Muslim girl has broken such a record.

The news of the young Muslim girl went viral on social networking portals and sparked numerous debates on news channel. While some highlighted the politics behind it, others praised the young girl’s efforts. Maryam has set a fine example for people who divide masses using religious bigotry.

India boasts of diversity, given the existence of various religions, but within its internal system, people are bifurcated on the basis of religion. Maryam has managed to prove a point to individuals who divide people on the basis of caste, creed and colour – that racism can never be as strong as collectivism.

She has set a great example by showing how tolerance can be practised, even at such a young age. Her actions are a response to Indian political parties who are running campaigns on the lines of ‘Muslim-free India’. Furthermore, Maryam proved that Muslims can grasp knowledge about any religion without adapting to it and that a child has the basic knowledge to differentiate between right and wrong.

Since Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power, I have not come across an ‘acha din’ (good day) as yet – something which the honourable PM Modi spoke about and promised his people during his election campaign. My hopes were further trampled upon when the union minister, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, and BJP minister, Giriraj Singh, passed offensive and abusive comments towards Muslims. Such immature remarks by these ministers highlight Maryam’s maturity.

In India, we have witnessed how religious bigotry is being used by politicians to divide vote banks in their favour. They use religious slogans to differentiate Hindus from followers of other religions. The Gujrat genocide and the Kashmir genocide are examples of how the politicians have massacred common people for the sake of their vote banks.

If we dig into the history of it, we will find thousands of people slaughtered by these political parties for their own gains and their ministerial chairs.

In the past, attacks on Muslims were carried out by Vishva Hindu Parisah (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). From campaigns such as ‘Love jihad’ and ‘Ghar wapsi muhim’ to forced conversions, each attack is meant to malign the image of Muslims in India and is done in order to create a split between Muslims and Hindus.

In India, Muslims have tirelessly contributed towards every sector of its formation. For instance, the early contributions made towards society, by Dr Allama Iqbal and Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Kalam, have helped India develop a lot. From science to technology to Bollywood, each segment has Indian Muslims contributing to it. The contributions of Muslims have proven that India belongs to Muslims as much as it belongs to Hindus.

For some, Maryam is India’s Malala Yousafzai. Malala fought against the Taliban while this young Indian girl fought against religious bigotry. She spread the message of brotherhood and gave reason to thousands of Indians to unite under the banner of religious harmony and shed religious differences aside, which have been plaguing us since time immemorial.

Maryam has given India a new reason to build itself. We should not wait on the government to take steps or make hollow promises. Rather, we should come forward like Maryam and build a new nation which will allow Muslims to live without fear in a country they call their own.

Now is the time to eliminate discrimination based on religion, caste, creed and colour.

Yasir Zargar

Yasir Zargar

The writer is a web security analyst from Srinagar and has co-founded Shafara Creatives (@shafaracreative). He tweets at @islambaduk ‏(twitter.com/islambaduk)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.