Need is to understand the concept of religion in its entirety and not to be biased
Don’t judge a book by its cover, a wine by its colour and a person by his appearance. What lies beneath or inside is not always visible. So, to frame an opinion just by taking something at face value can be misleading. A sub-type of this inequity is stereotyping; an overexposed, hackneyed, vulgarized generalization that makes one lot suffer more than it can bear and the other flourish more than it deserves. One such stereotyping that crept into our civilised society not so or perhaps so long ago is Islamophobia. As the name itself indicates, Miss Google reads: “Islamophobia is the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially when seen as a geopolitical force or the source of terrorism.” This is a novel concept buzzing in where Muslims are seen more monstrous and terrifying than zombies. Alas!
In one recent jaw-dropping incident, an anonymous group in the UK declared Tuesday, April 3, to be “Punish a Muslim Day”. They circulated leaflets in several UK cities calling people to attack Muslims in various ways, by using guns, knives, vehicles or otherwise, and advocated for burning and bombing mosques. April, the onset of spring, seen this way is indeed the cruellest month as beheld a century ago by the famous poet and critic T.S Eliot. It doesn’t end here. Studies show that in the US too, hate crimes and attacks against Muslims have skyrocketed since 2015. So here we are in a world where ‘secularism’ has just become another word for us. It’s not that if it’s not happening with me, it’s not happening around me! All this is indeed happening that too in the most gruesome manner.
Islamophobia has not spared India as well. Few months back, in December 2017, a remarkable book by the Delhi-based author Nazia Erum entitled Mothering A Muslim : The Dark Secret in Our Schools and Playgrounds came on the forefront as a hard-hitting blow on the Indian secularism, highlighting the wretched state of middle class Indian Muslims where even the kids are not spared from being the targets of religious intolerance. It is no news for us that Muslims in India (and of course world over) are viewed as the suspicious “other” who are stereotyped and discriminated against. What is shocking is that this “othering” begins at a very early stage, that is, in the classrooms and playgrounds. Nazia Erum in her book points to such alarming things that are affecting the psyche of our children. She shows how playing and taunting in the elite schools go hand in hand wherein the Muslim children are asked “Does your father make bombs?” and bullied on account of Yeh toh atankwadi hai…Yeh toh Pakistani hai…Isse maaro (He is a terrorist. He is a Pakistani. Hit him), frightening the child for life. A matter of concern is that since when did the religious bigotry in schools begin? Are our children learning to hate in schools. Why is this hate in the hallways of schools gradually increasing? Recently, in a real and heartrending incident of an elite Delhi school, a Muslim girl having a black complexion was made to stand on the bench for not doing homework and asked by her teacher to put her tongue out while the Hindu children were made to call her Kaali Maa. What can be more dismal and abysmal than such an incident?
The thing is that the kids are basically mirroring adult prejudices and the onus lies on both the majority as well as the minority to acknowledge things and reach out. But the question that still remains is why this religious intolerance? Are all religions not equal? Does any religion teach violence, discordance or dissonance? Comparing The Holy Quran, Bhagvad Gita, The Bible and Guru Granth Sahib, great intellectuals and critics have come to a single conclusion viz. “All religions preach religious tolerance rather than maltreatment in the name of religion.” Then why do preposterous concepts such as Islamophobia emerge and if they do, why is there not a Hinduophobia or a Christianophobia or for that matter a Sikhophobia? How can a religion be seen as a source of terrorism? Terror is an open-ended word. What can be terrorism for one can’t be for the other. The Kaali Maa incident quoted above is terrorism from the vantage point of that child. In her case, the laughing and mocking Hindu children are terrorists. How can we than single out a religion and make an absurd term like Islamophobia out of it, that every inch teaches tolerance and peace just as the other religions do. This is a false ideology and this is what makes ‘secularism’ just a word, and robs it of all its substance and significance.
A weed eliminated at the right time lets the grass grow well. These evils, that are not only creeping in but also getting piled up in our society one after the other, are the weeds that require immediate expulsion, the failure of which will tell upon our future in more ways than we can imagine.
(Asma Majid is doing Master’s in English from Department of English, University of Kashmir)