Monday, September 19, 2011

The skull-cap does not define a Muslim. It is faith or ímaan' that matters

We have the habit of fighting over inessentials. That is what the world really gets bogged down in. We cannot help it. So, the debate over whether Gujarat chief minister Narender Modi, who has the reputation of being a rabid anti-Muslim because of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state. That is why, his refusal to wear the skull-cap or prayer cap offered by a Muslim cleric is being seen as an expression of anti-Muslim sentiment. The cleric too felt that way. Modi could have worn the cap and still retained the anti-Muslim sentiment. It was not necessary to wear the cap to declare his pro-Muslim stance. It is not even necessary to hold an iftar party during the month of Ramadan to prove his pro-Muslim credentials.

What is more important is genuine respect for other people, other cultures, other religions, other ideas and so on. But self-centred people rarely look out in a genuine manner. Modi is a self-centred man, and he is not alone in this. There are many, many more like him. That is the way the world is.

It does not even matter whether Modi becomes a pro-minorities secularist. It is his personal choice and he has a right to make that choice. But when he is an elected position, he cannot discriminate against the minorities because of his personal biases. He has to serve the minorities in spite of personal aversion. That is the test Modi has to apply to himself and others have to do the same as well. Muslims should not expect him to be pro-Muslim. But they have every right to expect that he does not discriminate against them on account of their religion.

Both Modi's admirers and his critics then will have to come up with believable evidence either to prove or disprove Modi's stance as an elected administrator. Rhetoric on either side will not help.

One has to get beyond the silly symbolism, though symbolism is both important nice.

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