Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Being Muslim in the street

"How come Shahrukh Khan is adored in a country where there is so much prejudice against Muslims?"An American friend who is living in India asked me recently. At a superficial level, it will confound people that one of the biggest stars in bollywood is a Muslim. Also, the fact that Khan unlike Dilip Kumar retained his Muslim name in movies would be considered as some kind of progress.

In public consciousness in India, there is a "good" Muslim and then there is the "bad" (typified of course by the beard, salwar Kameez and the purdah) Muslim. You are a "good" Muslim if you do not wear your Muslimness loudly in public spaces. The moment you criticize the status quo, the moment your Muslim self becomes prominent, the reaction you get has a strong undercurrent of fear ('so you were like them after all'). The problem is human beings rarely divide their lives in pigeon holes. There are Muslims who may want to be both - who may want to wear hijab but still have pretty strong views against triple talaq or women's right to maintenance. There is very little space for people like that and in fact, there is confusion when confronted with such people. I would even say that some(though not all) of the strong reaction from some Indian feminists against Muslim women re-reading Islamic sources for better rights stems from this dichotomous vision, that you can only be modern if you are secular i.e. if you give up your relgious identity, if not fully, then at least in the public space.


Anjum said...

your observation here is very accurate..

Anonymous said...

the phenomenon of strong stereotyping, eh?