Shakespeare asked What’s in a name?, concluding nothing. Had he been alive here and today he would have to reconsider, because in our times everything is hidden in one’s name.

The incident took place on Tuesday morning. We work in a non-governmental organisation named the Muslim Women’s Forum. We had gone to Nehru Place to have identity cards printed for our fieldworkers and visiting cards for our office staff. We had with us soft copies of both designs.

We entered a shop and asked for a few printouts of the visiting cards and identity cards. The person at the shop asked us to show him the designs, and after seeing them said the printer was out of service and asked us to try another shop.

When he was saying this we had some initial doubts, from his body language especially. But without thinking too much we decided to visit another shop and asked again. The person here also asked to see the soft copies. After looking at them he said the printer was out of service, that they had not been printing for the past few days, and would not be doing any printing in the upcoming days either.

He asked us to try another shop.

Our doubts grew stronger and felt a hidden meaning to this. We had no other option but to visit a third shop, where we repeated the same drill. Here the shopkeeper pointed to his email address pasted on the wall and asked us to forward him the designs.

Opening the email and seeing the organisation’s name, he promptly asked his senior at the store, ‘Kya yeh print ho jayega?’ Can or will this be printed? The senior asked another more senior person. The answer was NO.

We decided to ask why. One of them, very matter of the fact, spoke these words which fell on our ears like small bullets: ‘Dekhiye aapki sanstha ka naam Muslim hai, hum yeh print nahi kar sakte. Hume upar se orders hai ki koi bhi aisa printing nahi karna hai jisme Muslim ka naam likha ho.’ (You see, your organisation’s name is Muslim, we cannot print this. We have orders from above forbidding us from printing anything which has a Muslim’s name written on it.)

Then he quickly recanted, ‘Hum kisi dharm ke saath jude cheezon ko print nahi karenge.’ (We don’t print any religious materials.) We tried to convey that ours is not a religious organisation, but they simply turned away and asked us not to waste their time.

The men said that no one in Nehru Place would do these printouts, and we would be bothering ourselves unnecessarily. We decided to return to our office.

This is a snippet from our Delhi of today and its cruel reality, where the mere word ‘Muslim’ is now programmed to evoke polarised response.

Muslim Women’s Forum started in the year 2000. Its founders were President Zakir Hussain’s daughter Begum Syeda Khursheed, Dr Syeda Hameed, Professor Sughra Mehdi among several other liberal women and men.

Their love for the country, allegiance to the Constitution, commitment to secularism is beyond question. These women have written numerous books and papers, and hundreds of articles in various newspapers and magazines. They have spread their liberal understanding of Islam all over India and in public fora across the world through which the message of humanity can be spread.

Muslim Women’s Forum has always been associated with issues concerning all women. The organisation has always worked in the framework of secularism and democracy.

The beauty of our organisation is that its name is Muslim Women’s Forum, where a Muslim man, Reyaz Ahmed, a Christian, Ruth Zothanpuii, and a Hindu, Noyana Khatoniar work together.

Is this the country of Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad and Ambedkar? Did we imagine our India would be like this?