FAITH WITHOUT FEAR

I RECENTLY GOT THE OPPORTUNITY TO WATCH A DOCUMENTARY TITLED “AMERICA AT CROSSROADS—FAITH WITHOUT FEAR”. IT TALKED ABOUT THE GROWING UNREST IN THE MUSLIM WORLD AND ITS FALLOUT IN THE WEST. I DO NOT BELONG TO THE COMMUNITY, BUT THEIR CULTURE AND HISTORY DO INTEREST ME. YOU CAN CALL ME A KEEN OBSERVER OF THE HAPPENINGS IN THEIR WORLD. THIS DOCEMUNTARY, BASED ON A BURNING ISSUE OF THE 21st CENTURY GAVE THE VIEWS OF IRSHAD MANJI, A MUSLIM REFORMIST WRITER AND CRITIC. THE ENTIRE 57 MINUTES DOCUMENTARY WAS BASED ON HER VOICE AND “HER” VERSION OF ISLAM THAT SHE WANTS. CALL ME A CONSERVATIVE OR SOME FUNDAMENTALIST; I CAN HONESTLY SAY I WASN’T IMPRESSED BY HER STANCE.

NOT THAT I DIDN’T KNEW WHAT WOULD SHE BE TALKING ABOUT IN THE FILM. A SEARCH THROUGH GOOGLE FOR “IRSHAD MANJI” GAVE ME ENOUGH FEEDS AS TO WHAT TO EXPECT FROM HER. BUT STILL HER VIEWS IN THE FILM SURPRISED ME TO SOME EXTENT. AGREED, SOME OF HER CONCERNS REGARDING ISLAM SEEMED GENUINE, BUT THERE WERE ENOUGH INSTANCES WHEN ONE FEELS THAT SHE IS MERELY SAYING WHAT THE WESTERN WORLD WANTS TO HEAR. WITHOUT GOING INTO MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DELIBERATIONS: TAKE FOR INSTANCE THE 36th MINUTE OF THE DOCUMENTARY. IT SHOWS HER AND HER MOM GOING IN A CAR AND HAVING A DEBATE OVER THE 5-TIMES-A-DAY-PRAYERS RITUAL. HER MOM WANTS HER TO BE A GOOD MUSLIM AND PRAY 5 TIMES A DAY TO THE ALLAH, FACING THE MECCA. SHE RETORTS BY SAYING THAT SHE DOES INDEED PRAY, BUT NOT IN THAT PRESCRIBED FORMAT. THEN ENSUES A DISCUSSION BETWEEN THEM THAT EVOKES KEEN INTEREST. TO QUOTE HER MOTHER,”LOOK AT THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS. WE ALL WANT THEM TO BE GREEN FOR US SO THAT WE CAN DRIVE OUR OWN WAY. BUT IT IS NOT TO BE. EVERY SYSTEM HAS ITS OWN RULES AND REGULATIONS AND IT IS FOR THE COMMON GOOD OF ALL, NOT FOR SOMEONE’S PERSONAL GAINS” A VERY APT EXAMPLE. PRAYING 5 TIMES A DAY FOR THE MUSLIMS IS AKIN TO THE SUNDAY MASS FOR THE CHRISTIANS. THERE IS NO GOOD OR BAD TO THAT. IT’S JUST A RULE TO BE FOLLOWED BY THE BELIEVERS. AND IF ONE DOESN’T FOLLOW IT, ITS HIS OR HER OWN PERSONAL CHOICE. BUT IN THE SAME BREATH, ONE SHOULDN’T GO ABOUT PREACHING THEIR PERSONAL CHOICES IN THE COMMUNITY. REGRETTABLY, IRSHAD MANJI TRIES TO DO JUST THAT IN THE DOCUMENTARY, WHICH TAKES AWAY THE SPIRIT OF MAKING A NON-ALIGNED FILM.

CONSIDER ANOTHER SCENARIO:: 39.10th MINUTE: HERE SHE’S QUESTIONING THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE QURAN! SHE BELIEVES THAT THE HOLY BOOK IS FLAWED AND SO SHOULD BE MODIFIED TO MEET THE CURRENT SCENARIO! IS THIS SOME ACADEMIC BOOK WHICH NEEDS YEARLY EDITIONS? CERTAINLY NOT. THIS BOOK IS BEING FOLLOWED BY BILLIONS OF PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE CENTURIES. THE MUSLIM AUDIENCE IN THE CONFERENCE TO WHICH SHE WAS ADDRESSING WAS LEFT BAFFLED, AND SO WAS ME. HERE SHE WAS, CHALLENGING THE BASIC TENETS OF A RELIGION, AND EXPECTING PEOPLE TO REMAIN CALM? AND ON TOP OF THAT SHE WAS CLAIMING TO BE A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ISLAMIC FAITH! I’M NOT A MUSLIM, BUT HER VIEWS DISTURBED ME TOO.NOW I CAN PARTLY UNDERSTAND THE ANGER OF THE MUSLIM WORLD AGAINST HER.

I RELATED HER “PROGRESSIVE” VIEWS IN MY CONTEXT. BEING A HINDU BRAHMIN, I’M EXPECTED TO CHANT THE GAYATRI MANTRA AND PERFORM SURYA NAMASKAR EVERY DAY. I DO NEITHER. ITS NOT THAT I HATE THESE RULES OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. ITS MY PERSONAL CHOICE, WHICH MIGHT CHANGE IN THE YEARS TO COME. BUT THERE IS A WHOLE LOT OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PERSONAL DECISION AND A BELIEF. PERSONALLY, I WILL STICK TO MY DECISION, BUT THAT DOESN’T EMPOWER ME TO LAMPOON THE AGE-OLD BELIEFS. SAME GOES WITH THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. I PERSONALLY FIND SOME OF THE RULES IRRELEVANT AND EVEN MILDLY REVOLTING IN SOME CASES. THE SCHOLARS TELL ME THAT THEY MIGHT SEEM SO, BUT THEIR UNDERLYING ESSENCE IS ETERNAL IN ITSELF. I KNOW THAT I KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT THEIR CONTENTS, BUT I RESPECT THEM, AND THEY ARE A SYMBOL OF MY RELIGION. I WILL NEVER GO ABOUT PREACHING MY SET OF ‘BELIEFS’ ON MY COMMUNITY. SADLY, IRSHAD MANJI BLURS THE LINE BETWEEN THESE TWO POLES.

IRSHAD MANJI ALSO SPEAKS AT LENGTH ABOUT THE BANE THAT IS THE BURQA. HOW SHE RESENTS IT AND CALLS UPON ALL MUSLIM WOMEN TO FREE THEMSELVES FROM ITS SHACKLES. YEAH, I TOO PERSONALLY FEEL THE OUTFIT TO BE TOO CONFINING AND AWKWARD. BUT THAT’S MY PERSONAL OPINION. NEVERTHELESS, THE BURQA IS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE MUSLIM SOCIETY. LET US RELATE IT IN TERMS OF THE INDIAN SOCIETY. TIME AND AGAIN THERE HAVE CALLS BY THE RIGHT-WING ORGANISATIONS TO ADHERE TO ‘DRESS-CODE’ FOR THE WOMEN FOLK; WHICH ESSENTIALLY MEANS ABSTAINING FROM WESTERN OUTFITS AND WEARING ONLY SAREE/ SALWAR KAMEEZ. WHILE IT IS WRONG FOR ANY ORGANISATION TO DICTATE DRESSING TERMS FOR THE POPULATION, THERE IS ANOTHER SIDE TO IT. IF EVERYONE STARTS FORGETTING ABOUT THEIR OWN CULTURE, THEIR OWN AGE-OLD BELIEFS, WILL IT NOT BE JUST BLINDLY APING THE WESTERN WORLD? THERE SHOULD BE A LINE DRAWN. BUT HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? THAT IS A DILLEMMA THAT THE MIDDLE-EAST AND THE EASTERN CIVILIZATIONS HAVE BEEN FACING FOR QUITE SOME TIME NOW. THERE IS MORE TO THE BURQA STORY THAN JUST THE OPPRESSSION OF WOMEN…

ALL IN ALL, THE DOCUMENTARY WAS A LET DOWN. INSTEAD OF SHOWCASING THINGS FROM A NEUTRAL PERSPECTIVE, IN MANY CASES IRSHAD MANJI SEEMED, TALKED AND LOOKED LIKE A WESTERN MOUTHPIECE.MOST PEOPLE MAY NOT AGREE TO THIS, MAINLY BECAUSE THE WESTERN WAY HAS BECOME “THE WAY” IN TODAY’S WORLD.

I WOULD APPRECIATE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACKS FROM THE READERS. AND IF POSSIBLE DO WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY AND LET ME KNOW YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE SAME!

 

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