Two Muslim youths offered Namaz in a Mathura temple, after one of them recited verses from the Ramcharitmanas. A video of this was uploaded on YouTube. This has caused the police to file an FIR and arrest them for inciting communal sentiments. Indeed, in a world where college students are being gunned down in Afghanistan, ordinary citizens becoming victims of stabbings in Nice, and synagogues being attacked in Austria in the space of a few days, these Indian Muslims have truly set a high standard in provocative behaviour. And they did so as ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’! They really must be severely punished – the magistrate they are brought before should summarily sentence them to five days of ‘seva’ in the nearest Gurudwara, and if they insist, having developed a taste for Langar food, this can be extended another couple of days.
It is the tradition in India for people to offer prayers at the shrines of other religions – in fact, it is quite unlike the practice in many countries where even the greeting, Merry Christmas, has had to be substituted by ‘Happy Holidays’, as it is supposed to be an encroachment on their religious rights. Here, the only requirement is that they participate in the prescribed rituals at the holy site. So, Hindus and others tie threads as they seek blessings at Dargahs. Some popular churches in Mumbai throng with tourists to the extent that signs are everywhere asking people to please not shoot selfies. The Golden Temple, the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine and many others are popular destinations for people belonging to all denominations.
It was this fine line that the youths crossed. It may not have been their intent to offend, but to permit such behaviour would open the doors to deliberate provocation by vested interests. Such incidents have been in the news often enough, which is why there is a greater requirement to abide by the norm. And it is not that practicing the rituals of another’s religion is not the norm in India – the vast majority of people ‘celebrating’ Christmas, every year, are Hindus! Muslims in India’s famous holy cities and towns are much better versed in Hindu rituals than the average pilgrim, often guiding them to do the right thing.
It is easy to take offence, as Munnawar Rana has unequivocally shown. It is how one counters the provocation that is important. The more knowledgeable one is, the easier it is to point out the fallacies of the offender. But that takes effort! For some, it is so much easier, instead, to pick up a gun!