Veteran Bollywood and stage actor Naseeruddin Shah wrote at length on the issue of polarisation in the country and the need for Muslims to get over the feeling of being victimised. “It seems essential for Muslims in India to get over the feeling of victimisation they are in now; it is a trap all too easy to stumble into – we must determine to stop feeling persecuted, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding; we must stop hoping for salvation from somewhere and take matters into our own hands – not least of all to take pride in our Indian-ness and assert our claim on our country,” he wrote in a heartfelt column in the Hindustan Times.
Shah talked about his marriage with fellow actor Ratna Pathak Shah who is a Hindu and the challenges they faced as a couple. “My wife Ratna is Hindu, and we were married much before the term ‘love jihad’ was coined and acted upon. She and I both have no more than a ritualistic connection with our respective religions. Eid and Diwali are joyous occasions for us and we celebrate both with equal gusto – so our disparate religious upbringings didn’t merit a thought,” he wrote.
Known for his brilliant acting in films like ‘A Wednesday’ and “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’, Shah revealed that filling the religion column of his children was the trickiest thing for him to do. As a result, Shah and his wife decided to leave the choice with their children. “Religion never played a major part in my life anyway and my attempts to be what was called a ‘true Muslim’ ended when I was about twenty. I abandoned religion then and have never felt the need for it; Richard Dawkin‘s statement that religion has ‘nothing whatever to do with goodness’ does not need any verification when one looks at what’s happening everywhere in the name of religion.”
The piece was a part of the Being Muslim Now series, in which Shah also wrote about labelling Muslims as outsiders. “The visible increase in the sight of saffron scarves and tilaks, as well as on the other side beards, hijabs and topis in a country where barely ten years ago in most states (Maharashtra, Bengal, Kerala to name only three) Hindus were indistinguishable from Muslims, is cause for apprehension but this assertion of the club you belong to and the waving of its flag was waiting to happen,” he added.