Trigger Warning: Hate Speech, Islamophobia

Umang, the fest of ENSO, the Entrepreneurship Cell of Dyal Singh College witnessed stand-up comedian Vivek Samtani make Islamophobic remarks through his jokes. Consequently, the stand-up comedian along with ENSO issued a public apology followed by condemnation posts by the Student Federation of India (SFI).

On 22 April, 2024, stand-up comedian Vivek Samtani performed at Umang, the societal fest of ENSO, the Entrepreneurship Cell of Dyal Singh College. However, the performance was interrupted by hate remarks, targeting the Muslim community, as can be observed from this video that has been circulated widely across social media. However, soon enough the comedian issued a public apology on stage, followed by ENSO issuing apologies on their social media handles as well. 

Post the event, SFI Delhi University issued a press release dated 24 April, 2024, condemning the Islamophobic comments passed during the event and urged, “strict action against perpetrators”.

The Press Release quotes that:

“By trivializing acts of terrorism and reducing Muslims to caricatures of violence, these so-called “jokes” contribute to the stigmatization and marginalization of an already vulnerable community. In a country where Muslims are routinely targeted and demonized, such rhetoric only serves to fuel hatred and intolerance. It has no place in our universities and should be condemned unequivocally by the student community!”

The Press Release also draws upon the recent pre-election speech by the Prime Minister in Rajasthan:

“This insidious narrative has been actively promoted by certain political leaders, including the Prime Minister, who has made derogatory remarks referring to Muslims as “infiltrators” and accused them of “producing many children” to skew demographics.”

The Press Release concludes with, “comedy cannot be employed as a tool to pass off such dehumanization.”

Aditi, Delhi University Convenor of SFI confirms that ENSO of Dyal Singh College sought an apology from the stand-up comedian after the event and he did so, as can be observed from this video. She adds that,

“ENSO has ensured that they do not support such hateful remarks that have been advocated by the stand-up comedian, Vivek Samtani. SFI has put out a statement that we understand ENSO’s statement of apology but hold the comedian responsible for his speech. We might go ahead with an FIR against the comedian.”

An excerpt from SFI’s statement supporting ENSO’s action against the comedian reads that:

SFI Delhi University welcomes the statement issued by ENSO of DSC against the Islamophobic remarks. We welcome their acknowledgement of the seriousness of the matter and their commitment to rectifying the situation. It is encouraging to see swift action taken in response to the offensive comments made during the stand-up comedy performance.”

Reaching out to team ENSO as to what conspired during the event, we were able to gauge that the society had forewarned the comedian before his performance to not pass any “offensive comments” or use “foul language” since such remarks would be considered  derogatory within an educational setting. The performance ensued with jokes pertaining to ‘ college drama – academics, relationships and the usual with Islamophobic comments sprinkled through the set. 

A member of ENSO, in conversation with DU Beat, mentions that:

“The comedy performance by Vivek Samtani was a closed event with around 200-250 members seated within the auditorium. However, before inviting the comedian we had researched upon his previous performances to make sure that nothing ‘problematic’ would ensue. But after his offensive remarks, our members sought a public apology from the comedian on stage which he rendered at that moment. Not just that, ENSO has posted a public apology to all on their Instagram handle and we have reached out personally to people to issue apologies. Post the event, our team had a conversation with the comedian within the conference room regarding his offensive remarks and the comedian even contacted us personally after leaving the college to check if the situation within the college had not worsened. However, members within ENSO have been receiving hateful messages ever since this event occurred, even though we are trying our best to resolve the issue.”

The public apology issued by ENSO on their Instagram page mentions that:

“We are deeply sorry for the recent incident at our event. Please know that we condemn the artist’s actions and are committed to rectifying the situation. We want to clarify that we do not support the offensive comments made by the artist. Despite our warnings to him, things didn’t go as planned, and we took immediate action. We have no personal affiliation with the artist however, we have asked him to issue a public apology as well.”

While the 15-second clip of Vivek Samtani’s performance has taken over the Internet, student bodies are willing to correct the situation so that such hateful instances do not arise within educational spaces in the future.

Read Also: The Hidden Economy of Hate

Featured Image Credits: Bharish for DU Beat

Priyanka Mukherjee

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The following piece seeks to present yet another easily dismissive view (read rant) of a Muslim in India. All names, people and incidents mentioned are NOT fictitious. Resemblance to any past event of dictatorship and fascism is NOT AT ALL coincidental. Any attempt to debase the piece as “anti-national” comes from a shrouded majoritarian privilege.

Few days back while I was flipping through the memories laden pages of my eleventh standard Political Science NCERT textbook revelling on the old nostalgia, I chanced upon Faiz Ahmed Faiz lines in one of the cartoons.

Hum to thahre ajnabi kitni mulakato ke baad

Khoon ke dhabbe dhulenge kitni barsaaton ke baad

(We remain strangers even after so many meetings

Blood stains remain even after so many rains.)

Indeed, the ongoing insurgency of our once dear democracy in the hands of the incumbent government gave new meanings to these lines. It is a known fact that the constant othering of the Muslims and other minorities has been normalised and conveniently subsumed in the state apparatus in the recent years. This manufacturing of hatred by the ruling party is certainly not a new phenomenon, but the extent to which it is practiced is certainly something that cannot be easily dismissed. The dehumanisation and humiliation experienced by certain sections of the people, especially religious minorities, cannot be easily language-d.

An imam stabbed and shot to death in a mosque that was burnt to the ground. A young doctor, walking home, set upon by an armed mob who thrashed and molested her. A teacher asked a kid to slap his classmate. An MP ridiculing another MP “terrorist” and hurling dehumanising slurs in the Indian Parliament. The incidents which took place in India over the last few months (and are increasingly a common sight), are seemingly unconnected, yet the victims were united by a common factor: they are all Muslims.

“In the early days of my college, in a class of 80+ students, my friend who was sitting beside me and I were made to stand up, our identities assumed because we were wearing hijab and asked by one of our senior professor, in a very condescending tone, if we ever faced discrimination in India,”

-a second year student of Delhi University.

A socially identifiable Muslim that fits in the perfect imagination of a stereotypical archetype is often seen at odds with the usual surroundings–worthy of suspicion, stares and second looks. In times of blatant and unapologetic Hindutva outfit of the government, practicing religion in public has become an increasingly dangerous exercise. A burkha donned lady is more carefully and suspiciously frisked at the metro station so does a cap wearing long bearded Muslim is exoticised and immediately seen as out of the place. Last month, when the violence against Muslims broke down in several parts of the country, I remember my father telling me that he has removed the hanging from his car’s rear-view mirror that had the verses of Qur’an written on it, as a step towards “precaution”. Muslim families are increasingly moving towards, what they consider, “religious neutral” names like Alia, Amir, Ayesha etc. to avoid being outrightly identified as Muslims. People avoid putting nameplates on their front doors for the fear of becoming targets of Hindutva outfits in the next communal violence. In such a political environment of Right-wing extremism, the public practice of religion for the minorities is becoming difficult day by day.

Another second year student who wishes to remain anonymous expressed her grief,

“I see way too many people than I’d like, defending violence against Muslims by turning the table and just blaming the Muslims for committing the violence themselves. Most of the times it’s my acquaintances or even friends; it makes me wonder how they actually perceive me.”

Being an ordinary Muslim in India involves waking up to at least one Islamophobic news and then for the rest of the day dissimulating your own identity for the fear of being identified. After a point our identities are just subsumed in the mere everydayness of these stories of discrimination and violence. The identity of a Muslim is battered against the social realities of the present systemic state oppression and is mutilated every single day–the vilified hypersexual outlook of Muslims that feed into the insecurity of the hyper-masculine Hindutva narrative of the nationalist discourse. The ritualistic nature of endless and unresponsive humiliation has led to conscious effort to not socially “appear as Muslims”; running away from our own identities. Will an ‘Indian Muslim’ continue to be an oxymoron? How long will our words of endearment—ammi, abbu, bhaijan, aapa will be misappropriated to give perverse connotations? How long our citizenship questioned, our identities thwarted, our cultures denigrated and our existence diminished? Maybe in the end of the day, what remains is the tiredness and a helpless resignation when we are questioned and made to question ourselves—who are we?

Read Also: Islamophobia in Delhi University’s Student Community: A myth or Reality?

Image credit: The Indian Express 

Samra Iqbal

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17 years ago, no one had heard of Islamophobia. While some scholars claim that Islamophobia existed in premise before the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001, others counter that argument by saying that it increased in frequency and notoriety during the past decade. But the focus of this  article is whether Islamophobia exists within the student community of the University of Delhi (DU).

“Why do you wear this?”, “Can you take it off?”, and “I want to see your hair!” In the last two years as a student in DU, my friend Wasila had been at the receiving end of many such remarks. In conversation with DU Beat, Wasila Nizami, a student pursuing Political Science Honours in Miranda House, questioned, “If the student community in the country’s most liberal environment holds this kind of mindset, what will the rest of India think about those who wear headscarves over long, black dresses?” When asked whether she has tried to bring this to the notice of the authorities, she answered, “Forget the authorities. Even those who claim to represent us-members of the Students’ Union-would not respond appropriately to allegations of Islamophobia.”

Cases of failed justice for harassment committed against the Muslim students in DU has driven home a feeling amongst the affected that they are not respected by those who follow other faiths within the varsity. Shabnam Sultana, a student pursuing History Honours from Ramjas College, told DU Beat, “Most college departments refuse to accept that religious bullying takes place in their campuses.” Speaking on her own troubled experience as a student following the tenets of Islam, she remarked, “From the time I take the e-rickshaw to college to the time I take the e-rickshaw to my PG, I feel concerned about my own safety because my hijab gives out my identity.”

Even to outside observers, it is becoming evident that this premier institution has a tendency to ostracise and single out students belonging to the Muslim community. Jahnavi Sharma, a PhD scholar in JNU and a DU graduate, told DU Beat, “In canteens, classrooms, and common rooms, a Muslim student might be singled out and called a Pakistani or the ISIS. It might be said to evoke laughter or might be meant as a joke, but it’s not. It actually amounts to bullying and tormenting.”

Should we treat every attack on a Muslim student as Islamophobic? If a Kashmiri student is assaulted, is this a form of political violence or an Islamophobic incident? But not only in terms of their physical attire, Muslim students feel a sense of discomfort even in terms of the intellectual scenario prevailing in the varsity. They do not feel comfortable discussing terrorism in class, and most are of the belief that there is no safe space or forum on campus to discuss the issues that affect them. Arshad Jawid, a student pursuing post graduation from the Department of Statistics in DU, said, “Muslim students, even at the post-graduate level, hesitate to engage in political debate, let alone contest the DUSU elections.”

A professor at Miranda House told our correspondent on conditions of anonymity, “Sometimes, even the professors can be the perpetrators of Islamophobia. I have had Muslim students coming to me with stories of professors who espouse views that malign an entire faith.”

Our question of whether Islamophobia exists in DU or not was met with mixed reviews, as was expected. But as we conclude this article, we realised that the question we started out with is not important. What is important is to acknowledge that our universities are places which are meant to provide a safe space for all students to engage in debate and discussion, free from the fear of persecution, harm, and bigotry. Islamophobia or not, the first step is to accept that there’s a problem. This issue plagues the student community of DU, and hence we won’t get answers to this problem in the news studio debates with Arnab Goswami nor will we find the answers in Patricia Mukhim’s editorials. The answers will materialise when students start walking out of classes, demand the resignation of professors with parochial mindsets, and stage protests to draw attention to discrimination on campus.

17 years ago, no one had heard of Islamophobia. Now even when we hear of it, isn’t it ironic that we choose to ignore it?


Feature Image Credits: Artist Unknown, Image has been  taken from Feminism and Religion

Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak

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How many times has the sight of men clad in skull caps instilled a sense of fear in you? What makes the recitation of Quran and the offering of Namaz in public places an astounding spectacle? To answer these questions well, retrospectively, it is important to understand what Islamophobia is.

Islamophobia, as the name suggests, is the irrational and unfounded fear of Muslims and/or Islam, often times used as a political rhetoric. The term surfaced in the late twentieth century, only to reach an unprecedented peak, post the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks. The perpetrators of the same were 19 men affiliated to Al-Qaeda, a militant Islamist organisation. Having mentioned the involvement of an Islamist group in this dreadful act, it became all too inevitable for the Muslim community as a whole to not be viewed under the same radar as terrorists. Treated just as such since, their community has been under tremendous pressure from agencies all across the globe.

Their blatant ostracism from the mainstream affairs of the world is not a pleasant sight to behold. US President, Donald Trump, openly campaigning for an absolute ban on Muslims entering The States is a sickening ploy, more so because it was a political propaganda camouflaged as a mitigation measure against rebellion. He garnered an unbelievably huge response to his unlikely candidacy at the presidential elections by fanning the already seething flames of hostility towards Islam in the US.

Prominent American Muslim, Edward Mitchell IV of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told Al Jazeera that it is one thing to read anti-Muslim rhetoric on the internet or to see it on Fox News and it is an other thing to hear it from the president of the United States. The same can be said about Theresa May, only she does not out rightly admit to racism. Theresa May, Prime Minister of The United Kingdom turned a deaf ear to the incessant wailing of Muslim worshippers, celebrating Ramdaan at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, when a white van swerved sharply off the road and slammed into the crowd, killing one and injuring at least eight others. However, earlier in the same year when jihadists orchestrated an attack on London, in which eight people were killed, May was infuriated and issued a statement saying that there was far too much tolerance of Islamist extremism in the UK and announced civil liberties restriction. What May did in the latter, was indeed the right thing to do to in order to safe guard the interests of her citizens, however, the lack of reciprocal prosecution in the former suggests bigoted sentiments of the Prime Minister towards Islam.

The present day plight of Rohingya Muslims, the most vexed ethnic Muslim community in the world, is nothing short of horrific. Having to flee away from Myanmar, their home land, they find themselves negotiating the terms of refuge in neighboring nations, having to live without an identity, for what seems like an indefinite period of time. Mob lynching cases in India have been on the rise since the BJP government attained power in 2014, not to mention, the categorical slaughter of Muslim men under the pretext of beef consumption and cow annihilation. Pehlu Khan, Mohammad Aklaq, and Junaid Khan, are a few names out of a couple hundred that resonate with indignation and lost pride.

World domination as against a particular community, based on the suspicion of radical ties of a few with certain established militant organisation, is an extremely poor choice, especially when we are living in a polar world, where the dissemination of information is the freehold of media houses, a privilege which ought to be exploited, like all others. “If I was not a Muslim and all I knew about Islam is what I saw in the evening news, I might be afraid of Muslims too,” says Mitchell to Al Jazeera, highlighting the deplorable state of moral policing in media and print stations.

It is important to separate religious affiliations from counter terrorism. Terrorism is not the sole propriety of a particular community. The sinful acts of a few radical extremists should not lead the remaining 1.6 billion into apologetic surrender. It is the job, not just of the government but also of the masses to scrutinise the current scenario and come up with a mechanism to weed out the rotten lot and save Islamism of religious defamation.


Feature Image Credits: The Express Tribune Blog

Lakshita Arora
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