Monday, March 20, 2006

On Religion and Nationality

Recently, a Muslim friend of mine presented me with a forestalling thought over a couple of beers. He expressed his anxiety and fear that Muslims in India were a minority and things were going to get worse for them. He said, with the political parties in India adopting the Hindutva philosophy, the future for Muslims in this country was not very bright. He was also quick to point of that although Islam being a religion that professes peace and humanity, many extremist had tarnished the real Islam, bringing it to the fateful state it is in today. He said that whenever there is terrorist activity in any country, the prime suspects are Islamic militants. More than being mere suspects, they are often responsible for the activity. This has lead the world to look down upon Islam and consider it a potential threat to world peace. He also spoke how his US visa was rejected just because his passport had a Pakistan visa stamped on it.

Now, I completely agree to what he had to say. It is true that Islam has gained itself an image of notoriety and extremism, much to the displease of many level-headed, secular Muslims like him. But I do not agree that Muslims are a minority. May be they are less in number compared to Hindus in India, but they certainly are not a minority. This country belongs to Muslims as much as it does to the Hindus or any other religious community living in this country as Indians. Politicians may preach Hindutva and try other gimmicks to fill up their vote banks. For example, the newly-founded Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, has over 10,000 Muslim supporters in Mumbai alone. And the number is fast growing. Ironically, it was the parent political party, Shiv Sena, which publicly expressed intolerance towards not only Muslims, but all non-Maharashtrians.

This country, with its new-found technical prowess and a secular, neutral, and level-headed current generation, is not a Hindu kingdom. It was founded as a democratic nation, and will continue to remain so, not only officially, but also in reality. People, who call themselves Indians, have to truly believe that they do belong to this country. They should stop living as a minority or guests in this country. Only when non-Hindus truly take pride in being Indians and treat this country as their own, will they progress. Only when the people of a country progress, does the country progress. Take for example, the Bollywood industry. Do Hindus hate watching a Salman Khan or an Amir Khan movie? Or do the Muslims prefer to stay away from an Anil Kapoor movie? No wonder it is a multi-billion dollar industry!

This subject reminds me of a heated argument I had with a Catholic friend during the 9/11 attacks. While I was expressing my hatred towards the Islamic extremists and attacks on a free nation, she turned to me and said, "Whenever there is a religious outbreak in this country, we Catholics will take refuge in the US and UK. Muslims will flee to Arab lands. What you Hindus will be left is only the Indian ocean!"

We live in a modern world that is far removed from religion. It is not the 17th century when religion was a way of life. In today's world, what counts is industrial development, IT industry, oil, and the economic ranking of the country. If you have the money, you are a superpower. If you don't, you are Somalia. What counts is money. Everything starts for money, and ends in money. If not, US wouldn't attack Iraq of the pretext of WMD. Pakistan wouldn't want Kashmir on the pretext of 'freeing' it's Muslim brethren from the evil clutches of India!

What I fail to understand is that how can a religion determine one's nationality or support for a country? Do non-Hindu Indians think they are guests here and their true land is the US, UK, or any of the Islamic republics? Do they think their so-called true lands will welcome them? Would these countries accept a million people just because they follow the official religion of their state? Would they axe their own economy in trying to accommodate their so-called brethrens? In reality, what they really do is treat Indians as second-grade citizens and make them slaves to their economy, regardless of their religion.

On the contrary, India gives each Indian, regardless of his or her religion, equal opportunities and a first-grade citizenship. I know caste systems, riots, and philosophies professed by political parties do shake beliefs, but India as a whole stands by for its people. It is only fair that the non-Hindu Indians realize that this is their country and express solidarity towards their motherland - India.


At 10:10 PM, Blogger Leon said...

Very beautifully written n well said,completely agree with u...Religious tolerance is in Indian history n there's no reason why it will change in d near future....


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