Tasawar Jalali is the Chairman of the Ibaadatkhana Foundation.
The “Ibaadatkhana” movement is the result of the collective effort of conscious individuals inspired by humanity and secularism and is geared towards upholding the dignity of the people of all religions and races. Our guiding principle is based on our conviction that democracy is the best-known form of government to promote peace and prosperity and the state should be governed by rule of law. Our goal is to achieve a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and prosperous secular fabric in the Indian sub-continent.
The core principle of Ibaadatkhana are:
- Foster a peaceful, just and inclusive society free from fear and violence
- Formulate social policies that foster secure, just, free and harmonious societies
- Build and strengthen public institutions for social development, promote the ideology ‘society for all’ – Work towards the development of all sections of society and religions
I would like to start by quoting, Karen Armstrong, “All religions are designed to teach us how to live, joyfully, serenely, and kindly, in the midst of suffering.
The treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648 that bought an end to religious strifes and the dark ages in Europe. Right-wing populism, racial and religious intolerance is increasing globally by the day, adding us vs them narrative.
It has been now 372 years since the treaty was signed and the religious conflict ended but the religious and racial divide is only growing in the Indian sub-continent. India is a multiracial and multi-religious country and has had a policy to treat all ethnic groups and religions equally. The Indian constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the state’s official policy has been to treat all religions equally. For the last several decades, the state did provide its citizens the right to retain their culture, language and receive equal treatment, however, that narrative has been changing in last several years.
Although India is officially religiously neutral, lately it has been heavily involved in the management of religion, along with the management of other rights, such as freedom of speech. This divarication relating to free speech and religion demonstrates a shift from using laws to settle issues at the local level in “relatively homogenous settings,” to religious rhetoric and right-wing extremism, which are becoming more common. The recent polarization based on caste, religion and culture, only promotes feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population.
With 22 major languages in India, recent years have seen a major drive to impose one language across the country. Instead of preserving and promoting local languages, efforts have been made to undermine them. English is still the main language, which is taught in all universities and this has given India a huge edge over other developing countries. It is only because English has been the primary language for higher academic pursuits, most of the executives and software engineers in US and around the world are thriving.
Also, India has second largest film industry in the world and is known for beautiful poems and poetry, which is mostly in Urdu. Urdu is a syncretic language, which has evolved due to fusion of multiple languages in India over a period of time. The rich literature & legacy this language provides is one of the biggest reasons why Urdu is the language of choice for the Indian film industry.
Religion is the “final frontier” of personal prejudice, with attitudes to faith driving negative perceptions more than ethnicity or nationality. At Ibaadatkhana we embrace and encourage mutual understanding of other religions, culture and languages. Ibaadatkhana promotes religious Harmony to create a strong legal infrastructure to prosecute those who attempt to disrupt the delicate racial and religious stability. Furthermore, we believe education is a key strategy in maintaining peaceful relations between the different religious and ethnic communities. Government-run schools, which the majority of Indian citizens attend, must emphasize racial and religious harmony.
The first-generation immigrants from South Asia especially from the Indian sub-continent who live in USA, usually become more passionate about the nationality they have given up versus the people who still live in these countries. Most of the immigrants have acquired citizenship in the newfound home land yet they long for the land of birth, and nothing wrong with that. They enjoy the luxurious lifestyle that this society brings to them. Many left the countries of origin to escape poverty, unemployment, insecurity, corruption, and nepotism.
However, these immigrants who are enjoying the fine life of first world indulge in politics of hate and religious bigotry, yet same biased politics is not acceptable to them in the first world where they live now. Oblivious of the suffering that such divisive politics may cause, such folks who are incognizant and unmindful of the sufferings of the fellow human beings they left behind in the third world, is disgraceful. Delusional of being secular and liberal, they continue practicing religious bigotry.
We at Ibaadatkhana condemn such deceitful politics, which must be rejected in its entirety. The harmony between the different ethnic and religious groups is fragile and must be fiercely protected as any racial or religious strife could have the potential to tear the countries apart.