Testimony of an Indian Muslim

Yesterday I read about a job seeker bluntly being turned down by a company only because he happened to be a Muslim. It was quite a depressing read, then I read articles highlighting the growing religious intolerance within the Indian society and I must admit it shook me to the core. But in spite of all the noise in the media I would like to believe that reality of India is different.

I was hired by an Indian company after my first interview. I remember I did not perform exceptionally well in that interview. This was as few months after the riots of 2002. Interestingly the person who interviewed me was a Gujarati Hindu. My colleagues, an overwhelming majority of them Hindus, were professional in their conduct and my identity as a Muslim did not play a part in my day to day functions at the organization. In my entire tenure at the company I only had one bad experience with respect to my religious identity but overall it was one of the most pleasant time I had in my career.

I was having lunch with my colleagues in the company canteen. This was the day after the terrorist attacks on trains in Mumbai in 2006. One colleague who was otherwise quite nice to me “jokingly” said…”kal kya kar dala aap ne Mumbai mein” (What have you done in Mumbai yesterday). Yes it was quite humiliating to be taunted about such a despicable act only because I happened to be a Muslim. I hid my humiliation, smiled at my colleague and focused on finishing my lunch. Those few minutes were the most difficult moments of my tenure at the organization. No one on the table spoke out for me. I do not believe they approved of the comments hurled at me but no one wants to create a scene. People in India tend to move on.

Few years later the company gave me an opportunity to work in the US and since then I have excelled in my career. I can only be grateful to the opportunities that came my way due to my job in India. It was not just me, many other Muslims who worked with me did very well in their career.

I have witnessed the communal hostilities of 1992 and the subsequent rise of the BJP. That is the power of democracy. Things are never the same, they keep changing. There are phases. This may not be the best phase for Muslims and other minorities in India but things are not as bad as they are being presented. The are enough well meaning honest people in the Indian job sector who do not primarily judge employees and job seekers on the basis of their religious identity. There is a lot of hope and promise that India has to offer to Muslims. Are there no racists in the US? Of course there are but they do not define the US. Similarly we cannot let the communal forces in India define what India is.

I would like to remind the Muslims who are reading this post. Keep trying. If you have the necessary skills then no one can stop you from achieving your goals. The aim of the communal forces is to demoralize you. If you give up hope then you let them win. Your success in life is the key to their failure. I agree the journey is not easy but things are never as bad as they appear to be. Take the dive and focus on your career.

Things were bad during the Babri Masjid demolition, there were riots all over the country but then there were limited media outlets to whip up the frenzy. Now even small incidents are blown out of proportion by mainstream and social media. The Indian media is immature and keeps its commercial interests before national interests. For every one Muslim being denied a job in India there are thousands of stories of Muslims succeeding in business and jobs. It is important that we do not lose the bigger picture.

I would be lying if I say that I am not concerned about the rise of Modi brand of politics in India. For years I had convinced myself that the era of communal riots was behind us and India had finally matured into a republic that was solely focused on improving the lives of its citizens. Clearly that is not the case. Attacks on churches, beef bans, ghar wapsi etc are abrasive issues that weaken India. As the popular saying goes, you can take the man out of India but you cannot take India out of the man. India will always remain my home no matter where I live. I will never give up hope of a better future for my community and country.

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4 comments

  1. It is actually mixed.I have seen senior persons in my organisations not discriminating against muslims;but have also seen many of colleagues making nasty comments on one muslim employee.off course it depends upon individual also. Generally u dont find muslims targetted at workplace.I think though corporate companies dont show bias recruiting muslims you cant say same for individuals working in that organisation.
    but then in society it is different.Muslims are rarely seen in hindu locality. As RSS influence has gone up, in Hindu homes muslims are generally hated and their view is generally like sanghis.
    On the other hand muslim workers are preferred as they work hard.

  2. My brothers lead at his company told him that he’ll send my brother to Pakistan. My brother complained and the HR fixed his lead for good. Everyone else in the company (most of them Hindus) supported my brother. So discrimination happen in jobs but it isn’t very bad. Maybe govt sector is different.

  3. Have a friend who was in BPO in mumbai. Was very discriminated at for having a beard. Grilled at the interview for his religious background, had to tolerate slight hints of taunts too for his “appearance” and being a Muslim…

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