Religious Tolerance

This one’s for you Kash..

When I was in 9th grade, I was asked to do an extempore about religious tolerance depending upon attitude and I remember looking at my teacher like whatamIevensupposedtosay?! 

I spoke about 3 lines and ran out of things to say pretty darn quickly! But now I do have something to tell her. I want to tell her I understand her topic, and I think it is a one worthy of speaking about.

As I have already mentioned so many times, I was brought up in a very staunch Protestant family, and for the longest time, I suppose I would consider myself to be what one would say, a Christian.

My first true best friend was a Muslim.

We didn’t share one of those relations where religions didn’t matter, no, we were both young, but extremists of a whole other order. We spoke about religion. She told me all about Allah, about prophet Mohammed, about the Islamic beliefs in Gins and so many other things.

I, on occasion, told her about my faith, my God, my strength.

Our views about the central crux of our lives were completely conflicting and yet, we found no other person’s company as succulent as each others. Hard headed and rigid as we both were, it was our attitude towards how to view each other that completely made it alright for us to be together.

At the tender age of 13, I was shown that respecting another religion is simple no matter how much of a threat it would pose to my own. I would look at the things she says as true, but her version of the truth, I was doing something as a child, that most people in today’s world cannot do as adults!

Because I was a Christian, brought up in an Islamic nation and being from a nation where the majority are Hindus, and the second majority again, Muslims, I have been brought up to understand how to wrap my head around this issue. However, it wasn’t until recently due to various events that I witnessed, that I saw how so many still are not able to get there.

In France, I have heard that secularism means to have no religion whatsoever whereas in India, it means to be open to all religions. Interesting, isn’t it, both countries try to promote national unity and fraternity, but have completely different definitions of it, completely opposing approaches.

Whatever goes for each nation I suppose, but the problem is, it doesn’t seem to be going all that great for my nation, or half the nations across the world!

I am not asking for all of us to redefine our terms of faith and religion but to merely redefine our attitude to the same.

Let me go back to my friend, when I spoke to her, no matter if she told me about Islamic beliefs or about the class clown, I would be listening to my best friend, a girl whose heart and soul I loved, who was kind, sensible, mature even at 13, funny, beautiful and understanding. Sure, her prayers and life were dedicated to another deity, but that didn’t change who she was, and I liked to think that perhaps, her beliefs made her that way, and if Allah made my friend to be who she was, then Allah is just pretty darn awesome (no offence to any Muslims reading this!)!

I know that when we look at communities as a whole, or even individuals whom we do not know much of personally, it is not as easy to have a positive attitude, but all I am saying is, one need not have a negative approach either. Whatever happened to neutrality? I mean, wasn’t that the true essence of secularism anyway?!

A couple of years ago, another friend of mine had given me a Quran and I promised him that I would read the Holy Quran and unless I had done so, I would refrain from speaking to him. I hadn’t somehow gotten around to doing so yet, but I still stayed true to my promise and completely intend to live up to it. The thing is, I have been missing my friend a lot. So I hunted out his Holy book and carried it with me, hoping to begin soon.

As I was unpacking my bags in this new city, my mom and sister saw the Quran and both of them, separately at different points of time, asked me with utter mortification ”Are you converting into a Muslim now?!”, I could only have imagined their plight had I even said a ‘yes’ for the heck of it, but instead I showed them the two Bibles I was carrying along with me as well, which seemed to put them at ease.

If only they knew the real reason I had those Bibles with me was partially cause I think they are lucky and partially cause they bare so many memories of good times when I found comfort with them in my hand, the sum total value of them being, nostalgia and a severely tiny sliver of faith. At least the Quran was sparkling with curiosity for me!

Well, that is the world for you today, people! And guess what? It is YOUR world. So guess what? CHANGE it. The least you could do is try to be the change you wish to see in the world.

I’m trying. Are you?

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