#TalkToAMuslim: To begin a meaningful interfaith dialogue, we must speak about shared concerns
I am a Muslim and this is the conversation we really need to have, writes Nazia Erum
I am a Muslim and talk we must. The need of the hour is to talk about bijli, paani, sadak and hawa – things that affect both your family and mine. I think you would share my views on accountability for all of these essentials? Ah yes, accountability reminds me, did you hear of the changes to the RTI act proposed? Something I feel we need to vehemently oppose!
I am a Muslim, and there is an urgent need for a conversation about conserving our depleting natural resources. How can we together help India chart out a more sustainable development path? They say we will run out of oil in 55 years, coal in 17, and water in next 10 years – surely we need to put our heads together to survive this?
I am a Muslim and we really need to have this conversation: Where can I find a reliable car service station? My father is developing a knee problem and needs a good mechanic to look at that clutch-brake system. On that note, let’s propose a few improvements for a better healthcare system, especially for our elderly.
I am a Muslim and I feel we share one critical concern – jobs! Look around your extended family, look beyond your extended family. There are tier-B and C cities to consider. If our youth (one of the largest young populations in the world) are not gainfully employed, then what will they be picking up, or getting easily lured into? I think you might have some more insights on this. Do share, let’s exchange notes over some pakodas perhaps. I am not the data-chewing-and-spitting kinds. Hope you can make up for that. We can complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Now that sounds like a plan.
Now that we are talking, and you are listening (I hope!) we can agree on a few basic principles. Communication is a two-way process. Media rhetoric is a one-way process – though it may be designed to feel interactive. We need to not allow them to make assumptions on our behalf, think on our behalf or usurp our voices completely. The second principle we need to agree on is that a culture of tolerance and deep respect for each other will take us progressively further. There’s research that says so. Economic growth can be driven only with secularism being the cornerstone of a multicultural and pluralistic society. As we both want growth beyond jumlas, let’s cooperate in achieving the same. For this we might have to call out many not-so-healthy elements in our own respective communities. I am ready to call out mine – I hope you will do so for your end too. There is no you-first here. It’s us, here.
I have one more concern – our children. How can we help our kids navigate this world of hate and hostility? There is a silent hum of fear in our heads as the world uploads stories of murders and mayhem. We are never sure where they can be safe anymore – in schools, on playgrounds, or even in our homes. Both physically and mentally. Evidence from many fields suggests that cultural values, including secularism and tolerance, are formed during the first few decades of a person's life. What are the conversations we are having around them? And what are the conversations we are yet to have with them? It’s not just what we say that makes their world view – it’s also what we don’t say. Be it our complicity or our complacency, we make this world a better or worse place for them.
Now that we are on the same page, we must begin this dialogue. Between you and me, the Muslim. Once we do actually talk, you will realise our concerns are not two parallel lines running into infinity. They perhaps criss-cross. Like the lines of our palms or the wrinkles on our faces.
I hope this is the conversation you wished to have with me.
Nazia Erum is the author of the book Mothering A Muslim. She tweets @nazia_e
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