On Muslims and Bias
‘Lalit’ magazine published a special number on Vijay Tendulkar. It contains an article, originally published in English by ‘Communalism Combat’ and translated in Marathi. Titled ‘Muslim aani Mee’ [Muslims and I] the great playwright speaks about how he developed a deep bias against Muslims without even meeting any Muslim till the age of twelve.
Tendulkar speaks of some experiences that are quite common to all maharashtrians. Those who sported a beard were advised to shave it off for the fear of being mistaken for being a Muslim when the communal tensions grew. Like Tendulkar, many of us have heard the common expression ‘Manoos Ahes ka Musalman?’ [Are you a human being or a Muslim?]
On my visit to New Delhi I was shocked [quite literally] to see a street named after Aurangzeb. He was a villain to us. ‘How could anybody think of naming a street after him?’ I asked the people who accompanied me. ‘He was a good General of his Army’ my Senior answered, a Tamil Brahmin who was well read in history and who was also a staunch Hindu. I was taken aback. I had not realised that the historical events can be seen from different perspectives.
All these thoughts come to my mind because I read Tendulkar’s article and I also wrote to Mirza Yawar Baig complaining that I was finding it difficult to get a copy of the Holy Quran in Marathi. Mirza Yawar Baig is a renowned trainer who is fervently trying to disabuse the misgivings in the minds of all about Muslims. He promptly obtained a Marathi copy for me.
Do Muslims also display secularity, I asked myself. Surprisingly I did not have to go a long way to find examples. Peer Mohd. Attar, a worker in the organisation where I work, always took lead in organising Satyanarayana Pooja at the work place. He actually was a sought after man for his oratory and organising skills.
And my Driver, Sharif, is an ardent Ganesh devotee. He goes to the Siddhivinayak Temple at Prabhadevi [which Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan also visit]. He often offers a hibiscus flower to the Ganesh idol kept on the dashboard of my car.
Both Peer Mohd and Sharif display a very healthy respect for another religion. They are more secular than me and many others I know.
Why is it so? Does it have something to do with our upbringing or education? You decide.
In my experience, these are rooted deep into your being from childhood. I, for example, had strong bias against Muslims and SC/ST. This was due to what was told to me at home and the friends circle that I had. I still have the same family and friends but my outlook has changed after various experiences and readings.
I believe that though I have understanding of these aspects of life and know that these are nothing but biases, there are few occasions where I just can’t get these out of myself. The true test of non-bias, for me, would be to marry some one who is Muslim or an SC/ST. I just can’t get myself comfortable with that. Sir if I, with the education and understanding, can’t get over it, it sure would be very difficult for the uninitiated. Its, I guess, like the monkeys-in-the-cage-given-shock-for-taking banana story, where no one knows why they are doing it, but they do it. Even if they know, the punishment(social) is too much a price.
Yes Sir, I agree that it has to do with the upbringing and education, but there are few kind souls who do it because thats the way they are!
Sir, upbringing and education play an important part. So do circumstances and events in life !
Values like secularism are present in people ! it may take a keen eye to notice them, for it may not be vociferously worn on the sleeve !
We are bound to differentiate someone belonging to a different social group – be it based on gender,religion, caste or occupation. Though popular movements have elevated our understanding over the equality of gender, the reverse has happened in the case of religion and caste. There are far more people trying to find the difference than promote some underlying unity. Add to that the communities we live in are structured along lines of caste.So, interactions with people of different religion is always less ( as also pointed in your post),so its easy not to question our notions, hence develop bias , which over time get deeply entrenched.
Education and civil society plays a big role in the same.
Believing in God as a higher power that is in all nature and creation will help! As trustees of our Creator God,we are all one and inseparable from the source of all creation.Instead of looking at the common shared values,we tend to focus on the uncommon things!Should have a vision as one people,one nation and one destiny!