This is not a Muslim issue
The much publicized failure of actor Emraan Hashmi in getting a house of his choice in Bombay’s posh Pali Hill area “on the grounds that he is a Muslim” is perhaps an attempt by him and his uncle and film maker Mahesh Bhatt to get publicity and rake up an unnecessary debate during the sensitive times we live in. The issue so far as Hashmi was concerned was not so much a Hindu Muslim one but of a deal breaking down before it was fully sealed. It is no body’s right to live in any society he or she wants to. It is rather a prerogative of the members of that society whether they should admit a new entrant or not. To give it a different twist is something, which was totally uncalled for.
I was also shocked to hear Shabana Azmi airing her views as a Muslim on TV. I always thought that she was proud to be a communist and wondered where and how did her Islamic identity fit into her new persona.
I am aware that Muslims are discriminated against when they go looking for houses. But so are journalists, lawyers, single girls and even people from regions and places not acceptable to the landlord. It is all a part of the game and also a part of the struggle we all have to go through. But then all of us do find a place to live in even if it may not be to our satisfaction. But this is true of so many other things including our ambitions and desires. We do not get what we always yearn for. Actor Dev Anand had once while talking about his favourite sayings said, “I yearned for new shoes till I saw a man who had no feet”.
Emraan Hashmi and Mahesh Bhatt have deliberately tried to make a mountain out of molehill. Film personalities in particular in Bollywood should not complain about religion bias given that most of our top stars today are Muslims or have a Muslim connection. People of this country do not discriminate on the basis of religion but go and watch films to see their favorite stars in action. Ask Dilip Kumar amongst heroes of yesteryears and Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan now. Has it ever mattered to the audiences, which by the way are majority Hindu that the heroes belonged to a particular religion. The people of this country have also accepted Emraan Hashmi with his limited talent along with his uncle who likes making movies with similar music in the background. For him to allege that he was denied the house because he is a Muslim is carrying things too far. If you were not able to get that particular house go and get another one. It is like that he may not get the kind of role he may want to do because the director or producer finds others more suitable. To rake up this matter on national TV was just not acceptable.
Both Emraan Hashmi and any of those who sympathise with him are not champions of Islam. If they are brandishing their religion to show their second-class status it is most inappropriate. They should see how their other Muslim brethren live and in what conditions. They should in fact try and do something for those who live in such sub human conditions.
Muslims may have a difficult time finding a house for themselves. It is because of two reasons. One is that many Muslims like other minorities like to stay close to each other. In every city you will find that Muslim concentration is largely in one or two areas. There are very few Hindu homes there. Likewise in Hindu areas, there are very few Muslims. But amongst educated and well to do people, Muslims and others live in perfect harmony and peace. There are very few occasions that there is a conflict of interest of any kind. The second reason is that after terrorist strikes in many parts of the country, landlords are very cautious about whom to rent out their accommodation. I am not suggesting that all Muslims should be viewed as terrorists but unfortunately they fall in a category where every individual is viewed with some kind of suspicion. But that is a reality and it is survival instinct of others that leads to such caution.
This is the truth even if there is no justification to such a thing.
I can relate to the tension that exists between Hindu Muslims at one level since I studied in a college where both co-existed. But I am also a witness to equal participation of both the communities in each other’s festivals. I have also as a reporter covered the worst of communal riots but that is the world we live. There is discrimination all around due to various reasons but there is a meeting ground as well.
I would want Emraan Hashmi to get a good house in Mumbai perhaps in Pali Hill itself but then one cannot take away the right of the seller to deny him the house he wanted. He should move on and not allow this to become a needless area of confrontation. Maybe the new house may prove lucky for him. He may start acting in films not directed or produced by the Bhatt brothers. Who knows?