Changing your family is the most necessary and the most difficult life task

It was the year 2008, and I had just finished my 10th std. To my shock, my father did not want me to study further. I knew my family was conservative, but not this much. He said that I could only study if I wore the burkha. At that point, I was not entirely convinced of the burkha. My mom wore it, but out of choice. I knew women who wore and did not, and I do not think the cloth per se made them more or less pious. We somehow got him to agree that I would do it post my 12th.

Two years later, I was still not convinced. I researched a lot, and the evidence was sketchy at best, about it’s requirements. Besides, the burkha as it is came because of Khomeini’s campaign in Iran during the 70s. Back then, I was still unsure of my arguing powers so we settled on the midway of a headscarf. I stopped wearing it after a while. I didn’t think it was necessary to wear a piece of cloth to prove my worth to anyone.

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Now, my stance on that was very clear. I guess somewhere my father had realised that. I would be ready with all Quranic evidence and hadith always. Another fact was that I would bring up what men were “supposed” to do as well, according to Islam. That would shut them up.

But what mattered along with that was that my academic record was impeccable, I would go out of my way to help out at home and get a lot of tasks done. And yes, there were never any late nights and for the longest time, most of my family did not think I have male friends. In an ideal world, I should not have to be a typical “good girl” to get basic rights like education and freedom. But this is not an ideal world.

While I was working up to my education, I agreed to certain things and challenged certain things. My dad said I could do my masters only if I agreed to seeing potential grooms after the first year. I agreed. But I’m still not married at 24. Most of these things don’t even happen. It was just a way for him to show him who is in control. While I agreed here, I started challenging that women should eat yesterday’s rotis if they were left. I said, divide the leftovers equally. I helped mom to start questioning things. I helped her stop being a slave for my brothers and bring them down from the pedestal.

The point is, change is slow. And, change is difficult when you have to change the people you love. Because repulsion for their beliefs and love for them as people – both have to exist together and that makes it hard for you.

But it’s possible. Its all about the negotiation. Agree to certain things, and push them for other things. Shifts in reality are always slow.

Recently, a cousin of mine was almost forced into an engagement. She wanted to talk to the guy a little more before deciding, but her parents did not let her, because their society did not allow that. They valued society’s opinion more over their daughter’s happiness.

When my dad came to know this, he said “How can they do something which will surely make their child unhappy?”

Would my dad of 2008 have said this? If this is not change, what is?

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How your Islamophobia is helping  Islamic Radicalism. 

There are many people who will tell you that Islam is a peaceful religion. There will be some who say that it does allow some violence, in some contexts, but not terrorism. But here’s the catch: by being islamophobic, you are adding fuel to the fire and leading to more Radicalism. 

There are many ways that people will deal with attacks on the religion they belong to. One may be a practicing or a cultural Muslim, but when the conversation turns to terrorism and Islamic State, even the least practicing of us feel the need to defend ourself. 

The reason is simple. It is a part of our identity. Just like we would defend India in front of an attack from a foreigner,  despite not liking how we do things internally (Salman Khan, Dadri),  similarly, we feel the need to make people see that there’s more than one version of the story. 

However, there are people who are  unclear about religion and morality. These may also be people who are experiencing a void in life and who need something strong to make life meaningful. Given their current spiritual state, your hatred will only push them towards radical teachings. 

Why? It’s the logic of ‘let me commit the crime I’m already being punished for’. Since these young people are already facing discrimination, coupled with the wrong leaders and unclear principles and an empty life, they fall into the dangerous mix of radicalization. 

If you would like to help this global problem, stop treating each Muslim you meet as a stereotypical presentation.  There are varieties within. Even those on the precarious borders of violence, may yet be convinced with acceptance.

 It is up to you, whether you choose to scorn at the headscarf or try to know deeply the mind within. 

The costliest thing in India that inflation can’t explain: Having an opinion

Outrage is the new Indian hobby. Initially, social media would outrage over issues that required outraging, like rapes and brutal statements by politicians and what not, but now a days, we seem to outrage without thinking. Or worse, we outrage to drown out minority voices. Minority here stands not for muslims, but any person or group of people who want something different than what the mainstream does, something that is not an illegal or immoral thing to ask for.

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When Aamir Khan said his wife suggested moving out of India, he voiced the feelings of not just Muslims, but all sorts of groups who have felt targeted and the Government has done nothing to tell them they will be looked after. These groups include, but are not limited to: women, queer population, Sikhs, SC and ST population, tribals, people in high-distress areas, people affected by man-made and natural disasters, people under the poverty line, people with mental and physical disability, people affected by crimes, people stuck in human trafficking and child labour, children and young adults stuck in observation homes, and so on.

There were some Muslims who came out and said that they have had nothing but love and respect in India, so how could Aamir Khan say what he did. First of all, it’s good that their experience was nice, but because he expressed a different opinion, that does not mean that he is wrong. He has all right to say what he feels, and it is not irresponsible, because he just expressed a sentiment, that many people have been feeling, and not flung mud at anyone blaming them for it.

The outrage he harnessed proved his point that we are inching towards intolerance and bursting at our seems. But it also proved the convenient duality we had: We are happy to garner NRI investments, but loathe when someone talks of leaving the country. We want to champion minority rights, but we don’t care when Muslim women say that they want changes in the Muslim personal law. Perhaps he poked us where it hurts: our denial blind spot.

This divided attention and lack of peace-making efforts from central authorities (but harrowing communal comments from politicians, instead), speak of a psychological divide that was only at the fringes before but now is seeping in everywhere. There are some who are not divided but they simply do not care, and I can’t decide which is worse.

In light of the recent incidents, having an opinion is perhaps the costliest in India. It is much easier if you want to be a mule, absorb consumer products and mindlessly churn our revenue and tax.

Brown Skin: The role of abuse of power in Law Enforcement

The case of 14-year old school-boy Ahmed is all over the social media recently. He constructed an alarm clock at home and bought it to school, but instead of getting recognition, he was arrested. It was suspected that having brown skin and being a Muslim made it more likely that he would have constructed a bomb and not an alarm clock. If this racial profiling it itself was not provoking enough, there were parallel and subsequent news reports which added fuel to fire.

Ahmed Mohammed

Ahmed Mohammed

( http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/22/ahmed-mohamed-withdraws-from-texas-school-that-suspended-him-over-clock)

In an alternative case scenario, a Caucasian school boy of thirteen years of age was applauded for building a nuclear fission reactor with the help of his school. More and more people are asking how this is justified considering a nuclear reactor is much more lethal than an alarm clock. Reports also stated that Ahmed or the alarm clock were not isolated which would be the case if he were really with a bomb. None of the usual bomb safety protocol was followed. It is being suggested that it is very likely that everyone knew this was not a bomb. It seemed like an avenue for harassment.

Which raises a puzzling question: why does law enforcement fall prey to confirming and acting by societal stereotypes? Is it the fact that there isn’t enough training to sensitize them to the effects of their unchecked beliefs and social biases that they may not only be carrying but also reinforcing? That is true, but there is more to the story. According to Feminist Theory, Law, Marriage, Religion and Police are some of the many institutions that work to maintain the status quo. Their language, hierarchy and functioning in structured in such a way that they are given power to replicate what they grew up learning, and use policing and justice systems to reinforce it.

Further, the role of power itself may add to the whole problem. In the iconic Stanford Prison Experiment, a team of researchers found that when everyday people were arbitrarily put in the role of prisoner and guard, those in the role of the guards enforced authoritarian measures and ultimately subjected some of the prisoners to psychological torture. Many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, at the request of the guards, readily harassed other prisoners who attempted to prevent it. The experiment even affected head of the study Dr, Zimbardo himself, who, in his role as the superintendent, permitted the abuse to continue.

Stanford Prison Experiment

(http://www.prisonexp.org/)

In the highlights of these findings, we really have to question the incomplete training of our law enforcement officials as well as the absolute power we invest in them. Cases of misuse of power are rampant in India too, with high rates of communal crime, non-minority criminals, celebrities getting softer sentences and less punishment, crimes on women and corruption.

Two measures that must take place are intensive training to sensitize officers to the biases they carry and the effect it can have, and the other is that there should be stringent punishment if an officer uses his post for satisfying bias-led harassment and torture.

Law_Enforcement

(http://www.crunchwear.com/law-enforcement-tech-top-5/)

Muslim men and the Afridi gene.

After having obsessed about my life in quite a few posts, I will veer my attention to my fellow male counterparts in religion – Muslim men. Although I know very few of them – the few Muslim friends, male cousins and brothers, I have grown up to notice a peculiarity in them. They are rather good looking. Especially those from Kashmir, Turkey, Lahore or Karachi. Though Saudi isn’t far behind. Remember the guy who was kicked out for being good-looking? (http://chicwithwords.wordpress.com/2013/04/26/men-kicked-out-of-saudi-arabia-for-being-ridiculously-good-looking/)

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And further more, age doesn’t really do much to them like it does to us poor women, who are hit by a zit, pimple or wrinkle when least expected.  What is surprising is that they don’t really take any efforts to maintain their looks. Some focus on exercise, and some on what they eat, but the majority take life as it comes and still look rather healthy and glowing. It kind of scares a control freak like myself.

These are the next gen young Muslim men, so what they perhaps do right is – know what suits them. From haircut, to clothes, to presence or absence of beard, they are very careful about what shows on them. Many or most of these men pray, and very few have an addictions. Some may smoke but that’s about it. I think both these things help them have a nur on their faces. (nur – nice, divine glow).

Many of these men are studying or earning, and making their families and countries happy with what they do. They have hobbies that engage and keep them happy. And being men, Muslim men, south-east Asian men, derive a great satisfaction from having balanced their needs and others’, this makes them happy, and that shows in their being.

I have seen in these men the ability that I have not seen among many of my female cousins – the ability to forget, forgive with a hug and move on. When one does not carry emotional baggage, one feels happier and lighter, and it shows.

Please note – this was not a sexist post. It’s only that I have seen these qualities in my male Muslim friends and cousins more than in females, and it is specific only to the people I know. Women have many great qualities and I do address them in my other posts. But on the occasion of eid, and of seeing these men in their pathani suits, and still look as dashing as in western clothes, I thought I should pin down my observations.

Crockery Conversations! Part 1

The lights were switched off after the kitchen was cleared of its dinner contents, and the owners of the house retired to their respective bedrooms, some for reflection, some for rest. That is when other beings came to life. Those beings, which weren’t spared, much thought by anyone, as they were silent spectators throughout the day, to everything that was happening, secretly or otherwise. It’s as if they were a part of the background and had melted into the walls. They say walls have ears. What they do not say is that crockery has ears too, and mouths. They do not say it, primarily, because they don’t know themselves. Crockery, as beings, are, secretive, to say the least.

As the clock chimed twelve and got down from its stand to have a chat with the newly bought wristwatch, the crockery assumed it as a safe time for conversation. Mrs. Pott, quite naturally the biggest teapot around, who showered motherly affection over the rest, as well as bossed them a little, sat for a round of gossip.

“Do you remember what happened this day, about 50 years ago?”

One of the plates said, “We were bought to this mansion then, is it not?”

Yes, quite a lot of us have been withered and recycled now, serving other households. Yet, compared to the kind of crockery made these days, we are much more durable”, she said, slyly glancing at the China plate who was sitting at some distance.

Mrs Pott wasn’t much interested in Politics. She only knew that Communism, China, and other words beginning with the letter C were unfavourable. And having lived with such a mind set for about 50 years, now, was like expecting a frog to sing in a concert. (My request is that this comparison be taken in an old fashioned sense, as frogs do sing these days, and get away with a lot of money. JB and RB are good examples)

Mrs. Pott was of good English make, and although not very happy about being in Indian household, she soon realized that this wasn’t any Indian household. It was a royal one. She soon made piece (err, peace) with other Indian crockery, all except the paan-daan, or where they made the betel leaf refreshment. She hated the hideous red pigment and the stain it left. And rightly, so, she thought, as it was later found that tobacco had with it caused cancer.

But, anyway, getting back to the current topic of conversation, a new lad, by the name of Snoop Mugg, had entered the tea and coffee section. The younger cups were very enthusiastic about this new entry, as that meant a lot of chatter from where he came from, and of the people it had served before. Mrs. Pott, however, did not approve of him. First of all, it was shaped like a dog, and she knew what the place of dogs should be. Definitely not in the kitchen.

She irked at how people and crockery mixed so freely these days. The new daughter-in-law of the household, for example, was a Muslim. How could they just blatantly inter-marry like this? She was firmly sure, that if the ancestors of this Manor were still alive, who had a good sense of where each person’s place was (much like the British, she nodded approvingly) they would never let this happen, never pollute the pure blood like this.

At the mention of the words “pure blood” a coffee mug that was a favourite of one of the book loving teenagers of the house, said “Pure blood, as in out of the Harry Potter books that Priya reads while she sips coffee?”

“Who is this blasted Harry Potter now?”, asked Mrs. Pott, irritated at being interrupted.

The mother of that mug quieted him, rightly, for a fight would have ensued, and Mrs. Pott would have dominated. A sudden noise startled them, and they realized the cook had come to heat the water that Maalkin had first thing in the morning. They had lost all idea of time in their gossip. Or maybe the Clock forgot to chime because of its chatting. We shall know what exactly happened, in the next little sneak peek into this queer household..