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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Different Ways of Being Religious

Some curious news from Margy. She was trying to have a quiet bus trip into rural Bulgaria, but her professional obsessions just seemed to follow her.

I spent this weekend in the country. My hope was to relax, to escape from immigrants, emigrants etc no way! Sitting at the bus a Roma lady from the same village started to explain me her family story, close connected with Spain She have told me so many interesting things.... Look at this: It will be mass baptization here in the end of summer - at St Mary's Day, because of new mythology - if you are dark skin person you probably look like Muslim and at the borders - no chance to pass So all those documents of baptisation will serve as passports to the West. Can you imagine this? Keep in mind - they are Christians "by origin" but because of agressive atheistic politics of Communist times - a lot of them are not Baptised /that's what exactly I did at 1990 for my family but without any idea of emigration And hush..... never say to Bulgarian Roma people that they are Catholics mostly in Spain - despite we tried to kill the Pope and despite he was here last year - I do not want to carry a project on Catholicizm among Roma people here..................

Meanwhile, on the same intercultural religious theme, Ubaid in Bombay sends the following rather surprising response to my question about why he finds it easier to be a muslim in Bombay than to be one in LA. The questions are cultural and practical, and the seem to me.........to be all to do with networking externalities.

there are two reasons i can give for my claim that it is easier to practice islam in bombay than it is to in los angeles. the first is the accessibility and abundance of mosques. i live in a predominantly muslim area and there are four mosques within walking distance. the one i attend is literally a two minute walk. islam requires you to pray five times everyday, in los angeles i'd normally have to get into a car and drive over to the mosque, doing that five times, or even thrice, everyday, is obviously not all that exciting a prospect.

The second factor is my belief that faith requires reinforcement, being around and with people professing and practicing a particular faith strengthens your own belief system. in america you tend to be either too orthodox in an effort to safegaurd your beliefs from the constant cultural onslaught, or your faith gets unstuck. of course having been brought up in india it must be easier for me to practice in the environment is spent twenty one years in, i'm not sure if this would be true for an american muslim. there are other factors like the halal issue. in america i cannot, in general, eat out since islam requires the meat you touch to be halal, which is, the animal should have been slaughtered in a proscribed manner. here in bombay most of the meat providers are muslims so you can eat pretty much anywhere you like. overall i think the reasons are more cultural than religious.

This comment from Ubaid lead me to a link Annand sent me from Hyderbad last week. He has been trying to interest me in contibuting to an Indian Webzine , so I went to explore, and tucked away in the essays section I found this.

An Indian Muslim lives on two levels. One is when he is on his own turf interacting with his fraternity. He is unguarded and expresses freely his sense of grief about the discrimination he encounters, about the way his loyalty to his country is questioned, about the way his religion is perceived and projected.

The other is when he is all too charming interacting with the members of the other communities. He considers himself to be the ambassador of his faith, trying conscientiously to create the right impression with a sense of guilt lingering somewhere at the back of his mind. Is it the guilt of Partition of the country or of the years of Muslim rule, which has been imposed on him? Or is it the minority syndrome to live on two levels at the same time, trying hard to strike a balance to be accepted by society?

It is a complex situation that he has to grapple with. Indian Muslims have come a long way trying to forget the traumatic division of the country. Yet the feeling of vulnerability has never left them entirely. It is a negative emotion and they do not cherish it. But whenever they have lulled themselves into believing that things are normal, shrill communal voices of a few jolt and alarm them.

Time and again they are blamed for not joining the mainstream. How can they be part of the mainstream, if there is one, when they are in real fear of losing their identity - the only prized possession they have? What is this business of being in the mainstream? Be a partner in the progress? Have a fair share of the cake? Is this possible given the neglect they have suffered? They feel they have never been treated fairly. They should have been helped to overcome their insecurity instead of being subjected to alienation so often. That drove them further into their corner. They needed a messiah. But there was none. They were let down by their own leaders. They were easily exploited, as reason had long given way to the all-powerful emotions.

Muslims feel hurt and disillusioned when they are accused of being "appeased" buy a certain political party. If they were appeased and pampered they would not be in the squalor they are in. The appeasement would show in their lifestyle, in their living conditions and their education. They are trailing on all fronts. Their identity crisis is accentuated whenever there is a talk of a common civil code. Why can't they be left alone to conduct their affairs within the bounds of their faith which, doesn't interfere with the national interest?...........

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