By Promod Puri
It was quite a politically mature and bold statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party urging Muslim Canadians that they should join the Opposition Conservative Party, volunteer themselves, donates to the party, and help its candidates in the upcoming federal election.
In a statesman-like spirited message, Trudeau made his remarks at an event marking Eid celebration in Toronto recently.
Why did he put advice like this to Muslim Canadians as such guidance only benefits the Conservative Party by increasing its membership and votes?
The answer lies in Liberal PM’s interpretation of his liberal concept.
He said, “I want you to make Muslim volunteers important to the Conservatives so that never again would any mainstream party in Canada think it’s a good idea to stoke fears and divisions against Muslims or any other group of Canadians.”
Trudeau’s intellect words justify attention in contemporary political thinking.
The directive seeks entry of Muslims and people of other faiths into the rank and file of a major political party where disregard and phobia of minorities are being exploited for political gains from the majority populace.
Nevertheless, the Muslim involvement, or for that matter, any other minority group, helps change mindset attitudes against those who are openly or covertly looked down upon on a prejudiced political platform.
Trudeau’s message may be unusual, but as far as South-Asian Canadian communities are concerned, the political participation in the mainstream parties has been happening for quite some time.
However, when the South-Asian involvement takes place in the Conservative Party of Canada, seeking a change of racist behavior is not the motive. It could be opportunism. The Right-leaning party traditionally remains embedded in an image of being bigoted and xenophobic in its leadership and the core membership.
For that reason, Trudeau’s plea to the Muslims, besides helpful to the Conservatives in getting their votes will clean its blighted image. And the party can then genuinely sense the freshness of the multicultural spirit of Canadian society. In that respect, Trudeau’s remarks rise above party politics.
Turning to the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party, both have an appeal of being anti-racist, along with their secular and sympathetic understanding of people of different race and religious backgrounds. These two Centre-left and Left parties do not need the sort of entry suggested by Trudeau.
Now let us move beyond Canada and transport Trudeau’s proposition into the present political reality of India. This is a country where its image has been radically changed in the last five years.
What the Conservatives think about the Muslims in Canada, the same perception of Islamophobia is ingrained in the ruling Right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party’s leadership, its cadre, MLAs, MPs, and its entire ‘parivar’ of political and non-political fronts.
The anti-Muslim sentiments in the BJP are not only its striking aspect, but it thrives on this agenda backed by the wave of state-encouraged Hindu radicalism.
Besides the anti-Muslim, anti-minority and even the cloaked anti-Dalit stand of the BJP, the saffron party has a deep disdain for the progressive and intellectual community as well.
Do the Muslims in India join the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party en-masse?
That would be an almost utopian move. But what is practically possible that the progressive and intellectual community can, without hesitation, join the BJP and make an effective review of its anti-minority and Hindu-nationalism stance.
After all, the BJP itself has almost hollow or little intellectual and educational credentials in its leadership as well as at the grassroots level.
It is in this intrusion into the BJP’s growing complex that the progressive and intellectual community can follow Trudeau’s political strategy. That very game plan would ensure changes in the BJP’s racist fundamentals. Otherwise, the party in its present avatar of committed engagement with the Hindutva agenda is posing a serious threat to the democratic structure of India.
If the progressive and intellectual community does not introduce itself into the BJP’s ideological cells, its critical assessment of the party just keeps circulating among its own Left-leaning membership without hitting the street.
(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com)