Main Bhi Muslim is a storytelling-led podcast that brings to light the journeys of the two co-hosts, Mariyam Haider and Sabika Muzaffar as Indian Muslims. The podcast is born out of the confusion that one experiences by virtue of being a Muslim in India and how this confusion further shapes one’s identity. Each episode of Main Bhi Muslim recreates experiences that the co-hosts have lived through, over the years, leading to an engaging conversation that highlights how the personal is inevitably political. From experiencing Islamophobia and internalising shame, to reclaiming confidence and courage as independent voices, Main Bhi Muslim is a journey towards broadening one’s understanding of the different identities that we embrace as a part of secular society.
The first episode of Main Bhi Muslim – ‘Naam Kya Bataayaa?’ (What did you say your name was?) – is the story of Sabika’s name and the weight it carries because it marks her out as a Muslim. The episode opens with Sabika introducing herself as a ‘liberal Muslim’, typecast into the role of being a ‘non-Muslim Muslim’. Her story takes the listeners to her undergraduate college days, where she is training to become a journalist. While seeking a front page story for an assignment, one thing leads to another and Sabika finds herself at Shiv Sena’s Delhi office where she decides to interview one of their representatives. Over the course of their discussion, the Shiv Sena representative openly shares his thoughts and towards the end asks Sabika, “Naam kya bataayaa aapne?” (What did you say your name was?) To which, Sabika, spontaneously says, “Sabika. You know… like Sarika?” The sudden conscious shift in her name’s pronunciation and its association with a less Muslim name, is a flight response that Sabika gives, without understanding why. What seems as a smart undercover stunt, impresses upon her psyche a deeper questioning – “Is Sabika uncomfortable with her identity as a Muslim?“
Sabika and Mariyam close this episode of Main Bhi Muslim by bringing to light the anxiety one tackles because of a Muslim name and subsequently, Muslim identities. Mariyam brings in the perspective of ‘her lengthy Muslim name’, leading her to avoid using her middle name. Sabika remarks on the importance of understanding one’s internalised Islamophobia and how it flares up in situations where the identity is under the radar. The conversation dives deeper into how can one dissolve these apprehensions and build a stronger connection with one’s identity as an Indian, as a Muslim and everything in between.
Main Bhi Muslim is thus an initiative built on creating space for all kinds of Muslims – the 0.01 percent, the fringe, the othered and the one still finding their way, as a Muslim. Because if Manto felt forced to flee India because he was Muslim enough to be killed, Sabika and Mariyam are recognising their identity as a way to plant their feet firmly and cement their space into their secular India – their Home. Link to the first episode below: