In the light of recent events and in the wake of Eid (End of Ramadan) I have started to become curious as to why there is so much fear in our communities, particularly surrounding religion.
In India I was invited to friends’ houses to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and I was actually quite surprised at how many Muslim friends I have, but even more surprised about how many of my friends I didn’t actually know were Muslim.
I remember recently I was desperate to book my tickets to Australia for medical treatment and some R&R after my Malaria, but our internet wasn’t working so I went down the road to a sister NGO and used a friend’s computer. Just as afternoon chai was being served Kiaan* who had been extremely engaging in conversation for the previous hour that I had there, began to remove a mat from his draw, place it on the ground towards Mecca, and while still talking pulled out Taqiyah (cap) and placed hit on his head. He finished his sentence, excused himself and started to pray. It was the first time I had seen this ritual performed up close and I was in complete awe, after about 5-10 minutes he gets up, folds his mat and Taqiyah, pick up his chai, takes a seat and continues to pick up the conversation where we had left it. I had had no idea up until this point that he was Muslim, I had spent a bit of time with his family but never clicked, the name itself is a dead giveaway.
I still laugh at my ignorance but am also a little ashamed by it. I do my best in the country to be observant and supportive. I don’t know why finding out my friends were Muslim should come as a shock to me, considering roughly 15% of India is Muslim.
The thing is with India, as soon as you learn someone’s name, particularly their last name, you can tell straight away what religion, community and cast they belong to. This can bring about exclusion and segregation straight from the get go for individuals with animosity towards certain groups. This is what spreads hate in India.
On my trip to Australia I flew through Malaysia on an India airline to Perth. The majority of Malaysia is Muslim and flying on an Indian airline I was the only white girl. There was an elder Caucasian gentlemen who approached me just as we were about to board and said “This is probably the safest plane you could be on, look at all those Muslims, they (terrorists) wouldn’t do anything with all them lot on board” pointing to a group of men in turbans. I was a little shocked by his comment and rather annoyed, “They are not Muslim” I replied, “They are Sikh, it is a completely different religion, and they are not turbans, they are called Dastar that they are wearing” The look on his face as I turned my back to sit back down and wait for my row to be called. I felt embarrassed to be part of the White Privilege Syndrome, the discrimination I face being a “single” women in India is NOTHING compared to the daily struggle of the minority religions, or even the misunderstood majority.
To say that all Muslims are terrorists is complete and utter ignorance that is like saying all Christians support the KKK. The percentage of extremist in any religion is the same, it just happens that a great deal of Muslims seem to have a darker complexion so therefore they are a threat to our existence.
The stereotyping and racial profiling has begun to get completely out of hand. Scare mongering and fear is exactly what these extremist want, and that is precisely what they are getting. The world is being torn at the seams, the Brexit in Europe over immigrants, the garbage Trump is spewing about Muslims in the US, and the human rights violations of Manus Island and Nauru at the hands of the Australian government. It is sickening and, to be quite honest, I am glad I am in a country where I am not bombarded with hate and paranoia from the media on a daily basis. India certainly has a lot of problems and although there are a great deal of issues with the caste system, for the most part, there is a sense of peace and understanding between the Hindu, Islam, Sikh, Jain, and Christian religions. Majority of Hindus will not consume pork products as a sign of respect to the Islamic faith, in turn Muslims will generally refrain from consuming beef out of respect, which is really nice to see.
You will find that majority of religions are peaceful and just want to worship their savours without judgment or prejudice, it is the minority that speaks hate and anger in the name of religion. If you ever read texts from the various religious materials, (the Qur’an, Gita, or the bible) you will be surprised at how similar they are and the parallels in each are striking. They are stories about hardship, worship, tyranny, resilience, rape, scandal and faith. Not really something that I am into but Millions of people around the world relate to the characters and spirituality within the pages.
Like I stated before, majority of these people just want to worship in peace but others have different ideas.
So before you jump to conclusions about an individual based on their skin colour, religion or their choice of dress, just remember that, like you, most people want to love their family, worship their gods, and go to sleep at night in peace, and wake up in the morning ready to do it all again.
Someone recently said to me that we should just abolish religion and the world’s problems would be solved. False. Abolish religion and the killings and tortures would simply be done under other excuses. Ideology is fundamentally a “justification” for behaviour, not a motivation for it. Always remember that.
*Name has been changed.