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Religion causes Identity Crisis

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This article was written by Dilip Bam in February 2003 in response to Mr. Rafiq Zakaria’s article in the Times of India newspaper (page.8) of 24 February 2003. 

Mr. Zakaria was highly educated and was considered a “moderate?” muslim, and was at one time minister in Delhi govt. He is now dead. He was the father of famous American Columnist Fareed Zakaria. 

Sir Vidia referred below is Sir Vidiadhar S. Naipaul (==V.S.Naipaul), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature some years ago. Sir V.S.Nsipaul is of Indian ancestry and lives in Trinidad near South Amerika. V.S.Naipaul is married to a Pakistani muslim woman.

Ref. Sri Zakaria’s tirade against Sir Vidia’s so-called imaginary Islam (FUNDAMENTAL FALLACiES, TOI 24 FEB.2003, PAGE 8). Mr. Z has apparently not read “ROOTS” by Alex Haley, a black American. This book sold millions of copies in hard copy days more than 40 years ago. In this book, Alex Haley traced his roots back to KUNTA KiNTE (pronounced Koonta Kintay), a tribal prince in Africa in 1750, over 250 years ago. 

Kunta Kinte was captured by Arab slavers and transported to America and sold as a slave to a white American cotton farmer. The farmer named him TOBY, but Kunta Kinte resisted and did not respond to the name Toby for a long time, months, maybe years, and always rebelled. He was beaten, burnt and tortured for many months, until he could not bear any more torture and decided there was no escape. So he decided to respond to the name Toby. This means he accepted the identity of Toby and all that it meant, including mainly being a slave. 

The moment he accepted the identity of Toby, he ceased to be Kunta Kinte, and became Toby. This was a paradigm shift. 

Islam in India began in three ways. First was by the sword, (convert or die), such as imposed by Mohd. Bin-Kassim (746 A.D.), Babur (1526 A.D.) and earlier invaders such as Ghori and Ghazni. Second was by allurements, such as high positions in the Mughal and other Islamic courts. Third was to escape the oppressive Hindu Caste system. In every case, the convert had to change his name and assume a new identity in the manner Kunta Kinte (above) decided to become Toby. While Kunta Kinte was a king, Toby was a SLAVE, which is exactly the opposite of KiNG. Thus when Hindus in India converted to Islam (for whatever reason) they had to become the very antithesis of what they earlier were. They HAD to deny their earlier existence as Hindus, and to reinforce this denial they had to do everything exactly opposite of what they were or were doing earlier as Hindus. 

If Hindus prayed facing east (the Sun), Muslims prayed facing west (Mecca). If Hindus wore Gandhi topi =pointed, Muslim wore skullcaps=round. If Hindus used a lota, Muslims use a tota (utensil with spout=tota). If Hindus kept moustaches, Muslim kept only beards. If Hindu Devnagari was written from left-to-right, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu were written from right-to-left. If as a Hindu he prayed in his native language, as a Muslim he HAD to pray in Arabic. Everything that the new Indian convert did HAD to be absolutely opposite to what he used to do as a Hindu. Thus Islam in India became more of an anti-Hindu movement rather than a way of life. Ergo Islam in India became the very anti-thesis of Hinduism and kept growing as long as there were Muslim rulers and power and pelf was available in exchange for converting to Islam. 

Additionally, the seat of Islam was located in the sands of Arabia, isolated in a symbolic watertight compartment, geographically far removed from the turmoil, wars and other happenings in faraway India. Thus most of the downtrodden of this land who converted to islam, did so, more to become anti-Hindu rather than to believe some Arabic gospel, a sentiment, which continues to this day. 

On planet earth today, based on geographically defined nation states, Islam creates divided loyalties, wherein the body lives in one politico-geographic nation state while the heart lives in another, and more often than not, the two are in conflict, on the ground as well as in the mind of the Islamist living in India. 

Regarding Indonesian Muslims having Hindu names, the reason is the Hindu Shailendra Empire (5th century A.D.) of Sumatra and the Majapahit Empire (14th century A.D.) of Java, which ruled there many centuries ago. 

Indeed, Muslim Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s daughter’s name is Sri Laxmi Devi and she is a Muslim! In Indonesia Islam grew naturally rather than as an anti-Hindu movement (as in India). Islam was introduced into Indonesia and Malaysia by an Indian Tamilian (TN) muslim named Tun Kudu in AD1399 (ref. Book named Sejarah Malayu, which is the standard history text book used in Malaysian schools today). Since Islam in Indonesia did NOT begin as an anti-past movement or as a religion of the sword (Ghazni, Ghori, Babur) or as a religion of money (power and pelf in the Mughal court), the Indonesian convert had no reason to change his name the way Kunta Kinte HAD to accept the name Toby, believe he was Toby and be SEEN (by his masters) to be discharging his (imposed) role of Toby the slave. Thus to the Indonesian Muslim, there was no CONFLICT between his Hindu name and Islamic religion. 

The Islamic ascendancy in India ended more than 300 years ago with the death of the tyrant Aurangzeb (AD 1707), and since then the Indian Islamics have become rootless, pelfless, powerless and isolated in the land of their origin. They are in search of an identity, which is elusive, because they cannot become Saudi Arabian by becoming Islamic. By performing the expensive Haj, the Islamic makes a once-in-a-lifetime attempt to address this feeling of rootlessness, just as his next door Hindu does so everyday by visiting the temple next door. 

I am a Hindu, but I hardly pray. I hardly visit any temple except socially. Yet I do dance in front of Ganpati at the time of visarjan, not because I believe that God is a creature having human body and elephant head, but because all my friends are there dancing and having fun. I also want to have fun. I want to belong (level three of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs). As a Hindu, there is no compulsion on me, or even recommendation for me that I should worship at this shrine or that. Every grain of sand, including the grain under my feet is my God to me (ref. Iqbal’s poem quoted by Mr.Zakaria). There is no conflict within me, for there is no prescribed format for me to follow in order to confirm my identity. I am born as I am. I need no props, rituals, dress code or any outwardly symbols to proclaim who or what I am. I just am. “Aham Brahmasmi”. 

Today almost every geographically defined nation state (except perhaps Indonesia and Turkey), where Muslims are anywhere close to 50% population, proclaims itself as an Islamic state. In Saudi Arabia today, just uttering the name of Ram or Christ in public is a crime. In Pakistan, Bahai’s and Ahmediyas are pre-condemned to death because their Islam born gurus claimed some kind of prophet-hood. In Islam, this is blasphemy, since prophet-hood is reserved for just one man. In scientific terms such absolutism is resorted to when people are unable to come to terms with any given reality. What are they afraid of? 

Judaism and Christianity are not the same as Islam. For one, as per my knowledge, like a Parsi, one is born into Judaism. One cannot convert to Judaism or become a Parsi after birth. Hence it is different from Islam. As to Christianity, especially in India, since most Christians are educated, there is hardly any fundamentalism. My late friend and classmate Francis Mathew Alapatt is more Malyali and Alapatt (Indian) than Francis or Mathew. He used to say: “I am a Kristi Hindu. I am first Hindu, then Kristi”. Probably (I am assuming) same with people like Richard Adhikari, Lajwanti D’souza, Narendra Fernandes and Vineet John Malayil. These people may be Christians, but they do not deny or try to live down their Hindu ancestry. Also they pray in their mother tongue, for their God understands all languages, not just the language which Christ spoke in his time. Anita RalliaRam is a devout Protestant, but she does not wear her religion on her sleeve or her face. There is no outward manifestation of Christianity in her attire or on her face. Therefore, if (ever) her face gets slapped, her religion does NOT get slapped. Anita gets slapped as Anita. Christianity does not get slapped. Indeed it is due to the broadmindedness of modern, educated Christians that a movie like Jesus Christ Superstar could be made, in which Jesus (played by a living actor) was shown as a human. The movie went on to become a great hit with excellent music. Would Islam ever allow this? Christian broadmindedness is obvious from the fact that there are more non-Christian students in Christian schools than Christians. How many non-Muslims are there is Madarsahs? 

Mr. Z talks about millions of Christians going to Jerusalem. Maybe they do. I also go to Siddhi Vinayak when in Bombay. I also go to Tirupati when I am anywhere near about and I can afford the time, money and effort. But it is neither obligatory for me to go to Siddhi Vanayak or Tirupati nor is it obligatory for Christians to go to Jerusalem. The trouble (sic) with Sir Vidiya is that (as mentioned by Mr.Z) “he himself has lost his roots” (sic). This is typical of Islamics whose mental root is in Mecca, whereas a Hindu carries his root wherever he goes. He is universal. To a Hindu like me, a Brazilian rooted in Brazil is a Brindu, the fact of his being a Catholic is just that, a fact. It is NOT an essential condition. A Mexican rooted in Mexico is Mexu and an Arab rooted in Arabia is an Arabu. Indeed, when we group of six Indians crossed the Maghrib (Sahara Desert in North Africa) on Kinetic Honda scooters in 1991-92, my friend Farouk Sheikh was introducing himself as a Hindu and the Algerians, Moroccans and others (all Muslims) were able to identify him as an Indian in spite of his obvious Arab derived name. 

Then Mr. Z gets personal and asks why Sir Vidiya married a Paki Muslim. Again, marriage has nothing to do with religion. Shah Rukh has married a Hindu. So has Aamir – not once but twice – both Hindu women. So did I. Marriage is an institution for nurturing the next generation of our species. Therefore to produce (for which marriage is NOT necessary) my next generation I cohabited with an Arab origin Muslim woman. In order to nurture her next generation in my Hindu society, she converted to Hinduism and we nurtured two healthy offspring, same as any other species: be it spider, cockroach, lion or human. That is law of nature. 

Nature recognizes, sustains and perpetuates just three things: birth, reproduction and death. All else is irrelevant to nature. Nature’s final and one and only prayer (equation?) is Einstein’s equation: E==mC2, that is, E==m x C squared. As a natural born creature, that is enough for me. I do not HAVE to believe in Gita, Ramayan, Vedas or Upanishads or even E=mC2, if I do not wish to. The choice is mine because I am a Hindu. 

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