The house without a window is a hell;
To make window is the essence of true religion.
Don’t thrust your axe on every thicket;
Come, use your axe to cut open a window.
- Jalaluddin Rumi
While I was reading a recently
published book on Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi by Connie Zweig, one of the
great mystics of Islam, my colleague at the dental school asked me,
“Why do you read books written by Muslims only?” I told
him that a similar query was posed to me 10 years ago but then the book
was ‘Culture and Imperialism’ by Edward W. Said! I was intensely
concerned by the observation of the fact that a stereotyped image is
constructed around a Muslim as to what he/she would normally read. It
remains a distressing truth that many of our ‘secular’ friends
would have shirked reading Edward W. Said, thanks to his Arab roots.
Perceiving a writer while reading his/her text shows maturity of the
reader whereas gazing his/her religion/ethnicity prior to reading the
text is blatant bias.
This kind of a construct is bound to create a ‘subtle pressure’
on any individual, intimidating him/her to move away from the currently
contested secular space. When a Muslim thinks for himself/herself, it
is implied that they are doing so for the benefit of the society in
general. That is ‘Muslim’ is not an outsider. If a Muslim
reads history and culture that is to relocate him/her in contemporary
society. This sort of thinking is essential for ‘greater common
good’. Denial of space to such Muslims would prevent healthy dialogue
and subsequent erosion of meaningful contribution from them.
A few vital milestones in the history of Indian subcontinent have substantially
transformed the way by which communities understand each other. 1947
(Partition), 1984 (Sikh mass murder), 1992 & 1993 (Babri demolition
and Bombay blast), 1999 (Graham Stein’s murder), and 2002 (Gujarat
genocide) are examples. Present locale of discourses on secular space,
perhaps, will have to be redefined in such a way that the communities
can recognize common ground. This will definitely broaden the scope
of dialogue of civilizations.
It has become extremely cumbersome for a Muslim to comment on issues
of social importance. ‘Babel’ (2006) a movie by Alejandro
Gonzalez depicts how deeply the global scenario has transformed in terms
of perceiving and responding to violence worldwide. It starts in the
Moroccan desert, where a man buys a Winchester rifle from a neighbor
to help keep the jackals away from his herd of goats. A Japanese hunter
had gifted the neighbor with the rifle in gratitude for his work as
a guide. Alejandro lucidly elaborates how an innocent shepherd boy’s
playful mood turns out to be a serious stand off between US states department
and the Moroccan state officials.
My colleague later went on to borrow the book by Connie on Rumi. He
could not resist commenting after few days on that work, but he said
‘Rumi speaks Advaita!
Dept. of Oral Medicine & Radiology
Century Dental College
Kerala - India
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