Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lecture on Muslims-Others Interface

Open Space
organised a lecture by
the great socio-cultural anthroplogist Prof. Nadeem Hasnain
Muslims-"Others" Interface: Interfaith Relations between Muslims and Christians, Jews and Hindus
8th July
at the Uttar Pradesh Press Club, Lucknow.

Prof. Hasnain said:

Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus have been sharing a common space over a vast range of geographical settings, maintaining a history of interactions, harmonious relationships and also conflicts. But unfortunately, many of them also carry a collective memory of grave injustices, perceived as well as real. When we look at the Muslim-Christian relationship, we cannot avoid taking a look at the image of Islam and Muslims in the eyes of the predominently Christian West. Leaving aside theological bickerings, first the Crusades and then Colonialism, promoted the same prejudices; and the colonial West justified its rule over the Muslim World over the basis of this understanding of Islam. Huntington's thesis of the clash of civilisations and the tragic happening of 9/11 reinforced and supplemented these memories in the Judeo-Christian West. For Muslims, West and Christianity are synonymous, and many of them have developed a tendency to look at the West as immoral and vulgar, bent upon enslaving the Muslim World again through neo-colonial policies. Recent political events, especially the isolation of Libya, invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the potential threat to Iran, reinforce the Muslim perception that American/Judeo-Christian forces are hell bent upon destroying one powerful Muslim country after the other for the ultimate destruction of the Muslim power.

Sometimes Muslims also exhibit a ghettoised mindset, which perceives many of the happenings, like Islamophobia, as a creation of Jews, and blame the Jews for all of their problems. See Muslim press and one finds the oft repeated acquisition of "Zionist Conspiracy".

For how long would the Muslims, Jews and Christians carry the burden of the past. Healing of historical wounds should be the top priority in the interest of world peace. Building bridges of understanding between the Muslim World and the Christian-Jewish block is the need of the hour. But is it a Muslim-Christian-Jewish issue only or does it carry political implications, founded on geo-politics. The whole problem should not be situated on a purely religio-cultural basis.

Interface between Muslims and Hindus is primarily confined to South Asia, especially to India now, as there hardly are any Hindus left in Pakistan. It has altogether a different dimension because of the common ancestry of the overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims and Hindus. The majority of the Indian Muslims come from the oppressed among the Hindus, who adopted Islam as an emancipatory ideology. Because of this co-relation Muslims and Hindus have developed syncretic traditions and maintained a symbiotic relationship in many spheres of life. They have lot of shared space, and their day to day lives exhibit a fascinating fusion of the great traditions of both Islam and Hinduism. Sufism and Bhakti Movement provided a strong bridge between them. Perhaps that is why communal violence is largely an urban phenomenon, sustained and nourished by the urban middle class.

The lecture was attended in large numbers by the youth, including the American students of the Urdu Language Program of the American Institute of Indian Studies, and also by noted academics like Prof. Roop Rekha Verma, former Vive Chancellor of the University of Lucknow and an acclaimed social activist, Prof. Rakesh Chandra, Head of the Department of Philosophy and the Director of the Centre for Women's Studies, Lucknow University, Dr. Nina David of the Department of Western History, Lucknow University, Dr. Manju Sikarwar, former Head of the Department of Arab Culture, Nari Shiksha Niketan Post Graduate College, University of Lucknow, etc. Many great literary figures were also present in the audience, like Masroor Jahan, Anwar Nadeem, Dr. Ayesha Siddiqui, Salma Hejab, Dr. Rukhsana Lari, etc.

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