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An Indian Muslim's Response to Aggressive Hindutva Cultural Nationalism

09/05/2017 8:39 PM IST | Updated 10/05/2017 11:40 AM IST
Tareq Saifur Rahman

Aag Hai, Aulad-E-Ibraheem Hai, Namrood Hai; Kya Kisi Ko Phir Kisi Ka Imtihaan Maqsood Hai!

(Tyrants and flames once more on Abraham's race have glared: For whom this new ordeal, or by whose hand prepared?) - Allama Iqbal

Since May 2014, India has been witnessing the sharp rise of neo-fascist and far-right elements in society. Along with other minorities, Muslims have been at the receiving end of persecution, abuse, slurs, hate and oppression. Every other day, we get to hear of new hate speech being given by hate-mongers. Sometimes, it's a call for 'Muslim Isaai Mukt Bharat' (Muslim Christian Free India), while at other times they insist on calling every Indian 'Hindu'. Sometimes, there are attacks on mosques and churches and at other times, the majority feels threatened by the growing population of Muslims. Sometimes, Muslims are asked to go to Pakistan and at other times their right to vote is threatened. Sometimes, there is the false propaganda of Love Jihad, while other times innocents are killed under the pretext of cow slaughter. Then there are constant attempts to make surya namaskar, yoga, Vande Matram and Saraswati Vandana compulsory for everyone. At other times, safforanisation of education & 'ghar wapsi' are in the news. This has made us believe that fascists want to impose an aggressive cultural nationalism on minorities of this country.

The word 'Yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'yuj,' meaning 'to join'. It is a 26,000-year-old practice, dating back to the age usually known as Satya Yuga. Later, Patanjali codified the practice into asanas.

During the Vedic age, the sun was worshipped as a god. References to sun worship are found in the Rigveda and in earlier times there were several sun temples across India. Rajiv Jain Trilok has mentioned in his book Sampoorna Yog Vidya that in the Hindu religion, the sun is worshipped as a god as it provides energy and benefits human beings. "Om Savitre Namaha," is one of the mantras uttered during surya namaskar which means, "One who is responsible for life." The sun is thus considered as a sustainer of the world.

Bowing down in front of the sun is described as Surya Namaskar. Trilok says that yoga helps control feelings, soul and thoughts and helps attain moksha. The Bhagawad Gita's sixth chapter discusses yoga at length. All these details suggests that yoga and surya namaskar are ways of worship and not just body exercises.

There has also been a constant push to make Vande Matram a national song. One such plea was recently declined by the honourable Supreme Court of India. The song, which was penned by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and can be found in his novel Anandamatha, is a hymn to the motherland.

As a Muslim we love this land, so much that when we die we bury ourselves in it. But we worship one God alone and do not associate any deity with Him.

Islamic teachings suggests that the sun, moon and everything in this universe is created by one god. Islam discourages its believers from prostrating in front of any creation, including the sun. Muslims aren't allowed to do Sajda (an act of worship or prostration during namaz) at the time of sunset, in the middle of the day or at sundown.

Why should a Muslim defy his faith and do Naman (Salutation) in front of the Sun?

Some might suggest that a practising Muslim need not do surya namaskar and instead just focus on yoga for good health. But, they forget that yoga remains a crucial religious practice specific to Hindus. And my belief as a follower of Islam prohibits me from imitating other religious practices. If we were to go by this analogy, even namaz, the Muslim prayer, is considered a good exercise for health, mind and body. But that doesn't mean that Muslims impose namaz on non-Muslims because it is good for health.

As Indians we are proud of our rich culture and multi faith society.

As Muslims, we strongly believe in theQuranic teaching that "There is no compulsion in religion". We respect all religions and believe that everyone is free to practice their religion. We believe that following our faith is a way of spreading peace, justice and tolerance. This makes us speak out against any form of oppression and intolerance against anybody regardless of their beliefs. We refuse to accept the idea that believing strongly in our faith and its teachings makes us unpatriotic, anti-national or disloyal. We Muslims remain firm in preserving our way of life with deep conviction and faith. We refuse to accept dogmatic nationalism being forced on us.

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