Thursday, July 03, 2008

A half-Muslim's view on how Muslims should be percieved

I'm half-Muslim. The other half is Hindu. While there were no overt attempts in the house to make me choose between either religion, there was exposure to both. Outside of the home, you didn't meet many Muslims and therefore the exposure outside the home was primarily Hindu. And thankfully we grew up celebrating all festivals in the house, and had Christian teachers in school, so there was an ample dose of Christianity thrown in.

I was raised by my Mother on Amar Chitra Kathas. (Uncle Pai therefore shares some of the blame for how I've turned out.) I read comics on Jesus Christ, Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Buddha, Mahavir Jain, Guru Nanak, Kabir, Agastya, Ghatotkach and a truckload on Hindu mythology. I read loads about India's history, her invasions, her home grown kings, and Amar Chitra Kathas always presented an unbiased, usually positive viewpoint, the kind that kids should be exposed to.

I grew up accustomed to people marvelling at my knowledge of "Hindu" mythology, and other religions. I also grew up practically unaware of what Islam was about. Since my family didn't pay much attention to it, I was only aware of who the "heroes" of Islam were: The Prophet, Hazrat Ali & his martyred sons Imam Hasan & Imam Husain, and their clan.

As I grew older, I met more Muslims, relatives who didn't have the advantage of a Western education, who were amazed at how little I knew about Islam. They tried to impress upon me, how good the religion was, what it said etc. Unfortunately, I was in my teens & rebellious, saying emphatic NO's to everything. Also, these people were not exactly the best of teachers.

Thankfully my Grandfather was an erudite, liberal scholar. And his daughter, my Mother had learnt her Islam from him. So she chose to teach me about the progressiveness of Islam. I found that my Grandfather's interpretations of the religion were radically different from what the common Muslim knew & believed. My Mother taught me all about the history of the region where the religion originated and linked it to why certain things were expressed in a certain way in Islam. It made much more sense that way. Simple things like this: Islam considers Moses an earlier Prophet of Islam and his teachings are incorporated in the Quran. So "Thou shalt not kill" is an integral part of Islam.

The damage however had been done by then. I knew my family was different, but the image of the common Muslim in my mind was this: They're Islam obsessed. All they seemed to talk about was religion. If ever another topic came up, the answers were sought in Islam. And that bothered me. Until I realized that all over the World, people seek answers & direction from their religion. Why then did it seem to me that Muslims were more religions focused than other religious groups? That is something I am looking for an answer to.

With all the World attention on Islam & all the hate that spews out in blog forums & on the roads sometimes against it, I've been wondering if there is anything Muslims can do to clear the air. Here are some of the things that I think Muslims should/should not do:

  • Educated, liberal Muslims should use media to clear the air about what the religion stands for. It should showcase the lives of Muslims like themselves using TV, papers, novels, films whatever i available. The common non-Muslim deserves to know what Islam really stands for. They must undo the damage that the conservatives have caused. A PR exercise is desperately needed.

  • Muslim majority countries like Iran should lay off minorities like the Bahais. Educated Muslims should actively condemn Iran when it does something like this. Countries like Saudi Arabia should allow freedom of religious expression in their countries. Unless they're content to be knows as a hardline, conservative state. I as an educated, liberal, half-Muslim would be the first to condemn religious states!

  • The Shia-Sunni divide needs to be bridged. This is easier said than done, but if the differences are irreconcilable, they should at least lay off each other. And guys like zakir naik should be condemned publicly if they mouth any hate.
Notice that I am not just saying "educated". I am saying "educated, liberal". There is a difference and that is the section in whose hands the image of Muslims worldwide lies today.

  • The media doesn't seem to be helping on it's own. So there should be an active involvement with the media, a partnership that showcases the attitudes of people like Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Farooque Shaikh, the bin laden niece who made a magazine cover in America. People like Dinara Safina, Marat Safin, Sania Mirza & their parents.
I intend to do my two bits. This way while I can & more if I can later.

My mini-mission going forward is to impress upon each uber-conservative Muslim I come across, the importance of being as modern & liberal. And how it's important for their community to come across as that, if they're to contribute to solving the problems that face them today. I'm aware that most of them will take it as personal criticism & will react just the way I did as a teenager, but I must sow the seeds of the idea in their mind.

If you agree dear readers, please help me do the same. Please speak to every hardliner you come across & tell them to live their life as they would like their religion to be perceived. If they want to be viewed as progressive, educated, liberal, loving & peaceful, then they must be that themselves. Do spread the good word.


  1. That's a great mission you have chosen to undertake. But the problem is that with hardliners (I've met Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Maoist types) it's very very very difficult to make them see light. But that shouldn't deter you. We can always try. As Oscar Wilde put it "All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars!"

  2. I've been at this mission for pretty long actually AR. Am just going to pursue it with more fervour now!
    More importantly, please join me!

    Have you seen the non-pirated, uncut version of "Khuda Kay Liye"? Specially Naseer's part?

  3. Keep up the good work then, I must say! I haven't seen Khudaa Kay Liye yet though I've really wanted to. Dunno how much help I can be in ur mission but do let me know. I'll do the best I can!

  4. A half muslim is no muslim. It is an oxymoron. A half muslim can be a full Hindu. But in Islam there are no shortcuts. Either you are with Allah or against Allah. That is the basic of Islam - That you worship no other God or Creed other than Allah and Muhhamad is the last and final prophet. Get it. Islam has no short cuts. It is the mother of fundamentals.

  5. bajrang(dal)i...

    Maybe not in your book. Unfortunately for you I don't subscribe to the Big Monkey's Dictionary of Religion. Nor is my knowledge of religion gathered from a quick reading of "Religion for Dummies, Ver. 6.0".

    I'll give you a list of half-Muslims:
    My Sister.
    My Daughter. (1/4th Muslim blood actually)
    Shah Jahan. (1/4th again)
    The Aga Khan.
    Omar Abdullah.
    Sanjay Dutt.
    Farhan & Zoya Akhtar.
    Aamir's kids.
    Shahrukh's kids.
    Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's kids?
    Farooque Shaikh's kids?

    Is this list of half-Muslims sufficient?

    Or were you not talking birth...?

    Then what're you talking about? Faith? Belief?

    Let's see... If I'm half-Arya Samaji Hindu (who're non-idol/photo/stone-worshipping, monotheistic folk) & half-Muslim; is there a lack of congruence that you can somehow see?

    Who's to pass judgement on someone's religion (or lack of it)?

    Very very basically, anyone who believes in the existence of one God (what name you choose to call him by is up to you) qualifies as a Muslim. So if you believe that there is only one God, you qualify to be called a Muslim.

    And please don't write rubbish like "Either you are with Allah or against Allah" on my forums & try to pass it off as authentic knowledge of Islam. Allah just means God. With God means a believer. Against God means atheist. That logic applies to all religions, even Snatan Dharm.
    Islam just asks for "Submission to the will of God". Everything else is secondary. Similarly in Hinduism, it's your belief in God that establishes you as a believer (as opposed to an atheist). What name you call God by is secondary. Which of his Prophets you follow is secondary. THAT my dear friend, is as you put it, "the mother of all fundamentals" in all religions.

    Get it?

  6. Never mind the BS, Iconoclast! Some people like Mr. Bajrangi above seem to know more about Islam than Muslims themselves! [:D] Laugh and move on. Fight like you have done before but with a broad smile for fools like him. Pray to Allah/Bhagwan/Jesus that he may at some point in his hate-filled life know better.

  7. :-D

    Broad enough Roy? ;-)

    Where've you been this long?

    To your prayer, I'd like to add:
    Inshallah/Bhagwaan Kare/Amen. :-)

  8. Your opinion will be greatly appreciated


Apologies but Moderation is a necessary evil, what with spam, bots, flamers & trolls abounding.
The publishing of any comment that is abusive or way off-topic remains at the discretion of the administrator.
Thank you for commenting.