Go with The Flow

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

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 cause a girl wears shorts, does that make them a "bad influence"?

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

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.
You go to Bangladesh now, and hijabs and burqas are everywhere. When I talk to my Turkish friends, they say the same thing is also happening in Turkey. 
This is NOT the way it used to be.

This is NOT the way it used to be.

It’s not just dress that’s being affected. 
Take for instance female genital mutilation which is NOT an Islamic practice, but one rather which is from  sub-Saharan Africa and became incorporated into those cultures, primarily Somali and Eritrean. When Islam was introduced to those areas, cultural and religious practices became fused and suddenly it was an “Islamic” practice. Now the practice is being exported to other countries like Malaysia under the guise of “Islam” when it has exactly zero to do with Islam.
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.)
It’s not just Muslims who are like this. I mean we can point the finger at the Christian Right in the United States or Hindu radicals in India. That rigidity is everywhere. My only wish is that people everywhere become more fluid and accepting, like a stream or a river.
Afterall, isn’t it the Chinese who believe that water is the strongest element, capable of changing the earth itself?
Categories: False prophits, Politico, Raise your EQ, Think like the Illuminati, This is why the planet is screwed up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Go with The Flow

  1. The inability of people to question the world/practices around them is something I get forever enraged about. Regardless of whether the person is a devout Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Animist, sinner or saint I find it so very lazy and, even, deviant in a way to completely give up your power in lieu of simply accepting what you’re told (“female genital mutilation is a rite of passage that makes you honorable and your husband very happy,” “if God wills it, it will be so” and so on). So often, instead of being done because we feel it’s the “right thing,” it’s done out of fear, ignorance, shame or inferiority.

    Though I understand that this absorption of “what has been and will be” can be largely pinned to poor education/knowledge (though I feel ‘miseducation’ might be the better word to use) and cultures of disrespect and marginalization, I can’t help but think this blind acceptance is also our way of shifting responsibility and giving up our personal power because it’s easy. It doesn’t require heavy lifting. I mean, if you unquestioningly believe in God Z and his/her teachings, but one day you wind up in a car accident and kill a young child because of your erratic driving (let’s say you paid to get a license instead of earning one and you were driving while yammering into your phone), well it’s easier to offload responsibility for what happened and point the finger at someone else: the people who manufactured the car or the phone; the kid for being so stupid as to cross the road; the other drivers on the road, and, of course, God Z, because it’s he/she who willed the whole thing to happen in the first place.

    It’s because many people reason like this that I have issues with the Arabic word “Insha’Allah” and similar phrases. While there is great beauty in the word and it can be used to invoke much deeper understandings, it is often used in a mindless, misinformed and flippant manner and renders the user hopelessly powerless. It’s a word/phrase that has lost its meaning and has been adopted by people and the wider movements/cultures/religions they follow so they don’t need to engage in deeper contemplation, debate and true understanding. I mean, what could be better than not having to weigh consequences of your actions? If you don’t have choices to make then you don’t have to bear the weight of the responsibility that comes with each and every action taken. It means you also don’t have to deal with all those difficult and uncomfortable things that are often tacked on with responsibility and which form the foundation of deeper awareness, individuality and understanding (e.g. shadow sides; dealing with trauma/death; navigating feelings of disappointment/joy/love/longing/lust/jealousy/envy/anger/rage).

    • I couldn’t agree with you more FTI, I think a lot of that flippant, “lazy” form of faith which you rightly refer to, where one absolves themselves of any and all responsibility and ask and LIVE through those more difficult questions of faith, also, to a certain degree has something to do with education, socialization and exposure. I mean I have a branch of my family which is hyper-intellectual, so the bookshelves are full of tomes on Hinduism, Buddhism, Tantra, Sufism and lots of other “taboo” stuff in the eyes of orthodoxy and education was a value which was something placed as a premium so university and graduate work were expected and encouraged. I have a another branch which is very conservative and you walk in and there are literally no books in the household, the kids never went past high school, even if they had every chance to do so….

      Like I wrote it’s this lack of questioning and investigation which drives me nuts within the Muslim community and if you do question things, particularly as a female, the family, community etc. comes down like a ton of bricks on you. That’s one reason I will probably never live in Bangladesh again. You’re not free to question things or investigate other ways of being, other teachings, other faiths, you’re strongly discouraged from doing so.
      I normally don’t like him, but Salman Rushdie said that Islam is right now experiencing it’s Dark Ages, like Europe did after the fall of Rome and that it’s going to be women and those in the West who may usher in the equivalent of a Renaissance. It’s a nice thought, but it needs to be coupled with calling out the money trail which is funding this movement towards extreme conservatism, exposing those behind it including their allies.

  2. Not sure if genital mutilation is standard practice in Malaysia. They’re pretty moderate as a rule. I know several young Cambodian women who worked as nannies there. They are all Buddhists. They were treated wonderfully. One told us that when a cousin came to the house where she worked, he tried to take advantage of her. She told the family she was working for and they kicked him out and told his parents, who were also angry that he tried to use his social status and her vulnerability to try to take advantage of her.

    I’ve always found it fascinating that Jesus means nothing to Jews, but was considered a prophet by Mohammed, yet Christians side with Jews. Well, now they do. When I was a kid, a lot of people still called them “Christ killers.”

    Anyway, religion is always divisive. I like what the Dalai Lama said (paraphrasing): “Don’t become a Buddhist. The world has enough Buddhists. Become more compassionate. The world needs more compassion.”

    • Hi Rob,
      My understanding of female genital mutilation in Malaysia and Indonesia is that it’s just starting up, which is why there is such a controversy over it, it’s still a minority practice. Of course it’s no where near as wide-spread as Somalia, for instance.

      Islam and Muslims have been demonized for centuries by Christianity, it goes back to the Crusades. Also, while Islam was experiencing it’s Golden Age in places like Spain, and the Middle East, Europe was deep in the Dark Ages. I think the “siding” of Christians and Jews against Muslims, particularly in the English-speaking world has a lot to do with the rise of ultra right-wing Churches and the Christian Right who in turn, make up the backbone of the Republican party and Conservative party. I mean some of the sermons which are coming out of these mega Churches in places like Texas or Oklahoma are full of anti-Muslim rhetoric and yet the authorities say and do nothing.

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