The signals emanating from a section in the Indian Union Muslim League are discomforting. The group, known for its sagacious stance has suddenly turned hawkish, perhaps deciding that by becoming ultra-conservative it can negotiate rising radicalisation in the community and help the party retain its support base. IUML state secretary M K Muneer’s outburst against gender neutrality, liberalism and atheism is perceived to be borne out of this conviction.
Muneer, a soft-spoken politician, was uncharacteristically aggressive while addressing a Muslim students’ conference last Sunday. He asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to wear a sari to prove his commitment to gender-neutral attire in educational institutions. His pot shots about the personal lives of communist legends Marx, Engels and Lenin have raised many eyebrows. But those who know IUML’s internal dynamics see a method in the apparent madness. Muneer is trying to woo a growing section of the Muslim youth that is getting attracted to outfits like Popular Front of India. The section sees the quietist stance of the IUML as capitulation before the Hindutva forces. And Muneer wants to win over this group and block PFI from taking advantage.
Muneer also wants to scuttle leader P K Kunhalikutty’s designs. Rumours are rife that Kunhalikutty is anxious to get accommodation for his party in the CPM-led ruling front. Branding communism as an anti-Muslim ideology that promotes sexual anarchy could help intensify the community’s antagonism towards CPM.
The damage to the community is unpredictable. There is an enlightened minority in the community that is strenuously trying to engage the issues like gender neutrality and modernity in a meaningful way. The section, which comprises a large number of girls, is simultaneously fighting the patriarchal traces in the religion, the Euro-centric feminist notions, and the cotton-candy type liberalism. By simplifying the gender issue as that of ‘men wearing women’s dress’ and turning the community hostile towards gender politics, Muneer may win applause from the galleries. But giving legitimacy to conservative voices would only set the community backwards, negating the decades of social progress that has started bearing fruit.