This is a timely piece about India’s delicate transition she is facing in her 5000-year-old history of solid pluralistic ethos. As the Eid Al-Adha is approaching there are increasing concerns about the safety of her residents. The lynching vigilantes have gone un-checked in harassing ordinary people. However, I believe a few people from the political parties will not be able to mess the character of Hinduism, it will remain a religion of peace loving people.
India is the world’s largest democracy, although it is constituted as the secular republic in 1947 upon independence from the British rule, it has always been a pluralistic democracy – i.e., respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of her residents.
India is home to many traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Tribal traditions, Sikhism and Atheism, and has welcomed Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Baha’i and other traditions into her fold. Both Hinduism and Jainism have valued the idea of Anekantvaad – expressed in phrases like, “all rivers lead to the ocean” and, “different points of views exist on any given issue.” Indeed, Sikhism emerged as an interfaith movement to mitigate conflicts between extreme religious practices.
All that is crumbling now and time to guard ourselves. There is a worldwide disease affecting democracies, it started in India followed by Israel, UK and now the United States. The disease is inflicting severe phobia to a tiny (yes, a tiny) group of people among the majorities, they assume that their way of life and their culture is threatened by the minorities. It is ridiculous and is not true! The majority way of life anywhere in the world will continue to remain the mainstream.
Thanks to the Minorities in allaying these phobias and assuring the tiny weeny minority representing the majority, that the mainstream way of life will continue to progress in linear terms and will not go upside down. All of us will lead a secure life if we learn to value our ethos; respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
The hallmark of a civil society is freedom to everyone to eat, drink, wear and believe whatever one wants. We were a civil society and we need to preserve it from slipping into a chaotic society where someone dictates what we eat, drink, wear or believe. Muslims being a minority in the United States are making serious efforts to assure the frightened ones among white folks that they are with them, and with every American to build a cohesive America where no American must live in apprehension or fear. I am pleased to report that Indian Muslims are making a similar effort and the majority among the Hindus should know this.
I was concerned about lynching and harassment of Muslims on the day of Eid Al-Adha and had written to a few Muslim leaders to "think and plan to avert disasters on Eid day." I expressed my concerns to Mr. Syed Shafiullah Saheb, Secretary with All India Milli Council, Karnataka and a well-known Muslim face on Television in Bengaluru and who has taken up the role to educate and inform the public about Muslims and Islam. He was on top of the situation and took me to a meeting and this is what I witnessed.
About 150 Muslim Leaders gathered at Qadariya Mosque in Bengaluru on Thursday morning on July 27, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to keep Karnataka state peaceful on Eid Al-Adha (Bakrid) festival.
Syed Shafiullah Saheb was one of the key leaders at the meeting of Imams, Ulemas and Scholars from across Bangalore representing nearly 800 Mosques. It was a joy to see the democratic process with which they conducted the meeting, and how they allowed divergent opinions to be expressed and finally arrived at the resolution unanimously.
It was resolved that:
1. Since there is no law banning slaughter of halal animals (animals permitted for slaughter for food) we can continue the slaughter of animals for using as food or for Qurbani which is legal and permitted as per law.
2. While buying the cattle, we should ask the farmer (cattle owner) himself to obtain & arrange for the certificate by the veterinary doctor certifying the animal to be fit for slaughter, also to transport the said animal to our place after paying extra charges for both. This is to avoid unnecessary hurdles posed by gau-rakshaks (Cow protectors).
3. The delegation of community elders & ulema to meet the Chief Minister & apprise him of the facts, & submit an appeal requesting the government to provide protection to the sellers, buyers, & transporters of the animals from goons causing trouble for legal & lawful trade and slaughter of animals for food in the name of gau-raksha (cow protection).
Muslims will follow the rule of law and will make every effort to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill for the common good of the society at large.
A delegation of Muslim and Hindu leaders together visited the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and others ministers seeking them to maintain law and order and ensure public safety.
I just read an article in Urdu News Paper Salaar, where Syed Shafiullah Saheb is urging Muslims to invite their friends from different religions to celebrate the Eid with them. Indeed, the more we know each other, the fewer myths we will have about others and greater goodwill bring security to every one of us.
What is Eid-Al Adha?
Eid al-Adha is known by many names across the world in different languages. This is the one of the two major festivals celebrated by Muslims, the other one is Ramadan. This is also known as 'Feast of the Sacrifice' and in Indian (Broadly South Asia) context it is called Bakrid as goats (sacrificial lambs) are sacrificed on this day. This has been a practice since the times of Abraham, when he was willing to sacrifice his son Ismael on God’s command to test him, God loved him and instead asked Abraham to sacrifice the lamb.
Now the idea of sacrifice has taken on a larger meaning, sacrificing what is most dear to you. A thousand years ago, the assets of a man were made up of his goats, camels and cattle. The ultimate sacrifice one would make was to give away his precious assets in gifts. Today, the most loved possession is money, and people are willing to give up a lot of things but the money. Money is indeed our precious asset, as it can buy just about everything we need.
Sacrifice is willingness to give up what is essential for our survival. It is about parents going to sleep without food but feeding their kids; it is clothing their kids while waiting to get their own. In case of extremities, we would rather get the bullet and save our loved ones, we are willing to rescue the child from a freezing lake risking our own life, and even strangers do that. That is sacrifice: the willingness to value life of the loved ones over our own.
It was Abraham’s turn to face the command of God to sacrifice his son. Upon hearing this, he prepared to submit to God’s will. When he was all prepared to do it, God revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others, and that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him to submit to God.
Does God want animals to be sacrificed?
Not at all. Qur’an, Al-Hajj 22:37 (The Pilgrimage) is clear:
“Never does their flesh reach God, and neither their blood. It is only your God-consciousness that reaches Him. It is to this end that we have made them subservient to your needs, so that you might glorify God for all the guidance with which He has graced you. And give thou this glad tiding unto the doers of good.”
The act symbolizes our willingness to give up some of our own bounties to strengthen and preserve the web and help those who are in need. We recognize that all blessings come from God, and we should open our hearts and share with others. That is indeed the guidance he has graced us with.
No Muslim is going to demand that you do certain things. You have the free will what you do with your sacrifice, who it goes and what purpose it serves.
Sacrifice can be translated as willingness to give up what is most dear to us. Hence, donating money to meet the needs of people would be the right thing to do, as they can pay for their own prioritized needs instead of meat from everyone that they cannot store.
Lastly, God wants us to be just, so please do not discriminate in giving — God doesn’t do that (remember Solomon’s story about lording over food?). Anyone in need is good to receive your help, be it a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jew or any one in your neighborhood. They have the first right to your bounties.
Honoring police, firemen and soldiers
Every day our police officers risk their own lives to protect ours, the firemen and women risk their lives to save a child, a pet or an aged person from a fire; and every day our soldiers put their lives at risk to save fellow soldiers and to save our freedom.
I urge fellow Muslims and all others to stop and salute every one of these men and women, honoring them for their sacrifices and their love for humanity. Better yet, call the firemen, policemen and let them know that as a Muslim you appreciate their sacrifice, and this festival is also about appreciation for such sacrifice.
Will you do that? Are you willing to see the positive changes in perceptions about Muslims? I did that last year in Louisville, within minutes the police officer had emailed the article to his fellow officers appreciating the Muslims.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said the least you can do as charity is to smile and appreciate the otherness of others.
Mike Ghouse is president of the Center for Pluralism and is committed to build cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.
#Eid al-Adha, #Bakrid, #India, #India Lynching, #MikeGhouse, #Center for Pluralism