In the fitness of things, we should return the favour and refuse Donald Trump a visa to India. Pollution levels may have already frighte ned him off, but if he is the tough guy he claims to be, he might still want to come over.But for the record, whether he applies for it or not, we should loudly announce that Trump has been denied “anticipatory visa“ and is no longer welcome in democratic India. This might hurt him a lot, but no Taj Mahal and no Red Fort for the bad, bad boy .
The more Trump gains in his presidential race, the better our democracy looks. No serious contender for prime ministership in India could ever say that we should shut out Muslims from entering India. Such a person may not only earn the displeasure of the Election Commission but would have to protest, again and again, that the press has, as usual, misread simple sentences.
But not Trump. He claims it is his brimming-over common sense that led him to the truth that Muslims must be kept out of America; the home of the brave, the free, and the Christians. He said this with a passion as if struck by a revelation, no less.The rule of thumb for spotting a fascist is when a person proclaims that his religion is the most tolerant, the most merciful.
Yet just because opinions of this kind are popular, does not make them democratic. The basic principles of our Constitution, and of other peace seeking countries, is the protection of minoritiesof all kinds. This is why democracy is not just a set of irritating rules; it actually has a civilising mission.
So majoritarianism does not democracy make. It is a cliché to recall the horror of an elected leader like Hitler, but it is a true story and its lessons should be heeded. If democracy were only about majorities, then watch out. The minority today could become extinct tomorrow and a fresh minority might emerge.
When that happens, a cocky majoritarian might suddenly become a squirming minority . Unchecked majority opinion is compelled, by its very logic, to make fresh minorities all the time; else how would this prejudice survive?
What these majoritarian leaders refuse to realise is how similar they are to the people they publicly detest. As Imam Sohaib Sultan, first full time Muslim Coordinator and Chaplain of Princeton University said: “Donald Trump is to America what ISIS is to Islam.“ Both undermine the essence of the cause they purportedly stand for; in one case religion and in the other, democracy .
In fact, democracy does best when extremism is undone by people of the same faith, whether Hindu, Sikh, Islamic or atheist.They get the courage to do this because they are assured of continuous support from society, from the state and, most of all, by those others who are differently religious.
On the other hand, if only Sikhs, Muslims or Hindus are expected to fight hotheads within their faiths, and the rest of society waits as if an opera is on, or as if they are being tested, that is when democracy goes wrong. If a community is isolated from the rest then the majority in the minority will be afraid to crack the bad eggs within.
Democracy needs to remember that within every minority group there is a majority waiting to come out. It is not patronising that does it; it is not daring them to prove it to others that does it; it is simply treating all citizens as equals that gives the majority in minority groups the guts to claim glory .
This is in plain sight and easy to believe because, at the end of the day when the bodies are counted, it is the majority in troubled minorities who pay the highest price. The bread that falls off your plate nearly always lands on the buttered side.
Everything about Trump reeks of cultivated carelessness; from his windtossed hairdo to his grasp of facts. It does not bother him that roughly 5,800 active American servicemen identify themselves as Muslims. CNN reported this week that American Muslims alerted law enforcement agencies of more terrorist suspects than US intelligence has. Try if you must, but it would be difficult to top that.
The majority in the minority desperately want to be citizens, like the rest.When they hesitate, it is because common street corner prejudices, such as those of Trump, make them defensive.Treat them as citizens and they are eager to step out; smear and tar them with the same brush, and they become defensive.
In India alone we have so many instances when it was the majority in the minority that actually did the job.For example, Sikh militancy was finally pushed back when the long suffering majority , encouraged by V P Singh’s message and the concerted action of the police, came out in the open and flouted the Khalistani call to boycott elections.
Recall also how Muslims in India famously ignored the call Imam Bukhari once gave to boycott the Republic Day parade. For those with short term memories, think of how Asaduddin Owaisi was rejected in recent Bihar elections.
Democracy should enliven such histories constantly , but, sadly , it lets ugly majoritarianism rub them out.
It is true, our evil manners live in brass, but our virtues we write in water.