I read an article some months back and wrote this then. For some reason (I dont remember now), I did not post it. Hence doing it now.
I was reading this article “Muslims from abroad are thriving in catholic colleges” from the New York Times which, for some reason, stayed in my mind for long. The article is about how Christian colleges in the USA are turning out to be more attractive to Muslim students. And the extent to which some colleges go to accommodate religions are surprising. But it actually should not be news. After all, it is a Christian college and so they already believe that religion is inseparable from any aspect of life and so they can easily empathise with similar importance that others give to their religion. But somehow there were many aspects of the article that made me extremely uncomfortable.
“I like the fact that there’s faith, even if it’s not my faith, and I feel my faith is respected,” said Maha Haroon, a pre-med undergraduate at Creighton University in Omaha, who was born in Pakistan and grew up in the United States. “I don’t have to leave my faith at home when I come to school.”
Has carrying your faith to school become a good thing now? And this:
Muslim students here cite the accommodations Dayton has made, like setting aside spaces for them to pray — a small room for daily use, and two larger ones for Fridays — and installing an ablution room for the traditional preprayer washing of hands and feet.
The university also helps students arrange celebrations of major religious holidays, and it contracts with a halal meat supplier for special events.
Manal Alsharekh, a Saudi Arabian graduate student in engineering at Dayton, said, “I was in another university before that did not respect us so much.”
Wait, what? Is giving in to your every little fantasy, what you call respect? Why do you stop there then? Why don’t you ask for more respect saying they need to build a mosque in the college playground? Their sense of entitlement amazes me. Do they also want every student including non-muslims, the staff etc., also fast with then during the month of Ramzan? You might think I am exaggerating, but imagine a college that actually does that. Then, I am sure there will be somebody who will move from Dayton to that college and say “Dayton did not respect us so much”.
Being an Indian, I have been brought up with the idea that Secularism is accepting and embracing all religions. Thus if having a symbol of an om or a cross or a crescent at an event is considered communal, but having all three makes it secular. Looking back, should not that have made the event three times more communal? Only recently have I learnt that Secularism, in the west, means keeping religion out of public life. And that I think is a more sensible definition.
The problem with the Indian definition of secularism is that it will lead to public institutions yielding to every silly fantasy that could be held by any citizen on the planet. If I seriously believe Sachin Tendulkar is god and get a sizeable following to believe the same, then the Indian definition of secularism does not know how to handle this. Should they start having a photo of Sachin Tendulkar too whenever they have an om, a cross and a crescent. How far can this go? Do they declare his birthday as Tendulkar Jayanthi. Naturally, the best way out of this is to say, if you like Tendulkar, keep it at home. If you believe in Allah, pray to him at home. Nobody is stopping you, or will stop you, or will be allowed to stop you. But you cannot others to share your passion, or to make special concessions to suit your personal interest.
I realise that private colleges can do what they want and nobody from outside can dictate what they do (I have no clue about the US education system and so cant say if Dayton is funded by tax payers’ money). But this kind of bending over backwards, only adds to the idea that religion is some special fantasy (very different from someone devoted to Harry Potter) deserving something extra wherever they go. That should not be done.
Pardon my ignorance, but I did not know that Bakrid was such a sick-to-the-core festival. I knew nothing about it till I chanced upon this Bakrid slide show, while I was going through the website of the New Indian Express.
Look at this camel with a knife under its neck, and all those people around eagerly looking forward to the event.
Or, look at this one, with 5 people on it.
This is a cow, that was just killed, dripping with blood.
Anybody with even a little bit of humanity in them, would be revolted looking at this. So much for Islam being a religion of peace. Wanting to learn its origins, I went to, where else, the Wikipedia entry. The term Bakr-id comes from the Hindi word “Bakra” meaning a goat. Turns out, Eid al-Adha means Feast of Sacrifice. It has this story.
When Ishmael was about 13 (Ibrahim being 99), Allah (God) decided to test their faith in public. Abraham had a recurring dream, in which God was commanding him to offer his son as a sacrifice – an unimaginable act – sacrificing his son, which God had granted him after many years of deep prayer. Abraham knew that the dreams of the prophets were divinely inspired, and one of the ways in which God communicated with his prophets. When the intent of the dreams became clear to him, Abraham decided to fulfill God’s command and offer Ishmael for sacrifice.
Although Abraham was ready to sacrifice his dearest for Allah’s sake, he could not just go and drag his son to the place of sacrifice without his consent. Isma’el had to be consulted as to whether he was willing to give up his life as fulfillment to God’s command. This consultation would be a major test of Isma’el’s maturity in faith, love and commitment for Allah, willingness to obey his father and sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah.
Abraham presented the matter to his son and asked for his opinion about the dreams of slaughtering him. Ishmael did not show any hesitation or reservation even for a moment. He said, “Father, do what you have been commanded. You will find me, Insha’Allah (God willing), to be very patient.” His mature response, his deep insight into the nature of his father’s dreams, his commitment to Allah, and ultimately his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the sake of Allah were all unprecedented.
When both father and son had shown their perfect obedience to Allah and they had practically demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for His sake — Abraham by laying down his son for sacrifice and Ishmael by lying patiently under the knife – Allah called out to them stating that his sincere intentions had been accepted, and that he need not carry out the killing of Ishmael. Instead, Abraham was told to replace his son with a goat to sacrifice instead. Allah also told them that they had passed the test imposed upon them by his willingness to carry out God’s command.
And this story is directly from the Quran (You can read it here), the purported word of god. The last couple of verses say this.
Do you get that? What god demands is servility. Abject servility. Period. And as per that god, somebody who is ready to sacrifice his son, for a dream he had, is a do-gooder. I would consider such a person the worst kind of organism that has ever lived. But I run out of superlatives when I try to describe the god, who considers such an act a good thing to do.
I am, of course, aware, that there are many people who eat meat, and thereby indirectly support slaughter. But I expect that they would not want to eat an animal that has been killed before their eyes. What I think comforts them (I could be wrong here) is the fact that the killing takes place far away from their sight. That distance prevents them from feeling guilty about it. At least it reduces the guilt. There are butchers who slaughter animals without much guilt. Some might use humane methods, but many, I guess, will not. I would justify none of that. But when the ruthless murder of meek animals is made into a spectacle, even as the animal is crying and screaming with unimaginable horror, that becomes an important part of a festival, we sure have lost all sense of morals. What happened to our innate empathy? Are those morals overridden by the intoxication of religion?
I further saw this description of Bakrid, which tries to avoid any misconceptions about the festival by explaining the logic, if it can be called that, of slaughter.
During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham’s trials, by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat. This action is very often misunderstood by those outside the faith.
Allah has given us power over animals and allowed us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life. Muslims slaughter animals in the same way throughout the year. By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, we are reminded that life is sacred.
We are not supposed to misunderstand the action. The action is justified because Allah has given us power over all the animals, and all we need to do is to mention the name of god, to take ownership. How ridiculous? I am truly amazed at the mentality of those who think that the god needs a sacrifice. What a mean god? In what sense would that thing continue to be god? How can such a vile book, still be considered the word of god by any sane person? If you are going to argue, that they were the morals of a different period of time, does that itself not make an argument against the claim that they are god’s words. The rationale behind the sacrifice is explained further.
The symbolism is in the attitude – a willingness to make sacrifices in our lives in order to stay on the Straight Path. Each of us makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are fun or important to us. A true Muslim, one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah’s commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that our Lord desires from us.
That is the problem with religions (and with any kind of cults). Unadulterated obedience is considered a virtue. Any sort of questioning is not looked at favourably. But looking at the story, either god is a vile megalomaniac or a figment of the author’s imagination. Either way, such a god does not deserve to be followed. We all have our morals inside us. What better moral do we need than to treat others as you expect them to treat us? We definitely do not need religions at all to tell us what is right and what is wrong. And in any case, not this kind of religions.
But before I end, I have a question to all those who sacrifice animals on Bakrid or support such a practice. If the guiding argument is to show a willingness to sacrifice what is dear to them, would they be ready to cut off their own body parts on Bakrid, rather than killing other animals? A finger this year, a toe the next and so on. Now, that would make them a real favourite with that god, won’t it?