Thursday, May 05, 2011

Not just a Muslim

I don't hate dogs, I am only scared of them. And that has nothing to do with me being a Muslim. That was an “explanation” I had to give to a colleague when a dog walked up and came close to me as we were sitting on the podium outside our office building. I got scared, screeched and got up. Hysterical, I know, but am afraid that's how dogophobics react to even the tail-wagging warm gestures of a cute puppy. “Muslim women are scared of dogs,” remarked my colleague. “My fear of dogs has nothing to do with me being a Muslim,” I told her. “No, I have read that Muslims hate dogs because the satan spit on the dog (or the dog spit on the satan). That is why Muslims can't have dogs as pets. I always wanted to have dog pet, but my mother never let me because of this reason,” she said. Hearing this, a non-Muslim co-worker said, “But that's weird” and then the discussion went on about Islam and its take on dogs. 

I kept quiet and walked away. For this was just another frustrating instance of how my or any other Muslim's religious identity overpowers everything else. You are a Muslim first and your views on anything — from dogs to bags to songs to perhaps even a toilet cleaner — has to do with your religion. Or so think most non-Muslims and the so-called “liberal” Muslims who are ever so eager to run down moderate Muslims (that's a separate topic altogether, which I shall write in another blogpost). Oh yes, by the way, I am scared of cats more than I am of dogs and I'd never have a cat as a pet, despite the fact that cats were a favourite of Prophet Muhammad and many Muslims, at least in the Arab world, have cat pets. 

But who cares? You hate dogs because you are Muslim. Just as you can't understand  homosexuality because you are a Muslim. In a discussion on homosexuality with my friends, I said, “I can't understand the concept. How can one be a homosexual? Besides, if everyone were to be a homosexual, how would we procreate?”. I was trying to understand this form of sexual orientation and I may have erred in my judgement while posing my question, but my friends immediately pounced on me with, “Irena, stop thinking in terms of religion”. Religion? I never mentioned the point of religion at all. But hey, the mullahs are protesting against the Delhi High Court's order to decriminalise it, so you must be toeing their line. Aren't the pundits, the priests and a couple of political parties too protesting against the order? Nah, they are “liberated” enough from the diktats of the priests and the pundits, but you always toe the lines of the mullahs.

It is an unfortunate truth that the religious identity of Muslims overpowers the rest of their identities — national, regional, sexual, professional etc. It's particularly sad that despite being 15 per cent of the national population, people know very little about Muslims and have tons of misconceptions about them, that have been formed due to the images they see in the mass media — be it that of a gun-toting bearded militant (so, if a Muslim has a beard, he may be a terror sympathiser!) or that of someone whose favourite form of music is the qawwali. When I had walked into the room of a Punjabi girl from Chandigarh in my hostel, she immediately turned off her stereo which was playing a peppy Bollywood number. And asked me, “Should I play the Sabri brothers' qawwali for you?” I said I don't listen to qawwalis She was surprised. “But don't Muslims listen to qawwalis?” she asked.

Irena Akbar in Indian Express. More Here

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