Between a rock and hard place


by Sunny
10th August, 2007 at 4:47 am    

The Times of India rarely publishes any good editorials. But I found this article via Neha and it hits the nail on the head: Why You Don’t Understand Indian Muslims:

Azmi’s helplessness is symptomatic of the Muslim leadership’s collective weightlessness and worthlessness. Divided into two clear categories, the orthodox and the liberals, Islamic socio-political leadership in this country is hollow, myopic, marginalised and often opportunist. Both the god-fearing, fatwa-fascinated Mullahs and the not-so religious moderates (some of them are known atheists) share a common quality: They are not the real voice of India’s largest minority.

Yet, the desperate search for good quotes and sound bytes makes the media court the members of these two camps. As a result, the average Indian thinks that an uneducated Muslim (who is represented on television by radical loose-canon mullahs) is dangerously communal, and that a suave educated Muslim (represented by English-speaking cliché-afflicted liberals) is ludicrously political correct and knows how to make the right noises. In between these two extremes, lies the average Muslim on the street, and his personality is lost in the sound bytes of the faces media likes.

In the UK we have the Muslim Council of Britain on one side, and possibly British Muslims for Secular Democracy on the other. It is even worse for British Sikhs and Hindus, I would argue, because there is no pressing need for the progressives to speak out. There’s no one attacking them. So it is left to rabble-rousers like the Hindu Forum and Sikh Federation to “represent” while constantly trying to create controversies they can get media attention in.


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  1. Natty — on 10th August, 2007 at 8:51 am  

    Sunny – You may find the historical quotes in this interesting:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/6938090.stm

    “They carry a double burden of being labelled as ‘anti-national’ and as being ‘appeased’ at the same time,” says a recent report on the state of Indian Muslims.

    If India was to be “a secular, stable and strong state,” Nehru once said, “then our first consideration must be to give absolute fair play to our minority..”

    It discusses the lack of suitable leadership, education and progress amongst Muslims.

  2. Sofia — on 10th August, 2007 at 10:38 am  

    As a Muslim whose parents come from India, I’ve been brought up with lots of stereotypes. If I tell someone that I’m Indian then they assume I’m Hindu. When some people label all things Indian as being all things Hindu, it really really annoys me. What also annoys me is that as someone of Indian origin I do not feel like India represents someone like me. Nor do I feel at home in Pakistan. It makes me laugh when India is labelled “secular”..what a bloody joke! If I ever question anything about Indian politics or human rights I’m immediately told by people it’s because I’m Muslim I’m saying these things. It’s similar to the kind of response an ignorant white English person would come up with if I criticised England…Go back to your country is what the normal retort is..the funny thing is…England is my country, it’s where I was born, it is where I feel most at home so I should be able to slag it off or praise it where need be as much as I want…

  3. Nyrone — on 10th August, 2007 at 10:49 am  

    I liked this article, it’s very blunt and to-the-point.
    It cuts through a lot of the crap.

    I particularly liked the point about the Media pitting both sides (moderates and conservatives) against each other…(don’t they have anything else better to do?) Some of those Pakistani/Indian debate programs I have seen feel like modern day Jerry Spinger’s, Soon there will be scenes where the old-Bearded Muslim gets up out of his chair in full glaring studio lights, puts his Quar’an down and smashes a chair over the liberal’s head.

    But more seriously, the whole marginalization and polarization between opposites is rigidly promoted by the mass-media for them to have their ‘story’ and ‘set-ups’ for the future.

    The last line of the article: “This battle is always between the elite. The masses only bear the consequences” is a good one, and really reminded me of a short brilliant piece by Zaid Shakir I read just following the 7/7 attacks.

    It’s called ‘We Are All Collateral Damage’
    and I highly recommend it if anyone is interested:

    http://www.zaytuna.org/articleDetails.asp?articleID=76

  4. Sofia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:10 am  

    Nyrone – sometimes I just feel like the whole Jinnah/Nehru thing was about egos and power..religion was an excuse..I mean, Indian Muslims that went over to Pakistan are still called Muhajirs (immigrants)..
    The ignorance about Indian Muslims though is astounding…Having said that, maybe true representation of tje various communities can never be achieved as they are so diverse. As an example, Muslims from the Punjab may have more culturally and linguistically in common with Sikhs and Hindus from the same area than they would with Muslims from Delhi. Therefore it would not matter if the person who represented them was Muslim/Hindu/Sikh/Christian, but just someone who understood what their regional needs were. Maybe if Indians also woke up to the fact that India is very much run on a “theological” democracy (for want of a better phrase), where religion will always play a part, then they could move forward. It is easy to fob off Muslims or Sikhs as a minority in a country with a population of over a billion, but what of the states where they are a significant minority?
    Sorry to sound off so much but this is a subject I feel really passionately about..ignorant Indians and Pakistanis in this country really need to quit getting their history from bollywood movies and naff films like “Gandhi”, which are patronising drivel. If you call yourself Indian then go learn about your country in all its facets.

  5. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:41 am  

    i think the real issue is that of ‘representing’ – or actually thinking when you have lots of people – you can ‘appoint’ some that are ‘representative’ of the ‘masses’, without – precisely this problem – actually not ‘representing’ anyone at all, becauset there are too many shades to be represented – you’ll need more than just 1,2,3,4,5 groups. Even with that no. of groups there will be people un’represented’ – how do you get past this?>

    this is of course the core problem of understanding representation as a core process of democracy.

    so never mind indian muslims, or muslims here, – this applies to all human groups.

    this kind of thinking – for me – is fundamentally flawed. we are all individuals – no one actually represents me apart from myself.

  6. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:43 am  

    and the flip side is this: because people choose to speak up for themselves, and what bothers them, does that mean that because they are not widely representative of the silent people, they should not speak? It seems to me there is such an idea floating around. OF course, what it should be is – make it easy and encourage everyone else to stand up for their opinions, their ideas as well.

  7. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:48 am  

    anyway i think its rubbish that people would say ‘why you dont understand indian muslims’ – i mean for fucks sake why should anyone in india think they understand the huge no.s of indian hindus?

    its this box mentality – people are individuals !- they share lots of things with other humans even if they arent the same fucking race religion gender, and similarly dont share things with lots of people who are the same religion or ethnicity, HAVE WE NOT REALISED THAT AT ALL!

    constantly saying you dont understand someone who is a british muslim or indian muslim is patronising : it implies other muslims will understand, and that really – we ought to BECAUSE WE ARE ALL ONE GROUP

    well we ain’t – there is no such thing as one @group unless its the human group.

    as far as i can see, this politics of representation is really the culprit to enforcing box mentality.

  8. Sofia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:50 am  

    Sonia- I think representation itself needs to be defined..what do we mean by representation? If it’s about representing values that are commonly ascribed to particular groups then that is nigh on impossible as you can only do that if you know those people and are in direct contact with them. If it is representation of certain rights, or in order for society to function practically, that is where democratic representation would come in..some Muslims go on about Khalifates being the utopia, but what would this mean in practice..would one person represent billions of people moral values and thinking, or would it be more about the practical day to day running of life?

  9. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:52 am  

    i mean at the end of the day, until you understand something on the level of an individual, it is highly patronising to say you understand them because you think you understand the ‘Group’ that you imagine, or have put them into. ANd we are all coerced into these groups so what kind of sophisticated understanding of the group boundary do we have ?> Not much clearly – we are inadvertently keeping up the hegemony of the people who are trying to be the authority of the group, the people who want that group to be tightly defined. like British muslims. like indian muslims. you’re born a musliml, how many muslims – actually – if they had a f**king choice -would call themselves muslim? not many of course, but given the hoo-ha that would ensue, of course no one says anything. everyone keeps up the illusion we are a nice happy group – and then the ‘outside world’ can ask us/oh you muslims, how do you want to be ‘represented’?

    we really do not understand ourselves very much do we?

  10. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:55 am  

    i agree sofia that when people use the term representation they should be clear about what it is they mean – precisely.

    are they talking about ‘values’ or simply being a member of group x? which can be a religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc.

    that is the question.

  11. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2007 at 11:57 am  

    Shah Rukh Khan reinforces the ‘two Muslim’ stereotype:

    “I believe in the educated Islamic sect, I belong to it and educated Muslim people are the nicest people in the world. That is my religion and I would like to propagate that through my film without shoving it down your throat. I am not shoving my religion down your throat. I am trying to say that the ideology of an educated Muslim is what my ideology is – that you believe in humanity.”

    http://www.ibnlive.com/news/educated-muslims-are-the-nicest-people-srk/46413-8.html

    A shame. I suppose that he has a new film to promote.

    Everybody’s comments on this thread seem to get to the heart of the problem.

  12. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:02 pm  

    so – as you point to- Sofia – there are differences:

    one can speak of representation – on a specific matter or principle – so someone who is simply a spokesperson, on behalf of x y and z who all share some values, or opinion on something that needs to be done. that is one thing. like a union representative.

    there is another understanding of being a ‘representative’ – which to me – is actually quite racist and highly bounded-group-ist- which takes someone saying something, who doesn’t even necessarily say they are a spokesperson for a group, but they may do – and the only thing they have in common is something like ethnicity, or race or religion, -who then gets asked are you representative of all the other people who may be in your group?
    asking that question – i feel – often assumes a very backward idea that all people in group x – by virtue of being born black, asian, or Muslim – will have the same opinions or even interests, and that the group is homogenous and can have a ‘representative’ just by virtue of sharing these same markers, not actually about sharing thoughts or opinions or values.

    also this bounded group-ist mentality does not attempt to understand the dynamics of tension/authority within the group they seek to understand – or claim to want to understand.

  13. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:09 pm  

    and with a religion like Islam – i feel this is full of pitfalls: as it is something most of us are born into, and unless we want to get huge amounts of trouble by asking too many questions, or say we’re not muslims anymore – which would also cause huge amounts of trouble, we will choose to stay with the muslim label – because there are too many barriers.

    yes we pretend there is freedom of choice in our religion -and maybe there is for some people, who may have not very religious families – but unless you want to lose most of your family – for a lot of people, it simply isn’t a choice to talk about (openly, i exclude the net here of course), there is so much pressure to just pretend to be like everyone else, especially when the ‘elders’ are around, and pious contemporaries. So my point is : in so many muslim ( and not just muslim, i’d say this kind of peer and family pressure is just as pervasive in non-muslim desi communities – no one REALLY knows what anyone is thinking – everyone is toeing the line and worrying about what everyone else will say.

    So how does this square with understanding ‘indian muslims’?

  14. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:13 pm  

    and anyway, there is no such thing as an ‘average’ indian ( or average anything) i might point out – expect the next headline:

    you british asians simply do not understand the ‘average indian’.

  15. TheIrie — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:20 pm  

    “It is even worse for British Sikhs and Hindus, I would argue, because there is no pressing need for the progressives to speak out. There’s no one attacking them.” – Yes Sunny, what British Sikhs and Hindus really need is a campaign by ignorant, pro-establishment journalists and politicians to delve into a culture and religion they have no understanding of, launch a campaign to criticise their every move and re-interpret their every sentence, in an effort to prove how backwards they are, and march us all forward, we, the civilised race, who are so kind to the savages were even prepared to go to war and to kill them (but not kind enough to count the dead of course). Just like with the Muslims – the modern day success story of integration and community cohesion. Really!

  16. Kismet Hardy — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:27 pm  

    “The Times of India rarely publishes any good editorials”

    Admittedly, they get pinch all their stories via medianet and are notorious for giving editorial in exchange for advertising through their private treaties agenda, but they ran a lovely story about Bipasha Basu being manhandled by a stalker and I’m thankful they didn’t run a picture of me manhandling her

  17. Sofia — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:49 pm  

    I do have a problem with the whole title of “Why you don’t understand Indian Muslims”..who is the You in this? which Indian Muslims do the “You” not understand? I really get effing hacked off at titles like this..the journalist no matter what is said in the article is propagating a myth as well.
    As for definition of who you are by your faith..or choosing to define oneself as being Muslim, I do think many Muslims do it subconsciously..i remember as a child I kept having to reinforce my religion when telling ppl I was indian, as they assumed I was hindu and kept asking me about hinduism. I once got asked by a child in a mosque what I was doing there..(you gotta blame the parents on that one)…so sometimes its not a matter of wanting to force a religious identity on the masses, but rather not wanting to be associated with another faith by default of where they come from.

  18. Sofia — on 10th August, 2007 at 12:51 pm  

    As for Shah rukh khan..puhleez…educated muslims??? wtf…now thats patronising..but lets not even go down the educated vs uneducated drivel…because that’s a whole new thread, and needs to start with, what do we mean by educated???? i know plenty of academically “educated” people who know shit about the world.

  19. JGP — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:15 pm  

    I’m a Christian. My parents come India. I was born in the UK. My family in India have been Christians (the term being Syrian Christian) for the past 2000 years. Neither I, nor they have ever felt out of place in India or outside it. My experience has been the complete opposite from that of Sofia and her post (msg 2). I’ve never felt discrimination from anyone in India because of my religion. I have always felt at home there when I go, and the wider people in general to be warm. I’ve never been sidelined when talking about politics etc because I’m a Christian.

    Ironically, the only people that have mistaken me for a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh etc (basically everything apart from Christian) have been second generation Asians in the UK. They think that I have recently converted, or my grandparents were converted by the raj etc. I have found them to be the one of the most misinformed people regarding the country of their parents (Christianity is the third largest religion in India), hence come out with some of the most prejudicial and discriminating remarks I have ever heard.

  20. Sunny — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:19 pm  

    Whoa, this has turned into a hardcore rant thread. Heh.

  21. Sunny — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:22 pm  

    When some people label all things Indian as being all things Hindu, it really really annoys me.

    Sofia this is rather unfair, and quite subjective. Given that over 81% of Indians are Hindu, people are likely to make assumptions.

    People mistake me for being Muslim, because I have fair skin, because I have a wierdly shaped beard and maybe because half of South Asians in the UK are Muslim. But should that annoy me? It doesn’t. I just correct them without getting into a tizzy.

  22. Mangals — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:31 pm  

    ‘…the Muslim leadership’s collective weightlessness and worthlessness. Divided into two clear categories, the orthodox and the liberals, Islamic socio-political leadership in this country is hollow, myopic, marginalised and often opportunist. Both the god-fearing, fatwa-fascinated Mullahs and the not-so religious moderates (some of them are known atheists)…As a result, the average Indian thinks that an uneducated Muslim (who is represented on television by radical loose-canon mullahs) is dangerously communal, and that a suave educated Muslim (represented by English-speaking cliché-afflicted liberals) is ludicrously political correct and knows how to make the right noises. ‘

    Sunny you’re right this is so truly a reflection of the Sikh and Hindu community in both India and UK. on the one hand you have people who have the right intentions and are probably sincere to their faith, though not spun in the Blairist and Cameronian ‘all things to all people’ friendly; On the other hand there are the neo-Sikhs/Hindus who have no loyalty to religious practice, are usually aethists or humanists, have no regard to principles or idelogy of a faith, yet seek to appease the public by being so PC they become spin and headline swamped. As opportunist as you can get. Almost Career lapdogs of the establishment.

    As Thelrie puts it all we need is ‘..ignorant, pro-establishment journalists and politicians to delve into a culture and religion they have no understanding of, launch a campaign to criticise their every move and re-interpret their every sentence, in an effort to prove how backwards they are..’

    After 60 years of so called Indian and Pakistani independence, it seems that the Jagirdars are as prevalent as ever.

    Long live colonialism! lol

  23. Sofia (aka British Indian Muslim and Proud) — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:45 pm  

    Sunny what annoys me about this is that if 81% of people are of one religion have they kinda forgotten about the rest?? 19% is still a lot! The thing that gets to me is the assumptions based on ignorance and the kind of wiping out of recent history…ok so you muslims left for pakistan so there aren’t any left in India now..that kind of ignorance grates on me..like i said..i’m rather passionate about this which is probably why i’m in such a “tizz”.
    JGP, I’ve never said i had a bad reception in India, I love going to India, I have family and very close friends there of all religions, which is why it makes me sad when a very close friend’s son asked my father why he was going to the Jamia mosque on Friday “I thought only Pakistanis go to the Mosque” he came out with innocently…it makes me wonder what they choose to teach in schools about Muslims…the history of India, both modern and ancient is a wonderful tapestry of cultures and religions…not all good i’ll admit, but rich nonetheless. I just feel this is now being lost due to some homogeonisation of “Indian culture” where difference is not celebrated.
    Right, no more ranting or tizzing…

  24. Sunny — on 10th August, 2007 at 1:55 pm  

    Well, yes, people to make stereotypical assumptions. Especially British Asians! So I don’t think any of us are innocent.
    Poor Sonia wants to be known as an individual anarchist but people keep putting her into boxes. Lol.
    Ahem, anyway. No problems with you being passionate. I just think we should accept that stereotyping happens, and not let it grate us. Some people make a big deal out of being called Muslim if they’re Hindu/Sikh. Why the beef, I always ask. We’re all human. These labels are insignificant. That’s my “tizzing” for today.

  25. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:04 pm  

    Sonia just seems like a typical individualist today.

    Mangals:

    Jagidars: Holders of jagirs (revenue from a piece of alloted land), used primarily by the Mughals. The reference makes no sense- please explain.

  26. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:21 pm  

    heh i doubt indian culture is about to become homogenized when everyone still argues about whether bongs are clever as they pretend to be, and what about the gujaratis and so on and so forth.

    mind you, everyone in bangladesh – which is 88% muslim – is no different towards hindus than i imagine hindus in india are towards the muslims – i.e. see them as a minority

  27. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:22 pm  

    well rumbold i don’t expect people to understand, but there are important things to note in what i was saying – can’t dismiss it just out of hand as a ‘typical individualist’. :-)

  28. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:23 pm  

    no sunny – “Poor Sonia wants to be known as an individual anarchist but people keep putting her into boxes. Lol”

    i dont want to be known as anything apart from Sonia thanks – what i am saying has strong resonance – especially when one gets interviewed as part of what ‘are muslims thinking in britain’ – i said what I thought, and i said i certainly didnt speak for anyone else.

  29. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:25 pm  

    and you shouldn’t giggle – the sole reason why i signed the NGN manifesto is i thought it was all about moving away from the box mentality. i’m not so sure anymore about NGN anymore though, granted other people clearly don’t share my thinking.

  30. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:26 pm  

    Sunny and I were joking Sonia- it was a meant to look like a contradiction in terms (i.e. typical individual etc.). At least I think Sunny was joking (you never can tell with these vegetarians).

  31. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:28 pm  

    and the funniest thing is of course what is racism if not generalising about a group of people? this goes back to the issue of what representation means to people – if it is about getting one ‘generic’ rep to ‘represent’ the group because you think they are all the same, well i personally think that is Groupist.

  32. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:30 pm  

    im sure sunny was joking – but that’s the point – it isnt a joking matter at all, its not something to be flippant about – well if it is, then next time you all make such a fuss about racism, i shall giggle and laugh and not take your concerns seriously.

    “why are you worried about people treating you differently? you’re brown aren’t you’ LOL

    something of that kind. i find it ridiculous that people are so affronted about Racism, but any other kind of Groupism – oh that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t involve Race. that is so the least progressive thing about.

  33. sonia — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:35 pm  

    no offense to sunny or rumbold – hope you dont take it the wrong way – you guys are great and i think we all have our own issues, and good, but too often i feel this business about groups is ignored, at our own expense, because it definitely comes into politics ( party politics) racism ( one group thinking it is supreme etc.) and it frustrates me when people don’t realise and marginalise it as the rantings of some individual-ist. in fact i’d say we all need to understand this much better – together, ( as individuals) and realise the common links. instead of just compartmentalizing problems like racism, from the wider problem of groups and supremacy.

  34. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:37 pm  

    Sonia:

    Stereotyping people based on what groups they belong to is simplistic, however you do sometimes come across as too anti-groupist. By that I mean that immediatly recoil from any association with anything else. Of course you are an individual, and have your own views, and cannot just be described as a Bangladeshi Muslim women. But you do have affinities. You care more about Bangladesh than (say) Chad. You are more interested in the nature of Islam than of paganism. None of this stuff is wrong- we are all a blend of pure individualism and group affiliation. Just look at football fans.

    I did not mean to anger you; my flippancy was not meant to offend.

  35. Rumbold — on 10th August, 2007 at 2:47 pm  

    Sonia (33):

    Sunny is always talking about the malign influence of some groups (MCB, Sikh Federation, Hindu Forum of Britain etc.). I think that you do him somewhat of a disservice.

  36. Sofia — on 10th August, 2007 at 3:03 pm  

    By the way, can i ask a question about NGN? What does it actually do? Isn’t it just another organisation for people of a certain background? I’m asking this genuinely, not slaggin it off..

  37. Bape — on 10th August, 2007 at 3:05 pm  

    Interesting, it actually is the same the world over.

    Funny aside, the ‘ads by google’ that came at the bottom of the article were led by a link titles ‘How to convert to Islam, with live help by chat’
    Illegal in India now to solicit and yet one of their greatest publications invites you to convert.
    Brilliant.

  38. Sunny — on 10th August, 2007 at 3:45 pm  

    no offense to sunny or rumbold – hope you dont take it the wrong way – you guys are great and i think we all have our own issues, and good, but too often i feel this business about groups is ignored

    Lol! Lordamercy! How can you say I’m ignoring people being boxed into identities when that serves most of my writings!
    I was joking Sonia, as Rumbold pointed out… yeah we know boxing people is annoying. But if we can’t have a joke here, then…. sheesh!

  39. Ruby — on 11th August, 2007 at 4:10 pm  

    The Sikh Federation are irrelevant pissants Sunny. The Southall by-election showed that. So it’s not worse at all. There arent Sikh or Hindu suicide bombers and hate mongerers out there like there are Muslim ones.

  40. Ruby — on 11th August, 2007 at 4:11 pm  

    What also annoys me is that as someone of Indian origin I do not feel like India represents someone like me

    Try being a non-Muslim in Pakistan. Whoops! They hardly exist, all been wiped out / converted or on their way to dissapearing.

  41. Ruby — on 11th August, 2007 at 4:44 pm  

    Oh TheIrie, that’s already underway to some extent, the demonisation by racist white journalists, the accumptions, it’s already there. The worst thing is how British Asian journalists dont note it or at least respond to some of the invective and bigoted stereotypes — and this issue the BBC Asian Network for example is strangely quiet.

  42. Jagdeep — on 12th August, 2007 at 1:00 am  

    blah blah blah Sikh Hindu Muslim blah blah blah

    Only joking

  43. sonia — on 12th August, 2007 at 3:24 am  

    oh all right…:-)

  44. Sofia — on 13th August, 2007 at 10:04 am  

    Ruby, when there are over 300 million muslims in india, more than the entire population of pakistan, then ignoring them is pretty stupid…as for what is going on in Pakistan, I totally agree with you. Preservation and respect of minority groups should be important and many pakistanis agree…i went there and was surprised at the number of Sikh and Christian people I met. I also travelled there with a Sikh friend who visited the shrines there. I don’t know if her positive experience was only anecdotal…
    anyway i’m not on a rant this week…

  45. Ravi Naik — on 13th August, 2007 at 11:24 am  

    “Ruby, when there are over 300 million muslims in india, more than the entire population of pakistan, then ignoring them is pretty stupid”

    Ignoring is a good thing in my book. Secular countries should ignore religion, because it is something personal, very divisive, and discriminatory. Is there much difference in culture and values between a muslim, sikh, christian, hindu, jewish, agnostic or atheist person of Indian descent in Britain or in India?

    We all acknowledge that our roots are in the Indian subcontinent, we aspire to see India back to its rightful place: as a developed nation from its current third-world status. A powerhouse in science, technology, spiritual enlightenment, and social tolerance.

    I can see more harm than good for people to use religion as their main and perhaps only identity.

  46. Sofia — on 13th August, 2007 at 1:45 pm  

    I don’t see why me identifying myself through religion should be an issue as much as identifying oneself in whichever way that suits them.
    As for India being a secular country..don’t make me laugh

  47. funkg — on 13th August, 2007 at 2:05 pm  

    As someone from an afro Caribbean background who has visited India often, I have had the benefit of being an outsider looking in and not just as a typical white western tourist. What struck me about the all of the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christians was the common (Indian) culture between all of them, I couldn’t tell who was who and what faith they were. I am from a catholic Christian background and walking into a Keralan Christian church, was alien to my experience of English catholism which was much more staid. Many Keralan and Goan catholic have arranged marriages, celebrate Diwali and no doubt Eid too.

    What many non south east Asians fail to do is differentiate what is deemed as culture and what is religion/faith. For instance brick lane Mela, with all of its celebration and partying is not strictly Islamic even though many Bangladeshi Muslims celebrate it. Sonia you can’t always expect non Asians to understand all of the nuances of asian cultures/religions because I have heard some Asians confuse culture with religion myself.

  48. Ravi Naik — on 13th August, 2007 at 6:00 pm  

    “I don’t see why me identifying myself through religion should be an issue as much as identifying oneself in whichever way that suits them.”

    There is no issue at all, Sofia. We all belong to different groups, which in a sense, define us as individuals. I just think that being defined by a single group leads to trouble, specially when religion is concerned. I do think religion (or lack of it) should be a private affair.

    I agree that India is not as a secular country as Britain, but it is pretty impressive to see that there is a harmony between different faiths, even though sometimes people misbehave, and the law is not enforced to protect the victims.

  49. Ravi Naik — on 13th August, 2007 at 6:14 pm  

    “What struck me about the all of the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christians was the common (Indian) culture between all of them, I couldn’t tell who was who and what faith they were. I am from a catholic Christian background and walking into a Keralan Christian church, was alien to my experience of English catholism which was much more staid”

    Let me congratulate you first on your observations. I hope you have more opportunities to visit India in the future. As a followup to your observations, in Goa, Catholics also maintain the caste system, and in religious processions, different castes wear different colour bands. You can of course figure out people’s faith by their surnames, and clues about the things they wear. Regardless of this, I also agree that there is a sense of national identity that goes beyond faith. No doubt, a legacy of Gandhi.

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