On the 31st August, the Indian regime published its updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) in India’s north-east state of Assam, which has a large Muslim population. The register, excluded nearly 2 million residents in the province from its list of valid citizens, effectively declaring them as “Foreigners”, and essentially rendering them ‘stateless’, even though many have lived in the region for decades or even over generations. It has been described as ‘the largest exercise worldwide in creating potential statelessness.’
Over the last few years, Assam’s 30 million people have had to prove that they are ‘genuine’ Indian nationals by providing documentary proof that they or their ancestors lived in the province prior to March 1971 – the year that Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan. This has been an arduous task for those who are poor or illiterate who have found it difficult to access the required state documents. Those not on the updated NRC have only 120 days to appeal by appearing before “Foreigner Tribunals” to challenge their exclusion. However, these courts have been labelled as deeply flawed by many, including having an entrenched bias against Bengali speaking Muslims in their decision making. Those who fail in their appeal could be arrested and placed in Assam’s detention ‘prison’ centres indefinitely, which has been described by many as inhumane and uninhabitable, or face the prospect of being deported from the country. The process has also split Muslim families, even between husband and wife, or parents and children, with some being included on the register while others excluded. The Indian government has claimed that the updating of the NRC is aimed at detecting and deporting illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. However, many have described the process as a political project aimed at recasting India’s concept of citizenship, and a witch hunt against Muslims because it disproportionately targets the Muslim minority in Assam, which comprises around one third of the population. Amit Shah, India’s home minister, has repeatedly referred to Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh as ‘termites’ and vowed to throw them into the Bay of Bengal. India’s ruling BJP government has announced intentions to replicate the citizenship register nationwide.
This latest move by the anti-Muslim Indian regime is simply an extension of Prime Minister Modi and his BJP’s extremist Hindu nationalistic agenda to marginalize, uproot and dominate over the presence of Islam in the country as well as reduce the state’s Muslim population. The use of citizenship as an instrument of exclusion of its Muslim population is further evidenced by the fact that the Modi government has tried to push legislation that would offer citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian descent but not to Muslims.
The writer, George Eliot, once wrote, “History, we know, is apt to repeat herself, and to foist very old incidents upon us with only a slight change of costume.” Indeed, in the last 9 decades, the Muslim Ummah has been living-proof of this statement, for it has been subject to statelessness or hounded out or displaced from land after land – whether in Palestine, India, Myanmar or elsewhere – despite living there for generations. Furthermore, Muslim refugees of war have been denied citizenship in state after state, chased away, or placed in inhumane squalid camps due to the toxic concept of nationalism.
They live in limbo, viewed as foreigners – hated, despised and unwanted – even in lands where they share the same Islamic belief as its people. Meanwhile, Muslims living under non-Muslim regimes, such as in China, India, Sri Lanka, and many Western states suffer from persecution or discrimination due to their Islamic beliefs including being prevented from practicing aspects of their Deen. Even under Muslim regimes, those pious Believers who wish to live under all the Laws of Allah (swt) and abide by all the tenets of their Deen are harassed, intimidated, defamed, imprisoned, tortured and even killed by the authorities for their devotion to their Rabb (swt).
Truly, in today’s world, that is deprived of the light, mercy and protection of the Islamic leadership and System of Allah (swt), the Khilafah (Caliphate) based upon the method of the Prophethood, the Muslim Ummah has no true home, no place of sanctuary, where they can practice their Deen fully, free from harassment and fear, and under the full protection and support of the law. In the absence of this great state, every Believer is a potential refugee, a potential ‘foreigner’ in a land they called home, or a potential victim of persecution or discrimination due to their Islamic beliefs or Islamic political views, where their right of citizenship, even in lands they were born in and lived their entire life, can be revoked at a whim by the fickle and unpredictable secular and other non-Islamic governments under which they live, leaving them unwanted and stateless. We have seen, for example, how even Muslim charity or medical workers who were citizens of the UK, but travelled to Syria to help their Muslim brothers and sisters affected by Assad’s brutal onslaught, have been stripped of their British citizenship.
Under the Khilafah, there is no distinction in the rights of citizenship of its people based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religious belief, or even how long they have lived within the state. Such discrimination is prohibited under its Islamic law. Indeed, the Shariah obliges that every individual who wishes to live under its just rule and be a citizen of the state, be afforded this right without distinction, and enjoy full protection of their life, religious beliefs, property and honour. Article 6 of the Draft Constitution for the Khilafah of Hizb ut Tahrir states, “All citizens of the State shall be treated equally regardless of religion, race, colour or any other matter. The State is forbidden to discriminate among its citizens in all matters, be it ruling or judicial, or caring of affairs.” Indeed, Allah (swt) says,
(وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ)
“And we have not sent you but as a mercy to the world.”
Under this just Islamic system of the Khilafah, the Believer will feel that they have found their true home!
Written by Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Director of the Women’s Section in The Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir