“Surely, We have sent revelation to thee, as We sent revelation to Noah and the Prophets after him; and We sent revelation to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and his children and to Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave David a Book. We sent some Messengers whom We have already mentioned to thee and some Messengers whom We have not mentioned to thee …” (Koran, Ch.4 v.164, 165)
“Verily, We have sent thee with the truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and as a Warner; and there is no people to whom a Warner has not been sent.” (Koran, Ch.35 v.25″)
I have to admit that I actually don’t have a lot of other Bengali/Indian/Pakistani Muslim friends.
While I did grow up in a largely non-orthodox Muslim household, being Bengali meant that many of my parents’ close friends were and are Hindu, and it meant absolutely nothing out of the ordinary for us to go over to their homes for various Puja celebrations or having them come over to our place for Ramadan.
Breaking the Ramadan fast
That’s not always the norm in many Bengali Muslim homes. In fact, there was anti-Hindu bigotry right in my own family. Several of my more “hard-core Muslim” uncles would forbid their kids (i.e my cousins) to play with us because they feared our family would have a “bad influence on them”.
Just because a girl wears shorts, does that make them a “bad influence”?
The sources of that bigotry are many and it easy to see why so many hard feelings developed over the course of time. The British effectively ruled India by pitting Muslims and Hindus against each from Day 1. Divide and rule was official policy. While the British were there, preferential treatment was given to Muslims because it was an Abrahamic religion they could relate to, hence why Muslims got the choicest jobs and opportunities. When the British left, the tables were completely turned around, communal fighting broke out all over India, Muslims were discriminated against and Hindus went to the top of the power structure.
This is an excellent video about Partition, about how India and Pakistan were formed after British rule. While the video talks about what was happening on the Western front, please bear in mind the atrocities were also happening on the eastern front, namely West Bengal and East Bengal (—> which became East Pakistan and then finally, Bangladesh).
I bring up the quotes from the Koran because, really what those quotes are saying is that named and unnamed prophets, teachers, seers, sages, wise and holy men and women have been sent to all people of this world, every creed, every color, of all lands, at all times and that Muslims are to revere and respect them all, no exceptions. This includes First Nations Elders, Australian Aboriginal Elders, Mongolian shamans, Buddhist bodhisattvas, Gnostic Christian spiritual masters and anyone else who has genuine spiritual insight and can teach us all to become better human beings with wisdom and grace.
This sense of inclusiveness and plurality is unfortunately missing with many of the Muslims I grew up with and knew (which would probably explain why I don’t get along with many of them). Rather, a certain rigidity in outlook, a sanctimoniousness and belief has set in and with the money from Saudi being poured into the rest of the Muslim world. It has unfortunately meant that Wahhabi Islam, an extremely puritanical, minor, rigid and monolithic form of Islam native to Saudi Arabia is also spreading. It’s a “Live by the Sword – Die by the Sword” form of Islam which in my opinion, is completely against life and sucks royally and anyone with even half a functioning brain would be wise to run away from.
These guys and their ideology DO NOT represent all Muslims
What’s also happening is that very poor, migrant workers from countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan are going to the United Arab Emirates to work as cheap laborers for construction companies.
Many of them are illiterate, not educated and completely ignorant about the history of their own countries, cultures and religions. Many of them don’t realize that there was a history in those areas long before the introduction of Islam. They see the vulgar wealth in the UAE and it’s then very easy to develop an inferiority complex in the face of that wealth and power especially in contrast to what they saw and lived through back home. What then happens is that they start using Islam and faux-piety as a form of showing up who is “more Muslim” and then that Wahhabi Islam then becomes something worth emulating, copying and spreading.
If you went to Bangladesh in the 1970s and 1980s, you would never see a burqa or hijab on the streets. Women were always in saris and salwar kameez and were considered decently dressed according to Islamic norms.
This is NOT the way it used to be.
It’s not just dress that’s being affected.
This is my biggest axe to grind with many in the South East Asian Muslim community. Nobody flippin’ questions or investigates anything. They just internalize whatever their parents and grandparents told them and that’s it. I remember once having a conversation with one of my cousins’ husband. Dude has a PhD in Biochemistry so he’s not exactly dumb. However, he is from the village in Bangladesh, was extremely bright, did well in school, got full scholarship and landed in the USA and completed graduate work there. We were discussing the very Koranic verses I cited above and hence why I read so much about other traditions. His response is that was “you don’t need to understand Buddhism. You don’t need it. Who cares?”
It was a repudiation of Buddhism
. It was a mechanical, pragmatic way of looking at the world and a deliberate method to staying ignorant and comfortable in a narrow worldview represented by his upbringing and socialization. It was also a slap in the face to my world view which is expansive and inclusive. (I should add, I can’t stand the guy and neither does most of my family.)
Afterall, isn’t it the Chinese who believe that water is the strongest element, capable of changing the earth itself?