Monday, August 22, 2011

Identity Hierarchy & Religious Leaders...

A person can define his identity in innumerable ways. It can be on the basis of nationality, religion, education and so on. These identities will usually follow some hierarchy. For me, for example, species comes at the top. I think of myself as a human being first. When its a question of nationality and religion, I am somewhat confused. I believe the Indian ethos of secularism allows us to choose our hierarchy as to nationality and religion. I am not suggesting that nationality is subservient to religion or vice-versa. I am only saying that to some extent, India allows its citizens to define their identity by their religion first and their nationality second if they so choose. There is an apparent contradiction here, for to have this freedom of hierarchy, one will need to be an Indian. However, Indian nationality needs to be one of the levels of the hierarchy, not necessarily the topmost in all circumstances. The clearest illustration of what I am saying lies in the fact that we don't have a common civil code.

Throughout history, "religious heads" (no matter which religion) have always tried to increase their importance by declaring such things to be un-religious as which undermine their power; By restricting the flow of knowledge, ensuring economic backwardness and maintaining ignorance, they maintain their hold; What a religious leader says, is not the word of God; It is his interpretation of it; And it is more often than not, twisted and restricted to suit his ulterior motives

I still remember an episode of (of all things) Jonny Quest. One of the protagonists, named Race Bannon is being given some false mumbo-jumbo by a person who claims he can talk to spirits. When Race argues, the person says "You must not question the spirits, Mr Bannon". Race snaps back "It's not the spirits I am questioning. It's you". Bingo.

Imam Bukhari's statement I don't deem important enough to comment on. Hopefully he's becoming more irrelevant over time; The greatest enemy for such people is lack of attention and publicity and I hope it will increase to the point where people are not bothered about what he says anymore.

Indian Muslims would be as or more aggrieved by corruption in India as any other community They can and should protest accordingly; They need not be part of Anna Hazare's movement for that. Anna Hazare's movement is just one part of the battle against corruption.

However, if saying "Vande Mataram" is against the tenets of Islam (which according to me is a matter of context and interpretation but I leave it at that), then why don't we come up with an Islam compliant slogan, which can also suitably convey the feelings of Indian Muslims for India? This idea is in consonance with the thoughts that I have expressed in the first paragraph and retains the spirit of Indian secularism as to the freedom in identity hierarchy. Rather than imposing a nationality-first ideology, it allows space for Indian Muslims to reconcile any conflicts they may face in pursuing their faith and their nationality.

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