This is not an angry letter, and if you insist it is, feel free to say that, for we seem to have a global consensus on free speech in a long time.
A friend remarked in good humor hours after the firing at the French satirical newspaper "Why yaar, you Muslims kill all the time?" It was a remark made in good humour, she suggested, just as my friends in Class 5 would ask me, presumably in similar fun ribbing spirit, before an Indo- Pak cricket match "So Pakistan today, na?"
My faith is a personal matter and sacrosanct. Having said that, I consider myself a proud Muslim. I have taken the most bigoted comments on my work in my stride though most of my investigations seen through the prism of religion, judging by the comments posted on my pieces and the reactions I provoke in person from people who discuss my work.
My reportage on fake encounters has been dissected with clinical precision, generating fury and an interrogation of my credentials, while my investigations on tribals and Dalits, for which I have received prestigious awards, have largely gone unnoticed by my critics and friends alike.
When I write this today, every word seethes with frustration. Because, my identity today appears to have value only as a terror apologist, a Muslim who stands up to bigotry. I have to frame a politically-correct response post every terror attack, some allegedly by members of the Muslim community, and others where the perpetrators were clearly misguided Islamic fanatics who stand in absolute contradiction to everything believers like me have ever stood for.
It baffles me when I am singled out for an apology. I wonder if my Tamil friends have ever been asked to apologise for the terror acts of the LTTE, for the suicide bombings by the Tamil Tigers, including the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
It baffles me when Brahmins in the country are not singled out when a family of Dalit women is raped and murdered in broad daylight in Khairlanji, and when the upper caste commits atrocities on Dalits across the country in the name of faith.
It baffles me that never is a Christian looked at with suspicion or anger over the attacks on abortion clinics, or the seemingly placid acceptance of a white who goes on a shooting spree of innocent students, or a Jew asked to apologize over the carnage of Palestinians. Is an American asked to apologize for innocent Afghans and Iraqis killed by the US Army in collateral damage?
Why do you sit in assumption over my morals and my essential humanity when you call me and ask me, "So what do you think about that attack?"
I feel compelled - sometimes pressured - to tweet stories of the religious identity of the officer who died saving the lives of journalists in France. Why?
Why am I forced to let everyone know that the employee of a kosher supermarket, who risked his life to save the lives of Jews from a desperate gunman, was a Muslim?
Why am I forced to post pictures of Muslims in France offering namaaz for the slain journalists?
Why am I forced to reiterate to my friends, "Hey, listen, the commanding officer in the final raid on the assailants was a Muslim"?
As I write this today, I am also assured that bigotry and this mindless Islamophobia will not be allowed a free rein, and the front-runners who will defend my faith and its followers from this mindless hate will be non-Muslims.
It is heartening to see that for every Rupert Murdoch who gives voice to this pandemic bigotry, there are a hundred other journalists, activists, humanists across the globe who are fighting an unpopular battle each day to defend Muslims from this rampant prejudice.