Thursday, February 25, 2016

I am a Muslim and I Love my Country

- Syed Rafath Parveen

I am a Muslim. I am a woman.  I am a teacher.

None of the identities mentioned above make me a competent authority according to the achievement parameters set by the society, to comment about the present situation in this country. Whatever I say will be gleaned through these identities. These thoughts always stopped me from expressing my feelings, anguish and anger towards a lot of things unfolding in the last few years, but somehow I cannot stop myself anymore.

I am fortunate to be born in a family where liberal thought is encouraged. I am a firm believer of Islam but at the same time I am not a practicing Muslim. I wish that I fall into a routine and pray five times a day in the days to come. I strongly feel that humanity is above and beyond all religions and I also think that all religions teach compassion, goodness, forgiveness and love.

As a child I enjoyed sitting in the mandir waiting for the Prasad. I simply loved it. When I visited Ramakrishna Ashram during my college days the swami there ,asked me, surprisingly ,if my parents willingly allowed me or not. These were the only occasions when I felt that belonging to a different faith makes me different from the rest of the group.

As a kid when I was sitting next to a Pakistani woman in a flight, she started saying that Muslims in India are treated badly. I failed to understand why she thought like that as I had never experienced such a feeling, neither had I ever thought or heard something like that.

In my board exam when answering a question on tolerance in the year 1995, I wrote that the demolition of Jama Masjid was very sad and so on. My father rather than being ashamed of his daughter’s ignorance (of the fact that Babri Masjid was demolished)  shared the fact with his friends saying that he was very glad that his children are innocent and their minds are not filled with filth or obsession towards any religion.

A Muslim colleague of mine instructed me to not eat Prasad as it is offered to an idol. I disagreed as I was always told to respect the feelings of people around me.

A close relative of mine always said that he faced discrimination and lost opportunities in life as he was a Muslim. I disbelieved.

Two years back I visited Varanasi with a group of college friends. Inside the temple we enjoyed the loud chanting and arti. After coming out my friend confessed that she did not call out my name loud as she did not want people around me to identify me as a Muslim. I found that strange? Is my identity so threatening? Is it a cause of concern for all my dear friends? Is the situation so volatile?

When students say that they do not want to stay in this country as it is crowded and messy, I end up talking passionately talking about not only the wonderful geographical contours  of this nation but also the varied languages and cultures that have existed for ages in this beautiful land and do not exist elsewhere.

My friends keep giving examples of terrorist organizations such as ISIS, or Pakistan’s Intelligence programs or the conditions in the state of Turkey, Palestine, Iraq and so on and expect me to comment. But I do not identify myself with any of them. If I am concerned for anyone it is for the sake of humanity. If I express anger it is to uphold values. Why and how people make such connections is completely beyond my comprehension.

The present political scenario scares me. I always thought that I was fortunate to have a group of friends who are leftists to their soul and also a few who are RSS in their blood and heart. Being an amateur I always enjoyed the wonderful debates between these two groups. Occasionally comments by my Hindu friend such as: Gujarat main musalmaanon ne itne saalon se gundagardi faila rakhi hai, riots to hone hi the”, did make me feel wonder. Can it be true? Can a group behave like goondas in our system and get away with it? In that case are riots justified? Interestingly every year I tie a Rakhi on his wrist, and I have genuine affection towards him as a brother. I do feel he also reciprocates the same feelings. Despite all the fun and love in the group, why is the atmosphere slowly becoming stifling? Was it because my brother and his RSS gang became more vocal? Or is there a deep seated hatred for Muslims that forces people to react and speak against anything and everything about one religion in the guise of Nationalism and Patriotism.

From a completely apolitical person I have gradually come to become one with a strong political inkling. I would still not say that I support one party over the other but yes I do feel that political parties play vote bank politics. As rational beings we the citizens have a choice to make. One that retains the essence and beauty of this country.

Why have people stopped listening? What is the reason for this obstreperous   atmosphere that makes one go dumb and numb? Why do I find everything around me so misty?

Amidst all this, one thing that perhaps is keeping me sane, is the hope that the generation to come, the children I teach, the ones I engage with every day will be open-minded, rational and more humane. My heart softens and fills with relief when I hear Ananya say, “Ma’am my best friend is Sumeya. I like to spend time with her. But I do not understand why my parents want me to stay away from her. My father says that Muslims are not good. But I don’t think he is right. Sumeya is just like me and she is my best friend”.


Unknown said...

More or less I had same experiences like you, being from a sufi family understanding of religion was high since childhood. Never I felt any form of discrimination till I heard from a professor why dont you join Jamia when I was in College. But now scenario is making me to have sleepless nights worrying about how bad the atmosphere is building around us.

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