I am getting a little tired of hearing complaints of people from the diaspora who complain about slights real and imagined, either regarding their dress, their accent and/or their skin color. Whatever happened to the concept of assimilation?
It’s as if the onus to make you feel comfortable in the United States rests entirely on the majority and you are not going to do anything to hold up your end of the choice you made, to come and live here, enjoy the liberties and freedoms this country provides, without ever contributing back to the system.
There are some implicit rules that govern this system:
Keep religion separate from the secular space. If you choose to wear a religious symbol hijab, turban etc., be prepared to counter comments and take the long view. Get on the airways and media to educate people rather than get into a shouting match.
Maintain certain standards of hygiene. Wearing clean well pressed clothes in the workplace, managing body hair/odor, brushing your teeth after a spicy and garlicky meal, table manners, using the toilet correctly etc. Keeping jewelry to a minimum and not flaunting your gold and diamond jewels in the workplace.
Give back to the community. Get involved with the soccer group, girls scout troop—don’t simply take, but contribute to the success of the team.
Make friends with people of every background. Look beyond the outer sur-face to get to know and befriend people in your community instead of pre-judging based on color, attire or ethnic back-ground.
Human beings are known to be tribal in nature veering towards similar people but you have the opportunity here, where everyone is from a different place to learn, share and grow together as a community based on shared values rather than shared ethnicity.
Welcome to the brave new world.
Asha Bajaj, email
Hinduism and Secularism
Jaya Padmanabhan’s editorial on secularism (“The Audacity of My Secularism, India Currents, June 2016) compelled me to write this note.
I respect her thoughts on secularism but differ when she says, “indeed, it is easier to be an atheist and secular than to be a Hindu and secular.” I think this is fallacious and should have been avoided. From her own admission, she was taught Christianity in her formative years and later she adopted “social” Hinduism and now practices atheism! That clearly tells me that she has no deep knowledge of Hinduism.
Firstly, to be an atheist or to have faith in religion is not a choice for convenience. It is a conviction. Secondly, as a Hindu, it is easier to be secular than as an atheist. Because Hinduism is an inclusive religion unlike others. Many aphorisms from Hindu scriptures like, “Ekum Sat, Vipraha Bahuda Vadanti” (One truth, many perceptions), “all rivers join the ocean,” “Vasudeva Kutumbakum” (world is one family), give credentials to secularism in Hindu philosophy. In practice too, because of Hindu secularism, many religions originated and thrived in India. India has the oldest church, people of the Zoroastrian faith, the Bohra community—all testimonials to our secularism. Hinduism is the only religion which respects your choice of “worship” or not to worship (charavakas) and the path for salvation.
Abrahamic religions are exclusive religions by definition and in their core belief. Christianity prophesies, “Only through Jesus one can come to the father,” which is inherently not secular! In modern days Christianity preaches tolerance to other religions but not necessarily “respect” or acceptance.
Hinduism has its own vices, superstitions, and absurdities. Even so, as Sam Harris, a declared atheist, puts it, “Among all religions, Hinduism is most secular and tolerant.” So the correct statement should have been, “It is easier to be secular as a Hindu.”
Krishna Upadhya, email
Of God and Things
I commend writer Hasan Zillur Rah-man for his article (“An Islamic Argument Against Homophobia,” India Currents, July 2016).
Rahman urges his fellow-Muslims to refrain from blindly following the Shariah written by “mostly unchallenged scholars,” and having the hypocrisy of fighting injustice against Muslims while shunning other minority communities like the LGBT, quoting the Quranic instruction to “treat minority communities with care and respect.” And, reminding them that “it is in America that we can practice Islam with more freedom than any other so-called “Muslim country.” Rahman tells them to demand that “our Imams and scholars from the more than two thousand mosques throughout America” broadcast this message of “Live and let live with dignity and empathy.”
Followers have created a bad image for religions due to their insistence that their preferred interpretations and religions are the only or superior truth that must be imposed upon “others” at the penalty of death, torture, discrimination and persecution. In the past, Christians and non-Christians have suffered from this attitude of the dominant church, and Zoroastrians and Hindus have suffered from Muslim rulers after the Muslim invasions of Iran and India. Today, Christians, Yezidis, Hindus, Sikhs, and even fellow-Muslims are suffering from radical Muslims. There is hope, that interfaith education about the many beliefs we share, and remembering that we are all children of the same Creator, who alone has the right to deliver judgment for our moral failings, will eventually stop violence and discrimination in the name of religion.
Maneck Bhujwala, Huntington Beach, CA, email