Is there a Hindu or Muslim train?
All Indians, whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, belong to the one and the same common identity and heritage. Foreign religions have been accepted and respected in this country because of the secular and broadminded attitude of the Hindu majority. In one way all Indians are Hindus because Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.
Different cultures and ceremonies certainly add colour and vibrancy to our social fabric but the over-emphasis of the diversity is useful only from a tourist point of view. The more diversity we can boast of, the more tourists we can attract. Apart from these utilitarian points of view, the religious sentiments of the people of any nation has to be accommodated in the broader interests of national unity and national identity.
We do not run separate trains for Muslims and Christians because the function of a train is to transport people and not to express religious identities. Similarly a university is a place to receive education and to conduct research and it is not a forum for expressing religious views. We do not have a separate physics teacher for Muslims because the learning of physics follows only one method of science as followed all over the world by the scientific community.
It is high time that we keep our religious sentiments away from the mainstream of the civil society.
The day-to-day affairs of life can be handled in a secular and rational way without adding a religious dimension to it. Indian Muslims have accepted a way of worship which is quite distinct from the Arabian style of Islam.
Over the centuries, they have assimilated many indianised rituals which are practiced at holy Dargahs in Ullal, Gulbaraga and Ajmer. People from various walks of life, irrespective of caste and creed, assemble even today to celebrate the ‘urs’ (death anniversary) which takes place on the 15, 16 and 17 day of Zul-Qa’dah of Muslim calendar at the famous Bande Nawaz dargah in Gulbarga every year. Several hundred thousand devotees from near and far, irrespective of religion and beliefs, gather to seek blessings.
At Ullal, the dargah of Sayed Mohammed Shereful Madani, who is said to have come from Saudi Arabia some 400 years ago, thousands of people from various states visit the mosque to participate in the Urus festival which is celebrated once in every five years.
If you make a casual visit to the Dargahs of Ullal or Gulbarga, you can see that the devoutees are not all Muslims but also include a large number of Hindus and Christians as well.
This kind of unity of worship and harmony of relationship is achieved by the Sunni practices of incorporating elements of Indianised ceremonies at the holy places of Muslims. The Sunnis and Sufis of India have made a huge contribution to the communal harmony of the nation by promoting a system of festivals and ceremonies which are not only welcomed wholeheartedly by all sections of the society but active participation from other religious groups is also guaranteed because of the secular nature of the rituals.
Islam is a great religion and it stands for brotherhood and love. But many Arab Muslims have wrongly interpreted Islam and given it a reputation of terrorism and violence. A person with a prominent Muslim name can face a lot of hassles in a European or American airport.
Last year, Hindi film actor Shah Rukh Khan had a grueling experience in an American airport. While Ambani and others were cleared swiftly, Khan was reportedly stopped for extended questioning about his programme. Sharukh Khan finally reached the university some three hours behind schedule.
No Muslim was ever detained at any Indian airport because Hindus do not get frightened by Muslim names or bearded Sufi appearance. The difference between the Christian countries of the west and India is that the western people are not familiar with Muslims and their way of life and take all Muslims for terrorists.
Indians, on the other hand, are totally familiar with all the rituals and oddities of the Islamic religion that no one even takes notice of Muslims offering namaz openly inside trains and railway stations. Indians are more civilized than westerners in the sense that the understanding and tolerance of outside religions is more thorough and well founded in our society.