We aren’t voiceless, pass the mic.
I don’t know how other POC bloggers feel, but I’ve always felt that there is a shortage of stories and perspectives from people of colour… our stories are many and unique. So, towards the end of last year, I decided that I would begin sharing the stories of many talented, wonderful, diverse bloggers.
Today, we have Saman @ Written in Ink who is one of the first friends I made through blogging and one of my favourite bloggers! Saman is a book blogger and an aspiring journalist. This interview was a lot of fun to conduct because while I was asking questions, we shared several thought-provoking conversations. What I admire about Saman is that she is very opinionated, ambitious, and passionate; though we may not always agree, I’m really happy that Saman is just as passionate about books, Game of Thrones, feminism and more! It makes life all the more eventful, colourful and interesting.
Can you share with us a story that shows us an insight into what it is like to be Indian and an Indian Muslim respectively?
I couldn’t think of a story but there is one thing I can say for sure is that I’ve had it quite easy being an Indian-Muslim. I’m not saying the conditions of Muslims is good throughout the country but where I live, I never had to face any kind of racism.
Life could’ve been worse. For instance, the conditions of Uighur Muslims in China.
What are some things you love about being Indian and Muslim? Are there any things that you feel are specific to Indian culture and the Muslim community?
I cannot say what I particularly like about being an Indian and Muslim. There are a lot of things about being part of both which I love. India is a secular country and various religions and cultures form part of it. The way people come together to celebrate each other’s festival is something anyone could experience if they are Indian.
What are some of the disadvantages of Indian culture?
People often confuse Indian culture with Hindu culture. However, the term Indian culture represents various unique cultures of all communities and religions which are present in India. With a variety of cultures comes racism as well. That’s a major drawback. I feel people from East India and South India face maximum racism.
How do you feel about the Muslim community? What are some things you would want to change?
The greatest strength of the Muslim community lies in its unity, as it does for every other community. There is nothing I would want to change about the religion or the community itself. However, I would like to change the way people perceive it; as a religion which teaches violence. No religion teaches violence and Islam is no different. Islam teaches love, kindness, peace, and co-operation. And then there are some men from the Muslim community who think they can change the rules to meet their patriarchal needs. They think it’s their right to oppress women but they forget Islam is not about oppression. That’s what I’d like to change.
You spoke about the media in India and how much of it is under political influence, can you explain how this came about and how it has impacted the socio-political dynamics of India?
The news media have strayed from its foremost objective of educating and informing people to pleasing certain political leaders or corporate houses. The credibility of Indian news media has deteriorated to the lowest point. Regardless of what the news channels claim, I doubt the news media has any freedom. Clearly, the news media is under the influence of the ruling party.
The number of people using social media in India went from 168 million in 2016 to 326 million in 2018. So, it became a lot easier to spread rumours, fake news, and trolls. However, social media has not been the only way which the government has adopted to influence the news. The government also boycotts the prime time shows and stop funding the channel which is an important source of revenues for the news industry. I understand journalism in times like these is difficult and it takes courage to stand up and stay true to yourself and others as well.
But journalists, except a few, these days lack authenticity. And those few receive death threats if not death itself. I feel news media and media plays an important role in shaping the opinion of the people. However, once an opinion is formed, it cannot be changed easily because people prefer news which only strengthens their views and opinions on something or someone. How people fail to see that political parties influence news media is beyond me! The political parties pay to promote which that might work in their favour or against the opposition.
The present condition of major news channels has worsened in the past few years and, to say the least, it had spread nothing but pure hatred amongst the people, particularly against the minority community.
I understand that, recently, tensions between India and Pakistan had escalated. What are your thoughts on the issue and how has it impacted you?
The tensions have increased after the Pulwama attack and India is justified in its anger. I as an Indian feel no different than other Indians. However, there are some people, this includes politicians most of all, with a completely different mentality.
Once again, the blame falls on the entire Muslim community rather than just Pakistan. Every time a situation like this arises we, Muslims, are asked to prove our love and loyalty to our country. Why? Are we any less Indian than others?
I saw a video of some kids of the 7th standard of a government school and it shocked me to no end. The kids told the interviewer that they want to become a scientist so they could invent bombs. Do you see the level of hatred that is being spread throughout the country? I wonder whether it has an end to it! And once again, it all comes down to the role that the news media has to play.
How has the #metoo movement impacted India? What are some direct changes or lack of change you’ve seen?
I neither completely support nor I’m completely against the #metoo movement. I will never understand the concept of trending hashtags. Surely it brought about some great changes in Hollywood and I understand that it is important for people to speak up against crimes like sexual assault. If anything, it gives strength to others who have been through the same situation. But only tweeting about it does not mean it will change everything unless complaints are filed and certain action is taken against such people.
And that’s what happened with the #metoo movement in India. Out of those who came out and spoke against it only a few filed complaints. It also became a movement for naming and shaming and there were certain cases of people (men) committing suicide because they were falsely accused of sexual assault. Also, some cases were so old, that it’s difficult to prove the crime due to lack of evidence.
Another very important issue in certain parts of India is that people blame the victims for getting raped. This is quite disgusting, to say the least. And blaming the victim still happens. The #metoo movement in India didn’t even reach to the rural parts and even if it did and women would’ve spoken up, they would have been blamed for getting raped. So, women in rural parts of India rather stay quiet. As long as girls are blamed for getting raped because they were out late at night and wearing appealing clothes, I doubt any movement is going to change the mentality.
Also, I would have said the same about any other Twitter movement. Unless serious actions are taken, people generally forget these trending hashtags. And if I don’t support a movement, it does not imply that I support the crime. Rape is the worst and most heinous crime anyone could commit.
How do you feel about how Muslims and Indians, as a whole, are represented in pop culture and global media?
They are not represented enough. Period. At least not as an Indian-Muslim. And even if Indians and Muslims are represented, it’s done by Whites and they have a tendency of completely ruining everything.
For instance, I read a book with a Muslim character written by a White author. I don’t know if I could explain how horrible the representation was, without getting into details, for this interview. But that character was the worst character I’ve ever read.
What do you wish more people knew about what it is like to be Muslim and Indian?
First, I would like to see Indians and Muslims represented more globally. I don’t even remember the last time I saw an Indian represented globally.
If we talk about media, Muslims are not even represented enough in Bollywood. Every time Muslims are represented in any form of media, it is done to show either terrorism or oppression. I would love to see Muslims as normal people who lead as normal a life as others. I don’t mean this for every Muslim, of course.
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