Tuesday, 6 January 2009

condemning violence (yet again)

as promised yesterday, below is my response to the following letter sent to indian newslink:

Muslims in New Zealand go on demonstration and protest march when there is an attack on Palestine by the Israelis. There was a major terrorist attack in India’s financial capital, with about 200 people dead and several hundred people injured. Yet, none of the so-called Muslim leaders have uttered a word. Anjum Rahman, who takes a lead in protests, has been silent. Is this because she does not consider the lives of non-Muslims important? What hypocrisy!

i could have responded that i've never taken a lead in any protest other than one in february 2003, against the iraq war. or i could have questioned whether the writer had been vocal when muslims were being slaughtered in gujrat in 2002, or anywhere else for that matter. or whether he made similar demands of other religious groups when violence was perpetrated by them.

but of course there is nothing to be gained by replying in kind, and i know in my heart that this is not the kind of person i want to be. remembering the quranic injunction to return good for evil and gandhi's dictum that an eye-for-an-eye will make the world go blind (as well as the good advice of my friends), good sense ruled in the end and this is the piece that finally got published:

Every time there is an attack by people calling themselves Muslims in any part of the world, calls are made for condemnation from individual Muslims and Muslim organisations. From a multitude of associations, mosques, theological groups and academia, the condemnation is quick and almost universal, yet somehow rarely reported in the media. No matter how often or how loudly we condemn the killing of innocents, the impression remains amongst some that Muslims have remained silent.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I strongly reject violence as a solution to any dispute. I have done so many times in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. I’m outraged by the recent attacks in Mumbai killing Indians and foreigners, Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Jews amongst others, as I am by attacks in any part of the world.

The tragedy has a personal aspect for me, as I have both close and distant relatives living in various parts of the city. If I were to add them up, they would number in the hundreds. One distant relative lives in Colaba, just a five minute walk away from the Taj.

I offer my condolences to those who have suffered in this latest attack, and to those living in New Zealand who have been personally affected by it. I understand your fear for your loved ones and your anger, because I share it.

I’m proud of my Indian heritage, and of India as one of the great democracies in the world. It’s time that we Indians in this country unite to address the communal violence that has blotted India ’s copybook. It’s essential that all of us condemn all acts of violence against any section of society, and take steps no matter where we live, to work together against the forces that seek to divide us.

I try to play a small part by putting my energies into various interfaith activities in New Zealand at the national and local level. I was a key organiser of the 4th National Interfaith Forum in 2007. Last month, I was on a panel with members of the Baha’i and Hindu faiths (amongst others) at the centenary of the Theosophical Society in Hamilton . I have worked with a prominent Jewish leader to explore the Palestinian question, in a respectful but honest manner. I make every attempt to build bridges with other communities, as it is my firm belief that hostility can only be reduced through positive interaction.

There is a major commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Hamilton on 10 December. As part of a silent march that day, I will be specifically acknowledging the victims of the tragedy in Mumbai, as will many others.

However, I’d like to go further than this, and ask others of Indian origin to join with me in seeking ways to resolve issues in a positive manner. Please contact me via this newspaper if you wish to pursue this goal.


Anonymous said...

My sympathies. Think peaceful holiday thoughts.

My inclination is always to say something very much like "condemn the violence because you're human or don't bother". Or "I condemn the violence because it's wrong, not just because I'm religious, of a particular race or from a particular place". People who ask questions like that get up my nose, for exactly the reasons you identify. But then, I ask pretty rude questions of people (if you don't like non-pc questions, anyway). Like, why is a 1m high girl wearing a chador? It's odd, even in my neighbourhood with a lot of Muslims (mostly Lebanese and more recently Sudanese).

I think my decision to read some of the commentary about Gaza today was a bad one, now I'm grumpy. I think I should find my hammock and go down by the river for a while.

peace and love,

stargazer said...

thanx moz. yes, my initial inclinations weren't very polite either!

as for the 1m girls wearing chador, the girls tend to start putting on early so that they are accepted that way ie it tends to be much harder to put one on afterwards then have to face heaps of questions which most of these girls don't want to have to answer. it's really hard to have to justify yourself, particularly if some of the questionners are hostile. it seems to work better for them to just start school with hijab and people just accept them that way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the chador thoughts. That makes sense to me. I usually get stuck at "but it's a hot sunny day and you're wearing black". Normally directed at little old greek ladies who seem utterly impervious to the heat but also applicable to Muslim women.

Anyway, here's hoping the idjits find something else to waffle about... maybe cricket does have its upside :)

(captcha: spackme without an n)