Education Scholarships

Direct link to the various education scholarships offered by the Government of India

List of Private NGOs offering education scholarships

Ummid Assistant

Application form for OBC & Domicile Certificate Certificates (Urdu)

Admission open to AMU off campus centers at Murshidabad (WB) and at Malappuram (Kerala). Click here for admission form.

Welcome Guest! You are here: Home » Views & Analysis

The Cultural Disconnect

Thursday November 04, 2010 10:28:35 PM, Dr. Fatima Shahnaz,

Related Article

Daughters of the Urdu culture

In the past decade, the drumbeats across the nation regarding the state of the Urdu language have sent conflicting signals. In the early phase, Urdu, assimilated with the Muslim population in India, was highly politicized. It subsequently experienced the  »

Listen To The Muslim Woman’s Voice

Muffled Voices: Socio-Cultural Impediments to Indian Muslim Women’s Struggles for Gender Justice

Seminar cum workshop on 'Rights of Muslim Women - Theory and Practice'

Media Censorship

When I sent out my article on gender issues and my critique of the feudal/patriarchal society of Hyderabad, the muted response from the Urdu media in this city eloquently bespoke of the prevailing mindsets in the city. It was ironic that while Muslims indulged in their victimhood in India, blaming outside enemies for their oppression, self-censorship prevents them from seeing the ‘enemy within,’ the internal lacunae shackling the community. A free press is one of the pillars of democracy, and the media its ‘fourth estate’, as Edmund Burke called it. It is questionable whether democracy has truly come to, or been digested by, India, and what ‘participatory democracy’ meant for women since both the colonial and feudal yokes were (supposedly) lifted after Independence. While there was an outpouring of women joining Gandhi’s freedom struggle against British colonialism, these were mostly from the educated Hindu middleclass or elites, like the poet Sarojini Naidu. Muslim women, few and far between, continued to remain in their ‘harems’ or ‘purdah quarters,’ the seraglios for women. Women of the nobility of Hyderabad like my own female ancestry were totally segregated from participating in public life, sometimes even deprived of a formal education (although some were tutored privately). One exception was my maternal grandmother, raised in a royal family in northern India, who rebelled against her class and became one of the Indian revolutionaries with Mohandas K. Gandhi. It is a source of pride for me to strive to follow in her footsteps through my own social activism and democratic politics. In the broader Indian spectrum, Hyderabad, with its feudal past, remains a ‘sub-culture’ with fossilized male traditionalism virtually impervious to change.


Despite the luminary women who have emerged in public life in post-partition India, the insidious reality indicates that the legacies of both colonial policies and feudalistic attitudes are not just thriving, but worse, holding entire segments of the nation hostage to exploitative practices masked as ‘tradition’. The new ‘corporatocracy’ of India, and Hyderabad as the hub of the IT sector, embody the shareholders’ (foreign investors’) paradise where new forms of ‘despotic capitalism’ and monetarism have replaced patriarchal power, whose modern face comes as paternalistic capitalism.


The media monopoly in Hyderabad, my hometown, is controlled by three major dailies, namely Siasat (once vocal during the Independence movement), Etemaad (that has worked for the uplift of certain constituencies of Muslims in the city) and the Munsif Daily. However, the first two of these, Siasat and Etemaad, are aligned with political Parties, Siasat with the Telegu Desam led by former Chief Minister of Hyderabad, Chandrababu Naidu; and Etemaad is the mouthpiece of the MIM, the Muslim party allied with the Congress in power, and headed by a syndicate of the Owaissi family. Due to this politicization or self-interest of the media-political-corporate nexus, there are few (and sub-standard) outlets for Muslims to voice the problems of their community. The cultural ‘disconnect’ of minority Muslims deepens without a ‘free press’ to support it, further deepening its political alienation and disempowerment. My submissions on Muslim women to Urdu newspapers seemed to be lost in cyberspace. The Urdu media itself has come under severe criticism for being weak (by pandering to political interests) and of a low standard. As one critic, AN Shibli (, July 23, 2010) described it in an article entitled “Urdu Media: Suffering in Silence,” the Urdu newspapers in India favored “Nazm and Ghazal” over topics of any relevance or significance such as informative articles or investigative stories. This summarizes the dilemma facing the Urdu press. While statistics show that there is a profusion of Urdu newspapers, their circulation figures, which are “very poor,” are “exaggerated.” The author notes “the basic motivation behind most of the Urdu newspapers is to get political benefits.” Their survival depends on advertisements; but the nation-wide marginalization of Urdu in India prevails. “In most cases Urdu journalists are not invited to press conferences,” he notes. Additionally, internal problems hamper the Urdu press: “The major problem with the Urdu media is that they pay a very paltry amount to their staff. Many take on another job to make ends meet.”  There is the issue of standard as well: “The standard of Urdu journalism and the journalist is very low”. Often the editors themselves are computer-illiterate, and the news is re-cycled from official press outlets or newspapers in other languages. Due to these factors the writer concludes, “Urdu journalism needs a change of style, contents and standards.”


Minority Women’s Voices

As a tool of political power or private interests, the media cannot remedy what may become a dysfunctional society maladjusted to the mainstream Indian culture. One critic described the Indian democracy as a ‘functioning anarchy’. In the prevailing socio-political climate is it surprising, that women’s voices are lost or drowned, and Muslim women’s presence confined to invisibility, shrouded behind ‘burkhas’ where they are virtually a faceless non-entity? This is the stereotype of Muslim minority women inevitably projected in a largely Islamophobic mainstream Indian media, even the English language press; and from the absence of Muslim women in the political sphere, as television anchor-persons or in other visible jobs, their marginalization is flagrant. The Muslim women who have succeeded in academia or the political sector are generally connected to elites. Open any newspaper in English in India and the long roster of awards or public appointments indicates a staggering absenteeism of Muslim women. Then, there is the broader national context, the pervasive (albeit subtle) male chauvinism in the Indian political establishment: the Reservations Bill for Women, passed in the Rajya Sabha, was not even tabled in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House of Parliament). It will be presented for the third time in Parliament and remains blocked, due to some chauvinistic politicians. Without the collusion of Muslim men, politicians, media or opinion-makers, the backward status and isolation of Muslim women remains unchanged. The gag-rule is imposed on them from the media itself, from the outside as well as from within. The average Indian Muslim woman, without access to external support, might well ask: where do I go for help? Who do I turn to, without the economic means to get legal advice, or know my rights? What happens in the case of divorce, domestic abuse? Without aid from their families, must Muslim women roam homelessly? Will they be driven to marry non-Muslims, Hindus or others, for security (which is already happening). Three young women in my own family have married Hindus, but the old news blackout hides these ‘transgressions’ (as ‘conventional’ society views them).Criticism is forthcoming, but where are the solutions? Women are scapegoated, stigmatized, punished or pilloried, but not the social ills that are the root-cause of their predicament. What about raising children in the Islamic faith? What about forced conversions of Muslim women and children to the majority Hinduism? One common feature in Hyderabad today is the proliferation of burkha-clad Muslim women with babies begging in streets, a sight rarely visible under former Muslim rulers. Will Muslim girls of the minority be forced into prostitution, to support their families? In the seventies many minor girls were married off to Arab sheiks, much older, causing a scandal in India until Prime Minister Indira Gandhi stopped the practice among poor Muslim families. With the breakdown of traditional families themselves as Muslim youth are forced to go abroad to seek employment, even the family barely provides an adequate support system. The media circus over the divorce of the Pakistan cricket-player, Shoaib Malik, from one Muslim woman and remarriage to the Indian tennis star, Sania Mirza, in Hyderabad, shows the total lack of social organization in such cases. In traditional Muslim societies the issues might be quietly resolved within the Muslim community or family, but without the infrastructure available, Hyderabad was left with the embarrassment of an ugly divorce battle that turned into a national and international ‘tamasha’ show ridiculing Muslims in the Indian and Western media. This is the “new” Hyderabad, the ‘Page-3’ technocratic city of a celebrity-obsessed culture. The cultural dichotomy for Muslim women is an ongoing challenge, a battle for survival.


Gender Divide

Even the so-called liberal factions of the English mainstream press are corrupted by ‘saffronization’ again often covert. One can only surmise what has happened to the Indian media as a whole, not merely the Urdu media! With saffronization on one side, the walls of bigotry or tokenism to mollify the minority in the English press, there are few outlets for free expression vocalizing minority issues. Without access to funding or employment, Muslim women are powerless to create their own media, as American women have a profusion of journals, magazines and television outlets focusing on women’s issues. When I was invited to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2004 to deliver a lecture on international human rights, I was highly impressed by the Ministry for Women, entirely run by women, with state-of-the-art high tech services, computers and access to information on the internet (and open debate on gender issues, abortion, AIDs, healthcare etc.) Even in Pakistan, from televised interviews, one sees Muslim women occupying prominent positions in the government. The prevailing ‘Brahminic’ orthodoxy of the Indian political establishment marginalizes Muslim minority women from attaining leadership positions in government, with competition from Muslim men who occupy the few seats available. In this way, the state maintains a state of tension and backwardness in the minority community, an incentive to violence or radicalization. The mainstream media reports focus on negative Muslim stereotypes, showing a frustrated community such as the barriers of gender discrimination in male-dominant Muslim societies themselves, with regressive self-proclaimed “leaders” sometimes appearing on television to denounce the education or emancipation of their own women in the public sector. A divide between the “moderate,” “secular” or “liberal-minded” Muslims and so-called “traditionalists” widens the split in the minority community, and factions of Muslim women themselves may be recruited to isolate or intimidate opposition voices from their own gender. Such retrogressive mindsets underline the compelling need for an attitudinal change, without which the community remains both stagnant and reactionary. It continues to show knee-jerk or reflexive reactions to majoritarianism, without substantive solutions within. The Muslim media remains in bondage to this chain reaction, or reactionary mode. During a press conference in Delhi, I heard the international author and activist, Tariq Aziz, state that he had noted an alarming degeneration in the Indian media as a whole in a single decade since the early nineties. This confirms the isolation felt by minority women, which is two-pronged: the Hindu mainstream media is a dead-end for these women to voice their needs. With Islam-bashing and anti-Islamic articles vilifying Indian Muslims as “terrorists,” in-depth insights into the social dysfunctions of the marginalized community are lacking in the mainstream, while bigotry and Islamophobia keep the cauldron of communalism burning. Sensationalism, demonization of minorities, terror all “sell” stories, and the media is a marketing commodity.


The role of editorial boards themselves, as part of the male phalanx or self-interest, reflects the sycophancy and cronyism of the former feudal system lingering on in our city. Public speeches on issues concerning the minority community often look like boys’ football rallies or cricket matches, with countless (male) VIPs crowding the stage and hogging the microphone for endless insipid speeches. It is not surprising that few women attend these gatherings. In a publicity-hungry culture, the image (people eager to be seen) bypasses the message, the vital issues that reflect community needs and deprivations. In vote-bank politics or political opportunism by leaders the real issues of concern to the public, or women, are rarely addressed. One frustrated Muslim woman at a conference in the city which I attended some years back stood up and said outright, “Who are these bearded men of the Muslim ‘Wakhf Board? What gives them the right to speak for us, or to assume the leadership of the Muslims in India?” Such attitudes merely reflect a fraction of the internal tensions among Muslims themselves. My own article on the decay of a culture and its Urdu language lifted some of the taboos, such as the breakdown of intra-personal relationships in old feudal families like ours. But ancient walls of repression revealed the dilemma of Muslims in India, and women in particular. The disconnect between a society and its culture is symptomatic of the deeper identity crisis simmering within, that explodes sporadically under communal pressures through agitation or violence, then subsides into apathy once more. Such reflexive, and extremist, attitudes merely serve the interests of anti-Islamic forces. The lack of a concerted and cohesive action-plan, of solidarity and support groups promoting development among Muslims, in addition to the poverty in government support programs, are some of the underlying causes for their failure to address the need for changing mindsets. But this is only one tip of the iceberg, the cultural identity crisis that afflicts dying minorities and the assault on the Urdu language.



Fatima Shahnaz, Ph.D. Sorbonne University, Paris, France, (frmly) visiting professor (political science) at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, and Hyderabad Central University, is a writer and President of the India Peace Organization, an international human rights advocacy. She can be reached at:






  Bookmark and Share                                          Home | Top of the Page

Comment on this article

E-mail Address:
Write here...

News Pick

Health Guidelines for pilgrims to make Haj infection-free

Millions of pilgrims are heading for Makkah for Haj. The number of people performing the annual pilgrimage being huge, there are many occasions during the annual pilgrimage when the pilgrims arriving from more tha   »

Obama accepts 'shellacking'; will work with Republicans

US President Barack Obama took responsibility for the voter discontent that led to the "shellacking" of Democrats in congressional elections, while pledging Wednesday to work with the newly  »

Domestic threats more serious than external ones: Ansari

Domestic threats "loom large" in the list of threats facing the nation, apart from external security issues, Vice President Mohammad   »

Kerala to seek federal help in probing US survey

Kerala will seek central government help to unravel the mystery behind the motive of a controversial survey - which had questions related to Muslims - conducted by a US organisation here last month. "We will seek the    »

Kendriya Vidyalayas to offer skill development

Kendriya Vidyalaya campuses will now be available for skill development courses after school hours, the human resource development ministry said Wednesday. The decision was taken by the board of governors of  »

Israel's deputy PM cancels Britain trip to evade arrest

Israel's deputy prime minister Dan Meridor was forced to cancel his trip to Britain following warnings that he could be arrested for alleged war crimes, a media report said. Meridor, who is also the Israeli minister for   »

More Headlines

President, PM greet nation on Diwali

India Shining? Income grows, development doesn't, says UNDP report

Nizam's palace turned Taj Hotel opens

India behind Pakistan on human development indices: UN report

EU bans seafood from Pakistan

Indian IT companies provide solution, not a problem: Pilot

Art of Living serves menu of 5,600 dishes

20 sentenced to life for murder of 3 Dalits

Cyclone may hit Tamil Nadu, Andhra

Sonia Gandhi among 10 most powerful in world: Forbes

Cabinet clears bill against workplace sexual harassment

Bangladeshi American makes it to US House

1984 anti-Sikh riots: Canadian party seeks justice

Why Indian Muslims should welcome Obama

Health Guidelines for pilgrims to make Haj infection-free

Obama accepts 'shellacking'; will work with Republicans




Top Stories

Why Indian Muslims should welcome Obama

President Barack Hussein Obama would be on an official visit to India, the homeland of the second largest Muslim community in the world, between 6-9 November 2010, the first one to the largest democracy which has   »

Gandhi and King - Obama's tryst with two heroes in Mani Bhavan

Obama better than Bush, so no protests, say Indian Muslims


Picture of the Day

President of Republic of Malawi Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika inspecting the Guard of Honour, at the ceremonial reception, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi on November 03, 2010.

(Photo: BM Meena)


  Most Read

Sonia Gandhi among 10 most powerful in world: Forbes

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been ranked ninth in the list of world's most powerful people by the Forbes magazine, which put Chinese President Hu Jintao on the top. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh occupied the 18th place. "Despite Italian   »

1984 anti-Sikh riots: Canadian party seeks justice

Canadian opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which is desperately trying to woo the Sikh community, Wednesday described the anti-Sikh riots following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination as "the tragic pogroms of 1984 that targeted Sikh men, women and children"  »



RSS  |  Contact us

| Quick links



Subscribe to

Ummid Assistant






About us




Government Schemes











Contact us





      Disclaimer | Terms of Use | Advertise with us | Link Exchange is part of the Awaz Multimedia & Publications providing World News, News Analysis and Feature Articles on Education, Health. Politics, Technology, Sports, Entertainment, Industry etc. The articles or the views displayed on this website are for public information and in no way describe the editorial views. The users are entitled to use this site subject to the terms and conditions mentioned.

© 2010 Awaz Multimedia & Publications. All rights reserved.