Part of share your story series. This comes from Soni.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m from a orthodox Hindu brahmin family, studied in a Convent school and one of my very good friends in school was a Muslim. It was a paradox I lived with for all my childhood.
The fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side of the family are the BJP RSS Marathi pride variety. Hardcore in their Hindutva thoughts. The motherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side (I grew up with her parents) are borderline Hindus, like most modern Hindus. Actually, they are more agnostic than Hindus in terms of their actual attitudes. So yes, i had plenty of opportunities to explore these differing perspectives.
On the fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side, I was scorned as a child for being educated in a Christian environment and the grandparents blamed for being the Ã¢â‚¬Å“rotÃ¢â‚¬? that demines the strength of the Hindu community. WellÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ relations were excellent, these were only opinions that popped up when such subjects were spoken of. According to them, I should have been studying in one of the famed Hindu – Marathi schools.
The grandfather couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care less as long as I continued to do well in school. On the Muslim front, there was this brat of a girl, who was my friend in mischief (I was no less a brat). Her mother never really spoke with us, and preferred to be in the company of the other Muslim parents, and we hated her, but that had nothing to do with my friend. We were pals. Also the feelings for the mother were more because I felt rejected, than anything she actually did.
There were some more Muslim families in our society. When the riots happened, I remember that we had locked their house and accommodated them in our houses so that they remained safe.
What I am trying to say, is that there was love, there was companionship where possible and there was hate for specific individuals too – like any other relationships. As I grew up, I learnt more about Ã¢â‚¬Å“MuslimsÃ¢â‚¬?. The Kashmir, Pakistan and terrorism angles being heavily linked with the religion didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do anything to make me like the religion, though my individual relations with Muslims were not affected.
Then, I heard varying interpretations of the Quran being interpreted in ways that support violence and others saying that those interpretations were wrong and that it was actually all about peace. To my straightforward outsiders perspective, things were pretty clear cut – a book doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter as much as how people understand and act on it and if the actions were evil, it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really matter what the book said, because a book is just so many words on paper, even if they are GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s words. It is its influence on us that holds meaning. Therefore, the equation was simple:
Islam/Muslims = evil, untrustworthy folks and a disease for our country.
But that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ring true either. I knew so many Muslims, and I liked them too – I hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really met one who wanted me dead, so why was I investing in all that hate and contempt? It certainly was disgraceful that Muslims were acting against the interests of the country, but why discount the ones who werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t? It didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem like a realistic representation.
So the head scratching, thinking and research went on.
To cut a long story short, I think both the Hindus and Muslims make too much out of religion. Religion is your personal belief, your emotional strength or guide – absolutely no reason at all to bring it into public lives.
There are a lot of things I think Muslims need to come to terms with, and a lot of suggestions for the Muslims, the government and the Hindus, if we hope to actually move from talking about harmony to living it. I have no particular priorities, but mentioning the Muslim part first, because this is a Muslim site.
Muslims need to stop expecting the world to live Islam. They need to see that acceptance and harmony is a two way thing. Most Muslims I know are good friends outside the home, but they will not be comfortable with me visiting their homes and even if they are, their families often are not. This needs to change. Approval and acceptance of only Muslims is a prime recipie for getting to be comfortable only with Muslims.
The truth of the matter is that most other Indians hardly know what a Muslim really is. What he thinks like, what he likes, dislikes, approves of, what are his concernsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦. and so on. This can only change with an opening and an attempt to reach out.
The other extremely non-appealing thing about Muslims is that most of them are always complaining about being victimised. There is a simple logic for this causing dislike. If I am being accused of victimising someone, when I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel I have done it, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like the accusation and the accuser. Today, if we look at an overall scenario, Muslims in India are not too badly off. Yes there are education problems, there are employment problems and many other problems, but they are actually problems India as a country is facing. There are minorities even smaller than Muslims, yet, the loudest complaint comes from the Muslims.
I amy sound very harsh, but I honestly think there is a serious problem with the Muslim religious leadership in general. If bringing together people needs them to paint a picture of victimization and the need to fight back as a community, it is a very sorry option indeed, as the problems they are yelling about are not limited to them – so why is it such a huge religious issue? It would be far more empowering to use those sermons to fire up the Muslims to get educated and become such tempting employment options that people WANT to take them. Use legal channels, work as a community, motivate people, empower them and encourage friendship – people will want to reach out.
There needs to be willpower to break the vicious cycle of lack of education leading to lack of employment leading to lack of funds leading to lack of education. Seperating themselves as special victims with the implication on the people they claim to want harmony with is certainly no way to promote harmony.
On the government front, I am a total ignorant, but I think the worst possible thing in India is the Quotas they should be abolished. Any community that needs to be supported can be supported through means to acheive, not reserving acheivement. That is empowerment and a far better incentive to improve on quality as well as a justified pride at being on level with the others ad equals. The quotas are themselves a label that the recipients were unworthy of independent merit – is this equality?
It will also automatically remove religious and caste factors from where they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t belong. The problems will be more uniform across communities. If at all assistance is to be given, if should be support for the acheivement based on annual income and not caste or religion. Take them out of the spotlight if you are really serious about people overcoming them and coming together regardless.
On the other hand, discrimination should be made punishable by law. This in my opinion would be action along the claims of wanting to demolish caste and religious divides.
For the Hindus, the list is rather small, but far more important. They need to wake up and realise that Hinduism is not the only religion in India. Pakistan was created on the basis of religion – not India. They also need to come out of their total Hindu environments and try to understand what this diversity of caste and religion actually means in the context of different individuals living different lives and recognise that their lives, concerns and beliefs are very different, and its ok. It is enriching, not divisive.
Hindus really need to rediscover their own religion for its essence that earned it respect over thousands of years – its tremendous capacity to accommodate and absorb diverse influences.
For the Hindu and Muslim extremists, I have a plain and simple message – shut up! Religion is a lifestyle, not copyrighted to countries or individuals and it is extremely insulting to the religion itself to attempt to do that.