My friend and I , although we love each other can spend hours arguing about just about anything, but today's arguement was an eye opener. She has several prejudices about the Muslim community and I can place no arguement to stop her from thinking that way! She has come to these conclusions as a result of her exposure to her Muslim 'friends' and colleagues. When we were discussing the subtle exclusionist policy that is adopted by even State institutions when she said that the community itself is responsible for its exclusion. It seems that she is organising a seminar and two Muslim participants want to pray twice during that duration and return late while the others are waiting. Then she sites the case of her colleage in Loreto school in Calcutta who used to take an extra 15 days leave due to some relious observance and would insist on this. She sited further cases of nuns of a school being threatened by Muslim goons who forced them to employ their women who, without prior intimation would take leave, or ask for other priviledges on the grounds of religious observations. Then there is the case of a student whose father insisted that she be allowed to excuse herself from class twice in a day to pray during Ramzan, a teacher's house was close to the school and she was granted leave to go there by the sister's grugingly. Now the verdict is - if 'they' are so keen to follow their religious observances then why don't they go to an institution that is organised to fit in their schedule ie a Muslim institution. Thereafter there was the question of the common belief of Hindu alarmists that Muslim men can marry four times and contraception is forbidden in Islam and therefore they will multiply tremendously and finally the Hindus will lose their majority status. I informed my friend that according to the last census report there is not a single Indian male who has 4 wives , there are a few who have 3 but most of them are Hindus. To this she recoiled in horror, the census according to her is no authority since it is a sample survey. Moreover Muslim marriages are not registered hence that is no proof. To which I said that the Muslim marriage is a legal one and hence the Qazi's records would reveal the truth. The Muslim man can go to different different Qazis, said she with conviction. Why would he, said I , when he can legally marry 4? She ignored this, and said, don't I read the newspapers, the Muslims are protesting registration by saying that their religion . How come I have never seen that news item. I have seen Hindus being against registration. In fact many aviod it in the hope of avoiding payment of maintenance in case of dispute. All this arguements to no avail- then she speaks of the refugees from Bangladesh who, encouraged by the West Bengal govt, have chaged the demographic configuration of the borders, helped no doubt by their propensity to marry 4 times on the sly and proliferate due to lack of contraception. I said, you are confusing a border issue with that of Muslims all over India who have been staying here all the time. Then she said how many Muslims do I know, I said I know a few and they all have 2 children. Some have more siblings but so has the Hindus I know of that generation. My dear she said, I know many Muslims and the girls of my generaltion, my friends, have 3 or more she revealed, resting her case. They also can't take criticism, continued she, many people say of Hinduism that they have many gods, but we know that Hinduism has a strong case for the oneness of the devine. True dear but no one is procecuting us for that and what is it but procecution and suspicion if you are counting the kids of your so called Muslim pals and you are scared about changing demography. Well friendship and dialogue is not about partaking of the iftaar feast, which my friend has, but making an effort to break these preconcieved notions and work out how the two communities can truely function in unision for the betterment of nation. We watched 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' yesterday, reveallingly, all the oppressive upper caste nominee for the post of Sarpanch had to do to negate the candidature of a Muslim social worker was to write to the Collector that her husband was an ISI agent! Let me tell you that most Govt officials will believe that of any Muslim, never mind if the man even knows what ISI stands for. The Muslim is always suspect.
Now an incident from real life- the Mr was standing around near his office one day not finding an autorickshaw when it began to rain, a stranger offered him a lift and he took it. After a few moments, the stranger asks- 'are you a Muslim?' -"no" says the Mr, "good" says the guy "for if you were I would not have given you the lift"! Hate is in the air folks, may I have a few stories of love and understanding? Reports of bomb blasts in two cities in Gujarat and Maharashtra has also come in! This is the pits!