I started my day going through the full list of #muslimapologies on twitter yesterday, and they made my week…until I got to the tweet about how Southasians are jumping on the bandwagon like they invented some of these things when, in fact, it was Arabs and Persians.
That soured things. Especially in the context of this city/university, where I’m already feeling a little weird (even as this is the FIRST TIME I know TWO Southasian-American professors, am taking a class with one, and will hopefully be taking one with the other, because it’s pretty much what I’m in law school to learn about).
Here’s why this troubled me: what I have always appreciated about Islam, what I love about Islam, in the ways that I have known it best, is the inclusiveness within the faith. We can argue, or discuss, of course, about what gender means in the context of the faith, of how people understand and enact different forms of hierarchy and power (…all of which exist in other faiths, too, but you don’t usually see people outside the faith up in hateful/ignorant arms about gender and Judaism…). But this argument has two sides. And even if it’s “equality among men” and then “equality among women” and “different but equal”, this is a hell of a lot more than what the religion I was born into provides for, especially in its most orthodox forms. What, or where, is the significance of the ummah, if the successes of one Muslim can’t be celebrated by another? At the end of the day, and particularly in the context of this hashtag, isn’t this about a context in which all Muslims are made to feel a burden? What is the purpose of a faith community, if it’s going to be split in this way?
In another, but related vein, it also made me sad because of how I think at least some (…I’m clearly being conservative here…and generous…) in the middle east, and the Gulf/Saudi in particular, view Southasians — including Southasian Muslims — as, frankly, inferior. Of course this is (also) a matter of class. But isn’t that part of the point of believing in a God, and a God like this, that you are equal? Perhaps I’m being idealistic. But I think that’s also the point, to be striving for something better than what we are today. Be it for God, for humanity, or for your next door neighbor.
(Also, if we must, here’s a little link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_inventions_and_discoveries. It’s “India” — which I’m taking to mean modern-day India/Pakistan/Bangladesh — and I haven’t gone through it all yet, but surely some of these count. ;) )