Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam is remembered with high reverence by Indians and the world. He is an icon for Students, Technologists, Managers, Policy makers, Politicians, and general public. Every section of the society is enthusiastic to identify him with them and flaunt him as their icon. But, he is not seen as as a icon of Muslims, Islam or at least of Indian Muslims. He is not a role model for Muslim youth.
Why should his role as a model be restricted to youth of a community? Why should he be diminished to an Islamic icon when he consistently exhibited his leadership to much wider audience overcoming many barriers. These are invalid questions. The valid answer is that Kalam may be much above a section of the society. But, the point of analysis is that why a section of the society is reluctant to own him up as a role model despite having many commonalities between him and that particular section of the society?
When Dr. Abdul Kalam was nominated for president post, Dr Rafiq Zakaria, a Islamic scholar and a Congressman – wrote in The Asian Age that presidential nominee A P J Abdul Kalam cannot be considered a Muslim. The main reasons were three. First, APJ was not involved in the affairs of the community. Second, he did not follow Islamic tenets like fasting during Ramzaan, saying namaaz five times a day. Third, Kalam referred Bhagvad Gita for guidance and was fascinated with if not devoted to Sri Krishna. Dr. Zakaria concluded that except for the fact that Dr. APJ was born with a Muslim name, there was nothing Muslim about Kalam.
The logic is treated as convoluted. But, the same logic is at work in the minds of those who are not willing to project Kalam as a role model of Muslims – before when he was living and now after he is dead.
The relevance of this question was raised by Saisuresh Sivaswamy, in his aticle in Rediff on 22nd June 2002. At present, there are constant stream of reports of Muslims bursting crackers when Pakistan wins, Muslims getting involved in crime, and Muslims creating trouble and generating public nuisance in the excuse of practicing of Islam. Muslims are cursed for reducing Hindus to refugees when not gunning them down. The fear of communal riots, and the fear of Jihadi violence is lurking the society. A real solution, uncompromising with the distorted concepts and trouble mongers, is a necessity of the day.
As part of such solution, India needs more Muslims like Dr Kalam, who represent the awesome synthesis between culture and religion. Shashi Tharoor in his article published in BBC, considers Dr. KPJ as eclectic. Dr. KPJ melded the Islam into which he was born with a strong sense of the traditions in which his civilization was anchored. Those real Muslims, according to Dr. Zakaria, may not be able to provide the solution as evident from the happenings of the Levant region. It is in this context, that Muslim youth need the role model of Dr. APJ more than any other section of the society. Islamic scholars or Congress leaders such as Dr. Zakaria need to explain Islam in the context of life and values of Dr. APJ instead of those unworthy examples of Yakub, Salman, and Owaisi.
Dr. APJ, acccording to Shashi Tharoor, offered Namaz and lived the life of a Muslim. Dr. APJ has lived a model life overcoming the narrow interpretations of Islam. Now, it is the responsibility of the media to take that model to the needy populations.