Being Muslim in Modi’s India

4 weeks ago 24

Asia Pacific|Strangers in Their Own Land: Being Muslim in Modi’s India

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Families grapple with anguish and isolation as they try to raise their children in a country that increasingly questions their very identity.

Two barefoot men standing on prayer rugs in the room of a house bow in prayer.
Ziya Us Salam, an associate editor of The Hindu, praying at home with Shan Mohammad, a hafiz who visits to teach one of Mr. Salam’s daughters the Quran, in Noida, India. Credit...Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

Mujib MashalHari Kumar

May 18, 2024, 12:03 a.m. ET

It is a lonely feeling to know that your country’s leaders do not want you. To be vilified because you are a Muslim in what is now a largely Hindu-first India.

It colors everything. Friends, dear for decades, change. Neighbors hold back from neighborly gestures — no longer joining in celebrations, or knocking to inquire in moments of pain.

“It is a lifeless life,” said Ziya Us Salam, a writer who lives on the outskirts of Delhi with his wife, Uzma Ausaf, and their four daughters.

When he was a film critic for one of India’s main newspapers, Mr. Salam, 53, used to fill his time with cinema, art, music. Workdays ended with riding on the back of an older friend’s motorcycle to a favorite food stall for long chats. His wife, a fellow journalist, wrote about life, food and fashion.

Now, Mr. Salam’s routine is reduced to office and home, his thoughts occupied by heavier concerns. The constant ethnic profiling because he is “visibly Muslim” — by the bank teller, by the parking lot attendant, by fellow passengers on the train — is wearying, he said. Family conversations are darker, with both parents focused on raising their daughters in a country that increasingly questions or even tries to erase the markers of Muslims’ identity — how they dress, what they eat, even their Indianness altogether.


Mr. Salam and his daughter Mariam, a graduate student, at home. Credit...Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

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