• Tuesday, Mar 02, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:28 am

A commendable history of Assamese Muslims

  • Published at 10:46 pm February 18th, 2021
Cover-half-1200x720

Book review

From describing the positions of prominent Muslim actors and singers to Sufis and Pirs in Assam, Zafri Mudasser Nofil’s book The Identity Quotient: The Story of the Assamese Muslims attempts to recount the history of the Assamese Muslims, including their socio-political standing. Nofil describes the Assamese Muslims as distinct from those in other parts of India since their socio-ethnolinguistic identity precedes their religious identity. 

“This book tells how Muslims of Assam are different from the rest of the country. They take pride in calling themselves Assamese first and never consider themselves to be lesser Assamese than Assamese Hindus,” Nofil writes. Over the years, they have been assimilated into the mainstream of Assamese society to such an extent that save for religion, there is not much to differentiate them from people of other Assamese backgrounds.

Sarbananda Sonowal, chief minister of Assam, confirms in the foreword of this book that “Assam has over the years set a perfect example of harmonious coexistence of Hindus and Muslims. The state has been an epitome of Hindu-Muslim unity which becomes evident from the symbiosis of Hindu-Muslim friendship.” Not only the religious coexistence of Hindus and Muslims in Assam but the cultural synchronicity of several centuries also demonstrate that Assamese people are more into their cultural identity than to submit themselves to the theological pathways. 

Evidently, in order to strengthen the balance in cultural harmony, the Assamese Muslims have contributed a lot to Assamese society. The contribution of Assamese Muslims over the years, Nofil says, have been multi-faceted, diverse and immense. Be it politics, civil services, literature, art, education, law, sports, music, films and entertainment, they have excelled in every field, Nofil elaborates.

The book unravels the journey of this community and looks at how they have contributed significantly to the composite heritage of the state. Nofil says that he has “attempted to write this book as narrative non-fiction” though he has abundantly “quoted from historical texts that are relevant to the discussion.” A history of the Assamese Muslims from the medieval era has been traced by Nofil with sufficient reference to historians and anthropologists who have drawn on the indigenous Muslims of Assam. 

However, the recent attempts to enforce the controversial citizenship law and national register of citizens (NRC) have caused tension among the Muslim communities all over India, as well as in Assam. Nofil feels that Assamese Muslims are more concerned with their socio-ethnolinguistic identity of being an Assamese rather than being a Muslim and are discriminated because of this religious identity. Although Nofil, an Assamese Muslim himself, very rarely felt any discrimination during his early years, he regrets that lately the Muslims have been suffering from the ignominy of being bracketed with illegal immigrants as “Miya”. Therefore, clearly, for an Assamese Muslim the humiliation triggered by their religious identity does not offend as much as the mortification of being labelled as non-Assamese does. 

All in all, this book is clearly a commendable attempt that manifests a writer’s love and pride of his own socio-ethnolinguistic identity. Amidst the controversial NRC and CAA being enforced in India, this book has become highly relevant and thought-provoking.

Afsana Rahman reviews books for Arts & Letters


57
Facebook 54
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail