Wednesday 6 August 2014

Triangular world of three Muslim Spheres‏

On 11th July, I was at Ahmedabad international airport, waiting for a flight to Istanbul ( Turkey ).  Twitter was abuzz with arguments on whether we need a uniform civil code in the country.  The sharp divide in opinions was evident and I wondered if we can ever have a meaningful consensus on the subject.  An image of Indian Muslims being enamored by political parties for them being a minority but vocal, was quite evident.  Generally impoverished and requiring to be emancipated through education and economic terms, Indian muslims appeared to be a community struggling to hold on to a viable identity and mainstream harmony.  It appeared to be a community, not free from its own internal social forcings as well as the boundaries it had built around itself.  To an average Indian, it appeared to be in a state of uncertain stress trying to free itself from its self bindings in a free State.

I landed in Istanbul some hours later, with an apprehension that I may not have made the right choice of a country to travel in Ramadan.  Being a Muslim State, I thought Turkey would flummox me with an extreme exhibition of faith and alienate me in spirit and reality.  I was also apprehensive of a possible disadvantage being a non-Muslim in a Muslim neighbourhood, that too in their holiest of seasons.  But I was in for a great surprise.  There were smiling faces all around.  In spite of being Ramadan, every eatery in town was open to non-muslim  like me and everyone made it a point to see that I felt comfortable.  The country was clean, posh and highly sophisticated in comparison to mine, in spite of some neighborhoods being poorer than the rest.  There was no sense of discrimination or separated identity between muslims and non-muslims and every one enjoyed the company of the other like the religion did not matter in this world at all.  It was an extremely tolerant world of mutual respect and mutual restraint.

From there, I landed in Dubai some days later.  The usually bubbling megapolis of modernity was shrouded with the enormity of Ramadan silence, frequently torn by the high voice of calls for prayer from the mosques.  Eateries were closed, people had fear in their eyes even to sip a drop of water in the battering heat and humidity of the land.  There was no ambiguity of identity in the air that thickly descended as an islamic shroud on everyone, regardless of what religion you belonged to.  There was this air of intolerance to what you believed in and a commanding demand that you better follow the religious dictat of the land if you cared not to end up in a jail.  People clandestinely ate and drank inside the closed public toilets and threw the wrappers and food waste in the sink.  

When I returned to India, I wondered about the diversity of Muslim spheres in this world that we live in.  From not so affluent populace striving to preserve its identity in India to the one that shares free joy with everyone in Turkey to an authoritative society that imposes its will on others in UAE, I had seen three different worlds in one small world.

Islamic 'loko bhinna ruchi'.

V K Saxena
National Council for Civil Liberties

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