Sunday, 12 September 2010

What is Islam to an Indian Hindu today?

This year, the majority of Muslims of the Indian sub-continent celebrated the festival of Eid on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 attacks on America; arguably a day that changed the world forever, especially inter-faith relations. Following, is the translation of an article by an Indian Hindu journalist Sushil Jha. The piece, published on BBC Urdu and Hindi news websites simultaneously, has generated a tremendous positive response especially from India and Pakistan.

 “These days no Muslim family invites me to their home for sewaiyan nor Delhi is my home town where I could go to a Muslim household to ask for sewaiyan.

As a child, I remember wandering around the house of my Muslim friend until his mother called me up for sewaiyan.

I miss sewaiyan because as a child Eid only meant one thing: The sweet dish made of boiled vermicelli called sewaiyan. Kids used to get boiled vermicelli with sugar and if you were a man you would get the same but boiled in milk.

When I went back home after my graduation, I got the milky vermicelli and I realized that I am a grown up man now.

I do not understand heavy words such as Islamic terrorism, religious fundamentalism or secularism. What I know is that I loved the vermicelli my Muslim aunty, who used to put surma (kohl eye pencil) in her eyes, the sophistication in speaking the Urdu language, the Qwali (sufi music) and most importantly the Molvi (Muslim cleric) who used to put taweez (talisman) around my neck to ward off the evil spirits.

My father is illiterate, not educated in the sense of classroom education and I do not think he reflects on religious tolerance, he just has so many Muslim friends. My father never ate meat in a Muslim home but he was game for the sweet dishes.

When the TV serial Ramayana (a Hindu deity) was at its peak, we did not have a TV so we used to go to our Muslim friend’s house to watch it. Ramayana is the ancient story of the Hindu God Rama but it never stopped us watching it in a Muslim household.

My elder brother’s favorite cricket player was always Wasim Akram and he wanted Akram to take wickets even against India. He wanted India to win the match but Wasim taking a few wickets was his top priority.

I am a huge fan of Shahrukh Khan and as a teenager I paid a whole lot of money to get my hair done like his.

I remember my friend Haroon who ran away to Mumbai to meet his idol Amitabh Bachhan (a mega bollywood star). When he came back with an autographed photo of Amitabh Bacchan he stayed at my home for two day while my father went to calm down his Dad; otherwise he would have gotten a proper beating.

For me Muslims are not different people with whom I have to become friends because religious tolerance is politically correct. They have been part of my upbringing; they have always been part of my life. I could not just forget about them even if I wanted to. Thinking about them or trying to understand their point of view in any way other than these memories is beyond my comprehension.
After 9/11, all over the world there is too much debate on Muslims. How should they behave, live and how should others behave towards them…I would feel disgusted if someone talked about me like this. Indeed, I would be angry if someone did talk about me in this manner and therefore I can understand their anger.

My Muslim friends are angry but they are not angry with me. They still call me at home and we still enjoy good food together. Even now, whenever I fall ill, my mother calls me and asks me to go to a Molvi. She thinks only a Molvi can cure me from evil spirits because they always have. I still go to a Sufi shrine when I need divine intervention or when I feel bad about anything.

I think the world should learn from India. Not the middle class India that has no belief or just talks about the importance of Hindu-Muslim co-existence while engaging in communal politics; but from the India where Muslims have lived peacefully with others for many centuries.

There have been many riots in India, but so far, there have been few instances of riots in villages. Riots always happen in cities where so-called educated and secular people live and those hungry for power, know how to incite communal violence for their benefit.

For me, secularism or religious tolerance look like a contrived idea to explain and understand a country which has been shaped by Muslims and Hindus for many centuries. Hence, the Hindu-Muslim relationship in India should not be judged on these ideas. For me it would be foolish to judge a more than thousand-year-old relationship on the basis of just a hundred year old concept.”

by Sushil Jha, BBC Delhi

1 comment:

  1. MR. Sushil Jha, I am your fan. I love to read your article and comment regularly on BBC.
    I am also journalist from GUJARAT.
    would like to be contacted with you.