Sunday, May 09, 2010

Religious Identities

Are external symbols of a religion hurtful?

I've heard instances of universities in U.K. prohibit their Muslim students from wearing a 'burkha'. I read of instances of Punjabi Sikhs doing away with their 'turbans' as they were scared to be mistaken for Afghans.

The rule in Montreal prevents Muslims from dressing in their religious clothes, but does not prevent the Jews from doing so.

No matter what part of the Earth I am on, I wear a small 'bindi'. It might be a religious symbol, but I feel odd without it. This could be blamed on my conditioning, but I like it. When I was a kid, I felt odd as after a 'puja', my mother would tie a turmeric stained thread around my wrist, as well as apply kumkum on my forehead. Where I spent my childhood, these symbols were considered the marks of a married woman, and I was always teased. But, I stuck to it because I had more respect for these traditions than what people had to say. Of course, at that age, I didn't know what the rituals signified, and I do not know a lot of it now, but I'd do the same today.

Back to the 'bindi' .... I could state the scientific facts given in the ancient scriptures about that spot on the forehead being a centre of energy, and how pressure on that spot activates some of the energy centres. But all that aside, is my identity established by religion ?

For good or for worse, in a way Yes !

I do not agree that you give up the external symbols of your religion only because you are a minority. So long as no one is hurt by your symbols, what is the issue ? You might even carry a sword as your religious symbol, but as long as you are sure you are not going to kill anyone with it (no matter how provoking the situation be), how does it hurt?

If we gain a sense of satisfaction from doing something that we believe is in our religion, without hurting others, is there a problem ?

If Muslim women wear a 'burkha' of their own free will (though it might be based on their conditioning), can we condemn it, or make rules prohibiting it ? It might be an issue of national security, but surely, there are other ways to combat such issues? I am neither for nor against this particular issue. I used to be totally against women having to cover themselves so much, but then I realised someone can accuse the same about me ... wearing a bindi, wearing bangles ... etc etc ... but I do it because I like myself in them (of course, as children, parents used to insist, but now, I do it of my own will)


Vivek said...

In France, they have banned or are planning to ban, the display of any external religious symbol, from a cross to a burkha. There are voices of dissent heard here and there but they seem to be disregarded. I might be entirely wrong here but may be it is because 'freedom of choice and expression' aren't entities usually associated with the religions of minority.

Even Turkey, in an effort to show its commitment to the tenets of secularism, has had to ban the use of headscarves in public spheres.

~*. D E E P A .* ~ said...

Hi Vivek :

This is what I do not like .... you try to rob a person of their faith and belief .. Of course , belief is in the mind, but it might be accompanied by external symbols too.

For e.g., the Sikhs have turbans etc as a core part of their religion. How is is justified to ask them to change ?

Why is the world so intent on making everything even and not having any dissimilarities ? Differences and variety bring spice into life ...

ajay said...

Hi. Nice and timely article. As long as we humans are on the earth, differences will always be there. As a basic human, we are so similar but when it comes to identity, differences come in. In this fast and global world where people having different faith, religion, background, culture etc exist together, it is but natural that someone will have to sacrifice in order to create balance. We may talk at length about our rights,faiths,individual identity but this is how the world has behaved in the past.The present is no different either. A world where there is harmony, no differences at all and people are free as regard to their cultural,religious and individual rights and freedom seems utopian.

Trueman said...

Its no doubt an excellent piece Deepa, a right message at the right time.
Unfortunately the people who indulge in Islamophobic acts like banning burqa or other traditional Muslim dresses [in fact there are no particular Muslim dresses e.g. in Arabian countries, the veil has a different style and shape then the one worn by Muslim ladies in the sub continent. In Afghanistan and Pakistan’s north, it is altogether different [it’s the traditional shuttlecock type, which has been abandoned by Muslim ladies in the plains many many years ago].
Unfortunately West under aggressive media hype has been patterned to dislike every thing Muslim, which unfortunately could be harmful for western societies as well. [Tang nazri tang nazri ko hijanam deti hae].

Ajay comments that world has always been like this. Yes, world has always been like this Ajay but where were prophets of hate in every age, every society, every era, to counter such prophets’ hate weapons, there were men of God like his messengers, saints, Sufis and apostles of different shades.

Nayyar Hashmey

kanagu said...

Whatever many says about free world, freedom or anything on that line, one can sense that everybody likes to dominate and formulate rules on how others should live... SIGH. :(

Swaram said...

I am with u on this .. do it if u like it. As much as it is difficult for a few to wear Burkha, there might me another group which cannot do without it. To each his own :)

~*. D E E P A .* ~ said...

Ajay :
I know ... and that is what is bad. If there were no conversions, some of the problems might be solved.
If there were no loud broadcasts of religion (especially by politicians) and each followed the religion he believed, still further problems solved.
Differences and variety is good, but not in the absence of tolerance.
And making all the people look the same is also stupidity .. its almost like clones of a single religion (which holds no meaning)

Trueman :
True ... religion also adapts itself ... in the earlier times, the reasons for the hijab could have been different from now ... Sadly, this is not analysed ... everything is just branded Islam, Jewish, Hindu etc ... No efforts are made to realise the reason behind the practices followed.

Kanagu :
true ... true !! But can anyone really rule the entire world ????

Swaram :
Exactly !
This was also said on 'My name is khan' movie

Sorcerer said...

Religion and its symbols at one time had as the boundaries are becoming more blurred..I just dont understand..why there is so much hiccup on this subject about symbols..

Man and his stupid symbols!

Deepa said...

are they really becoming blurred Sorcy ? Or are they getting stronger ?

-- Deepa